Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Global Financial Crisis by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (preview)

In The Monthly out on 4 Feburary 2009:

From time to time in human history there occur events of a truly seismic significance, events that mark a turning point between one epoch and the next, when one orthodoxy is overthrown and another takes its place. The significance of these events is rarely apparent as they unfold: it becomes clear only in retrospect, when observed from the commanding heights of history. By such time it is often too late to act to shape the course of such events and their effects on the day-to-day working lives of men and women and the families they support.

There is a sense that we are now living through just such a time: barely a decade into the new millennium, barely 20 years since the end of the Cold War and barely 30 years since the triumph of neo-liberalism - that particular brand of free-market fundamentalism, extreme capitalism and excessive greed which became the economic orthodoxy of our time.

The agent for this change is what we now call the global financial crisis. In the space of just 18 months, this crisis has become one of the greatest assaults on global economic stability to have occurred in three-quarters of a century. As others have written, it "reflects the greatest regulatory failure in modern history". It is not simply a crisis facing the world's largest private financial institutions - systemically serious as that is in its own right. It is more than a crisis in credit markets, debt markets, derivatives markets, property markets and equity markets - notwithstanding the importance of each of these.

This is a crisis spreading across a broad front: it is a financial crisis which has become a general economic crisis; which is becoming an employment crisis; and which has in many countries produced a social crisis and in turn a political crisis. Indeed, accounts are already beginning to emerge of the long-term geo-political implications of the implosion on Wall Street - its impact on the future strategic leverage of the West in general and the United States in particular.

The global financial crisis has demonstrated already that it is no respecter of persons, nor of particular industries, nor of national boundaries. It is a crisis which is simultaneously individual, national and global. It is a crisis of both the developed and the developing world. It is a crisis which is at once institutional, intellectual and ideological. It has called into question the prevailing neo-liberal economic orthodoxy of the past 30 years - the orthodoxy that has underpinned the national and global regulatory frameworks that have so spectacularly failed to prevent the economic mayhem which has now been visited upon us.

Not for the first time in history, the international challenge for social democrats is to save capitalism from itself: to recognise the great strengths of open, competitive markets while rejecting the extreme capitalism and unrestrained greed that have perverted so much of the global financial system in recent times. It fell to Franklin Delano Roosevelt to rebuild American capitalism after the Depression. It fell also to the American Democrats, strongly influenced by John Maynard Keynes, to rebuild postwar domestic demand, to engineer the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and to set in place the Bretton Woods system to govern international economic engagement. And so it now falls to President Obama's administration - and to those who will provide international support for his leadership - to support a global financial system that properly balances private incentive with public responsibility in response to the grave challenges presented by the current crisis. The common thread uniting all three of these episodes is a reliance on the agency of the state to reconstitute properly regulated markets and to rebuild domestic and global demand.

The second challenge for social democrats is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As the global financial crisis unfolds and the hard impact on jobs is felt by families across the world, the pressure will be great to retreat to some model of an all-providing state and to abandon altogether the cause of open, competitive markets both at home and abroad. Protectionism has already begun to make itself felt, albeit in softer and more subtle forms than the crudity of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. Soft or hard, protectionism is a sure-fire way of turning recession into depression, as it exacerbates the collapse in global demand. The intellectual challenge for social democrats is not just to repudiate the neo-liberal extremism that has landed us in this mess, but to advance the case that the social-democratic state offers the best guarantee of preserving the productive capacity of properly regulated competitive markets, while ensuring that government is the regulator, that government is the funder or provider of public goods and that government offsets the inevitable inequalities of the market with a commitment to fairness for all. Social democracy's continuing philosophical claim to political legitimacy is its capacity to balance the private and the public, profit and wages, the market and the state. That philosophy once again speaks with clarity and cogency to the challenges of our time.

Social-democratic governments across the world must rise to the further challenge of developing a practical policy response to the crisis that rebuilds shattered economic growth, while also devising a new regulatory regime for the financial markets of the future. This is our immediate challenge. But if we fail, there is a grave danger that new political voices of the extreme Left and the nationalist Right will begin to achieve a legitimacy hitherto denied them. Again, history is replete with the most disturbing of precedents.

We therefore need a frank analysis of the central role of neo-liberalism in the underlying causes of the current economic crisis. We also need a robust analysis of the social-democratic approach to properly regulated markets and the proper role of the state, in a new contract for the future that eschews the extremism of both the Left and the Right. And we must integrate this analysis with the unprecedented imperative for global co-operation if governments are to prevail in their task.

Around the world today, there is understandable public bewilderment at the speed, severity and scope of the unfolding crisis. While the causes of the global financial crisis are complex, a small number of simple metrics are capable of conveying its magnitude and the havoc it has wrought in financial markets, the real economy and government finances.

Financial markets have suffered the greatest dislocation in our lifetime. Global equity markets have lost approximately US$32 trillion in value since their peak, which is equivalent to the combined GDP of the G7 countries in 2008. Credit markets have all but dried up, with credit growth at its lowest level since World War II. And, at the core of the crisis, house prices are plummeting in many countries, with American prices falling at their fastest rate since modern records began.

The real economy is facing one of its toughest periods on record, with the IMF predicting that advanced economies will contract for the first time in 60 years, causing the number of unemployed to rise by 8 million across the OECD. In developing countries, the International Labour Organization predicts that the financial and economic crisis could push more than 100 million people into poverty.

Furthermore, the crisis is producing unprecedented costs and debts for governments which will be felt for decades to come. It is estimated that the 2009 deficit in the United States will be as high as 12.5% of GDP. And estimates of the combined (actual and contingent) liabilities from the array of bank bailouts and guarantees run to more than $13 trillion - more than the cost of all the major wars the United States has ever fought. What this means for future American international borrowing is equally unprecedented.

