Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday Forum - corporatisation

The financial problems experienced by listed Australian law firm Slater and Gordon since its expensive and now disastrous acquisition of UK firm Quindell has received extensive media coverage. These are a few examples: here, here, here, here.

I wrote a fair bit about corporatisation in professional services back in the 2000s. For example, this is a piece I wrote in May 2007: Corporatisation, Corporate Structures and the Law - The Case For. Later in that month, I wrote:
At one level, a simple move from a partnership to an incorporated body changes nothing. Partnerships already face a variety of challenges, including the need to make sufficient profit to pay partners and fund development in a competitive marketplace. Wrapping a corporate envelope around the partnership does not change this. 
The position changes, however, if the firm actually lists in the way Slater and Gordon did because two new factors come into play. 
The first is the need to formally consider the needs of shareholders as owners. In theory at least, a partnership may decide to sacrifice profits in the interests of its clients. Again in theory, this is more difficult in a listed corporation because of the direct pressures to provide shareholder returns. 
I say in theory in both cases because I am not sure how much difference there is in practice. Indeed, in partnerships the need to maximise partner cash flow creates pressures that may be just as, if not more, detrimental to clients than the shareholder return requirement. Here a feature of the ethical discussion has been a comparison between corporate operations and the independent professional model, whereas the comparison should be with the partnership model. 
The second linked factor is more complicated, the temptation to play corporate games in an attempt to maximise the the share price and to please the market . In my view this is a real danger that can, as we have seen in other areas, threaten the very existence of the firm itself.
I don't have time tonight to tease out the issues, so instead pose two questions: can corporatisation work?; if, so in what circumstances? As always, feel free to go in whatever direction you want! 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday Morning Musings - miscellany

Today's Saturday Morning Musings is another round up. In a piece in priceonomics, Zachary Crockett.looks at the evolution of the ubiquitous supermarket shopping trolley. Who would have thought that the inventor would be forced to hire actors to encourage shoppers to use the damn things!

In Syria, the temporary truce seems to have come into effect. President Putin's intervention has been a game changer. Looking back, Western foreign policy since the War on Terror began has been a mess. The problem lies not so much in the concepts, although there have been problems there, but in abject failures in implementation.
A first thy Poet, never let him lacke

A comely cleanly Shirt unto his backe.
Cleane Linnen, is my Mistris, and my Theme

—John Taylor, In Praise of Cleane Linen (1624)
I used to love time travel stories. I still do actually, although the obsession with fantasy that has over-swept science fiction means that they are far fewer on the ground now. One of my problems in going back in time has always been health and hygiene. How, for example, might I clean my teeth?

Now I am not your modern suburbanite. With the exception of a great dislike of peeing or pooing in public, something deeply embedded in my own past, I don't mind getting dirty, I can go without showers, I can sleep on the ground, I quite like smelling of smoke from the fire. Yet in all this, I have always wondered about that voluminous Tudor clothing. It struck me as quite unhygienic that in the absence of baths.

Here I refer you to an interesting piece by Ruth Goodman, Getting Clean, the Tudor Way.

Finally, discussion continues on earlier posts on Australia's refugee policy. I have yet to respond to the latest comments. In the meantime, a challenge for you. These are the latest Australian immigration detention statistics. Can anyone tell me what they mean?.


kvd has pointed me to the story of that Elizabethan painting. It's quite fascinating.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A brief note on Australia’s refugee policy

This post responds to discussion around two previous posts in particular, Response to the Syrian refugee crisis - Australia v Canada and Saturday Morning Musings - Australia's refugee mess. In that discussion, I was challenged to propose explicit policy changes to refugee policy that would not result in a resumption of the 23,000 annual arrivals (of boat people) recorded just before Mr Abbott's policy. I said that I though that that was not difficult and sketched some changes that I thought might be made. It was just a sketch and was challenged. This post extends the argument.

Statement of Problem

The Government has been successful in stopping the boats but this has come with costs.

Our international reputation has been damaged. We may or may not have breached UN conventions and our treaty obligations, but at the very least we have lost moral authority. I for one find it discomforting when Australia is quoted as a role model by European parties of the far right. We have also done some damage to our relations with our neighbours and especially Indonesia.

The policy and the rhetoric around the policy has fed into domestic division within Australia, encouraging the rise of groups with more extreme views.

The policy has cost and continues to cost large sums of money at a time of budget constraint. There has been a running sore of complaints and apparent cases of mistreatment and injustice, not aided by a lack of transparency. 

From a simple risk management perspective, the current refugee policy is structured in such a way that there are certain to be a stream of further cases of apparent injustice and unfairness, while the camps know frequently called Australia’s gulags will have to be maintained for the indefinite future. In all, we have an expensive mess.

I accept that these are judgements that can be challenged. However, on risk management grounds alone, consideration needs to be given to changes that may reduce risk.

Practically, the room for movement is limited. The Government is locked in, while there is apparent bipartisan support for tough policies. Refugee advocates outside the tent may campaign, but in the short term at least their efforts will have little effect. I say in the short term because Australian history suggests that that those advocating policies that come later to be seen as inhumane suffer tarnish as a consequence.

Proposed Changes

The changes that I am about to propose will satisfy few. They are set within a context of current policy. The Government will not like them, nor will refugee advocates who will see them as cosmetic. However, they are the best that I can come up with.

The first step is a reshaping of the rhetoric to shift the focus from stop the boats to refugees and Australia’s humanitarian role in this regard. Tough border protection remains, but it becomes a secondary element, part of a package. To be credible, this shift in language will probably need to be associated with an increase in the overall refugee quota. We are just so tarnished now.

