The Liberal Party is not history

From the department of even-I-know-that-making -wild-predictions-can-be-silly:
So what will be the new polarity in future elections? It's the ecology, stupid. The Greens will emerge as the new opposition, though this will take probably two election cycles. By the 2010 election, 20 per cent will vote Green, simply because peak oil and climate catastrophe will have proven them right, and thinking people will see the need for austerity now for our children's tomorrow. The Liberal Party will be lucky to attract 30 per cent, which is the habitual, rusted-on portion of the community that thinks greed is good.

By 2014, we will have a struggle between a new left and right - Labor and Green - and the issue will be simply how green, how to balance the need for a much simpler and more communal kind of life, with the need to give people comfort and amenity now. This issue will continue to define life for the rest of this century.

Climate change will bring horrific costs this century unless a global effort is rallied in a way that has never been done before to regulate our gluttonous use of the air and water. Perhaps a billion lives are at risk, let alone 2 to 3 billion refugees, as agriculture and water supplies collapse across southern Asia and elsewhere, and producer countries, like Australia, find they can barely feed themselves.

The big lie of Liberal supremacy was economic management. In fact, they knew how to generate income, but not how to spend it. We could have been building what Europe built in this past decade - superb hospitals, bullet trains, schools and training centres, low cost public transport of luxurious quality, magnificent public housing. We pissed it all away on tax giveaways and consumer goods. On bloated homes that we will not be able to cool or heat, or sell, and cars we won't be able to afford to drive. A party based on self interest may evaporate along with our rivers and lakes, and have no role to play in a world where we co-operate or die.
This article was written by Australian psychologist Steve Biddulph. Having a psychologist wax lyrical about politics may sound a bit silly, but then, if you're reading my blog you can accept that ordinary people can have opinions on things (even if they're crazy).

Biddulph's article has been dissected slightly by both Byron and Dave who make note of Biddulph's mention of Peak Oil and Global Warming. Of course I agree with all three (Byron, Dave and Steve) yet I can't help but feel a little concerned about Biddulph's very specific prophecies. He states, for example, that 20% of voters in 2010 will vote Green, that the Liberal Party will struggle to get 30% of the vote and that a new political order will eventually exist between a left-of-centre Labor party and the leftist Greens.

Biddulph is correct in that there will be a movement towards the left - but this is not so much due to economics or the environment but simply socio-historical factors. All nations around the world have swung towards the left and to the right since the industrial revolution and the birth of modern democracy. Australia has gone through a conservative phase and is now due to go through a progressive one. Eventually we will move back towards conservatism. Other nations, like the US, Britain and Europe, go through the same process, although there will often be a disconnect between when nations do this. The US, for example, is becoming progressive while France, for example, is becoming more conservative.

The problem with Australia's experience with conservatism is that, economically, it has been quite successful. Take out the problems with Workchoices and housing market overheating caused by Negative Gearing & the First Homebuyers grant, and you will find that the handling of the economy by the Coalition government was probably the best in the entire world. At no point during the Coalition's reign did a recession hit (even though the world went through two major economic crises in 1997 and 2001), government spending was reduced (but not enough to hurt badly) and average income rose (without sacrificing median income - until workchoices hit that is). Moreover - and I will say this until I am blue in the face - Australia's public debt is now effectively zero, a unique accomplishment in the industrialised world, and not dependent upon government owned oil companies (as is the case with Norway). While Biddulph is correct when he laments over the lost years of not investing in things like education, health care and public transport, the fact is that any move towards these sorts of things under the new ALP government is more likely to be economically sustainable.

(I need to point out that although the Coalition managed to pay off public debt, the debt which had accrued under the Hawke and Keating government was much less than what people realise. At its peak, public debt in Australia reached the equivalent of 20% of GDP, which is quite mild compared to places like America, currently at 40% of GDP, and Italy, currently at 100% of GDP. It's facts like this that make me trust the ALP fiscally since they didn't mess up as badly as the Liberal party would like us to believe. A friend of mine, a former young Liberal, told me in all earnestness that Australia in 1996 was on the verge of begging help from the IMF, such was the problem with public debt. In hindsight, that sort of belief was very much incorrect.)

So while the Howard government and the Liberal party have been thrown out of office for everything but economics - and deservedly so I might add - the underlying belief will be that, if Australia faces an economic crisis, the Liberal party will be popularly seen as being good stewards of the economy. That will be enough to keep the Liberal party in people's minds for some time to come.

Of course, much depends upon what happens over the next few years as to whether the Liberal Party's public perception is altered, and whether or not the ALP and the Greens will become more popular. So far, global warming has not made any massive changes yet. While we hear of Greenland melting, we have yet to actually see any form of sea level rise. That may come suddenly or it may come in many years. There's no doubt that if Australia suffers economically and socially as a result of global warming then the Liberal Party will lose out terribly, since it was they who refused to do anything solid about it in their eleven years in government. If things keep going the way they are over the next three years, with greater public acceptance of global warming influencing government policy, then we can expect quite a few more votes going towards the Greens, but nothing like the 20% that Biddulph predicts. As I pointed out the other day, the Greens would be lucky to get beyond 9% of the vote in 2010, all things being equal of course.

But what about Peak Oil? Will the reputation of the Liberal Party suffer because of the effects of reduced oil supplies and higher petrol prices? I doubt it. Despite government inaction, Australia is one of the few nations lucky enough to be well suited for the Peak. With an agricultural surplus and vast coal reserves, Australia stands to gain much economically during the coming crisis. Moreover, the economic conditions that have prospered under the coalition government will respond well to increased overseas exports.

So while Biddulph is correct in his assumption that Peak Oil and Global Warming will affect Australian politics quite strongly for years to come, I don't think we can assume that the Liberal Party will simply disappear of the map, and nor can we assume that the Greens will be able to capture the mainstream vote.

