It’s a funny thing about hotels

They say that first impressions count and it certainly true when it comes to checking into a hotel. We’ve just checked into the Cumberland at Lorne and the first impressions were not good. It’s just minor details: faded paint, broken tiles, leaking pipe in the bathroom, lift doesn’t seem to work, glacial Internet speeds.

It’s minor stuff really. It is very similar to experiences I had when I was teaching postgrad courses at Monash. If things go badly wrong on the the first day, you use up all the good will in the class and from then on every little stuff-up is amplified.

And it is the same with hotels. If the first experiences of the guests are not positive, then everything else is interpreted in the light of those experiences.

Case in point: the instructions on the benchtop elements are the wrong way round. Off is actually on and on is actually off. But because everything round is so slow when you wait 15 minutes to boil an egg and then find that the element doesn’t seem to be working, you think it’s just the norm here. nothing really works properly.

But no, the instructions for the bench top are wrong. Normally, this should not send you into a state of homicidal rage. But heck, we are are on holiday.

In fact, it’s not bad. It’s comfortable, well laid out, if somewhat dated. The decor is charming 1980s OP Shop.


By Monday, when the leaking pipe in the bathroom is fixed, everything will be peaches.

But then, this blog has taken me 45 minutes to write because of the Internet speeds. On the other hand, it helps me stay angry and gives me the patience to write.

Systems Theory tells us why Malcolm Turnbull is in so much electoral trouble

One of the central tenets of Systems Theory is that structure determines behaviour. The implications of this are that it is the way the system is put together, rather than the actions of individuals, that determines the way the system functions.

It follows that if an individual wishes to change the way a system functions, they must first change the way the system is structured.  This has been Malcolm Turnbull single greatest failure. He has been unable to make any change to the in ideological and policy structure of the of his party.

As a consequence of not being able to change the structure, he is working with the policy and framework that Tony Abbott built. With the system structure unchanged, it is not surprising that Turnbull’s political behaviour is the same as Abbott’s.


Malcolm Turnbull has good cause to be glum

 A second central tenet  of systems theory is that the structure of the system is manifest in patterns of behaviour.

This (June 2016) graph plots the two Turnbull manifestations which have come together at the same low point with 11 per cent more voters questioning his performance than praising it.


This constitutes what Systems Theorists would call a pattern and this, In turn, suggests that there is a structure underlying Turnbull’s approval over time.

Certainly, Turnbull himself is part of the system, but if we accept the structure determines behaviour argument, then we need to ask what are the structural elements that determine this pattern of behaviour.

Most popular commentary in the media would suggest that Turnbull has been unable to fulfil the expectations of the electorate, particularly those who would have changed your boat, and that  eventually period of disillusion sets in.  These expectations were held, the argument follows, across a fairly wide spread of the political spectrum and hence the voting intentions. As these expectations were not met, voting intention changed back correspondingly.

There would be few who would doubt that this is the structural element in his current declining popularity as Prime Minister.

There is another element to this argument and it is that Turnbull has been unable to alter the power structures within the Liberal Parliamentary party that brought him to the Prime Ministership. These power structures were, in part, the power structures that kept Tony Abbott in office.

These power structures are closely aligned to the ideology of the party. While these power structures may have shifted slightly to elevate Malcolm Turnbull, there was no fundamental change in either the power structures or the ideological and policy structures.

So, when the Prime Ministership changed hands, the only thing that changed was the person who was Prime Minister. The fundamental structures of the Parliamentary party did not change.

Consequently, Malcolm Turnbull has been forced to continue with many of Tony Abbott’s policies: climate change, same-sex marriage, carbon tax, constitutional reform, affordable housing etc.

So what we have seen under Malcolm Turnbull is the return of the Liberal party to the electoral position that it held under Tony Abbott: Labor 52%  Coalition 48% on a party preferred basis.

The second major problem, not just for Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition but also for the Bill Shorten and the Labor party, is demonstrated in this second graph.

