Tag Archives: Australia

Vote for me! Democracy is dirty…

The documentary was called “Vote for me!” and was part of SBS’s week examining democracy, which they have called “Why Democracy?”.

And what did we see in this documentary? (If you watched the show, please comment; I hate talking to myself!) We saw Chinese children exploiting the weaknesses of the other candidates. We saw them canvassing their classmates for votes, and offering positions in exchange for votes (for example, ‘Deputy Monitor’ – clever!).

We saw parents writing speeches for their children and suggesting tactics for them to use – “Did he say he’d vote for you? Well, ask him in the debate who he is going to vote for, and if he says you, you can say he isn’t confident because he isn’t even going to vote for himself, and if he says himself, you can say that he is a liar because he told you that he’d vote for you.” We saw parents manipulating their children – “You can’t give up! You said you wanted to be President, and now you want to give up in the class monitor elections?!”

These children were eight and learning about democracy in a Chinese primary school. As I sat their, somewhat appalled, I couldn’t help but think how amazingly accurate this performance of democracy was. (Side Note: Australian election just 6? weeks away.)
So what is democracy? In my opinion, it’s about having a rigorous debate and then having an election where everyone gets an equal vote. We have this lovely, righteous view of democracy but it really isn’t all that pretty when you really step back and examine it.

In this election for classroom monitor, the kid with the rich parents ultimately won the race. Maybe he won because he exposed his friend as a decent, selfless liar or that he already had two years experience as prefect, or maybe it was the last minute sweetener!

Final thought on the documentary: my three arguments:

  • Democracy in Australia can be improved. Especially the donations to political parties which limit the ability for small parties to participate, and the outrageous spending on advertising.
  • If this is what children and teachers in China think that democracy is about – debates and name calling and conspiracy and strategy – maybe we need to work on that! Although I accept that these elements are present, democracy is really about the public debate (and the openness of that debate), that anyone can lead the country and that we all have an equal vote. On a side note, maybe my/our perception of socialism or utilitarianism is also somewhat un-reflective of the principles of those ideologies.
  • On a less serious level, maybe children shouldn’t be exposed to the nitty-gritty of democracy! Note to teachers: concentrate on the equal voting and positive campaigning (we want to know why you would be great at the job!).

Who cares about Rudd v Howard…

Democrats senator, Andrew Bartlett writes:

“… the make up of the Senate after the election will be influential on what sort of laws Australia ends up with in the event Mr Rudd gets elected.” – Bartlett Diaries

The Coalition has had the balance of power in the Senate since the 2004 election. The Senate has 76 seats and only half (38) will be up for election this year.
With such a small number of seats to be decided, and most of the country really unaware of the role of the Senate, there probably will be little change – the Coalition will most likely keep control.

I believe that we really need the coalition to loose one or two seats so the balance of power is left with the Democrats, Family First and the Greens. Otherwise the Liberal/National coalition will still have the final say on any new legislation the Labor government may introduce – including IR changes, nuclear energy and environmental conservation. This week, a lot of people are probably saying Mr Heffernan should be the one to boot out (because of his lovely remarks about Julia Gillard). Unfortunately his term doesn’t end until 2011.

So who cares about Howard and Rudd, who is going to win in the Senate?

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Joe Hockey is an idiot… (not personally > I don’t know him)

Joe Hockey was on Sunday this morning. He talked about Kevin Rudd and his regular appearance on Sunrise as well as the ‘outrageous’ amount of money the Labor Party will spend between now and the election in November.

Joe tried to suggest that Rudd’s appearances on Sunrise are no longer appropriate because he is the Opposition Leader. However he defended his own appearances. Why is it acceptable for a minister of Parliament to appear regularly on a light, entertaining morning show but not for the opposition leader?

He also suggested that the Labor party will spend around $100 million leading up to the election ($88 million from the unions and $12 million from the state Labor branches). This continues the governments attack on the Labor party for being ‘ruled by the union’s’. Meanwhile the Federal Government has been described as the biggest advertising spender in Australian political history – (see quote below from SHM – 2005).

“Crikey! Remember crocodile hunter Steve Irwin bobbing about on your TV screen a year or so back warning you not to bring any plants or animals into the country?

“You paid for that ad. Irwin received a $175,000 appearance fee for one day of filming, a recent Senate estimates committee revealed, and the Quarantine Matters campaign cost $5.3 million.

