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Wednesday, 16 March


While we're waiting for the Turnbull Government to stop chasing its tail....... North Coast Voices

A look round at the political landscape in the lead up to this year's federal election.


Which Australian politician said this?

The Prime Minister cannot even summon up the courage to try to fix this mess. His threat of a double dissolution and an early election proves to all of us what this budget is really about. It is not about protecting the jobs of Australians, least of all the one million Australians it says will soon be out of work; it is about the job security of one man and one man only. A Prime Minister frightened of the consequences of his mismanagement now wants to cut and run before he is found out. [House of Representatives Hansard, 14 May 2009]

Why, it was Prime Minist...


Why Abbott's sex life is my business North Coast Voices

Cross-post with North Coast Voices' thanks and permission from No Place for Sheep:

6 March 2016

Mr & Mrs Abbott



Practical Innovation: CSIRO's Idea Trebuchet political geometry

Be counter-cyclical. Imagine a big red bouncy ball

 Some say it's awfully warm nowadays. My colleagues here and at our partner agencies have produced an awful lot of maps, and they just keep getting redder. Enough of that shit. 

I'm Doctor Larry Marshal of the CSIRO and I'd like to introduce  a practical innovation developed at my instigation by the CSIRO to jettison inconvenient lines of research. As it turns out, future applications are well-nigh limitless

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Tuesday, 15 March


Thoughts on Innovation Policy Catallaxy Files

Last Thursday I gave a talk to the Victorian branch of the Liberal Democratic Party on innovation policy. Several people have contacted me asking for my notes and/or references so that they can follow up on some of the things I said. So rather than reply individually I thought I’d provide a general reading list.

First, overall general reading:
1. Terence Kealey, 1996, The Economic Laws of Scientific Research – simply magnificent.
2. Daniel Greenberg, 2003, Science, Money, and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion – very highly recommended. How the R&D lobby works in the US.

Then, my own humble contributions:
1. Sinclair Davidson, 2006a, Back to Basics: Why government funding of science is a waste of our money.
2. Sinclair Davidson, 2006b, The myths of public science.
3. Sinclair Davidson and Robert Brooks, 2010, How Much R&D Should Australia Undertake?, Economic Papers: A journal of applied economics and policy, 23(2):165 – 174.
4. Sinclair Davidson and Heath Spong, 2010, Positive Externalities and R&D: Two Conflicting Traditions in Economic Theory, Review of Political Economy, 22(3): 355-372.
5. Sinclair Davidson and Jason Potts, 2015, Social Costs and the Institution...


Conflicting stories on Australian universities Catallaxy Files

This morning two stories in the Australian caught my eye. First an op-ed by the leadership of rent-seeking lobby group the Group of Eight:

Australia’s higher education sector is one of the best in the world. Fact.

Plus, Australia relies on its universities to deliver far more of its research than any other first world nation. Fact. Australia’s research is rated as world class. Fact. Australia’s innovation agenda will rely heavily on universities to drive it. Fact.

The evidence of innovation success in the very countries Australia wants to emulate — Israel, Britain, the US and Germany — has required significant public ­investment to build a dynamic university-industry ecosystem. Fact. Australian universities are significantly underfunded for the research work they do in comparison. Fact.

The emphasis is original. Fact. Must be true then. Seems to me that this sort of argument is an own-goal. If the Australian university system is performing so well with too little public money, then good. The taxpayer is getting a good bang for buck. Fact.

But then, I also saw this:

Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer has slammed the lack of commercial thinking among Australia’s academics, describing the gap between Australian universities and business as a major issue holding back innovation and ­entrepreneurialism.

During a CEDA function in Perth yesterday as part of a panel discussing how to encourage everyday entrepreneurialism, Mr Hartzer said he found the dist...


LinkedIn recommendations Senator Jacqui Lambie - PUTTING TASMANIA FIRST

This young lady stands tall, she has the capacity and ability to fight the good fight.
As one of the top 7% of managers I would choose her to be with me, because I always say, don’t tell me just show me. And furthermore, I love her smile.

– Col

This lady has shown courage and resilience in her life and appears to pursue her goals with an attempt to gain an outcome.  This is a hard task in the days of bureaucracy and the media holding sway.  If I was running my department, I would like Jacqui on the team.  I am grateful that she has tackled the problem of ICe in the community and has spoken boldly for those with service acquired PTSD.