Of course, I could quite easily be wrong and Biddulph could quite easily be right if a sudden global environmental disaster - such as the melting of Greenland's ice sheets - occurs within the next few years. I fully expect some level of crisis occurring within the next 20 years, but there is no way to find out which is more likely.


This is what Global Warming is all about

What we do today about climate change has consequences that will last a century or more. The part of that change that is due to greenhouse gas emissions is not reversible in the foreseeable future. The heat trapping gases we send into the atmosphere in 2008 will stay there until 2108 and beyond. We are therefore making choices today that will affect our own lives, but even more so the lives of our children and grandchildren. This makes climate change different and more difficult than other policy challenges.

Climate change is now a scientifically established fact. The exact impact of greenhouse gas emission is not easy to forecast and there is a lot of uncertainty in the science when it comes to predictive capability. But we now know enough to recognize that there are large risks, potentially atastrophic ones, including the melting of ice-sheets on Greenland and the West Antarctic (which would place many countries under water) and changes in the course of the Gulf Stream that would bring about drastic climatic changes.

Prudence and care about the future of our children and their children requires that we act now. This is a form of insurance against possibly very large losses. The fact that we do not know the probability of such losses or their likely exact timing is not an argument for not taking insurance. We know the danger exists. We know the damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions is irreversible for a long time. We know it is growing with every day of inaction.

Even if we were living in a world where all people had the same standard of living and were impacted by climate change in the same way, we would still have to act. If the world were a single country, with its citizens all enjoying similar income levels and all exposed more or less to the same effects of climate change, the threat of global warming could still lead to substantial damage to human well-being and prosperity by the end of this century.

In reality, the world is a heterogeneous place: people have unequal incomes and wealth and climate change will affect regions very differently. This is, for us, the most compelling reason to act rapidly. Climate change is already starting to affect some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world. A worldwide average 3° centigrade increase (compared to preindustrial temperatures) over the coming decades would result in a range of localized increases that could reach twice as high in some locations. The effect that increased droughts, extreme weather events, tropical storms and sea level rises will have on large parts of Africa, on many small island states and coastal zones will be inflicted in our lifetimes. In terms of aggregate world GDP, these short term effects may not be large. But for some of the world’s poorest people, the consequences could be apocalyptic.

In the long run climate change is a massive threat to human development and in some places it is already undermining the international community’s efforts to reduce extreme poverty.

- Opening Page, United Nations Human Development Report, 2007-2008

Very clever...

Kyoto set to be ratified... finally

From the department of political-decisions-can-often -be-the-right-ones:
The new Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson has reversed years of Coalition government policy, committing his party to supporting Labor's plans to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Dr Nelson was elected in a close vote this afternoon and has given the treasury spokesman's job to his opponent in the leadership race, Malcolm Turnbull.

The new deputy leader Julie Bishop is taking on the role of the party's industrial relations spokeswoman.

Dr Nelson says the new Labor Government must look after Australia's interests at the UN climate change meeting in Bali next month.

"I have heard the message from Australians that was delivered on Saturday and whatever some critics of the Kyoto Protocol might actually think, it's symbolically important to Australians," he said.

"The most important thing for us at the moment is to see that Mr Rudd gets it right."
As much as I realise that this decision is purely political in nature, coming as it does after a heavy election defeat and a desire to show some level of public contrition, this decision is good. Not that Kyoto actually means much any more - it's merely a symbolic gesture though I would get narky if Australia didn't treat it seriously.

Australia's minor parties

It's always interesting to see how Australia's smaller parties have fared in federal elections over the years. I have compiled a table below based upon figures from the ever-reliable and always trustworthy Wikipedia. The percentage vote you see is what is called "the primary vote", which is then distributed according to Australia's preferential voting system. I've started in 1919 because that was the first year the National Party (or "Country Party" as it was known back then) entered federal politics.

Election Year

Country Party / National Party

Australian Democrats

The Greens













































































































































Election Year

Country Party / National Party

Australian Democrats

The Greens

(2007 figures are approximate only)

A few things to note about these facts.

The National Party.

Notice how the National Party never really became a force in Australian politics? Although they have been in a coalition with the Liberal party for many decades, the amount of people voting for them has never exceeded the 1937 figure of 15.55%. The reason for this is because the Nationals are essentially the party for the country folk. Socially conservative, nationalistic rural people have been the mainstay of the National Party for most of its life.

Yet also notice that as we move closer to the 21st century, the voting percentage seems to be on an inexorable downhill slide? Ever since 1990, the Nationals have been attracting fewer and fewer votes. The difference between the 1996 and 1998 election results was due entirely to the influence of Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party whose populist efforts stripped the Nationals of nearly 3 percentage points in the votes. Yet notice also that, despite the demise of ONP, the Nationals have permanently lost about three-eighths of its voting base. Yet in the election just fought, the Nationals vote has dropped down to almost where it was in 1998, and without any Pauline Hanson there to affect them. It's evidence that Pauline Hanson basically turned 3% of the National Party voters into swinging voters.

Put simply, the National Party is at a low ebb, and the reasons for this are self inflicted.

The first reason is that the National Party isn't National. Back in April I blogged about this and discovered that the National Party is only present in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. There are virtually no National Party politicians from Tasmania, South Australia or Western Australia.

The second reason is that the arrangement that they have with the Liberal party - that they will not run candidates against each other (most of the time) - favours a demographic in which more people are in urban areas and less people in rural ones. This choice by the National Party has essentially led the Liberal Party to take over the conservative vote in the urban areas of Australia while rural electorates decline in number.