The second step is the removal of the present restriction on those in the camps being offered settlement in Australia. This may or may not have made sense at the time stop the boats was introduced, but it’s starting to have some very perverse effects.

A case in point is the inability of the Australian Government to accept a New Zealand resettlement offer because those resettled might then be able to come to Australia at some point in the future and thus breach the rule. Instead, we are being forced into silly and expensive options such as Cambodia as a way of trying to resettle those classified as refugees.

Relaxing the Australian settlement rule does not mean providing preference to those who came by boat as actually happened before. Rather, it means treating someone on Manus in the same way as a refugee in Malaysia or one in a Syrian refugee camp, applying the same criteria within the overall refugee quota.

The third step is the introduction of greater transparency in the whole process, including the camps themselves. I am not talking about greater transparency for Border Force, although that may well be desirable. My focus is on the camps and the refugee process.

The absence of transparency breeds suspicion and aids injustice. My feeling is that the process requires an independent monitoring body. The Government’s problem is that few actually believe it any more. I am not talking here about the refugee partisans, just the ordinary citizen like myself with an interest in the matter. There have been so many inconsistencies, so many concealments, that I just don’t trust the Government any more.

The fourth and final step in my proposals is a shift in focus from policing to people assistance. I struggle a little to define this properly. I keep seeing anecdotal evidence that suggests that instead of really assisting people to resettle, we are actually making it harder. Putting it as crudely as I can, we take people who are already traumatised, subject them to further trauma, give them limited assistance and then expect them to settle into Australia or another country. That just builds in future costs. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday Forum - art, personality and all that: another as you will

Today's Monday Forum is another as you will.

Ah, if only I had a magic carpet. The Barnes Foundation has a new exhibition, "Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change". Sadly, I cannot simply travel to the USA!

I have always been interested in Picasso because when I first saw his work it seemed so strange. It wasn't until I visited the Musée Picasso in Paris that I got a real feel for him in his context.

As we have discussed before, art works survive because of their continued resonance. In this context, the  Musée Picasso had the biggest impact on youngest.

Mind you, it had a bigger impact on youngest. She just wandered absorbed.

This is a shot of her at the time. It's simply entitled "I love this Picasso." I think that that visit has influenced her art to this day.

Are you a Picasso fan?

Staying with the girls, eldest has decided that she is an extroverted introvert. I think that's pretty right. Her father is too.

When I drop into performance mode, I can appear quite extroverted. When I'm happy, I can appear extroverted. However, these are to some degree and especially the performance mode learned behaviours.

What personality type are you? Do they in fact make sense? - I clearly think that they do. How have you modified your behaviour?

Growing up, I did not regard photography as art. I really didn't until I started visiting the Australian National Gallery on a regular basis looking at their photographic exhibitions. Now I regard photography as both an art form and evidence to be used in my research and writing.

I see that the The Morgan Library & Museum has opened a new exhibition exploring the diverse visual languages of photography. Again, I wish that I could go! It's worth clicking on the link because of its descriptions of the changing role of photography.

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

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Snippets - more on full bodied women, prehistory plus a tongue twister for you

Today's Sunday Snippets records things that I have noticed but not yet commented on.

From time to time I have written in support of full bodied women. In an article in Good, Tod Perry comments on Target Australia's Valentine Day advertisements. I quote:
Target has revealed a sexy new Valentine’s Day ad for lingerie — but, unfortunately for those of us in the United States, the campaign is running only in Australia. The ad features three women with realistic body types posing in seductive lingerie, proving that you can be sexy without having to be a size two.
I quite agree! Speaking as a mere male who has had to live through multiple dieting regimes, life would be a hell of a lot easier if women recognised that many body types are sexy, that they don't have to get thin to be attractive. Of course, if you wan't to diet for health reasons or because it helps your self-image do so, but it's not much fun making love to a rake. Rakes belong in the garden shed.

Staying with sex, the evidence continues to grow showing that different human species interbred. I'm not sure that I would go as far as this headline, Evidence mounts for interbreeding bonanza in ancient human species, but we clearly got around a fair bit!

Kind of helpful to remember at a time when there is so much focus on division and separation that, in the end, we are related to each other and may have some ancestors stranger than we realised.

Just as in Australia convict ancestry within us has moved from a matter of shame to considerable pride, so the Neanderthal within us is coming to become a matter of some pride.

Staying with prehistory, DNA evidence suggests a major shift in human populations in Europe towards the end of the last Ice Age. Hardly surprising, although we are only just coming to grips with the way climate change has affected the human past.

Meantime, new dating techniques have been developed that may allow us to more accurately date Aboriginal rock art.

Finally, and changing direction again, try this English tongue twister from 1922. How did you go?


Following up on  the theme of full bodied women, kvd pointed me to this BBC piece on the life of Annette Kellermann.

Kellermann, the name is sometimes spelled with one n as in the BBC piece, had a truly remarkable career as a swimmer, star, performer and swim suit designer, constantly pushing the boundaries.

While I knew the name and a little about her, I had nor realised the full extent of her career, nor the fact that she was born in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville. That's somehow appropriate, given that Marrickville has become a very trendy suburb!    .

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Morning Musings - Australia's refugee mess

In a comment on Wednesday’s post, Response to the Syrian refugee crisis - Australia v Canada, 2 tanners wondered in a meta comment "do we find all this too difficult to talk about?" He was referring specifically to discussion on this blog.

