June 27, 2013 | Ronda Jambe

At least Rudd didn’t use the c word

Unless my stunned and tired ears misheard, he didn’t mention climate change in his press conference last night. He had a unique opportunity to reinforce the message Obama sent out the day before. The US will undertake a massive investment and effort to at least adapt to the train wreck that experts now agree is coming our way.

That would have implied a greater degree of awareness and leadership than we have become used to in our federal politicians. Julia Gillard, in a speech that was more gracious,  transcendent and policy focused than one would have expected, did mention the emissions trading scheme.

But Rudd’s machinations probably haven’t left him time to read a recent report from the U.S. Center for Naval Analyses and the London-based Royal United Services Institute.  For those deniers who think these are left wing think tanks, I note that they are ‘two of the NATO alliance’s front-line strategy centers’.

The report, available at:


says it is misguided to focus on obtaining more oil, and that climate change is a huge threat to national security.  I would say it is greater than terrorism (connect the dots, they are related issues)

It recommends renewables and energy conservation.

In my book, this means redesigning cities and buildings, biofuels, smart grids, local food production, and development that isn’t linked to traditional measures of growth.

If the Gillard government offered climate change policies among the best in the world, as one of her advisors told me, then this and the urgency of finding solutions has not been shouted from the rooftops.

Is the media where the finger should be pointed? Are we so obsessed with trivia that we can’t recognise what is most important for us to deal with, or its urgency? This article about looking back on what will be our future this century, describes a civilisation that just couldn’t make the necessary changes:


As far as gender wars goes, I found it repugnant that Germaine Greer got airtime for making vulgar and insulting comments about the PM’s physical attributes that would be suicide for any male in the public sphere.

Maybe someone needs to get the owner of NewsCorp onside to get the climate change message out.  I hear he’s looking for a wife…now does this lipstick flatter me?

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 4:57 pm | Comments (3) |
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June 27, 2013 | Graham

Rudd redux or reflux?

@annabelcrabb thinks it is “Kevin Redux”, but could it be “Kevin Reflux”.

The only reason for changing from Gillard to Rudd is self-preservation on the part of 57 ALP federal members. That was obvious in Rudd’s acceptance speech.

Here was a man who has spent the last three years undermining the government of Australia, and who has had three years to hone the speech that he was to give when he was successful in wreaking revenge on his usurper, yet what agenda did he have to offer?

While he used the language of “positives” his one strong position was that he was going to stop Tony Abbott from becoming prime minister of Australia.

He couldn’t nominate a single policy difference with his predecessor, neither could he even say when the election will be.

In fact, rather than differentiate himself from his predecessor he tried to embrace her record. And why not? She achieved what he couldn’t, and the Gillard government was really just an extension of the Rudd government.

So her failures are his failures.

Labor makes a big play on the strength of the Australian economy, but they can’t point to any policies they have implemented that contribute to this, with the exception of allegedly steering the country through the GFC.

Yet this, with the exception of the bank guarantee, which did make a contribution, and was a no-brainer, boils down to obscenely expensive school extensions and the bungled pink batts program, and a government deficit now on its way to $300 million.

The real reason the country skated through almost unscathed is the reforms implemented by the Hawke and Howard government’s and characterised by Rudd as “Brutopia”.

Australia survived because it has a robust flexible economy, minimal government interference in business, and a currency which very quickly adjusted to circumstances making our exports attractive. Since their election the Rudd/Gillard government has done its best to blunt, if not erase, most of those advantages.

How will the electorate react to the Rudd resurgence?

Well, the polls suggest Labor will surge, and in some ways that is the best that Tony Abbott could hope for. This will now make people swing their focus away from him and back onto Labor as they contemplate what 9 years of bumbling, self-congratulation and incompetence could do.

We’re still living off the Hawke/Howard legacy, but it won’t last forever.


Posted by Graham at 8:27 am | Comments (7) |
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June 26, 2013 | Graham

PM to be unAustralian?

