Yertle the Turtle: A parable for Donald Trump

I am sure that I’m not the first to draw the parallel.

In this short children’s story, the Dr Sess character is a tinpot dictator. Sess himself likened him to Hitler.

“On the faraway island of Sala-ma-sond, Yerlte the Turtle was King of the pond.”

If you haven’t already read the Story, you can read it at here. It’s very short.

In brief, it tells he story of Yertle’s rise to great power but one small act of rebellion by the humble Mack brings down a dictator whose power rests on a very shaky foundation of intimidation.

Once an individual and then a small group of Republicans defy Trump, there will likely be a landslide of opposition and his days in American politics will be over.

“And today the Great Yertle, that marvellous he, is King of Mud. That is all he can see.”

The IBAC Hearings into branch stacking in the Victorian Labor Party will claim some scalps. Will Dan Andrews’ scalp be one of them?

The ABC reports Federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne has admitted to the hearing that he has paid people’s membership fees and said that Andrews government minister Luke Donnellan had done the same.

Donnellan has since resigned from cabinet.

Labor Ministers Adem Somyurek, Marlene Kairouz and Robin Scott all resigned from cabinet because of branch stacking allegations.

Premier Daniel Andrews’ government has been peppered with scandals and allegations of wrongdoing. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

A review by party heavyweights Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin identified branch stacking as an “insidious practice” that had affected the integrity of the party’s membership, leading to a controversial purge of more than 1,700 memberships. This means it must have been widespread. Just who was involved was never made public. But now some names are being named.

Branch stacking involves a politician enrolling and paying the membership of friends, family and sympathisers in the branch of their party. These people may have little or no interest in politics but will vote as directed particularly in preselection. In fact, their lack of interest in politics is an advantage, they are much more likely to take direction on voting matters.

Ultimately, this has a profoundly corrupting influence on the democratic process because once one politician starts doing it, it becomes the norm because everyone needs to do it to survive.

The System’s archetype “Drifting goals” explains how this insidious process spreads and flourishes.

Over time, there is increasing pressure to stack branches with compliant, non-participating members who will ensure the sitting member is re-pre-selected. This becomes the accepted norm particularly when it is seen to be the behaviour of cabinet ministers and senior factional members.

The way to break this cycle is shown in the bottom loop where role models demonstrate that stacking is not acceptable behaviour and ethical behaviour will be rewarded. But given the success of the process of branch thinking, this is very difficult to do.

When Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin did their review they must have discovered everybody who was involved in branch stacking. It’s interesting that some new names are surfacing now.

The interesting question will be whether they found that senior members of the party were involved in the practice and decided not to make the names public.

If the Premier was one of them, he will need all of his political skills to survive.

The Canberra Times lists a number of scandals that Dan Andrews has survived

The National Party’s price for zero carbon emissions by 2050: a multi-billion rail line from Gladstone to Melbourne to export coal. Now that really does define stupid.

The rail line is going to run from 1700km past Brisbane and Sydney both major ports to Melbourne. It will pass through Flynn, an electorate Barnaby Joyce needs to hold on to the next federal election.

The railing passes to major ports: Brisbane and Sydney

The rail link has also not survived past feasibility studies. And demand for Australian coal will decline in the immediate future.

But extending the rail link is going to further open up thermal coal in the Gladstone area, a move that will be popular with local voters

This means that the National party will support a policy that will aim at zero omissions 30 years out from now, while planning to build a major rail link that will boost call exports that will increase international emissions from call in the immediate future.

The cynicism of this staggers belief.

Australia’s climate policy is held hostage by a recalcitrant and unrepresentative National party over an ineffectual policy that won’t come into effect until 2050.

The National Party holds 16 seats in the House of Representatives in Federal Parliament. That is slightly over 10% of the seats. At the last election, they managed just 4% of the vote.

Yet they are dictating to the Liberal party the terms of Australia’s climate policy supported by the coal mining industry led by Gina Reinhardt.

Barnaby Joyce said it was important to support coal mining because fossil fuels are Australia’s biggest export.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty, file photo

Ironically, the policy doesn’t amount to much. It’s looking at a target of zero emissions by 2050.

It’s just slightly later than the time when the nuclear powered Enterprise class submarines will arrive.

The problem with a target like this, is so much can happen between now and 2050.

This is a graph of a very simple simulation designed to demonstrate the effect of a reduction in emissions over a 30-year period with a slight increase in the earth’s ability to absorb carbon through an increase in carbon sink capacity. This is slightly optimistic given the deforestation that is occurring in Indonesia and in the Amazon basin.

Carbon in the atmosphere does not begin to reduce until around 2040. This is the point at which the amount going into the atmosphere is less than the amount being absorbed by the carbon sink. The point with two graph lines intersect.

This is because there is a lag before the policy takes effect.

The problem, is that very few people understand this particular dynamic.

