May 30, 2013 | Graham

Tin ears all round

The idea that Tony Abbott’s decision to withdraw his support for the government’s proposed retrospective extension of public funding is somehow a plus for the government is bizarre, and demonstrates just why the government and its supporters are losing the Australian people.

It’s being pushed by all and sundry. I’ve heard Mark Dreyfus hum the tune, Bill Shorten as well, and in some of the worst political analysis I have read for a while, Michelle Grattan decided to harmonise on it: “Abbott’s backflip is a godsend for the government”.

No, what would have been a “godsend” is if he hadn’t backflipped. Then he wouldn’t have been mired in the same grubby sty as them. Instead he’s seen as being flawed, but ultimately having the good sense to listen to the public and step back from the mud bath.

This government runs a deficit in honesty even larger than its financial one. When its spokesmen step up and condemn Abbott for dishonesty all they do is draw attention to their own deficiencies.

What sort of promise is it that Abbott has broken anyway? An undertaking to the government to back a bill that he now realises he shouldn’t have given in the first place.

In the hierarchy of promises this is pretty low grade stuff. It’s not a promise that he made to the Australian people unlike the promises the government has been breaking (“There will be no carbon tax”, “you will get a tax cut” etc).

And if the government had any sense it would have broken its implied promise to Tony Abbott to introduce the bill before he could have withdrawn his support.

The truth about promises is that the public don’t care if you break them when breaking them means you do what the public wants. The public views that as democracy in action, not dishonesty.

As it stands at the moment, the smartest thing the government could do is to give credit to Tony Abbott, apologise for their mistake, and move on. But they won’t and can’t. Self-righteousness and hatred of Abbott govern their every action, and as a result they turn every issue into a wedge between them and the Australian people.

I ran into an erstwhile opponent this morning, a former ALP state member. It was at a Liberal Party fundraiser.

When I asked him what he was doing there he first told me that he was just a “businessman” these days, but then volunteered that Anna Bligh and Julia Gillard had trashed Labor’s brand and that he couldn’t vote Labor anymore.

You’re in real trouble when people who were your majors just a few years ago have defected to the other side.

I wonder how many of the departing Labor members will be voting Labor this election?

Posted by Graham at 10:15 pm | Comments (3) |
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May 29, 2013 | Graham

Australian companies using unethical SEO practices

I’ve had enough of our site being targeted by unethical SEO spammers who leave comment link spam in the comments on our forum. It breaches our forum rules, and it takes time to clean-up, which is a real cost.

This isn’t just some junk generated by robots and scripts. You have to register to be on our forum, so a human has to be involved. In fact, many of these spammers register and then lie low for weeks before they post their spam, just so they look more ridgy didge than your average spammer. This is “high quality” spam.

So who are these clients?

Well I’ve decided to keep a list, and I intend to draw the attention of organisations like Google to it. They need to penalise the companies that do this sort of thing.

We ask spammers to pay a fee for us having to clean up their graffiti. So far, surprise, surprise, none of them have paid up, even when they’ve made an undertaking to.

So, here is the list from just the last week.

  • Pivot Institute (The spammer, who uses a Google email address, so has little credibility, promised to pay the invoice. The principal of the organisation, Elisa Uyen, scolded me for even raising the issue! )
  • A E Soliman and Associates (Sent them an email, but to date no response)
  • MyImportLabel

If you paid someone in offline life to go around and graffiti people’s walls with your brand, you would be liable to the cost of taking it down. I think the same thing is true of online forums, but no doubt, should it go to court, there will be an argument as to whether the spammer was authorised, and if he was, to what extent the principal ought to be responsible.

We need legislation to make it clear that the principal is responsible, and that they cannot rely on the spammer being an independent agent to avoid their responsibility.

Here is the email trail from ‘Asjad Afzal’, on the basis of this, one of life’s crooks that you would hope never to have to meet in face to face life.