“Yet it was a comparatively cheap campaign for the Federal Government, which is the biggest advertising spender in Australian political history, and a significant player when compared with the corporate sector.

“Federal Government spending on advertising jumped by nearly $70 million last financial year [2004-05] to $170 million, according to Opposition figures released this week.” – Stephanie Peatling, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Mar 2005, p.19.

Joe said the government’s spending of millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money is necessary to let people know about the policies they are putting forward. I tend to agree. However…

  1. the Constitution allows political parties to advertising as much as they like,
  2. the Labor party is spending about half the amount the government is spending (according to the quote above), and
  3. the Labor party isn’t spending taxpayers money > unlike taxpayers, a union member can choose to leave the union if they disagree with this use of their money.

Get over it Joe… Move on…

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The Planet – Swedish Documentary – SBS: Future Focus

The Planet is a beautiful and unique documentary. It really communicated to me the fragility of the Earth. It also gave an interesting and comprehensive picture of the whole global warming problem – from historical, environmental, social, economic, financial and political perspectives. Here are a few quotes from the documentary which resonated with me:

“The Earth provides us with a life support system; with clean air, with the right amount of oxygen, provides us with food, clean water… There are a whole series of services which are provided [for] free by nature that we are utterly dependent upon; that are not factored into economic equations yet are exceptionally important, in deed they’re essential, life could not exist without them.” – Australian National University

Imagine if every person and every business had to pay for the processes that provide them with water, air, soil, oil, plastic, metal and so on. If the Earth can no longer provide these things this may become a reality.

“Growth can be uneconomic; it can cost more than its worth. And that’s the new era that we’re moving into … here is the Earth’s biosphere, here is the economy. How does the economy live off the larger system? As the economy expands it takes in more energy, more matter. It takes it from where? From the biosphere. And as we consume more, we throw out more waste. Where do we throw it? Back to the biosphere. So that’s depletion and that’s pollution. And then we move into an era of uneconomic growth, in which growth increases the production of bads, faster than the production of goods, it accumulates ilth faster than wealth.”Professor Herman Daly, University of Maryland

“The common view has been that the Earth is very stable; it’s infinitely resilient, we can do basically anything we want and it just repairs itself all the time. We have just been living with that, we’ve taken it for granted. But this era is over; this sort of luxury phase for humanity is now over.” Professor Carl Folke, Stockholm University

So how do we save the planet? Well we could try one of the five solutions proposed in this documentary – Five ways to save the World.

BBC – One solution to Save the World is to place millions of plates of glass in space to divert the Sun’s rays away from the Earth.

Option One: Put millions of sheets of glass into orbit around the sun to divert rays away from the Earth. Up to 3 hundred trillion dollars.

Option Two: A fleet of boats which float around the ocean and spray sea water and salt up into the clouds so there are more clouds and they are more reflective in order to bounce radiation back out to space.

Option Three: Put tons of Sulphur Dioxide into the stratosphere in order to create a blanket around the Earth which would stop the Sun’s raise from reaching the Earth. But doesn’t sulphur dioxide cause acid rain?

Option Four: Add nitrogen or urea into the sea to radically increase the number of phytoplankton which convert CO2 into oxygen.

Option Five: Synthetic trees which remove C02 from the air. It would then be pumped into the earth below the ocean and would be unable to escape.

Or we could consume less… like the two families taking part in the Eco House Challenge on SBS.

More information:

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Hicks decision – Everyone’s a winner baby, that’s the truth…

[audio:everyonesawinner.mp3]

The Hicks case has finally been resolved and everyone is a winner!

“It was a good result for Hicks because he finally has a date for release and a chance to be close to his family, although he will not earn a cent from selling his story to the media.

“The plea deal bans him from “any profits or proceeds”. He has agreed to give any money received for the rights to his story to the Australian government.

“The US military and government can proclaim themselves winners because they have their first scalp of a Guantanamo Bay detainee under the controversial Military Commission Act. They also have a signed confession.

“Guantanamo Bay, which has been compared to a concentration camp, comes out clean, as Hicks – who has complained about his treatment – said in his plea deal he was “never illegally treated” while in US custody.

“Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his government, suffering in the polls months out from an election, can boast they brought Hicks home.

