A-a-a-a-a-and…they’re off!

By Legal Eagle

Julia Gillard has called an election for 21 August 2010.

I must confess that I’ve been pretty down about politics the last few weeks. What particularly depressed me was Labor’s ill-conceived plan to palm asylum seekers off to East Timor. It showed the same ad hoc ‘policy-on-the-run’ approach that KRudd’s regime had shown before. It made me think “same pack of cards, different deal.” I really want someone to sit down and think deeply about things, not make policy on the run to win an election.

As I’ve said in a previous post, I strongly believe that a new approach needs to be formed with regard to asylum seekers. Rather than focusing on ‘border protection’ and vilifying ‘people smugglers’, in my opinion we need to reconsider our laws and the incentives which exist for people to take a dangerous and life-threatening journey to our shores. Perhaps we need to lead a push to reconsider the approach of international law to refugees altogether. The treaties were drawn up in the disastrous post-WWII period, and do not reflect the situations from which people flee in these times, so they are outdated (in this detail, at least, I agree with Greg Sheridan’s analysis in The Australian).

I felt deeply disappointed with Labor’s proposal to dump asylum seekers in East Timor. It’s not like East Timor hasn’t suffered enough already? I just think it sits ill in our mouths to say that we can’t take these people, we’ll palm them off to some struggling third world country. And I find it really hard to see how this plan differs from the Nauru plan of John Howard (cf Julian Burnside). Especially when Nauru has indicated that it might sign the UN Convention on Refugees.

There’s little difference between the major parties these days. They both look at focus groups and work out what is most expedient in appealing to swinging voters. Labor presumably raised the asylum seeker issue in relation to some poll showing swinging voters were concerned about the issue (I can’t work out any other reason why they’d raise it when it has such a small impact on the majority of us). Each party does the minimum necessary to convert swinging voters. The feeling I have is that each party will do whatever is necessary to get power, not what is best for people. The Greens retain idealism, but I do wonder how quickly that would be eroded if they actually had to run the country.

For this little black duck, it’s still going to come down to a question of which party I hate the least. Sigh. Oh well, game on. Let the fun begin.

P.S. My daughter saw a cartoon of Gillard carrying Rudd’s inert body. “Julia Gillard’s not that strong,” she said dismissively. “That’s a silly picture.” I didn’t even realise my daughter knew who Julia Gillard was, but like mother like daughter, she’s well aware of politics from an early age. Well, I guess we’ll see how strong Gillard is in coming weeks!


Great post by Derek Barry at Woolly Days about elections, democracy and the media.


  1. Posted July 17, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    No need to cry for East Timor. They would be paid handsomely. It would mean more money and jobs. If anything it would be a net boon for them, just as it was for Nauru.

  2. Posted July 17, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    ‘No need to cry for East Timor. They would be paid handsomely. It would mean more money and jobs.’

    Yes, I thought that was the point too.

    Not that they seem to want it.

  3. Posted July 17, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    I was watching UFC. Wife cruises past, mutters something negative. I turn it over to lateline, there’s 2 minister-hacks arguing about their own variant on the reffo bashing theme.

    I turn it back. I had the more civilised and intelligent viewing on to begin with.

  4. Posted July 18, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Well if East Timor actually wanted the facility, perhaps that would be different. It still looks like an attempt to bribe them with money and aid, just as Howard did with Nauru.

    Right now Nauru is hopping from foot to foot like an someone trying to score their ex- on the rebound.

  5. Movius
    Posted July 18, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    I think this year is the CEC’s year

    Then finally we will be rid of the 440Hz A conspiracy and its British-empire cryptocratic backers.

  6. Posted July 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    The E Timor thing was a brain fart It’s really silly to announce something like that without even checking if it’s doable.

    I reckon the reason for bipartisan refugee policy has to do with the attitude of most of the citizenry who neither understand nor want to understand exactly what’s involved. If we want this country’s attitude to change it’s going to take private persuasion. We certainly can’t expect a political party to take a principled stance on what is essentially a marginal issue.

  7. Posted July 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    The Greens retain idealism, but I do wonder how quickly that would be eroded if they actually had to run the country.
    The Japanese Opposition got elected finally and one of their promises was to remove the US base from the outer islands. The idealism came up against reality when the prime minister finally understood the grave consequences for alienating the United States. It’s really not easy. If the Greens got govt I have no doubt they’d try and live up to their principles. The results would probably be disastrous.

  8. TerjeP
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I trust you are all going to vote for the LDP. 😉

  9. Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Putting aside who I want in the Senate, it’s a toughie to whom I want my vote to actually flow.

    If it flows through to the Coalition, we won’t have an ETS, which is a plus. But we might just get an internet filter with Abbott on the watch.

    If it flows through to Labor I get an ETS and a filter. Bugger that.

    If it flows through to the Greens I get an ETS and no filter.

    Basically I’m rooted in all directions in a strategic-voting sense.