I don’t often use the term “unAustralian” because it is essentially undefinable, but reports this morning that Julia Gillard would demand that caucus decide any leadership vote by an open-show of hands rather than a secret ballot, licences me to use it.

For the secret ballot is an Australian invention, and for that reason is often called the “Australian ballot”.

The suggestion that Gillard would try to restrict Labor MPs from this right gives an insight into the bullying and aggression that has been the hallmark of this government.

The reason the secret ballot was first adopted in the 1850s was to prevent voters being stood over and coerced, which is obviously the reason why Gillard wants to abandon it in this instance.

Political parties don’t use a secret ballot for votes on things like motions at branch or conference level, but generally the question of leadership at all levels is decided by a secret ballot.

The ALP has regularly subverted the intent of the secret ballot by using devices such as requiring that factional colleagues show their “secret” ballot to the person next to them, but such practices have never obtained in the Liberal Party.

It is a regular occurrence for successful and unsuccessful candidates to sit around after a ballot and try to work out who had dudded them. Sometimes quizzlings survive as your “best mate” for years because of this secrecy.

And of course the “Australian ballot” is the way we determine who represents us in parliament.

There is an irony in a government running campaigns against bullying at the same time that it is obvious that at its highest levels this is the only way that anything ever gets done.

Posted by Graham at 8:13 am | Comments (5) |
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June 19, 2013 | Nick

The Local Government Referendum

This week, the Parliament has been debating the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) Bill 2013.  It is the legislation to authorise the amendment of the Constitution to recognise local government.  If the referendum is successful, section 96 of the Constitution will read as follows:

During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State, or to any local government body formed by a law of a State, on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.

(the bold part is the amendment to be inserted)

So, the point of the amendment is to allow the Commonwealth to bypass state governments and provide funding to local governments “on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit”.  It carries with it the obvious potential to turn local governments into clients of the Commonwealth Government, a body which, because of its superior power to raise revenue, is likely to become a much greater influence over local governments.

That is as it may be, but the purpose of this post is to examine the explanatory memorandum which comes with the bill.  A bill’s explanatory memorandum is, as a matter of statutory law, a document to be taken into account in interpreting a bill.

It makes extensive commentary about the effect of the amendment.

For example, the memorandum says:

“The amendment would not prevent a State abolishing any local government body, or curtailing the activities or expenditure of a local government body.”

One wonders whether a power to destroy a local government could be exercised if the local government had just received Commonwealth funding and, if it could, what would happen to the money?

Also, if that is correct, what is to stop a State from simply legislating to preclude any local government ever from spending money it obtained from the Commonwealth.  Obviously such a law would be at odds with the intention of the people in authorising such an amendment at a referendum.

State legislatures are, as an incident of recognition of state Supreme Courts in the Commonwealth Constitution, precluded from abolishing or seriously curtailing the jurisdiction of their respective Supreme Courts.  If that is the effect of recognising those institutions, why would recognition of local government bodies not have a similar effect?  The ability to abolish a local government yet to fulfil the terms of a Commonwealth financial grant would be an intrusion on the Commonwealth’s new power to grant that assistance.  It is difficult to see how those two prerogatives can stand together.

Crucially, the explanatory memorandum cannot have its ordinary effect.  An explanatory memorandum has value as an aid to interpretation because it is before the Parliament at the time that the Parliament passes the legislation; it is a window into the intention behind the legislation.  There will be no explanatory memorandum before the people when they deliberate on the referendum question.  There can be no statutory explanatory memorandum for the Constitution.  The words which are proposed will be construed according to their ordinary meaning and without any reference to the explanatory memorandum.

For that reason, the explanatory memorandum is a fraud.

It is a matter of common experience that tensions arise between State Governments and local governments from time to time.  A few years ago, the Queensland State Parliament passed laws amalgamating local governments because some of them were hopelessly insolvent.  Many citizens were intractably opposed to the amalgamations.