– Christopher

I like what she stands for. The Little guy.

– Ricky

As a Veteran, manager, retired police officer, I recognize the steel in this lady and her resoluteness to pursue an issue for whomever it accounts for. The only downside she has, she lives in the great state of Tasmania when she should be over here in the Mighty West! My endorsement means even more when I see her fight for her son when the chips are down. Guts, Girl.

– Karl

The post LinkedIn recommendations appeared first on Senator Jacqui Lambie - PUTTING TASMANIA FIRST.


Primary appeal is Caterists' blather ... primary sense has gone missing ... loon pond

It's that time of day when the pond must set aside any notion of pleasure and do its Caterist duty ... but first why not do a detour to Ralph Steadman's Animal Farm illustrations?

There's something about that drawing which, in an ineffable way, reminded the pond of the Caterists. Perhaps it was the hint of the way the pigs were managing to avoid the slush of taxpayer funding beneath their sodden, muddy feet ...

Never mind, hey nonny no, what's up for grabs today?

Oh sheesh, that's just what the pond didn't need ... but duty calls ...


In which the pond explores a Trove of copper and trivia ... loon pond

The pond rarely gets itself involved in causes - reptile watching is the primary duty - and any way, given the way that Malware killed off community television in Sydney so that we might have gambling on the multichannels - don't try to tell the pond that they're games of skill - perhaps the pond's support is a certain sign of impending doom.

But the pond feels strongly about this one ...

Trove is a national treasure.

Trove is an agile, innovative response to the vast collective memory that once resided on film in the basement of the state libraries and was wretchedly hard to search and use ...

Declaration of interest: the pond was in on the vision at the earliest of days and now, in its other life, uses Trove on a daily basis.

Which is why Paul Daley's piece National Library's Trove: a great digital democracy under threat is well worth the read:



Watch tonight's Gold Coast mayoral debate live online from 6.30pm Independent Australia

Watch tonight's Gold Coast mayoral debate live online from 6.30pmIndependent Australia will be live streaming the Gold Coast mayoral debate, being held tonight at 6.30pm, Tuesday 15 March, at the Nerang Bicentennial Hall. read now...


Nauru is not safe for refugees II No Right Turn

Today's horror story of refugee abuse from Nauru:

The refugee, who works for Connect, an Australian service provider for the Nauru refugees,, was arrested after police were called to an argument between the refugee and a local shopkeeper.

Even though the shopkeeper declined to make any formal complaint, the Refugee Action Coalition said police still arrested the man.

At the police station, Nauru police would not allow the man to make a phone call; instead, the Coalition said, he was handcuffed, placed in a cell, and stripped naked.

And he was kept that way for 24 hours.

While its the Nauruan police doing this, Australia sent the refugees to this tropical hell-hole, and they are ultimately responsible for their care. Instead, they're just abandoning them to persecution.


If the government wants Treaty settlements to stick, it needs to obey them No Right Turn

In 1995, the government settled most Treaty of Waitangi claims in the Waikato region with the Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement Act 1995. In 2010 it settled most of the rest with the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010. Both settlements included right of first refusal clauses, requiring government bodies owning land seized from Maori to offer it back to its owners before any sale. But Solid Energy, which is selling its assets after going bankrupt, is ignoring that law:

The break up of ailing state-owned mining company Solid Energy has hit a legal hurdle with iwi saying farms currently offered for sale should be offered to it first.

Waikato-Tainui will file a statement of claim in the High Court in Christchurch ​on Tuesday to stop debt-laden Solid Energy from proceeding with a tender process on land subject to a right of first refusal (RFR).


The company shut down the Huntly East mine in October and has now put more than 1000ha of farms near the Huntly power station on the market as part of its sell down.

Of those listed properties, 54ha was earmarked for return to Waikato-Tainui under their RFR mechanism in both the 1995 Waikato Raupatu Settlement Act and the 2010 Waikato River Settlement Act.

Papa said Solid Energy failed to comply with legislation despite the iwi's confirming its interest in purchasing the land.

This seems open and shut. The law says Solid Energy must negotiate with Waikato-Tainui first, and they're not....


