Revenge and payback

There is an pattern emerging:

  1. Private information was leaked to the media alleging that prime minister Tony Abbott’s daughter had received special privilege in obtaining a scholarship to attend a private education institution.
  2. Personal emails from Sydney University academic  Barry Spurr have been leaked with allegation that his views make him an inappropriate choice for a curriculum review.

We can quibble in Spurr’s case as to whether the emails belonged to him or they belonged to his employer.* Unless either he or his employer gave permission to have those emails released to New Matilda, they have been stolen. So we’re not seeing public behaviour being criticised, but rather private behaviour being exposed. Now I’m happy to believe that some private behaviour should be exposed in public – for example, crimes, corruption, and the like, should not be protected by rights to privacy. It iss up to those making the “public interst” claim to demonstrate that public interest.

The important distinction between what is private and public is demonstrated by this piece in The Conversation relating to Revenge Porn:

“Revenge porn”. It’s when a partner or ex-partner posts nude or intimate pictures or videos online and without consent. And in the absence of better laws, perpetrators are largely getting away with it.

The media and public responses to the issue have been slowly shifting. Where once it was common to blame and shame victims for taking nude or sexy pictures in the first place, now there are calls to hold the perpetrators of these sexual violations responsible for their actions.

The harm to victims

Victims describe feeling sexually violated when they discover their images have been posted online. In fact, like other forms of sexual violence, emerging evidence suggests that it is most often women and girls who experience this kind of victimisation. And, like our attitudes to sexual violence generally, too often we have blamed and shamed the victim while ignoring or minimising the actions of the perpetrator.

In what way then does releasing private information about the PMs daughter or Barry Spurr not constitute political violence in the same way publishing intimate photos constitute sexual violence? Most people would be appalled if anyone were to judge victims of revenge porn by the content of their private moments, yet (almost) everyone has been only too happy to condemn Barry Spurr. Would the University of Sydney suspend a revenge porn victim? I suspect only if the incident pointed to some other activity that constituted misconduct.

* Warning to academics: You should assume that your email is being read by third parties. You should also assume that anything you post into the internal mail can and will be opened, and its contents examined, before leaving the university.

Posted in Politics | 54 Comments

In praise of Bronwyn Bishop

Of all the current government Bronwyn Bishop gets the most abuse. Certainly from the ALP but also from some in the commentariat. I think she is doing a fine job – the Australian provides the detail:

FEDERAL Speaker Bronwyn Bishop has clocked up a parliamentary double-century at an unrivalled strike rate — sin-binning almost three Labor MPs a day.

The veteran Liberal, who is responsible for maintaining order in the House of Representatives, already has the second-highest tally of disciplinary actions overall against wayward parliamentar­ians and is fast closing in on the record­.

Ms Bishop has been Speaker for just one year but has racked up the dismissals at a blistering pace. Over 72 sitting days, she has turfed MPs from parliament 211 times under the one-hour sin-bin rules for disorderly or unruly ­behaviour.

Ninety-eight per cent of the time, the MPs she has ejected for mandatory time-outs have been from Labor.

In the first instance she has a no-nonsense attitude and a first term opposition is usually full of nonsense. So that does explain part of the high strike hate Bronwyn Bishop has earned.

But there is is more to it. Losing office is like bankruptcy in the corporate sense or relegation in a sporting sense. It becomes an opportunity for reallocating resources, rebuilding the team and refreshing the ideas. Despite all that it also represents failure and the costs of failure must be incurred if any of those other things are to occur. A new opposition has just failed spectacularly and those costs must be borne. That is part of the speaker’s role.

A new opposition is very likely to be very ill-disciplined (and this opposition is particularly so) and unfocussed. A firm speaker should be putting a stop to that behaviour and that is precisely what Bronwyn Bishop has been doing. This sort of argument:

“I think it would be fair to say I am pretty vocal in my opposition to the budget, things like the GP tax and changes to the aged pension,’’ Mr Champion said.

“My electorate is particularly in the gun in the fight for the budget and they will feel the effect of it most of all. Whenever I go out to do shopping-centre stalls and the like, people are glad to see me fighting, I find. The feedback is ­actually pretty good.’’

is just rubbish. Every moment that an MP is excluded from the Parliament due to their poor behaviour is a moment that their constituents are not represented in the Parliament.

