Friday, April 21, 2017

Positive reflections on the Jakarta gubernatorial election

Elections everywhere!

In February (Reflections on the Indonesian elections), I discussed the Indonesian elections and especially the Jakarta gubernatorial election. I did so to clarify issues in my mind. As I said at the time, I know far less than I should about the Indonesian system of Government.

At the time the post was written, a major shadow hung over incumbent Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama because of blasphemy allegations. It was not clear whether Ahok would be allowed to run and, if so, what the results might be.

Since that post, Ahok and his running mate Djarot Syaiful Hidayat managed a narrow victory in the first round, but then went on to lose to Anies Rasyid Baswedan and Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno (photo) in the second by an apparently reasonably substantial margin. At this stage, we only have exit poll results, but these appear conclusive. Just prior to the elction, opinion polls showed the Ahok team ahead, but with a considerable undecided vote. It appears that the undecideds swung against Ahok.

In a piece in the Jakarta Globe reprinted from the Conversation, Alexander R. Arifianto bemoans the election result. The piece concludes:
 By creating these accusations against Ahok, the Islamists have refused to recognise the legal rights of Indonesia’s ethnic and religious minorities to run for public office. Ahok’s loss means that Indonesia’s ethno-religious diversity is the biggest casualty of this highly polarising election. 
I took a different and more positive view. 

One of the really difficult things about democracy lies in the way that it allows views to be expressed that others find repugnant. This flows though into responses to defeat, the way you accept results that may be anathema to you. A related issue, one central to the long term effective working of democracy, is the avoidance or at least management of what is called the tyranny of the majority. Just because you have won does not give you the right to automatically override others. Power needs to be exercise with discretion.

Against this background, I saw a number of positives from the results.

Despite campaigning by hard-line groups that was itself fundamentally undemocratic, a theocracy is not a democracy, the final election both proceeded and proceeded peacefully. Further, and despite all the anti-campaigning, a significant number of Muslim voters must have voted for the Ahok team, while not all those who voted for Anies Rasyid Baswedan and Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno did so on religious grounds. This was also a campaign about policies for the development and governance of Jakarta.

 The actions of the Ahok team since the result became clear are also conducive to democracy. Indeed, certain Australian politicians might take note. The transition of power does not take place until October, However, not only were Ahok and his colleague graceful in defeat, but according to the Jakarta Globe, they have already moved to involve the new Anies administration in budget processes so that the 2018 budget reflects the new administration's priorities. Quite remarkable, really.      .

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Too many policies! Can we please just stop?

Too many policy announcements! With four part completed posts dealing with the shifting policy scene, Australian and global, I am over-run in policy terms by the constant stream of announcements.

One difficulty is to identify what is really important, a second difficulty to identify what is not really important  in activity terms, but is important in atmospherics that might affect longer term policy and indeed life. Grrr!  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

QILT scores - NSW regional universities outscore Sydney G8

The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) website provides prospective students with relevant and transparent information about Australian higher education institutions from the perspective of recent students and graduates.

One of the most interesting things about the data released this week is that it appears to confirm something that I have long suspected, that there is little if no correlation between between institutional prestige and university entrance scores and actual student experiences. 

The tables below compare aggregate rankings between NSW’s non-metro universities and the Universities of NSW and Sydney. I'm sorry that the tables are so messy.

Table One shows the percentage of students who rated their experiences positively against various indicators. While there is some variation in the answers to the various questions, the non-metros generally score better than the more prestigious Sydney institutions, with the University of New England ranking first. 
 
Table One: Student Experience - Undergraduate
Charles Sturt University Southern Cross University University of New England University of New South Wales University of Newcastle The University of Sydney National Average
Overall quality of educational experience

77.6%
(77.1% -78.2%)
8463responses
78.2%
(77.3% -79.0%)
3598responses
83.3%
(82.5% -84.0%)
3994responses
76.0%
(75.5% -76.5%)
14290responses
82.5%
(81.9% -83.0%)
8125responses
76.4%
(76.0% -76.9%)
14350responses
79.9%
Teaching quality

80.3%
(79.7% -80.8%)
8371responses
81.2%
(80.3% -82.0%)
3557responses
84.5%
(83.8% -85.2%)
3965responses
77.5%
(77.0% -77.9%)
14063responses
83.4%
(82.9% -84.0%)
8052responses
79.6%
(79.2% -80.0%)
14092responses
81.5%
Learner engagement

67.8%
(67.0% -68.7%)
4574responses
62.0%
(60.7% -63.2%)
2521responses
66.5%
(65.0% -68.0%)
1492responses
65.2%
(64.7% -65.7%)
14278responses
58.9%
(58.2% -59.6%)
8044responses
60.3%
(59.8% -60.8%)
14321responses
64.2%
Learning resources

84.6%
(83.9% -85.2%)
5809responses
84.0%
(83.1% -85.0%)
2774responses
87.6%
(86.5% -88.6%)
2201responses
83.0%
(82.6% -83.5%)
13327responses
88.2%
(87.8% -88.7%)
7716responses
81.0%
(80.6% -81.5%)
13487responses
85.2%
Student support

74.3%
(73.6% -75.0%)
7329responses
76.1%
(75.1% -77.1%)
3166responses
80.2%
(79.3% -81.1%)
3346responses
66.4%
(65.9% -67.0%)
11636responses
75.1%
(74.3% -75.8%)
6828responses
58.7%
(58.1% -59.3%)
11709responses
72.0%
Skills development

78.9%
(78.3% -79.4%)
8220responses
81.5%
(80.7% -82.4%)
3495responses
78.4%
(77.5% -79.2%)
3888responses
77.9%
(77.4% -78.4%)
13697responses
81.7%
(81.1% -82.3%)
7902responses
79.4%
(79.0% -79.9%)
13683responses
81.2%
\
Table Two looks at measures of graduate satisfaction. There is a little more variation here, although again the non-metros do a little better, with the University of New England a clear first.

