1. Way to go!
When you are my age, making your will, and the lawyer asks you how you want your body disposed of, it is not just a box to tick. Basically I don’t much care, I won’t be around to take any responsibility, the executors of my will and remaining close family can do what the like.
However, I don’t like the idea of taking up space. So the idea of being incinerated and ashes sprinkled in a rain forest has some attraction. Yet there is irony in using a blast of gas to add however minimally to atmospheric greenhouse emissions.
Now Washington state has legalised human composting as an alternative to casket burial or cremation. The cost is more than cremation, but less than casket burial.
So not just pushing up daisies but becoming part of the daisy has some attraction. Here’s how it works:
- The process, pioneered for humans by Seattle-based company Recompose, involves placing bodies in “vessels” and using wood chips and straw to turn the bodies into about two wheelbarrows of soil within a month. Loved ones and families can keep the new material to spread or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.
2. The rich are creaming it!
- While Australia’s lowest paid workers will see their pay packets grow 3 per cent from July 1, Australia’s richest increased their wealth by more than 20 per cent over the past year.
In real terms, the top 200 have increased their wealth by 17 times since the list was first published in 1984.
Christopher Sheil and Frank Stilwell in a study earlier this year found that two fault lines are developing. The bottom 40% own practically nothing and are going nowhere.
Australia’s richest 10 per cent now hold more than 50 per cent of the nation’s wealth, a share that increased substantially over the four years to 2016.
Almost all of that increase went to the top 1 per cent, which increased their share of the nation’s wealth from 14.2 to 16.2 per cent.
However, within that 10% most of the increase goes to the top one per cent.
The wealth of the top 200 is now $341.8 billion, up from $282.7 billion last year. Their average wealth is $1.7 billion, up from $1.41 billion.
The cut-off is now $472 million, up from $387 million.
Here are the top 10:
Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes at 5 and 6 are the Atlassian co-founders. At 15 is a bloke called Clive Palmer with $4.09 in loot.
Bill Shorten was right to talk about the “top end of town”, it’s just verboten to use those words. Nevertheless, as Albanese pointed out, some of those losing franking credits were not rich. Even with their precious credits, some were below the median income.
Property is still the biggest source of wealth, accounting for 63 on the list. Then we had 29 in retail, 20 in resources, 20 in investment, 19 in financial services, 14 in technology and 13 in agriculture.
You can find 62 each in Sydney and Melbourne, 21 in SE Queensland, 19 in Perth, then it falls away to 4 in Adelaide, 3 in Tasmania, 3 in London and 20 elsewhere.
Ruopert Murdoch does not count, not being an Australian, but some of his offspring are there quite separately.
Bernard Keane at Crikey goes on about 1 in 7 approximately inheriting their wealth. That’s about 28. I guess they are the undeserving rich.
AFR emphasises the self-made magnates.
Yep, our mate Clive Palmer is there.
All this is supposed to motivate us to be aspirational. If you subscribe to the AFR, once a month the AFR Magazine falls out of the paper. It’s a super glossy, paid for by the advertising of clobber and stuff the rich buy, where they live and where they go to get away. It makes me sick!
3. Polling blues
If you want to come to grips with what happened with polling around this election, you can’t, really. No-one knows. Kevin Bonham has a pretty good go in Oh No, This Wasn’t Just An “Average Polling Error”. He is especially critical of Nate Silver and the folks who say, What’s your problem? It was all within the margin of error.
A useful antidote to this is Brian Schmidt, Nobel Laureate in physics and the vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, in The mathematics does not lie: why polling got the Australian election wrong. Get a load of this:
- You can think of the uncertainties in the polls much like what happens when you flip a coin 10 times. You can expect to get the “right” answer of five heads quite frequently, but not every time. It turns out mathematics tells us that you’ll only get five heads 25.2% of the time.
If you do a similar calculation for the 16 polls conducted during the election, based on the number of people interviewed, the odds of those 16 polls coming in with the same, small spread of answers is greater than 100,000 to 1. In other words, the polls have been manipulated, probably unintentionally, to give the same answers as each other. The mathematics does not lie.(Emphasis added)
Peter Lewis of the Essential Report has some frank insights in As pollsters, we are rightly in the firing line after the Australian election. What happened?
Yes, the results are manipulated, in two ways. Firstly, if they can’t get their sampling right in any poll, they estimate on the basis of information they do have. It’s a bit like NASA estimating the temperature over the Arctic, where there are no thermometres, on the basis of the nearby measurements when calculating global temperatures. If they don’t do that estimate they will be sure to be wrong.
The second way is that Lewis says their latest poll before the election was nearly a week earlier. Fully 8% were undecided. They should have reported the poll 47-45 to Labor, with 8 doubtful. Instead they thought the 8% would break in the same way as the rest.
I have some sympathy for this account. Rebecca Huntley said that a three-second exposure to an image could make the difference. I suspect that this is where the saturation advertising of negative images on Bill Shorten by Palmer and the Liberals paid off. And, no, both sides did not play this game.
But I don’t know, and probably will never know. Bonham says Australian polls were seriously good by world standards, and were getting better:
This shows the virtuous effect of Newspoll:
Schmidt warns about polls as a threat to democracy. Lewis says:
My final point of reflection though is not so much about polls but the way we all, myself included, have tended to use them. For the past decade they have become the default scoreboard for the political contest. They have become the justification of internal power plays and the fodder of lazy political analysis, part of a perpetual self-reinforcing feedback loop.
However, that was not his final point. He says we need to dig deeper to find out what is really going on, then:
- All of which is to say: I don’t think the result on the weekend is a reason to stop asking questions and being curious about Australians. But it does challenge all of us to be more critical about the information we collect and dig deeper into what it really means.
Fundamentally, I think, people being polled don’t respect the process any more. Is someone who voted to save their franking credits going to necessarily tell you that is why they voted? More likely, they’ll say “health”, “education” or “economics” or something socially acceptable.
Or with robo polls, yet another nuisance call, they just make stuff up.