In response, I wrote: 
“You may well be right in your meta comment, 2t. We do find this too painful to talk about. I think that you are also right in concluding that the combination of rhetoric with policy explains Australia’s poor performance in meeting its own targets as compared to Canada. It is impossible to imagine Australian PM Turnbull driving admission and welcoming refugees in the way the Canadian PM did.   Few would argue, I think, that Australia should have open boarders. The question then becomes where you draw the line. Australia has open boarders for economic migrants so long as they meet set criteria, closed boarders for refugees. 
 I think that the Government has long given up on arguing a nuanced line over refugee policy and indeed migration in general. The left is deeply riven by the conflicting desires to limit population while still admitting refugees. The Opposition is effectively locked into the Government’s policy. The end result is a moral coarsening of public policy”.
As I write, protests continue over the treatment of baby Asha. It is easier to galvanise (or to attempt to galvanise) public opinion over specific cases than to argue on general principles. The Australian Government has locked itself into policy positions whose inexorable logic drives it in directions that, in the end, damage the country.

The Government is involved in discussions with third countries to take people in the camps on Manus or Nauru. Meantime, it cannot accept offers of resettlement from New Zealand because those people might then be able to enter Australia.

It’s all so unnecessary, but now so inevitable. In the end, the Government will have to do what it can to clear the camps. This will come at a price that already includes human suffering, considerable expenditure and some moral tarnishing. In the end, it is likely that some people will have to be resettled in Australia.

In framing the discussion in such simple black and white terms as stop the boats, this and previous governments have placed the country in an impossible position. The argument that you must stop the boats to stop people drowning is potentially defensible, but only if it forms part of a broader approach based on clear principles that take international circumstances, national interest and values into account.

Values including especially humanity are important. The corrosive impact of current policies lies in the absence of values. We all need things to be proud of. There appear to be no elements in current refugee policy that meet the pride criteria. Indeed, it appears that we cannot deliver even on the commitments that we do enter into. In all, it’s a mess. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Response to the Syrian refugee crisis - Australia v Canada

Interesting piece in the Canberra Times by Nicole Hasham comparing the Australian and Canadian responses to the admission of Syrian refugees.

Both countries decided to admit refugees as a consequence of the European refugee crisis, Canada 25,000, Australia 12,000. The graphic shows the difference in performance between the two following the decision.

It is difficult to know whether or not Australia is simply less efficient or whether its a difference in attitude or, more probably, a combination of both. The detail provided in Ms Hasham's piece suggests that Australian NGOs who had geared up for a fast response found themselves effectively stuck out on a limb, incurring additional costs while they waited. Australia's administrative and policy systems have become rather sclerotic for reasons that I have outlined before. However, attitudinal differences are also important.  

The article includes video of Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau's welcome to the first group of refugees. While Canadian attitudes seem to reflect the same type of polarisation found in this country, the Canadian PM used the event to make a positive statement about Canada and Canadian values that provides a degree of pride and indeed inspiration. It's hard to see that happening in Australia..

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Monday Forum - the republic, has Mr Turnbull become Bob Katter's hat, Syria

Yes, I know its Tuesday, but we still have to have a Monday Forum!

The latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll shows support for an Australian republic stuck at 42%. The poll came after a three week resurgence of republican agitation including a letter signed by all but one state and territory leaders saying the Queen should be replaced by an Australian head of state. Opposition leader Bill Shorten then used his Australia Day address to try to goad PM Turnbull into backing the new push for a republic. Mr Turnbull would have none of it. Is this another case of Australian political leaders pushing into yawn territory?

PM Turnbull has been visiting North Queensland to try to shore up Coalition support in marginal seats. Playing on MP Bob Katter's famous hat, The Australian Financial Review's Tony Walker asked "is it becoming clear Turnbull is all hat and no cattle?" In other words, all show and no substance. Any views?

In Europe, negotiations over the UK's membership of the EU continue.Should the UK withdraw? Could the UK itself survive withdrawal without break-up?

Finally, the position in Syria gets messier and messier. Where will it end?

As always, feel free to go in whatever direction you want!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Remembering quids, tanners and bobs - fiftieth anniversary of Australian decimal currency

On this day in 1966, 14 February, Australia moved from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency. I was overseas when the change occurred and actually found it quite odd on my return. Now, of course, I have difficulty in remembering and counting in the old currency.

This is actually a problem, for much of the historical research I do falls in the pre-decimal currency period. So in memory of the old currency, each pound consisted of 20 shillings which in turn consisted of 12 pence. So 12 pennies to the shilling, 240 pence or twenty shillings to the pound.

In terms of coin, the farthing was one quarter of a penny, although by 1965 inflation had rendered it redundant. Then there were (among other coins) a half penny, the penny, a threepenny, a sixpenny, a shilling, and two shillings

In terms of common parlance, a pound was a quid, a shilling was a bob and sixpence a tanner. So 2 tanners equals a bob!

Given that I am forgetting, I should probably write a short history of currency to help me remember! Given other pressures, maybe the likelihood is a bob each way!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Introducing Katy Barnett's The Earth below - a dystopian romance

Last year our friend and fellow blogger Katy Barnett better known as Legal Eagle completed her first novel begun while she was sick in hospital.

The Earth Below is a dystopian romance. The synopsis ends:
The Earth Below is a dystopia, a romance and an adventurous escape rolled into one. Readers follow Marri’s struggles against the oppressive rules and the difficulties in deciding to leave It’s a story that mirrors contemporary questions of sexuality, parenthood, freedoms in society, cultural clashes and the limits of law. It will appeal to older teens and adult readers.