Table Two: Graduate Satisfaction - Undergraduate
Charles Sturt University Southern Cross University University of New England University of New South Wales University of Newcastle The University of Sydney National Average
Overall satisfaction

79.7%
(78.7% -80.7%)
3081 responses
81.1%
(79.7% -82.5%)
1401responses
87.0%
(86.1% -87.9%)
1991responses
80.2%
(79.5% -80.8%)
6645responses
83.2%
(82.4% -83.9%)
4127responses
79.3%
(78.4% -80.1%)
4695responses
82.2%
Teaching scale

65.6%
(64.4% -66.8%)
3090responses
70.3%
(68.7% -71.9%)
1405responses
71.7%
(70.5% -72.9%)
1992responses
63.3%
(62.5% -64.0%)
6670responses
69.5%
(68.6% -70.4%)
4140responses
61.4%
(60.4% -62.4%)
4703responses
68.0%
Skills scale

79.1%
(78.1% -80.1%)
3088responses
82.5%
(81.2% -83.9%)
1404responses
85.2%
(84.2% -86.1%)
1992responses
82.1%
(81.5% -82.7%)
6666responses
87.6%
(87.0% -88.3%)
4136responses
80.9%
(80.1% -81.7%)
4698responses
84.1%

Table Three looks at graduate employment. The results are interesting, but need to be interpreted with some care.

There is a considerable range in the proportion of graduates who go onto further full time postgraduate study from just 6.1% at Charles Sturt to 29.9% at the University of Sydney. Excluding these two as outriders, the percentages range from 14.7% at UNE to 17.9% at UNSW.

The figure for full time employment is the % of graduates available for full time work who were in full time work four months after graduation. The median salary figure is the median for those graduates in full time employment.  Charles Sturt had the best full time employment record followed by UNE and then UNSW.

The overall employment number includes those in full time employment plus casual and temporary. Some of the second appear to be also included in the full time study category.
Table Three: Graduate Employment - Undergraduate
Charles Sturt University Southern Cross University University of New England University of New South Wales University of Newcastle The University of Sydney National Average
Full-time employment

83.9%
(83.1% -84.7%)
4031responses
68.0%
(66.2% -69.8%)
1319responses
77.3%
(76.0% -78.6%)
1871responses
76.4%
(75.6% -77.2%)
5381responses
68.4%
(67.4% -69.3%)
4431responses
70.4%
(69.3% -71.4%)
4171responses
69.5%
Overall employment

93.9%
(93.4% -94.4%)
4721responses
86.9%
(85.9% -88.0%)
1724responses
88.7%
(87.8% -89.5%)
2293responses
89.0%
(88.5% -89.5%)
6151responses
90.5%
(90.0% -91.0%)
5226responses
87.3%
(86.7% -88.0%)
5285responses
88.6%
Full-time study

6.1%
(5.7% - 6.6%)
4944responses
16.4%
(15.4% -17.4%)
2069responses
14.7%
(13.8% -15.5%)
2596responses
17.9%
(17.3% -18.4%)
7419responses
17.1%
(16.5% -17.6%)
6066responses
29.9%
(29.2% -30.6%)
7032responses
21.6%
Median salary

$60,000
($59,900 -$60,100)
2850responses
$57,000
($55,400 -$58,600)
759 responses
$60,000
($59,300 -$60,700)
1217responses
$60,000
($59,400 -$60,600)
3321responses
$57,000
($56,400 -$57,600)
2546responses
$56,000
($55,200 -$56,800)
2444responses
$56,000

I have yet to dig into the detail at subject level where the pattern is more varied. Still, the apparent absence of any correlation between between institutional prestige and university entrance scores and actual student experiences remains interesting.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Monday Forum - whatever you want

I have been bogged down. Hopefully this will now ease. Meantime, this somewhat late Forum is another as you like.

The sudden and sad death of John Clarke removed a major figure from Australian and New Zealand life. He was brilliant on his own and in conjunction with straight man Bryan Dawe. Clarke and Dawe was very much a team in which Bryan's sometimes incredulous expression and pointed attempts to gain answers provided a perfect foil to Clarke's insouciance. For overseas readers, this link will give you some examples. Others are readily available on YouTube.

The United Airlines fiasco over the forced removal of a passenger to accommodate crew needed for a later flight was quite astonishing. I won't repeat the footage here, but this is an example. The reaction on social media was instant and savage.  

The graphic is from a January 2016 piece by Bloomberg's. Drake Bennett on the airline's efforts under CEO Munoz to turn around, to recover from disaster centered in part on poor customer service. This included the infamous 2009 broken guitar case.

It would appear that United had made some progress until this case turned the whole thing around, again twisting the airline into knots. The facts of the case will be picked over and over. It should not have occurred in the way it did, although I can understand the chain of events. Once it did occur,  the responses of CEO Munz displayed a remarkable lack of human sensitivity, a failure to understand the implications of just what had happened. The sight of the passenger back on the plane with a bloody face repeating "I have to get home" in a dazed fashion will stay with me for some time.

In all this, I have learned a new word, "re-accommodate", to describe passengers who do get bumped even when they have a valid ticket and allocated seat and are sitting in that seat. While I knew about over-booking, that is one reason I book on line or get to the airport early, while I knew that the airlines had a legal right to put me off, the thought that one might get dragged off was a new one to me.

The ABC had a useful piece on the Australian legal position if you are faced with "re-accommodation." I did not realise just how limited my rights were. I think that this is a case where legal reform is required.

Update on United

The CEO of United has now provided a full apology on the matter:
Statement from United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz on United Express Flight 3411
April 11, 2017 
The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.  
I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.   
It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.  
I promise you we will do better.  
Sincerely,
Oscar 
Meantime, the Louisville Courier-Journal has been dragging up material about Dr Dao's past, something that has also attracted considerable ire and forced some backtracking from the paper. .

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Can English as an EU language survive Brexit ?

Brexit was one of the topics we discussed in the last Monday Forum.

As a piece in Nature points out, EU agencies based in the UK will now need to move. One such is the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Currently in London, the EMA assesses new medicines for suitability to enter the European market. But where should it go to?

There is more at stake than the prestige of being the headquarters of a major European institution. The EMA brings with it some 900 staff and holds an average of 10 meetings a week, which it claims draw 65,000 visitors a year, all of whom need somewhere to sleep and eat. So countries are lining up.

The Nature piece links the shift to a second question, the role of  English as an official EU language. The EU presently has 24 official and working languages, a real tower of Babel. The first official language policy of what was then the European Community identified Dutch, French, German, and Italian as the official working languages of the EU. Since then, other languages have been steadily added.

