March 26, 2014 | Graham

Shorten must nominate cuts or it is all bluster

Bill Shorten will claim today that the budget situation is not as bad as the government says, and will accuse them of “deception” according to the SMH. If he doesn’t spell out which promises Labor made before the last election he would jettison, then he is the one being “deceptive”.

As Chris Bowen reveals, Shorten’s claims rest on a hypothetical model with unrealistic assumptions that their government expenditure would increase 2% per annum in real terms, and taxation would remain at 23.6% of GDP.

We all know that Gonski and the NDIS were unfunded, so the model is worse than hypothetical, it is hypocritical. If the government were prepared to be this dishonest, then they too could just plug a couple of unrealistic parameters into a spreadsheet and claim similar things.

The only way the model could approach reality is if many of Labor’s promises were dumped.

Labor lost government because it just made things up. There is nothing to suggest that it’s penchant for fantasy has improved from a few months in opposition. The signs are, it could even take decades.

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March 24, 2014 | Graham

List your least favourite bigots

The Twitterverse, and the ALP, are afire as George Brandis proclaims that it is a human right to be a bigot, as though this was some novel proclamation from a fascist government when it is in fact a well-accepted principle of human rights. If you don’t believe me check out Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Already Bill Shorten is running a campaign against the right to freedom of opinion, trying to rebrand it as “bigotry” or “racism”.

This isn’t an argument that is going to be won by appeals to John Stuart Mill, or John Milton, or instruments like the Universal Declaration, or even novels like 1984 and Animal Farm.

This is an argument that will only be won by demonstrating that bigotry is a subjective category, and that what is obvious truth to you can be pure blind prejudice to me.

So let’s start making lists of those we regard as bigoted and ask, which one of them should be punished for their thought crimes?

Here are some thought starters.

  • Richard Dawkins – a stigmatiser of good people because he has some bizarre theories about religion. Should his books be banned?
  • Julie Gillard – a woman who identifies any male criticism as misogyny. “Hang” her for sexism?
  • Lowitja O’Donoghue – constantly criticising bodies she doesn’t like for being “white fella” organisations. Here’s an example.
  • The Greek boys who lived across the road who called themselves and their friendship group “wogs” but would pick a fight with anyone from any other ethnic group who used the same term about them.
  • Stephan Lewandosky, who uses the techniques of punitive psychology to attribute psychological disorders to scientists who disagree with him about climate change.

I could go on, but other things call, and I’d like to see some examples from others if possible.

If Brandis wants to win this fight, perhaps he should strengthen the law, instead of abolishing it, to outlaw all sorts of bigotry, and then wait until the cries of defendants on both sides of the argument, convince each other that they need freedom of opinion if they are to be able to hold any strong opinion at all.


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March 20, 2014 | Graham

The hospitals that ate the budget

It seems that the Queensland government and the Senior Medical Officers at state government hospitals are still at loggerheads over pay and conditions with the Courier Mail reporting that over a 1,000 of them voted against the contracts at a meeting last night. This was after significant concessions by the government.

There are a few things about this issue which seem to have slipped through the cracks of the debate.

One is that the current negotiations are round two. Round one occurred in 2006 when the previous Labor state government was in similar negotiations with doctors. Then premier, Peter Beattie came in over the top of his minister and offered doctors a honey pot through their “right of general” practice.

This was a de facto wage increase, but one which didn’t affect the headline number on their pay because it related to money that they could earn through treating private patients through the public health system. As some doctors get a lot more opportunity to do this than others, apparently a system has evolved where everyone gets a share of this pot.

The result is a mess, with around $800 million of patients costs being paid by state tax payers instead of the private health insurers.

That means that some of the poorest citizens of Queensland have been dipping into their own pockets not just to pay for some of the richest, but to help them to avoid things like waiting lists.

This issue was picked-up by the state auditor general in a recent report. As well as abuses of the system by doctors who, for example,  pocketed money for overtime, even when they were on holidays.

So the current round of contracts on offer is meant to address some of these issues.

Another thing it is meant to address is the exponential increase in hospital costs, vividly illustrated by the graph below, prepared from figures in the Commission of Audit. At the rate of increase over the last decade in the Queensland Health budget, by 2020-2021 health expenditure is closing on 40% of the budget, leaving precious little room for that other big ticket item, education.



The 2040-41 figure is obviously fanciful, as are the doctors’ dreams that things can go on as they have been. Since the GFC many of us have had to pull in our belts. They should be no different.

Things will change, and we won’t make the 2040-41 project, and the sooner the better.

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March 06, 2014 | Graham

Albanese’s QANTAS ownership own goal

Anthony Albanese didn’t need to make the claim that eight out of the top ten airlines in the world are majority government-owned to make his case out. But he did, and if he was properly briefed he must have known that claim was wrong.

Now he must certainly know that claim is wrong because the ABC’s fact checking unit has done a very comprehensive survey of the evidence.

