Things you won't hear in the news

Qantas - the worst international airline?

A Qantas spokesperson today called the recent survey into international airlines as "fair and objective". "We discussed the finding of this survey and agree totally that our company is, in fact, the worst international airline in the world."

"As a result of this survey, steps are being taken to rectify these issues. We will not be seeking to raise our public image through clever marketing, but through modifying our basic business model and behaviour to ensure that airline travellers get the best possible service. Changes will be made throughout the company, but the majority of changes will occur in the policies, ideas and behaviour of all in upper management."


Poll numbers good for Rudd and the ALP.

With the ALP polling at 60% compared to the Coalition's 40%, opposition leader Kevin Rudd encouraged his fellow politicians to see this for what it is - a great chance of an election victory.

"These polls show that the ALP is very likely to win the next election" said Rudd "I am very pleased by all the polling that has occurred so far. Obviously the Australian voters are sick and tired of the Howard government."

Rudd believes that the Charisma of both himself and Julia Gillard is the key.

"The voters of Australia obviously like what I say and what I look like. Julia's presence and demeanour are also working very well. This has been partly a result of a good marketing campaign by the ALP, but also a simple admission that both Julia and I look and sound competent, which of course, we are."

Prime Minister John Howard concurs with Rudd's comments.

"Look, I've been Prime Minister of Australia for over eleven years now and these poll numbers clearly show that the ALP is doing something right. In all my time at the top I have never seen the Australian people turn against me in such a way."

Howard warned the media and people of Australia to not underestimate the power of polls.

"Polls are notoriously inaccurate, I will grant you that" he said "But even with a carefully worked out margin of error based upon decades of research, the numbers are clearly indicating a major ALP victory. It would be nice if the electorate would change their mind and grant me another term in office, but you have to admit that the chances are very slim."


Iran admits it is aiding Iraqi extremists.

The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, admitted in talks with the US today that Iran was aiding Iraqi extremists.

"We're not doing it officially, of course", said Ahmadinejad "There are plenty of people in our country who have the will and the means to assist Iraqis in their fight against American troops... but the Iranian government isn't directly involved."

"But, of course, we do turn a blind eye"

Ahmadinejad has also sheepinshly defended his statements calling for the destruction of Israel.

"You have to understand, I am the President of Iran", he stated "I'm not going to be in this position forever. My journey up the political ladder has been difficult and I am not going to do or say things that will compromise my position."

"The fact is that most Iranians don't like America and don't like Israel. When I get up and speak about destroying Israel I'm simply getting the people of Iran behind me."

"There's no point in having a war against either America or Israel. But I have to keep these levels of threat up if I'm to remain in power."

In Washington, President Bush praised Mr Ahmadinejad for his candor.

"The fact that Mr Ahmadinejad has admitted this is a good sign. It means that he is actually full of hot air and is less liekly to be taken as a threat."

"As president of the United States, I, too, understand the pressures he is under. So many people supported my rise to the top that I was compelled to reward these people with all sorts of perks and positions within the US Government. It wasn't my fault that 'Brownie' had no idea what he was doing at FEMA. I trusted the guy. He organised millions for my campaign after all. Was I wrong to appoint him? History will show that it wasn't"

The president, however, did not rule out future military action against Iran.

"I have to keep threatening Iran with military action. If I don't then the arms manufacturers in the US will suffer from lower orders from our military. And these arms manufacturers are major financial doners to both the Republicans and Democrats."

From the Department of Attempted Humour

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

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Ethnicity and Terrorism

One of the more obvious things that people seem to go on about is the linking of Islam to Terrorism - as though, somehow, there is a very easy merging of the two.

The problem is that ethnic differences between Muslims can and will make it harder for Terrorist-lining Fundamentalists to succeed in their supposed desire for international Jihad.

This struck me a few months ago when I discovered the Wikipedia article on Iranian Rock music. Iranain Rock bands look remarkably similar in their stage appearance to Western ones. They may sing in a different language and have facial features that are more "Middle Eastern" in appearance, but their style of music and dress seem quite similar to the West. And, of course, the big issue is - they are playing relatively freely in a country that is considered to be ruled by a Fundamentalist theocracy.

