Monday, February 28, 2005

state of the gerrymander.

Andrew Bartlett brought up the possibility of "one vote, one value" legislation finally getting through in the West, following the return of the Gallop government with a potentially favourable upper house.

Like everyone else, me included, he focusses on malapportioning in the lower house. It is actually worse in the upper house, as you can see below. There are over four times the number of voters for each upper house member in the northern metropolitan region than in the mining and pastoral region.



Lets hope that Gallop will do something about this.

quick notes on a monday morn.

(1) Thank bloody goodness — no Colin, no canal.

(2) To go along with (1), Graham appears to have fallen to the desperate (doctor’s) housewives in Alfred Cove. Unfortunately, this augers the demise of his blog. I hope that he considers maintaining some commentary on WA politics instead of canning the whole thing. Graham, even though I disagree with you on almost everything, I think the blog was great, and your commitment to engaging with the electorate admirable.

(3) The Janet Albrechtsen discussion continues at crikey, although maybe she is learning to deal with her bias — to misquote her on ABC radio*; “[when] I've written about the ABC on some occasions … there have been problems of bias, and how facts are presented.”
Well, I guess this is a start …

(4) West Coast hammering Collingwood is one of my favourite things. I am awaiting the birth of Ashley Sampi's love child.

(5) And finally, I still think that JL has a place in the one-day side. But, how good is it having him playing for WA, belting 111 in a session against NSW to take WA to the top of the Sheffield Shield? I certainly heart you, Justin.


* Quote was sent to crikey by that loveable media tart, Greg Barns (now, I would find a spot for him on my ABC Board!). I can’t find a URL for the quote at the moment.

Friday, February 25, 2005

skanky ho.

Latham was spot on in calling Janet Albrechtsen a
“skanky ho who will die in a ditch to defend the Liberal Party”.

And so she has been repaid by an invitation to join the board of the ABC.

I am just dumbfounded and disgusted. Even I really didn’t expect Howard’s cronyism to descend this low.

I find Bolt sort of funny, in his closed-mindedness, and am always wondering if he is just taking the piss in a Firth factor complete knobhead sort of way. In contrast, I find Albrechtsen totally abhorrent — in a lying, manipulative, uncritical and unthinking Howardian skanky ho ideologue sort of way. I stopped buying the Australian (well, one of the reasons) because of her one-eyed homage to Howard.

To actually stick to the issue, rather than just descending into abuse, I will refer to Graeme Thompson (secretary of the ABC section of the CPSU), who sums up some of the questions associated with this appointment;

“Staff and viewers are wondering why the Government doesn't appoint someone who actually knows something about broadcasting or program-making for once … Many also doubt the wisdom of appointing to the board someone who has consistently displayed antagonism towards the work that ABC staff perform. … These positions should be advertised and filled on merit. That way, ministers would have to publicly justify why they made their decision.”

Sounds reasonable to me, and if these principles were applied then Albrechtsen's name would not have been mentioned.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

giant eel.


One for the squidbloggers and any others fascinated by creatures of the deep.
Well this is not so deep, but it is interesting. I heard on the radio this morning that a giant (reports are ranging from around 3-4 metres) eel has been seen in regional Victoria, and there is supposedly a $A1000 bounty on its head. More to read here and here.

Monday, February 21, 2005

graham kierath.

I found it quite funny that former WA Minister for Planning (and maybe health, too?) Graham Kierath has noted on his blog that people were googling for "dirt on Colin Barnett" and ending up at his blog. It is not really surprising, as there is some history of differences between Graham and his esteemed leader.

I sense that he is getting a bit annoyed with people who are making comments, because they are not from Alfred Cove. Or they are not Liberal supporters*. Well really, Mr. Kierath, this is about discourse - arguing for and justifying the policies upon which you are standing - not preaching to the converted the whole time.

At the same time, I have to give the good candidate some kudos for having his blog up there. I have some respect for the man that I didn't previously have.

*Keep it going, Robert.

Friday, February 18, 2005

denial is easy...

And Bolt is an afficionado - this is pretty much all he does (I refuse to dignify this man with a link). I wouldn't normally waste my time with him, but it bothers me that people actually believe him.

Global warming is happening - average global temperatures are increasing. (Do you know what an average is, Mr. Bolt?)

Here are some figures I dragged down from the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research



It is fairly obvious that global temperatures are currently increasing. This is what happens with global warming.

Update: Am on fire today, that is three graphs. That is really sad.

democracy in action.