In a comment, kvd wrote: Jim, I think your writer daughter would particularly enjoy this story, and I must add that I had the honour of a first draft read of the entire, and I give it a complete and hearty recommend. Enjoy!

Katie has developed a new web site for the book. You can download a copy of the first chapter there.

The web site aims, I think, to attract a main stream publisher. We should encourage that or, alternatively, encourage Katie to go another route. Please read the chapter - what do you think?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Placing Barnaby Joyce in his Northern NSW context

The election of Barnaby Joyce as leader of the Australian Commonwealth Parliamentary National Party with Fiona Nash as his deputy marks a significant changing of the guard.

The previous leader, Warren Truss, was very much a team person within the Liberal-National Party coalition arrangements to the point of partial invisibility. This may have aided the functioning of the coalition, but created real electoral difficulties for the National Party. In electoral terms, the Liberal Party is as much a threat to the Nationals as Labor or indeed the Greens.

Describing the coalition as a business partnership, not a marriage, Mr Joyce is likely to be more assertive,

One side effect of Mr Joyce's election is that I ended up on air this morning talking to ABC New England North West's Kelly Fuller (@kelfuller) about Mr Joyce's election in the context of Northern NSW politics.

It's actually quite remarkable. Of the thirteen leaders of the Commonwealth Country/National Parties (the Nationals were previously called the Country Party) seven have come from Northern NSW. At NSW State level, six of the eleven leaders have come from Northern NSW. If we compare this to the other parties, the score is none for the Liberal Party at either state or federal level, one for the Labor Party at state level.

In addition to the parties themselves, we have to add in the New England independents including especially Tony Windsor and Rob Oakshott who were instrumental in making Julia Gillard Prime Minister. There are also the separatists seeking self-government for the North.

Describing My Joyce as a retail politician, not a detail politician, Tony Windsor is considering running again against Mr Joyce. Should he do so, he will draw in particular from resentments created on the Liverpool Plains in the south of the large New England electorate over coal mining and cold seam gas extraction. This is Windsor territory. Whether his previous vote elsewhere in the electorate will be maintained, he needs that to win, is open to question. My present feeling is no.

Kelly and I chatted about Mr Joyce's somewhat larrikin style. I compared him to Earle Page, a long standing Country Party leader, but there is a strong dash there of Artie Fadden, another Country Party leader.

It will be interesting to see how all this evolves. . . .


It seems that GetUP is considering organising a campaign to draft Tony Windsor to run against Barnaby Joyce. This is the GetUp email:

 "Calling all GetUp members of New England: over the last couple of days, we've heard from a number of you about the promotion of your local MP, Barnaby Joyce, to Deputy Prime Minister. The question is: what can New England do about it? One idea is below. It's up to you to vote on whether to move forward. This email is your ballot, and voting closes Sunday.

Well, this Election year just got a whole lot more interesting.

In case you missed it: this week, the leader of the Nationals stepped down and, unchallenged, up stepped a familiar face. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Barnaby Joyce - Australia's Deputy Prime Minister-in-waiting.

As you hail from New England, Barnaby Joyce probably requires no introduction to you.

He's probably best known for being a part of the Cabinet that approved the Shenhua mine on prime agricultural land. You might also recognise him when he personally received $50,000 from Gina Rinehart for his political campaign. Mr Joyce has done some pretty unforgettable things, so it was unsurprising when GetUp polls suggested New England voters like you were concerned about him becoming Deputy Prime Minister.

But there's another version of the future - in the form of former independent member for New England, Tony Windsor. Speaking to media this week, Mr Windsor said he would consider a challenge to Barnaby Joyce for the seat of New England. In the past, Tony Windsor's been at the forefront of the fight on key issues like protecting water from large mining projects and coal seam gas mining.

This week, I've spoken with GetUp members from New England who say that our community should use this moment to band together, and encourage a strong, independent candidate like Tony Windsor to run against Barnaby Joyce this election. But GetUp is its members - and the vote is yours.

Here's the big question. Should the GetUp community of New England come together to urge Tony Windsor to run for Parliament in your electorate?

YES - let's launch a community campaign urging Tony Windsor to challenge Barnaby Joyce for the seat of New England.

NO - the local GetUp community shouldn't do this

GetUp has a history of strong political campaigning during elections — but to be effective, it needs to be owned and driven by the local community. So this is your call. This email is your ballot, and voting closes on Sunday night.

Here's why this idea is on the table:
  • Barnaby Joyce has a track record as a notorious climate sceptic, and as Deputy Prime Minister, he will present a real threat to Australia's progress towards a clean energy future - among a number of other issues. This week, he became much more powerful in the Turnbull government.
  • Tony Windsor has serious credentials when it comes to standing up on issues GetUp members care about. He's represented New England as an MP before as an independent, where he stood up for protecting water and prime agricultural land from threats of coal seam gas and big mining projects, and for action on climate change. He's probably the only person who could challenge our Deputy PM in waiting, and win.
Tony Windsor's not in the race yet. But this week, speaking to media, he said that he's considering it.

And now, so much is at stake.

When Malcolm Turnbull rose to power last year, many of us were hopeful. Yet, Australia's still staunchly shackled to ineffective "Direct Action" policies. The Turnbull government still issued approvals for one of the world's largest coal mines -- just days after assuring the rest of the world that we're acting on climate change. With Barnaby Joyce - climate blocker extraordinaire - our PM in waiting, we can probably expect to see far, far more moves like this.