There are two quite clear emerging patterns. The first is a decline in the both of both major parties and the second is a corresponding rise in support for the GIMPs ( Greens, Independence, Minor Parties).

VOting patterns.jpeg

This pattern has now been emerging for over 30 years, so the Systems Theorists would assure us that this is an indication of changes the structure of the political landscape of Australia.

How far this pattern of change will continue is difficult to assess but at present it does not look like achieving an equilibrium. It may be that the three major voting blocs will have fluctuating first party preferences somewhere in the 30% range.

So the challenge now for both major parties is how to attract the second preference votes of the GIMPs.  The Labor Party can be  reasonably certain of the Greens’ preferences, either through a formal arrangement or simply because the Greens are a left of centre party. The Coalition can be certain of the votes of One Nation and a small handful of right wing candidates.

But neither of these will be enough to secure government particularly if the current trends continue.

What is certain is that neither of the major parties will be able to control the Senate.  The Senate is now a more accurate reflection of the  political preferences of the electorate, given Malcolm Turnbull’s new improved voting system.

Unfortunately for the Liberal Party, its parliamentarians do not understand this simple first principle of systems theory. They think that changing the Prime Minister will change their electoral fortunes. It won’t, and most certainly won’t if they are foolhardy enough to reinstall Tony Abbott.

The signs are not good.

When asked by host Q and A host Tony Jones if he could see the party going back to Mr Abbott, Senator Sinodinos, who backed the spill motion against Tony Abbottt hat saw Malcolm Turnbull ascend to the leadership, said he supported Turnbull because “I think he can take the Coalition forward in a stronger, better direction”.

Malcolm Turnbull is now less popular than Tony Abbott at the time he was dumped, with the prime minister’s satisfaction rating just 29 per cent in a new poll.

In Tuesday’s Newspoll in The Australian, Mr Turnbull’s support is below Mr Abbott’s final approval rating of 30 per cent in September 2015.


Peta Credlin advises Tony Abbott on how to seize the Prime Ministership. 

The resignation of Justin Gleeson touches some fundamental questions about our democracy

The fight between ex- Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson and Attorney General George Brandis has made headline news.


The reasons for Gleeson’s resignation are extremely important and bear on the independent nature of the Solicitor- General’s office.

It would appear that  Brandis’ actions over an extended period have undermined that independence.

The independence of the Solicitor-General’s office is not a political issue with the popular pulling power of the Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite. Yet, it is of equal importance because it is concerned with the fundamental relationship between government legislation and the laws of the country and like changes to the Marriage Act will have long-term implications for democracy.

At the heart of the matter, is Brandis’ determination to control Members of Parliament, from the Prime Minister down, access to independent advice from the Solicitor-General. It is entirely possible that a member of Parliament would wish to seek advice about the legality of the actions of the Attorney General. In this instance alone, it would be undesirable for the Attorney General to have the right to veto over this.

George Williams, Dean of Law at the University of New South Wales, has written a thoughtful and penetrating article on Gleeson’s resignation.


Here are some excerpts:

The resignation of Justin Gleeson is unprecedented in the 100-year history of the federal solicitor-general.

The battle with his solicitor-general, along with his dysfunctional relationship with Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs, presents a worrying pattern. It portrays a minister unable to work appropriately with independent officeholders within his portfolio. This is damaging for any minister, but especially for an attorney-general expected to be the defender of such offices.

Every government needs a strong and effective solicitor-general. The officeholder represents the Commonwealth in international tribunals and the High Court, and advises on the most contentious and difficult legal issues. Such advice is crucial for ensuring that policies and programs stay within the ambit of the law.

Independence is required to communicate difficult counsel to ministers about the limits of the law. The office demands credibility and integrity, and not a willingness to bow to ministers seeking a politically acceptable answer.

It says much that there have been only 10 federal solicitors-general since 1916. Officeholders have often served multiple governments and numerous prime ministers, emphasising the non-political nature of the role.