Bewilderment, however, rapidly turns to anger when the economic crisis touches the lives of families through rising unemployment, reduced wage growth and collapsing asset values - while executive remuneration in the financial sector continues to go through the roof, apparently disconnected from the reality of recent events. In 2007, S&P 500 CEOs averaged $10.5 million (some 344 times the pay of typical American workers). The top 50 hedge-fund and private-equity fund managers averaged $588 million each (19,000 times the pay of typical workers). In 2007, the ?ve biggest Wall Street firms paid bonuses of a staggering $39 billion - huge payments to the executives whose investment banks have since been bailed out by American taxpayers.

These are epic numbers, generated by a greed of epic proportions. For a bewildered and increasingly enraged public, they raise the following questions: How was this allowed to happen? What ideology, what policy, what abuses made this possible? Were there any warnings? And if so, why were they ignored? [First 1,500 words of Kevin Rudd's essay, The Global Financial Crisis,The Monthly online magazine,Feburary 2009]

Media reports on Rudd's essay:

Australian Electoral Commission to release 2007-08 political financial disclosure returns on 2 Feburary 2009

The 2007-08 annual financial disclosure returns from political parties, associated entities, donors, and people who engage in political expenditure will be made available for public inspection from 9:00am (AEDST) on Monday 2 February 2009.

The annual returns will be available on the Australian Electoral Commission's (AEC's) website at

North Coast Area Health Service debt in 2009

I guess that we should all be thankful for small mercies on finding that the North Coast Area Health Service debt of $9 million is the fourth lowest across New South Wales.
Still, the total picture clearly shows that it is time for the Commonwealth to resume total responsibility for the provision of public hospitals and health services.
Unfortunately, all
Kevin Rudd promised in the lead up to the 2007 federal election was that he would take over the running of public hospitals if the states did not agree to a national reform plan by mid 2009.
Hardly the answer to so mammoth a problem, when the debts keep mounting and the states (especially New South Wales) are so obviously incapable of solving the financial and workforce crises in health services.

Debt List:
Sydney South West Area Health Service $0
Hunter New England Area Health Service $0
Children's Hospital at Westmead $4.5m
North Coast Area Health Service $9m
Greater Western Area Health Service $10m
North Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service $22m
Greater Southern Area Health Service $22m
South East Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service $24m
Sydney West Area Health Service $26m
NSW Health owes $117.5 million to creditors
(Debt figures according to The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 2009)

Friday, 30 January 2009

Are we there yet? Senator Conroy's neverending search for an ISP-level filtering trial

It seems that the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is still having trouble herding enough ISPs into his Internet filtering trial and we are about to enter February without any clear indication of when the trial will actually begin.

An unidentified spokesperson for Senator Conroy reportedly tells us that the trial is imminent, will involve up to 16 applicants and ISPs will be clustered in the trial, which will mean that the original six-week test period is likely to drag on over months.

Along the way the Minister appears to have decided to rename his trial as the ISP-level objectionable content filtering trial, if Suzanne Tindal reporting on ZNet yesterday is any indication.
An obvious expansion of his original title which was the plainer Internet Service Provider level filtering trial.


Barnaby Joyce eyes off the seat of Page?

Letter to the Editor published in The Daily Examiner on Thursday 29 January 2009:

So Queensland Liberal National Party Senator, Barnaby Joyce, is considering the poisoned chalice (thrust towards him by John Howard) and may yet abandon the Senate and seek election to the House of Representatives.

If there was one thing pointing to this politician's foolishness it would be the fact that he is reportedly considering such a move with one eye on the seat of Page in the NSW Northern Rivers.

He must have the shortest of memories himself or think that people in the Clarence Valley have such faulty recall that they would fail to remember that he supported the Howard-Turnbull push to dam and divert water from the Clarence River catchment.

Yes, baying at the back of that particular water raider's pack came Senator Joyce, who sat on the Senate RRAT Committee inquiry into additional water supplies for south-east Queensland where he made it plain that he was not adverse to any proposal to steal Clarence freshwater so that his Queensland mates could continue their unsustainable irrigation practices [April-August 2007].

He also voted against The Greens motion in the Senate which read in part:"That the Senate:....(b) calls on the Federal Government to: (i) abandon plans for damming the Clarence, Tweed, Richmond and Mann Rivers;" [C'wealth Hansard,Senate,proof issue,19 August 2007,p.p. 33-34].

As late as the middle of last year he was still including mention of the Clarence catchment in his discussions on water supply:"You can't create water with money. That means you have to think about bringing it from somewhere else, like the Gulf or the Clarence." [The Land, 13 August 2008]

Voting for Barnaby Joyce to fill a federal seat anywhere on the NSW North Coast would be allowing the water raiders to once again get a foot in the door after Northern Rivers communities had so firmly slammed that same door shut in 2007.

Yours faithfully,


[Taken from A Clarence Valley Protest]

Oz - a picture of the nation

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has just released its A Picture of the Nation based on the 2006 national census.
Apparently we are smarter, less religious and more likely to live in cities than previous generations of Aussies.
But are we really less religious or do we only appear that way because finally we all feel freer to state facts like that?

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The baby kissing effect begins to fade for Obama?

Thanks to Clarrie Rivers for the photo

US President Barack Obama scored a 68% approval rating for the first three days in office according to Gallup and 69% for the next three days.

John F. Kennedy is the single modern president who appears to have started his presidential life with a higher approval score, but his popularity was not polled so early in his presidency.

However, Obama scored a whopping 83% approval rating during his president-elect transition period so this latest poll (with its 14 to 15 point drop) while clearly showing that his honeymoon with the American people is not yet over does indicate that it may be on the wane.

Strangely the main stream media appear to be largely silent on this rather dramatic plunge in the polls except to characterise it in an historical context or refer to it as normalising the figures.

Only Iran Press TV and The Daily Mail pointed out that the new figure actually represented a decline, though a small number of news blogs also mentioned the percentage as a drop in approval.

In the U.S. Real Clear Politics tells us that across six polls conducted over 11-24 January, between 52-79% of those polled believed America was heading in the wrong direction.

