Monday, December 24, 2018

A happy Christmas to you all

This will be my last post for 2018. I am shutting down fully until the new year to recharge my batteries.

While my output has been down here, at 88 now 89 the smallest number of annual posts since I started, I have valued my readers and especially my regular commenters. I may sometimes be slow in responding, but I do read and value.

I know 2018 has been a sometimes difficult year for many of us. I think for my part it has reminded me of the importance of love and friendship.

For those who celebrate this festive season, may I wish you a very happy Christmas? For those who are alone, and that can be just so hard, tomorrow is a time to remember our blessings no matter how few they seem.

We will continue our discussions and sharing in the new year.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Two issues in the Andrew Broad affair

Australian politics has become so messy that it is hard to keep track, harder still to explain it to those outside the country.

In the midst of all the froth and bubble, it is worth remembering that Australian Governments still work. Pensions get paid, things get done, the machinery continues. Our elections are free and fair, with a highly professional electoral commission. Our judicial system remains independent, free and politically impartial. The Australian media remains free. Our economy is okay, at least for the moment. Our health system works, education is generally good, We remain a tolerant country, at least by global standards. Our volunteer system still works, with Australians prepared to muck in to help others.  .

These are not small things.I have to remind myself of this from time to time in the current deluge of publicity about personal improprieties, especially by politicians.

I suppose that I first came across the Sugar Baby website about twelve months ago through newspaper reports Crudely, it appears to be a site that puts older men in contact with younger women in return for sex for favours. Now that site has destroyed the career of an Australian politician.

Andrew Broad is the National Party for the Federal seat of Mallee and a political comer in the party, a future leader. Then he got caught up in Sugar Baby and found himself the subject of a story in the New Idea women's magazine. While it was a personal matter and something of a set-up, the political implications and repercussions were such that Mr Broad will not contest the election.

 We are living in a very charged atmosphere in Australia at the present time. I don't want to comment on these issues. Instead I want to make two very simple points.

Mr Board traded on a conservative family values approach. He was one of the first to put the boot in over Barnaby Joyce's affair and subsequent fall-out. If you are going to espouse those values, god help you if you then fall out.

The second is more important. The boasts he made, his big noting, displayed a monumental lack of discretion and judgement. The idea that you can use a site like Sugar Baby in an indiscreet way and not expect it to come out suggests a remarkable degree of naivety.

We live in a media-hyped world where the constant chatter and reporting has diminished the private space. I don't like it, but that is reality. Those who want to enter public life have to adjust. I thought, and this may be wrong, that it exposed a potential senior minister to possible blackmail from all sorts of possible sources.  .


Sunday, December 16, 2018

My new friend

I have recently acquired a new friend. He and his mate suddenly appeared in the backyard after I mowed.

Avenger, my now old cat, decided that he wanted to be fed outside. This created new opportunities for my magpie.

Now he has become quite bold, coming up to the back door to check. Food is not always there. Sad bird.

Researchers at the University of New England established that if you are a known magpie friend you are safe from attack. I don't know about that, but certainly I have never been dive bombed in the area in which I am presently living.

The discussion now is what name he should be given. The feeling is that magpie is no longer sufficient.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Saturday Morning Musings: the Australian decision on Jerusalem

I have now added some contract policy writing to my other writing. I need the money, but it has further slowed me down. Oh well. I have continued to follow events, however. It remains a strange old world.

 In my post that dealt in part with the Wentworth by-election I referenced in part the Australian Prime Minister's statement on the possible move of the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. There I said:
 Prime Minister Morrison then threw another curled ball, announcing that at the suggestion of Dave Sharma the Government was considering shifting the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. This was in fact part of a broader statement including apparent continuing recognition of East Jerusalem as capital of an independent Palestinian state and needs to be seen in that context, but the timing and the reference suggested an attempt to woo the Jewish vote. If so, that was a serious error of judgement at several levels. Wentworth includes many Liberal Jews who do not necessarily support the current Israeli Government position as well as many centre or centre left voters sympathetic to the Palestinian position. 
The reactions since have been quite polarised. Those on the right have been angry because other countries might react negatively. "They shouldn't tell us what to do." Those on the left have been angry because they see it as affirming Israel's claims over Jerusalem as capital to the detriment of the Palestinian cause. And never the twain shall meet.

As I write, ABC news reports that the Australian Prime Minister is about to announce that the Australian Government will recognise West Jerusalem (my bold) as the capital of Israel but will not immediately move its embassy from Tel Aviv. He is also expected to acknowledge the aspirations of Palestinians for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem (my bold). 