It's hardly the sort of thing we Westerners like to get our head around. It's far easier to describe them all as "Muslims" or "Middle Eastern people" and to make generalised assumptions about them. Not a good thing to do.

Osama Bin Laden, for example, is an Arabic speaking Arab. He is devout in his Sunni faith to the point of having head-dress and a long beard - the latter being a clear symbol of his religious faith. Saddam never had a beard like Osama's, and very rarely wore Arabic-style clothing. Instead he looked a bit like an Arabic version of Burt Reynolds with his moustache. He was secular, no doubt about it, and had little time to focus upon serving his religious faith. The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a Farsi-speaking Persian Shiite. His beard is short, an indication of his Shiite faith.

There are other ethnic groups arounf the Middle East. There are Kurds, there are Pashtuns, there are Tajiks and there are Turkic people. All have their own customs, religious peculiarities and language.

Even though Islam unites these people in their faith, it is exceptionally difficult to cross cultural backgrounds. It certainly happens, of course, but it is not endemic.

Islamic Terrorism is, therefore, not as much a danger as people think. The 9/11 Terrorists were Arabs. The Taliban are Pashtun. Iraqis are Arabs. Iranians are Persians. Iraq may break up over ethnic lines but it is unlikely that Arabic Shiite Iraqis would agree with joing the Persian Shiite Iran. Different language and culture. Like Australia being offered to join Greece.

These differences are real, no imagined. Muslims are not a monolithic, easily-defined group of people that we Westerners can demonise. There are certainly radical elements in all these groups, but their different languages and experience make it exceptionally difficult for a group like Al-Qaeda to move through.

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

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Odd News phrases

The boy, 2, and girl, 3, went missing in their pyjamas near Yallingup yesterday morning. (smh)

- Their parents should have checked the size of the garments first.

The Japanese Farm Minister, under fire for a series of political funding scandals, has died after an apparent suicide attempt. (ABC)

- Lucky it was only an attempt.


(These are terrible, but it would be a waste not to inflict them upon you.)

The man looked bitterly out to the ocean where his family had been killed during the Tsunami. "What goes around, comes around", he stated, reminding himself that the ocean will pay for this in Karma.

A man walked to work without any pants on. When people asked why, he told them that he was instructed to "Live your dreams!"

When asked why he asked the Prime Minister what time it was, the man said "I was always told to question authority".

"Rules are meant to be broken" said the man as he hovered motionless in the air over the bodies of hundreds of people he had murdered.

When asked if he would like to come around for lunch, the man refused, saying "there is no such thing as a free lunch".

Richard Nixon helped the Archbishop cross the road, with the Bishop holding him. "I am not a Crook", Nixon said to onlookers.

A man who had a car accident had permanent chronic back pain. "Well", he said to his friends, "No pain, no gain".

The student handed in his essay. It consisted of three drawings. "This essay was supposed to be 3000 words!" the professor said. "A picture is worth a thousand words, so here's three pictures" the student replied.

A Pygmy and an American were talking in Africa. "How far away is New York?" the Pygmy asked. "3000 miles, as the crow flies", the American responded. "That's one fit crow" the Pygmy said.

The man needed surgery to remove the chocolate from his eye socket. No more eye candy for him.

The man and his wife had ethical concerns about what they owned. She owned most of the town's water and sewerage system. He owned the town's water supply. When she asked him to sign the supply over to her, he refused, saying "Frankly my dear, I don't give a dam"

The machine he had built could do everything - everything. It could mow the lawn, make dinner, discuss Plato, travel faster than light, destroy the entire universe, destroy itself, go backwards and forwards in time, travel into theoretical dimensions that didn't exist before, create an infinite amount of alternative universes instantaneously... it was literally the greatest thing since sliced bread.

The woman had a farm. On this farm she had a horse. "This farm is my hobby" she said to friends. She then climbed on her horse and started to go on and on about the merits of free public transport.

The Prince and Princess married and lived happily ever after. They didn't die. They remained alive and in complete ecstasy and joy in a universe in which time continued into infinity.

