Weekly salon 28/10

1. Glyphosate one of the safest farm chemicals – Ben Selinger

On ABC RN’s The Science Show Robyn Williams spoke to Kate Hughes, Research Assistant in the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, and Ben Selinger, Emeritus Professor at ANU (transcript available) in the light of the ABC Four Corners program The Monsanto Papers.

Kate Hughes lives in a valley in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area. The decision is simple. Either you use glyphosate to counter the Chinese false bamboo, or you have a valley choked with the weed.

She says you look at the risks against the benefits. Glyphosate is applied by suited up contractors who know what they are doing.

Selinger has had much experience with agricultural chemicals and co-authored a book with Russell Sparrow – Chemistry in the Marketplace. He points out that glyphosate is categorised as a Class 2A carcinogen along with eating meat and inhaling smoke.

He makes the distinction between “whether something is inherently dangerous and whether in fact it is going to cause a problem, in other words whether it is hazardous.”

    to put that simply the asphalt on our roads is full of carcinogens, very high concentrations of them, very dangerous ones, but people don’t go out, pick up a bit of asphalt and chew it, or when it’s warm and molten roll in it and get it on their skin.

He feels the Four Corners program missed that point entirely.

He said glyphosate does not leave residues that would be of concern in food consumption, but appropriate care needs to be taken by those applying it.

2. First impressions: the face bias

According to Professor Alexander Todorov of the Department of Psychology at Princeton University human beings have evolved to make up their minds very rapidly whether a stranger is friend or foe. He describes his first research:

    In the very first study that we did we would present faces for 100 milliseconds, 500 milliseconds to a full second, and ask people to make various judgements. I actually thought that to make complex judgements like trustworthiness or aggressiveness, in contrast to attractiveness, you would probably need a long exposure time to faces, perhaps a second. And it turns out that the judgements were fairly indistinguishable from each other. And the main effect of this additional exposure was to increase our confidence, the confidence in judgements.

He says there have now been a dozen of subsequent studies replicating this effect, and now we know that essentially you don’t need more than a 200 millisecond exposure to a facial image. That’s a fifth of a second!

First impressions matter, and we are not all made equal. Females are seen as more trustworthy than males, and females tend to have lighter skin, which also makes them look more trustworthy. I always knew it was a really bad idea for males to sport an unshaven look!

He goes on to say that people who look younger than their biological age actually do live longer.

How do you look younger?

    Well, number one is genetic luck. But then the other things are having a better life, coming from a higher socio-economic status with more wealth and better access to healthcare, not having a chronic condition, not smoking, not being chronically exposed to sun. So all of these things that contribute to your health, they contribute also to how you look. The question is, is this something about the character of the person or their life circumstances?

Of course looks can be deceiving, first impressions can be a “very, very lousy guide of what the person is across time and situations.”

I make no comment except that while cosmetics is a legitimate tool to improve our looks, some people do seem to spend a lot of money in disfiguring themselves.

3. Lifting the lid on asylum seeker policy

In a fascinating interview on the 7.30 Report Shaun Hanns,

    a former Home Affairs official whose job was to assess asylum claims has quit his job to speak out saying that while he is firm believer in boat turn backs, all remaining people in offshore detention can be brought to Australia without it threatening the tough border regime.

He strongly believes in turning back the boats, because

    the risk of death on that passage from Indonesia to Australia is so high. It’s roughly equivalent to people trying to survive through the Syrian civil war – that’s how serious this trip is.

He said that in December 2014:

    it was written into legislation, that people who had come after that time but who hadn’t gone, hadn’t been removed to the islands as yet could stay in Australia.

Although it was not advertised, people smugglers would have known about it, and it has not started the flow of boats simply because the surveillance is too good and boats do not get through. Nor did the deal with the US in 2016 lead to a return of boats.

So there is no need to keep people on Nauru and Manus Island as a caution.

See also Former Home Affairs insider calls for Nauru and Manus Island refugees to be brought to Australia at ABC Online, which also references a speech by Julia Banks and a forthcoming 4000-word essay by Hanns at The Monthly.

Now a Galaxy survey has shown the around 80% of voters support NZ resettlement for children on Nauru.

Labor has always struggled to get through that, apart from solidarity on turning back boats, its policy is quite different from the government’s. This iteration is from what it took to the last election. At base it sees treating asylum seekers as humans in need, fleeing persecution, rather the chancers looking for a better life and inherently ‘illegal’. It emphasizes working up the supply line in Southeast Asia, strengthening the UNHCR and cooperating with SE Asian countries rather than simply sending boats back to Indonesia where they live in limbo, begging to gain the necessities to stay alive and without prospects of an accepted life in the community.

