Delusional ex-PM becomes a running joke

The sooner the Liberal government can arrange for Tony Abbott to become the Ambassador to the Vatican the better because it will put an end to his efforts and self-justification which are only tarnishing the small shreds of the reputation that he left the Prime Minister’s office with.

His recent interview on television indicated that in his delusional state  he is endeavouring to rewrite history and his efforts are pathetically laughable

The first part of this effort is to run the line that he was deposed by a small group of extremely ambitious politicians and that his fall had nothing to do with his incredible popularity.

He urged voters  “even if they have to do it through gritted teeth, (to) support the Coalition.”

He doesn’t realise that while he was PM, that was the way Liberal party loyalists were supporting him and his government.

He also doesn’t seem to realise that most people are very happy to support Malcolm Turnbull and that a vast number more prefer Malcolm Turnbull as PM.  If Selective Perception were an Olympic sport, Tony Abbott would be the gold medallist.

One of his more amazing statements was that the Liberal party “virtually won” the 2010 election. This is absolute nonsense. Labor and the Coalition each won 72 seats.  That’s a draw. But what turned it into a labour victory was Julia Gillard’s ability to enlist the support of the cross-bench members who were part of Tony Abbott’s natural political constituency.

Looking back, it was an augur of the current government’s failure to gain cross-bench supported in the Senate.

Abbott is running the line that the Coalition has not changed its policies and to date he is  probably right.  He is positioning himself so that he can say when, and if, Malcolm Turnbull wins next election, ” See, Turnbull won with with all of my policies.  I could have one too.”

He believes that somehow in the next 12 months he would have experienced a Lazarus -like resurrection.

But Lazarus had divine intervention and there is nothing to suggest that Tony was going to be similarly blessed

The Raising of Lazarus: Carl Heinrich Bloch: The Raising of Lazarus:

The Raising of Lazarus: Carl Heinrich Bloch: The Raising of Lazarus:

The plight of asylum seekers is a festering sore

Two refugees have reportedly been raped in Nauru, leaving one refugee pregnant.

A chilling recording made after a female refugee reported she was raped in Nauru has been uncovered by ABC’s 7:30.

The footage on 7.30 was chilling.  Finally the physical and sexual abuse of asylum seekers on Nauru has come to light in Australian media.

A former case worker for Save the Children, Danielle Serrano, (decided) to speak to media about what she saw on the island.

In doing so, she runs the risk of prosecution for speaking out about matters that occur on Nauru.

This be quite clear about this. This is a national disgrace. We should all hang our heads in shame that our elected representatives have created a system that produces this kind of atrocity.

We have a Prime Minister who speaks out about violence against women. But so far there has been no comment from him about what is going on a Nauru.   Let alone any moves to fix the situation.

In fairness, he did say “I have the same concerns about the situation of people on Manus and Nauru … as I think all Australians do,”  when speaking to Sky news weeks or so ago

Now is the time for Malcolm  to walk the talk.

Violence against women is violence against women with recurs in Australian homes or in Australian detention centres overseas. The difficulty with that occurring in Australian detention centres is that it can very quickly look as if these conditions are part of the punishment for being an asylum seeker.

Now is an opportunity for the new Prime Minister to show real leadership and moral courage.

Last night, I watched Q&A which starred, inter alia, Barnaby Joyce.

The man who aspires to lead the Nationals

The man who aspires to lead the Nationals

Who cannot watch this man and despair the state of Australian politics? Perhaps he just had a bad night last night but whose responses were halting and semi-articulate.

Last night Tony Jones asked him what the government’s direct action policy would cost to reach the target of 28% reduction in emissions controls given that it’s cost $4 billion getting to 5%.

Joyce did everything except answer the question.

Why didn’t he just say: “I don’t know.”   because it certainly looked as if he didn’t.

He spent a lot of time talking about the cost of electricity and how under alternative schemes electricity bills will go up. Jones made the point that people are going to pay for it anyway through the existing bills or through taxation

Jones pressed him on the final cost but to no avail.

So here are some quick sums.  (Rough and ready but Barnaby of all people would appreciate that.)

If it costs $4b to get 5%, it will cost five and half times that to get to 28% that’s $22b  to get to 28%. Let’s not bicker about  the woefully inadequate nature of this target.

Let’s assume that by 2030, the Australian population is 30 million people. That’s around $740 per every man, woman and child or a bit over $3000 per family.

It’s a rough estimate and you would have expected Joyce to know this.

So why didn’t he just say that the direct action scheme will cost every Australian family $3000 extra a year in taxation.

