Of roosters and feather dusters

Brian Loughnane has quit as federal director of the Liberal Party but insists his decision to go was in train well before last month’s leadership coup, which saw his wife, Peta Credlin, and her boss Tony Abbott ousted from the Prime Minister’s office.

Roosters and feather dusters

Roosters and feather dusters

His resignation comes shortly after the fall of Tony Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin

Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves
(Julius Caesar, 1.2.146), Cassius to Brutus.

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Abbott dammed by faint praise (his own)

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has suggested the public will better appreciate his legacy with the passage of time.

Don’t hold your breath, Tony.

Not happy, Tony

Not happy, Tony

It appears that Bronwyn might be. But she didn’t vote for you last time round, either.

So the “Tony Abbott Appreciation Society” may be scratching for members.

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More magic pudding economics on penalty rates

The Parliamentary Liberal party is rallying behind the push to abolish penalty rates for weekend workers, particularly in retail and hospitality.

Someone has come up with the bright idea of cutting penalty rates over the weekend and compensating workers by paying them more for working during the week.

If the idea of cutting penalty rates is to enable retailers, restaurants and pubs to employ more people, there doesn’t seem to be much logic to this. It’s just a matter of cutting the magic putting into slightly different size slices.

One of the central arguments for cutting penalty rates over the weekends is that businesses are not able to increase prices over the weekend. It is probably true that most businesses will be trading over the weekend are generating higher turnover during that period, so to some extent, it is possible to pay the staff extra.

Prime Minister Martin Turnbull came up with a great reason why we have penalty rates, its historical apparently.

Nothing to do with the fact that when people need to work over the weekend, which is a time that most people would like to devote to spending with family and friends, they should be compensated in some way.

The other interesting aspect of the new magic putting argument is that if pay rates are equal over a seven-day week, then much of the incentive to work on weekends which of the busiest periods, will disappear. Businesses may still be forced to pay a premium to get people to work over the weekends while paying compensation to other workers who only work during the week.

Stay tuned, I’m sure Blinky Bill will come up with some more great ideas.

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No end to tragic gun deaths in the US

In response to the last gun violence incident, presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton is staking out territory on gun control. It’s not much of a step compared with what John Howard was able to do in Australia.  But at least she is putting her hand up.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a campaign event at Broward College,

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a campaign event at Broward College,

Hillary Clinton has staked out a tough position on gun control, vowing that if elected president she will introduce universal background checks and to scrap legislation that protects manufacturers from lawsuits by victims.

The response from the nutcase right was predictable:

Conservative commentators fired back during Fox News program Fox and Friends on Sunday morning.

“The other side of the that argument, of course, is – and what people always throw out there – is look at Australia,” one of the hosts said. “They have no gun violence, they don’t have guns, citizens aren’t allowed to have guns.”

Last week in Sydney,  in what appeared to be a completely motiveless act of violence, a young Muslim man walked up to a civilian police employee outside apolice station and shot him in the back of the head.

Within minutes, he lay dead, shot by two special constables.

Well, that’s the “good guy with a gun” argument. Two people, one the young 15-year-old and the other a father of a young family dead in the streets of Sydney.  If the young man had not been able to get a firearm, this wouldn’t have happened.

And everybody in Australia realises this.

Including New South Wales Premier Mike Baird who said that the people who supplied the gun  would be dealt with by the full force of law.

Something that would never happen in America.

Another proponent of gun freedom in America said “They  (Australians) also have no freedom,”  You can go to prison for expressing unpopular views and people do.” This was an apparent reference to Australia’s racial vilification laws.

We have significant freedoms in Australia and one of the most important is the freedom to  send our kids to school knowing that they will not be at risk of random gun violence.

If the price of this is denying citizens access to firearms, then the vast bulk of the Australian nation is prepared to pay this price.

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Malcolm Turnbull and Magic pudding economics

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has suggested it is inevitable Sunday penalty rates will be reduced but said there would need to be widespread acceptance from workers that they would not be left worse off.

The Prime Minister didn’t go into detail about how you could cut people’s wages and leave them no worse off. If you cut people’s wages, they are worse off.

The only way of compensating people for this kind of wage cut is through tax cuts but it is very difficult to have tax cuts that only target those who are on Sunday penalty rates.

The idea has had support from Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg  and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.