If the National Party wish to survive, they need to radically change the way they do politics, which means they need to loosen their relationship with the Liberal Party whilst still working with them. I would suggest the following:
  1. Run candidates in every single lower house seat throughout Australia, including urban areas and in WA, SA and Tasmania. This would mean running against Liberals in urban seats, but it would also mean that the Liberal Party runs candidates in rural seats. This would naturally upset the Liberal party somewhat, but an arrangement can be made whereby each party gives the other their preferences. This would work in the Senate as well.
  2. A "re-branding" of their politics. I would suggest that the National Party present itself as pro-market but also socially conservative, which would, in turn, help the Liberal Party to become a pro-market but socially centrist party. Voters for both the Liberals and the Nationals would therefore include most people who are pro-market, but allows voters to decide for themselves whether they wish to be socially conservative or socially centrist. After the recent electoral loss, many Australians are crying out for an alternative conservative party to the Liberals.
  3. Work hard at developing a "conservative environmentalism" that would a) Allow the party to handle environmental issues like global warming sensibly, while b) Not compromising their stance on free-market policies. The secret to tapping Australia's growing environmental concerns without losing out to the Greens would be to take the issue seriously while keeping the focus upon maintaining a market economy.
The Democrats.

Look back at the voting figures for the Dems. They started off their political life with a bang, surged forward in 1990 to become Australia's third largest political party, and have since collapsed into nothingness. This is not the result of dirty tricks by other parties, but is their own silly fault.

The Democrats were often misunderstood by the voting public. Some saw them as an alternative to the ALP since their policies were quite progressive - yet the Australian Democrats came out of the Liberal Party in the 1970s as a reaction against some of that party's departures from liberalism and libertarianism. The 1990 election, which saw them reach the giddy heights of 11.26% of the vote, was too much for them to cope with. Faced with two directions to go in - remain true to their ideals or get more votes - they chose the wrong path (votes) and have suffered to the point of extinction.

The Democrats distinguished themselves by "keeping the bastards honest" and thus communicated to the voting public that they were different to the other parties. Yet, as time wore on, it was clear that they were not that much different at all. The defection of Cheryl Kernot to the ALP and the subsequent leadership tussles - including Natasha Stott Despoja's painful reign - showed that the Democrats were actually bastards themselves. Without the anti-bastard belief, people were forced to rely upon policies which, because the Democrats were centrist, were never fully communicated.

Personally I think the Democrats are history. But they can rise from the grave if they do the following:
  1. Elect a leader who is vigorous, charismatic and, above all, politically friendly. Having a leader who says that he is happy to work with all parties is essential for a centrist party.
  2. Conduct a "return to the Democrats" campaign in their home state of South Australia. South Australia was always their stronghold and the future lies in reigniting their traditional "base".
  3. Have a reasonable goal for the next election - say 2% of the vote.
The Greens.

The Greens are now firmly entrenched as Australia's third largest political party, overtaking The National Party and The Democrats in only 14 years of political life. Once seen as a fringe group, The Greens are now part of the mainstream, and are a threat to both the Liberal and Labor party.

What I find very interesting is that The Greens have managed to gain substantial votes in electorates that are strongly Liberal or strongly Labor. Take the seat I live in - Newcastle. If ever there was a union heartland, Newcastle is it. Yet despite the large Labor victory margin, over 10% of Novacastrians voted Green, one-third more than the national average. Similarly, the seat of Berowra, a very safe Liberal seat, had 9% of votes go to The Greens.

Overall, the 7.5% figure for the Greens is, to be honest, disappointing. Ever since An Inconvenient Truth hit the video store shelves, Australians have, generally, become quite supportive of efforts to help the environment. Yet only 0.3% more Australians voted for The Greens in 2007 than they did in 2004. Despite having a competent looking leader (Bob Brown) who wears suits rather than hemp sacks, I would surmise that many are still wary of the Greens radicalism, especially in areas like the economy and industrial relations. The Greens are not "closet communists" but they are more to the left of politics than the Labor Party is and would not be embarrassed to promote leftist-style policies. This naturally frightens people.

The Greens greatest weakness is in non-coastal rural areas. Byron Bay and other coastal places have their fair share of conservative farmers battling policy with local Greens, but once you move inland to places like Tamworth, The Greens are quite weak. The seat of New England, for example, garnered only 3% of votes for the Greens.

The only way that The Greens could become the largest political party in Australia, and to run the country and have its own PM, is for a wholesale national movement towards leftist economics. That's hardly going to happen any time soon. Yet if The Greens modify their approach to become more centrist economically, they will risk losing their base. They have got 7.5% of the vote already despite their leftist agenda, which means they should keep plugging away at what they do best.

It's possible that Kevin Rudd's popularity shaved a few percentage points off The Greens during this election, which means that The Greens could possibly get more votes at the next one.

So what should the Greens do? They should continue to broaden their base (by diverting more resources into country areas) while deepening it (by continuing to grow in urban areas).

The Greens could easily go the same way as The Democrats if they forget their principles and become too "political" within their own ranks. They should not give up on their basic principles and should rely more upon educating potential voters rather than polling to find out what policies they should change. This sort of activity will not result in large votes but will result in growing influence over time. Yet if the Greens do not increase their votes then their Senate presence will not grow either, thus hindering their ability to handle policies to help the environment. Ideally the Greens should hope to increase their votes to between 8.5 - 9.0% by the next federal election. Any more than that would indicate either a) That the Greens have compromised themselves, or b) That an environmental emergency was taking place.

© 2007 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Ride and The Charlatans

(This image won't fit on the page. Right click on it and hit "view image")

Two of my favourite bands are British and hail from the early 1990s. They are Ride and The Charlatans. One remarkable thing about the two bands - who rose to prominence at the same time despite having different styles of music - is the similarity in appearance between Mark Gardner (Ride guitarist) and Tim Burgess (Charlatans vocalist). You can see this similarity In the picture above, with both bands posing together. Mark Gardner is third from the left and Tim Burgess is the last on the right. Or.. is it the other way around?

And Steve Queralt (Ride bass player and the person to the left of Tim Burgess) looks like John Christie - doesn't he John?