I'm not sure that I see why Australia should have become involved in this matter in such an overt way. I also note the irony that it is the right that should be so pro-Israel. After all, antisemitism was and indeed still is a thread in right wing political thought. That said, the decision may well meet the diplomacy test of leaving everyone dissatisfied.

Israel, or at least the current Government with its claims over all Jerusalem, can hardly welcome the idea that Australia has recognised its claims only over the west of the city. The Palestinians and their supporters many of whom deny Israeli claims even to West Jerusalem may well react angrily.

Leaving aside the wisdom of becoming involved in the first place and subject to the exact wording of the PM's statement, it's an apparent decision that I find hard to argue against. It limits Israeli claims, affirms to some degree the Palestinian position and provides a base for future even policy. Which is not something that those on the right appear to have wanted.      

Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Pacific Belshaws - Death of Cyril Belshaw

From time to time, I have written about the Pacific Belshaws, my own little family. Now I report the death of my cousin Cyril Belshaw on 20 November 2018. The Canadian family released this short statement that was carried in the Globe and Mail on 1 December 2018.
"Born Waddington, New Zealand, December 3, 1921; died Vancouver, Canada, November 20, 2018.
Auckland, New Zealand. From left to right grandfather James Belshaw, Cyril's father Professor Horace Belshaw, Cyril.  
We are saddened to share the news of Cyril's death just before his 97th birthday. He was a kind and generous man who taught his family to celebrate diversity and adventure, kindness and shared joy. He delighted in good food, travel, politics, gardening, music and his great passion, tennis. He will be mourned by daughter Diana, partner Thomas; granddaughter Eleanor, Liam and their son Arthur Cyril; son Adrian, partner Loreen; granddaughter Juniper, partner Jess; by his extended family Claudia and Kevin and friends around the world. 
Cyril was a colonial administrator and economist in the South Pacific before completing his PhD in social anthropology at the London School of Economics. During extensive field work in New Guinea, Fiji and Northern BC, he was supported, as in life, by his wife, Betty. His appointment to the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at UBC began a long career as an international academic, observer, and writer. 
Cyril in his study, University of British Columbia 
He continued a family tradition of service as a founding member of CUSO, as Director of a Regional Training Centre for UN Fellows in Vancouver, and with UNESCO, the UN Bureau of Social Affairs, and the International Social Science Council. He served as President of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, as editor of Current Anthropology, was an Honorary Life Member of the Royal Anthropological Institute and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. 
Cyril was an unrepentant thinker and writer. His publications ranged from academic studies (The Indians of British Columbia, Under the Ivi Tree, Changing Melanesia) to philosophical and political analyses of the world around him (Anatomy of a University, Towers Besieged: The Dilemma of the Creative University, The Sorcerer's Apprentice: An Anthropology of Public Policy) . 
Towards the end of his life, Cyril imagined a better world for his granddaughters and their children in Creating Our Destiny, based on the essay with which he won the Utopian World Championship in 2005.
There will be no memorial service as Cyril asked to be remembered around a dinner table with good friends, excellent food and a glass of wine. Donations in his memory may be made to Doctors Without Borders, the UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) or organisations that support the homeless."
The Wenner-Gren Foundation which, (among other things) publishes Current Anthropology, provided this tribute on its web site:
"In Memoriam: Dr. Cyril S. Belshaw
On November 20, 2018, Dr. Cyril S. Belshaw, the second editor of Current Anthropology, the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s flagship journal, passed away in Vancouver, Canada.   He guided Current Anthropology through a formative phase in its growth, taking over from the founder, Sol Tax, in 1974.  Known for his extensive research in New Guinea, Fiji, and British Columbia, Dr. Belshaw wrote for broad audiences on topics ranging from urbanism in Papua to the future of the Canadian university.   An avid promotor of global dialogue in anthropology, he served as President of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences and was an honorary lifetime member of Royal Anthropological Institute, the Pacific Science Association and the Association for the Social Anthropology of Oceania.  The Foundation is grateful for his service to the discipline. We extend our condolences to his friends and family on their loss."
I was only five or so when I first met Cyril. I must confirm exact dates when he, Betty and then baby Diana came to stay with us in Armidale. Despite the big age gap, Cyril and I are first cousins. Then came a long gap until we met again in Canberra when he was on an official visit

Despite that lack of direct contact, the information flows within the small extended Belshaw family, a small family in total and spread across countries, kept people in touch. When I came to do my history honours thesis in 1966, I chose to do it on the economic structure of traditional Aboriginal life in Northern NSW. I also chose to apply models and concepts from economics, consciously siding with Cyril in an earlier dispute he had had with Karl Polanyi over the relevance of economics to non-money using societies.