By then ( 2050 and when people understand this dynamic), all the people involved in the debate will be dead.

My grandchildren will be in their late 30s. Global warming will have submerged most of the islands of the Pacific. The house I live in RichmondAll will probably be under water.

Most scientists would estimate that serious reductions in carbon emissions will need to take place by the middle of this decade and that this will involve a serious transition to carbon neutral power generation.

If we can achieve serious carbon reduction this decade, we can reach zero omissions by the middle of next decade, that will give bus a serious chance of limiting global warming

If you would like to read some more on global warming click the link below.

Who should be in charge during lockdowns, well-qualified bureaucrats or politicians?

A recent newspaper article suggested that when the emergency legislative powers granted the Victorian CMO Professor Brett Sutton run out in December, he might be sidelined in favour of cabinet ministers who will have more legislative power, in line with the situation in New South Wales.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton .CREDIT:JUSTIN MCMANUS

It highlighted a situation which most people would probably not have be aware of.

New South Wales Minister of Health, Brad Hazard, a politician, has ultimate control over the legislation and the emergency powers during the pandemic.

In Victoria, it’s the Chief Medical Officer, Brett Sutton, bureaucratic.

New South Wales Minister of Health, Brad Hazard, Source 7 News

The article took the view that it was more appropriate that an official elected under the Westminster system and hence answerable to the people to be in charge during a pandemic rather than an unelected official.

It did not argue that someone like Sutton, with as much experience in pandemics as anyone else in the world, should be in charge.

The argument boils down to one of accountability over expertise.

The argument that politicians, because they are elected, and hence ultimately answerable to the electorate is one that needs to be examined carefully.

Should the expert bureaucrat such as Prof Sutton have the ultimate right and power to enforce legislation?

Granting them this means the CMO makes the rules: decides when lockdowns begin and end, when masks will be worn, when schools will open, when businesses will close or open.

These are formidable responsibilities and they are exercised without accountability.

There is no right of appeal.

Or should such a bureaucrat merely provide advice to the politicians who will then make the decisions?

When politician makes the decisions, they will ultimately be held accountable at the ballot box.

What happens when the politician decided to ignore the advice of the well-informed bureaucratic?

It’s a difficult question. Trust in politicians is a variable quality. Many are suspected of acting in self interest and times of pandemic.

The new Premier of New South Wales, Dominic Perrottet, has chosen to take his state straight out of lockdown. He has none of safeguards that Sutton is trialling in regional Victoria.

By early next year, Victoria and New South Wales will know which of the two models have worked best.

A new perspective on Melbourne’s chances of full vaccination.

Some interesting stats from THE AGE today: The five Victorian local government areas with the lowest first dose vaccination rates are Melbourne (68.3), Yarra (72.5), Darebin (73.5), Port Phillip (74.5) and Moreland (75.2), according to data released by the federal government this week.

The article cites Dr Daryl Cheng, the medical lead at the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre, who said, “access, low education, casual work and language barriers were behind earlier low vaccine rates in Melbourne’s outer suburbs.” This was recognised as a major problem to Melbourne emerging from lockdown and government and community leaders mobilised significant resources to deal with the problem with considerable success.

Now a new and apparently more serious and intractable problem has emerged

A large cohort in the inner-city suburbs, labelled “Byron Bay-type lifestylists” by Yarra councillor Steve Jolly, is resisting vaccination.

Byron Bay-type lifestylists in Brunswick? Photo Byron CHRIS HOPKINS

Dr Daryl Cheng, the medical lead at the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre, said, “There are clusters of people who have an alternative belief system or are into alternative therapies, which may mean they have a very different approach to vaccination than the general population, we also see, vaccine hesitancy in the very well-educated [and] health literate.

Katie Attwell, a vaccination social scientist and policy expert from the University of Western Australia, said “We know Brunswick was the site of a measles outbreak a few years ago, so if we’re seeing now that that’s a lower uptake rate of COVID-19 vaccination that doesn’t surprise me.”

In other words, “Just the normal suspects.”

“Families from wealthier backgrounds that often refused or delayed vaccines for their children were hard to motivate with incentives or “no jab, no play” penalties as they could afford alternative care and didn’t need government payments.

This identifies a group that is likely to be highly intransigent and resistant to the techniques that worked in the northern and eastern suburbs.

The likely impact of this group’s behaviour on Victoria’s chances of reaching 80% vaccination will only remain to be seen. But it won’t be good.

It also means that it is likely that the inner city suburbs particularly, those in Yarra, will remain with stubbornly low vaccination rates.

Low vaccination rates will play out in our primary schools where children will take the virus home to their unvaccinated parents. Infected children will close classrooms and schools.

The difficulty with people who understand, or think they understand, the concept of herd immunity and choose to rely on it, is that herd immunity requires the herd become immune.