As I understand it, each EU country can nominate one official language. English is an official language because it has been nominated by the UK. The two other predominantly English speaking member states, Malta and Ireland, have nominated Maltese and Irish (Gaelic) respectively. This means that under current rules, English will cease to be an official EU language once the UK exits.

The apparent linkage between EMA and language policy appears to be that English is EMA's current working language. This may need to be phased out once English ceases to be an official language. The Nature article wonders if Ireland or Malta might be prepared to alter their official language nomination to English to obtain EMA for their countries. Probably not is the conclusion.

I hadn't thought of the impact of Brexit on the role of English in the EU until I read the Nature article. Language policy within the EU is a sensitive issue because of the way language interacts with national and ethnic divides.

English is currently the most common EU lingua franca. No doubt this will continue in commercial terms. However, there is likely to be some diminution in the use of English in an official sense, opening possibilities for other languages to expand their reach.  .

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Is that Pepsi ad that bad?

Sometimes I think that we have all become just too precious and indeed bigoted. I am inclined to want to present counter views, but have learned on progressive topics in particular to be very careful for fear of getting my head bitten off.

Gay marriage is an example. I am on the public record, here and elsewhere, as supporting it. Yet when I very gently try to present the arguments against in conversation, my head disappears from my shoulders. You can see something of the same process in the campus disputes over who should be allowed to speak, to present views that may be counter (or may be seen to be counter) to the prevailing orthodoxy within some groups.

A case in point is the latest Pepsi ad. The wave of protest against the ad seems to fit with what I see as growing intolerance, the need to conform with what is seen as correct.    

With the exception of one scene, it's not a bad ad. Indeed, it is actually a quite effective presentation of multiculturalism. Yes, it attempts to identify Pepsi with protest and modern younger views, it is (to use a modern word I hate) appropriating a meme, but it also legitimizes the things that it presents.

The ad follows. What do you think? Perhaps its just another case of me being out of touch?


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Dreams of self-sufficiency - the Lammas Ecovillage

I am a bit of a sucker for home reconstruction or design programs. I am especially a sucker for programs with an alternative living elements. For that reason, I found the Grand Designs' program on the efforts Simon and Jasmine Dale to build their own home at Lammas, Wales very interesting.
Photo: Simon and Jasmine Dale's self built Lammas home. The house, like other Lammas properties, has a distinctly hobbit element. 

Their newly constructed home is part of the Lammas Ecovillage (Wikipedia, Lammas Village web site), a low-impact, off-grid ecovillage near Crymych in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, comprising nine households and a community hub on a 76 acres (31 ha) site. Buildings are constructed of natural materials and energy obtained from renewable sources.

The Village website (link above) describes Lammas in this way:
The concept for the Lammas ecovillage is that of a collective of eco-smallholdings working together to create and sustain a culture of land-based self-reliance. The project supports a permaculture approach to land management – in which human beings are considered an intrinsic part of the ecosystem. As a result the approach to environmental  management is one of stewardship for future generations rather than exploitation for short term gain.
In a way, Lammas can be described as the desire for self-sufficiency and alternative life styles meets planning regulations. The key features of Lammas are:

  • individual small long lease blocks with common land that has to be centrally managed
  • specific performance requirements manadated by Council placed upon both individual holders and the community as a whole, mandating a combination of individual and community effort. 
  • performance rules and requirements combine a combination of environmental and economic considerations. 
This 2011 piece on Love for Life provides an overview of the early concept, while the Village website as well as the Grand Designs' program provide snapshots of the current position.

Photo: Lammas house. Note the greenhouse on the left, a feature of the Lammas landscape. 
I am old enough to remember the hippy period, the first attempts to construct alternative communities on New England's North Coast among other places. I was attracted to the concepts, although I think that in reality I would have made a very bad hippy! 

That attraction lingers, reignited from time to time by the thought that if I had my own little plot I might gain greater freedom to do my own thing within the narrowing constraints set by increasing social control and regulation. I remain interested, too, in life style ways that combine self-sufficiency and sustainability with a more modern life style. I have no desire to live in poverty just to preserve the environment or indeed to comply with concepts of preserving the environment.
Photo: Lammas Ecovillage. From Lammas to Denmark's Christiania, there is something familiar about the hippy now alternative life style. 
Earlier I described Lammas as desire for self-sufficiency and alternative life styles meets planning regulations.

I have felt for a long while that growing state and council regulations on the way we live have become a growing impediment to finding new ways to live and also a blockage to increased housing supply. I don't feel quite the same way in the Lammas case.

Lammas describes itself as a research experiment. In this case, the planning regulations seem to have provided a discipline and a framework that helped the project achieve the success it has. Horses for courses, I guess.

Just for kvd. Lammas grown tomatoes!
 
kvd pointed me to this piece on the prospective use of pedal power. An Australian example is the pedal powered radio invented by Alfred Traeger.

I can see real advantages in some uses, but some also strike me as gimmicky (a pedal powered blender) or just plain hard work!

Monday, April 03, 2017

Monday Forum - is democracy in decline, Brexit, Australia's new foreign policy white paper

The Wold Economic Forum released a piece on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2016. It begins:
Democracy is in decline. 
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) latest Democracy Index 2016 shows 72 countries experienced a decline in democratic values last year. Countries with declining levels of democracy outnumbered those becoming more democratic by more than 2 to 1. 
The EIU’s Democracy Index measures the state of democracy by rating electoral processes and pluralism, the state of civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture in more than 160 countries worldwide. The EIU’s ranking shows the average global democracy score in 2016 fell to 5.52, down from 5.55 in 2015 (on a scale of 0 to 10).
According to the index, Norway leads as the world’s strongest democracy, followed by Iceland and Sweden. New Zealand comes fourth, with Denmark in fifth and Canada and Ireland in joint sixth place. Switzerland, Finland and Australia round off the top ten of “full democracies.”

I have written before about what I perceive to be a crisis in confidence among what are called the world's liberal democracies, but I do wonder about the value and validity of these types of indices. Do you think democracy is in global retreat? I have my doubts.