Email trail:

Well, this is the link to our credit card facility




From: [] On Behalf Of Asjad Afzal
Sent: Monday, 13 May 2013 7:33 PM
To: Graham Young; Elisa Uyen
Subject: Re: Issue regarding Links on your forum


Hey Dear,


Let make it finish. We are just exxegerating for nothing. Please send me payment link, I will pay and it will be over. No harsh feelings.




On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 12:54 PM, Graham Young <> wrote:

Dear Asjad,


This is certainly no way to behave. What is the name of the company that I am invoicing?


Graham Young


From: [] On Behalf Of Asjad Afzal
Sent: Monday, 13 May 2013 3:28 PM

To: Graham Young
Subject: Re: Issue regarding Links on your forum


Please send me bill so that I can come back to you harder.


You have almost costed us our client, you will pay for it.


What we will do

  • I forget to tell that I am member of Google Official Channel as well. I know how to complain websites on ground that they are black-mailing other webmasters. My payment will be used as evidence. We have almost 10,000 IPs through VPS and other proxy networks. So, I will send complain about your site from 10, 000 IPs. very easy through software.
  • So, Google will consider such huge amount of complains and throw penalty to your website. You are not ranking a lot still almost all of your traffic will be gone

You have messed with wrong team this time. 


Please send me bill asap.




On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 3:32 AM, Graham Young <> wrote:



If someone spams your site they are not reputable, and one should not put much store in what they present as “facts”.


It may be true that your client is “ranking for more than 3 dozen of competitive keywords of his niche”, whatever that might mean in standard English, but the bad publicity she is likely to attract for using a spammer to do that probably won’t help her conversion rate.


The invoice for cleaning-up your spam on our site is our minimum charge of $65. Where should I send it? Or will you just pay me directly using our credit card facility?


Graham Young


From: [] On Behalf Of Asjad Afzal
Sent: Monday, 6 May 2013 10:53 PM
To: Graham Young
Subject: Re: Issue regarding Links on your forum



ey Graham,


For your kind information, we are working with more than 100 websites only in Australia (Please see me email address for your kind information:-)). We have collaboration with companies in UK, USA as well. 


We are very professional and try to follow the rules of websites we follow. We have developed 100’s of websites, forums, blogs and stores and know how much time it takes to remove links:-).


We have already excused for inconvenience. 


For your kind information again, our client is ranking for more than 3 dozen of competitive keywords of his niche:-)

  • diploma in training and assessment
  • diploma in training
  • certificate iv training and assessment


Apologies again.




On Mon, May 6, 2013 at 5:22 PM, Graham Young <> wrote:

Dear Asjad,


My name is Graham, not “Hey”.


You spammed my forum, in contravention of the rules. You can read them at Please pay particular note to point 5.


Your client ought to be aware that people who run a business through a Gmail account are rarely professional.


Yes, I have deleted your profile. What would you suggest I do? Give you tacit permission to continue to spam the site? You might also care to read point 6 of our rules.


Can you give me details of who I should bill for the waste of my time in removing your spam?


Yours sincerely,



Graham Young


From: Asjad Afzal []
Sent: Monday, 6 May 2013 9:08 PM
Subject: Issue regarding Links on your forum



You emailed to our client about spamming links on your forum. We try to follow the policies of blogs, forums, directories or any website before placing links. We tried to delete links straight away but you have already banned/deleted our profile. We apologise for inconvenience and request you not to contact our client again. 

If you still want to prolong this, plz communicate with us.


From: Graham Young []
Sent: 06/05/2013 5:33 PM
To: Elisa Uyen
Subject: Enquiry Request


From: Graham Young

Subject: Enquiry Request

Phone: 0411104801

Message Body:Someone apparently acting on your behalf has spammed our forum with links to your site. I’ll be sending you an invoice for the time and trouble involved in cleaning it up.