This interview with Tony Burke on RN Drive highlights sending Dutton to the High Court, but it also tells us where Labor is at right now from the Labor politician who is currently leader of business in the house, and was immigration minister when the last boat sank and Rudd instituted Nauru and Manus Island. He expresses determination to bring the government to action in the short term.

There is a long essay in The Monthly by James Button Dutton’s Dark Victory. In putting together the Home Affairs portfolio the department Immigration and Citizenship had a name change to Immigration and Border Protection. Perhaps even more importantly many of its functions were split up and spread around other departments. Part of Australia’s secret in the large-scale integration of migrants was that there was a one-stop shop, and the operational department was able to feed back into policy. This is no longer the case.

All this by ministerial fiat rather than as a result of a review. One former employee said the good angels are leaving, arrogant gods remain.

77 thoughts on “Weekly salon 28/10”

  1. I forgot to mention in the glyphosate item that we used to have a CRC on weeds, which is an enormous problem in Australia, not just farms, also national parks, backyards, parks and reserves.

    It’s been unfunded and disbanded by our visionary leaders, who struggle to see beyond the end of their noses.

  2. – interview with Tony Burke on RN Drive
    Is a link missing?


    Very interesting to hear from Shaun Hanns.
    For once, a whistleblower doesn’t have to hide from police, or suffer in his workplace. And his information is up-to-date.

    Let’s hear him talk to a Senate Committee.

  3. Ben Selinger is a star, in his role as a populariser of science, specifically chemistry. I reckon he’s been at it for decades. He pointed out ages ago that research chemists (in universities, say) often take up challenges presented by their local environment.


  4. This chilling article sets out how Trump, aided and abetted by the GOP and Murdoch’s Fox News, directly triggered the death of 11 people.

    Usual disclaimer: not my circus, not my monkeys. Thank goodness.

  5. ummm the argument in the linked piece doesn’t stack up for me, zoot.

    Antisemitism has been around for many centuries in dozens of countries, with often tragic and murderous actions. No need for details here.

    I doubt that the President is anti-semitic. How could a NY property developer get away with that? And young Jared, what of him and his role in the Administration?

    Mr Trump has been bombastic, aggressive, mean and nasty. He is in many ways a shocker. And uses shock deliberately.

    But US politics was very deeply divided long before his Presidential campaign.

    And regardless of all of that background, I think the “cause and effect” link isn’t there.

    Lee Harvey Oswald opened fire after the Bay of Pigs and during the Cold War: were his shots JFK’s fault? Sirhan shot RFK, was that President Johnson’s fault? Port Arthur – where was the cause? Attacks on synagogues in Australia – the direct fault of the old League of Rights? The Snowtown murders – blame a SA Premier?


    I think the political motive is clearer in some other murders, e.g. Mrs Gandhi’s demise, ditto Mr Sadat’s. And Islamist jihadists brought down the Twin Towers.

    But this terrible crime?
    I’m not sure.

  6. Ambi, I’m not claiming #45 is antisemitic.
    He’s a simple racist, but his rhetoric is enabling and encouraging anti-semites.
    The shooter specifically cited HIAS the Jewish agency he held responsible for the “caravan”. He was willing to do whatever was necessary to prevent an “invasion” of Latinos planned by perfidious Jews, a treasonous attempt to seek “the destruction of American society and culture.”
    Seems pretty clear cut to me. Glad I haven’t got any skin in the game.

  7. It’s too soon to know the history of this maniac and what who was influential.

    He wasn’t shouting “ Trump, Trump,Trump “ as he killed people, yet it seems the same people blaming Trump are the same folk that refuse to blame Islam when the killer shouts “ Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar “.

    The cognitive dissonance of such folk is amazing.

  8. Here’s another variation on the theme, this one with added history.

    In travelling around the hard-left cesspit that is the internet I’ve discovered a fascinating fact. At all of #45’s campaign rallies “Sympathy For The Devil” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” are played, apparently at ear-shattering volumes. He chose the playlist.
    Curiouser and curiouser.