One of ( Brandis’ mistakes is) inaccurate representation of legal advice he received on a bill to strip citizenship from dual nationals. Grave doubts emerged about the validity of that law. Brandis responded with reassurance that the solicitor-general had advised that “there is a good prospect that a majority of the High Court would reject a constitutional challenge to the core aspects of the bill”. Gleeson has since revealed that he did not advise on the bill then before Parliament, as Brandis had implied.

This is a serious charge given that Parliament accepted the Minister’s words at face value, and proceeded to enact the law based upon his assurances.

It is unlikely that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will take any action to remove Brandis but he will be damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. At the heart of this particular problem is the total inability of the Turnbull government to control the political and democratic processes of the Parliament.

Housing affordability: Another problem Treasurer Scott Morrison doesn’t understand

Michael Pascoe writes in The Age “Housing is Scott Morrison’s favourite sort of problem – someone else’s – with a fix years away”


ScoMo:  So many problems and so few answers

What ScoMo told the Urban Development Institute of Australia was more of the same – high housing costs are a supply problem and the states really should do something about it.

However the Productivity Commission says: “Interactions between negative gearing, ‘capital works’ deductions, post-1999 capital gains provisions and marginal income tax rates have lent impetus to investment demand during the housing boom.”

Most first-time buyers who find themselves priced on the market have a better understanding of why this is the case than the Treasurer. Many of them have been talk and where they have lost the bidding against a cashed up investor.

There is another problem is well. Wages growth has installed, while property prices are booming. As housing affordability is a relationship between wages and prices, is not surprising that houses are becoming less affordable.

This is an extract from my blog Tony Abbott gets it wrong on negative gearing.

“This causal loop diagram shows how the dynamics work.  Click here to understand how to read a causal loop diagram.

 The causal dynamics of negative gearing
The causal dynamics of negative gearing”

See also Some advice to Malcolm Turnbull on negative gearing.

Until Morrison begins to demonstrate minimal understanding of the problem and the government’s role in creating and maintaining it, there is little chance that housing affordability will improve.

And in a sign that there is no chance of that happening

Coalition’s housing affordability inquiry scrapped amid growing market fears

The inquiry was initiated by Morrison’s predecessor, Joe Hockey, and took evidence from the Treasury, the Reserve Bank, ANZ Bank, the Law Society and housing economists.

The inquiry painted a picture of a nation turning from a “commonwealth”, with huge home ownership, into a “kingdom” made up of landlords and serfs. One of the ideas considered by the committee was a winding back of negative gearing

Joe “The age of entitlement is over” Hockey is on $450k a year and can’t afford a babysitter.

Australia’s ambassador Joe “The age of entitlement is over” Hockey is collecting an estimated $360,000 salary as  ambassador – and also double-dipping into his $90,000-a-year pension.

As treasurer, Mr Hockey railed against women who “double dip” by claiming both workplace and taxpayer-funded paid parental leave schemes.


  Joe Hockey: “You bewdy, a salary and pension. Who cares if I did get sacked.”

The Age reports that Mr Hockey billed taxpayers almost $2500 for child minding during the five months in his new role.

Joe was always very good at dipping into the public purse. He was charging the taxpayer $274 a night  to live in a Canberra house his wife owned.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Hockey travelled with his family interstate during school holidays in April 2013, costing taxpayers $8000 in airfares.

Plus les choses changent leur seront ce faire la même chose



AABA trying to make a comeback

The AABA Group (Abbott, Abetz, Bernardi and Andrews) are struggling to make a comeback. Most of the songs they are now singing are hopelessly out of date. But that won’t deter them from keeping trying.


Malcolm Turnbull will surely go. It’s only a matter of when.  His slow demise will be death by 1000 polls, with AABA providing the background music.

The scenario will run like this:

Turnbull will be continually undermined and sabotaged by the AABA group. Their tactics became clear this week. Attack at every opportunity regardless of its relevance, deprive the government of oxygen by running constant interference.

And if the issue of same-sex marriage comes before the Parliament, they will have a field day

If the polls continue as they have been for the last month or so, AABA will have plenty of ammunition.

