December 18, 2013 | Ronda Jambe

The Case for Defenestration

A few months ago I visited Prague, home of Kafka. He was a disturbed author, and after my visit I started to understand why. On top of many centuries of conflict, Communism imposed a wicked peace. The dramatic points of Prague’s long history include the 3 (some say 4) defenestrations spread over several centuries.

If you don’t like the town leaders, throw them out the window. If they die, proves the point. But in one instance most survived, apparently because they fell into a heap of horse dung at the bottom. There are many ways to settle disputes, and we should not rule out any options considering the dire state our good nation seems to be in. This is the very window where one such defenestration took place:

prague defenestration

Soaring greenhouse gases? Rising electricity prices? Sorry if the repeal of the carbon tax doesn’t lead to cheaper energy, but don’t worry. Just keep building coal ports and opening new fracking shafts. Extreme weather events? Let’s just wait and see, making fine profits while in the meantime.

But we (collectively, don’t look at me) voted this government in, and now the polls say people are having second thoughts.

If you doubt that climate change is a global emergency, I invite you to watch any one of the little videos featured below, and then let me know where exactly are the flaws in their data:

Or better yet, slow down and take an hour to watch this beautiful one, also available from Transition Italia. Don’t worry, it’s in English, and it was made by a photographer, not a scientist:

Of course, I would never advocate violence (death to non-pacifists is my bumper sticker), but perhaps the occasional defenestration would help our leaders to wake up to the changes that await us and the need to move away from a carbon economy with alacrity.

The delusions of oil wealth in North America match our own identical Plans A, B and C. Beware the coming carbon bubble, some economists are now saying:

Perhaps some of the deniers and postponers could throw their old ideas out the window. Perhaps along with a few pollies, including those who have corruptly benefitted from coal leases. But only from the ground floor window, and please ensure that a load of their own horse shit cushions their fall.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, and leave you with my visions for a world ruled by women. It’s called Stealth in Petticoats, but don’t let that box you in:

stealth in petticoats small




Posted by Ronda Jambe at 3:30 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

December 16, 2013 | Graham

Do Dick Smith Foods taste better?

Dick Smith will have the “best prime minister in the world” launch his Dick Smith Foods foundation tomorrow. The foundation promises to distribute $1 million next year from the sales of Dick Smith’s foods, but recent research suggests the foundation might have some culinary application as well.

Researchers at the University of Gävle in Sweden in a study evocatively named “Who Needs Cream and Sugar When There Is Eco-Labeling? Taste and Willingness to Pay for ‘Eco-Friendly’ Coffee” gave participants in an experiment two cups of coffee which were identical, but they were told that one of the cups was “eco-friendly”.

In a slight twist on the placebo effect 74% of those who said they were concerned about the environment rated the “eco-friendly” cup better than the other.

It would be a fair bet that the effect would transfer to something like Dick Smith Foods where Smith is trading not only on compassion in a general philanthropic sense, but also on the products being Australian-made.

We know from the failure of the Australian-made label to make any perceptible dint on imports that being Australian on its own does not impart enough improvement to a good to move it, but twinned with philanthropy it could be another matter.

In a final twist Smith is also giving ownership of the philanthropy to his customers. They are being asked to vote on who will get the funds.

Smart marketing with financial, moral and culinary pay-offs, and all for a total donation (marketing budget) of $1 million.


Posted by Graham at 12:07 pm | Comments (1) |
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December 11, 2013 | Graham

Questions for Labor on car industry

The Labor Party has suddenly become opportunistically very supportive of the car industry.

Why not? Perhaps the South Australian state election, and certainly some South Australian and Victorian federal seats, will turn on it.

But this is the party that under Gough Whitlam slashed tariffs by 17% that set off the turn to globalisation in Australia which led inevitably to this outcome.

They know, as everyone who thinks about it knows, that the car industry in Australia was doomed. Even in countries at the heart of the modern car industry it is in decline, with car manufacturing in Japan declining by around 23% in the last five years

And what is the magic of making cars or anything else here? It might have escaped the neo-protectionists, but at the same time as Australia has been shedding manufacturing jobs it has been climbing the ranks of the richest countries.

You don’t get rich by aping the tactics of low wage, low education economies. You get rich by moving into areas where need is great and supply is limited.

So here are some questions for Labor.

  1. Which program would you rob to put money into the car industry? Gonski? The NDIS? Aged pensions? Unemployment benefits? Be honest. Which Australians are going to be worse off if we follow your advice? Who do you want to pay for your largesse?
  2. Which industries would benefit from cheaper automobiles? Why do you want to load these industries up with a cost to save an industry in terminal decline?
  3. If manufacturing in this country is so important, why did you impose the highest carbon tax in the world on Australian industry knowing that it would kill it off and send it overseas?
  4. If the car industry is so important why did you put an impost on it before the last election by changing FBT eligibility in a way that did maximum damage to domestic car manufacturers?
  5. If money is so plentiful, why did you  impose the changes to FBT, amongst other savings in the last budget?
  6. As wages represent somewhere around 16% of the cost of manufacturing a car, why did you make wages more expensive and less flexible by introducing the Fair Work Act?
  7. What is your vision for Australia? Is it one that involves Australians earning high incomes and standards of living working in the industries of the future? Or do you want to keep us trapped in the past so long as you earn a comfortable living occupying the government benches?