  9. What i despise about people like Lee Rhiannon is that she is an unashamed comm apologist who doesn’t want to admit that the “tens of thousands” of comm supporters in Australia in the forties is not significant or meaningful in a country with a population of millions. Then you have people like Liz Barr who thinks that the Greens are too right wing for her. No one has the heart to point out to her that the highest the Greens have ever got nationally is 11.8 percent, so how small must be the support for Barr’s views?

  10. From Janet Daley, AFR, originally The Telegraph, UK:

    Trump’s vengeful prose is a whole new era in US politics:

    As I write, a suspect, Cesar Sayoc, has been charged for allegedly sending 13 crude but viable explosive devices to various individuals in the United States. Those individuals all had one thing in common: they were critics or political opponents of Donald Trump.

    Mr Trump’s first response was to call for an end to this campaign of attempted murder which was, he suggested, largely the fault of the media. By which he did not mean the talk show-cable news army which has supported him in the most inflammatory possible way. No, he specifically cited the mainstream media as being the guilty ones – that is to say, the networks which criticise him, like CNN, which also received a bomb and had to evacuate its main broadcasting studio live on air. This was the President’s tweeted statement, including the gothic use of capital letters which he favours: “A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”

    Adam Serwer at The Atlantic on Trumpism and the mid-terms:

    Trumpism Is ‘Identity Politics’ for White People

    The Cruelty Is the Point:

    President Trump and his supporters find community by rejoicing in the suffering of those they hate and fear.

  11. Thanks Scott

    Another measure of the low support for the Communist Party in our society is the very low votes received by their candidates at Federal and State elections. As I recall, generally in the range 1% to 4%. Successful, elected candidates can be counted on one hand.

    To put that in perspective, here are some minor Parties that have done better:
    Family First
    Katter Party
    Clive Palmer Party
    Liberal Reform
    Australia Party
    Senator Harradine…..

    And many other Independents running in single seats.

    There are myths, put out by ex-Comms like Philip Adams, about the strength, glory and good works of the Comm Party, its wide influence.

    As far as I can see, its influence was within broader groups (the old Communist Fronts) where it had to dilute and disguise its message, to accommodate the views of bourgeois allies. The Party tried to pull the allies to the left. The bourgeois wouldn’t go there.

    Basically, the bourgeois can read.
    That makes them less malleable.
    They have heard about Soviet Show Trials in the 1930s, the Red Army spreading its peace and brotherhood in Eastern Europe in the late 40s, they watched the Berlin Blockade, the invasion of Hungary in ’56, the Cold War confrontation, invasion of Czechoslovakia in ’68, suppression of dissent: 1920s to 1980s.

    They read Solzhenitsyn, from One Day to the Archipelago; Pasternak, Yevtushenko.

    The only place the Comms did better was in trade union leadership elections. It became a cliche that unionists would support a militant, Comm union official but never vote a Comm in as an MP.

    Three Cheers for the Bourgeois!

  12. My wife was considered a right wing extremist in her family because she supported Labor. As a result, I have actually known some working class communists. An coal mining communist Uncle of hers was sent to jail for his activities as the lodge President. By the time that I met them the communists I knew were disappointed by what Russia did in places like Hungary. However, they still believed, with good reason, that the workers needed to be united to protect their hard won rights against the lackeys of the capitalists.

  13. John: abolishing the “closed shop” was the right thing to do. No one should be forced to be a member of a union to have a job, be forced to support union campaigns for fear of retaliation, and no one should be called a “scab” for working if they are not part of a union.

  14. Hold the Bus !!

    I’d only just today heard about The Queensland Human Rights Act today that apparently is going to be pushed through QLD Parliament immediately.

    It’s the first time I’d seen or heard of it and haven’t seen any public debate at all.

    Having just skimmed half of it but it looks like a ridiculously convoluted dogs breakfast of a thing set up to be useless yet costly to administer.

    Please read it.

    I’ve long hoped for a simple, enforceable Bill of Rights but this thing is definitely not anywhere near it.

  15. Scott: The problem with voluntary unionism is that employers can and do simply employ people who aren’t in the union. The result is the situation we have now where some employers feel free to pay below award wages, ignore safety rules and generally treat low level employees like rubbish.

  16. Jumpy: Read about half of the Bill of rights. Agree with most of what I read but felt there were too many mechanisms for the act to be ignored.
    The stuff in 29 onwards about jails and the justice system will need a lot of action to comply with the new rules if the government is serious about them.

  17. John,
    Are you in favour of compulsory Union membership across the board ?
    And does our ( almost) new HRA allow it in your interpretation ?

