Out-dated and out of touch, time for John Howard to be put out to pasture

Here is Howard’s take on the liberal debacle in Victoria


He pointed to the Liberal Party’s losses in Queensland and Western Australia in 2001 prior to winning that year’s federal election, as well as another loss in Queensland in 2004, before he went on to beat Labor’s Mark Latham at the federal poll.

Mr Howard also said the Liberal Party could not be too disheartened from its loss in Victoria, a centre-left state which some called “the Massachusetts of Australia”.

The reliably Democratic-voting state of Massachusetts, in the US north-east, was the only state not to vote for Republican president Richard Nixon in the landslide 1972 election. However, the current governor of the state, Charlie Baker, is a Republican.

Asked about Ms Banks’ defection, Mr Howard noted he had campaigned for her in 2016 when she won the marginal seat of Chisholm, and that Ms Banks “owes a lot to the Liberal Party”.

Mostly it’s about him and the distant past.

He still thinks the Liberal Party will win the next election despite having trailed in every opinion poll since since the last election and having fallen further behind since deposing Malcolm Turnbull.


He made no mention of the problems the party faces with its treatment of women, its inaction on climate change and carbon targets, its failure on the National Energy Guarantee or its treatment of refugees, all of which are key issues with the electorate.

Having him speak on National television simply demonstrates how behind the time the Liberal party is.

And then Scott Morrison and his government walked out as Kerryn Phillips gives her maiden speech in Parliament.

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Ungracious, churlish unnecessary.

Pictures have emerged showing Mr Morrison walking from the House of Representatives just as the independent member for Wentworth took stood up to speak.

Dr Phelps told Sky News she thought the PM’s decision to leave early was “disrespectful”.




We need voting reform at state and federal level.

The election results in the upper house in the Victorian election, where eight seats look like being decided on preference deals arranged by “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery, underline the need for reform to our voting system, in particular the ability of voters to vote “above the line “.


When voters vote above the line, they may not always be aware of the way in which their preferences will be allocated.

Their first five preferences will be allocated according to their wishes but the next 37 will not be. They will be allocated according to the way Mr Druery will have decided and this is not how a democracy should function.

This is why the system should be reformed.

Mr Druery works for Senator Derryn Hinch who may pick up as many as four seats in the upper house. The Senator has admitted that he doesn’t know how Druery works the system but is now happy with the result.


Mr Druery has worked with a slew of micro-parties to organise cash-for-votes deals that could see Victoria’s upper house descend into what ABC election analyst Antony Green described as an undemocratic “farce”.


Reason Party leader Fiona Patten, who was not re-elected to her northern metropolitan seat, said Mr Druery had asked her team for a $5000 upfront fee to join his “family” and a success fee of $50,000 for each candidate elected.

So if Mr Druery has had a hand in the election of the eight upper house independent members he will pocket nearly $400,000.

We have to wonder whether this is how we want our democracy to function particularly as he is a staff member of a Senator of the Federal Parliament.


Are the Greens in danger of becoming the new “fairies at the bottom of the garden”

Described by  Liberal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann as “a real pillar of the Hawke Government”, Labor minister Senator Peter Walsh described the Australian Democrats as the ‘fairies at the bottom of the garden’.


The political missteps and internal divisions of the Greens both federally and at a state level in Victoria must surely put them in line for Walsh’s unflattering sobriquet.

There is some very bad news for the Greens.

“The Greens have stood down a candidate after a woman wrote to the party accusing one of its candidates in this weekend’s election of raping her. The candidate’s name will still appear on ballot papers, with voters none the wiser. The complaint was made by email to Greens leader Samantha Ratnam on Thursday morning.

Kathleen Maltzahn, the Greens’ candidate for Richmond, said the party had a problem with men in its ranks intimidating, denigrating and committing violence against women.

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“Let me say clearly – I believe the women who are speaking out,” Ms Maltzahn said.”

Now, if I’d known this before I voted yesterday, I would not have voted for Ms Maltzahnor or her party.

The situation is difficult for the Greens and for Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam.


She has already had problems with her candidate for the seat of Footscray, Angus McAlpine and ones of his songs that promotes violence against women. A transgression that the party has chosen to ignore.

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To ignore this new complaint, now that it has been made public, would leave Samantha Ratnam open to accusations of not taking violence against women seriously. Acting on it  has the danger of ignoring the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.

Ms Ratnam has not made the name of the accused man public. This means that Greens voters will still vote for him on Saturday because his name still appears on the ballot paper which gives him a chance of being elected.

If this happens Samantha Ratnam will find herself caught on the horns of an ever sharpening dilemma.

Even more difficult if the Greens gain the balance of power and rely on this candidate’s vote. What happens then? Does he resign and we hold a bye-election?