More authoritarianism in Turkey No Right Turn

The big concern with the "war on terror" is the danger that the definition of "terrorism" will be expanded from people who use violence to oppose the government to people who do it peacefully and democraticly. And now, exactly that is happening in Turkey:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said it is necessary to redefine terrorism to include those who support such acts.

He said there was no difference between "a terrorist holding a gun or a bomb and those who use their position and pen to serve the aims" of terrorists.

Mr Erdogan added that this could be a journalist, a lawmaker or an activist.

What does that look like in practice? Academics signing petitions critical of government policy are arrested for "terrorist propaganda". Journalists who expose government wrongdoing are prosecuted for "espionage". Independent newspapers are taken over at gunpoint and turned into government propaganda organs. Classifying your political opponents as "terrorists" is a hallmark of authoritarianism and tyranny. And the longer democratic nations stay signed up to America's war, the greater the danger for democracy.


Turnbull's media reform bill all about helping media moguls — not the public Independent Australia

Turnbull's media reform bill all about helping media moguls — not the publicThe Turnbull Government's new "media reform" legislation is yet another capitulation to the interests of Big Media at the expense of the public. read now...


Dear Nick, Trump’s appeal is not all that hard to see Catallaxy Files

Although I have to admit that the incredible obtuseness that seems to invade normally sensible people is beyond me. Nick Cater has an article in The Oz today on Donald Trump’s primary appeal is that he’s not a politician. This is his point:

The inconvenient truth for the political class is that in so far as Trump exploits hate, the principal object is not Hispanics, Muslims or homosexuals but them. The anger welling up from below is anger directed at urban sophisticates like themselves.

Americans regularly elect presidents who are not part of the political class. Eisenhower was the last, and military leaders are a consistent theme. It is executive experience that is valued, of which Obama has none at all while Trump has a lifetime of running things behind him. So for those who still don’t get it, here’s the list of policy issues that matter.

First border protection. Here’s an article by Victor Davis Hanson, who because he works for National Review, cannot actually say he supports Trump (similar to working for Murdoch), but read the article and imagine him voting for anyone else: The Weirdness of Illegal Immigration. Note the word “if” that runs through the para:

If the border were to be closed, if immigration laws were enforced, if there were some reduction in legal immigration, if entry were to be meritocratic, if we reverted to the melting-pot ideal of assimilation, if we cut –studies courses and jettisoned th...


A good turnout No Right Turn

Like others, I've been watching the voting statistics on the flag referendum, and I'm impressed. Turnout in the first week was twice what it was in the first referendum, and looking at today's data, we'll almost certainly overtake it tomorrow:

While it will inevitably level off eventually, at this rate the referendum will get more than two million votes, and its not inconceivable that it will approach the general election turnout of 2.4 million. And no matter what the result is, that's a success for democracy. It should also put paid to any post-result claims of a "silent majority" secretly supporting the loser: if there is such a majority, they're not going to be a silent one.


Creepy and intrusive No Right Turn

For the last couple of years National has been muttering about dumping the decile-based school funding system. And now we know what for: spying on everyone:

The Ministry of Education has proposed using Government-wide data on every preschooler and school student, including their mother's qualifications, to give extra funding to those at risk of failing.

​Education Minister Hekia Parata has been on the record for years saying the decile system is too "blunt", and wants a model that targets resources to where they're needed the most.

A preliminary proposal floated the concept of paying schools more for students that met one of four risk factors: a parent who had been to prison; if they or a sibling had suffered child abuse; if their family had relied on a benefit for a prolonged period; or if the child's mother had no formal qualifications.

The obvious question is "how will that data be gathered". And the answer is that it will be pillaged from currently separate databases, to give every child a dossier from birth which labels them as a failure or a success. Which is more than a little creepy and intrusive. The concentration of such data also raises huge privacy problems, while labelling people based not on their own abilities, but on their parents, smacks of the hereditary aristocracy National imagines themselves to be. We should reject this proposal, and we should reject this sort of use of "Big Data". It may be more efficient for the government to label kids from birth, but its simply not the sort of society I want to live in.


Federal Parliament finally passes judgement on Craig Thomson's speech Independent Australia

Federal Parliament finally passes judgement on Craig Thomson's speechThe Privileges Committee issues a reprimand to Craig Thomson for pointing out in Parliament that Michael Williamson, Kathy Jackson, Michael Lawler and Marco Bolano were all very likely to be crooks. read now...