After that lunch in Canberra came another long gap. In 2009, Denise had to attend an international insolvency  conference in Vancouver,  I went with her as handbag and was able to spend a fair bit of the week with Cyril.

Cyril and I had been in contact a fair bit by email. Now we talked in more detail as I guided him around. Cyril was almost totally blind, he used a big screen, magnified text and a magnifying glass to see the screen. Yet despite that, he was still writing.

I promised Cyril that I would write the story of the Pacific Belshaws. Like him, I thought that it would make a good yarn, how a family from the pits and mills of  Lancashire came over two generations to to be something of an intellectual and academic dynasty spanning four Pacific countries. I was cautious about some aspects of our family story, I thought that it might open wounds, but Cyril was determined that it should be all told.

I have made some progress on the task, although it's not my top writing priority. As I researched, I realised how much interests and values has passed down the small number of generations. We don't always see it, but it's there in a very pronounced fashion.

I will finish that book. In the meantime, this post is a small memorial for my cousin.          

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Why I don't vote for a Prime Minister - and never have

The Australian Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party has changed its rules so that an elected Liberal Party prime minister in their first term cannot be removed unless there is a two-thirds majority of the party room voting for a change. These rules cannot be changed unless a two-thirds majority of the party room agree.

This followed a successful move by former labor Prime Minister Rudd’s to introduce a complicated, two-stage system that meant if the ALP caucus wanted to remove a leader, it would require a minimum of 60 per cent of the caucus vote if the party was in opposition, and 75 per cent if it were in government. Further, if there was more than one candidate for the leadership, either after a spill or an election loss, a temporary leader would be installed while there would be a month-long ballot process with the caucus and the rank-and-file each having a 50 per cent say in the outcome.

Both moves make me very uncomfortable for personal, constitutional and ideological reasons.

Under the Australian Westminster system, we vote for members of Parliament. The party that can command a majority in the lower house. the House of Representatives selects the PM. Perhaps more precisely, the person who can command a majority becomes PM and holds that position only so long as he or she, so far they have all been he, continues to command a majority.

While the question of who might become PM is an important factor in guiding many people's votes, people do vote for leaders, the constitutional position remains.

In my case, I can honestly say that I have never voted to make a particular person PM, nor do I normally regard my personal vote as important in this context. There are a number of reasons for this.

To begin with, I am voting for a person to represent my electorate in the lower house as well as people in the Senate. Slightly different personal rules apply in these two cases.

Like most Australians, I do have political affiliations. I describe my ideological position as New England populist, my traditional party affiliation as Country Party. My use of the term Country Party is revealing because that party no longer exists. While I supported the moves to broaden the Country Party base, while I am sympathetic to the National Party as successor party, I feel that the National Party as presently constituted no longer represents the things I believe in in quite the same way.

If you look at the simple description in the last paragraph you will get a feel for my discomfort. I am neither Labor nor Liberal. I do not regard the Country or now National Party as simply an agrarian or rural rump of the conservative side of politics. While the coalition agreement is long standing, I see the role of the Country/National Party as to deliver for certain sections of the Australian community independent of who is in power.

The commentary around the leadership in either Labor or Liberal Parties, or the media for that matter, almost implies that those parties have some god-given rights, that the Australian people vote to determine which of their respective leaders become PM and that the party in question must respect that choice.

Leaving aside the increasing proportion of Australians who do not vote for either of the biggest parties, both Labor and Liberal got just over a third of the vote at the last Federal election, we live in a parliamentary not presidential system. Labor and Liberal may choose to bind themselves in leadership terms for political and internal reasons, but that is a party decision driven by the ways in which their own internal instability had adverse consequences. Both seek to bind parliamentarians to prevent them acting in ways which for political or policy reasons might damage executive control or the perceived chances of electoral success.

Looking back over Australian political history, party instability is not uncommon. I think that's probably the nature of the beast in circumstances where power and prestige become dominant. Looking back over Australian political history, the electorate exercises its own corrective power.

Looking back over Australian political history, the most successful governments have generally been parliamentary rather than presidential, governments in which the prime minister or premier managed to control egos while giving ministers real power within the cabinet framework.  

Concluding, I am not very fond of Mr Shorten. Part of the reasons are personal, emotional, part policy. My views may well be wrong, However, I draw comfort from the strength of some of the Labor front-benchers around the leader, people I have developed a great deal of respect for.

I would be much happier with the prospect of a Labor government if Mr Shorten could be removed should he stuff up. This is now harder to do. That does not make me a happy chappie.