What we need here is Possum Comitatus to decipher the apparent change in voter sentiment after Obama's comfortable election win.

Woodford Dale Public School has a blog!

Woodford Dale Public School seen across a field of cane.

There are over one hundred islands and islets in the mighty Clarence River on the New South Wales North Coast.

Many of these are populated - sometimes by just a single farm house and sometimes by small village communities.

One of the most enduring examples of island life is Woodford Island, home to approximately 6,000 people.

Its school Woodford Dale Primary School (established in 1867) now has a blog.
A very big welcome to the blogosphere to all its teachers and pupils.

Most inappropriate new awards in 2009

The Financial Times and ArcelorMittal will be holding the inaugural Boldness In Business Awards 2009 gala dinner in March to announce the winners nominated for 'boldness' in 2008.
With 2008 seeing the financial mismanagement tsunami roll across international borders and devastate national economies, there are going to be few nominations of any merit to consider.
Indeed, with corporate misfortune striking so quickly it is likely that some nominees are no longer among those considered successful.
With only little more than a month to go, only five contenders for awards are listed in the Readers' Award section.
Bet Lionel Barber is a bit sorry that TFT agreed to partner this now.
Never mind, cobber - you can always catch a flight back to England to hide from any temporary embarrassment.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Will Sandy Holloway turn out to be one of Peter Garrett's biggest mistakes?

In October 2008 the Federal Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts took a step sideways with regard to Australia's official opposition to the continuation of commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean which is thinly disguised as 'scientific' research by the Government of Japan.
Peter Garrett did this by appointing Sandy Holloway as a Special Envoy for Whale Conservation.

Mr. Holloway was CEO of the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and although the Sydney Games were highly successful, the fact remains that he operated within an International Olympic Committee philosophy which was historically less than transparent, less than corruption free and nakedly cynical.

With recent media reports indicating that Australia (courtesy of Holloway) may have given an indication that it would agree to Japan continuing whaling in the Southern Ocean and even expanding its operation in the Pacific, matters have taken a turn for the worst for Minister Garrett as over 21 years of diplomacy and active international lobbying appear to be morphing into open appeasement.

In The Australian earlier today:

EVIDENCE of a Federal Government offer to Japan over whaling has emerged as Canberra insists it is totally opposed to the hunt. Australia was ready to "seriously consider" Japan's priorities, and a "reduced" total take of Southern Ocean whales, according to a US State Department memo written late last year.

And as recently as last weekend, Australia was among a select group of nations that met confidentially to refine a compromise package for International Whaling Commission (IWC) approval.

The Government came under attack yesterday after it was disclosed that it was involved in developing the package for the commission chairman, William Hogarth, who is working to bridge the deep divide between pro and anti-whaling nations.

Australia was part of a small group that last December put together the Hogarth package. This proposed letting Japan expand North Pacific kills through coastal and high seas whaling while also limiting, or phasing out, its Antarctic hunt.....

"(Mr) Hollway has travelled to Tokyo and Washington in recent weeks, explaining that Australia is ready to seriously consider Japan's priorities in the IWC (if not actually support them) and simultaneously secure reductions in the larger Antarctic whale quotas that Japan grants itself," said the memo.

Japan's aim to re-establish commercial whaling is well-known.
The Holloway trade-off is a farce and allows Japan to keep all its whale hunting options open, and further, apparently allows it to proceed with its annual kill with little or no increase in formal oversight or monitoring in the hunting grounds it has chosen.

A supposedly green approach to the Sydney Olympics may have given Peter Garrett a faith in Sandy Holloway which is sadly misplaced, because Holloway obviously sees whale conservation and protection more as a matter of commerce and trading partner compromise.

Peter Garret's weakness and Kevin Rudd's reluctance to take a very strong stand will see Japan continue to exploit the situation to its own advantage despite widespread community and international opposition to commercial whaling.

Malcolm Turnbull opens his mouth and emits CH4

Federal Leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, chose the Young Liberals Conference in Canberra this weekend to announce his party's new climate change 'policy', A Green Carbon Initiative.

After waiting months to hear what Turnbull would put up against the Rudd Government's climate change policies and proposed emissions trading scheme, we now find that he has laboured hard to produce a little gas.

It seems that all that is really needed to save Australia from the ravages of climate change is for the Liberal Party to promise delivery of the near-mythical Clean Coal, a little biochar in the soil, converting a building or two to greater energy efficiency and a few renewable energy odds and sods thrown in for good measure - all leading to a carbon reduction equivalent of 150 million tonnes annually.

That's around 7 million tonnes for every man, woman and child across the nation.

All in the name of 'risk management', because after all (according to many Liberals) there is a chance that human-induced global warming may possibly not exist after all.

As for emissions trading. Well never you mind about that just yet - we haven't prepared a policy response at this time.

If this effort is the best that the Liberal Party can do in 2009 then they are clearly not ready for government.

According to Stock and Land farmers are not too happy with Turnbull either:

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has been warned his plan to trap greenhouse gases in soil could end up costing farmers if it means agriculture is included under an emissions trading scheme.
According to today's Australian Financial Review, senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne's Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, Stefan Arndt, said if farmers were to benefit from biosequestration offsets being recognised under the ETS, they should equally be liable for their own emissions.
"We don't have enough evidence that soil carbon sequestration would outweigh the negative effects to farming, such as methane producing animals and the nitrous oxide emissions that come from putting fertiliser in the ground," Dr Arndt said.

While the Nationals are less than enthusiastic with his foray into biosequestration either.

Turnbull's A Green Carbon Initiative is found here.

Image from

The ugly face of Australia Day on the NSW North Coast

While elsewhere on the NSW North Coast backyard barbecues were fired up, small street parties got underway and people travelled to see their local heroes honoured; young hooligans in the Coffs Harbour area drank too much and got into drunken fights for all the world to see on the teev nightly news.
Yelling insults and wildly swinging their fists while draped in the Australian flag - acting like prize nongs that their grandmas would disown if they could've seen them.
When did our so-called national day take on such an ugly face across the land?
Why do our youth appear to equate patriotism with violence or racism?
Do the young feel free to act like this because they grew up in the Howard years or is it something even darker?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Volunteers need help too...

