1. The problem with democracy
Clearly the big problem is the people, the electors, although candidates can be an issue also.
Last November popular Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow resigned over a perceived indiscretion.
Next problem was that the Queensland government had just passed a law saying that when a mayor disappears through death or resignation, the candidate with the next highest number of votes should automatically take over.
It happens that on this occasion the next in line was a bloke known Pineapple (Chris Hooper), who commonly rides a pushbike barefoot around town carting signs about saving the world:
The government rapidly changed the law to correct this nonsense, as we do in Queensland, retrospectively if the occasion demands. So yesterday with a field of 17 candidates, pundits reckoned he was a chance!
Today, with around 80% of votes counted, Pineapple is running third, with around half the votes of the lead candidate, Tony Williams, who is on about 25% of the votes.
I found a 2017 article Two eminent political scientists: The problem with democracy is voters where Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels lay out their sobering thesis:
Voters don’t have anything like coherent preferences. Most people pay little attention to politics; when they vote, if they vote at all, they do so irrationally and for contradictory reasons.
If Achen and Bartels are right:
- democracy is a faulty form of politics, and direct democracy is far worse than that. It virtually guarantees that at some point, you’ll end up with a grossly unfit leader.
Their book was researched Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government before Trump came along.
2. Another view
Bertholt Brecht made lots of quotable quotes, like “What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?” and “Don’t be afraid of death so much as an inadequate life.” I like this one:
“In the dark times Will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.”
What sent me looking for Brecht was a vague memory of this one:
- Some party hack decreed that the people had lost the government’s confidence and could only regain it with redoubled effort.
If that is the case, would it not be simpler if the government simply dissolved the people and elected another?
It’s kind of what the Republicans are doing, making sure only the right people get to vote.
3. Jobs, jobs, jobs!
That’s what it’s all about, according to Michaelia Cash, Scott Morrison and company. The Courier Mail has been getting into the Queensland government because our unemployment is 7.6 per cent, second worst in the country.
I read on my tablet a government media release which said Queensland has actually grown jobs in 2020, 36,600 of them. New South Wales had lost 38,400 and Victoria 52,900.
The reason is simple. More Mexicans are moving north again.
Sorry I can’t find the link. This one says our vacancies are strong.
Not sure who is doing what though. John Kehoe in the AFR says:
Overall, there were about 140,000 fewer people employed across the economy, with a big fall in full-time positions more than offsetting a rise in part-time roles between February and November 2020.
Huge lay-offs have been suffered in typically lower-paid jobs in the accommodation and food (-97,200), arts and recreation (-19,000), manufacturing (-69,600) and wholesale trade (-19,000) industries.
In a twist during the pandemic, employment in the healthcare and social assistance category has fallen by more than 43,000 positions due to declines in elective surgery, medical screenings and dental appointments.
Here’s an ABS graph:
Treasurer Frydenberg is urging us to spend, spend big rather than save:
- There’s now more than $200 billion, which is on household and business balance sheets, which was not there last January,” he told Tony Jones, filling for Neil Mitchell on 3AW.
“That is money that can be spent across the economy in the period ahead, and help us avoid a fiscal cliff when the temporary emergency economic supports taper off.”
JobKeeper, which supported up to 3.4 million Australians at it’s peak, is due to come to an end on March 28.
He controls when JobKeeper and JobSeeker taper off, so there is more than one way of avoiding a ‘fiscal cliff’. He has obviously lost confidence in the people, because he seems to think that if they don’t/can’t work they should be painfully poor.
Apart from pure consumption, what is the government doing to build back better, as they say?
For inspiration from our Treasurer look at his media release New measures to help Australia’s economic recovery in 2021.
Not much there to excite.
Actually, something did happen. A small sum of $50 million is being handed out for explorers drilling Beetaloo Basin.
That’s part of $18 billion to be spent on “clean” hydrogen, energy storage, low-carbon steel and aluminium, carbon capture and storage, and soil carbon.
4. Australia Day again
Just so you know, they don’t hand out Australia Day honours willy nilly, although it may seem like that. There is a proper process, which Scott Morrison says he has nothing to do with him. The ABC has helpfully produced A guide to Australia Day honours and how the selection process works.