Tragically, Rob Collins (Charlatans organ player and first on the left looking very depressed) died in a car accident only a few years after this photo was taken. Andy Bell (Ride guitarist and to the left of Steve Queralt) joined Oasis after Ride split.


FIEC and the Westminster Presbyterians

Just some interesting info:

The Westminster Presbyterian Church, a small Presbyterian denomination mainly in Western Australia, has 13 churches throughout Australia. They began in the early 1970s I think.

The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, which started with the formation of Central Coast Evangelical Church, has 14 churches. They began in the mid-1990s.

Looks like the FIEC is the bigger "denomination". Yet the Westminster Pressies have their own theological college...


I'm having a Blog Break

No particular reason. Just feel I should lie back for a week. Back soon.


Costello to quit politics?

From the department of don't-go-yet:
Federal Treasurer Peter Costello has announced that he will not contest leadership of the Liberal Party.

Mr Costello says he has served 17 years in the Parliament and 11 and a half years as Treasurer, but it is now time for him to pursue other opportunities.

"The time has come for me to open a new chapter in my life. I will be looking to build a career, post-politics, in the commercial world," he said.

"As a consequence of that, I will not seek, nor will I accept, the leadership or deputy leadership of the Liberal Party."

He says there is a need for generational change within the Liberal Party.
Costello, unlike Howard, was safely returned by his constituents, so talk of him leaving politics means that he will retire after the next federal election and become what happens to all retiring highly ranked Liberal Party politicians - become a well paid board member for some large Australian company.

To me, Peter Costello is one of the better Liberal Party members. I personally think that it would be a tragedy for him to leave politics (even if it is another 3 years away). He has a smart economic mind and appears to be centre-right rather than radical right. Plus, both he and Howard managed to rearrange government finances and erase public net debt.

Freak Wave Software

From the department of prepare-to-meet-thy-doom:
Giant waves, also known as monster waves, have been talked about by sailors for centuries, often related to unexplained disappearances at sea, but no one quite believed them. They have been considered merely a myth until recently, when new studies using technological developments like buoys, radars and satellites have scientifically proven the existence of rouge waves, and that they exist in much higher numbers than it was ever expected.


The software can be used to provide warning of an approaching extreme wave, giving time to prepare and minimise its effects.
That's good. Now all the sailors on board the ships can know beforehand that they're about to die...

(Hat tip to Slashdot)

Australia's hung Senate

Senate make-up after last night's election:

National/Liberal Coalition 37 seats
Australian Labor Party 32 seats
Greens 5 seats
Family First 1 Seat
Nick Xenophon 1 Seat

Of the 76 seats in the Senate, 38 will lean conservative (Nats+Libs+Family First) and 38 will lean progressive (ALP+Greens+Xenophon).

Of importance here is the opinions of Family First and Nick Xenophon. Both think that Workchoices was a bad idea, so Rudd will certainly have the numbers to modify the legislation if he needs to.

Xenophon thinks Iraq was a bad idea... but I'm not certain what Family First think. Given the mandate Rudd now has I would very much doubt it if conservatives in the Senate would prevent any withdrawl.

However, what is good about this "hung" senate is that we can pretty much rule out any move towards a Communist Revolution and the establishment of the People's Democratic Republic of Australia. By having a hung senate, Rudd and the ALP will have to write legislation firmly aimed at the centre of the political spectrum. That's good news.

Update: Notice - no Democrats. The party's over. Game over man.


The most soothing words I have heard in a while...

"My fellow Australians, a few moments ago I telephoned Mr Kevin Rudd and I congratulated him and the Australian Labor Party on an emphatic victory." - John Howard.

Who said this?

Competitive markets are massive and generally efficient generators of
economic wealth. They must therefore have a central place in the
management of the economy. But markets sometimes fail, requiring direct
government intervention through instruments such as industry policy.
There are also areas where the public good dictates that there should
be no market at all.

Update: Yes Gavin you are correct, it was from Kevin Rudd's maiden speech in Parliament after he was elected in 1998. You have won $4 Billion. Please copy and paste your bank account details, your full name and address, medicare number and a high-res image of your signature into the comments in order to receive your money.

Is News Corp trying to keep Malcolm Turnbull in power?

From the department of more evidence against Rupert Murdoch?:
Award winning journalist Caroline Overington hurled abuse at Labor candidate for Wentworth George Newhouse before slapping him across the face at a polling station in Sydney's east, witnesses say.

Ms Overington, a Gold Walkley winning reporter who works for The Australian newspaper, has been embroiled in a dispute involving a series of emails to independent candidate Dani Ecuyer urging her to preference Wentworth Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull.

Ms Ecuyer is the ex-girlfriend of Mr Newhouse.

Ms Overington also sent a series of flirtatious emails to Mr Newhouse, which were then published in rival papers.

Polling booth attendants and voters were shocked to see Ms Overington stride up to Mr Newhouse, strike him across the face and then walk away, those who saw the incident told AAP.

One witness at the Bellevue Hill Public school polling booth said Ms Overington yelled abuse and appeared furious.
To summarise: a well-known journalist from The Australian, a News Corporation entity, was trying to influence preferential voting in an electorate in order to favour Liberal Party minister Malcolm Turnbull. As part of her work, she sent some flirty emails to Turnbull's political opponent in the electorate. What happened in the shadows no one knows, but at some point Overingham got angry enough that when she saw him at the polling station she had to walk up to him and slap him in the face.

A nice picture of John Howard

He's in line to vote at Ermington. It's a nice scene. Howard is smiling at the camera while others in his electorate line up in front of him, thus communicating the idea that all people are equal in a democracy. Behind the smiling Howard are posters of a smiling Kevin Rudd, the man most likely to replace him as Prime Minister, thus adding an ironic tone to the picture.