Malcolm Turnbull, Resources, Minister Josh Frydenberg Employment Minister Michaelia Cash  and the magic pudding

Malcolm Turnbull, Resources, Minister Josh Frydenberg Employment Minister Michaelia Cash and the magic pudding

Treasurer Scott Morrison has a different view and sees low wage growth as a major problem in the Australian economy.

it would appear that some senior members of the terrible government have not been talking to each other or even reading the same bedtime stories.

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Flaws in the coalition strategy in Syria exposed by Putin

Under the pretext of attacking ISIS, Russian fighter jets appear to be bombing rebel-held territory in Syria. In addition , Iranian and Russian troops are moving in to bolster the efforts of the Assad regime.

Smoke rises after airstrikes by military jets in Talbiseh, Homs province, western Syria,

Smoke rises after airstrikes by military jets in Talbiseh, Homs province, western Syria,

It’s a clever move, both strategically and diplomatically by Russian President Vladimir Putin who appears to be developing a clever line in brinksmanship in the region.

Australian Foreign Minister Bishop has taken a conciliatory line pointing out there is no firm evidence to suggest that the Russians are bombing the Syrian rebels. No doubt the Russians will be greatly heartened by this.

The Coalition is now really between a rock and a hard place. Putin’s  goal of supporting and strengthening the Assad regime has a clarity of purpose that the US-led Coalition has never had in its aim of degrading ISIS.  The tangled web of national and sectarian politics in the region has made it difficult for the coalition to have a clear and achievable objective.

The coalition can now back away from its determination that Assad has to go and find a compromise with the Russians or stick to his guns and work towards a regime change. The problem with this Plan B is that it will mean a confrontation with the Russians.

Now the situation has been made even more complex by the presence of Russian troops on the ground and Russian fighter jets in the air. The potential for a confrontation between the US led coalition forces and the Russians has increased markedly.

Now, Australian political rhetoric is shifting towards the idea that the solution in Syria will always need to be a political one.

Well, it took a long time for that particular penny to drop.

But peace in the region is clearly going to involve having murderous regimes in power  (think Saudi Arabia) and Foreign Minister Bishop is now talking about the Assad regime being one of “transition”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop Gaines status as a diplomat was every outing

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop Gaines status as a diplomat was every outing

The touching thing about the idea of a transition of government in Syria is that it is underpinned by the idea that it will be possible to have a transition to a government that is better than the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

This is probably not the case but almost anything would be better than the current situation in Syria which is currently engulfing all of the region, and a large part of Europe, in a refugee crisis.

The difficulty is that lasting solution to the problem region is really long way off because it will involve provision of a homeland for the Kurds, accommodation of Sunni and Shiite interests in Iraq, similar accommodation of interests in Syria and the withdrawal of Saudi Arabian troops from Yemen.

The conflict between Yemen and Saudi Arabia is symptomatic of problems in the region. This conflict dates back to the collapse and partition of the Ottoman Empire 1925 and carries nearly 100 years baggage with it.

Nonetheless, the move towards an unpalatable political solution to the crisis in Syria is preferable to the carnage that is destroying the nation.

It’s very rare for conflicts like this to be settled in any way other than through a political compromise.  One certain way of making sure they are never settled is to maintain the presence of foreign troops fighting in someone else’s homeland.

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Troy Newman should be allowed into Australia

The Age reports that  “A prominent US anti-abortion campaigner has been granted a temporary reprieve, after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton agreed not to remove him from Australia in the next 24 hours.

Troy Newman was detained at Melbourne Airport on Thursday after flying to Australia despite Mr Dutton this week revoking his visa amid concerns the speaker would incite community harm.”

Troy Newman: apparently his very existence is an argument against abortion

Troy Newman: apparently his very existence is an argument against abortion

Like most situations, this one is pretty messy. Newman arrived at Tullamarine, after booking a flight to Australia, despite the fact he knew his visa had been revoked.

He is now getting publicity well in advance of the importance or relevance of the message he carries, namely that doctors who perform abortions should be executed. Now, because of a cock-up on the part of United airlines, he is getting front page coverage, something he would not have got if he had been allowed into the country unannounced.

The difficulty with banning nut cases like Troy Newman is that it gives them a lot of publicity.   this allows them to mount the argument around freedom of speech rather than around the validity of their nutcase views.

Newman should be allowed to express his obnoxious opinions and the media and the Australian public should also make their attitude quite clear.

You don’t counter views like Newman’s by banning them, you counter them by mounting the rational, humane and legal arguments against what he is saying.

We can, and we should do this.


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