We are all aware of our volunteer organisations and the splendid job they do; SES in storms and floods, RFS in the case of fire, NSW VRA and wilderness rescue, Life Savers on our marvellous beaches and many others.

It has come to my attention that St John Ambulance Australia has a Clarence Valley Division.

It has only been in operation for the last 2 years and is the latest in a proud 125 years of St John Ambulance service in Australia.

The organisation through its volunteers provides outstanding first aid services and also training for groups.
If you have been to a local community event, like the Surfing the Coldstream Festival, you may have seen them in the background providing this first aid.

Many events within the valley could not happen without St John’s attendance.
Like interschool sports days, local shows, polo cross and hockey carnivals - not to mention the Jacaranda Festival and many others.

This small band did over 1,000 hours of volunteer service last year.

It has also been brought to my attention that they are desperately in need of a new vehicle to transport their equipment to the many jobs they do in the Clarence Valley and beyond.

They were lucky enough to have been given the St John at Lismore’s old vehicle, but it has reached its use by date.

So if any reader would like to help this self-funded charity how, about donating to this worthy cause?

You can contact them at:
St. Johns Ambulance
PO Box 742
Grafton NSW 2460
or ring the District Officer Graham Waterbury on 66422734.

Maybe one of the local clubs would like to make this their fundraising project for this year?

Google Cache to save Australia?

On 25 January 2009 The Greens posted the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy's reply to four questions on notice submitted in November 2008.

Leaving aside the fact that Senator Conroy refused to answer seven vital questions in SQON0834 and gave nonsense answers in 831, 832 and 833 where it was politically convenient; one interesting fact emerged - Google Cache and Google Translate will not be subjected to ISP-level filtering according to the minister.

As most sites indexed by Google appear to be cached and all websites would have the ability to activate the cache function, this would virtually render most filtering ineffectual if one established a connection with an international version of a search engine.

So does this mean that the Rudd-Conroy plan to impose the Great Firewall of Australia is really an expensive piece of political theatre aimed at appeasing the religious right and certain lobby groups?
Or is Senator Conroy telling yet another political lie?

And why has the senator refused to give assurances that ISP-level filtering will not be used to block political, activist or creative content from view on the Australian Internet?

Answers to Questions On Notice:

sqon0831 Answer.pdf395.8 KB
sqon0832 Answer.pdf267.3 KB
sqon0833 Answer.pdf488.45 KB
sqon0834 Answer.pdf846.65 KB

We have less than a year to save the world? 'The Road to Copenhagen' Seminar, 3 February 2009, Ballina NSW

From The Northern Rivers Echo:

We have less than a year to save the world.
That’s the dramatic claim being made by many scientists and environmentalists in the lead-up to the major global climate change conference to be held in Copenhagen this December.

On Tuesday, February 3, the Ballina Environment Society and Ballina Climate Action Network are joining forces with the Northern Rivers office of the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) to present “The Road to Copenhagen”, a public seminar on Australia’s role in responding to the rapidly escalating climate crisis.

It is timed to coincide with the Climate Summit in Canberra, a community initiative that will culminate in a human chain around Parliament House on the same day, the first day of sitting of federal parliament for the year.

The seminar will hear from Mark Byrne, the EDO’s Education Officer, and Dr Chris McGrath, a Brisbane environmental law barrister trained by Al Gore to give his multimedia climate change presentation.
“The government has set a target for emissions reduction of 5 per cent by 2020, or 15 per cent if a global agreement can be reached this year. But the science tells us the reduction needs to be at least 25 per cent. There are other problems with the government’s plan that will make it unlikely to reduce our national emissions,” Mark said.

As well as informing people about the latest science, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the progress of international negotiations, the seminar is intended to be a forum for local people to discuss how they can be involved in responding to this most urgent issue. School students will also tell the meeting about what climate change means to them.

The seminar will be held from 6-8pm in the Richmond Room, Regatta Ave Ballina.

Monday, 26 January 2009

G'day g'day on Australia Day

Found this at and thought you might like it.


Came the Dreamtime, came the Black Man, came the Serpent, came the Dingo
Came the Tears down from the Moon to give the Life.
Came the Emu, Kookaburra, came the love for one another
Came the White Man, came the Heartbreak, came the Strife.

Came the Sunshine, came the Harvest, came the Nation, came the Battle
Came the Famine, came another world-wide war.
Came the Migrants, came the Good Life, came the Power, Came the Present,
Come the Treaty. Unity for ever more.

So here we are in the two thousands and there's more of us than cows
And over half of us have come from foreign lands.
Jews and Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Bondi sheilas with big bosoms
And there's still one mob or two don't understand.

Multiculture as a standard means you must be even-handed
Say g'day and give a bloke a go.
You can lend him your lawn mower, if you think that he's a goer
And if you really truly like him let him know.

Ask him where he used to come from, before he was an Aussie
Fill your head with knowledge from his side.
Get to know him like a brother, till you're used to one another
And you'll find you'll start to feel good, deep inside.

Have him over on a Sunday, sit and watch as all the kids play
'Cause they're the answer to the game you see"
They don't know the past from Adam, knew no Hitler, Stalin, Saddam
As far as they're concerned the world is free.

But make sure in what you're doing, that those kids know what to do
In times when Hatred raises its great head.
Tell them stories of the Anzacs and of Auschwitz and the Race Acts
Say the Age of Evil Deeds is never dead.

Tell them; always keep a vigil, or the ghosts of Lone Pine Ridge will
Come to haunt them in the hour before the dawn.
We must keep the watch fire burning as the years keep slowly turning
'Lest We Forget' and darkness be reborn.

Tell your kids they share a great land, nurtured by the mighty Koori
And the Dreamtime is our true Eternal Flame.
Tell them thanks for all the wonders, in this wonderland Down Under
And say, 'Sorry that we once denied your name.'