Sinking ship and Microsoft Jokes

Okay, here's the actual news report:
More than 150 passengers and crew have been rescued from a stricken tourist ship after it hit ice off Antarctica.

The M/S Explorer is now lying on its side close to the South Shetland Islands, in the Antarctic Ocean.

Gap Adventures, which owns the ship, said 91 passengers, nine guides and 54 crew members were safely evacuated to lifeboats and then to another ship.

The company said 23 Britons, 17 Dutch, 10 Australians, 13 Americans and 10 Canadians were among the 154 on board.

The remaining nationalities of the rescued tourists are Irish, Danish, Swiss, Belgian, Japanese, French, German and Chinese, said the Toronto-based tour company.
And here's how Reddit reported the story:
M/S Explorer crippled in the frozen waters of the Antarctic - Outlook not good.
And here are some comments that people made:

The captain gave the Word to Excel, but they crashed. Now they have no Access to shore.

But they made it the to the FrontPage on all major Publishing sites.

They aren't sure how this happened but Dr. Watson is looking into it.

Wow, I hope all those people will zune be brought to safety.

I hope it all Works out for them as well.

Another couple of hours and they'll have to Bob.

Fortunately they sent out a Messenger before they sank. The rescue team has a large Windows of opportunity to save them. I'd say there is a 95 to 98 percent chance of success. I'm just glad this didn't happen to ME.

I hope no one lost their Passports.

The recovery team will try to restart it in safe mode.

It's the driver's fault.

I think they need to remove those drivers, and install some new ones.

It will be recovered ASP according to a source on the NET.


US Dollar has dropped 0.6% in the last 2 hours

This is actually quite a lot. The dollar appears to be "cliff diving".

Newpoll - is it reliable?

I know that polling often brings about various results, but this is interesting:
A polls analyst from Newspoll is expecting tomorrow's federal election to be an extremely close contest and says it could be a week before a definitive result emerges.

Martin O'Shanessy says that, based on a poll to be published tomorrow, the result is certain to be a cliffhanger.

"I think we might find it very very close in those key marginal seats that we have to see and there may be a lot of recounts and protests around the edges," he said.

Today's polls all show Labor in front, but by widely differing margins.

An AC Nielsen poll gives Labor a massive 14-point lead, after preferences, but a Galaxy poll has the ALP leading by just four points - the best result for the Coalition this year.
Hmmm, so while other polls show a substantial Labor lead, Newspoll shows it to be very close.

Could Newspoll be modifying its results in order to support a conservative government?

And guess who owns Newspoll?

Thank God for America

As someone who pulls no punches when it comes to criticising America, you might think that I have some sort of anti-American agenda.

The reality is that I merely have an agenda to expose and propagate facts. I consider myself part of the "reality-based community" who make decisions based upon careful analysis and who wish to see that the entire world - not just America - learns from its mistakes.

But, with Thanksgiving still being celebrated, I wish to now make my own list of real, objective, reality-based thanks to God for creating America.

  • I thank God for America because it was the first modern democracy, and established a constitution worth keeping and imitating.

  • I thank God for all the technological and scientific and medical breakthroughs that have taken place within America, which have benefited the entire world.

  • I thank God that America has a system of justice and laws that, while not perfect, has shown the world the importance and benefit of the Rule of Law.

  • I thank God that the system of checks and balances within American politics has made government easier to manage, and is worthy of imitation around the world.

  • I thank God for the opportunities that people have to improve themselves and to be rewarded for the hard work they do.

  • I thank God for the Americans I speak to over the internet who have shown themselves to be intelligent, wise, humble and enlightened.

  • I thank God for the men and women of the US military, who are willing to put their lives on the line for their country - an attitude worth imitating.

  • I thank God for the American soldiers of World War II, who were able to bring peace to Europe and peace to the Pacific - the latter bringing relief to the people of Australia.

  • I thank God for the American space program, which shows how far humans can go when given the opportunity and technology.

  • I thank God that America kept the world at peace during the Cold War, and who employed men to look after nuclear weapons safely and responsibly during that period.

  • I thank God for American Christians, who have shown their willingness to keep faith and doctrine pure and who have a genuine fervour to see the world won for Christ.

  • I thank God for America's religious freedom, which allows the church to grow without being persecuted by the state.

  • I thank God for America's migrants, who have been able to make America into a land where differences can be celebrated.

  • I thank God for America's civil war, which shows how much Americans are willing to sacrifice in order to ensure freedom in their own land.

  • I thank God for America's internal dissent, which allows people to air their opinions without fear of being jailed by the state.

  • I thank God for America's emphasis upon personal responsibility, which encourages all peoples around the world to make their own decisions based upon their beliefs.

  • I thank God for America's vast economic wealth which has improved the lives of its citizens immeasurably, and which acts as an example for the world to follow.

  • I thank God that America will continue to be an example to the world throughout the 21st century


This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

Happy Thanksgiving Turkeys!

As we all know, Thanksgiving involves Turkey. So to all my American readers out there, happy thanksgiving.

And remember what the Founding Father of Turkey said:
Mankind is a single body and each nation a part of that body. We must never say "What does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing?" If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we were having that illness. - Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

In all seriousness, I wish all Americans who visit here a happy and restful thanksgiving. Don't spend too much tomorrow.

Here's a good reason I don't like the Christian Democratic Party

From the department of making-me-laugh-and-cry-at-the-same-time:
Dear Gordon, I would like to respectfully disagree with your correspondents Ron and Christine Lankshear whose letter criticising the CDP climate-change policy appeared in the feedback section of November 15 CVIP. They mention that their son, a Greens supporter, was dismissive of the CDP environment policy that questions the prevailing paradigm of anthropogenic global warming. Even if one believes the claims of the cult-like prophets of doom about the causes and effects of global-warming, there is no way any Christian should prefer the overtly anti-Christian and pro-death policies of the Greens over the pro-life and pro-Christian policies of the CDP. I am assuming the Lankshears are a Christian family so it distresses me to think that their son could have adopted such pagan views. I fear this is indicative of the wider church and Christian community who have generally failed to pass on their faith to the next generation and our society is suffering because of that. GK Chesterton famously said, "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything." Perhaps this is the reason why so many people today have unquestioningly adopted the new Green 'faith' - is it because they have first rejected the Christian faith? Regards, Ewan McDonald
Ron Lankshear, you marvellous person you! This letter you got from the CDP is just stunning.

