Saturday, March 07, 2015

Saturday Morning Musings - time and focus in a crowded world

With the NSW elections almost upon us, I have created a post on my New England blog, 2015 NSW State election - New England thread, where I can post specific election updates focusing on the Northern NSW seats.

In a comment on "Threads in Australian politics - Australians in Indonesian death row, the McClure report, industrial relations and that Intergenerational Report", kvd noted the increasing size of the Intergenerational Reports - 2002 705kb, 2007 1.6Mb, 2010 1Mb, 2015 2.6Mb. He went on: "Extrapolation would suggest that the 2050 IGR will come in at about 10-12 Mb; may take 7 years to prepare; will take 9 years to digest. And how come one was snuck in at 2010?"

I suspect that part of the reason for the jump in size in the last report lay in layout including rising graphics intensity. It took quite a long time to download, longer to print. Memo to Malcolm. Improve bandwidth or make government reports less bandwidth hungry! Oh, and printer friendly too.

kvd also commented:
Not to be too cynical, but I expect somebody will actually read the reports, even tho at best they can only be a collection of motherhood statements of the obvious, aligned to the particular bias of the government of the day. 
At the very least, any future IGR should start with a brief para headed "What we got wrong in the last IGR", or maybe Prof Aitkin can update his "What Was It All For?"
I'm not sure that  I quite agree about the motherhood bit, but it does lead to a very important point. In a way, the reports are fairly mechanical. But part of their value lies in the way they provide a snapshot of longer terms views (and assumptions) at a point in time.

At the time Treasurer Costello produced the first report, the urgent focus was on the implications of an aging Australian population. That is still there. But the combination of far higher than projected migration with a higher birthrate has altered the aging parameters quite significantly, pushing out some of the effects. We were debating about a big Australia; it's clearly here as previously defined.

Then in the last report, climate change emerged as an equal existential problem to population aging, only to vanish in this report. That, clearly, is a political decision. By the time of  the next report (if we can keep them going), we will have far more evidence on this for good or evil.

Most political or public policy discussion has a short term focus even when it is meant to be dealing with long term issues. In the daily rush with its constant information overload, nobody has time to go back to check and measure. We say what went wrong, but it's always in a narrow context, part of the blame game. As policy cycles shorten, and they have, we need a mechanism that will allow us to look at longer term trends and, more importantly, what we thought about them.

The value of the Intergenerational Reports lies not in each report, but in the reports as a whole.

Frank Robson's Gone guy: the mysterious case of missing tradie Dane Kowalski is one of those human interest pieces that really grabbed me.

Writing a really good investigative piece takes time, sometimes a lot of time. This is hard for journalists in their daily round, equally hard for writers like me who have to fit writing into the need to earn a living.

I cannot take the equivalent of two to three weeks full time to focus on a single issue. Instead, I try to build a pattern over time based on multiple bits across my multiple interests. There are things to think about here, but not today!


1 comment:

Dr Purva Pius said...
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