The cow lay dead on the ground, filled with holes. The Indians who gathered around it were shocked that their sacred animal had been killed so horribly. It was truly a holy cow.

"This court has wronged me!" the man said to the waiting media as he was taken away. "No one presented solid evidence! No one questioned the testimony of witnesses! I have been convicted of a crime without a fair trial. And to top it off, everyone there was a Kangaroo!"

The cyborg looked at the printed circuit board in front of him. It looked at the components and declared "Resistance is futile".

A Male Deer stood at a stop sign in the forest. It was where the buck stopped.

From the Department of Attempted Humour

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

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JARHead - another player to watch

James Harris (JAR Harris) has just turned 17 and has become the youngest player in county history to take 7 wickets in an innings. A medium-fast bowler, this kid is special special special. Remember his name cricket fans


Image if...

Eddie McGuire became the head of the World Bank.

And if Paul Wolfowitz became the head of Channel 9?


It's raining in western NSW

Griffith just got 8.2mm between 3pm and 4pm today. After being there for so many months last year it was always wonderful to get inland rain. Let's hope it lasts... and doesn't flood.


Department of Evil

WASHINGTON, DC—In the latest in a long series of ominous public pronouncements, the Department of Evil released a statement Monday demanding that all residents of the United States must die.

(click here to read more)

Models with a decent BMI

I've never been an advocate of the fashion industry. They all seem to be cocaine-addicted, bulemic, self-important or a combination of all three. And, of course, there are the usual boring cries of "they're too thin" and the importance of having a healthy body image.

The fashion industry, whether it likes it or not, does have some form of influence upon today's young women. The ideal size is just too small, and the steps ordinary young women need to take to get to that size is just too damaging.

Of course, it's not as though we should glorify being overweight either. What should be the best way forward?

To my mind, the best thing to do would be to use the Body Mass Index, rather than dress size, as the determining factor.

The BMI isn't perfect, but it's a far better way of determining healthy body size than "dress size". From what I understand, a BMI of between 20-25 is an ideal weight range. Below 20 and the person is underweight, above 25 and the person is overweight.

So what fashion shows and magazines should try to do is to only show models who have BMIs of between 20 and 25. This can be self-regulating, with models and magazines and fashion shows being "officially certified", thus giving them credence.

Of course the industry will try to get the skinniest model possible with a BMI of barely over 20 - but that's much better than the models they're showing now.


Wealthy US Citizens vote for which party?

Of course the standard "Boilerplate" answer to that is that they vote Republican. The very wealthy in the US are the ones who tend to like the Republican party and its "tax cuts for the rich", but there's another side to the story.

Here's a list of America's ten richest states by median household income along with how they voted in the 2004 Presidential election (Blue for Democrat, Red for Republican)

1. New Jersey ($55,146): 1,670,003 - 1,911,430.
2. Connecticut ($53,935): 693,826 - 857,488.
3. Maryland ($52,868): 1,024,703 - 1,334,493.
4. Alaska ($51,571): 190,889 - 111,025.
5. Massachusetts ($50,502): 1,071,109 - 1,803,800.
6. Hawaii ($49,820): 194,191 - 231,708.
7. New Hampshire ($49,467): 331,237 - 340,511.
8. California ($47,493): 5,509,826 - 6,745,485.
9. Delaware ($47,381): 171,660 - 200,152.
10. Colorado ($47,203): 1,101,255 - 1,001,732.

Interesting isn't it? Eight of the top ten richest states in America voted for the Democrats. These people, the richest in the nation, obviously see something more than being rich. Maybe the reason why these states are richer is because they have followed policies that have helped the poor in a measureable way.

Now let's look at the bottom ten:

41. North Dakota – ($34,604): 196,651 - 111,052
42. Alabama – ($34,135) : 1,176,394 - 693,933
43. New Mexico – ($34,133): 376,930 - 370,942
44. Kentucky – ($33,672) : 1,069,439 - 712,733
45. Oklahoma – ($33,400): 959,792 - 503,966
46. Montana – ($33,024) : 266,063 - 173,710
47. Louisiana – ($32,566): 1,102,169 - 820,299
48. Arkansas – ($32,182): 573,182 - 470,230
49. Mississippi – ($31,330): 672,660 - 457,766
50. West Virginia – ($29,696): 423,778 - 326,541

All ten of America's poorest states voted for the Republicans.