This mail is sent via contact form on




Web |   Email |


Skype | seowebconsultants             Support |





Web |   Email |


Skype | seowebconsultants             Support |



Web |   Email |


Skype | seowebconsultants             Support |



Web |   Email |


Skype | seowebconsultants             Support |


Posted by Graham at 11:25 pm | Comments (2) |
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May 27, 2013 | Nick

Adam Goodes

This morning I read the Sydney Morning Herald’s letters page, which was largely devoted to Adam Goodes’ pointing out a racist slur during an AFL game the other night.
The reactions ranged from the typical schtick of the victimhood lobby to the ramblings of someone who tried to explain away Goodes’ being called an “ape” as a reference to an over-abundance of facial hair.
Yeah right.
The most consistent point was that a young girl shouldn’t be talking like that, but Goodes over-reacted. I don’t agree.
The guy was running along the field. Someone called him an ape. I’m a white man and I don’t think I’ll ever understand just how much a jibe like that will hurt a black man. One may safely bet it’s not the first time he’s suffered a slur like that. He’s an intelligent (and obviously gracious) man, so the likelihood is that he hears the slur with all its historical baggage, particularly in sport. Remember that Hitler and the Nazis apostrophised the great Jesse Owens and other ethnic Africans as apes.
In those circumstances, calling out the racism on the spur of the moment can hardly be regarded as an over-reaction.
Perhaps what followed could be so regarded. The girl who made the comment was marched from the stadium by Police, who, it is said, prevented her parents from following.
As has been said before, kids aren’t born this way. They pick these things up from somewhere. Was it really right to focus so much attention and heap so much embarrassment upon her?
I don’t know. If she is picking those views up at home, perhaps this sort of embarrassment will give her a previously unavailable opportunity to see another side. On the other hand, if it’s just what she picks up in her peer group, she’s probably now a bit of a hero in the school yard.
What do you think?

Posted by Nick at 9:25 am | Comments (10) |

May 24, 2013 | Ronda Jambe

3D printing will save the world

Well, perhaps just a few lives. Here is a positive development in what is
rapidly becoming a game changer for manufacturing and health care, and this
is just the start:

A bioresorbable splint has been created and used for first time at the 
University of Michigan, where doctors implanted the device in an infant
and stopped a life-threatening condition called tracheobronchomalacia.
-- full story >

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 7:38 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized

May 23, 2013 | Graham

IMF says Howard ran structural surpluses

So it’s John Howard’s fault that Labor can’t balance the budget, because he was running a structural deficit? Well that’s not what the government’s figures, as submitted to the IMF say.

As the graph below shows, since 1980 it has only been during the Howard years that Australia ran a structural surplus at all. And as the graph also shows, the descent after he left office was precipitous. (Thanks to poster Rhian who drew my attention to this on the OLO Forum. The raw stats can be downloaded from here.)



This graph is important because these figures were provided to the IMF long before anyone thought to argue that the structural deficit was the problem. Unfortunately, the argument being run by the official government organs of economic management at the moment is tainted by politics. They have been incompetent and are seeking to cover that incompetence up. Their own figures give the lie to their current position.

No doubt someone will comment on this post that the steep decline was due to the GFC, But if the GFC monies were just once-offs, then why is the IMF registering them as ongoing commitments?

One should also note that this graph disproves the assertion that inheriting a structural deficit condemns one to perpetuate one. Before Howard Australia was in structural deficit, but that didn’t stop him from fixing the situation entirely.

I should also note that Howard has two bites at this graph. He was treasurer in the first part, up to 1983.

The difference in performance between the earlier period, when he was treasurer, and the later, when he was prime minister probably demonstrates three things:

  1. Prime Ministers make a much larger impact on the economy than treasurers
  2. Old dogs do learn new tricks, and as PM he applied what he had learned
  3. You can’t just shrug off the circumstances you inherit

While Kevin Rudd inherited a fantastic fiscal position Howard didn’t – his position had been poisoned by Gough Whitlam.

Which is similar to the position that Tony Abbott will find himself in, inheriting the mess that Rudd/Gillard Labor has left.

It might take a long time before the graph rises above zero again, despite the best efforts of all.

Posted by Graham at 10:00 pm | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Uncategorized

May 22, 2013 | Graham

Take me ABC

They’re probably just using the ABC like a piñata, without expecting it to break, but it seems to be fashionable for commentators on the right to call for more diversity in ABC presenters (see James Allan’s piece from this morning’s Australian) and even applying on their own blogs for a job themselves.