On 29 March 2017, the British Prime Minister signed a letter triggering Britain's withdrawal from the EU. That same day, the European Council released a very short statement in response. In supporting remarks, President Tusk said:
Brexit has made us, the community of 27, more determined and more united than before. I am fully confident of this, especially after the Rome declaration, and today I can say that we will remain determined and united also in the future, also during the difficult negotiations ahead. 
This means that both I and the Commission have a strong mandate to protect the interests of the 27. There is nothing to win in this process, and I am talking about both sides. In essence, this is about damage control. Our goal is clear: to minimise the costs for the EU citizens, businesses and Member States. We will do everything in our power - and we have all the tools - to achieve this goal. And what we should stress today is that, as for now, nothing has changed: until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, EU law will continue to apply to - and within - the UK. 
Finally, I would like to say that we have just released an official statement by the European Council, in which leaders stress that we will act as one and start negotiations by focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal. On Friday I will share a proposal of the negotiating guidelines with the Member States, to be adopted by the European Council on 29 April.
The withdrawal process was always going to be messy. In addition to the purely economic aspects, there are the questions of Gibraltar, the Northern Ireland border, Scotland and the EU citizens in Britain, UK citizens living in Europe. While the EU will no doubt try to be rational in its approach, its own interests and the complexity of EU decision processes provide little incentive for it to provide concessions to the UK. The EU itself will survive the process. I wonder if the UK can?

Finally, the Australian Government has announced the development of a new Foreign Policy White Paper, the first since 2003, to guide Australia's international engagement over the next five to ten years. As part of the process, all ambassadors and high commissioners were summoned back to Australia for a round table session, something criticised on the grounds of cost but which seemed to me to make perfect sense.

What do you think should guide that white paper/

As always, feel free to go to whatever topic or any direction you like. You don't need to be constrained by these topics!


Saturday, April 01, 2017

Reflections triggered by the ABC Creatives piece on photographer Robert McFarlane

The ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Creatives series had an interesting piece on the Australian documentary photographer and writer Robert McFarlane, The Still Point.
Robert McFarlane, Charles Perkins on bus to Tranby Aboriginal College, Glebe c1964. National Portrait Gallery 
I wasn't really aware of Robert McFarlane's work, although this photograph has achieved something approaching iconic status.

Robert McFarlane was born in Glenelg, South Australia. Leaving school he began work in a small advertising agency, where his growing interest in photography was encouraged.

In 1963 he moved to Sydney, where he began freelancing for magazines including the Bulletin, Vogue Australia and Walkabout. At the same time, as editor of the magazine Camera World, he began his lifelong career writing about photography.

In the early 1970s he travelled and worked overseas. Since 1973 he has documented the performing arts in Australia, taking stills photographs on a great number of seminal Australian films and theatre productions. He has exhibited in solo and group shows and has written regular photography criticism for the Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald. His work is represented in the NGA, the AGNSW and the National Library as well as the National Portrait Gallery.

You will find examples of his work on the National Portrait Gallery's website and on his own website.

Reflecting on the work displayed in the ABC piece as well as Mr McFarlane's own reflections, I realised how much my own attitudes towards photography had shifted over the years.

Growing up, photographs were a record of a particular moment, often a moment that only had meaning to that small handful of people who knew the context and were interested. Indeed, the affliction of attendance at local photographic competitions or slide evenings was not conducive to a joy in photography. I certainly didn't see photography as an art form, although I could recognise striking photos.

That view really began to shift when I saw my first exhibitions by really good photographers, although the shift was a slow process. I began to realise that photographs could tell stories, that they had texture and composition that made them works in their own right, that a photograph could have texture beyond the flat surface that could be enjoyed and studied even if you had no or little knowledge of the specific context.

Living today in world dripping with immediately accessible visual images, we forget just how few photographs were actually around in the not too distant past. There were the obligatory photos recording important personal or official events such as weddings or openings or wars; there were the photos in magazines or newspapers covering things such as sport, society, life or war; there were the various family snaps, but the total was quite small. Today, I would see more photos in a week than I would in an entire year even twenty years ago.

The way I view and use photos has changed as a consequence. Having been caught and embarrassed by photo shopped images, I am far more distrustful of photos as an agent of record unless I know the context. However, I use many more photos to tell stories, see much more in photos than I once did, use photos far more as a source of evidence and information.

Availability is important here, as is the expansion in the absolute number of photographs for particular periods. However, the process does feed on itself in that increased visual awareness, increased study of particular photographs. leads me to ask new questions of the photos, to look at particular details within a photo, to ask new questions. The process becomes interactive, almost a dialogue between the observer and the observed.

There is no doubt that the computer facilitates this process. You can view photos in various ways, various sizes, focusing on particular features. Looking at the McFarlane photos shown in the ABC program, I found myself constantly shifting my view away from the centre to pick up secondary characters or peripheral features.This changed the way that I looked at the photo.    

The program reminded me, too, why I really like black and white photographs. With colour photos, I  find that the colour itself sometimes distracts from the photo. With black and white, details stand out that would otherwise be submerged by the colour, images become starker.
Max Dupain, Sunbather 1937.This image would be less striking, less iconic, had it been in colour. 
Of course, depending on your purpose, colour can be very important. Sometimes, it would be or is nice to see colour because the colour itself is part of the story or provides evidence that you want to draw from for your own purposes. Examples include clothing or hair but especially landscape. The iconic red and brown colours of the Australian outback would hardly be iconic, instantly recognisable, without the characteristic colours.

That said, I retain my fondness for black and white. .

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What drives One Nation Voters - return of the middling class

I have yet to get David Marr's full quarterly essay, but I found this long excerpt (Looking back, and angry: what drives Pauline Hanson's voters) from the Guardian quite fascinating  if also very familiar because it fits with my own experiences.

We have discussed One Nation here from time to time especially in comments. I would like to come back to some of those points later. For the present, the analysis set out provides by far the best snap shot of the attitudes of One Nation voters that we have so far seen. Political scientist Ian McAllister cautions that care must be exercised in interpreting the results because the small number of One Nation voter risks statistical error. That is fair enough, but the results do at least provide a framework, a hypothesis, for future review.