The political opinion of my friends and family in Perth is worth around half of those living in regional WA.

I read Robert Corr talking about the disproportionate influence of regional voters in WA this morning. This has pissed me off for quite a while, but I have never fully realised how completely screwed the allocation of seats in WA is.

You can see below that voters in the south west, agricultural and mining and pastoral regions have almost twice the electoral influence of voters in the metropolitan regions.


Here is the distribution for all electoral districts, classified by region, which sort of makes you realise how significant the difference in political influence is between the regional and the urban.


The ABC's Anthony Green, who explains how this has all come about about, describes this as “peculiar”. I find it astonishing that such a system has survived, and that people in Perth are willing to accept it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

roast hill.

Don’t really expect much — you can do anything as a Minister in the Howard government, and get away with it — but it would be good if they make Hill squirm a bit more.

The question of whether the Minister of Defence lied about Australians interrogating prisoners in Iraq is down to semantics — was it an interview or an interrogation?

Whether Hill patently lied or not, it is certainly apparent that he sought to mislead us. Opposition spokesman on war, Robert McClelland (so that’s who’s wearing that hat) says it succinctly;
“We saw that the government attempted to cover up the full extent that Australia had contact with Iraqi prisoners…Clearly they did that because there was an election year on but in so doing they've put their political interests ahead of public accountability.”
Political interests before accountability — isn’t that the Howard government’s mission statement? Nothing new there.

related links
If you missed it on four corners, Rod Barton’s story about interviewing prisoners and chasing imaginary WMD’s (and then getting told what to write about them) is very interesting. An overview of it is here.

And crikey has an amusing run-down of yesterday's Senate estimates grilling of Hill. I just love the bit about Liberal Senator Ferguson playing solitaire on his laptop. Real classy. (South Australians have a disproportionate representation in the Senate anyway, so a bit of dead wood can't hurt).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

blogcrastinations.

Have just been scouring around for bits of interest to keep me distracted from work, and have come with a couple of things I felt I just had to post.

Tony Abbott admitting freely and openly that the wheels are falling off dental health;
- that the Howard government’s dental program (for which he is responsible) is a “nightmare”; and
- that the Keating government’s program (which was promptly scrapped upon the ascension of Howard) “did reduce waiting times … no doubt about that”.
Keating’s program was not only more effective in the provision of public dental services, but, as Tony Abbott himself says;
“the Keating government's program was less over four years than the Federal Government is putting towards dental services in a single year by the private health insurance rebate.”
Aah ... the beauty of the two tiered health system. Don't worry if it is more expensive and inefficient - deny access to some, simply because you can. (Thanks to Robert for pointing me here).

And thanks to the squid fanatics for showing me that people found a sea serpent at City Beach in Perth.

How cool. I miss City Beach – clean white sand, the crisp waves, large mysterious sea creatures. Don’t really get that in Melbourne.

And one more thing. I went and saw Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical last night. I thought it was pretty lame and vacuous. Desci disagrees, saying that it was;
“Worth every cent of the free ticket.”
Am glad that I didn’t pay for my ticket too, but I sort of feel shafted because I bought a program.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

comparing mobile phone plans.

Given my mobile phone predicament, I am looking into finding a new supplier of access to mobile phone networks. This is not very easy.

Mobile phone networks all essentially offer the same product*. The service telcos are selling you is simply access to a network that allows you to transmit digitally packaged information to other users of the network.

However, telcos go out of their way to "package" the services they offer in different ways, to preclude effective comparison of services between the market players. For instance, some companies sell you access in 30 second increments (that is, you pay for 30 seconds of network time, even if you talk for only 10 seconds) whereas others sell it to you in 1 second increments (I also found one company selling it you in 26 second increments). Contract lengths also vary as do the rates for different times of the day, rates to phones on different networks, flagfalls, and prices for texts and other, somewhat peripheral services.

Another device to included to deter effective comparison of the services offered is the inclusion of “credits” in the deal - that is you pay a minimum monthly access fee and then you receive a certain amount of “free” calls per month. Of course, the real value (how long you can talk for) of these “free” calls will with the call rates applied (that is, $10 of “free” call time at 10c per min, is worth the same as $20 of “free” call time at 20c per min).

And of course, this is not including the problems arising from the coupling of network access and the phone handsets!

The stated reason for this product differentiation is to allow people to find the plan that best suits them. Spare me.