Adopting this approach, coming up with numbers, evidence et cetera lays the basis for rational discussion about the costs and benefits of direct elections.

But what Barnaby Joyce did last night was effectively closed off that option.

Why?  Well, it’s probably because kept Direct Action won’t stand  up to that kind of scrutiny.

A lesson in economic lunacy

Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg declared on Sunday the government needed to examine cutting Sunday penalty rates because doing so could spur economic growth.

There are some simple economic dynamics that Minister Frydenberg needs to understand.

 Like his colleague Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg is off to a pretty flabby start

Like his colleague Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg is off to a pretty flabby start

The first is that economic growth, particularly economic growth that is generated locally, is based on demand for goods and services. Increasing this  local demand requires an increase in the discretionary spending power of local consumers. The technical term for this is wages growth which has been declining in Australia since 2011 and the rate of decline accelerated under the Abbott government.

 Wages growth has declined in both public and private sectors since 2011

Wages growth has declined in both public and private sectors since 2011

This means that people have less to spend. Given that people will pay their mortgages and grocery bills before they go out to restaurants and cafes, the sector that feels this decline most will be the hospitality industry which is where changes to penalty rates would hit hardest.

The simple facts of the matter are that you can’t increase economic growth by cutting people’s wages. All happen if wages are cut is that discretionary spending power will be transferred away from workers to employers who will not be paying so much for labour.

It’s simply a matter of shifting spending power from one group of people to another.

To suggest cutting wages will increase economic activity is nonsense.  The pie hasn’t grown any bigger, the pieces have just been distributed differently.

If we want to see economic growth, we need to make the pie bigger.

There will be an unintended consequence of cutting penalty rates.

Many people who work in the hospitality industry do so because of their opportunities to access higher rates of pay with penalty rates over the weekend. In many cases, this probably keeps many people working in the hospitality industry.

Removing or reducing penalty rates may remove some of the incentive to work in the industry and may actually decrease  the supply of labour into the sector.

Frydenberg studied law and economics at Monash University so he probably knows better which means that this is yet another example of the current Liberal government deciding policy on ideology rather than rational economic sense.

Frydenberg’s  problem is that he looks as if he’s trying to solve a major economic problem  using the same tactics as the 2014 budget. Attack the least well paid and most vulnerable in this case those in the labour market: part-time hospitality workers.

It is bad economics and is probably not even good politics because he’s going to bring a shit storm down on his head.

There will be accusations that this new Turnbull government is no different from the old Abbott government.

But the wider scare campaign leading into the next election will be that a led by Malcolm Turnbull will launch a full-on assault on penalty rates.

With many Australian wage earners relying on penalty rates to survive  this will frighten a lot of middle-Australian voters.

And today Josh gets slapped down

 (Scott Morrison) appeared to take aim at Mr Frydenberg for floating such a politically sensitive topic that was not a cabinet policy.

“We’re in a low-wage-growth environment at the moment, and I think the thing that is principally undermining the performance of our economy currently is largely about how the tax system interfaces, and it’s also how the benefits work with the tax systems,” the Treasurer told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

What went wrong at Volkswagen?

Volkswagen has been cheating in emission tests by making its cars appear far less polluting than they are. The US Environmental Protection Agency discovered that 482,000 VW diesel cars on American roads were emitting up to 40 times more toxic fumes than permitted – and VW has since admitted the cheat affects 11m cars worldwide.

 The diesel-powered Bentley is produced by VW

The diesel-powered Bentley is produced by VW

So now the company is in high-level damage control.

There a number of interesting questions.

The first is, How on earth did they think there were going to get away with this?

Someone at VW must have suggested that sooner or later an environmental protection authority was likely to uncover the deception. Later rather than sooner as it would appear that 482,000 cars got through the American system.

So the second question is: How did this happen?

It’s reasonable to argue that the more people who knew about this the more likely it was that someone would say “This is not on. We will get caught and the fallout will be catastrophic”.

So one possible explanation is that there was a small group of software engineers inside VW’s emissions control department who convinced themselves that they could get away with this.  It’s a phenomenon known as Group Think where highly cohesive and successful groups become incapable of critical self-examination and consequently make highly dysfunctional decisions.

It’s difficult to know how many people would be involved  but presumably if there’s someone senior enough to a ride shotgun then the group of software engineers could be very small.

So the first explanation is: A small rogue group within Volkswagen.

A second and closely related explanation is that within the emissions control department there was an awareness that the diesel engines would not, and could not ever, meet emission standards in Europe and in America and, that to avoid jeopardising the sale of nearly 11,000,000 cars, something drastic had to be done.