That's right folks, if you're even slightly tinged green you have lost the Christian faith. If you like the Green party you have descended into paganism. It is a failure of the church to keep its members in line. Liberal theology, that's what it is, with satan lurking underneath.

This is exactly the sort of rhetoric that makes me angry and why I now encourage all potential CDP voters to reassess their position. Ewan McDonald has labelled the Greens the as "anti-Christian" and "pro-death". He also dismisses the threat of global warming as being the thinking of a "cult-like" group.

Granted, the Greens support things like homosexuality and abortion - two practices that I oppose as a Christian. Yet I can't ignore the voice of 99.99% of climatologists - men and women who study climate - who state unequivocally that the current bout of global warming is induced by human activity and that massive economic and social changes will result from it.

The CDP are full of halfwits. And to think I used to vote for them once.

(Ewan McDonald is running for the Senate for the CDP)

Al Mohler is a Freak

From the department of this-is-too-funny:
"Freak dancing" is well known throughout the nation, and it involves what can only be described as "sexually charged" physical contact and movement. But many of the kids in Argyle were "disgusted" that freak dancing was banned at the homecoming dance, so they left. That might be fairly easy to understand. After all, adolescents are expected to exhibit adolescent patterns of misbehavior. What makes this story so interesting is that so many parents responded by joining their adolescents in immature response. In fact, their protest of the superintendent's policy is shocking.
Remember that Al Mohler is a Baptist, which means that "Freak Dancing" is the inevitable result of sex before marriage.

Look - all dancing has a level of sexual suggestion to it. Is Al going to make up rules as to how far these kiddies (ie anyone under the age of 30) are allowed to dance with one another? We don't want all this sex before marriage to create the problem of "Freak Dancing" now do we?

But then, of course, Al is hardly the sort of person to be reading "The Onion". Click here to understand what I mean.

Stem cells from skin

From the department of yes-you-know-all-about- it-but-you're-dying-to-hear-my- opinion-anyway:
Human skin cells have been reprogrammed by two groups of scientists to mimic embryonic stem cells with the potential to become any tissue in the body.

The breakthrough promises a plentiful new source of cells for use in research into new treatments for many diseases.

Crucially, it could mean that such research is no longer dependent on using cells from human embryos, which has proved highly controversial.

The US and Japanese studies feature in the journals Science and Cell.
As other Christians have commented (like Craig) this discovery is wonderful and can help defuse much of the ethical problems with stem cell research. The fact that cells can now be created via skin, and not through human embryos, means that any potential "production line" of embryos being farmed is now looking less and less unlikely.

Iranians criticise Dinnerjacket

From the department of Iran-is-obviously-not-Nazi-Germany:
In a rare attack on Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hardline newspaper has accused him of behaving immorally towards his political rivals.

The Islamic Republic daily, close to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said Mr Ahmadinejad's behaviour is dangerous for Iran.

The publication is seen as a newspaper with impeccable Islamic credentials.

The attack would be difficult to imagine without at least tacit support from Ayatollah Khamenei.

In a hard-hitting editorial on Wednesday, the Tehran paper said the president's treatment of his critics was immoral, illogical and illegal.
Since many anti-Ahmadinehad people somehow think the guy is your standard dictator who has an iron-fisted control over his country, this news dispels this idea. Remember, this is a hard-line Islamic newspaper saying this.

More evidence, if any was needed, that Iran is not a threat to us, and doesn't want to be.

Rain Rain come and stay...

It's a nice, cool and wet day here in Newcastle. We had a marvellous thunderstorm last night around midnight and it managed to bucket down 10.4mm (0.41 inches) as we slept. There's a slow moving low pressure system in western NSW that is dumping rain on drought affected farms. Griffith, where I worked last year, received 6.6 mm (0.26 inches) and it has desperately needed it. It has even rained in Ivanhoe, 1.4mm (0.05 inches), which is pretty good for a town that is essentially in the desert.

And the Southern Oscillation Index continues to indicate a strong La Nina.

Celebrating the $100 day

So, what are you going to do when oil goes over $100 per barrel?

I sat in bed this morning listening to ABC NewsRadio and when the financial report came on I heard the magic words...

Turmoil... financial markets... massive losses... price of oil (and at this point I get excited and ready my fist for jubilation) JUST BELOW $100 per barrel.

Which reminds me, what are you going to do when oil gets to $100? There has to be some sort of celebration for those of us who delight in the pain to come (evil overlords all of us).

I remember many years ago when the Kiwi Dollar was appreciating against the Aussie, many New Zealanders, in the best traditions of All Black World Cup Rugby grand final success, were preparing to host "Parity parties" to toast the success of the Kiwi and the demise of the Aussie (which, like the World Cup, did not happen).

So, what are you going to do to celebrate the beginning of the end?

Amateur Hour in Lindsay

From the department of incompetence-is-the-only-explanation:
Labor is demanding the Prime Minister spell out what he knows about Liberal Party members handing out bogus ALP election pamphlets.

The flyers were distributed in the marginal Sydney seat of Lindsay.

The fake documents claim to be from the Islamic community and they are designed to turn voters away from Labor.

The Opposition's Penny Wong told Lateline she wants the Prime Minister to come clean.

She says he should "disclose all that he knows and all that the Liberal Party knew about this scandalous affair".

The Liberal Party says all up, five people were involved and they have been banned from the campaign.