University of New England economic historian R S (Ron) Neale spoke of a middling class. This is an unstable group included in the middle or lower middle class but distinct from them. Ron spoke of them in this way:
... petit bourgeois, aspiring professional men, other literates and artisans. Individuated or privatized like the middle class but collectively less deferential and more concerned to remove the privileges and authority of the upper class in which, without radical changes, they cannot realistically hope to share 
Explaining why he rejected the idea of a two class society, the Country Party politician David Drummond wrote that he refused:
to accept the doctrine that society was divided into 2 classes & 2 only. I knew that in between there was a middle class of decent law abiding people, farmers, graziers, small shopkeepers, & to a certain extent professional men. They were either self employed or small employers but largely consisted of people who valued their independence and sought by hard work to build a secure place in society they could sustain .. To the solid core of the "middle class" the unprincipled exploiting greed of employers was as loathsome as the destructive ill-balanced doctrines of extreme unionism.
Drummond used the term middle class, but the attributes he attached better reflect Neale's idea of a middling class.

The distinctive features of the middling class are, I think, a degree of alienation from existing power and social structures combined with a a feeling of insecurity. Through hard work, they have established a degree of security and prosperity, but they feel that this is insecure, likely to be taken away. The middling class are worriers.

Drummond was writing in 1965 explaining the views that he had formed as a young man so many decades before. Despite the passage of time, I think that the idea of the middling class is still by far the best way of understanding just what drives One Nation.  

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Copenhagen's Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek presents 150 years of French art

Edward Manet, the Execution of the Emperor Maximilian, 1867 
I have always had a soft spot for Emperor Maximilian 1 of Mexico. If you look at the story of his life in Wikipedia, you will see that he was a fundamentally good man caught up in power politics beyond his control.

I mention this now because the Manet painting of his death is one of the paintings in a new display at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek just down the road from eldest's place in Copenhagen.

artdaily records that the exhibition includes 200 works of French art including pieces by Manet, Degas, Monet, C├ęzanne, van Gogh and Gauguin covering the period from 1850 to 1950. Unusually, the exhibition is presented in reverse chronological order, starting in 1950 and then working back. I would be interested to see just how this works. It should so long as the explanatory material is good.

The Glyptotek  is a lovely gallery, although those parts reliant on natural light are best not seen at dusk on a Copenhagen winter day! You also need to allow time, for I find that these very large exhibitions have a blurring effect if you try to pack the whole into a single visit.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Forum - secret gardens

I am mildly addicted to an ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Program Dream Gardens. This will not come as a surprise to regular readers given my past references to gardens and gardening.
Modern suburban Australian native garden. This is an example of a garden I do not like. It's decorative, but fairly useless.  
My thinking about gardens has been affected by my love of and experience with vegetable gardens. It's also been influenced by gardens that break the heat of the Australian summer, places where you can gather or just sit on a hot day.

I do like some of the British country or great house gardens.These are more decorative, focusing on vistas, formal arrangements and sometimes quaint retreats or mazes.

The maze at Scone Palace, Perth where eldest and I wandered. These are places where one visits, but normally not places where (unless you happen to be the owners!) you can treat as a living experience.
As a child, I loved the secret bits in gardens. The hedge along which a path had been burrowed. The secret spot in which you could sit and observe the world. The tree or roof which provided a special observation point.

I was an adult when I first read Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, but it instantly appealed to the child in me. It still does!

Then, too, gardens are a place to play or to steal things such as fruit. I still remember collecting raspberries that I then mashed with sugar and cream to create a delicious mess.

This brings me to the topic of today's forum. What do you like/dislike about gardens? What are your favourite memories? If you were designing a garden, what must it include?

As always, feel free to go in whatever directions you want.  
 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Confusions over Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975

I hadn't intended to comment on the current debate about the proposed changes to Section 18c of the Australian Racial Discrimination Act 1975, but I got so annoyed listening to some of the interviews with the no-change proponents that I thought that I should at least educate myself.

For those who would like to educate themselves, I recommend reading the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights report "Freedom of speech in Australia - Inquiry into the operation of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and related procedures under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth)". While there was disagreement within the Committee, the report provides the best overview of the issues, far better than you will get from the reporting or commentary.

Legal Framework

As the report title indicates, there are two Commonwealth Acts involved. 

Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act deals with prohibition of offensive behaviour based on racial hatred. Section 18C states:
18C Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or
ethnic origin
 (1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
 (a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to
offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a
group of people; and
 (b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or
ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the
people in the group.   
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in
private if it:
 (a) causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated
to the public; or
 (b) is done in a public place; or
 (c) is done in the sight or hearing of people who are in a public
place. 
(3) In this section: public place includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.  
Four things to note about 18C:
  • It focuses on offensive behaviour. Other forms of racial discrimination relating to property or employment are dealt with in other sections of the Act
  • Unlawful behaviour is not the same as criminal behaviour. No formal penalties are attached. However, in the event of a court ruling that the behaviour is unlawful, other civil action may follow 
  • The scope of "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" because of the "race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group" is broad
  • The scope does not include offensive behaviour on the grounds of religion unless this can be linked in some way to the defined categories.    
Section 18D then provides a defence:
18D Exemptions
 Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done
reasonably and in good faith:
 (a) in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic
work; or
 (b) in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or
debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or
scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public
interest; or
 (c) in making or publishing:
 (i) a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of
public interest; or
 (ii) a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest
if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held
by the person making the comment.  
The second Act, the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 provides for the processes to be followed in handling complaints. These processes are reasonably complex and I'm not sure that I have them exactly right. However, in summary complaints must be in writing, they are reviewed by the Human Rights Commission who may reject them on because they are vexatious or trivial, there is provision for a conciliation process to try to reconcile the process. If agreement cannot be reached, the process is terminated. Where a complaint is rejected or the process terminated because agreement cannot be reached, complainants may then choose to take court action.

The Proposed Changes

The proposed changes announced by the Prime Minister and Commonwealth Attorney Brandis would:

  • Remove the words "offend, insult, humiliate" from section 18C of the RDA and insert the word "harass". It would also introduce the "reasonable member of the Australian community" as the objective standard by which contravention of section 18C should be judged.
  • Amend the AHRC Act to facilitate the disposal of unmeritorious complaints and ensure fairness is accorded to both complainants and respondents. The legislation would raise the threshold for the Commission to accept a complaint, provide additional powers for the Commission to terminate unmeritorious complaints and limit access to the courts for unsuccessful complaints.
  • Also include minor technical amendments, identified by the Commission itself, to improve the Commission's reporting obligations, its conciliation processes, and governance arrangements.
The Arguments

Section 18C has become a hugely symbolic issue to the point that the arguments about the changes tend to get lost in arguments about racism and free speech in a pluralist society.