If unpopular amalgamations were to happen in the future, one could well imagine a local government in receipt of unexpended Commonwealth monies arguing that abolition of it would intrude on the Commonwealth’s exercise of its power under section 96 to grant the money.

The proposed Constitutional amendment is dangerous and the arguments in favour of it are erroneous.

Posted by Nick at 7:23 pm | Comments (6) |

June 19, 2013 | Graham

Two cows, the sequel

A lot has happened since the “Two cows” model of how the different “isms” run their economies first appeared. This is the latest instalment, which hit my email inbox a couple of weeks ago, updated to take account of the GFC and the Euro crisis.

The world economy explained with two cows


You have 2 cows.

You give one to your neighbour.


You have 2 cows

The State takes both and gives you some milk.


You have 2 cows.

The State takes both and sells you some milk.


You have 2 cows.

The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other and then throws the milk away.


You have two cows.

You sell one and buy a bull.

Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.

You sell them and retire on the income.


You have two cows.

You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.

The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.

The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.


You have two cows.

You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.

You hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has died.


You have two cows.

You go on strike, organize a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.


You have two cows, but you do not know where they are.

You decide to have lunch.


You have 5,000 cows. None of them belong to you.

You charge the owners for storing them.


You have two cows.

You have 300 people milking them.

You claim that you have full employment and high bovine productivity.

You arrest the newsman who reports the real situation.


You have two cows.

You worship them.


You have two cows.

Both are mad. You don’t notice.


Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.

You tell them that you have none.

Nobody believes you, so they invade and bomb the shit out of you.

You still have no cows but at least you are now a Democracy.


You have two cows.

Business seems pretty good.

You close the office and go for a few beers.


You have two cows.

The one on the left looks very attractive.


You have two cows borrowed from French and German banks.

You eat both of them.

The banks call to collect their milk, so you call the IMF.

The IMF loans you two cows.

You eat both of them.

The banks and the IMF call.

You are out getting a haircut.


You have two cows.

One of them’s a horse.

In the Ukraine

You have two cows

Your neighbour steals one. You call the Police. They steal the other. 
You complain to the Mayor. The Police come back, beat the shit out of you, and throw you in jail.
The Mayor has two cows
And the one from 5 years ago:
11 July 2008 02:13
Bear Stearns hear about this sudden interest in cows. They forecast that milk prices will go up 10% pa for the next 20 years. They buy 100,000 cows forward in Chicago, capitalise the income stream from the milk to secure the margin on the contract, revalue the cows and syndicate the  Collaterised Cow Mortgage Obligations (“CCMO’s”) to the United Auto Workers. Bear Stearns  buy 1000 real cows for themselves with their fee income. The forward milk price collapses when everyone else starts selling forward milk contracts, Bear Stearns can’t meet the margin call (they’ve spent all their money on cows) and goes  goes bust. Price Waterhouse repossess the 1,000 cows on behalf of the UAW. They give 2 to the mortgage broker in Amarillo Texas who arranged the UAW sale in lieu of unpaid fees. The other 998 die waiting for  PWC to agree a Cow Management Indemnity Agreement with the creditors. The UAW sues PWC, who are investigated over the relationship between one of the firm’s partners and his son in law, who is a mortgage broker in Amarillo Tx.The Chairman of the Federal Reserve makes a public statement “ In retrospect we should have realised that everyone involved in this market knew f**k all about cows, which is why we intend to bail them all out”

The mortgage broker in Amarillo Tx has 2 cows

Posted by Graham at 10:25 am | Comments (2) |
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June 18, 2013 | Graham

I’m a man, and I vote

Yes, I’m a man, and I vote, and somewhere around 49% of the over 18 year old population shares those characteristics, so why would the Prime Minister set out to regularly antagonise us?

Picking on niche constituencies like billionaires, or dole bludgers, might be smart, but picking on a minority constituency so large it is almost a majority, is not.