Andrew Bolt is the trendsetter in this respect, and given that there’s a trendsetter, I’ve figured, why not got on the bandwagon early and make an application for the non-existent job  myself.

Afterall, I think my credentials are better than his. Not only does On Line Opinion indicate that I’d have no problems with the ABC charter requiring balance, but I’m already an ABC regular on Steve Austin’s Party Games.

Indeed, the ABC’s been borrowing from what I do for quite some time, with The Drum being an unashamed rip-off of On Line Opinion, just with a bigger budget. (I was a bit peeved to see the federal government sling them an extra $2 million in the budget when for a tenth of this OLO could give them a run for their money).

What’s more I can demonstrate credentials as a ratings winner.

Our 2007 Friday evening current affairs program on Briz 31 during the election campaign peaked at 12,000 viewers. As that’s a Brisbane-only demographic, that’s competitive with programs like The Insiders when you dissect what they probably get within the viewing footprint of Briz 31.

And as part of my application I’d like to tender as audition tapes the visual evidence of what a small handful of Brisbane commentators were able to produce on some small funding from the ARC (we did the program as part of a Linkages grant on digital journalism).

I could probably do with an autocue and a little more media training, but it’s authentic, and whether you’re from the right or the left, that’s something I think the ABC could do with more of.

So how about it Auntie?

Posted by Graham at 8:55 am | Comments (2) |
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May 19, 2013 | Graham

Politifact – fact, but is it truth?

Politifact is a well-established US “fact checking” site which has now expanded to Australia under the guidance of former Fairfax editor Peter Fray. It’ s a different take to On Line Opinion’s on the classic question “what is truth”.

We take the attitude that most (but not all) facts are subject to some degree of uncertainty and subjectivity (partly the same thing) and that any attempt to impartially adjudicate between fact claims is most likely to fail.

What’s more, my understanding of the political process is that voters don’t ultimately choose between one party or the other on the basis of their truth claims on issues of policies, but on more fundamental emotional, attitudinal and philosophical grounds.

John Howard understood this, and when he was criticised in the 2004 election for being a liar he recast the issue as “who do you trust to [fill in your favoured outcome]”. Of course he was right. Voters think the choice is not so much between honest and dishonest politicians, but between effective and ineffective ones,  it being given as a “fact” that all politicians are dishonest.

Our approach is dialectic. Put the adversaries in the ring together, let them slug it out and let the audience decide. Any other approach is bound to bring cries of partisanship, which is another criticism often levelled at Politifact in the USA.

Politifact Australia has made a mixed debut. Its choices for fact checking seem odd, but they at least appear balanced as the government and opposition both score some wins and some losses.

However, they don’t do so well when it comes to the nuances of language. They fact check as true Wayne Swan’s claim that “We face the second largest revenue write-down since the Great Depression”, which it is, if by that he means the shortfall between the government’s estimates of the revenue they will receive compared with the reality.

But that’s not the sense Swan is hoping that the public will take it in. He’s hoping we’ll think there’s been a collapse in revenue, which there hasn’t – quite the reverse, revenue has held up very strongly with 6.2% growth.

Their problems with language are further demonstrated in their finding that the claim that “Federal government public servants are purchasing gold-plated coffee machines” is so false it qualifies for their “Liar, liar pants on fire” classification.

What their analysis shows is that a number of departments have purchased coffee machines in the region of $15,000 each. For most of us that is “gold-plated”. They seem to have a problem separating fact from metaphor.

Can one look forward to their forensic exploration of the Prime Minister’s claim that electricity distributors are “gold-plating” their infrastructure?

Literal truth and truth are often two different things, and the Politifact approach ignores that.


Posted by Graham at 7:11 pm | Comments (2) |
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May 14, 2013 | Nick

Howard’s “responsibility” for the deficit

The proposition that the Howard Government is responsible for the current deficit annoys the hell out of me. As I understand the argument, Howard and Costello irresponsibly granted tax cuts in a boom time with no regard for the fact that future governments might want the extra revenue.