  18. John,

    I venture to suggest that the view that “workers should unite in unions to protect their hard won rights” was a belief of most ALP members too, not solely of communist workers.

    Indeed, many DLP supporters would have been staunch unionists too.

  19. What have unions ever done for us?

    (Apart from weekends, annual holidays, minimum wage rates, OHS, worker’s comp …)

  20. Jumpy: I have spent quite a bit of time negotiating with unions in a number of mines. This included the Pilbara at a time when the unions were very powerful and, in my mind, often abused this power. However, I was well aware the growth of power of the unions in places like the the Pilbara and the coal industry was based on a history of mistreatment of employees and lax safety practices. As someone said to me at the time “companies get the industrial relations they deserved.”By the time i left the Pilbara Bob Hawke had helped make an enormous difference to industrial relations and the behaviour of the unions.
    I have also watched what happens in places where there were either no unions or very weak unions. People working for good employers were OK but people working for bad employers were not OK because people like Howard and Abetz encouraged employers to reduce conditions, pay less than award wages. It has gone to the point where coal miners in Central Qld are getting dusted lungs again!
    My general preference is an industrial relations system that provides individual employees with good protection without the need for militant unions. However, Howard missed the opportunity to remove the need for unions by installing alternatives that work for individuals.
    Howard lost government because his precious workchoices didn’t give ordinary workers bargaining power when dealing with powerful employers.
    The Howard and Abetz have reminded us that the workers need powerful unions. Unions will struggle if membership is optional because employers will give preference to job applicants who aren’t union members.
    So I am a reluctant supporter of compulsory unionism.

  21. I’ve got a hardly started book on unionism I’d like to read before I do a post some time.

    My current understanding is that there are two reasons for workers to get together. One is based on the mediaeval notion of crafts, where people get together to protect and promote their craft. Professional associations like doctors and lawyers perform a similar function. If you didn’t have some of these society would have to invent them, or we could go back to anyone hanging up a shingle to be a doctor, as is the case with counselling.

    The other is to give workers some power to prevent exploitation by bosses.

    I think the two concepts have become mixed, with the main problem that unions as organisations can lack accountability.

    In larger firms I’d like to see something like the German system, where there is a supervisory board that appoints the managers and the management board. Their supervisory board is made up of stakeholders, from memory half workers. For example, I’d like to see cricketers have a stake in appointing the board of Cricket Australia.

    Then you’d have to look at why there are problems in the system, which I’m sure there are.

    My wife is retired, but at one stage she took on the job of union rep in the school. Three points.

    First, the union was a better source of what any new policy meant than the principal of the school.

    Second, non-union members were always happy to accept pay and conditions won by the union bargaining.

    Third, when you are supervising kids who may be hurt or even killed in an accident you need the support and protection a union can give you in legal terms. You are actually mad not to join a union as a form of insurance. You definitely cannot depend on the goodwill of management.

  22. ABC act check asked Have wages grown steadily and outstripped inflation over the past decade? in response to a Kelly O’Dwyer claim she made Channel Ten’s The Project on October 23

    that, although wages growth had not been as strong as people might like, it had been steady over the past decade.
    “Over the last 10 years, we’ve actually seen wages increase by around 30 per cent and inflation increase by around 20 per cent. Certainly, wages haven’t grown as fast as people might like, but wages have grown steadily over that period of time.”

    However, Fact check nastily pointed out that

    real wages grew by 5.5 per cent between June 2008 and June 2013, but by just 1.5 per cent between June 2013 and June 2018.

    In other words, more than three-quarters of the gains of the past decade occurred the first half, with real wages barely growing during the second half.

    By coincidence Tony Abbot beat the ALP in the 2013 election. Had no effect on wages of course.

  23. John and Brian

    Your accounts of how unions function in practice are fascinating, and a world away from the “vicious thuggery of the CFMEU” routinely served up in The Oz.

    There are dozens of unions quietly and effectively assisting their members (and yes, many non-members); somehow these don’t attract headlines.

    Then you get blatant corruption: step forward Craig MP; or corruption with workplace thuggery: step forward Norm Gallagher and the old BLF, “Maoist” segment; or threats of violence: step forward present day CFMEU (segments thereof?).

    A very mixed bag.

  24. From the PM:

    the issues of trade and other things was not part of his (Mr Turnbull’s) brief.

    Well, that’s clear then.
    “Sack him, PM!” an irritated nation demands.

    Strangely, Mr Turnbull disagrees. He claims he was briefed.