We've heard from many local GetUp members who are eager for change in the seat of New England. Many think that encouraging a strong, independent candidate like Tony Windsor to run as an independent for the seat of New England is one way to get there. And one thing's for sure: it would call Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to account on his climate sceptic ways.

As a local GetUp member, this decision rests in your hands. What do you say?

YES - let's call on Tony Windsor to challenge Barnaby Joyce for the seat of New England.

NO - I don't think the GetUp community should do this

What will it mean if GetUp members of New England decide to move forward? If we do vote to go ahead, together, we'll kick off a community-powered campaign to publicly call on Tony Windsor to run for the seat of New England. We'll go into bat against Barnaby Joyce's climate denier ways. Together, we'll demonstrate that the people of New England are hungry for a leader who is unafraid to stand up to the powerful few within the Coalition Government, the polluter lobby and corporate interests that's holding them back. And if Tony Windsor can be a candidate that makes key commitments on the issues our community cares most about - GetUp members will back him all the way.

With Barnaby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister in waiting, your local election will be about more than just New England. It'll be a referendum on our on the future of our entire nation's policies, and the next Parliament after that. So what do you say?

Thanks for being a part of it."

Meantime, Winton Bates pointed to these cartoon depictions of Mr Joyce. Winton is also concerned about the opposition to foreigners buying Australian agricultural land (Should foreigners be allowed to buy agricultural land in Australia?), opposition led in part by Mr Joyce.

 For his part, kvd feels that Mr Joyce lacks sufficient gravitas.
Jim, I expect he doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things, but I have the continuing impression (see Winton's reference for several issue examples) that he manages to put a sort of vulgar touch on anything under debate. Some like that approach; I don't.
A recent one is the Depp dog saga: I take Australia's need for quarantine quite seriously (I've been through the process three times over the years with dogs, so I know some of the procedures) and I think the two serious issues involved - (i) how did the dogs get past inspection, and (ii) the need for quarantine controls - were to a large extent subsumed by his dramatic posing. It was an ideal opportunity for an international teaching moment lost.
He just reminds me of the mad uncle nobody wants to sit with at the wedding, and certainly not "top table" material. Except, now he is.
This Buzfeed story gives some other reactions.  .         .

Monday, February 08, 2016

Monday Forum - another as you will

Today's Monday Forum is another as you will. I know conversation is proceeding on other posts and I haven't responded. It's just been an odd day!

I thought that this graphic, I have no idea where I got it from, summarises certain aspects of girl-boy stuff. My female friends may disagree!

So where do you want to go in this forum? Strange digressions welcome.


Such a rich comment thread this Forum! For that reason, I am bringing my response up in the post itself. I leave you to read the comments for further details.

I was challenged on the sex of these two. I stick by my view that the one on the right is clearly a girl. 

I agree with 2 tanners that kvd still holds the palm for obscure citations/quotations. This was the quote: 
"At 8am, I had a warm, morning chi drink on my way to the school drop off, drunk in the car! It contains more than 25 grams of plant protein, thanks to vanilla mushroom protein and stone ground almond butter, and also has the super endocrine, brain, immunity, and libido- boosting powers of Brain Dust, cordyceps, reishi, maca, and Shilajit resin. I throw ho shou wu and pearl in as part of my beauty regime. I chase it with three quinton shots for mineralization and two lipospheric vitamin B-complex packets for energy." For lunch, I had zucchini ribbons with basil, pine nuts, sun-cured olives, and lemon, with green tea on the side. This is such an easy, elegant, and light meal. I made this while on a phone meeting before heading out for the rest of the work day. I often alternate this with my other lunch staple: a nori roll with umeboshi paste, avocado, cultured sea vegetables, and pea sprouts.”

Legal Eagle was understandably puzzled as was I. What, she asked, is vanilla mushroom protein?

This is the source of kvd’s quote: HOWHOLLYWOOD'S FAVORITE JUICE BAR OWNER EATS EVERY DAY. The subtitle reads "Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder of Moon Juice, has a diet full of ingredients we've never even heard of". Quite! And for Legal Eagle’s benefit, Vanilla Mushroom Protein is defined in this way: 
“Moon Juice protein is crafted in small batches with the most powerful plant alchemy on earth. While our raw, whole grain brown rice is sprouted for bioactivity and availability, natural plant enzymes digest almost all of the carbohydrates. This bio-fermentation produces easily assimilable protein and amino acids, supporting healthy muscle growth and recovery. Powerful servings of reishi and cordyceps mushrooms boost the immune system, build muscle and stamina, and support the liver, kidney and adrenals. This formula also nourishes the heart and spirit, relieving stress and imparting feelings of centeredness and strength. Ingredients: Activated Brown Rice Protein, Tocotrienols, Mesquite, Cordyceps, Reishi, Stevia, Vanilla.”
I hope that’s all clear now.

Ceding kvd the palm for most obscure quotation, 2t issued his own challenge to kvd asking for.  
A quotation, citation, web reference or what-have-you involving fish, pottery, nannies and NGOs (all of which have been mentioned recently). Extra points if you can link it to an anti-smoking campaign. But no cheating by using either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Any other dribble-at-the-mouth crazy is fair game but those two dominate Google so much that some of the pollsters are comparing % Google searches on them as a polling dynamic!”
kvd has yet to respond to the challenge. Meanwhile, Legal Eagle has discovered the fascinating piece of information that Donald Trump orders his steak well-done

In all this, 2t retains the palm for cooking. I will leave you to read his recipes in comments, the beef shins sound delicious, although I do wonder whether or not PC rules out a possible cookbook entitled A Blokes Cookbook! However, it’s good to see that he has influenced kvd to actually try one dish. It wasn’t a total success, missing out a key requirement, a non-stick fry pan. Sadly, tanners, I don’t have a non-stick fry pan.