Will the Greens and be able to maintain their electoral support in the light of these damaging accusations?

Perhaps Samantha Ratnam may now be thinking that it would have been a good idea to have kept the accusations in the email secret until after the election or perhaps until the woman concerned made a formal complaint to the police.

The timing of the complaint is particularly inauspicious for the Greens and their Victorian leader.

The Greens are now a long way up the proverbial creek with no chance of turning the canoe around before Saturday.


Late breaking news

The Greens candidate stood down over rape allegations just two days before Saturday’s state election has been identified as Dominic Phillips

who is standing for the seat of Sandringham a safe bayside Liberal seat held on a margin of 7.3 per cent.





Is this Goodbye, Matthew Guy?

The Age reports:

Daniel Andrews’ Labor government is on course for a thumping win in Saturday’s election after extending its lead over its Coalition rivals in the latest exclusive opinion poll commissioned by The Age.


The poll predicts a Labor win on Saturday by 54 to 46 per cent of the statewide two-party preferred vote, a greater margin than it achieved in 2014.

It’s very bad news for Opposition leader Matthew Guy.


The Liberals have been losing ground before and throughout the election campaign. It is highly unlikely that Guy will not survive as leader if there is a resounding defeat of the party on Saturday.


Scienceworks: unfortunately not always

Scienceworks is a dazzling and highly imaginative demonstration of the achievements and fascination of science. Any grandparent who does not take their grandchildren to Scienceworks is guilty of serious child neglect.

Our grandson loves the place and charges round from one exhibit to another with his usual exuberant energy . In addition to exhibitions for older children and adults, it is also a wonderful play area for the under five-year-olds.

However, there are some-intuitive-intuitive problems arising.

Because of its immense popularity and the way that it demonstrates the power of science, Scienceworks is is such a great place that it is natural that every science teacher will bring their class to Scienceworks.

.As result, there are so many students that it becomes difficult to move and the place begins to resemble Flinders Street Station at rush-hour. It also becomes difficult to keep track of an active four-year-old in amongst the crowds of secondary school. children.

Attendance means revenue so it is in the Museum’s interest to get as many people  through the front door as possible. But parts of the exhibition run risk of gridlock.

The other problem is that some of the exhibits do not work, at least when we were there on Tuesday. Whether this is from lack of maintenance or overcomplicated technology is hard to say. However, it is totally counter-productive that, having got the children to the exhibition, to have them thinking that the science of any  particular exhibit simply  does not work.

Like the email system. Some of the highly interactive exhibits allow the children to build an avatar or their own motorcar from a range of materials. It then is impossible to email results home. Except email system doesn’t work and if it does work, the delivery rate is about 10%. It would be better to have no email system at all, rather than one that doesn’t work.

In many ways, Scienceworks has been trapped by its wonderful goal of bringing the achievement of science to young children and the difficulty of maintaining the complex technology required to do that.


Richmond: Liberal Party fails to turn up for state election.

Within its first month a Coalition government would start work on building a large new (coal-fired?) power station for Victoria, draft new laws introducing mandatory minimum jail time for violent crimes and those who breach bail.


They will also be revoking Labor’s renewable energy targets, beginning work on the removal of 55 congested intersections and appointing Jennifer Buckingham, research fellow with the libertarian Centre for Independent Studies, to review the school curriculum.

You have to hand it to Matthew Guy. He has made the choice is quite stark: Coal, overcrowded jails, a conservative overhaul of the school curriculum and renewable energy targets. Still, some people may vote for him.

And there is no chance of my supporting Liberals in Saturday’s election because they are not standing the candidate in Richmond.

So our choices are Judy Ryan (Reason Party), sitting member and Minister for Planning Richard Wynne (Labor) or Kathleen Maltzahn (Greens)

Ryan probably doesn’t have much chance but her preferences may be important in deciding the main battle, between Wynne and Maltzahn.

Wynne who had a slender 1.9% margin in the last election is probably likely to be re-elected. He is a popular local member and has been a much better Planning Minister than the previous incumbent, current opposition leader Matthew Guy.

Why Victorians should vote “below the line” in the Upper House

When you vote for the Upper House in the forthcoming state election, you will be given a choice of voting above or below the line.

If you vote above the line, your preferences will be allocated in line with the wishes of the party you vote for.

This may sound okay. However, your preferences will be distributed according to a deal done by the notorious self-styled “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery.


Druery is a smart operator and moderately competent mathematician who understands how the preference system works.

For a fee (quite considerable), he will organise preferences so that candidates who receive decimal percentages (i.e. 0.03 of the vote) may be elected to the upper house.

The difficulty is that he is totally amoral. He has no interest in who wins a seat in the Upper House.

The problem has been outlined in The Age: Mr Druery has worked with a slew of micro-parties to organise cash-for-votes deals that could see Victoria’s upper house descend into what ABC election analyst Antony Green described as an undemocratic “farce”.