    Lucky this schemozzle didn’t occur before that vital, recent by-election, Mr PM.


  25. Good on Bicycle Network , compulsory helmet laws for adults is ridiculous.
    Only Nanny State authoritarians support persecuting free people deciding to ride a pushy helmutless.

    My body, my choice.

  26. Further to mine at 2.02pm, Tony Wright at Fairfax online calls the contretemps a “shambles”.

    Since an old meaning of shambles is a butcher’s slaughterhouse, I had thought that would refer more correctly to the Liberal Party room, rather than to a dispute between the PM and his predecessor. But I’m willing to learn.

    In this case, it seems that the “undermining and sniping” is being carried out from the PM’s Office, rather than from the backbench.

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  27. Arguing with freeloaders is pointless.

    I disagree, arguing with freeloaders may eventuate in the freeloader reducing their freeloading ways and contribute in a monetary nett positive way to society.
    There’s a slim chance I could have a positive effect on you zoot somebody, someday.

  28. Jumpy: If you are seriously injured because you didn’t use a seat belt the effects go beyond just you. Your family and workers may be worse off and the taxes you resent paying may have to be spent on you and your family.
    There are technical arguments for not wearing bike helmets:
    1. The helmet places more stress on the neck in some types of accident.
    2. People die due to lack of exercise if they don’t want to ride bikes due to the hassle and discomfort of carrying and wearing bike helmets.
    3. Good hats give more protection from the sun than helmets.

  29. Our hospitals; our taxes at work; humans have an interest in reducing deaths including early deaths, caused by alcohol, ciggies, road trauma, workplace injuries, etc. Apart from the human and social detriments, human taxpayers also have an indirect interest in the medical/hospital budgets being directed more towards prevention of early deaths, disease; and treatment of unavoidable (often painful and debilitating) conditions.

    It doesn’t boil down to money.
    But if money is your main focus, the statement still holds:
    Your body, our hospitals.

    Ride safely and have a pleasant weekend.

  30. John
    There are a plethora of activities others undertake that, if shit happens, that affect the taxpayer and have downstream consequences.

    Now apparently takeing pills at music festivals is fine and dandy but if you ride there without a helmet you risk jail time.

    How about a little consistency from Nanny, persecution for not protecting oneself over here, persecution for protecting oneself over there….

    It’s arbitrary authoritarianism, simple as that.

  31. Jumpy: Your obsession with your Nanny State clouds your thinking at times.
    Do you believe that you will be safer without the helmet?
    Is your decision re helmets depend on pill rules at rock concerts?
    Do you think concert pill deaths might be reduced if legal pill testing was available?

  32. Cloudy thinking ?
    What’s cloudier than enforcing a dress code on a person doing a legal, healthy, environmentally friendly activity and ignoring the law on a person doing an illegal, unhealthy activity?

    I’ll answer your questions though,

    Do you believe that you will be safer without the helmet?

    No, by a teeny tiny amount I’d be safer, so small I’m willing call it statistically insignificant.

    Is your decision re helmets depend on pill rules at rock concerts?

    No but would affect my decision to attend said rock concerts.

    Do you think concert pill deaths might be reduced if legal pill testing was available?

    Yes. Even more pill deaths would be reduced by sniffer dogs at the gates.

    Listen, my position is a pro freedom one.
    Take whatever pills you want, tested or not, but don’t hurt anyone else.
    Ride your bike, helmet or not, but don’t hurt anyone else.

    I’m struggling to see any consistency in your positions.

  33. No, by a teeny tiny amount I’d be safer, so small I’m willing call it statistically insignificant.

    Just a gentle FYI – helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 60%. I believe that is statistically significant.

  34. Jumpy:

    I’m struggling to see any consistency in your positions.

    There is a consistent support for overall harm reduction which is not necessarily the same as support for minimizing specific harms.

  35. “Take whatever pills you want … but don’t hurt anyone else.”

    Hasn’t it ever occurred to you that when someone is seriously injured/hospitalised/long recuperating/disabled-in-an-accident, the effects ripple out across the human landscape….
    to parents, offspring, spouse or partner, workmates, friends,

    and even to *The Economy* ??

    the bell tolls for many.

    (Unless of course you have no family, friends, workmates or neighbours.)

    Were you immaculately conceived?
    Have you no offspring?
    Does the magnificence of your lineage end here in these times??

    Pray tell me it isn’t so.