“Mr Howard is also protected from embarrassing comments from Hicks because under the plea agreement Hicks is banned from speaking to the media until March 31, 2008, a convenient date because it falls past the election.

“Under the plea deal, Hicks must co-operate fully with US and Australian law enforcement and intelligence authorities to reveal secrets about al-Qaeda or testify against the terror group’s operatives at other court proceedings.” (SBS World News Australia)

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Hicks guilty of fighting for two hours and never firing his gun…

What he did…

“… Hicks acknowledged that he trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and fought with its forces against US allies in Afghanistan in late 2001 for two hours and then sold his gun to raise cab fare and tried to flee to Pakistan.” (ABC article)

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“Hicks admitted he had trained with al-Qaeda, fought with the Taliban and that a friend of his believed he had approved of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. ” (BT Article)

How he gets punished…

Five years of Hell on Earth

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Seven years in jail (in Australia)

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“Hicks’s plea agreement bars him from speaking to the media for one year and says if he ever sells the rights to his story, the Australian Government will get the money.” He was also banned from taking legal action against the United States. Hicks had previously said he was abused by the US military but said in his plea agreement he had “never been illegally treated while in US custody”.” (ABC article)

Sounds fair to me…

And who can we thank for ending this madness – JOHN HOWARD who is pissing his pants about the next FEDERAL ELECTION. Rudd has already achieved so much…

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World Swimming Championships – Uh oh

SMH: Tribal Mind reports:

They were breaking records and faces at the World Swimming Championships last night, but most Australian viewers didn’t want to know. Channel Nine’s devotion to the water was able to earn it only 23.3 per cent of the prime time audience, putting Nine in an unprecedented third place behind Ten on 23.5 per cent and Seven on 36.3 (ABC 12.0, SBS 4.9). Thorpie is sadly missed.

What Australia watched, Tuesday
1. Dancing with the Stars Seven 1.856m
2. All Saints Seven 1.576
3. Seven News Seven 1.448
4. Today Tonight Seven 1.307
5. Nine News Nine 1.276
6. NCIS Ten 1.255
7. A Current Affair Nine 1.204
8. Home and Away Seven 1.167
9. The Biggest Loser Ten 1.162
10. The Simpsons – 7:30pm Ten 1.142
11. The Simpsons – 8:00pm Ten 1.100
12. ABC News ABC 1.007
13. World Swimming Championships Nine 0.976
14. Deal or No Deal Seven 0.883
15. Ten News Ten 0.878
(OzTAM preliminary estimates, mainland capitals)

Will Nine cancel its Swimming Championships coverage or push it back later in the night? Or will they continue to put a program on in prime time that attracts less people than the ABC news. Oh my god – what have they done? I wonder if it is doing this badly in Melbourne. Do they have to keep it on due to media sponsorships?

I am having a wonderful week watching Channel Nine do so badly. What a gift!

Wind, nuclear, solar, coal, gas OR thermal?

Last night on Difference of Opinion: ABC (9:30pm – Monday) the panel of experts were basically trying to debate the individual merits of nuclear, coal and renewable energy. However they were all saying that ‘their’ technology will be better and more efficient in 10 years.

Well guess what? – the technology will always be better in 10 years.

We all need to realise that reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reversing global warming isn’t as simple as turning off your mobile phone charger when it’s not in use. In my opinion, what we should be discussing is not the merits of each energy source now (because by the time these technologies are implemented the merits will have changed), but what we want our energy mix to be in 2030, 2040 or 2050; what percentage of our energy should we realistically get from differences sources (for example – 30% renewable, 50% coal, 20% nuclear).

Then we need to spend the money developing the technology in all of these areas to achieve these targets and to reduce greenhouse gas production in all of these energy sources. We also need to work towards reducing demand and using innovative demand side solutions to reduce energy wastage by industry (Households use around 15% of the electricity produced in Australia).

If we are going to do something about our greenhouse gas emission we need a government which can develop a long-term plan. What we need to be doing now is thinking about the energy mix we want for our children. This discussion is a hell of a lot easier and one that we can have today.

In your opinion, what should Australia’s energy mix be in 2050? And why?

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What the Prime Minister could and should say next Australia Day…

The Honourable John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, 26 January 2008:

Australia Day has always been an occasion when all Australian celebrate the amazing country we live in. We gather together to celebrate the prosperity and the freedom of our country.