If enough members of the herd rely on other people to become immune, then a critical point is reached where the theory doesn’t work.

With first dose rates at around 65% in some affluent inner-city suburbs, things aren’t looking great

Australia’s plan to bring in overseas doctors and nurses raises the inevitable ethical questions

The AGE reports: Australia will allow 2000 overseas nurses and doctors to enter the country for work under a plan being finalised by the Commonwealth and states to ease a healthcare staffing crisis.

Our papers are full of stories of the overcrowding of hospitals, ICUs and the ramping of ambulances as result of the pandemic. The stress on frontline medical staff is becoming an increasing concern and lockdown of major elements of hospitals with their categorisation as Tier 1 infection sites further limits the ability of the health system to respond.

It is anticipated that the situation will get far worse once New South Wales and Victoria open up their economies.

The arrival of 2000 doctors and nurses will go some way to easing the staffing shortage, although it is difficult to know the extent to which this number is going to make a significant difference.

The article goes on to say “The International College of Nurses estimates there is a global shortage of 5.9 million nurses, 39,000 vacant nursing jobs in England ( and) more than 12,200 vacant nursing positions in Australia.”

These “medical migrants” will need to be recruited from countries where qualifications are recognised by Australia so that they will be able to begin work as soon as their feet touch the ground. Apparently, they will be able to sidestep travel restrictions a privilege not granted to test cricketers.

Regardless of the number, Australia’s recruiting these highly skilled individuals will only exacerbate the problem in the countries where they are recruited.

There is always an ethical issue when one country recruits highly trained staff, particular medical staff, from another countries by offering them some form inducements, normally financial. This ethical issue is more focused during the time of crisis such as a pandemic.

Most Australians, particularly those who will likely need highly specialised hospitalisations, will be glad of the extra help and expertise provided by the medical migrants.

However, this will come at a cost for the help and expertise not been provided somewhere else.

Australia’s Richest woman tells pupils at her old school that humans have not caused global warming

The AGE reports: Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart has said humans do not cause global warming and warned against climate change “propaganda” in a speech to students at her old school.

Rinehart warned ‘Please be very careful about information spread on an emotional basis, or tied to money, or egos or power-seekers.’

It is at times like this I am always reminded of the famous quote by Mandy Rice-Davies who famously said during the trial of Christine Keeler: ‘Well he would, wouldn’t he’  when asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

It has come to mean someone saying something you could expect of them because it was in their best interests, true or otherwise.

Mandy Rice Davies

When the pupils of St Hilda’s School in leafy upmarket Mosman Park in Perth do their research they may discover the following information:

Mrs Rinehart has made most of her wealth through fossil fuels, mainly through her company Hancock Prospecting which owns 70 per cent of iron ore miner Roy Hill. Her comments contrast with moves by the nation’s biggest listed mining companies to adopt climate-friendly positions and strict carbon reduction targets.

Gina Rinehart

Climate-focused non-profit organisation Climate Analytics’ chief executive Bill Hare said Mrs Rinehart’s speech was “shockingly wrong on every single issue she mentions”.

The science teachers at ST Hilda’s can then do a little bit of explaining.

So who will be buying CUB products this week/month/year?

The AGE reports: Four workers from the Carlton and United Breweries factory in Abbotsford have tested positive to coronavirus

You wouldn’t take the risk would you? No one is reporting where the workers were. Truck drivers? Of course they weren’t production line workers and had no contact with them.

But who would take the risk?

Too many other choices on the market.

Absolute disaster for CUB.

But this will be a situation that will involve many manufacturing facilities and the Australian public in the future.

It will confront all of us with some very difficult choices.

Grand Final weekend sees a huge surge in case numbers and civil disobedience. The impact of this is not over yet. Case numbers could be 2000 in a week.

When numbers grew from 730 on Grand Final day to 1430 on Thursday, you begin to wonder what sort of examples people need to reinforce the message that parties, street-gatherings and barbecues are disastrous super-spreader events.

Or is it that there is a section of the community whose antisocial behaviour is so deeply entrenched that nothing will change it and this section of the community will now jeopardise 18 months of sacrifice by the majority of the community.

It’s frightening that this is the impact of a small number of idiots when we have close to 50% full vaccination.

Will things be any better when we get to 80% of full vaccination of the eligible adult population? They will probably be worse.

Because we may be seeing the beginning of the pandemic of the unvaccinated.

It’s a chilling thought. But at 80%, there will still be 9 million unvaccinated people in Australia. And we can probably expect this section of the population to contain the actively civil disobedience.

At present, Victoria is heading in the wrong direction in terms of case numbers.

Victoria has close to 80% first vaccination with 50% fully vaccinated and the time between Pfizer has been who shortened to 4 weeks. So we should be at 80% fully vaccinated eligible adult population by the end of November and may be on the way towards having a good proportion of the school population vaccinated.