Posted in Federal Politics | 24 Comments

David Leyonhjelm: guest post on the NBN debacle

From The Fin Review last Friday.

By mid-2015 the NBN will have cost taxpayers more than $12 billion, while only 12 percent of premises will be connected. It will burn $100 million a week this financial year and by mid-2015 will have consumed 46 percent of the $29.5 billion in equity the Commonwealth has pledged to it.

To call this a scandal would be an understatement. To say it demands urgent attention should be to state the bleeding obvious.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull inherited an unenviable situation. Contracts entered into by Labor, if valued like other Commonwealth contracts, lock taxpayers into $35 billion worth of spending until 2021. As for NBN Co, which has responsibility for deploying the network, it has been highly politicised from the outset, with its deployment strategy used to provide photo opportunities rather than efficiently build and operate the NBN.

Moreover, as things stand, Australia is the only OECD country to have gone back on the process of deregulation that began 20 years ago, renationalising telecommunications infrastructure and vesting it with a de facto monopoly. The NBN is now our largest piece of applied socialism.

Long experience shows just how inefficient public monopolies are and, once entrenched, how difficult they are to reform. Those old enough to remember Telecom will know what I mean. If the current NBN structure remains in place, consumers will pay too much, taxpayers will suffer huge losses, and governments will have enormous scope to misuse their ownership of NBN Co to serve narrow political ends, including monitoring and censorship of the internet.

The question is how to get out of this mess. The Vertigan panel, which identified the risks inherent in this kind of monopoly, proposes splitting NBN Co into a number of distinct and competing entities. There would be a ‘HFC Co’, to operate the hybrid fibre coax (ie pay TV cable) networks, a ‘Fibre Co’, to deploy fibre to the node and to the home, and a ‘Wireless Co’, to take over the fixed wireless network and possibly the satellite service. Each entity would have Government-imposed service obligations relating to their core assets, but would be free to compete outside that area as well.

The result would be more focussed management and, by spinning off the HFC and wireless networks, responsibility for funding those structures and the risks they involve would be transferred to the private sector. This would partially reverse Labor’s nationalisation of the network.

Additionally, plenty of international experience shows HFC and Fibre-to-the-node/Fibre-to-the-premises can be viable and effective competitors, reducing the risk of monopoly pricing. And by keeping all of these platforms in play, this approach would prevent huge quantities of existing infrastructure from being scrapped prematurely, integral to Labor’s approach and still intended to occur under NBN Co’s current strategy.

Regrettably, Turnbull has put the panel’s recommendation on hold, suggesting it would disrupt deployment and impose fiscal losses. These objections are hardly compelling.

The greatest risk to timely, cost-effective deployment arises from a dysfunctional and heavily politicised NBN Co. This is a business that has struggled to deploy even a single technology. It is unrealistic to expect it to manage platforms where it has very little expertise, such as the HFC. NBN Co’s incentive is to preserve its monopoly, not to meet consumer needs. Putting all taxpayer and consumer eggs in this one basket is reckless.

As for the losses, they are already there. As Vertigan shows, the costs of the wireless and satellite services are about five times what consumers are willing to pay. It is only because the public sector is not compelled to disclose likely losses (unlike private companies) that this destruction of wealth goes unreported.

Of course, selling the assets would crystallise the losses. But that honesty – putting in place transparent ways of funding any universal service obligations – is a benefit of Vertigan’s proposal, not a cost. So too is the fact that competition between a future HFC Co, operating HFC that already provides speeds of over 100 megabits per second and is capable of gigabit per second speeds, and a Fibre-to-the-node/Fibre-to-the-premises operator, would drive down prices to consumers, promoting the ‘digital revolution’ both Labor and the Coalition claim they want.

The greatest risks to both taxpayers and consumers come from not acting promptly to introduce competition when the prior government legislated every single competitor out of the market. If we still haven’t learnt just how high the costs of government monopolies are, the prospects for Australia are poor indeed.

David Leyonhjelm is the Liberal Democrats’ senator for NSW.