  36. Mr A

    Hasn’t it ever occurred to you that when someone is seriously injured/hospitalised/long recuperating/disabled-in-an-accident, the effects ripple out across the human landscape….
    to parents, offspring, spouse or partner, workmates, friends,

    and even to *The Economy* ??

    My Mother in law, only last month, slipping over in the shower had those effects. Are you suggesting legislation to regulate her showering safety routine, fines for non compliance of course.


    There is a consistent support for overall harm reduction which is not necessarily the same as support for minimizing specific harms.

    Or maybe there are more green votes in a young music festival crowd than your everyday potential push bike rider. Ok to persecute one set and pander to the other. And yes there’ll be some overlap but the drugs will win on almost every occasion.


    Just a gentle FYI – helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 60%. I believe that is statistically significant.

    That’s nonsense.
    If two people decided to go for a ride, one helmeted and the other not, the odds that the unhelmuted one being more prone to head injuries than the helmeted one are so finitesimally small there would be a decimal point and multiple zeros before a number is reached. Statistically insignificant.
    The decision to ride rather than drive has a far higher effect in head injury prevalence.

  37. Mr A
    If your main worry is about medical costs how about folk with adequate health insurance being waved from helmet and seatbelt laws ?
    Win, win.

  38. If two people decided to go for a ride, one helmeted and the other not, the odds that the unhelmuted one being more prone to head injuries than the helmeted one are so finitesimally small there would be a decimal point and multiple zeros before a number is reached. Statistically insignificant.

    That is nonsense.

  39. Ok zoot, what are the different likelihoods of either rider getting a serious head injury ?
    Are you seriously suggesting one is %60 more likely than the other ?

    No one swallows that crap.

  40. Let’s go back to zoots ridiculous statement for one second,

    Just a gentle FYI – helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 60%. I believe that is statistically significant.

    So we’re all crystal clear.

  41. Jumpy’s innumeracy is matched only by his arrogance. The poster who doesn’t understand averages is suddenly an expert in risk analysis = Dunning-Kruger writ large.

  42. Let’s try your numeracy then zoot.
    According to that study of studies it’s “ estimated “ that per 1000km ridden could result in 0.29 crashes.
    Of those crashes only ( again “ estimated “ ) only 8% present to hospital.
    Of the 8% of the estimated 0.29 per 1000kms, only 34% banged their head, 15 % were serious!!

    What are the differing odds of each Betty ( helmeted) and Dave ( unhelmeted ) receiving head injury ride to the beach 1km away ?

    C’mon zoot, now’s your time to shine after tripling down on “ FYI – helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 60%..”

  43. Bike helmet safety is complex. It may increase risk /severity of some injuries while reducing others. Helmets can also create a false sense of security that increases risk taking. Some people claim that the bother of using helmets is discouraging exercise. For what it is worth one source concluded:

    Bicycle helmets are a safety trade-off.

    They protect the skull against bruises and lacerations. But they increase the risk of accidents and can increase brain injury. … They do not protect against facial injuries, and increase neck injuries

    Wearing a helmet can induce cyclists to take more risks. This can lead to permanent disability, as reported in the New York Times: “the rate of head injuries per active cyclist has increased 51 percent just as bicycle helmets have become widespread.

    Suggest you google something like “Do bike helmets increase risk of some injuries

    and wade through the results.

  44. John, I’m arguing that the bicycle helmet laws are a nett negative.
    Just another example the need to review laws and reject the ones with zero or negative consequences.
    Especially if they are expensive to administer and limit the freedom of otherwise law abiding Australians.

    Please tell me you, having a grasp of math, you also disagree that wearing a helmet on a bicycle reduces the risk of head injury by 60%.

  45. Mr J

    You argued
    “my body, my risk” in both cases: pill taking at a festival, bike riding without a helmet.

    I was simply pointing out that the (potential) harm to your body doesn’t begin and end at your skin. Sad effects can spread out. You confirm this by citing the example of your unfortunate mother-in-law slipping over.

    A bike riding injury to you, if serious, could negatively affect others. It’s not just about you.

    Another scenario: young Jimmy, a bit of a wild lad, decides to drive a very unroadworthy car, while drunk.
    His car, his choice.
    His body, his drink.
    His body at risk if he smashes into a tree.

    And if he smashes into a family car with two or three people in it? Still his body, only his concern? Is it still only to his cost that his car gets wrecked?