Keep the billabongs and ridges far removed from kitchen fridges
Use the power of the wind to light your way
Guard the land with all your passion; make things plastic out of fashion,
Let the healing powers of Nature have their way.

Share this land with all who dwell here, let the world know we are well here
In this place of promise and diversity.
Shout 'G'day' and 'Howyagoin' 'neath our flag that's proudly blowing
O'er this land of peace and love and liberty.

Written by Bruce Venables who is one of Australia's most noted film and television writers.

Mike from Brooms

* GuestSpeak is a feature of North Coast Voices allowing Northern Rivers residents to make satirical or serious comment on issues that concern them. Posts of 250-300 words or less can be submitted to for consideration.

A lesson for Senator Conroy perhaps?

The Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, likes to think that the world is on his side when it comes to the 'rightness' of Internet censorship.

However, the real world has a habit of intruding..................

According to Computerworld: the voice of IT management this week:

The US Supreme Court has refused to resurrect a law requiring Web sites containing "material harmful to minors" to restrict access based on age, presumably ending a 10-year fight over whether the law violated free speech rights.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to hear an appeal by former President George Bush's administration, which asked that the court overturn a lower court's ruling against enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (COPA). In July, the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit struck down the law, saying it was a vague and overly broad attack on free speech......

Opponents of the law, including the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation,,, the Urban Dictionary and the Sexual Health Network, argued the law amounted to government censorship and was so broad that it would affect many Web sites, including those that included information on sexually transmitted diseases.

Opponents of COPA have successfully challenged it in court several times. In 2000, the 3rd Circuit upheld a lower court's injunction against the implementation of the law, and in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the injunction but sent the law back to U.S. district court. In 2003, the 3rd Circuit ruled that the law violated the U.S. Constitution.

Inconvenient facts also keep emerging in Australia...............

According to Crikey on Friday:

"Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there has never been any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content," intoned Senator Stephen Conroy on Tuesday.
Yet the very next day, ACMA
added a page from what's arguably a political website to its secret blacklist of Internet nasties.
The page is part of an anti-abortion website which claims to include "everything schools, government, and abortion clinics are afraid to tell or show you".
Yes, photos of dismembered fetuses designed to scare women out of having an abortion. Before you click through, be warned: it is confronting. Here's the blacklisted page.
Mandatory Internet filtering, says Senator Conroy, is only about blocking the ACMA blacklist. The blacklist, he repeatedly insists, is "mainly" child-abuse and ultra-violent material. He's protecting us from ped-philes, stopping terrorists, that sort of thing. It's like the regulation we have for TV, films and books. Except it's not. It's not even close.

Bundjalung to Brazil

The Northern Rivers Echo last Thursday:

Alstonville High School student Mirryndah Nixon-Anderson’s highest priority while on a 12-month exchange in Brazil is to learn Portuguese and teach her host family some of her own Bundjalung language.
The 16-year-old from Goonellabah leaves for Sao Paulo on Friday where she will live and study for the next year thanks to the Rotary Club of Lismore Central, which is sponsoring the exchange.
As part of the adventure she’ll also go on a 21-day safari in the Amazon and she’s practically jumping out of her skin with anticipation.
“When Rotary rang to offer me the place I ran to tell mum and I was nearly crying I was that excited,” Mirryndah said. “I’ve been counting down every single day – it’s scary but it’s going to be awesome.”
Mirryndah’s dad, a professional Aboriginal dancer with the dance company Descendance, has taught Mirryndah several dances to share with her host family and her aunty Patsy Nagas has given her some paintings to give as presents. She already knows some Bundjalung language and is also looking forward to telling Bundjalung stories and leaving her hosts with a sense of what her own culture is all about.
“I think it’s important to tell them about where I come from because Aboriginal Australia isn’t really a well-known culture overseas,” she said. “I want to share some of that history with them.”

I'm sure everyone wishes Mirryndah the very best as she embarks on the trip of a young lifetime.

Photograph from The Northern River Echo

Turnbull and Joyce: exactly who holds the reins?

Ever since John Howard stirred the possum in a classic piece of political mischief, by encouraging the Queensland Liberal National Party's Senator Barnaby Joyce to consider moving from the federal upper house to the lower house, it has been interesting to watch the bull ants scurry about the disturbed nest.

According to The Australian:
"SENIOR Nationals have hatched a plan to breach the constitution of Queensland's Liberal National Party to ensure that a National takes the Senate spot of Barnaby Joyce if he shifts to the House of Representatives.
The move has shaken the Liberal Party, which is guaranteed the spot under the LNP constitution if it is vacated, and threatens to split the recently formed LNP in the run-up to a state election.
Liberal sources said federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull had told the LNP leadership through intermediaries that the plan was unacceptable to him and to the Liberal Party.
Mr Turnbull declined to comment yesterday."

It's all rather amusing when you consider that Joyce and other Queensland LNP pollies are now members of the Queensland branch of the Liberal Party of Australia and up to six of these MPs have a right to sit in the Liberal Party Room according to Senator Mitch Fifield in his recent Finding Our Way Back speech to the Young Liberals.

Indeed Fifield was quite blunt about the type of dilemma that Turnbull now finds himself in:
"The simple fact is if we are not in Coalition, we can’t win. We won’t win. If we are not in Coalition at the next election we may as well not bother turning up. 1987 is a case in point, where the coalition split caused by the Joh for PM push cost John Howard any chance of victory."

Yep, a divorce at this stage will cost the Libs any chance at either gaining power at this year's Queensland election or the 2010 federal election.
Mal needs to take it like a man, because the Nats appear to have the upper hand for now and they know it.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

What on earth was eBay's Australian management thinking?

I know that eBay is now an extremely large online business with a high traffic volume, but nothing excuses finding this posted on its Australian website this week.