There's all sorts of things you could work out from this quick study. One is the illusion that the Republicans are the party of rich people and the Democrats are the party of the poor. Another is the possibility that Democrat states are more likely to enrich their people than Republican ones, and if that is true, then perhaps there is something to be said for increasing spending on welfare.


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

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Catching a cold

Here's some work I've been doing at Wikipedia:

Exposure to cold conditions, or the moving between cold and warm environments, is not a cause of the Common cold or Influenza. Moreover, the development of colds and 'flu are not encouraged by such exposure. Cold weather often forces humans to congregate indoors, which encourages the spreading of airborne viruses. (Long term exposure to cold conditions can, however, lead to Hypothermia, which is a much more serious problem)

Infection with a cold virus affects thermogenesis. This makes people associate post-infection shivering with situations in which they were exposed to cold that intensifies shivering (e.g. wet hair, draft, long wait on a bus stop, etc.). This association helps propagate the myth.

A cold virus often irritates nasal passages and encourages sneezing. Sneezing can also be caused by other conditions, notably exposure to colder air temperatures. Cold weather can thus cause sneezing, but sneezing is not necessarily an indication that a person has "caught a cold".

If cold weather were directly linked to the spread of the common cold, then it could possibly be demonstrated by comparing the infection rates of people who live in colder climates (such as Iceland or Greenland) with people who live in warmer climates (such as countries close to the equator). Studies done in the 1960s found no significant increase in infection rates in people who live in colder climates.

One reason why so many people link exposure to cold weather to "catching a cold" is via a logical fallacy which assumes that Correlation implies causation. Colds are certainly more prevalent during colder periods of the year, but it is wrong to assume that the two are directly linked.

The "Correlation implies causation" fallacy can also apply to popular treatments for colds and flu symptoms, whereby a sufferer associates their improving health to certain cold remedies, when in fact their improving health would have occurred with or without these remedies. Popular remedies can also have a "Placebo effect", whereby a person who believes in a certain treatment "feels" better as a result. Some of these popular treatment are:

Echinacea. Scientific studies into the effects of Echinacea have shown no measurable positive effect on those suffering from colds or 'flu.

Vitamin C. Vitamin C can reduce the incidence of colds amongst physically stressed people by up to 50%. Amongst ordinary people, a 200mg daily dose had no effect whatsoever in reducing the incidence of colds.

Zinc lozenges. A 1999 study showed that the effects of zinc lozenges for treating the common cold are inconclusive.

A Letter in tomorrow's Herald

Short, and sweet.


Dr Who trivia

Katy Manning, who played Dr Who's sidekick Jo Grant in the early 70s, now lives in Australia and is married to Barry Crocker.

Lalla Ward, who played Romana and who was briefly married to Dr Who actor Tom Baker, is married to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. She is also known as The Honourable Sarah Ward.


Players to watch

I've been scanning cricinfo, and there are some interesting players which should feature some time in the future (averages are first class):

Ryan ten Doeschate. Nearly 27, this South African born player recently represented the Netherlands in the World Cup. He turned a few heads, and plays for Essex and Western Province. He has a first class batting average of 65.60. "Tendo" may one day play for South Africa or England.

Samit Patel. 22 years old, this English player is obviously from an Asian background. He's played on and off since 2002, and his batting average is currently 51.86 after 17 matches. This is pretty good for a 22 year old, especially since his early appearances were apparently forgettable. He may play for England one day.

Kyle Coetzer. 23 years old. Batting average 52.33 after ten matches. Scottish - so he could play ODIs for Scotland and maybe one day represent England.

Ryan McLaren. 24 years old, South African allrounder. 35 matches, batting average 31.00, 120 wickets at 24.37.

Yasir Arafat. What a great name! This guy has played 7 ODIs for Pakistan and will undoubtedly feature quite prominently in the next ten years for his country. At age 25, he has played 112 matches and scored 4060 runs at 26.88, and taken 473 wickets at 22.34. His strike rate is 39.16!