It’s in fact worse than that, because to the male constituency you can add a significant portion of the female one who hold a more traditional view of the roles of the sexes than the PM.

Someone suggested to me that Julia Gillard does not live in the same universe as the rest of us, and it’s true. When the Twitterverse went ballistic over her “mysogyny speech” Gillard mistook it for reality. She’s been living in that ‘verse for so long, and become so divorced from reality, that now when you meet a man in the street in the real world there is an 80% chance he is not voting Labor.

At the time of that first misogyny speech I predicted it would “all end in tears“, but for a while her position seemed to be holding up.

I think that was because at that stage she was pretty much down to bedrock, and it took some time for men to hear and digest the speech, much less react.

At the time I interpreted that speech as being the result of stress. Labor was in a badly losing position, the PM was on the wrong end of investigations into union corruption where she had at the very least breached her duty as a lawyer, and Kevin Rudd was, as always, trailing his coat.

When we’re under stress we tend to revert to type and what we know best. And what Julia knows best is what she learned in the 70s at uni in her student union days.

Reverting to type is what all we baby boomer men did as well. We’ve had the “heads you lose, tails I win” arguments with feminists, some of whom we’ve partnered with, and we’ve got used to being a bit passive aggressive in our response and just shrugging our shoulders and ignoring it.

It’s a fact of life, born of biology, that most men rarely insist on winning an argument with a woman.

And anyway what’s to be gained by risking the verballing and the abuse when it’s a woman like this one?

So there’s been a slow build-up from men to the claims of misogyny, but now I think it’s got to the point where we’ve had enough, where even some of the sisterhood think it’s gone far enough.

Where those of us who really do believe in equality don’t want our daughters, or other young women who are significant to us, growing-up and thinking that this sort of calculated bullying using relative physical weakness, distortions and paranoid conspiracy theories as  weapons is a model for how they should behave to get ahead.

So we’ve decided to talk, or those who might normally vote Labor have. Not in the way that women like Julia do, but in the traditional male way. We know that actions speak louder than words, and that ultimately the only way to silence this haranguer is to take our votes away.

If the Labor party is collateral damage, that’s just too bad – they brought it on themselves.

Posted by Graham at 6:58 am | Comments (4) |
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June 14, 2013 | Graham

Got any good Joe Richards stories?

Joe Richards, while at school at Villanova College, Coorparoo, borrowed a priest’s regalia, and took himself up to Loretto College, offering to hear the girls’ confessions. I’m not sure how far he got, but I vaguely remembered the incident when reminded by Janine Walker before our ABC radio spot this morning.

She also told me that Richards supplied Paul Keating with his Zegna suits, all from his store in Woolloongabba.

There’s got to be better stuff than that out there, so I thought I’d leave this post as a sort of open thread on one of Brisbane’s more memorable characters. Leave a comment, or send me an email.

Posted by Graham at 10:36 am | Comments (5) |
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June 13, 2013 | Graham

What was on the menu at Richard’s Labor fundraisers

I went to school with Joe Richards, and nothing about “menu gate” surprises me. Even at 17 he was a colourful rogue, and made a great Major General in our 1974 production of the Pirates of Penzance. He was a complete ham, who a couple of years earlier had had similar success as the Duke of Plaza Toro.

After school he went on to run a successful men’s wear business in Woolloongabba, the most unlikely of places, and was known as a bon vivant and racing identity.

He was also known as a fundraiser for various Labor Party figures. And I wonder what menus for those functions are lurking on his hard drive.

For the fact of the matter is that when it comes to sexism, racism, chauvinism, larrikinism and ribaldry, the Labor Party has it all over the Liberal Party.

While it may have some PC Green shoots, and an affirmative action policy for women, it is based on unions dominated by working class blokes.

I have been to Labor Party functions where things have been said that could never have been said at a Liberal Party function.

Liberals tend to hale from the middle classes and the aspiring lower classes, and while sexism, racism, chauvinism, larrkinism and ribaldry are not unknown, they are things you are more likely to keep to yourself.