  10. Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Jacques – Why do you think that Abbott would put up a filter? I’d a thought he’d hesitate to take one down but there’d be too much resistance to putting one up.
    Aren’t the Greens moving in a carbon tax direction? I’ve heard noises.

  11. Movius
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Strangely, the Liberal party’s opposition to the Internet Filter was more than adequate until ~7-8 months ago. This opposition seems to have been eroded through elaborate mind control.

    “These aren’t the droids your looking for” – Obi-wan Kenobi, vs. “Both party’s support mandatory internet filtering.” – Typical Labor apologist.

    Although personally I fear an Abbott win would result in Filter legislation being passed with ALP support, I think the odds are lower than with an ALP victory.

    Also, in the unlikely, but plausible, case of a Greens lower house seat holding the balance of power. I do not trust the Greens hierarchy to be willing or able to crack the whip on any Hamilton-esque characters.

    Of course you all deserve this for opposing the true harmonious glory of a proper 432Hz A.

  12. Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] – ummm… well above the Libs certainly, and above ALP for strategic reasons (I vote below the line to control where things go).

    But right-wing voters have just so much choice! We poor lefties have as much choice as a vegetarian at a Steak Bar. I miss the Dems who were darn good at pulling apart legislation forensically.

    The only useful choice on election day will be picking out which cakes/bikkies you want, and/or whether you want onions on your sausage sizzle (hope I can get a vegeburder). I can see me getting stuck there this year now my daughter has moved back home – she’ll be gasbagging to her old school friends, my grandson will be hard to drag away from the nibbles…

  13. Movius
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    The Larouche obsession over the tuning of the note A is one of my favourite conspiracy theories. You know that 440Hz A was the work of Goebbels!

    “432hz vibrates on the principals of the golden mean PHI and unifies the properties of light, time, space, matter, gravity and magnetism with biology, the DNA code and consciousness.”

    source (including audio): http://www.omega432.com/music.html

  14. TerjeP
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    Dave – it matters little which side of politics you come from, the choices are not great. However I’m pleased that a lefty can vote for the LDP even if it is merely strategic. Although the LDP isn’t in my view a right wing outfit. You should join. 😉

  15. Posted July 20, 2010 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    It is a pity they didn’t finish more of those super clinics. With this election the spin will induce an epidemic of vertigo.

  16. TerjeP
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    LE – how much inequality do you want to get rid of? Is there a logical limit? How do you decide that your prefered amount of inequality is better than the natural rate of inequality?

  17. Posted July 20, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink


    Wrong question. Should be: how much inequality can we tolerate in society? If history is any guide, the greater the inequality, the greater the likelihood of revolution and social chaos. A very difficult issue. As a friend of mine commented recently: the function of government is to keep the rich rich and stop the poor killing the rich.

  18. TerjeP
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    No it was the right question. However you’re allowed to ask extra questions if you wish.

  19. Posted July 20, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    On equality or otherwise: pick a GINI number.

    This graphic lets you pick a color. Note Scandinavia and Germany. Go the dark greens!

  20. Peter Patton
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    For me, the one thing that the private sector is simply not even eligible to approach the starting blocks compared to the State is health insurance/coverage.

    I have concluded that health insurance/coverage is a good/service so unique, that conventional economics is inappropriate.

    And health care in modern societies is expensive.

    OTOH, there is no reason why primary/high school education should be such a big issue. Kids can learn to master language, write poetry, excel in public debates, and calculate trig identities in their head all from underneath a giant oak tree, with a cheap pre-fab demountable if it rains.

  21. Posted July 21, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Terje – I’m curious as to the Victorian candidates. They are TBA. Is there a problem? Should I ask?

  22. Peter Patton
    Posted July 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink


    As a kid, I spent fifth class at one of those country 1 teacher schools. There were about 30 kids in the whole school, and each grade sat at a different desk. When I moved to a city school in 6th class, I was placed in the top class out of 10 classes, so that rural school did me no harm.

    I find the domination of “funding” – MONEY – in any debate on education in this country to be not only quite disgusting, but even worse – vulgar.

  23. Posted July 21, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know that you can measure the quality of teachers according to results, either

    Yes you can, it is not a difficult statistical exercise to look at actual results versus expected results, given the school profile. But you must adjust for the characteristics of the intake otherwise you are largely just ranking on catchment.

  24. Posted July 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Regarding DB @26

    Note Scandinavia and Germany. Go the dark greens!

    To a significant degree, one is measuring ethnic diversity with Gini coefficients. Other things being equal, monocultures are more equal.

  25. Posted July 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    And France does well because it hammers its immigrants into a shape that’s recognisably ‘French’. We used to do it too; the policy was called ‘assimilation’.

  26. pete m
    Posted July 21, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    France does not do well at all.

    Youths turning cars into bbq’s is not assimilation.

    The libs will not put up a filter.

    A simple question for the Greens.

    You say you want to increase the refugee intake, but a smaller population. so which citizen is to be deported first? Or will you ban more than 1 child families?

    Labor could be asked the same question. No such thing as a “sustainable” population. Ask any business – you don’t grow, you lose.