I now leave it to you all to continue commenting. 

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Nanny State notes

Today's short post is just a note to record things that I want to come back to.

In a post on Linkedin Pulse, Would the last person in Sydney please turn the lights out?, Matt Barrie mauls the Sydney licensing laws that have turned the traditional entertainment precincts into ghost towns. Mr Barrie's fury is not limited to those laws, but extends to other aspects of the nanny state in NSW.

It's an unbalanced post, mixing together different issues. It's also a post that would seem very obscure to residents outside the harbour side city. However, he does make valid points.

Meantime, the ban on smoking in Sydney's Martin Place has been hailed as a success because it has reduced the number of discarded butts from 450 per day to less than 100 now. There are plans now to extend the ban to other areas of the CBD.

Continuing with this theme, it appears that a fashionable Sydney restaurant has been cautioned by the police (here, here) over its blackboard menu and wine list. According to a police spokesman. it is "common for police to provide advice to licensees regarding potential licensing breaches or issues during business inspections,"

Cynically, this one struck home because it affected the non-smoking fashionable majority who might otherwise support the anti-smoking, anti-alcohol restrictions.

Meantime, to use that word again while moving to another state, the Townsville Crocodiles.National Basketball League team has been forced to surrender its homemade t-shirt cannon to police after it was deemed a category B weapon. The cannon has apparently been in use for over ten years. The club CEO expressed bewilderment, but said that if that was the law, that was the law. The club would comply.

I know that you can see where I am going in all this. For the moment and as I said, I just wanted to record things for later use.


In comments, kvd pointed to the latest NSW Nanny State moves, compulsory life jackets for rock fishermen. There have been 47 deaths in NSW from rock fishing over the last four years so there is clearly a major problem. The Minister admits that it will be difficult legislation to enforce.

kvd also wished to get the but counting job in Martin Place. I am sure that the City of Sydney would love to add him to its rangers. Then he, too, could do really socially useful things.

Legal Eagle’s response was temperate: 
I agree that some limits should be placed on smoking and drinking in public places. However, I think it has really gone too far. It's a bit like everyone is being punished because of a few bad eggs. What we need to look at do we deal with those bad eggs in the first place, before they become a problem? And what are our drug and mental health facilities like?
2 tanners was more flippant: 
I think that ALL rock fishermen should be forced to wear bike helmets. And all smokers should have to wear Hi-Viz life jackets. And bike riders should only be allowed to fish in non-smoking organic wholefood restaurants, using biodegradable rods and lines.
 kvd responded: “tanners: fish? bicycles? Well, you've lost the female vote right there :)” Enjoying the exchange, GL asked for a like button!  

The NSW Premier has announced an inquiry into the NSW licensing laws including the Sydney lock-out provisions to be headed by Ian Callinan QC. The terms of reference are fairly legalistic.The review was required by the terms of the legislation, but its progress is unusually fast by NSW standards. Interestingly, the impact of the 10pm bottle shop closure requirements is included. This is an area where National Party MPs have parted company with their city colleagues because of the country impact of the legal restriction.

NSW Premier Mike Baird has gone on the offensive over the whole matter. This is what he wrote on his Facebook page:  
Let’s start with a statistic about Sydney’s nightlife that matters: alcohol related assaults have decreased by 42.2 per cent in the CBD since we introduced the “lock-out laws”. 
And they’re down by over 60 per cent in Kings Cross. 
But… didn’t we achieve this by shutting down the whole city and killing its nightlife? 
Well, one last statistic: the number of small bars in Sydney has more than doubled in the same time period. 
There has been a growing hysteria this week about nightlife in Sydney. 
The main complaints seem to be that you can’t drink till dawn any more and you can’t impulse-buy a bottle of white after 10pm. 
I understand that this presents an inconvenience. Some say this makes us an international embarrassment. 
Except, assaults are down by 42.2 per cent. 
And there is nothing embarrassing about that. 
From the outset, these laws have been about fixing a serious problem. Violence had spiralled out of control, people were literally being punched to death in the city, and there were city streets too dangerous to stroll down on a Friday night. The community was rightly outraged. I was personally outraged. I met face to face with the families of victims. You don’t need to see that sort of pain too often to realise there is a problem that needs fixing. And the Government was determined to act. 
We introduced laws to curb violence and to eliminate drinking ghettos by redistributing the nightlife across the city, making the whole city more vibrant. 
Now, some have suggested these laws are really about moralising. They are right. These laws are about the moral obligation we have to protect innocent people from drunken violence. 
Doctors right across the city are now telling us that they are seeing far less emergency room presentations on the weekends. Transport workers are telling us that the trains are safer. Small bars and restaurants are opening across Sydney. And residents across the city, particularly women, are telling us they feel safer walking home at night. 
At this stage, some of the evidence is anecdotal. But lots of hard data is starting to come in. And it is all telling a similar story. 
Over the coming months a detailed review into the effects of the lock-out laws will be undertaken. I await this work with interest. But as I’ve said before, it is going to take a lot for me to change my mind on a policy that is so clearly improving this city. 
Now some, who wish to define our city by one street on Kings Cross, make the hysterical claim that Sydney is dead. 
They couldn't be more wrong. This is the greatest city in the world and it is now safer and more vibrant than ever. 
Long Live Sydney. . .
Meantime, the campaign against Nanny State social regulation and especially the Sydney lock-out laws appears to be gathering strength. Here are a few examples:
This is just a sample.