“However, we forget that the land we now stand on has always been the land of Australia’s aboriginal people. These people have a deep emotional and spiritual association with this land and it is time that we reflected on the feelings of these aboriginal people.

“From this day forward, part of every Australia Day celebration around the country, will also include a short moment of silence to remember that since white settlement, the local inhabitants of this land have been disadvantaged. They have been locked away, forced into slavery and treated as second class citizens. So while the rest of us celebrate, these locals have been mourning the loss of their culture; their heritage.

“So let us now pause and reflect on this fact…”

Now that wasn’t so hard was it?

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Centophobia is the newest Democrats member…

Democrat SenatorsI just joined the Australian Democrats.

I wanted to support them because I think it is important that someone other than the government of the day has the balance of power in the Senate. This way they can take the hard edge off legislation or negotiate deals with the government. Otherwise the government can simply pass anything it likes into law without any negotiations.

An example of this is the GST. To my knowledge, the Democrats rejected the legislation in the Senate until the government agreed to remove the tax from ‘everyday items’ like bread, meat and fruit and vegetables. This isn’t a huge, life changing achievement but I think in an age of terrorism, racism and fear, we need someone in the Senate protecting our freedoms and privacy.

Check out the Democrat’s campaigns on: the national ID card, fuel, aboriginal people, climate change and the nuclear industry.

Centophobia’s solution to childhood obesity in the western world…

Today the Sydney Morning Herald: Good Weekend magazine reports – Meal or Medicine?

SMH Article - Meal or Medicine?Source: SMH: Good Weekend –
Melissa Sweet, “Meal or Medicine?”, 17 Mar 2007

“Eating fish could prevent heart disease. Then again, it might not. It depends on who you listen to. With the media and marketplace awash with claims and counterclaims about the health benefits of food, it’s never been harder trying to work out what’s best to eat.”

The article suggests that consumers are confused about the health benefits and health risks of food. People have no idea what they should and shouldn’t be eating; what is improving their health and what could be potentially exposing them to disease and obesity. The article warns that this could get worse with Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) soon to allow companies to put a greater range of health claims on their products such as “may reduce the risk of bowl cancer” and “helps to prevent osteoporosis”. However other health organisations are worried that adding more health claims to products would further confuse the public and would also reduce the appeal of fresh fruits and vegetables which would be unable to use health claims because they are largely unpackaged

So what is the solution. One might say to increase regulation on health claims; to stop “Brunchtime Bars” from being labeled “high in fibre” or “low GI” or “may help protect against lymphoma”.

SMH - McDonald’s AdvertisementSMH advertisement for McDonald’s new ‘tick approved’ meals
“Tastes good. Better for you. Now you can feel better about enjoying the great taste of McDonald’s when you choose one of our nine Tick Approved Meals.”

I found it interesting that this McDonald’s advertisement was featured in Good Weekend just a few pages after this article. So here is a health claim for you: “Better for you.”. The copy suggests that these ‘tick approved’ meals contain 45% ‘less salt’ and are ‘virtually trans-fat free’. Yay.

Think of the fruit and vegetable section of Woolworths or Coles. The products are generic; you have no idea who grew it, how and where. You can’t choose products from suppliers who don’t use pesticides or from regions that produce superior quality because you have no way of distinguishing between products. What does a consumer know about the products they buy in the fresh fruit and vegetable section of their supermarket? Nothing…

How can mere – trans-fat free, salt free, preservative free, hormone free, vitamin and mineral enriched – fruits and vegetables compete. They don’t have packaging to carry ‘health claims’ nor do they have the marketing budget of McDonald’s to tell people how much “Better for you” they are.

The solution. Brand it all. Put a name on every last apple, orange and kiwifruit and every last pumpkin, onion and leek. Split the produce section of the supermarket up and sell it like shelf space. Consumer would have to choose between producers, and producers would have to advertise and differentiate. We would see advertising on television for this producer and that producer showing images of their farm and their fresher, healthier produce. Truly healthy food would suddenly have a voice in the marketplace. Apples would be marketed to kids as ‘action-packed’ and salad would be advertised to office workers as ‘light, quick and simple’. The sales of fruit and vegetables would rise and people around the country would drop a few kilograms.

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