One is never permitted to mention a chappie called [redacted] who employs Pakistani slave labour to churn out shockingly putrid copies of early [redacted]. We are not permitted to ever mention his trade name which ends with [redacted] or his second personal name which approximates the Brand Name of Australia's leading Lawn Mower which is a Beauty of a Mulching Beast called a [redacted]. Off limits too is any reference to his well known past time of grooming young lads on the internet by sending them unsolicited gifts - junk which some poor Pakistani labourer has spent a day making for 4 or 5 rupees. He is not only protected by the Storm Troopers of the Gulag Much Vaunted Safety Division here at the Bay but also by the FBI who despatch IC3 agents all over the world whenever he sqeaks or squeals ............

The fact that eBay Australia does little to rein in this serial offender against good taste and good manners speaks volumes for its obviously lackadaisical attitude towards the company's wide pool of clients and their customers.

Makes one think twice about buying or selling on this site which appears to have a high tolerance for inappropriate and splenetic posts.

A Sunday meander through Northern Rivers art

Rock Pools At Brooms Head by Steven Giese
A Dog's Tale by Julie Hutchings
A Native Waterlily by Debrah Novak

All three artists exhibit at Arthouse Australia, Yamba NSW

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Taylor makes yet another mark after Twenty20 Final

Mark (Tubby) Taylor, former Australian XI captain and now Cricket Australia board member made a proper goose of himself at the awards presentation after the Twenty20 Big Bash Final at Sydney's ANZ stadium on Saturday night.

NSW won the match by one one run, thanks to a bye from the last ball of the match.

Victoria batted first and scored 4/166. Opener Rob Quiney scoring a fantastic 91 off 56 balls while recent Test debutant Andrew McDonald hit 30 runs off 29 balls.

NSW's best bowler was Aaron Bird who finished with 3/21 off his 4 overs.

The NSW side incuded the Kiwi ring-in Brendon McCullum who managed to score just 10 off 11 balls.

Although it was a pyjama cricket match, this game produced the goods for players and spectators - it went down to the last ball.

However, the lowlight of the day/evening was Taylor's "gem".

Taylor, whose public speaking skills are not his greatest asset, took to the microphone and announced that the player who made a fantastic contribution for Victoria (Quiney) was not the recipient of the award.

The TV audience sitting comfortably in their lounges at home heard Taylor's words quite clearly, but poor unfortunate Quiney and his Victorian team mates didn't.

Quiney, thinking he'd been announced as the winner of the award, headed off in the direction of Taylor but then Taylor announced that NSW player Ben Rohrer, who hit 44 off 20 balls and steered NSW to victory was the player of the match.

It makes one wonder how often Channel 9 has to hit the idiot button to ensure that idiotic remarks made by Taylor don't go to air. This writer reckons the controller/s of the idiot button must work overtime.

See the match scoreboard here.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Bill Leak for his pic of Tubby (above) ...

Has President Obama given an undertaking that his new administration will discourage any move against the architects of the Iraq War?

The US Department of Justice website lists all presidential pardons and commutations granted by George W. Bush up to March 2008.

Since then it has released media notification of the granting of least 34 other pardons - 14 in November 2008, 19 in December 2008 and 2 in January 2009.

Now it would be hard to word any pardon for the human rights violations and alleged war crimes committed by the former president, members of the Bush Administration and/or their agents, because George Bush appears to have quashed or suspended many of the US federal legal provisions which recognised or protected against such violations.

However, this does not make the former Bush Administration fire proof and so one is left to wonder if the new US President, Barack Obama, has given the past president an undertaking that neither he or his administration would assist in any international or domestic investigation of these individuals and would resist calls for their prosecution.

I would like to know the answer to that query as would a number of others.

Young Liberals - marching backwards towards the future

After the debacle last year when the Young Liberals were so publicly humiliated by the Senate as it quietly pricked their 'all teachers and uni lecturers are biased lefties' balloon, you might have thought that this brush with the real world would've led to something productive - like a more balanced view of the world.
You'd be dead wrong.
They are holding their annual conference this weekend and the Young Liberals mouthpiece, Noel McCoy, has announced that they want to
bring back compulsory national service for those between 17 and 24 years of age.
Though what they think 9 months of conscripted service would do for a fella's country I'm d*mned if I know.
But then most of these young wannabe pollies would be expecting exemptions, wouldn't they?
Liberal Party Federal MPs Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, and Bronwyn Bishop will attend the conference and are perhaps hoping that the media do not notice their attendance at the annual party for young wingnuts who still believe Little Jonnnie Howard was the Second Coming.

Pic from Flickr

Friday, 23 January 2009

'No Drama' Obama now 'Back-up' Barack?

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Seems hard to believe that one simple 35-word sentence could be so publicly scrambled doesn't it?
But what is really hard to believe is that Barack Obama had to take the presidential oath again just so that the rumours would not start flying that he was actually not the US 44th President and Commander-in-Chief.

Obama is not the first president to have to repeat the oath however - Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur also mangled the original swearing in and had to repeat the process behind closed doors according to The Washington Post last Wednesday.

What I did notice particularly was that there was no Obama stumble over the additional phrase "So help me God".
That should upset the great number of atheists and agnostics around the globe.

It also gives me pause for thought - if the wording of the oath is mandated by the US Constitution why is it not thought to be an improper oath if additional words are added?

Obama starts his presidency with a blog

On 20 January 2009 the WhiteHouse website was up and running under new management by midday and the first Obama era blog entry was posted.

It was followed a couple of hours later by President Obama's first proclamation which had a disturbingly evangelical tone that does not bode well for a supposedly secular government and society.

The official breakdown of the new faces in the White House and administration:

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Australian workers get 22 per cent less severance pay than rest of world, but Clarence Valley beats that record hands down

According to the Business Spectator last Friday:

Employees laid off in Australia took home close to the least amount of severance pay in the world, according to a global study by Right Management.
The release of the survey came as official figures showed a sharp drop in the number of full-time jobs in Australia in December, as the unemployment rate rose to 4.5 per cent.
Out of 28 countries surveyed by Right Management, Australia came 21st in terms of severance pay and conditions. The survey looked at 1,500 human resource professionals and senior managers, including 101 from Australia.
In cases where employees lost their job involuntarily because of a company restructure or down-sizing, they pocket on average 22 per cent less than their global counterparts, with 2.79 weeks' severance pay per year of service, compared to a worldwide average of 3.6 weeks per year of service.