This update is a report, not an analysis.There is all sorts of special pleading around. There were also problems. But I think that it is true that the NSW Government has adopted, as it has done so before, a blunt legalistic approach. This time, enough people have been affected to create a real backlash.

Postscript 2

You know that there may be a problem when Melbourne starts promoting itself (Dear Sydney, drop by for a drink some night. Love, Melbourne) on the basis that you can get a drink! Melbourne has been incredibly successful in promoting itself as a life style city.

Postscript 3

Organised campaign against the Sydney lock-out laws continues: A huge anti-lockouts rally is happening this weekend in Sydney

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Gender equality, gender roles and flexible working arrangements for men

Interesting piece in the Australian Financial Review by Fiona Smith drawing from research by Bain and Company and Chief Executive Women. My thanks to Legal Eagle for the lead.

According to the research, "women who can set their own hours, work from home or are part-time are much more likely to recommend their employers to others, but those "freedoms" have the opposite effect on men."

Men in the same position take the opposite view. They feel unsupported and harshly judged. They take a career hit because they are often regarded as anomalies within current working cultures The differences in attitude are summarised in the chart. The report's core conclusion is that women's choices will be maximised if it is made easier for men who wish to opt for part time or flexible working arrangements.  

I wrote quite a lot in this space several years ago and for that reason was interested in the analysis. I also noted that some women's reaction could best be described as diddums. 

I will leave it to you to read Fiona's piece and the report. However, I thought that I should make some brief observations on the issues involved as a way of clarifying my own thinking, focusing especially on families and child rearing. 

We can think of the problem in terms of three overlapping circles: issues that are common regardless of gender; issues that are specific to women; issues that are specific to men. While the circles overlap, they are distinct.

Families take many different forms. There are single person households, the fastest growing household type and one that is changing the structures of our cities. Then there are share households especially but not exclusively among the young. There are single parent families where child rearing devolves upon that parent, sometimes with help from grandparents or other relatives. This is another category that grew rapidly and is now feeding into the growth of single person households as children leave home,.   Couples without children is another growth category, in part because women are choosing to have children later or (in some cases) choosing not to have children at all. The traditional two parent with children family structure may still dominate the debate, but is now a minority in terms of household types.

Note that I have put all this in gender neutral terms. A single parent, for example, may be male or female. In fact, the first case I came across as a manager which really sensitised me to the issues involved a man whose wife had left him some time before leaving him to bring up the five children on his own. This obviously affected his work and working patterns, leading to what was in effect discrimination. If we look at couples now, while the male/female combination dominates, we also have female/female and male/male combinations with and without children. Penny Wong and her partner Sophie Allouache is one prominent example of female/female with children.  

Flexibility in working arrangements is important across the spectrum regardless of gender, although its importance will vary depending on personal inclination and circumstances. For example, a working single parent who has to balance work and children needs a degree of work flexibility to accommodate the myriad things that come up in a child's life; sport, start of the school term, parent-teacher interviews, sudden illnesses that require the child to be collected from school. The list is almost endless.

Flexibility, however, is not the only need. While much of the discussion and indeed policy making in this area is driven by middle class people in relatively secure jobs in the professions or larger organisations, an increasing proportion of Australians live in a world of often insecure sometimes poorly paid part time, temporary or contract work. In these circumstances, it makes perfect sense, indeed it may be imperative, to trade of flexibility for an enhanced degree of security. Availability of other family members such as grandparents can also be important.

 Within two parent plus child or children families, arrangements again vary. At one end of the spectrum you have high powered couples pursuing careers with sufficient money to delegate a significant child care component to nannies. These couples are usually sufficiently senior for both to have a degree of flexibility in their working arrangements.

At the other end of the spectrum, one partner adopts a full time role. In the middle are a variety of sharing arrangements. However, a common feature is that one parent takes a larger role. Traditionally, this been a female role, although male participation has become more common. Roles may vary over time. Partly perhaps because male partners tend to be older, there seems to be an increasing trend for gender reversal in roles with the women playing the major role initially and then roles switching to allow the female partner to concentrate on her career.

However, it remains the case that women do more than men. The Bain and Company and Chief Executive Women report sits in this space. Increased flexibility in working arrangements for men may allow them to take on a greater childcare role, thus giving women more flexibility.

Whatever the gender of the primary child carer, the role comes with costs including reduced career opportunities, life time earnings and retirement savings that need to be considered. A significant proportion of marriages end in divorce. There are difficulties here with the statistics, but as a rough guide around 28% of marriages entered into between 1985 and 1987 can be expected to end in divorce.This proportion increases to 33% for all marriages entered into in 2000–2002.

In general, the lower earning partner (usually but not always the partner taking primary responsibility for child care) ends up worse off in terms of final retirement resources. I can't give a link here, I am quoting from memory, but this effect was clearly seen in the longer term position of women who divorced following the passage of the Family Law Act in 1975.

Turning to gender specific issues, women's issues are reasonably well covered, men's less well so.

The idea that child rearing is primarily a female responsibility remains deeply entrenched in Australia and among women as well as men. This is partly connected with the fact that women bear the child and are primarily responsible for its initial nurture, but also reflects deeply entrenched social attitudes.