Guest Post: Zeev Vinokurov: The cult of Trump Catallaxy Files

While the possibility of authoritarianism is never easy to think about, the rise of Donald Trump to leading GOP presidential contender teaches us a valuable lesson. If Trump can win in the United States, an Australian much like him could win power here too. Trump has an awful record of prejudice, demagoguery and hysteria to his name. To avoid his like from coming to power here, we must recognise the immense danger of the powers our government already enjoys and abuses.

Trump’s key features are:

  1. A strongman’s attitude and behaviours. Trump’s only real belief is in himself and his ability to act as a “problem solver.” If only he enjoys the power of government, he promises to make things right. Otherwise he has few fixed beliefs. His policies can change frequently, sometimes in the space of days.
  2. Trump does not just regularly insult his critics–he threatens to introduce powerful libel laws in order to stifle them. This contempt for freedom of expression is wound up in his egotistical character: Trump must be free of criticism because he never deserves it.
  3. Trump’s prejudiced statements are well-known. He taps into widespread fears about migrants, calls for banning Muslim migrants entirely, and lambasts free trade. He believes free trade and immigration has destroyed employment in the United States.

The key problems with this agenda are:

  • No one man or group of men, be it Trump or anyone else, can govern us with perfect wisdom and foresight. We are all ignorant of many things. Typically, people know what’s best for themselves. More fundamentally, individuals have  a right to decide their futures for themselves. Freedom of choice matters. Trump’s promises fall flat because no government official can...


On the road to parrot purgatory with Paul Barry ... loon pond

Sorry, the pond's not on it, but if everyone loves it, then everyone is particularly silly. Nobody might also love it, but that's what the pond would expect of nobody ...

'I see nobody on the road,' said Alice. 
 'I only wish I had such eyes,' the King remarked in a fretful tone. 'To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance, too! Why, it’s as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!'

And so to a non-reptile aside to start the day.

There was Paul Barry last night, ranting and railing at Niki Savva, primarily for not approaching Tony Abbott or Peta Credlin for comment.

It was pathetic, extraordinary, unfair and unprofessional, we were told. And so on ... until at the very end, there was a glib, one line note However, Savva tells Media Watch she has no regrets.

In short, Barry did everything he complained about Savva doing, and then, with a thin veneer of cynicism, gave himself an out line remarkable for its insolent brevity and lack of insight.

It's only when you head to the story online that you see that the line links to a response by Savva.

But there was no clue to this in the...


Is Malcolm Turnbull the man you thought he was? North Coast Voices

This is Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull’s voting record since 2006 according to Does it match his rhetoric as prime minister?
Voted very strongly for



Am I being cynical in suspecting that the Liberal and Nationals parties are looking to the mining industry for political donations in this 2016 federal election year? North Coast Voices

Am I being cynical in suspecting that the Liberal and Nationals parties are looking to the mining industry for political donations in 2016?

I cannot know the answer for certain as there is no real time reporting of political donations in Australia.

However, the timing of these moves by the Baird Government looks suspiciously like the Coalition has gone a-courting.

Penalties of just $5000 could be issued to coal seam gas companies who explore or mine without permission instead of a potential $1.1 million fine under changes introduced by the Baird government.
As energy minister Anthony Roberts unveiled plans to clamp down on anti-coal seam gas protesters, the government has ushered in smaller alternative penalties to court prosecution for a range of offences.

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Monday, 14 March


Who will the country be supporting in 2016 - Bill Shorten or Tony Abbott? North Coast Voices

This is Leader of the Opposition and Labor MP for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten.....

And this is the Janus-faced Australian Prime Minister and MP for Wentworth, Malcolm Anthony Abbott Turnbull.......


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Wednesday, 09 March


Debating Disaster Capitalism at the London School of Economics Antony Loewenstein

During my recent visit to London, where I debated the future of the UN at the London School of Economics (LSE), I also discussed my book Disaster Capitalism at the LSE with three articulate and critical women: Dr Brenna Bhandar, Dr Marsha Henry and Dr Devika Hovell. I was challenged on my choice of interviewees in the book, why more female voices weren’t heard and whether disaster capitalism is really any different to exploitative capitalism:

Friday, 04 March

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