Posted in Rafe | 56 Comments

Private views create no public harm

In The Australian today:
“The Barry Spurr affair is terrifying in the shoddy treatment of Spurr; in what it says about our universities; and in the lack of outrage that either has evoked. “

Posted in Uncategorized | 70 Comments

Patrick Moore – ex Greenpeace – in Australia

From the ad for Moore’s presentations.

Dr. Patrick Moore has been a leader in the international environmental field for over 40 years. He is a co-founder of Greenpeace and served for nine years as President of Greenpeace Canada and seven years as a Director of Greenpeace International. The leader of many Greenpeace campaigns (e.g. “Save the Whales”, seal hunting), he was a member of the Rainbow Warrior crew when the anti-nuclear testing ship was bombed in Auckland Harbour. Dr. Moore was a driving force shaping policy and direction while Greenpeace became the world’s largest environmental activist organization.

He left Greenpeace in 1986 because of his concern at the anti-science and extreme political policies it was adopting; nevertheless, he remains passionately concerned about the environment and describes himself as a “sensible environmentalist”. This, of course makes him a most controversial figure as the current Greenpeace policies are not aligned with his “sensible” view. He is visiting Australia to explain why his view of catastrophic global warming differs from that of the extreme green movement.

Personally, I am more of the catastrophic global cooling school of thought myself, which is just as unprovable as AGW, although at the moment with quite a bit more evidence. Nevertheless, if you are interested in going along, as am I, these are the dates and venues across the States, starting next week in Sydney and Melbourne.

Patrick Moore’s Public Appearances in Australia

22 Oct. 5 for 5:30 Sydney RSL, L3 Function Room, 565 George St. a $20 donation at the door is requested to cover costs.
23 Oct. 6:30 pm for 7pm The Mirrors Room, Club Five Dock, 66 Great North Road, Five Dock a $20 donation ($10 for students) is requested at the door to cover costs; rsvp: Jim Simpson – 0417 285 884 or [email protected]

24 Oct. 5 for 5:30pm CQ Functions, 113 Queen St, a $20 donation at the door is requested to cover costs
27 Oct. 12 for 12:30 The Australian Club 110 William St 2-course lunch $110 p.p. (dress code)

30 Oct.

1st Session 2-3pm afternoon tea 3-30 pm,
2nd session 3:30- 4:30 pm

Hughes Community Centre Wisdom Street, Hughes
$20 donation ($10 for students) requested plus $2 for afternoon tea payable at the door

1 Nov.
1st meeting 4 – 5pm (GM crops) C3 Church, 94 Waratah Ave. Dalkeith.
2nd meeting 5:30 – 7pm (Climate), C3 Church, 94 Waratah Ave. Dalkeith
a $20 donation ($10 for students) is requested to cover costs – covers both sessions.

Please register your interest in the Hobart event with Garth Paltridge ([email protected])

Nov. 5th 7 for 7:30, Irish Club 175 Elizabeth St. A $20 donation at the door is requested to cover costs.

Nov. 6th 5 for 5:30, TheJ, 60 Noosa Dr, Noosa Heads
To book for this event, just click on:

a $20 donation will buy a ticket.

Event enquiries should be directed to Paul Evans at: [email protected]
Media enquiries should be directed to Case Smit: [email protected]

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy | 9 Comments

The Obola virus

obama ebola response team

The notion of an Obola virus just popped into my head as I was walking home just now but I thought that before I tried to claim originality I would just google it to see if anyone else had thought of it. Well, not only is it across the net and all over the place, it has apparently already been branded as racist. Well, that’s the end of that. I therefore think I should let the people at Quadrant know since they have already posted an article, President Obola’s Panic Attack. It’s by a former citizen of the Soviet Union, so what else can you expect. But at least he is aware of his own peculiarities and is already prepared to self-ostracise himself and so he should. As he writes:

I have given up on myself. Since everyone I know accepts that my views are to the right of Gengis Khan, I no longer have to make the pretense of drinking soy milk or eating tofu and pretending to enjoy it. I am what I am and happy to be that way, even if my children’s faces go red when I open my mouth in polite company. They look pleadingly at others present, trying telepathically, I think, to transmit the thought that every family has its own dotty uncle who, in their case, happens to be their own, beloved and sometimes moderately useful, but very barmy, two-cans-short-of-a six-pack dad.