In short the Governor General makes the awards on the recommendation of the Council for the Order of Australia, who are:
- The Council has 19 members, including seven “community representatives” chosen by the Prime Minister, as well as representatives nominated by each state and territory.
Three people also sit on the Council because they hold a particular position.
They are the Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell; a Deputy Secretary within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Stephanie Foster; and Senator Simon Birmingham, who is the Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council.
The Council is chaired by Shane Stone, a former lawyer, federal politician and businessman, whose diverse career also saw him serve as the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister between 1995 and 1999.
Margaret Court’s Order of Australia has caused anger, according to the BBC:
- The Perth-based pastor sparked widespread condemnation when in 2017 she said tennis was “full of lesbians” and that transgender children were the work of “the devil”.
She has also said she would not fly on Australian airline Qantas “where possible” in protest at its support of same-sex marriage.
I’m told she is also an anti-vaxxer, and if you get COVID it shows you are living in sin, though I can’t find a link.
Apparently her views don’t matter, but Dan Andrews thinks otherwise:
- I don’t want to give this person’s disgraceful, bigoted views any oxygen.
But when others insist on rewarding them with this country’s highest honour – I think it’s worth saying again:
Grand Slam wins don’t give you some right to spew hatred and create division.
Personally I think the awards do provide a platform for high profile people. Some of the recent decisions may be affecting the credibility of the awards system. Canberra doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo has handed her OAM back, because she doesn’t want to be part of the circus.
In other news Scott Morrison has used his platform to criticise Cricket Australia:
Scott Morrison, has come under fire after he criticised a Cricket Australia initiative to promote inclusivity on 26 January and claimed the date in 1788 “wasn’t a particularly flash day” for those on the first fleet.
The game’s governing body on Wednesday announced it would drop references to “Australia Day” in promotional material for Big Bash League games in the lead-up to the public holiday considered by some as a day of mourning.
Morrison has accused Cricket Australia of politicising Australia Day. In fact, he’s done that himself.
On ABC Nightlife the other night Morrison’s action was ‘Topic of the day”. While there were some contrary views, the dominat view was that Morrison should get on with governing the country. We don’t need him sticking his bib into every issue. One caller said, the PM is there to serve us, he’s not our boss.
Amen to that.
5. Virus factoid
The New Scientist in a potted history of the progress on the coronavirus said that last February several outbreaks in ski resorts in Italy and Austria led to a rapid evacuation, often in crowded buses, as travellers headed home.
One resort, Ischgl in Austria, was linked with thousands of cases in 46 countries.
6. Have the lunatics taken over the asylum?
Remember the Monash Forum? I called them Coalsheviks, a pro-coal group started by Tony Abbott within the Coalition in 2018. Marian Wilkinson has the story in The Carbon Club.
On the eve of Anzac Day 2018 Malcolm Turnbull found himself in Villers-Bretonneux to open the Monash Centre with the French PM. It had been Abbott’s pet project, so Abbott was there as a special guest, who had earlier, in 2017, given the annual lecture at the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a sceptic think-tank in the UK. The lecture was titled ‘Daring to doubt’ but was known as the ‘Sacrificing goats’ speech..
A few weeks before Anzac 2018 Abbott had launched the Monash Forum, a group of about 20 Coalition pollies as a pro-coal lobby group. Turns out that Monash as a civilian engineer had been involved in building coal-fired power stations. The Forum was duly promoted by Peta Credlin on Sky.
Turnbull didn’t see the Monash Forum as a threat to his PMship, he saw it as an absurdity, because while he took a technology neutral approach he believed that no-one in private enterprise would be stupid enough to build coal-fired power.
The last entry on the Monash Forum Facebook page is by Craig Kelly on 8 September 2018, with an article from the Oz celebrating new PM Scott Morrison burying the NEG and seeking “endorsement from cabinet to tear up the Paris emissions target legislation when it meets formally for the first time on Monday, as the new Prime Minister moves to stamp his authority over a new policy direction for the government.”
Anyway, mission accomplished, no need for the Monash Forum any more.
So when we think about how problematic the loony Right has become elsewhere, there is scope for thinking about how we are situated in Australia.