What’s really at the base of the argument is the view that a cut to income tax is an indulgence to the population as distinct from an acknowledgment that government should only collect what it needs. In the world of The Australia Institute’s Matt Grudnoff, tax cuts, once granted, are permanent and therefore wrong. No chance that a subsequent government, faced with different circumstances, might raise taxes to deal with an emergent crisis.

Similarly, there is no allowance made for the fact that the Gillard Government has embarked on major spending which could hardly have been contemplated in the Howard era. I’m thinking of Building the Education Revolution and Gonski and the NDIS.

It also puts at nothing the stimulus effect of those tax cuts. It was reasonable to spend tax dollars after the GFC as an economic stimulus measure, but completely illegitimate to leave money in the hands of those who owned it so that they could spend it in the economy. If the tax cuts had not been delivered in the Howard era, how much more would have to have been spent on stimulus to get the same result? How much more company tax was paid as a result of companies becoming more profitable due to lower pressure to raise incomes?

Last year, as part of the ridiculous Carbon Tax compensation scheme, the Labor Party was happy to put up taxes on higher income earners. If they had thought it necessary or desirable, they could have gone further. They didn’t, of course, because they are craven and they would have hurt too many of their own supporters.

Posted by Nick at 8:50 pm | Comments (7) |
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May 13, 2013 | Graham

Do deficits and debt really matter?

That’s the question we are posing in On Line Opinion’s May feature, and a recent news item might make it more newsworthy than I at first thought.

A 2010 paper by Harvard economists Reinhart and Rogoff was thought to show that growth suffers when a country has debt in excess of 90% of GDP. But the research was wrong, and the authors have admitted their mistake. (Bizarrely I discovered this fact at Climate Audit, a blog devoted to the statistics of climate change).

But does this really change anything?

I’ve always been skeptical that governments should always run surpluses and never have deficits. That’s not how I run my business. But then a business is not a government.

However, for businesses and for governments, it all comes back to one question – “If you have borrowed money, are you getting a higher rate of return on what you are using the debt for, than the interest on your borrowings, and is it enough to compensate you for your risk?”

In those terms the current Australian government debt doesn’t stack up. The money is being borrowed for living expenses, so there is no return on investment.

If it were being borrowed, at the depths of a recession, to put in place infrastructure for the next up-tick of the business cycle while contracting prices were at rock bottom, that would be another matter.

But we are at the top of the boom, and the largest bit of infrastructure they are building is the NBN, which is a totally unnecessary piece of infrastructure (and yes, I know it is an off-balance sheet item, however that doesn’t make their position any better).

Even so, I have no end of people trying to convince me that debt is not a problem for countries with a sovereign currency, because they can just print money to meet their obligations. While that might be true in the short-term, it can’t possibly be true in the long-term as repayment will have to be made via taxes, or inflation, or both.

So, while I share the majority view on Australia’s debt at the moment, in different circumstances I could be of an entirely different point of view.

I wonder where the balance will end on our feature?


Posted by Graham at 1:25 pm | Comments (10) |
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May 04, 2013 | Ronda Jambe

Connect the dots: more severe weather and less reporting

Thank heavens there isn’t any climate change, at least any that humans are causing. Or maybe just any that the elite media in the US considers worthy of their reporting.

Recently both the New York Times and the Washington Post have cut back their environmental reporting and blogging. This article on Grist reveals the crap they still devote resources to, at the expense of serious issues like climate change:

NYT, WaPo cut back environment coverage, since we’re not worried about that anymore

Meanwhile, horrible wildfires in California and unusual snowstorms further east are more evidence that crazy weather extremes are now becoming the new normal. Al Jazeera is just one of those reporting on this:

Severe weather slams the USA

What does this add up to? A less informed public, less capable of engaging their elected officials in climate action or preparedness. Who benefits? Follow the money.

And I sure hope the pollies prove me wrong, but somehow I suspect climate change and the environment aren’t going to rate real high in the September elections here in Australia. Getting rid of the carbon tax might rate, but without alternatives from Mr Abbott.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 8:37 pm | Comments (14) |
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