Naqqash Tahir. Age 23, English. 23 matches, 300 runs @ 20.00, 62 wickets @ 26.83.

Tim Bresnan. Age 22, English. 46 matches, 1117 runs @ 20.68. 119 wickets @ 32.15.

Zoheb Sharif. Age 24, English. 14 matches, 756 runs @ 44.47.

Deeper Satire

I don't know what else to call it. But here's two examples:

Today's Doonesbury.

The idea is that these fictional troops are now being starved out of their position by the actions of congress. The thing to remember, though, is that the cartoonist is anti-Iraq war. So what is being lampooned and satirized here is the attitudes of those who want to keep the war going, while at the same time appearing to be criticizing congress.

Domestic Terror - Onion editorial cartoon.

Again, almost the same sort of thing - taken at one level the cartoon is an attack upon Democrats for their minimum wage hike. Yet if you look at it carefully the satire is so biting that it actually is the other way around - it is a careful satire of those who satire badly. The message itself is so overdone - comparing Democrats with terrorists and minimum wage hikes as suicide bombs - that it actually has the opposite effect.

Another reason not to trust Al Mohler

Read this:

The fact that such bias exists is significant in its own right, considering the fact that a majority of Americans at least claim to be evangelical Christians.

Wrong Al. I'm not from America but even I know the facts.

As I said in March last year:

35-40% of Americans claim to be "Born Again".
7% of Americans can be defined as Evangelicals.


I've had it with Blogger

I've been having problems for about 2 years now - blogger seems to find it very hard coping with Firefox on Linux. I had just written about 1000 words on an important subject and Firefox crashed, losing all the info. This has happened before when I was using early versions of Firefox. Since I seem to have no problems accessing other blog sites I'm going to assume the problem is with blogger.

So at some point in the future I am going to migrate to another blog type.

Any suggestions of where to go? Wordpress? Typepad?

Hubris and Schadenfreude

Paris Hilton going to jail.

Creating a conservative world

Conservative people were so incensed at Wikipedia's bias towards left wing beliefs (ie the truth) that they created Conservapedia.

Now they've created Qubetv, a "right-wing only Youtube".

What's next? Porn that contains only conservative-voting female models?


The World cricket team

Just when should a cricketing nation be awarded test status? Since 1981, the world of international cricket has expanded from six to ten teams - Sri Lanka (1981), South Africa (1991), Zimbabwe (1992) and Bangladesh (2000). There's no doubt that Sri Lanka and South Africa are highly competitive and deserve their status. Zimbabwe, however, has been exceptionally disappointing with its player walk-outs and retirements, corrupt board and general national deterioration all but eliminating the potential that the nation once had. Bangladesh hasn't done well in its first 7 years, but the same could be said of Sri Lanka's first ten years so there is still time.

In my opinion, Zimbabwe should be relegated back to Associate status and prevented from playing Test cricket again until such time as they can prove their strength. But who should relpace them... if at all? Why not Ireland, whose performances in the World Cup gone by were one of the competition's few highlights? Why not Kenya or the Netherlands?

There needs to be an easy and efficient way in which Associate nations can be raised to international competition without having to disappoint. International cricket is a highly competitive sport and the associate countries (Bermuda, Canada, Kenya, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland) have all found top level cricket excruciating (Ireland's World Cup success notwithstanding). It is not progressive or profitable for these nations to play matches against Test teams when the result is foreordained.

So what is my solution? An international Test and One-day team, made up of the best players in the world who are not from any of the Test-playing countries. Let's call this team "The World"

The idea is simple. This team would have immediate Test and One-day status and compete on an equal footing with other Test playing nations. You would see matches between Australia and "The World", or England and "The World", and so on. Moreover, The World would be a completely professional outfit that pays its players to play, creating an immediate professionalism amongst its players. It would also play the same amount of international matches as other top teams (eg 12 Tests and 30 ODIs in a year). It would also compete in the World Cup.

The World team would draw its players from everywhere else in the world apart from the top teams. The World would not be able to select, for example, second or third-string Australian or Sri Lankan players, but it would be able to pick a player from, say, Cambodia, if they think he would perform well.