Those arguing for legislative change fall into a number of groups. There are those who want 18C deleted in total. because it infringes the general principle of free speech. This includes libertarians, as well as some of those on the right of the Liberal Party. Some oppose 18C in principle, others because of the "chilling" effect it has on debate when combined with the dispute processes; some combine the two to justify opposition.  

There are then those who want the scope of 18C narrowed to improve clarity. This includes those who suggested the replacement of the current words with vilify or harass or indeed both. Then there are those who would like to see the scope of 18C widened to include religion with "race, colour or national or
ethnic origin." 

Some of those arguing for legislative change would maintain 18C as is, but wish to see the procedures amended to improve simplicity and clarity and reduce vexatious claims.  

Those arguing against the proposed legislative changes generally make one or a combination of four main points:

  • They believe that the current legislation is in fact working well, although there may be a case for improving procedures
  • The broad wording of the current 18C has in practice been read down by the courts to limiting, thus reducing the case for change. A change of the type proposed would invalidate this case law, creating uncertainties and difficulties of interpretation
  •  The new "reasonable person" test is wrong because it shifts the judgment on the offence from the aggrieved person or group to a broader community who may never have experienced racial abuse and are therefore not in a position to make a judgement on the degree of offence or hurt caused.  
  • The proposed changes send the wrong signals and may encourage racism. Some of those arguing this line support their point with claims about the continuing prevalence of racism in  Australia.  
Among the main protagonists of these views are the Human Rights Commission itself, the Labor and Green Parties and organisations representing particular ethnic groups.

Discussion

My own views about Section 18C have fluctuated. The main Racial Discrimination Act was introduced by the Whitlam Government in 1975. Section 18C came later, introduced by the Keating Government to Parliament in November 1994. At the time, I thought that it was an infringement on free speech, another of a parcel of symbolic measures so beloved by then Prime Minister Keating that greatly infuriated me at the the time.

That was twelve years ago. With time, the section became embedded. I didn't see it as necessarily doing much good in addressing racism, but until recently I didn't see it as having significant problems either. It was just there. I couldn't quite understand the continuing heat in the issue.

I guess that makes me out of touch. The dispute over Section 18C has now become so enmeshed in conflicts over symbols, values, ideology and perceptions that that it is difficult to disentangle the issues involved that bear specifically on the legislation itself. Indeed, I'm not sure that those specific issues matter anymore in what has become a stark two tone debate where the role of 18C is primarily symbolic.

Based on the evidence presented so far, I don't think there is any doubt that the combination of 18C with the dispute handling procedures has had, to use News Corporation's word, something of a "chilling" effect on public discussion. The problems are that you don't know who will be offended and what action might be taken. Even if a matter does not proceed to court, there are still costs involved in time and legal expenses. If a matter does proceed to court, further expenses are involved. The response is a degree of self-censorship.

It is not clear to me to what degree this problem is due to the current wording of 18C as compared to the procedures to be followed should a complaint be submitted.

A linked problem lies in the present very broad wording of 18C, the use of  "offend, insult, humiliate" if the public expression is based on the grounds of "race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group". I don't know where to draw the boundaries with those words.

During the debate over the proposed changes, Labor spokesman kept asking for examples where the current legislation stopped free speech. Leaving aside the problem that giving such examples might themselves lead to complaints under the Act, here are a few generalised examples::
  • "The Armenian genocide came about because of ethnic, cultural and religious prejudices deeply embedded in Turkish society, prejudices that continue to this day." Alternatively, "the Armenian genocide is a myth perpetrated by Armenian nationalists smearing Turkey and the Turkish people for their own political end." 
  • "Racism is deeply embedded in white society."  Alternatively, "there is something deeply racist in the way Aboriginal  people seek to exclude non-Aboriginal people  from even commenting on Aboriginal issues." 
I am not saying that these are perfect examples, just that each one is likely to offend, insult or even humiliate someone on the grounds of race, colour or national or ethnic origin. I am sure that you could think of other examples.

Three related questions arise: what is the purpose of the legislation, the problem being addressed; what is the scope of the legislation; and is 18C the best way of addressing the identified problem? 

The intent of the Government's proposed changes is to narrow the scope of the legislation by focusing on harass. Part of the argument against this is that the courts have already narrowed the scope of the legislation to limit it to more serious cases, a second part is that any change would send a signal that racism is okay. A more significant argument is that the meaning of harass itself is unclear. 

A simpler change that might meet objections on both sides would be the deletion of the word offend, thus reflecting what the courts already appear to have decided.  

While there is no agreement on the scope of 18C, there does appear to be at least a measure of agreement that the complaint processes do need reformation. I do not know whether the Government's proposals here are the best result. I haven't seen much discussion on this since attention has been so strongly focused on the change to 18C. 

On the surface, a sensible fall back position for all parties would seem to be changes here. That would then allow changes to 18C itself to be further considered in the light of subsequent case experience.

As things stand at the moment, it seems the the Government's proposed legislation will be defeated in the Senate, so all this discussion is perhaps a little pointless given that maintenance of the status quo seems the most likely outcome. 

    

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunday Snippets + Monday Forum

I am again combining the Sunday and Monday Forum posts. The Sunday part just records some of the things that I have noticed, been interested in, but have not found the time to write about. The Monday part is open to any direction whatsoever.

It's been quite wet in parts of Northern NSW. The road between Armidale and the coast is called Waterfall Way. This ABC shot of the road down the Dorrigo mountain suggests why. The road was closed soon after this photo was taken.

For entertainment. This YouTube video attempts to explain some of the intricacies of Brexit - and the UK..


Staying in the UK, both Helen Dale and kvd pointed me to story in the Guardian: 'London Bridge is down': the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death. It's a long but very interesting piece, drawing out some of the logistic and political complexities involved in responding to the death of such a long serving and respected monarch. Queen Elizabeth the Second became Queen on 6 February 1952.

The first annual meeting of the G20 since the election of President Trump has been held in the German spa town of Baden-Baden. The consensus communique released following the meeting deleted previous references to climate change and free trade. The BBC report states that after the meeting ended, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he would not read too much into his country's desire to change the language behind the communique, as "what was as in the past" releases was "not relevant".