  27. Posted July 21, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    The “sustainability” of a population is not determined by size, it is a function of technology and incentives. Australia had a far smaller sustainable population of hunter-gatherers than it does of hi tech global traders.

    As for incentives and their effects, Victoria has water problems because the population has increased by 30% with no new major dams. Melbourne has congestion problems because freeways have been under invested in and infrastructure generally is more expensive than it should be because it has Californian/British land use laws rather than Texan/German ones, pushing metropolitan land prices into the stratosphere while a taxi plate (i.e. bureaucratic approval) costs about the same as a median house because, as with land, official discretionary control over market entry protects incumbents and drives up asset prices. And so on.

  28. TerjeP
    Posted July 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Adrien – I don’t know regarding Victoria. I left the LDP executive in early 2008.

    LE – thanks for the answer. I don’t think slavery is an issue in contention. In terms of a society with a lot of poor people who have little scope for advancement I have yet to see an open free economy that causes anything like that. Hong Hong and Singapore are good examples to consider but there are others. Such places do however attract a large number of poor people but due to opportunities in spite of being in a place where others are much richer rather than because they are seek a place of equality. And if a nation is filled with loads of poor people and Bill Gates moves into town I think it would probably represent a net gain for those people even if inequality was as a result increased. I don’t mean to dismiss equality as one measure of a societal and economic outcome but I do not think it is a good to be pursued in its own right merely for the sake of it. That in my view is like judging a society by the number of statues it has because you once visited a nice city with lots of statues. Equality may at times correlate with good economic and social conditions but it should not IMHO be a direct objective of public policy.

  29. TerjeP
    Posted July 21, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Just to link this back to what you said earlier:-

    The main way in which I suspect I differ from someone like SL or Terje is that I would regulate to get rid of what I perceive as inequity, in the market and in society. But I’d tread carefully, and I certainly don’t believe that passing a law fixes everything.

    I’d also regulate to get rid of inequality if the regulation was zero cost (or very low cost) in terms of unintended consequences. I’m hard pressed to think of any such initiative that won’t alter incentives and which won’t as a result present at least some problems. However perhaps you can articulate a specific policy measure to reduce inequality that sets you apart from myself (and or SL).

  30. Posted July 21, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Equality may at times correlate with good economic and social conditions but it should not IMHO be a direct objective of public policy.

    I was going to mention the danger of unintended consequences with attempts to manage outcomes, but Terje has already done so. There are some things that seem to work well (the negative rights protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, for example), but there is still plenty of scope to go badly wrong, which people don’t take seriously enough.

    Also on Peter Patton’s point about health care: like all these things, it is possible to do private health care badly (the US) or well (Singapore), just as it is possible to do public health care badly (the UK) or well (France). When it comes to healthcare, I think everyone needs to abandon ideological purity of whatever sort and just consider what works. People seem to be very reluctant to do this, which is a shame.

  31. Posted July 21, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] said

    No such thing as a “sustainable” population. Ask any business – you don’t grow, you lose.

    (bit OT so I’ll keep it short but sloppy)

    Smartypants retort:
    if the population is likened to number of employees (a better mapping), your mapping of country to company to make your point, gets into problems.
    Besides – if you cannot adapt to a downturn, you eventually lose. This involves adapatability to shrinkage.

  32. TerjeP
    Posted July 22, 2010 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    I fully expect the global population to go into decline mid to late century. I don’t see any economic negatives so long as the decline is gradual. If it is more rapid we are going to have a lot of poorly maintained infrastructure in the wrong places. However it is not as if growing population doesn’t cause similar problems. The whole notion that the population must grow for the sake of the economy is rubbish. I’m not against population movement and growth but I’m far from excited about it. Once a city hits around 1 million I don’t think residents gain a lot from having more residents.

  33. TerjeP
    Posted July 22, 2010 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    SL – my prefered option for healthcare reform in Australia is that we:-

    a) ditch all current compulsion towards private health insurance.
    b) make Medicare services incur a corresponding increase in the users HECS debt.
    c) encourage people to avoid the incurance of these debts by taking out private health insurance.
    d) mutualise or privatise most state run hospitals.

    This moves us to a mostly market based system with the relevant efficiency and quality incentives. Neutralises any claim that the poor or high risk individuals will be denied health care or suffer significant financial stress. Opens up the insurance industry to be more responsive to end users needs.

  34. TerjeP
    Posted July 24, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    LE – lots of things in private control are not for profit. I think it is a mistake to presume that people won’t provide public goods when there is such an abundance of historical evidence to the contrary.

    I’m happy you are pondering these issues. I think we are so used to the government doing certain things that it takes us a while to imagine how things could be done differently. However I think most things, possibly even all things, now done by the government could be done without the government or else could be done without.

    Sorry to hear about the gastro.

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    […] Green.” The predominance of these logos signalled to me that Labor had a real problem. I was totally disappointed and turned off by Labor’s approach myself. It’s unsurprising that the Greens won their first House of […]

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