It is to prevent effective comparison of an essentially homogeneous product that allows the telcos to charge an uncompetitive price well above their marginal costs. Now this is one of the reasons these babies are pulling in such nice profits.



So what do you do?

Well, Choice have a reasonable overview of how to initially approach the situation, although it gives you no idea about how to set about constructing a quantifiable comparison.

These guys have a “calculator” of some sort, where you need some data from previous bills and enter it in, and it can give you a list of plans that are good for you. But it doesn't actually allow to compare how much a bill under one plan will cost under another plan, and doesn't incorporate the value of handsets into the comparison. If you are keen/angry/anal/bored then you could use their "browse plans" thingo to create a dataset that you can then wack into Excel and then develop a set of equations to estimate costs, and then actually have a quantifiable ranking of the best plans suited to your consumption pattern**.

This all being said, I know that;
(a) This is a comparative static assessment and consumption patterns are likely to change so as to reflect consumer optimisation under different plans; and
(b) This is terribly boring, but I spent ages last night making up that spreadsheet and I wanted to write about because I think that it works, and the plan that I am choosing is not bloody vodafone (who I am not going to dignify with a link).
(c) I should probably get out more - that is why I am going to see Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical, at the Atheneaum theatre tonight.



* I know this is a slight simplification, as there are some substantial differences between services offered - for instance, there are different areas covered by different networks.

Monday, February 14, 2005

how much do i hate telcos?

I hate vodafone. After repeatedly trying to get my phone reconnected, during which I never lost it (how calm and collected am I?), I sent them these queries*:
“My phone number is: 041xxxxxxx.

It was cut off on Friday 11 Feb.

Now, I was late in paying the bill due around 11 Jan. I usually receive a text or email to remind me of this. Things do slip your mind. So the first thing I was aware of with this, was that I couldn't make calls on Friday night.

So. I rang your shop on Saturday, and was told the quickest way I could deal with this was to go online, print the bill and then go to Australia Post. I tried to get online to pay this. I was on a different computer to normal, and didn't have my password stored on it. I rang up and the lady said she would text me the password. I didn't think this would be a problem, given that she worked for Vodafone I thought that she would be able to ensure that I get this information, so I could then get online, and eventually pay the bill.

How ignorant of me.

Needless to say, I never received the text.

Monday morning comes along, and I still have no means of logging in to pay the bill. So I ring up to try and sort this out, and the nice young man says, "yes you do have a category [something] bar on your phone, which is going to stop you receiving the text of your password."

He said that he would forward me to someone who would be able to remove the bar so that I could receive the text, so that I could log on, so that I could print the bill, so that I could go to Australia Post and pay it.

I waited on the phone (whilst writing this query for you) for around twenty minutes, after which my lunch break was fairly well completed. I then hung up.

Given the above, I have three questions:
1.) why would you so quickly cut off the phone of a customer has been with you for over two years, without any notice?
2.) why is that none of your staff seemed to have any inclination to help me?
3.) how on earth can I actually pay this bill, so that I can then wind up my account with vodafone and take my phone number elsewhere?”
I have not yet received a reply, although I am proud of myself for not losing it at anyone. Yet. And so I am still without a mobile phone connection. I have lost touch with the world. Sort of like going camping or going into hospital.

* I apologise for the self-indulgence. I just needed to vent my spleen.

Friday, February 11, 2005

trackin’ on back.

Robert Corr is offering a free subscription to New Matilda. Given I am sucker for free stuff, especially reading material, I am succumbing to his unscrupulous promotion by including a trackback so that I have a faint hope of attaining this prize. Being new to the blogging game, I am a virgin trackbacker. Or at least I was. This is what I have foregone for the faint hope of a New Matilda subscription.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

it's really not that hard.

Tony Blair said today,
“I'm very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and such an injustice. That's why I'm making this apology today.”
He was only apologising for wrongly imprisoning a few blokes, as opposed to stealing a generation's worth of children, but surely the Australian Prime Minister could take some inspiration — he could quote Blair verbatim, and that would be enough.

porkbarelling extras.

A couple of things that I noticed in reading about the Jim Lloyd porkbarelling issue this morning.

(i) Dobell was marginal Liberal seat, prior to the 2004 election. The ALP needed a swing of just 0.4 per cent to unseat incumbent member Ken Ticehurst. Ticehurst was re-elected and the margin is now 5.9 per cent. Porkbarelling works.

(ii) In the SMH, the PM has said “I will take the appropriate action if it is needed”. I am not holding my breath.