Latest Newspoll shows Labor has retained a lead over the Coalition, with 52 per cent two-party preferred support compared with the Coalition’s 48 per cent.

It also showed Mr Turnbull’s support is below Mr Abbott’s final approval rating of 30 per cent in September 2015.

Monday’s Morgan poll showed the Coalition’s two-party preferred support at 45 percent, behind Labor on 55 per cent.

However successful the AABA group may be an undermining Turnbull, they will fail at their ultimate objective of reinstalling Abbott as Prime Minister.

The political hardheads in the Liberal party will realise that reinstalling Tony Abbott will be the kiss of death to their 2020 chances.  And there are enough people with lofty ambitions to reinforce the message, all  carrying a Field Marshall’s baton in their backpack.

Bu when you look at the available talent, its slim pickings.


Mind you,  someone must have thought that this bloke was a chance.




Not a “moral victory”, Tony. It was a large-scale, public, right-royal bollocking

Tony Abbott is claiming victory on his Liberal Party reform push despite his defeat on the floor of the NSW state conference, and denies he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull are at loggerheads over the issue.


Tony Abbott: sour onions

Party delegates on Saturday unanimously agreed to a proposal put forward by Mr Turnbull in conjunction with NSW Premier Mike Baird for a special party reform convention, to be held in the first half of next year.

It is unfortunately typical of politics today that politicians make statements that fly in the face of the established facts.

The issue here was not of national importance. But it was a test of the relative popularity of the two men at the New South Wales state conference. Malcolm Turnbull must be considering exercising his bragging rights on this one.

It was all weekend sore losers. The All Blacks defeated the Wallabies in the rugby at Eden Park. They won 37 -10, having won the two previous tests 42-8 and 29-9.  The Wallabies haven’t won at Eden Park for 30 years which means that most members of the team have never seen or heard of an Australian victory there.

Wallaby coach Michael Cheika blamed the referee, although in fairness he did admit the Australians missed a lot of chances. Both he and the Wallaby captain seemed to suggest that the disallowed try when their team  was trailing 15-10 would have made all the difference.

Pure speculation.

So here’s another one.

Imagine coming out onto the field of Eden park facing an All Black team with a 30 year record of victories on the ground and world record for consecutive victories at stake with the scores level.

The problem with this kind of thinking and the “moral victory” thinking is that you never actually start thinking about what you lost. It is always someone else’s fault and if we just get lucky with the refereeing  (vote counting) we will win.

Sound familiar?

The worrying thing is that Senator David Leyonhjelm represents a group of people who presumably share his views

Video footage has come to light that shows S ofenator David Leyonhjelm saying he would be happy to ‘let police bleed to death’

The video was of Liberal-Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm speaking at a rally outside Queensland’s Parliament in late 2013, where he complained about new laws potentially denying affiliates of outlaw motorcycle gangs their gun licences.

This from a man who said he would be happy to let police “lie on the side of the road and bleed to death”.


So here’s a question that the good senator might like to answer. If someone drove past your electoral office one night and fired the 17 shots a modified Adler shotgun can fire in 11 seconds into it, would you report it to the police and expect them to track down the culprits?

In another episode which demonstrates very high price we pay for democracy in Australia, Peter Fitzsimmons wrote: Australia’s nastiest, most sexist politician David Leyonhjelm is a disgrace to his office

Fitzsimmons recounts this story:

An elderly female reader, Elizabeth Donelan, took exception to the following comments from the Senator, defending Donald Trump’s admission of sexual assault, where he said of the Republican presidential candidate: “He is a man of his times, perhaps. So perhaps you could cut him a little bit of slack.”

She wrote to Senator Leyonhjelm, saying she has, “NEVER heard men commenting upon women in such a despicable way as Trump has in the recently released quotes. You appear to me to be a similar age to Trump and should NEVER condone this attitude or these words.”

The reply from his email address? “Go away and stop proving you are a bimbo. You are not fit to use a computer.”