Mr Mnuchin added he had been "very clear that we do believe in free trade but we believe in balanced trade". .

The Australian Financial Review provides this comparison of the wording between 2016 and 2017.


In the same story, the paper reports claims by the Australian Treasurer that he and his Canadian counterpart worked hard to get some trade reference that was acceptable to both sides, at least keeping a trade reference in. Australia has pushed global freer trade because it is in the country's interests as a smaller relatively open economy.

There has actually been a lot of economic news recently that I am still trying to absorb. However, one point that is worth noting now is the way that first the NAB and then Westpac immediately raised their Australian domestic home loan interest rates in response to the official interest rate increase by the US Federal Reserve.

The reason given was the impact on bank funding costs. The Australian banking system raises around 40% of its funds on the international market. I expect further increases independent of any Australian Reserve Bank action as the slow process of unwinding the responses to the Global Financial Crisis continues.      

The interest rate rises have obvious implications for the apartment building splurge that has been reshaping Australia's biggest cities. There are a number of interconnected issues here that are current hot topics.

One is the supply of affordable housing, especially in the bigger metro cities. I hope to write something on this. My central concern is that there is no such thing as a free lunch or, alternatively, silver bullets. Some of the proposed solutions will introduce their own distortions and inequities

A second issue interconnected with the apartment boom are the planning failures now being revealed in the supply of services including especially education. Forecasting errors are central to those failures, a topic in its own right, as are the nature of decision lags and processes.

Another related issue is the use and abuse of quantitative measures. Here I record for later use (hat tip Legal Eagle) Every attempt to manage academia makes it worse.

The running Australian soap opera called energy policy is another example of planning failures accentuated by the application of ideological models independent of evidence. The problems Australia now has go back
in part to decisions made in the 1990s, compounded by the subsequent inability to bridge ideological and political divides despite all the evidence of emerging problems.

Finally and for something different, for lovers of dark chocolate, the Huffington Post has provided nine reasons why you should it some every day.

I'm not saying the paper is right, but I do like dark chocolate.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Morning Musings - the rise and rise of Donaeld The Unready

At a time when politics seems a little unstable and itself the element of farce to the point that the role of the fuming satirist is reduced to irrelevance by the reality of it all, the rise of Donaeld  The Unready provides a welcome relief.

Donaeld 's twitter feed describes himself in this way:
The best medieval King out there. I'm the bretwalda. The bestwalda. I've got great swords, everyone says so. Make Mercia Great Again. Great thoughts, all my own
His website provides a little more detail.
Much of the early history of England is lost to the Ages, destroyed by flown time and vindictive monarchs. So many early Kings are only known because of the “trusted” Chronicles of historically minded monastery dwellers such as Bede and Gildas. History is of course written by the powerful winners and their monkish scribes. But what of the losers? What of those deliberately scraped from the precious vellum of Lindisfarne and Jarrow by jealous ink-stained pen-pitted hands? 
My research in the archives of Lichfield Cathedral has uncovered a priceless document, a true chronicle from the pen of a great leader of Mercia. A document which history has forgotten and those biased gatekeepers at the Elite East Coast scriptoria have done their best to suppress. The personal, raw and at times close to the bone musings of the Greatest of all Mercian Kings. Never before seen by historians, and covering many events that Gildas, Bede and others chose not to record, this manuscripts are truly without parallel. Illustrated by the greatest artist in Mercia, a certain Mike (@WulfgarTheBard), weaver of dreams, illustrator of scenes, painter of... paintings..
Wulfgar the Bard has his own twitter feed and also a Facebook Page and indeed a web site. . Wulfgar provides illustrations that draw out the extent of Donaeld 's problems along with his own captions. The caption to this illustration reads: "King a month and Donaeld's boared already."

Bretwalda Donaeld  faces many problems in making Mercia great again. There are not just the nasty monks or twisted scribes, but also the sneaky Danes who from their capital in Jorvik (Scandinavian York) who post a constant threat with their mouthpiece the Jorvik Times. Then there are the people even in Mercia who just do not understand as well as the rival kingdoms..

Sometimes irascible, Bretwalda Donaeld  perseveres, pointing out the issues in his stream of tweets.
Viking raids start 789. Alfraid the Worst only takes responsibility in 871! Too late lazy Alfraid! I would have stopped this far faster! 
Persistence is required.  "MAKE MERCIA GREAT AGAIN! End the Wessex hegemony! Time to take our kingdom back. #buildtheshieldwall."

Or on the Danes: "Viking attacks on monasteries during services proves they have weapons of Mass destruction. Only one option. Invade Vikania, wherever it is". Or again: "Northumbria behaving very badly. They've been playing Mercia for years. Rheged not helping! Need a new clear response. #buildtheshieldwall"

From time to time, there does seem to a degree of confusion in his thinking, but he is quick to point out confusions in others:
" Bad Monk Bede says I'm in Consistent. And in Competent. And in Decisive. Can't be in 3 places at once Bede! And I'm in MERCIA actually! SAD"

It will be clear that the Bretwalda sometimes has difficulties with official visitors:
Lotta haters wondering why Queen Hedwiga of Saxons said nothing at moot. Simple! So awestruck by me she was speechless! A mute moot!
This type of thing can become a bit heavy, of course.  So far I think the Bretwalda and Bard have largely avoided this, in part because the placement in that past world allows for interaction with others linked to the time that are not necessarily linked to current events. It becomes a world in its own right.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Celebrate the Official Grand Opening of Eveleigh Works – Sydney, Sunday April 2 2017

2017 marks 130 years of blacksmithing at Sydney's Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops.  Once the hub of steam train building in Australia, the cathedral-like Redfern workshop ran from 1887 until 1989.  Now, it’s open to the public as a blacksmithing and traditional craft school and they're throwing a party to celebrate.

In September 2016 Eveleigh Works moved in and started turning the heritage listed Locomotive blacksmith’s workshops into a fully fledged blacksmithing school. Fast forward 6 months, and they have welcomed makers from far and wide into the shop to learn heritage craft skills in the beautiful industrial cathedral of the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops.

See the magic of forging red-hot steel with forging, traditional tool making and glass blowing demonstrations. Starting at 1pm you’ll get to see our blacksmith instructors forge things by hand and furnace and see the incredible equipment and facilities of this workshop.