Senator Derryn Hinch, Druery’s employer, admitted that his party had not enjoyed the best preference deals from Mr Druery. But he said he did not fully understand the complexity of preferencing agreements.

Glenn Druery works for Senator Derryn Hinch in a government-funded position. He is clearly much brighter and more wide-awake than the 74-year old Senator.



The possibility of Mr Druery striking deals at odds with the political interests of his own employer has added to concern about the blurring of his roles as both a businessman dealing in votes and a taxpayer-funded adviser to Senator Hinch.

The problem with this is that we have a sharp and self-interested operator who has inveigled his way into the political system, manipulating the preference system in a way that most voters do not understand.

So, if you vote above the line, deals that Glenn Druery has done with fringe parties (for a fee,payable to Mr. Druery) that you may have never heard of change may change composition of the Upper House in Victoria.

And you may wind voting for parties you were unaware of parties such as: Australian Liberty Alliance, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, Health Australia Party. Hudson for Northern Victoria, Liberal Democratic Party. Shooters and Fishers Party, Shooters and Fishers Party, Transport Matters Party, Socialist Alliance, Sustainable Australia,Victorian Socialists,Voluntary Euthanasia Party, Vote 1 Local Jobs. and that will mean you will have Members of Parliament that you had no intention of voting for.

This is not to say that these parties do not have sincere concerns about specific social and political issues. However, once they are installed in the Upper House, they will need to give serious consideration to a range of of issues that affect all Victorians and which they have never given serious consideration.

And that presents a risk of political instability that Victorian voters think very deep and very hard.

Not to say the way our democracyy works

The dilemma involved in keeping the community safe from terror attacks

This week, Melbourne citizens have had their attention sharply focused on the threat posed by lone wolf and organised groups of terrorists.

Bourke Street terrorist Hassan Khalif Shire Ali fatally stabbed the much-loved owner of Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, Sisto Malaspina, and then wounded Tasmanian businessman Rodney Patterson, before attacking a third man


Three Melbourne men have been found guilty of plotting a Christmas terror attack at major city landmarks in a jihad-inspired plan to inflict mass carnage:

Ahmed Mohamed, 26, Abdullah Chaarani, 28, and Hamza Abbas, 23, were on November 2 found guilty of conspiring to plan or prepare for a terrorist act, after a Supreme Court jury deliberated for six days.

Accused Bourke Street killer James Gargasoulas killed six people and injured 27 others.


Such events provide great opportunities for politicians who wish to be portrayed as “strong on law and order.” However, the tough stance of the previous Liberal government in Victoria did little other than fill the gaols to bursting point and increase recidivism rates.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has pledged to use all resources available to “stamp out terrorism” if he wins the state election and introduce legislation to allow the courts to rule that suspects must

  • wear electronic monitoring devices
  • avoid designated areas such as the CBD
  • abide by curfews
  • undergo counselling
  • attend anti-radicalisation and/or drug and alcohol programs.
  • report regularly to police


Scott Morrison was quick to see Friday’s attack as a chance to launch an attack on Australia’s Muslim community that the Prime Minister, himself (like Guy) heading backwards in the polls, reckons won’t hurt him.

Deakin University counter-terrorism expert Greg Barton said monitoring devices such as ankle bracelets should be used as a last resort.
Professor Barton said strict control orders needed to be managed carefully because they could drive young people further towards extremism and violence.
He said tough-talking rhetoric from political leaders could also backfire if community groups where extremism could take root felt they had been publicly shamed. “People who might come forward to help might close their doors if we’re not careful.”

So here is the central dilemma.

All of the people involved in these three incidents were known to the police or security services and were, presumably, being monitored at some level. Yet this was not enough to avoid the two tragedies.

In the case of the three men convicted in the Supreme Court, clearly the methods of security forces were highly successful. It would be interesting to be able to compare the level of surveillance between this instance and those used in the cases of James Gargasoulas and Hassan Khalif Shire Ali.

So the question is: What level of surveillance is needed for individuals, such as these five people, to ensure they do not commit acts of terror?

The families of the people killed in these attacks and those potentially at risk from Ahmed Mohamed, Abdullah Chaarani, and Hamza Abbas would certainly say that much more needs to be done.

This would almost certainly involve a level of surveillance and restriction of movement that would leave the individuals with no opportunities to plan or commit acts of terror.

Clearly, it is more than was in place in the case of James Gargasoulas and Hassan Khalif Shire Ali and would be a 24-hour, 7-days a week proposition.

However, the resources required to put this in place would be formidable and expensive. And we do not know how many people are currently under some level of surveillance by police or ASIO. So the expense of maintaining the surveillance system is unknown but likely to be considerable.