Which is one reason why Labor is running down the wrong road on this one.

Not only is it taking senior ministers off-message, but the idea that the party of the middle class is secretly vulgar is inherently hard to sell, and the chances that something embarrassing on their side turns up is extraordinarily high.

Posted by Graham at 1:29 pm | Comments (6) |
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June 12, 2013 | Ronda Jambe

Can you trust the International Energy Agency?

The IEA is hardly a left wing think tank. They advise governments on energy and are now warning that climate change poses a threat to the oil rig platforms in the North Sea. In an article by Tom Bawden in the Independent , the bigger waves and storms could add to the danger and expense of drilling for oil and gas.

To those who still think solar activity or maybe poltergeists are responsible for the intensification of storms, floods, fires, droughts and tornados, perhaps the view from the IEA will reveal the scale of the risks.

But then, wouldn’t it be ironic if the very climate change caused by burning fossil fuels causes an end to drilling for fossil fuels?

Quoting from the article:

Announcing that global greenhouse emissions jumped by 1.6 per cent to a new record
last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the world is on course for a
4C temperature increase in the long-term. This is double the 2C global warming goal
agreed by nearly 200 countries but yet to be translated into a legally-binding

"A 2C difference doesn't mean that you just need to take your jacket off, it would
have devastating implications," said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol.

Unless the world takes dramatic action to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, we
can expect "sudden and devastating" consequences, such as a significant increase in
the frequency and severity of storms, he warned.

A temperature rise of anything approaching 4C would hit the North Sea oil and gas
industry hard, fostering stronger and more frequent storms. The stormier weather
would add "hundreds of millions" of pounds to the costs of the North Sea oil and gas
industry, in the form of damage, lost production and, most of all, the construction
costs to strengthen the platforms, Mr Birol said. And even if the temperature rise
is less dramatic, the hydrocarbon producers should take pre-emptive action now and
invest heavily to boost their infrastructure, he added. "Oil companies need to
strengthen their platforms. This will lead to higher costs but will improve the
resilience of the structures," said Mr Birol.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 10:16 pm | Comments (4) |
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June 08, 2013 | Ronda Jambe

Divest and reinvest

The bad news is we are cooking the planet by burning fossil fuels.
The good news is we are running out of fossil fuels.
end of story, no problems, right? —
Except that the big money has now moved into fossil fuels, heedless of the bad news above. When the housing mess collapsed, searching for oil and building coal terminals became the next best investment. In the rush to turn the Great Barrier Reef into an industrial estate, investors include the major banks in Australia, many foreign banks, and many super funds and universities.
It seems the stability of the global economy partly depends on something called ‘capital formation’, which I guess means generating enough investment surplus to fund other things. (Help me here, because reading the Economist regularly hasn’t really enlightened me all that much about economics, but I read it for the arts, too.)
Since the advice of just about all scientists and the World Bank, and the military, and the UN and PWC, etc, is that climate change poses enormous, perhaps insurrmountable obstacles for security, food and survival (have I left anything important out?) it then follows that any and all efforts to shift the world’s money flows away from things that will destroy us and into things that might help save us are both sensible and urgent.
Bill McKibben’s efforts in this direction have met with some success, as big institutions see the writing on the wall, (or maybe the burning bush) and are eyeing the returns on renewables with some comfort.
And here, at Canberra’s unis, already students and academics are asking questions of the Vice Chancellors about divesting of fossil fuel stocks. These questions are not always coming from the high moral ground or paranoia about climate change, either. Some are coming from business and marketing disciplines, that ask about the reputational risk and even ROI if this movement gets mainstream.
Here is one of of the big numbers McKibben presented in his ‘do the maths’ tour, he was most charming:
“We can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming …Burning the fossil fuel that corporations now have in their reserves would result in emitting 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times the safe amount.”Bill McKibben 350.org

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 2:44 pm | Comments (15) |
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