If the average Australian worker gets less severance pay than his international counterpart, then Grafton abattoir workers in the Clarence Valley must hold the individual world record.

For they frequently find that they are let go with no payout entitlements being paid due to a Byzantine business model involving at various times Ramsey Wholesale Meats, Ramsey Holdings, Ramsey Food Packaging 1 and 2, Tempus Holdings, Paul Allen Contracting Service, Mortimer Administration Service and others.

Here is a brief history.

Sacked meatworkers fear entitlements lost [2006]

Workers 'boned [2006]

Merry're boned [2008]

New Twist as workers fight for lost money [2009]

Sacked meatworkers remain on the hook [2009]

The Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, speaking in The Daily Examiner expressed concerned about the plight of these sacked workers:

"I encourage the sacked workers who have not already done so to contact me or my office individually so that I can advocate on their behalf."

I doubt whether it has slipped Ms. Saffin's notice that some of the same individuals found as directors of Ramsey companies are also spending literally millions in total on bloodstock and race horses.

After two runs in Sydney at this year's autumn carnival, Zizou was acquired from his owners, a Coolmore syndicate, as a foundation sire for one of the best quality breeding operations in the Hunter region, Stuart Ramsey's Turangga Stud at the entrance to the historic Segenhoe Valley, a short drive away from Scone. Owner of a major meatworks on the NSW north coast, Stuart Ramsey has become involved in racing and breeding in a big way in recent years. His breeding operation includes an 80-strong high quality broodmare band, many of which will give Zizou every chance to be another brilliant Golden Slipper performer make it as a first class sire. His base in the Hunter Valley, the Turangga Stud, has a history of horse breeding stretching back more than a half a century.

Perhaps it's time the Deputy-Prime Minister Julia Gillard stirred herself (as the minister responsible for industrial relations legislation) and ensured that any pea-and-shell corporate structuring that has a potential use which would see workers being denied their rights is made illegal under Australian law once and for all.
Rather than listening to the likes of Heather Ridout of the Australian Industry Group who would obviously like the status quo to continue for her members.

What the masses are saying about King Rudd this week

A small sampling from The Courier Mail of what people are saying online about Kevin Rudd's call for wage restraint.
The overall response was mixed, but if the Bananabenders are not really supporting their native son, then it must be on the nose with voters.

John Howard awarded his senior advisors bonuses and I had one thing to say "STUPID, STUPID, STUPID." Now Rudd does the same thing and I still only HAVE one thing to say "STUPID, STUPID, STUPID."
Posted by: andi of Ausie Ausie Ausie 11:38am today Comment 169 of 193

This make me ill.
I had to reduce my work hours at my work and take a pay cut. The union agreed that this was the case as all the floor workers reduced thier hours. My family is going to hurt because of the reduction of my wage but we will manage.
What happened to a 'fair go' Mr Rudd I voted for you to scrap IR laws and to secure not only mine but my kids future. I cant understand what you are saying you give us money to spend at Christmas then turn around and say we are greedy, then give your staff a pay rise. The tough economic times are not the fault of the ALP but what are Mr Rudd and MR Swann going to do other than talk? Why does Mr Rudd giving the elite a pay rise and the worker a bone. This is typical Johnny Howard and Pete Costello Liberal stuff not the ALP. Who side are you on Mr Rudd , because it doesnt look like you are on mine.
Posted by: Simon of Raceview 11:04am today Comment 149 of 193

He giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other ! Well, it's bound to happen when a man thinks that he is God !
Posted by: Brad Coward of Brisbane 8:29am today Comment 39 of 193

Rudd is just following the lead of his mates down the big end of town. Do a good job, get a bonus. Stuff things up completely, still get a bonus.
Posted by: oldefellah of Coral Coast 8:04am today Comment 22 of 193

The irony here is that Rudd's policy 'advisers' would have concocted his latest little spruik that - 'greed is bad, and workers must defer wage claims'. But then...some are more equal than others eh, comrade ?

Posted by: Alf of Carindale 8:04am today Comment 21 of 193

COMRADES ! Some of use are MORE EQUAL than others ! Oink Oink Oink. Greedy little piggies with their snouts in the trough.
Posted by: Denny Crane of Grange 8:01am today Comment 20 of 193

And from the blogs, this example.

The biggest enemy of "working families" is not the financial crisis. It is the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and his offensive and simplistic suggestion that middle Australia should show restraint in wage negotiations so as not to compromise their jobs.People are not morally obliged to remedy problems not of their doing. Families struggling to afford the necessities of modern life made no contribution to the financial problems. They owe nothing to the rest of community when it comes to wage negotiations.The suggestion that more money for bosses equals more jobs for workers breaks the laws of economics and human nature. Trickle-down economics has long been discredited; there are simply too many greedy sponges at the top. Rudd's call for wage restraint is a misguided justification for employers to exploit the vulnerable by undervaluing the toils of their labour.
From Notes on A Civil Society post on 21 January 2009

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Hot times on the old farm........

You know the temperature is rising when:

  • You go to feed the fish in the pond and there is a black snake doing laps in the pool.
  • The chooks refuse to leave the shed and start demanding ice in their water.
  • The cows spend all day in the swamp, they turn into hippopotacows.
  • The ants only get half way up the wall before they give up.
  • Frogs fight one another for a place in the shower while you are using it.
  • Ice does not melt it evaporates.
  • No matter how much you drink there is not enough for a good pee.
  • Dogs don’t want to go for a ride in the paddock basher.
  • The blue tongue lizard moves from under the peach tree to under the couch in the living room.
  • Politicians say they know what they are doing.
  • The corners of the paddock keep curling up.
  • The wire in the fences melt.
  • The Cat sleeps for 25 hours a day instead of the usual 23 hours.
  • Wasps and hornets decide to walk rather than fly.