    You see, when he drives off at high speed, drunk: no-one can predict whether he’ll hit a tree and die alone, or hit another vehicle and take a few unsuspecting humans with him, or get home unharmed and sleep it off. Should the Nanny Cops who see his car weaving along the road let him be, since he is exercising his free will and is after all an individual adult Australian?

    Should the Nanny Cops actually resign, and stop interfering with the rich pageant of human foibles and acts of free will they see all around them?

    No man is an island.

  46. Jumpy,

    I think you’ll find that the 60% figure is based on what is known as a “subset” of bike riders.

    The “subset” referred to in
    reduce the risk of head injury by 60% is most likely

    – the subset of bike riders who fall and injure themselves –

    – or were injured while riding a bike, so we can include the bike riders knocked over by cars or trucks.

    Nothing to do with a separate question: “if I ride a bike for 1 km, what is the probability that I will fall off or get knocked off?”


    Analogy: In nation X, 47% of murder victims are shot dead by guns.

    This is a separate question from estimating the likelihood of being murdered in nation X in any given year. That may be quite unlikely. With any luck, it is very unlikely on average, for the general population. It is not saying that 47% of the people in X get shot each year.

    What it has to do with, is the subset of persons in nation X who were murdered. It may be a tiny subset. There might be “only” a few hundred corpses per annum.

    It is not insignificant, however, because people in nation X are keen to lower the overall murder rate. And police, criminologists, crime-prevention-hobbyists etc. are keen to know the grisly details of the murders. Strange, eh? Weird.

    But they won’t get far if they don’t understand arithmetic.

    3 Rs, Jumpy.
    Can’t live with them, can’t live without them, eh?!!

  47. FFS, I can’t believe how desperate folk are to defend zoots obviously incorrect statement of “ helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 60%..”
    Can’t anyone pry themselves away from their tribal protection mechanism to admit this is incorrect ?

    I realise zoot is a special individual but this is getting shameful.

  48. Mr A

    You argued
    my body, my risk” in both cases: pill taking at a festival, bike riding without a helmet.

    You misquote me Sir.
    Redaction, apologies and clarification would be the honourable thing to do.

  49. Jumpy: What I said above @ 5.28 sounds reasonable to me. I exercise regularly so don’t think helmets have reduced the total amount of exercise I do. I also don’t think I take more risks because I wear a helmet.
    I have deliberately chosen a helmet that doesn’t stick out much to reduce the risk of neck injury while offering some protection from head injury.
    If nothing else the helmet some gives protection from magpie attacks. I also wear my helmet when riding my e-scooter. Perhaps I was corrupted when I ran a safety dept for a couple of years.

  50. John, no one is wanting to ban you wearing a bicycle helmet, you can wear it to bed as far as I care.
    Perhaps it’ll reduce your risk of head injury by 60% in the tiny event a car crashes into your bedroom and contact is made with your bed head area.
    It’s possible, better safe than sorry….sounds reasonable.

  51. Jumpy: The available evidence suggests to me that:
    Helmets should not be compulsory.
    Research is needed to develop helmet designs that don’t increase the risk/severity of neck injuries.
    Research is also needed to develop helmet designs that are easier to carry around and slip in a bag.
    I will continue to use a helmet as discussed previously.

  52. Mr J

    In my long and rambling, and unwelcome remarks, I was attempting to nudge you towards a glimmer of understanding of the (correct) statement made by zoot.

    Not because zoot is my buddy or comrade.

    Simply because, if you wish to debate social questions with anyone who might raise a statistical point, it would be advantageous for you (I mean in understanding the world, rather than in “winning” blog disputes) that you see how statistical observations and conclusions are interpreted.*

    This is not meant sarcastically.
    I reckon you misunderstood what zoot wrote.

    Is there any history between you blokes?

    * I am sceptical of some stats. An example of an area where I reckon stats are routinely misinterpreted is political opinion polls like Newspoll…

    “Government gains ground!” shouts the headline. Turns out the 2PP has “risen” from 46 to 47. But the inherent error margin in the survey is 2.4%. So the reported rise is well within a combination of two sampling errors – the error in the latest poll and the error in the last one.

    Treat stats with scepticism, by all means.

    If I have misquoted you, my apologies.

    A quote for any old-timers hereabouts.
    Frank Knopfelmacher, around 1976, “A statement can be true, even if is uttered by Henry Kissinger!”

    Update for 2018: “ A statement can be true, even if it is written by zoot!”