So the second explanation is: An official and sanctioned program at a departmental level.

The third explanation is that the instructions to put that masking software into the cars came from the top where the practice was condoned and encouraged.  It was corporate fraud on a staggering scale.

It may be that in a corporate culture with technological advances are closely guarded and secret, it was possible to protect the software from any internal audit processes.

So the third and final question is: Given that number of other companies produce diesel engines and it would appear that the technology does not allow these engines to meet emission standards, how many other companies have been engaged in this deception?

According to The Age it’s about diesel engines (rather than about Volkswagen): diesel engines were performing so badly on the tests that VW engineers had to look for a workaround so marketers could trumpet the advent of “clean” diesel.

It would appear that currently most producers of diesel engines are meeting the emission standards with diesel engine technology that does not appear  capable of meeting those standards.

So it’s probably reasonable to assume that the software is present in a large number of diesel engined motorcars.

At Volkswagen the purge has began.

At Volkswagen has appointed a new chief executive to deal with the emissions cheating scandal that has engulfed the German car company.

Matthias Mueller, the head of VW’s Porsche unit, replaces former long-time chief executive Martin Winterkorn who quit earlier this week soon after the scandal involving diesel cars unfolded.

So we can expect much more of the “we have found the people responsible and sacked them” rather than an admission that this is a deep-seated cultural problem that affects the entire company.

"I am shocked by the events of the past few days," said Volkswagen's ex-chief executive Martin Winterkorn

“I am shocked by the events of the past few days,” said Volkswagen’s ex-chief executive Martin Winterkorn

Here comes Tony

Despite his promise of “no wrecking, no undermining and no sniping” after losing, Mr Abbott appeared to take a little dig at his side of politics.

“Border protection policy the same, national security policy the same, economic policy the same, even same-sex marriage policy the same, and climate change policy the same. In fact, the rhetoric is the same.”

 Tony Abbott brought down by opinion polls not onions

Tony Abbott brought down by opinion polls not onions

If this isn’t sniping, I don’t know what is. What Abbott is saying in effect is that nothing is changed and the government except the leader.

What a back-hander at Malcolm Turnbull!

There is clearly significant unhappiness within the Parliamentary Liberal party about the Turnbull succession.  All it needs is someone to articulate that unhappiness for it to become a festering sore.

And who better than Tony Abbott?

Of course, Cory Bernardi sees himself as the darling of the right but most people would regard him as a dangerous crack pot with some pretty nasty views on a range of Social issues.

 Cory Bernardi sees himself as the darling of the right

Cory Bernardi sees himself as the darling of the right

But he will be nothing like the lightning rod that Tony Abbott will provide for the malcontents.  (No pun intended)

You can be pretty sure that Tony Abbott is well aware of the great political resurrections of the past.

Expect Abbott to run the “deposing an incumbent prime minister” line. It worked for Kevin Rudd and I expect he thinks it will work for him.

Poor old Tony doesn’t realise is that the electorate was sick and tired of  him and that almost everybody was glad to see him go.

If the white, Catholic, old men of the Turnbull government don’t like you, then you’re a terrorist.

The government has issued a kit for teachers to alert their pupils the dangers of terrorism.

For this government, it seems that a terrorist is anybody they don’t like: greens, people involved in the alternative music scene and environmentalists in particular.

One case study in the ‘Violent Extremism’ section tells the story of a girl called ‘Karen’ who becomes involved in the “alternative music scene, student politics and left-wing activism” when she leaves home.

‘Karen’ ends up sabotaging logging machinery and being arrested “on numerous occasions” while becoming “totally cut off from her family”.

To some people, Karen would be modern-day heroine, someone who is prepared to sacrifice their personal liberty for their beliefs. This kind of idealism certainly doesn’t wash well with the current government.

It’s interesting that being involved in ” left-wing activism” gets a black mark but being involved in “right- wing activism” doesn’t even get a mention.

Mind you, this should come as no surprise given that we now know that Tony Abbott was planning an inquiry into the scientific methods of the Bureau of Meteorology because it produce statistics indicated that the club was changing.

In fairness to Malcolm Turnbull, it’s probably fair to say that both of these pieces of rubbish probably had first incarnation of the previous Abbott administration so it will be interesting to see if he moves to have it removed from the schools.

Being a part of this group is not a problem but saving a forest is

Being a part of this group is not a problem but saving a forest is

When I was a young teacher in the 1960s, one of the formative books for me was this book.


Central thesis was that the role of school and the teacher was to produce young people who would be capable of bringing about change in society.