I know that look of theirs very well indeed. It says, ‘What do you expect? Dad remembers those weird days when steam engines were used to pull trains, people were paid only for working, kids ran around playgrounds largely unsupervised, and men could grow older, and little more portly, without attracting universal ostracism.

Well, being portly and dotty has its compensations, let me tell you. Nobody is surprised when you ask stupid questions or say things that are sooo politically incorrect they would be beyond the pale for everyone except yours truly. This is fun – looking at the same pictures on the TV screen as everyone else and seeing things differently.

He thinks of the panic as just one more way to get other scandals off the front page, but oddly, if this is actually a non-scandal in reality, it is the one that may finally bite. People win Nobel Prizes in economics for pointing out that remote possibilities are seen as far more probable than they really are while the more likely dangers are ignored as just part of life.

But since Obola/Ebama did nothing in the face of this danger of unknown consequence, and he would be the absolute last person to know one way or the other, his uselessness as a chief executive is being recognised by people who prefer not to die a horrible death even if he gives them free phones. So at least there is this, whatever else may happen next.

UPDATE: A similar kind of outrage from Andy McCarthy, Incompetence Meets Mendacity in Obama Administration’s Ebola Response. From the article:

You can only abide politics as soap opera for so long because politics is actually about real life and real stakes. Reality cannot be scripted. Therefore, politics cannot forever be stage-managed as a “narrative” with “optics,” a daily show focused on how the lead character is affected by the latest crisis.

At a certain point, the reality of the crises hits us, and hits close to home. Am I threatened? Am I going to get sick? If I do get sick, am I going to have health coverage and the doctor I trust? Is the government doing its best to make sure I am not infected? Or shot? Or bombed? Or beheaded?

Where do we get the answers to these questions? From the government we’ve grown to depend on. And now the answers are so purposely, patently, and pervasively false, it suddenly seems as if nothing can be trusted — as if, even as our perils intensify, our government erects another house in its Potemkin village.

And then he lists the lies that are more than lies but a form of deceit that in each instance makes people worse off for no compensating advantage other than to those who are lying:

Of course you can keep your health coverage, and your doctor. And we’ll cover everyone while your premiums plummet. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda is “decimated” and these Islamic State guys are just the jayvee team. In fact (fact?), they’re not even Islamic — although they may not be quite as “secular” as the Muslim Brotherhood. Just extremists. (Extreme about what? Don’t ask.) Jihad is just a “purification of the self” . . . or, at most, “workplace violence.” Benghazi? A spontaneous “protest” incited by a video. The president was not told it was a terrorist attack . . . except by the secretary of defense right after it started — long before he responded by . . . going to Vegas, where he promptly announced al-Qaeda was “on the path to defeat.” Still, rest assured that the State Department’s top priority is the safety of American personnel . . . although we did reduce security in Benghazi after our facility was bombed. And rest assured that the Justice Department would never ever let guns walk . . . except for the thousands its Fast and Furious program transferred to violent gangs — who’ve used them in who knows how many crimes, including the murder of a Border Patrol agent. Still, at least there’s “not a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS, where citizens are harassed, evidence keeps disappearing, and the official at the center of it all takes the Fifth to avoid giving incriminating testimony. No matter. Just take heart that Ebola is not coming to the United States . . . um, well, if it does come there will be no outbreak . . . but, er, if there is an outbreak, we have careful protocols and health-care professionals fully trained to deal with it . . . and even if the protocols don’t work and the professionals don’t have adequate training, we’ll have a rigorous monitoring program for anyone who is exposed . . . or maybe a self-monitoring program for people who will isolate themselves . . . unless, of course, we tell them to go ahead and hop on a plane. Well, look, at least we can promise there won’t be a “serious” outbreak.

It’s Obama, of course, but it’s also the American media. No one can trust either as the world goes from one disaster to the next.