  53. Ambi, on opinion polls and stats gained from polling, I agree. See new Weekly salon 4/11. In Item 3 there is some discussion about why polls can’t be trusted.

    In Item 4, we have a surge in Australian manufacturing, but officially we can’t be sure, because it could just be a sampling error.

  54. In Jumpyworld bullshit is called bullshit.
    And this,

    Just a gentle FYI – helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 60%. I believe that is statistically significant.

    is bullshit as I’ve demonstrated above.
    I will obviously agree with zoot if he doesn’t provably bullshit.

    Zoots comments shouldn’t have the immunity from scrutiny that they enjoy, no ones should.

  55. Breaking News:
    Mackay building contractor destroys reputations of University of NSW statisticians Jake Olivier and Prudence Creighton by irrefutably demonstrating they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  56. Have another look at zoot’s linked story and the study by Jake Olivier and Prudence Creighton. I’m not going to argue the toss with a couple of University of New South Wales statisticians who drew together data from more than 40 separate studies in a comprehensive meta-study of all the data they could find that meant something.

    They found:

    “Helmet use is associated with odds reductions of 51% for head injury, 69% for serious head injury, 33% for face injury and 65% for fatal head injury. Injuries to the neck were rare and not associated with helmet use,” the study found.

    “These results suggest that strategies to increase the uptake of bicycle helmets should be considered along with other injury prevention strategies as part of a comprehensive cycling safety plan.”

    The researchers cautioned that helmets were not a “panacea for cycling injury” and did not eliminate head or face injuries or offer protection to other parts of cyclists’ bodies. But it does make the case more difficult for those who oppose mandatory helmet wearing, they said.

    The population they were looking at was not the public in general, and not all cyclists. It was “cyclists involved in a crash or fall”.

    It may nevertheless be true that mandating the wearing of helmets reduces bike riding.

    For everyone’s information, here are two photos taken in Amsterdam in 2008:

    I heard talkback on this issue on ABC Nightlife during the week. There is a lot of anger, not just about what happens on the roads, but also what happens on footpaths and walkways. No first responder or medical person was in favour of relaxing laws. There was also a reminder that other parts of the body get hurt, also dissatisfaction with helmet design.

  57. Jumpy:

    In Jumpyworld bullshit is called bullshit.

    What is bullshit is determined by Jumpy.
    In Zootworld……………
    The statistical chance of jumpyworld bullshit being the same as Zootworld bullshit is quite low.

  58. Brian 4th Nov,

    on polls

    Today there’s an example of fairly reasonable reporting (Guardian online, Essential poll):

    The PM’s disapproval rate has risen from 28% to 37%; the rise is outside the poll’s margin of error, which is plus or minus 3%.

    Good work, Guardian.

  59. ‘Can’t believe that Jumpy’s arguing about helmets for bike riders when used off-road.
    Me, as a taxpayer, am supposed to – no have to – pay for treatment for the broken body and ruined brain, possibly for life.
    Now donning a helmet is not a particularly onerous task Jumpy. Nor is it a great affront to human rights because on balance, the negligent act of acquiring brain damage affects a lot of other people in the world – what about their rights?
    So Jumpy talk about something a bit more intriguing, like should they change the colour of ping pong balls or whatever huh?

  60. geoff h,

    I will take up your challenge.

    As far as ping pong balls go,
    “it’s OK to be white”.

    Also, most ping pong balls pay no net tax.

    They get bashed around and don’t complain, in fact they bounce back. They can be masters of spin.

    And back in 1971, 1972 they brought two proud nation states together.

    Boris J thinks the game is called “wiff waff” or similar. He should be thrown out of Europe.

    Ambi of the Overflow

  61. geoff h

    If we can tear ourselves away from the ping pong table for a while, I’d like to recall another misinterpretation of percentages, from some years back.

    Some public safety advocates* were pushing for 50+ sunscreen to be made available. I think we had 30+ then, and 25+ may have been more common.

    Anyway, the exact figures aren’t vital to the story.

    Suppose the standard was 25+, and the campaigners wanted 50+ to be available.

    One of the opponents of the change was making public statements along these lines: “The sunscreen we use blocks 96% of UV if applied properly. Some people want a screen that blocks 98% of UV. That’s a tiny change. Look, it’s only an increase of two percent. What’s the point of doing that?”

    It beggared belief.
    But as recent examples show, this kind of misunderstanding can happen anywhere.

    * human beings who wanted to reduce avoidable risks for other human beings

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