In practice, it means that the Associate members of the ICC (Bermuda, Canada, Kenya, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland) would no longer play matches against the top teams, but instead become the equivalent of "feeder clubs" for the World team. It means that the top players in these countries would no longer have to officially migrate overseas to a top cricket nation (like England) and then play there for a few years in order to "qualify" for that country... and then hope they're still good enough to be selected. Instead, these top players will have the opportunity to play top class cricket from the moment they are noticed.

Moreover, the World team's selection policy will be based solely around performance. In other words, only the best players will be selected. There will be no room for making political selections or "affirmative action" selections. The reason for this is obvious - the team will be competing at the top level and it has to be assumed that they will pick the top players. But another reason is also important.

If a country like Ireland, for example, continues to grow and develop its cricket, the chances are that the World team will begin to fill up with Irish players. As this continues, and as the World team begins to be dominated by the Irish, then it becomes more and more obvious that the ICC should seriously consider elevating Ireland to full international cricket status and join the other top teams in competing at Test and ODI level. If this happens, then the World team would lose its Irish players but then be able to pick replacements from other nations. Thus the reason for picking top players only is borne out in the policy of trying to determine which nation should be given full international status.

Where would the team be located? The best place would be to base the team in England during the Northern Summer, and then "tour" during the Southern Summer. The team would also play some of their international matches in the countries where many of the team members are located. If the team has lots of Irish, then some matches need to be played in Ireland; If the team has lots of Kenyans then some matches will be played in Kenya.

Locating the team in England during the Northen Summer will have lots of advantages, the first being access to the County cricket competition. My hope would be that the England and Wales Cricket Board relax their County selection rules so that County teams can freely select international-based players to play for them. This would allow top international players the chance to play regular first-class cricket, thus giving the English County competition to be the feeder for both the England Cricket team and the World Cricket team.

If people in England think that this process might "crowd out" potential English players, then perhaps one or two minor county teams could be added to the first class list (like Devon or Hertfordshire for example) to compensate.

Another advantage of being in England is that the World team could play against the top international teams regularly on Test-standard grounds - the same ones that England would play on. Additionally, tours during the Southern summer would be easier to organise since it would not require the juggling of all their Tests and ODIs over a 5-6 month period.

Being located in England would also fit in with nations doing three or four test tours in England. If India tours England and plays three tests, it can then stay and play three against the World team. If New Zealand are due to play England in three tests in the second half of the season, they can play against the World team in three tests in the first half of the season. An annual Test against England could also be arranged.

There is, of course, the question of finance. Who will pay for the team? Will the team be expected to be profitable in the same way as other national cricket teams are?

The team will be managed by the ICC. Funds from member nations will be diverted to the creation of the World team, which will also include medical staff and coaching personnel. The team will be selected by a panel that will be appointed by the ICC. If we assume that the World team performs well, then matches against other international sides will draw sponsorship and broadcast rights.

The idea of a World team is much better than the situation as it stands now. Although it might seem sad that teams like Ireland could lose their ODI status as a result of the World team, it would give their players the chance to perform regularly at top level and, hopefully, lead their country to be elevated to full international status. It would also give top players like Daan van Bunge, Ryan ten Doeschate, Eoin Morgan, Andrew White, and Niall O'Brien the chance to shine on the international stage (especially since some of them are better than current Bangladesh or Zimbabwe players). Given that past players like Gavin Hamilton and Ole Mortensen could probably have been regular Test players if given the chance, this idea is sound.

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

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Business and Community

As someone who is leftist in their thinking, I have always felt reasonably on-side with calls for Australian businesses to run their operations in a legal and ethical manner. Employees have legal rights and cannot be forced to do things that are illegal, or to work in conditions that are unsafe.

But at the same time I also recognise that the laws that Australia sets up and imposes upon businesses can and do cost these businesses money. Even basic laws like having fire extinguishers in the office or approved safety harnesses for builders are things which cost business money.

One of the great things about living in a place like Australia is that we have very humane workplace laws that (supposedly) protect workers from being exploited or endangered while on the job. Laws have evolved over time as disasters and accidents have taken their toll.