From a women's perspective, this can be seen as both a curse and a blessing in career terms. It's a curse because it reinforces still extant if unsaid prejudices against female employment, thus reducing career opportunities. Regardless of the law, managers may be reluctant to appoint or promote women because they perceive pregnancy and child rearing as reducing flexibility and increasing costs. This can favour a male applicant compared to an equally competent woman. However, it's also a blessing at two levels.

At a societal level, considerable pressure has been placed on organisations to develop ways that will allow women to return to work and to work flexibly while pursuing career advancement. These may be imperfect, but they do exist and are continuing to evolve. At an individual level, women are more proactive than men in factoring pregnancy and child rearing into their career plans because they have to be.

The position facing men who might wish to adopt a larger if not primary child care role is more complicated.

The deeply entrenched societal view about the primacy of women in child care creates very real difficulties across a number of dimensions.

At a work level, there is no real expectation that men would wish to do so.A man who seeks reduced hours or greater work flexibility for child care reasons may experience considerable resistance. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that men can experience difficulty in accessing existing parental leave provisions even when legally entitled, while the decision to work flexibly is seen at best as opting out in career terms, leading to a career hit.

The figures in the above chart are quite telling. While women's willingness to recommend an organisation increase with work flexibility, men's collapses, from 26% for those who have not worked flexible hours to 11% for those who have worked flexible hours to just 4% for those currently working flexible hours. I don't think it any coincidence that nearly all of us who did play major child care roles when my daughters were at school were self-employed.

The societal view about the primacy of women in child care has other effects. The dominance of women in the daily routines of school and life, I think that this is true for boys as well although my experience is with the girls, creates difficulties for men in simply fitting in. This is compounded by suspicion, especially but not only with girls, about the presence of men, a suspicion that has got worse with the growing concerns about paedophilia. From experience, all this means that the primary child care role can be very isolating if you are a male.

Two further factors are worth mentioning.

The first is the timing effect I mentioned previously, the apparently increasing trend for gender reversal in roles with the women playing the major role initially and then roles switching to allow the female partner to concentrate on her career. Depending on the exact timing as well as the barriers I referred to earlier, a decision by a male to take a more active and especially the primary role can indeed be an effective decision to opt out of a career.

The second factor is the dependency factor. It can be extremely difficult for a man to opt for a bigger child rearing role where that makes him financially dependent on his partner.

Summarising, there is no doubt that the report has highlighted a genuine issue, that both men and women would benefit from the adoption of more flexible working arrangements for men. However, that conclusion has to be qualified in certain respects. To begin with, it is difficult to apply such arrangements to the growing proportion of the workforce in temporary, contract or part time arrangements. The proposal also has to recognise and accommodate the particular difficulties men face in opting for more flexible arrangements. Finally, it is actually hard to see significant change so long as the dominant societal attitude among women as well as men that women have the final primary responsibility for child rearing.

Note to regular readers

I'm sorry for the delay in posting. This post took me longer to complete than expected. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Iowa and the shifting sands of ideology

As I write, the results of the Iowa caucuses are coming through. The BBC has called them this way:

Iowa caucus results
Republican vote, 99% reported:
  • Ted Cruz: 28%, eight delegates
  • Donald Trump: 24%, seven delegates
  • Marco Rubio: 23%, seven delegates
  • Ben Carson: 9%, three delegates
  • Rand Paul, Jeb Bush: one delegate each. Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich and Rick Santorum: no delegates
Democratic vote, 99% reported:
  • Hillary Clinton: 50%, 22 delegates
  • Bernie Sanders 50%, 21 delegates
  • Martin O'Malley, 1%, no delegates
Discussion suggests that Hillary Clinton has in fact just shaded  Bernie Sanders, but there was not much in it.

My first Monday Forum after I came back from Europe last year posed the question are we seeing the return of the old left and right?  In comments, Evan wrote :I can see a return to the old left. I think it is still the neo-con's on the right." While I could see Evan's point, I wasn't sure:. "I agree that neo-con views are still influential, but there seems to be a pretty big shift underway. The new right parties that have sprouted in Europe are hardly neo-con!"

A week after the post, the photogenic Mr Trudeau somewhat unexpectedly inflicted a heavy defeat on the ruling Conservative Party in the Canadian elections and has since become something of a pin-up figure especially but not only among many on the left. In Australia, the rise of Mr Turnbull has seem something of a shift in the Government position, creating tensions within the Liberal Party among those on the right. Mr Abbott's determination to stay in Parliament and apparently position himself as factional leader for certain right views has created tensions. In an opinion piece, Peter Reith pointed to some of the apparent inconsistencies in Mr Abbott's position.

In the US, Mr Sanders remains unashamedly socialist, while Hilary Clinton is clearly centre-left. On the Republican side, Mr Trump can be allocated to the populist right. He appears to have been successful to this point in creating a coalition of dissatisfied voters that actually spans more traditional party responses. By contrast, Ted Cruz would appear to belong to the neo-conservative right.

Mr Cruz's views are clearly set out on his website. I know that he has some followers in Australia because I read their feeds, but many of his views would appear quite strange to many Australian eyes. Do have a browse and tell me what you think. 

In all this, there are some very strange overlaps in attitudes. Things are not always what they seem. I will come back to that in a later post. 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Monday Forum - favourite cars

Production of the long-running Land Rover Defender has finally come to an end. It wasn't called that originally, it didn't have a specific name, but it's the same car. This is Winston Churchill with his version.

I have many fond memories of that car, especially on history digs. It was cold, rattly but fun!

This got me wondering. So for this Monday Forum, what's your favourite car and why?