And it is also highly likely that it will target members of the Muslim community, which will almost certainly have many counter-productive ill effects.

Then there is a question of the right of the individual to appeal against being subjected to such surveillance. These appeals are likely to be time-consuming, expensive and throw an increased burden on an already overloaded Court System.


And finally, if the aim of anti-radicalisation programs is to reintegrate offenders into society, then Draconian measures such as monitoring devices are likely to be entirely counter-productive.

If we wish to have potentially dangerous and disaffected young men integrated back into society, then punishing them by isolation and stigmatisation is likely to have exactly the opposite effect.

In the end, it comes down to the question of how much individual freedom we are prepared to trade off for the well-being and safety of the community.

Draconian laws that restrict the freedom of individuals place a powerful weapon in the hands of law enforcement agencies and politicians.

Donald Trump frequently bemoans the fact that he does not have sufficient power to restrict freedom of the press to criticise him and to restrict the right of certain groups of people to vote in elections.

It is always a sobering reflection to consider the question, “What if these laws were used against me or members of my family?”

Why Paul Keating is wrong on superannuation

Paul Keating appeared on 730 last night, arguing the case for an increase in superannuation contributions from 9.5% to 12.5%.

He is saying that 9.5% will not be enough for people to retire on, given increased longevity.

Superannuation is a complex topic and not many people who are under the age of about 50 are really interested in it.

Employer superannuation contributions are compulsory for all workers in Australia. This means that every worker contributes 9.5% of the annual salary into superannuation account. This amount of money will grow by some compounding rate, usually the rate at which the stock market grows. When the worker turns 65, they can begin drawing against their accumulated superannuation at a rate that they will decide, usually 5-6% of their accumulated capital.

All of this is complicated by varying rates of return in the stock market over the period of contribution, salary increases, or in the case of many women, absences from the workplace to have children and variations of the taxation rates.

But if we want to examine the case for leaving the contribution rate at 9.5%, we can build a very simple model stripped of the complications of specific individuals.

In this model, the superannuation account builds up through an inflow consisting of 9.5% of the worker’s salary plus accumulating and compounding interest on the balance of their account.

When they retire, the worker will draw down a percentage of the accumulated balance. This is shown as an outflow from the superannuation account.

It is this compounding factor that makes a 9.5% contribution rate a minor factor in the balance of the superannuation account. In the final year of contribution, the worker superannuation account will grow by $27,000 but only $9500 of that will be the worker’s contributions.

In the model, I have simplified a lot of the variables in the superannuation mix and calculates the superannuation savings and payouts using current prices.

My model worker begins work at the age of 20, earning an average salary of $100,000 a year for the rest of their life until they are 65. During that period of time, they will pay $24,700 a year in tax at current tax rates, giving them an income of $75,000 year

During that period of time they will contribute $2.1 m to their fund.

When they retire, they will begin drawing down on that superannuation fund at the rate of 6%. This will give them an annual pension of $127,000 (tax free) a year as soon as they retire, nearly $50,000 a year more than they were earning while they were working.

The model assumes that the average rate of return in the stock market is 7%. This means that the superannuation fund will grow at 1% per annum until they die at the age of 80 when their average pension will be $147,000, still tax-free.

In addition, the retiree has not drawn down the superannuation account at all. When they die at the age of 80, their superannuation balance will stand at just over $2.5 million which they can leave to their children.

This is the graph of the withdrawals that the worker makes from the fund. They continue to increase because the withdrawal rate is less than the earning rate of the fund. The next graph shows the balance of the fund continues to increase for the same reason.

The model makes no allowance for inflation or for cost of living increases, on the assumption that these will cancel each other out over time.

If, as Keating suggests the contribution rate is listed to 12.5%, the model indicates that the worker would retire on a pension of $165,000 a year (more than twice what they were earning) at today’s prices and leave their children $3.4m.

The question is whether employers can afford to contribute another 3% in superannuation to provide pensions far in excess of the money workers were earning in the workforce.

The answer is probably no.






How not to win votes: an object lesson by Victorian Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam

Victorian Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam stood by her candidate for the seat of Footscray, Angus McAlpine, who had a previous career as a rapper spouting misogynist and violent lyrics but who now says he is sorry and ashamed of his past conduct.

Ms Ratnam described Mr McAlpine’s lyrics as reprehensible, saying they had no place in the community

Clearly not a winner in the fashion and appearance stakes, Angus looks more like a right wing bovver boy than a candidate for a socially progressive and environmentally concerned political party.

Ms Ratnam spoke of the “culture of toxic masculinity” presumably referring to Angus’ previous career as a rapper spouting misogynist and violent lyrics . Yet, he still the Greens’ candidate for Footscray.

Ms Ratnam conceded the controversy had exposed flaws in the Greens’ candidate vetting processes.