Two party members have been expelled.

Labor says one of those involved in the mail-run is Garry Clark, the husband of the retiring member for Lindsay, Jackie Kelly.

It says another is a member of the New South Wales Liberal state executive.
Moron the subject:
Liberal MP Jackie Kelly says a fake flyer linking Labor to a fake Islamic group was meant to be a joke.

The Liberal Party has been damaged by revelations that Ms Kelly's husband Garry Clark has been involved in distributing the flyer, which purports to come from the non-existent 'Islamic Australia Foundation', in her marginal Sydney seat of Lindsay.

The fake pamphlet says "we gratefully acknowledge Labor's support to forgive our Muslim brothers who have been unjustly sentenced to death for the Bali bombings" and calls for more mosques to built.

The New South Wales state Liberal Party has expelled two of its members over the flyer and Labor and the Liberals have both referred it to the electoral commission.

But Ms Kelly says people have failed to see the funny side.

"I think its intent is to be a send-up, but it obviously hasn't worked," she said.
The Liberal Party in this seat hasn't just shot itself in the foot, it has managed to publicly amputate it with a bandsaw. I mean, really, this is just small-town amateur stupidity, nothing like the mud slinging machine that both parties wield at a Federal level. Having members of their own party, including one senior figure and another who happens to be the husband of the retiring Liberal candidate, walking the streets, putting stupid flyers designed and written by morons... I mean this is the sort of stuff you'd expect from Upper Tocumolambah shire council elections in 1947, not some Sydney suburb in 2007.


This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

Hillsong investors defrauded

From the department of you-gotta-have-faith:
A failed Sydney property developer has been jailed for a year-and-a-half for defrauding members of the Hillsong Church.

Robert Orehek raised $4.6 million for property developments between 2001 and 2002.

He promised unrealistic returns to the investors, many of whom were fellow members of the Hillsong Church.

Almost all of them lost their money when the project failed, partly because of Orehek's extravagant lifestyle.

He had used some of their funds to buy a luxury apartment at Balmoral, on Sydney's North Shore, for his own use.

The 45-year-old pleaded guilty to charges, including fraudulent misappropriation.

In sentencing, the judge said Orehek began on the road to disaster when he was introduced to investors within the church.

He ordered Orehek's release on a good-behaviour bond after he serves 18 months in jail.
From the SMH:
Sentencing him in the District Court in Sydney today, Judge Bennett said Orehek had been driven by greed and an inability to say no when he accepted offers of investment money which well exceeded his management ability.

"Orehek felt that he was invincible and other people in the church thought they were invincible," Judge Bennett said.

"With the power of God they were able to trust each other implicitly."

How I'm Voting





Family First

Malcolm East


I actually know this candidate – he's a nice guy. And Family First are not the rigid right-wing party people think. But I can't place them higher than this. They are a Christian party but they are not explicit about this, which is problematic.


Aaron Johnson


Ugh. The Democrats are Australia's most useless and most disappointing party. They are supposedly centrist but after they had their leadership tussles there was no point in their existence.

Socialist Alliance

Geoff Payne


Another socialist party. I put them at no. 3 because I wish to communicate to the ALP (who will win this seat) the importance of moving our nation back towards a more centrist position.


Aaron Buman


This guy is a Newcastle city councillor. He could probably shake things up but he's probably too “right” for me, but since he's not esconsed with the Liberal party he'll probably make his own decisions.

Australian Labor Party

Sharon Grierson


Sharon will win this seat easily. I have placed the largest left-leaning party last because I am not all that impressed with the ALP.

Socialist Equality

Noel Holt


Also known as the “Green Left”, this is another Green party but I know very little about it except that it is Green and Socialist. Since I wish our economic structure to move back towards the left (I am centrist), these guys have my no. 2 vote


Charmain Eckersley


Global Warming and Peak Oil are the two most important issues on this planet. I may not hold to everything the Greens propose but my vote for them indicates to all parties the importance of these issues.


Joel Curry


I have no idea who this guy is or what he stands for. What was the point of him standing for election if he doesn't actually communicate to potential voters?

Christian Democratic Party

Milton Caine


Fred Nile. He's a nice guy but he has his priorities wrong. I want Christians in Parliament but not representing Christian parties. Fred is sort of a nicer version of Pat Robertson (without the hearing voices bit) and his commitment to the Monarchy as being Christian is very problematic.

Liberal Party

Krysia Walker


The Liberal party has never won the seat of Newcastle and won't even get near this time around. This is nothing personal Krysia, it's just John Howard. The other right-wing parties would be ever worse as far as I'm concerned.

Oil $98

From the department of that-was-quick:
Crude oil rose above $98 a barrel in New York to a record close after the U.S. dollar declined to a new low against the euro.

``As the dollar falls, U.S. refiners need to bid more to compete with overseas consumers,'' said Rick Mueller, an analyst with Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Massachusetts. ``Investors look at crude oil as an inflation hedge. The weaker dollar also cushions the effect of higher oil prices in other countries so demand doesn't take the hit you might expect.''

The dollar dropped on speculation that the Federal Reserve will lower interest rates a third time this year, which prompted investors to buy energy and metals futures. Royal Dutch Shell Plc reported a fire at an oil-sands crude production plant in Alberta, potentially cutting shipments to U.S. refineries.
It's all very well to see oil go up and then the dollar go down and say that one balances out the other. However, if someone did the math, you'd probably find out that the rise in oil prices was higher (precentage wise) than the drop in the dollar.

And, goodness me, that was very fast rise in the last 24 hours! It was only about $92 a few days ago.

1 Million construction jobs to go in US

The brilliant website Calculated Risk, an economics blog with a subprime focus, has been checking the figures and finding the link between the amount of houses being built and the amount of people employed in the construction industry.

The figures don't look very good at all.