Add your own favourites in the comments box

Who us? A short blog review too good not to share

North Coast Voices has been chuckling about this excerpt from a letter to the editor in The Daily Examiner ever since it was published on Saturday 17 January 2009.

I don't think the author thought for a moment that we would find this characterization hilarious enough to share, but we just couldn't resist.

Personally I'm a little disappointed that we missed out on the classic "dragging their knuckles in the dust" line!

We're all in this (recession) together and other fractured fairy tales

The Prime Minister is back from his annual hols and has jumped up before the cameras with the cry We're all in this together! in his Australia Day reception speech.

"This is a difficult time, and in the short term there is no quick fix.

Things will get worse before they get better.That is where all of us – not just government – have a role in lessening the effects of the crisis.
We are all in this together: business, unions, governments, the community sector – and every nation in the world.In these times, employers must do their utmost to protect their workers from dismissal, knowing that these workers will serve them well when times turn good again.
Workers, too, must restrain any wage claims."

No, Rudders, we are not all in this together.
The Aussie banks and their boards, mines and their multinational owners, top CEOs across the country, big national businesses, kings of the racing world, those with inherited wealth, and many more citizens with large salary packages, are not standing shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone. Unless it's with a pollie or two they think may send a cash injection or tax cut their way (look at who's complaining about your fiscal stimulus package and getting ready to close an outlet if you don't believe me).
So don't give me that guff about wage restraint being a strategy to lessen the effect of the global financial crisis.
It's only a strategy which will be used to increase the personal profits of many of the big employers.
Why? Because the bottom line is that most employers still secretly feel that they are paying workers money for jam and that no unskilled or semi-skilled worker deserves more that a pittance wage.

As for small business owners (especially in some parts of the NSW North Coast) they seem to believe that workers should pay their employers for the privilege of having a job.
And I'm not the only one saying so. Get the picture, mate?

Poll results for Tuesday 20 January 2009 in the mid-afternoon.

Update later in the morning:

The Australian reports that Kevin Rudd has given pay rises to two of his top advisors through bonus payments. "With superannuation and overtime added to salaries, principal advisers earn close to $250,000 in annual income." and therefore are already well paid. It seems Kev thinks that there is one rule for his 'friends' and another for the checkout chicks of this world. The former get to live life as usual, the latter get to fund the national recession fightback.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Obama inauguration live feeds and links for Tuesday 20 January 2009 ceremony

Commencing between 7am and 10 am Tuesday 20 January 2009 on the American east coast and around 3am Wednesday Australian EST, many sites will be covering the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee will live feed the inauguration (using Silver Light 2) at its own website here.

C-Span has an inaugural hub using Mogulus to webcast here.

CBS will be online with latest here, here and at CNet webcast here.

Hulu will be live streaming here for members.

CNN Facebook will follow the inauguration day here.

CNN has its inauguration watch here and streaming live here.

MSNBC is covering the inauguration here and here.

Fox News will being reporting live at The Strategy Room webcast found here.

The Washington Post online coverage here.

The New York Times reporting online here and live streaming on it home page here.

ABC News (America) will be providing online coverage here embedded in its homepage.

ABC (Australia) coverage on ABC 1 and ABC Radio starts at 3.24am on Wednesday 21 January AEST.

Possum explains those Australian unemployment figures

It is always a joy to see Possum Comitatus breakdown the gobbledegook surrounding government agency statistics.

The Statistical Reality of the Unemployment Figures post was no exception and, although a job lost involves real pain (something we know well in the NSW Northern Rivers), it was enlightening to see how the statistical margin of error played out in the latest numbers:

The actual Labor Force Survey results can be
easily downloaded, and toward the end of the document – pages 28 and 29 to be exact – the ABS has gone to the trouble of providing the standard errors of not only the point estimates of all the unemployment metrics, but also the standard errors of the monthly change in those metrics. It's quite nice of them to do that since the press doesn't seem to pay any bloody attention to them whatsoever. But their incompetence aside, what these standard errors allow us to do is create a maximum margin or error for the unemployment figures using a 95% Confidence Interval – just as we do with the polling, and more particularly, Pollytrack.....

First up, the change in Full Time job numbers. The seasonally adjusted point estimate suggested that 43,900 full time jobs were lost between November and December of 08. We can be nearly 100% confident that the 43,900 figure that is getting so much attention isn't actually true.

What we can say is that there is a 95% probability that the true change in full time job numbers was somewhere between a gain of 6300 full time jobs and a loss of 94100 jobs, for the margin or error attached to the 43900 full time job loss figure is a whopping 50200. .....

On the trend figures, the unemployment rate remained steady at 4.4%, full time employment dropped by 11,200 nationally and total employment increased by 2000.

Far from this being a terrible result requiring widespread bouts of wrist slashing – in the broader scheme of things and considering the state of the international economy, it's probably a remarkably good result. I say 'probably' because we must acknowledge the large uncertainty involved in the figures - the point estimates really aren't the gospel they are too often made out to be.

What happens in the future is unknowable, things might tank, things might not - but what we should all be aware of is just how much uncertainty is actually contained in these figures.

Of course it would be too optimistic to hope that Malcolm Turnbull and friends would approach these figures with a degree of calm.

Over at Liberal Party headquarters they were shouting out that there will be More Than Half A Million Australians Out Of Work and waxing lyrical about the Howard years.

While Access Economics (in attention getting language aimed at front page media coverage) is predicting 300,000 jobs will be lost in the next twelve months, but also appears to be predicting modest national growth by 2009-10.

By late last night Channel 10 News had hysterically taken the figure higher to a million unemployed

Think I'll place my trust in Poss and wait for more concrete figures to come in over the next year. Access Economics director Chris Richardson now cries Wolf! so often that I no longer find his media announcments all that credible.