The highest number of majority government-owned airlines they can find on any top ten list is 5 – and that top ten list is airlines ranked by customer satisfaction.

When you look at any other top ten list, measuring airlines by number of passengers, passenger miles, capacity, profitability, fleet size and number of employees – all much more serious measures of being a top airline, the highest figure they can come up with is 3 (but often 2).

It doesn’t get more definitive than this, but it does get worse.

Here is a list of the majority government-owned airlines from those lists:

Airline  Country
China Southern Airlines China
China Eastern Airlines China
Emirates UAE
Singapore Airlines Singapore
Xiamen Airlines China
Shenzen Airlines China
Egyptair Egypt
Air China China
Qatar Qatar
Etihad UAE
Garuda Indonesia

This list tells us that out of all the top ten airlines in the world, no matter how measured, the only ones that are majority government-owned, with the exception of Singapore Airlines, come from third world countries, one of which is the communist behemoth of China (5 airlines), 2 of which are middle east oil states (3 airlines) and 2 of which are just third world (2 airlines).

To further complicate matters, Wikipedia scores Xiamen Airlines as privately owned.

The list also tells us that the Luddites in the Labor Party are taking as their models dirigiste and corrupt regimes who for the most part can’t provide a reasonable standard of living to their inhabitants.

So when they’re not swooning over European social democracy, they’re wishing us into the company of some of the least politically hospitable regimes in the world.

For my part, I reckon if England, the USA, Germany, France and Korea (to name a few) can run successful top ten airlines without the government owning them, then so can we.

It’s time for Labor to get with the modern program. Under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard they claimed to be about the future. That all seems so long ago.


Posted by Graham at 12:57 pm | Comments (4) |

March 03, 2014 | Graham

Integrity Commissioner an “abject” lesson in why purges happen

Queensland’s Integrity Commissioner David Solomon has been on the gravy train most of his life – a state he defines as “nepotism” – but now in his twilight years with a non-Labor government in charge, he’s decided the Queensland government has a nepotism crisis, and the ALP state leader agrees.

Solomon is a lawyer and journalist who was Gough Whitlam’s press secretary. He first came to Queensland to chair Wayne Goss’s Electoral and Administrative Reform Commission in 1992. And in 2007 was chair of a Anna Bligh’s panel to review freedom of information legislation. In 2009 he was appointed for 5 years as the Integrity Commissioner, again by Anna Bligh.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that with time running down on his clock, and the Queensland government suddenly looking vulnerable, he was happy to be the inaugural speaker to the Queensland Labor Party’s proprietary think-tank, the T J Ryan Foundation, and that he delivered a speech suggesting that current government has a nepotism problem.

Journalists were quick to amplify his message, with AAP weaving the Michael Caltabiano/Ben Gommers saga into it, (although ultimately that episode was about lying to parliament, not nepotism at all).

The incident abounds in irony. Not only was Solomon Gough Whitlam’s press secretary, but it was Whitlam who started the practice of replacing public service heads with loyalists with the appointment of Dr Peter Wilenski in as secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration in 1975.

In analysing nepotism in Queensland Solomon was happy to reach back to Wayne Goss’s time, or criticise appointments of the Newman Government, but he entirely neglected to comment on the most famous case of nepotism (in the broadest sense of the word) in Queensland – that of Premier Anna Bligh’s husband Greg Withers as Director of the Climate Change Office.

And while Labor leader Anastacia Palaszscuk, who was presumably in the front row at the speech, promised to take up the cause, she seemed oblivious to the fact that she took over the seat she now represents from her father, Henry Palaszscuk.

Being part of a partisan campaign against the current government doesn’t appear to be one of the roles of the Integrity Commissioner, nor does giving advice to the general public. One wonders how long his speech can remain on the commission’s website before it is taken down as ultra vires.

Recently Ken Levy, the CMC Commissioner, wrote an op-ed in the Courier Mail welcoming changes in the law. Labor called for his head. It’s hard to distinguish the two cases.

One has to wonder why the ALP chose this speech as the inaugural one for their Ryan Foundation, and why they waited so long. The foundation was set-up in 2012, just after their election defeat funded by $25,000 contributed by the Labor Party, the Trades and Labor Council and a levy on the seven state Labor parliamentarians.

It’s almost the next election, and it would seem like a anti-“nepotism” campaign is their only idea.

If they were really worried about corruption in public life they might direct their think tank to look at reform of the Labor Party, where, by a gerrymander that would have made Joh Bjelke-Petersen blush, union heavies, including the nepotistic Bill Ludwig, marshall the working class vote to their personal advantage.

And if Solomon was really worried he’d resign now. If I were the government I wouldn’t try to push him – he has only a few months left to go – but I’d use him as an object lesson of why you need to have purges of the public service when you come into power these days.

You can be sure that the previous government has left a few boobies around as traps to go off long after they’ve moved off to lucrative consulting careers.



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