But while these laws are good and just, we need to remember that it is ultimately the business itself that pays the financial cost for ensuring that it complies with the law. This means that the end product itself that they are producing (whether goods or services) has to factor in that cost. And if the total costs for running a business exceed its revenue, then the business has no reason to operate.

Add to this, then, the increasing amount of globalisation that is occurring. Businesses in Australia cannot compete with many businesses in poorer countries like China or Vietnam because a) the labour price is low, and b) these businesses do not have to comply with strict government safety rules. "Sweatshops" that cannot exist in Australia are outperforming Australian businesses simply because costs are low.

The result? Australian workers who are out of work and Australian entrepreneurs who are unable to run a business properly - all because we allow goods to enter Australia that are manufactured in conditions that would be illegal here.

Which means, ironically, that the laws our nation has set up to protect workers and to ensure they are paid a decent wage have ended up putting Aussie workers out of work and encouraging overseas "sweatshops". Sad, but true.

Of course, many people have noticed this and responded. Those on the left have decided to go down the "moral" track and highlight the immorality of buying certain imported goods (like Nike running shoes). Their solution seems to be a form of protectionism that is informed by anti-globalisation. What this would do, essentially, is to put up trade barriers and prevent goods made in sweatshops (or similar conditions) from entering Australia. This, however, would not solve anything since the workers who spend their time in these sweatshops would then become unemployed, making their poor life even poorer.

Those on the right have responded by arguing for lower minimum wages, reducing award rates and getting rid of collective bargaining. The Industrial Relations changes that the Howard government has brought in were intended to make conditions easier for businesses to hire and fire employees. Business groups that are concerned about their profitability (ie all of them) will try to dissuade government from passing certain types of legislation that would impact them - such as anything to do with environmental protection or safety. This solution, however, will make life difficult for workers. Lower job security and harsher working conditions are not what Australian workers want.

So we seem to be at an impasse. Is it possible to have economic and social conditions that both favour business and individual workers? Is there some way of ensuring workers are protected and paid well without discouraging business?

Yes there is. It's not painless, but it is possible.

Essentially my argument is that if the community wants something then the community should pay for it. If the community wants businesses to operate safely then the community should be willing to provide funds for it. If the community wants decent pay rates for workers then the community should be willing to cough up the dollars for it. Businesses should only have to pay market rates for anything and should not be penalised in any specific way for having to comply with the law. Businesses are there to make profit, full stop. The community, on the other hand, should bear the responsibility for ensuring that its members are happy and healthy. You can't have it both ways. If the community expects businesses to pay for community demands, then both community and business lose out (the opposite is true too btw).

How would this work out in practice? Easy. Who is "the community?". Government. The government should pay for workplace safety with money raised from tax revenue. Examples: Fire extinguishers should be in every workplace, but let the government supply them; Builders should be kept safe with safety harnesses on construction sites, but let the government supply them; Workers should be paid a decent wage... but if businesses can't afford it then the government should provide the difference.

Is there any company in Australia that manufactures TV sets? I don't think there is any these days. Why? It's because they are made cheaper in China. Yet if Australian businesses could keep costs down by having an external source look after its safety compliance and minimum wage requirements, then it may be possible for an Australian TV manufacturer to be created.

Or take the building industry. When a construction company is building a skyscraper it needs to have trained safety personnel and ensure that its workers do things safely. Yet the cost of doing this can be quite high. If the funds for safety training and compliance were paid for externally, then the company would be able to concentrate upon building and making money.

One problem with this solution of mine is, of course, the question "Where do you get the money?" The answer is tax revenue... and if tax revenue isn't enough then raise taxes. These taxes should be from as broad as base as possible, and spent as broadly as possible. Subsidies for specific industries or businesses is just not on. Subsidies are fine in my book, but they need to be broadly applied otherwise we run into the issue of "old socialism" from the 1960s and 1970s (where governments supported specific industries and promoted inefficiency).

There'd be many people out there who would see my solution as anathema... but we need to remember that countries like Sweden have exceptionally high tax rates but also exceptionally high living standards to go along with them. And since my suggestion has tax revenue going directly to help business, any complaint about "high taxes hurt business" should be easy to answer.

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

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