Click on this graph. As you can see, the recent subprime bloodbath has been responsible for a rather severe downturn in residential construction. Employment in the sector has begun to taper off, but is currently experiencing a "Wile E. Coyote" moment as it hovers above the cliff, legs pumping furiously, while observers wait for the inevitable fall.

What the mavens at Calculated Risk have done for us is to show the causal relationship between residential construction and the amount of people it employs - currently around 3.2 million. That relationship was steady up until the residential housing market began tumbling. At some point, employers, facing decreased revenue, will have to reduce the size of their workforce to compensate. The way things are going, I would guestimate that these employers will begin laying off workers in droves soon enough. If the causal relationship is to remain, then the amount of jobs lost would look to be around 1 million - just under one-third of the labour market.

Frightening? Absolutely. It's also bad when you consider the other people who will lost their jobs directly as a result of this downturn, namely real estate employees and mortgage company staff. Then you have to factor in the indirect losses - the drop in demand for construction material will mean that many electricians, plumbers and factory workers will lose their jobs. Then you have to factor in the reduced spending of all these unemployed people, and supermarkets and other retail stores will have to lay off workers as demand drops. This would be enough to raise unemployment levels from 4.7% (October 2007) to around 6.0% within the next six months. There's a prediction for you.

And that's without factoring in rising oil costs and a falling dollar.

It's looking like a bleak Christmas in the US.


Reservoir Gods

This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

Rudd's Newcastle Pork Chop

From the department of Novacastrians-have-simple-tastes:
Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd is expected to make an announcement this week on how much the ALP is prepared to pay for the upgrade of Newcastle's EnergyAustralia stadium in the New South Wales Hunter region.

Earlier this year, Mr Rudd confirmed a Labor government would support the upgrade, but would not say if he would fund the full amount of $30 million.

Labor's MP for Newcastle, Sharon Grierson, says she can assure the electorate that the funding will be announced before Saturday's poll.

"I can't give you a revelation right now, I can say to you in the context that Kevin has given, he will make the commitment, and I can't say the amount at this stage," she said.
$30 Million can do a lot of things. But do we really need taxpayers funds - tax revenue generated outside of Newcastle - in order to upgrade a football stadium of all things?

If the people of Newcastle - and I am one - wish to build a nice big new you-beaut stadium so the Newcastle Knights can lose in front of even bigger crowds, then we should pay for the darn thing ourselves.

There's lots of things that Newcastle needs. We need more doctors. We need more teachers. We need more police. We need to upgrade and improve our public transport. Spending $30 million to widen the roads to incorporate safe bicycle lanes would be a wonderful idea.

But no. Newcastle's tastes are simple. For us it's just a matter of having a bigger stadium. What a load of garbage.

A good reason why I'm opposed to the Death Penalty

From the department of criminal-incompetence:
Prosecutors had linked the weapon to Kulbicki through forensic science. Maryland's top firearms expert said that the gun had been cleaned and that its bullets were consistent in size with the one that killed the victim. The state expert could not match the markings on the bullets to Kulbicki's gun. But an FBI expert took the stand to say that a science that matches bullets by their lead content had linked the fatal bullet to Kulbicki.

The jurors were convinced, and in 1995 Kulbicki was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of his 22-year-old girlfriend. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

For a dozen years, Kulbicki sat in state prison, saddled with the image of the calculating killer portrayed in the 1996 made-for-TV movie "Double Jeopardy."

Then the scientific evidence unraveled.

Earlier this year, the state expert committed suicide, leaving a trail of false credentials, inaccurate testimony and lab notes that conflicted with what he had told jurors. Two years before, the FBI crime lab had discarded the bullet-matching science that it had used to link Kulbicki to the crime.

Now a judge in Baltimore County is weighing whether to overturn Kulbicki's conviction in a legal challenge that could have ripple effects across Maryland. The case symbolizes growing national concerns about just how far forensic experts are willing to go to help prosecutors secure a conviction.
To be honest, there's every chance that the guy who was charged with this crime actually did it. Fortunately he was not executed, but the same could not be said for other instances of incompetence within the law-enforcement community.

In this particular case, the prosecution hinged upon the man's use of a .38 calibre handgun to kill his girlfriend. An expert witness, an engineer and scientist, concluded before the court that the bullet used to kill the woman was fired from the man's handgun. Many years later, the credentials of the expert were found to be false and the "expert" committed suicide as a result. When the forensic evidence of this particular case was then re-examined, it seems that the bullet could not have been fired from the man's handgun.

Bungling police officers, unqualified experts, drunk defence lawyers and corrupt juries bedevil too many criminal cases around the world, especially in the US. No system of justice is perfect, though it is in the interests of everyone that professionalism and objectivity be paramount in any criminal trial.

The main reason I oppose the death penalty is that, too often, convicted murderers have ended up being executed and then posthumously exonerated by evidence of unprofessionalism, incompetence and bias in the trial process. The advantage of throwing a murdered in jail for the rest of his life is that, if he is eventually found to be innocent, then the means exists for recompense.

Having not worked in professional law enforcement, I am not aware of the pressure that policemen, judges, lawyers and experts may have upon them. History shows us, however, that even in a modern society innocent people can end up being jailed because of unprofessional and subjective. The imprisonment of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the death of Jean Charles de Menezes are examples of conduct unbecoming law enforcement officials in the face of public and political pressure.

Mistakes will always be made when people are charged with criminal offenses, and those whose job it is to enforce the law try very hard to ensure that they do the right thing. It is the interests of society to have professional, unimpeachable, transparent and accountable law enforcement. Yet when mistakes are made, there should be a way of ensuring that those who suffer are compensated. This can't occur when the person has been executed.

There are many reasons why the death penalty should not be practised in a modern nation. The fact that innocent people have been executed is one of the most important reasons for its abolishment. Sending murderers to jail for life - without possibility of parole - is a far better solution.