That was back in the good old days.

Treasurer Scott Morrison off to a flabby start

Scott Morrison appeared on 7.30 for his first media interview since becoming treasurer exhorting people to “work, save and invest.”

So much for no more thee word slogans!

He also wants to ensure that “work is a better opportunity than welfare”.

Asked whether he agreed with his predecessor, Joe Hockey, that Australians had an entitlement mentality, he said: “I think the system continues to encourage it.”

This is code for making unemployment benefits so difficult that people will accept any work, Even working at 7-Eleven.

And then in a statement of unbelievable political and economic naivete, he said “I think we’ve got a spending problem not a revenue problem.”

This is code for cutting expenditure and not addressing the problem of the taxation system.

And if you’re going to cut expenditure, it’s a big ticket items like health education welfare and pensions which is exactly what was done in the 2014 budget.

No mention of reining in the tax concessions on negative gearing or super concessions to the super rich.

In a comprehensive return to the “Have a go” rhetoric of the previous prime minister and treasurer after 2015 budget, he said “You’ll only throw up the shutters and say, ‘let’s go for it’

The Treasurer: looks like we might have swapped Tweedledum for Tweedledee

The Treasurer: looks like we might have swapped Tweedledum for Tweedledee

Harvard study; a waste of time, effort and research dollars

There seems to be conviction on the part of medical researchers that the bigger your sample size, the more valid your research. So a study with 130,000 subjects telling you that eating potatoes won’t help you lose weight, is much better than a study of 130 subjects telling you exactly the same thing.

Researchers from Harvard University have found while eating more fruit and vegetables can prevent long-term weight gain, specific types can either enhance or curb weight loss efforts.

In a study involving more than 133,000 adults in the United States, they found those who ate an extra handful of blueberries each day lost more than half a kilogram over a four-year period.

None of the findings of the study are new.

The division of the vegetables into goodies (blueberries, pears etc) and into baddies (potatoes, corn etc) can be explained through the higher glycaemic load according to the researchers. This information has been available for years.

Researchers found that in a four-year period, participants who ate an extra daily serving of fruit shed 0.24 kilograms, and an extra daily serving of vegetables, 0.11 kilograms.

Now let’s make some outrageous assumptions. Let’s assume that, on average, participants in the study weighed 50 kg. This means that the average (50kg) participant lost 1/200th of their body weight over a four-year period.

Hardly the kind of change that would get you excited, if you want to lose weight.

But the worst aspect of this piece of research is that it’s based on self reporting This means it will be done by mail-out questionnaire that the respondents from and send back or on the internet where participants fill in their own results.

No field research, no clinical studies, no rigourous data collection, just self reporting. And the searches are naive enough to think that 130,000 people will keep accurate accounts of their weight over a four year period, never fudge the figures, never do a “near enough is good enough” guess, never fill in two weeks data all once. In other words never do any of the things that make the data for a study like this completely unreliable.

The findings of the study are inconsequential. The reason for this may be that the research methodology was so hopelessly flawed and compromised there was never any chance of getting useful or plausible results.

What we are probably not going to get from Malcolm Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull is the preferred prime minister for nearly 2/3 of the electorate. That puts them well ahead of his nearest competitor, the opposition’s Bill Shorten.

 The inferior and over budget NBN will be an issue for Turnbull

The inferior and over budget NBN will be an issue for Turnbull

And almost everybody knows why Malcolm Turnbull is so popular. The first reason is that he’s not Tony Abbott, the second is  that he is not Bill Shorten and the third is that the electorate expects a change from the regressive policies of the Abbott administration.

So many people probably thought that when elected prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull would stand up and say that he was going to:

  •  Bring forward the legislation for marriage equality
  •  Provide support for the renewable energy sector
  •  Set higher emission targets
  •  Dump  the hopelessly ineffective direct action climate change policy
  •  Bring forward the legislation for aboriginal recognition of the constitution
  •  Initiate tax reform to bring the budget back into surplus.
  •  Provide a more humane policy towards asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.
  •  Providing an NBN that actually works properly

But what have we heard so far these issues?

Zip, nothing and zilch.

No leadership statements, no big pictures, no vision for the future just a promise to build consensus within the deeply riven parliamentary party.

If it’s going to be business as usual then it will be opinion polls as usual. Indications are that change of leadership has brought the opinion polls from 54 – 46 to 50 – 50. It’s a turnaround but it’s going to need something more to be turned into an election winning position and is no indication  yet that Malcolm is concerned with anything other than cementing his own position in his party.