When I approached his media adviser Gavin Atkins, seeking confirmation that the email was from him personally, I received the following reply: “You can quote a spokesperson from Senator Leyonhjelm’s office as follows: ‘We are greatly concerned by this email. Usually he just tells constituents who make things up to f— off. We are worried he may be mellowing’.

Mitch Fifield, the minister with portfolio responsibility for the ABC, simply doesn’t understand how the ABC should work.

Mitch Fifield wants answers about Four Corners’ ‘troubling’ asylum seeker episode


Senator Fifield told Sky News on Sunday that the ABC needs to “continually examine” whether it is meeting its editorial standards. “I was certainly troubled by the fact that Minister Dutton, who offered himself for a live interview at the conclusion of the program, that that offer wasn’t accepted,” he said.

“There’s no reason why that shouldn’t have be accepted.

“I did think it was odd Mr Dutton’s offer to give a live interview wasn’t taken up.”

What Fifield wants is for the government to have the right of reply after every ABC program that is critical of the government.

This would amount to totally unacceptable political interference.

In effect, it would be a form of censorship and will also provide the government with an outlet for government propaganda in response to any negative criticism. And that’s not a role that the ABC should be taking.

There is no suggestion from Fifield that this  “right-of-reply” should apply to the commercial channels but then they’re not so much of a problem for the government.

There is another good reason why we don’t need Peter Dutton being given the right of reply to this particular ABC program.

We’ve heard it all before, ad nauseam.

What hasn’t been so well articulated is the other side of the argument, the side that Peter Dutton doesn’t ever give, in fact, denies and actively denigrates.

“I haven’t yet raised the issue with Michelle Guthrie but I certainly will be,” said Senator Fifield


ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie.

 There is no doubt that Michelle Guthrie will have no trouble setting the good Senator right on what the ABC can and should do.

There are some responsibilities associated with being an elected representative: not being pigheadedly stupid is one of them

One Nation senator Malcolm (77 votes) Roberts is yet to be convinced that climate change is real and is caused by humans.


Malcolm Roberts explains to the Senate how much he knows about climate change

He has asked Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel to spell out his logic in asserting that human-induced carbon emissions have been rising since the start of the Industrial Age, that this causes global warming and that warming produces climate change.

It’s a disgrace that someone who was elected to the Senate with just 77 first preference votes can take up the time of Australia’s Chief Scientist and his staff with requests which he could answer for himself with 10 minutes on Google.

Just a little background first to help reader understand what we are dealing wither

  • His childhood home was staffed with servants, some of whom were Muslim (the driver and butler)
  • Began work as a coalface miner.
  • Unemployed for 8 years before election to Senate.
  • Colleagues say he was fired by Gordonstone coal mine, a charge which Roberts denies.
  • Founded Catalyst For Corporate Performance with his wife and became involved in Eastern and alternative self-help techniques including meditation.
  • Chairman of the board of the Brisbane Montessori School (1999 until 2003). The Montessori Foundation and the International Montessori Council Allmoved to distance themselves from Roberts’s views in 2016
  • Since 2006, Roberts has been a fulltime political activist, speaking at rallies against the Labor Government’s carbon tax, working for the climate change denying Galileo Movement, and sending hundreds of emails to political, scientific and media figures on the topic.
  • Roberts claims in a 300,000 word essay that global warming is UN-inspired hoax to introduce an “antihuman” socialist New World Order, aided by bankers and politicians. The essay was described as “conspiracist rubbish” by climate scientist David Karoly and “utterly stupid” by climate sceptic Andrew Bolt.
  • Roberts believes that international bankers (the Rothschilds, Goldman Sachs, the Rockefellers and the Warburg family) are surreptitiously trying to gain global control through environmentalism.

Source Wikipedia

 Sen Roberts should not be asking Australia’s chief scientist to run a personal toil for him on a topic that most Y12 schoolchildren are thoroughly conversant.

 It’s time Roberts  stop flaunting his ignorance in public, made some effort to educate himself and stop wasting Parliament’s and the public’s time and money with his ridiculous requests.