Posted in International | 38 Comments

Let a life luvvies

Posted in Federal Politics | 19 Comments

Barry Cohen finally works out what is wrong with being a Labor man

Barry Cohen has been diagnosed with dementia and is confined to an aged care home. He tells a very poignant story of his experience in the Weekend Australian. I did particularly enjoy this observation:

The disparity and inequities between monetary rates charged for residents is nothing short of scandalous. I am charged $600 a week and have provided a $250,000 bond, while in neighbouring rooms residents who may have alcoholic dementia or have gambled their lives away receive the same care as I do, courtesy of Centrelink. Effectively I, and those like me, am subsidising the care of other residents and the profits for the aged-care facility.

Well, yes. Cohen and friends have worked very hard over a long period of time to make it so.


On a sadder note, elderly relatives often fall into one of two categories; mentally frail but physically well or mentally sharp but physically frail. I don’t know which is worse for the person or their loved ones.

Posted in Hypocrisy of progressives | 45 Comments

How is that renewable energy working for you?

(HT: AS from Watts up with that).

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy | 13 Comments

ANUgate update

The Australian has entered into the debate with a magnificent cartoon from Bill Leak and a longer piece by Paul Kelly.

When Abbott issues a rallying cry it is unmistakable. And he ­issued such a cry this week. His ­aggressive strategy rests on two propositions: that coal is economical and that it is ethical. This position will reverberate across Australia’s society and economy, with consequences for coal, gas, industry, jobs, living standards and environmental politics.

Abbott’s message is that if you want jobs, cheap energy and economic prosperity then you must oppose the ideological campaign to close down fossil fuels as soon as possible in the cause of renewables.

Yet the anti-fossil fuel ideological campaign is on a roll. In its comment this week on the Australian National University’s decision to divest of shares in seven ­resources companies for ethical reasons, Greenpeace nailed the real issue: the sums involved were “pocket money” but “the divestment movement’s real power lies in its ability to stigmatise the fossil fuel industry”.

It is a method of delegitimisation. The ANU’s decision is an open invitation to stigmatise Australian coal and gas companies.

Pearson agrees with Greenpeace, saying the problem “is the reputational damage and this is why it must not go unanswered”.

Much of the commentary this week has been naive. Given the conflict, it is idle to think Abbott would not attack the decision.

Intellectual elites form a very privileged set in our society and when those elites – described by Paul Kelly as being:

… a loose yet growing coalition typically seen as including the Greens; a collection of non-governmental org­anisations, veterans such as Greenpeace, the Graeme Wood Foundation (with Wood having made the largest campaign don­ation in our political history to the Greens) and the Australia Institute; climate change activists in unions, universities and social media; foundations, wealthy individuals, philanthropists with deep pockets; and the margins of the Christian churches.

decide to start trashing the productive capacity of the economy it is very naive to believe that the government will not get involved. Indeed government exists precisely to restrain this sort of social disorder. As Schumpeter explained intellectuals have an incentive to attack their host society and capitalism in particular and it is difficult for a liberal democracy to rein them in. Paul Kelly makes a similar argument.

The AFR editorial ties in very nicely with the Bill Leak cartoon.


The money involved in the ANU’s divestment is small. But there are three big principles involved.

First, there is the sheer self-indulgence in trashing industries on which society materially depends, so that some can feel ­better. …

Second, we need a more rational and less knee-jerk approach to insuring ourselves against man-made climate change.

Right now we have almost no climate policy worth the name. This is precisely because we took as a nation, the grandstanding approach exemplified in miniature by the ANU, charging out in front with the world’s biggest carbon tax. This essentially worked through the electricity system and imposed high costs on Australian consumers and industry. But when we looked around, no one was following. Support for a carbon tax then politically collapsed.

Thirdly, academics should not be advocates or activists.

University leaderships should be at the centre of rationality in society, that is, calmly working out the extent of problems like climate change and not letting activists take the wheel.

That last point is important – the ANU episode reveals a deep and profound corporate governance problem within the university sector. That such a deeply flawed decision could be made suggests the presence of profound group-think at the upper reaches of an institution that is in receipt of substantial sums of taxpayer dollars. Education Minister Pyne has not done much – not that I can see – about university governance, but he is proposing to give those some institutions much greater powers to do their own thing. Deregulating the university sector is a good thing – ensuring the sector has adequate internal control mechanisms to restrain this sort of behaviour would be an even better thing.

Posted in Divestment, Education | 146 Comments