1. Getting there
Happy Fathers Day as appropriate.
I have been reflecting a little on my intermittent output on this blog. Generally speaking in my life at present my priorities are:
- 1. health and family
- 2. work
- 3. blogging
- 4. the ALP and LEAN
Then there are other matters to be fitted in, like time for friends, jobs around the house, decluttering (having lived in the same house for nearly 40 years) etc etc.
My big problem in recent times has been my eyes. The recently completed cataract surgery must be counted a huge success, seeing colours and detail like I can’t remember seeing ever. However, it’s not perfect, especially in the recovery period which takes some months. I have very good long vision, but reading is ordinary and computer screens only passable, currently working with magnifying glasses you buy at a pharmacy. I’ve now been passed back from my opthalmologist to my optometrist, and on Friday got sorted for new glasses which should improve reading when I get them. That will probably happen the week after next.
The main effect of COVID is that surgery was delayed about two months, and the time devoted to family has increased. Family time has also increased for reasons unrelated to COVID.
Family time is not all heavy duty, although we have had some of that. We have an additional house member from a different generation, which has led to some companionate TV watching of series which my wife and I would never have watched.
Of importance here is that time spent on item 4 above has reduced to the point where I can barely keep up with what is going on. Input and influence are about zero.
Screen time has also reduced, hence blogging has also been affected.
A couple of years ago I could churn out 18-20 posts a month, but then the graph goes into a trend decline from January 2018. I think my average post was shorter back then, but still output in words has declined. I used to be strict about limiting these ‘salon’ items to 150 words. If that wasn’t enough to do the topic justice I’d do a separate post. However, starting posts is easier than finishing them. The number of unfinished drafts in the works has now risen to 180.
At the same time, the flood of ‘bloggable’ issues and information has increased by multiples in the last few years.
My main message here is that while I have some frustration, and I really don’t know how things will work out in the (unforeseeable) future, I haven’t given up.
I’m grateful for the support from regular commenters, especially the loyalty and input from John D, whose posts are also more than welcome.
Any comments or suggestions people care to make will be duly reflected upon. I value honesty and am not especially thin-skinned.
2. Times are changing
A lot of commentators have been on this theme, for example George Friedman in The storm before the calm – the coming crisis of the 2020s
Friedman has a cyclical view of history. With a focus on the US, but with implications for the rest, he sees the US experiencing for the sixth time an age of turbulent transition and confusion. Typically they fight each other during these times, he says, and hate whoever is president while once again they try to work out who they are and what comes next. COVID in his terms has merely been an accelerant.
His message is one of hope. Biden will just settle things down, the one that follows him will be the one to watch. His message is that America is not a failed state, they will be back, just give them a decade or so.
Not sure how climate change fits his interpretation. I suspect it doesn’t.
Inside Story has been doing a series of posts around this theme with articles such as Adam Triggs Modern Monetary Theory: a solution in search of a problem and John Quiggin The end of the goods economy.
Neither of these is entirely new.
Quiggin’s bottom line:
Without any need for private sector investment, interest rates will remain low unless public investment picks up the slack. With the physical goods economy fading into the past, though, we don’t need more of the transport infrastructure projects governments automatically turn to at times like these. Rather, we need to invest in human services like health (mental and physical), education and childcare, and in information platforms that break the monopoly power of the tech giants.
These are the investments that will allow Australia to flourish in an economy dominated by information and services rather than industrial production.
No mention of public housing, and I hope ‘education’ includes R&D.
3. The power of play
Childcare caught my eye along with an article in the same issue by Fiona David, Trish Bergin and Kim Rubenstein Sharing the caring:
- It’s time to recognise the multiplier effect of investing in early childhood education
They have discovered:
- Research shows that the early years of a child’s life, up to five years of age, are critical to their future academic, health, social and professional trajectories. Play-based early learning develops the executive functions critical to our nation’s economic future. Competencies and emotional frameworks that lead to high-value jobs (which should include childcare) in the fastest-growing sectors are developed in those early years. We are investing in our future if we invest in children’s education at this age. (Emphasis added)
Look, the importance and life-changing nature of child-initiated, adult-guided play was identified and promulgated through the Highscope foundation in the 1960s and 1970s. It was implemented from 1971 in Queensland, I think at least in Victoria also. In the course of time it was overrun and evicted by the direct teaching of skills by the ‘back to basics’ ideologues who took over curriculum policy.
That is what you see in the photo in the piece. Children practicing fine motor skills through tracing. Have a look at Thrive by Five site, promoted by foreign minister Julie Bishop, epidemiologist professor Fiona Stanley, former SA premier Jay Weatherill and philanthropist Nicola Forrest.
Good on them, but I can’t see any play there, at all. I can’t see any development of executive functions of the brain happening in those images.
A report by the UK Women’s Budget Group for the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) shows that investing public funds in childcare and elder care services is more effective in reducing public deficits and debt than austerity policies: it would boost employment, earnings, economic growth and fosters gender equality.
Investing in the care economy creates about twice as many jobs as investment in construction industries.
- Simulation results from seven OECD countries showed that investing 2% of GDP in public services of care would create almost as many jobs for men as investing in construction industries in the UK, US, Germany and Australia but would create up to four times as many jobs for women.
That research was picked up in the AFR by Emma Dawson in The case for a pink stimulus shot.
Because investing in housing addresses “the growing problem of homelessness and housing insecurity, which is particularly acute for older women and single-parent families” we need to do both. Dawson says:
- the early childhood education and care sector is teetering on the brink of collapse. These industries not only employ huge numbers of low-paid female workers, they provide an essential service that enables other women to go out to work.
Australia’s economy, and our way of life, won’t recover until we can get women back to work. For that to happen, the government must create good, secure jobs and lift the quality of service in the care economy. It is clear that the private sector cannot, and will not, meet these needs. Only government investment in this essential social infrastructure can do the job.
If women are hard done by, be assured they are not alone. Greg Jericho says The Morrison government is trying to lock in a less equitable economy for years to come
5. Abbott finds something to do
Some of the Brits have been calling Tony Abbott a homophobe and a misogynist as well as a climate denier. To many Australians that is unsurprising, however, his sister says he’s OK. OK too for his new job as chair the UK’s new Board of Trade, she says. Many here wonder what he knows about trade, because trade agreements are negotiated in secret, and not by prime ministers.
Maybe he’s a good chair, sorry, good at chairing. I doubt that, but Boris Johnson says he’ll do just fine:
- ‘This is a guy who was elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia.’ When asked what his fiancée, Carrie Symonds, thought of Abbott, Johnson replied: ‘Pass’
Now questions are being asked about his loyalties to us. Answer – probably the same as they always were.
6. Our democracy at work
Laura Tingle in her weekly column talks of the government jamming through legislation without debate. Zali Steggall and others wanted to amend the new environment bill, which many say will allow the environment to be destroyed. Steggall thinks many Liberal members did not want it on the record that they had voted against pro-environment amendments.
Tony Burke, leader of Labor in the house, reckons that the government voted to silence 11 Labor members on Thursday morning, but the strangest one was on Wednesday. Liberal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher insisted that a debate on cuts to Australia Post be started by Anthony Albanese. Then when Albo stood up he moved that Albo “be no longer heard”.
Just to show who is in control and who will decide who gets to talk in the parliament of our great democracy.
7. How safe is Australia?
That’s the question asked in Quora.
The answer is not very, if the photos be any guide.
For example, Cassowaries need to be treated with great respect:
As do crocodiles:
Fire has become more intrusive than most places in the world:
The article says this is how everything looks most of the time, and people overseas are apt think it actually does.