Posted by Graham at 11:13 pm | Comments (13) |

December 10, 2013 | Graham

Don’t fall into the Conroy trap

In politics media bias is a given, no matter which side of the fence you stand on. It is particularly worse for the non-Labor and non-Greens side of politics because most journalists fit on the left of the ideological spectrum so what they genuinely see as even-handed has a lean on it to start with.

So it was bizarre to see former ALP communications minister Stephen Conroy attempt various strategems to control the media to eradicate what he saw as bias. In fact it was one of the signs that the Labor government was a bad government that these attempts even got support.

Therefore it is not a good sign for the Abbott government that they are wasting so much valuable time hyperventilating about the ABC, when there are boats to be stopped, debt to be paid back and taxes to be axed.

They are dependant on the media to get their message across. How does threatening to take a bludgeon to their main means of communication with the electorate advance their cause at all.

And suggestions, like that advanced by Matthias Corman, that the ABC should be prevented from running a website are simply idiotic. Hasn’t he heard of “convergence” and isn’t he aware that many of us, including me, are as likely to “tune in” to the ABC using a live feed from a website, and that this is just the sharp end of where things are going? Doesn’t he comprehend that most of what’s on the ABC website anyway is derived from broadcast products anyway?

This type of idiocy plays right into the hands of those media who say that the Abbott government is hopeless.

But having the media biased against you is not necessarily a bad thing. You can use it to your advantage.

Take Pauline Hanson for example. Despite a massive media campaign against her in the Queensland elections in 1998 she came from nowhere to have the second most popular party in Queensland.

How did this happen?

Well, the media is not nearly as powerful or influential as they like to think they are. In any survey of trustworthiness I have seen, journalists, politicians and used car salesmen have similarly low levels of trust.

So just because they tell you something, it doesn’t mean it is accepted by a majority of electors.

In Pauline’s case, the constant barrage of criticism made voters sit up and say “I mightn’t agree with everything she says, but I think she has a right to say it,” and marked their ballot papers accordingly.

Smart politicians understand this dynamic and work with it, turning press opprobrium into electoral gold.

Dumb politicians do what some members of the Abbott and Rudd/Gillard governments have been doing. It says something about the pool from which we are drawing our politicians that this tendency appears to be bipartisan.


Posted by Graham at 7:19 am | Comments (3) |
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December 04, 2013 | Graham

Don’t back down Andrew Laming

Various news outlets are reporting that Bowman MHR, Dr Andrew Laming has backed down from comments he made about obesity after a storm on social media. I hope not, because Laming was right on the money.

He was commenting on a photo on the a Newscorp site of Melanie Ward who is apparently the same size as the average Australian woman – 163 cm and 70 kg.

Laming linked to the image and tweeted “So it is OK to be overweight, if it is now average!”

That’s exactly what Twitter is for – provocation. And a fine provocation it is.

Obesity is a serious health issue for Australia, and if you put the height and weight figures into the BMI calculator on the home page of Body and Soul, where the photo comes from, you’ll find that the average woman comes out as “overweight”.

Yet there are parts of the health, psychology and fashion industries that are trying to tell us that it is OK to be average, even when average is unhealthy, and that we risk damaging the mental health of those who are overweight by criticising it.

The photos of Melanie confront you with the reality of average, and Laming asks the right question. If we don’t ask this question of our average selves, then how do we do something about the problem?

The criticism on Twitter and the media, and by prominent ALP frontbencher, Kate Ellis was completely partisan and misguided.

Ms Ellis, who trades on being svelte, attacked Laming’s tweet as being “appalling”.

We don’t need this government critiquing women’s bodies.

We’ve got health experts and many others who will do that, and women themselves…

With typically sexist sangfroid Ms Ellis claims that only women can talk about women’s bodies, and by implication that a male parliamentarian, also a medical doctor, is not allowed to even raise the issue. What next? A ban on male politicians dealing with female constituents, and male doctors with female patients?

Recently Moggil MLA, Bruce Flegg, made a speech about it in the Queensland Parliament, and received a strongly supportive response to it.

The obesity epidemic is one that we have to deal with. At a time when there is a boom in fitness centres and some of the population is getting very buff, it is hard to understand that the median citizen is slumping further into the scales.

Part of the explanation lies in an underlying assumption that if we are fat it isn’t our fault – it’s genetics, or the population averages, or fast food, and that to even discuss the issue is to put at least half our population in the way of mental harm.

While a large minority of the population is actively taking charge of its own bodies, another large minority is wanting someone else to take charge.

It’s an attitude that explains rising rates of obesity. It could also very-well explain other trends, like falling levels of numeracy and literacy.

When it comes to health, education or a number of other areas “Whatever” is not a good enough response.


Posted by Graham at 9:45 am | Comments Off on Don’t back down Andrew Laming |
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