A party isn't a party without some boot stomping. The day will feature a line-up of local bands, featuring The Sweet Jelly Rolls, Indigo Rising and more. Booze is by local brewers Young Henrys and FBI SMAC 'Best Eats' award winners Rising Sun Workshop will be serving Japanese nom noms.

Founded by a team of three young creatives, the newly invigorated Eveleigh Works now runs weekly short courses in metal sculpture, hand forging, knife-making and traditional tool-making.  They’re part of a broader resurgence of ‘makers’ – people from all walks of life wanting to reconnect with traditional ways of designing and creating.

The Eveleigh Works opening party will kick off at 1pm and end at 5pm on Sunday, 2 April.  Entry is free, and the event is all-ages.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sculpture, Oysters, Beardy Street and Aboriginal DNA

I was sitting upstairs in a restaurant overlooking Armidale's Beardy Street. We had been down to a BBQ lunch near Walcha, now New England's sculpture capital. This is a piece by Alec Gill from the Walcha Gallery of Art.  

We had come back a little early to go to the first film in the Armidale International Film Festival. Drinking champagne and eating oysters before the next film, I thought I would like to have establish a business in Armidale with our offices overlooking the Mall. It was just so civilised. I was to do that, if not quite with the results I hoped.

I mention this now because Monday's post on New England Australia, New natural history museum adds to Armidale's attractions and diversity - but can we fix Beardy Street?, ended with a somewhat plaintive Beardy Street call.

While Armidale is constantly adding to its attractions, the decline in Beardy Street and especially the central mall leaves a real hole. I know that this is a parochial post, but I still have this vision of Beardy Street as a cafe/bookshop/small shop strip, the main entertainment hub for locals and tourists alike. .

Staying with my somewhat parochial theme, yesterday's post on New England's History, Musings on the latest Aboriginal DNA studies from Professor Cooper and his team, issues for New England studies, discusses what the latest DNA research tells us about Aboriginal history. They are interesting results that I hope will extend my analysis of the Aboriginal history of Northern NSW.

 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Essay - deaths of cartoonists Murray Ball and Bill Leak, the WA election results

I was saddened to hear of the death of New Zealand cartoonist Murray Ball, the creator of Footrot Flats. I really enjoyed Footrot Flats. As a part Kiwi with New Zealand farm connections I knew enough to understand the local allusions, More importantly, the characters were just fun.

I spent Saturday night watching the West Australian election count. That made for a very late night given the three hour time difference. Since it seemed pretty clear that the Barnett Government would lose the election, the three things that I focused on were the likely scale of the defeat, the size of the One Nation vote and the fate of the WA National Party.

It quickly became clear that a swing, a big one, was on, so my focus shifted to the other two.

Much has been written about the decline in the One Nation vote. If you exclude the lower house seats where One Nation did not contest, the One Nation vote would appear to be around the number suggested by the polls, a bit over 8%, with a higher vote in regional areas, lower in Perth Metropolitan. So well down on the peak poll forecasts, but around the final average poll numbers.

The Liberal decision to preference One Nation in the Upper House in return for One Nation preferences in the lower house clearly backfired. The scale of the backfire is subject to debate, but when you have both Liberals and Ms Hanson herself saying that it was a mistake that cost votes, I'm inclined to go with the professionals.

In practical terms, it looks to have delivered One Nation 1-2 upper house seats, reducing the Nationals by one.to four seats.  In the lower house, it looks as though it may transfer the previously National held seat of Kalgoorlie to the Liberals, although results here are still uncertain.

The results in National Leader Brendon Grylls's seat of Pilbara are too close to call, although it looks as though he will lose the seat to Labor  Here a special factor was in play, Gryll's proposals to increase mining royalties on Rio Tinto and BHP.

In this Footrot Flat cartoon, Dog plays the role of Grylls while you need to dress the two farmers in high vis clothing.

BHP and Rio Tinto are reported to have spent more than $2 million in anti-National advertising, while BHP reportedly tried to encourage its staff in the Pilbara to vote against Grylls. From their viewpoint, it was a relatively small (and successful) investment to avoid a bigger impost.

Listening to election night commentary from both Liberal and Labor spokesmen, they were both men, on the royalty issue, both said that Gryll's proposal was essentially silly because all it would do is to reduce WA's share of the GST. If you think about it, and its correct, that's a dreadful commentary on current fiscal arrangements within the federation, something that Premier Barnett rightly campaigned on. What's the point on taking fiscal action at state level if all that happens is a consequent fiscal hit at another level?  

The sudden death of another cartoonist, Australian Bill Leak, bookends this short post.

Leak was always idiosyncratic, attracting controversy and invective.Towards the end of his life, this seems to have weighed  on him.

Even at the end, he was still campaigning against what he saw as the dead hand of political correctness.

Both Australia and New Zealand have been very lucky in their political cartoonists over a very long period. Often controversial, they have presented political and social issues back to us in ways that make us pause. The pictures they present are something like those distorting mirrors that used to be popular at sideshows and amusement arcades, but they encourage us to look in new ways and, sometimes, just to share the fun.

This Sunday post will also act as tomorrow's Monday Forum. As always, go in whatever direction you like.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

In praise of a well-cut wool suit

Those people who have a suit for every day of the week and even, one is reluctantly led to believe, more expansive wardrobes, are parvenus of the worst sort. A gentleman generally has two suits. There is one for formal occasions like funerals and another for less formal occasions like going up to London. They are made by one of a select band of exclusive tailors and last him many years until his wife judges they are too threadbare. Then they are either handed down to the gardener or given to a good cause like the Distressed Gentlefolk’s Aid Association.
I have always had very old-fashioned views on suits. They should be made of wool, they should be comfortable and well cut, and they should last and last. This generally means that I have eschewed the most modern fashions.

The more modern the fashion, the more likely it is that the suit will date. To my mind, it is better to look slightly old fashioned than to be wearing a suit that clearly belongs to last year's fashion.

For the life of me, and I accept this dates me dreadfully, I cannot warm to a suit that starts with a crumpled look, looks too tight around the shoulders and has trousers designed to fit matchsticks. It's just not me.

I mention this now because the Parisian Gentleman  has just published an excerpt from “The English Gentleman”, a satire written by Douglas Sutherland and published in 1978. It's quite entertaining, although the advice on where to place your hankie does not seem quite right.