(iii) Paragon of virtue, Wilson Tuckey has come out and defended the advice given to thw Wtong council, saying that it is “fair and honest” to advise someone to deliberately withold information from the government so as to get more money from them.

(iv) the quotes of the emails included in that post are largely taken from the Fin Rev, which had the best coverage of it. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on the emails themselves, though.

Update: I also meant to point out that the Fin Rev also said that last year;
the dredging project had been judged a low priority by the local area consultative committee - supposedly the federal government's primary provider of independent advice on the regional partnerships scheme.

"There were many more projects in the pipeline that warranted consideration before that one did," the project officer of the Central Coast area consultative committee, John Presland, said.

code of conduct? what code of conduct? new story, same old line.

Oh my goodness, once again we have a Howard government Minister who is being called to account for his actions blaming someone else.

Minister for Local Government, Jim Lloyd was hammered yesterday over the regional development slush fund used in the last election. I will try and keep this short(!).

Just before that fateful day in October, a $1.5m grant from the ‘regional partnerships’ scheme (aka “marginal seat slush fund”) was announced to for the dredging of the mouth of Tumbi Crk in the electorate of Dobell. Jim Lloyd, as a junior Minister in the Department of Transport and Regional Services was responsible for this barrelling of pork allocation of funds.
In November were heavy rains, which led to the mouth of the creek being cleared, which was noted by the Wyong Council, who were interested in redirecting some of this money. DTRS also were aware of this. Graeme Hallett, a special advisor to Minister Lloyd sent an email to DTRS, saying that;
“The commitment by the Howard government to the electors of Dobell, in partnership with Wyong Council, is non-negotiable. It is the position of [Dobell MP Ken] Ticehurst that the money should be delivered as agreed for the works in the schedule of the agreement under regional partnerships.”

DTRS proceeded to ask Wyong Council if they wanted to revise their plan (since they no longer needed to dredge the creek). Hallett then advised the council that;
“Any changes means less federal money, so the Wyong officials should keep their counsel on this if we want the total allocated by the Prime Minister for Tumbi Creek.”

(ie. As representative of Minister Lloyd, I am advising you to deceptively withold information from the DTRS so that you can get the money we scammed for you in the first place)

Wyong Council went back to the original idea of dredging the creek.

Yesterday, Kim Beazley brings all this up in Parliament accusing the special advisor to the Minister of “attempting to defraud the Commonwealth”. Lloyd responds by saying that there is nothing wrong at all, and this is all a result of;
“a poorly worded email. The staff member has been counselled ... it was stupidly worded.”

Apparently the email advising the Council to keep their counsel (!) was intended to
“inform council that the funds that were allocated for the dredging of Tumbi creek could only be used for the dredging of Tumbi creek.”

That's exactly what it sounds like to me.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

cornelia rau (ii).

The terms of reference for the inquiry into the incarceration and neglect of Cornelia Rau, have been released. No surprises here — the inquiry is to be conducted in private with findings reported publicly.

As Kerry *oh, Kerry* O’Brien argued last night;
If there has been a stuff-up or a series of stuff-ups, then there are people in whose interests it may be to cover this up. … [I]t's in the public interest that the public sees a transparent process that they can trust.
Amanda Vanstone is obviously one of these people with an interest — it is her department that has acted inhumanely and incompetently. And she is going to do her best to hide this from us.

There is not that much more I can add to the discussion regarding the disgraceful treatment of Cornelia Rau by DIMA. The run down of this affair is totally captured here. This includes a range of newspaper articles and accounts. (Thanks to Guido for pointing me there).

not citizen = not human.

The two-tiered system of humanity so actively supported for so long in Australia is highlighted (again) by Cornelia Rau’s sister, Chris Rau, in her article in yesterday’s SMH:
“While she was an unnamed illegal immigrant, the only treatment [Cornelia Rau] received for mental illness was longer periods in lock-up as punishment for bad behaviour. From the information coming out of Baxter, the lock-ups led to a worsening of her condition and worse behaviour... As soon as she became an Australian resident she was whisked away to a teaching hospital, seen by consultant psychiatrists and medicated. During which leg of her flight from Baxter to Adelaide did she suddenly gain the basic human right to medical treatment?”

Sometimes I am ashamed to be Australian.

Friday, February 04, 2005

abort — friday morning rant.*

Apparently, Australian women with unwanted pregnancies are “dumb”. Federal Liberal MP Alan Cadman’s is actually quoted as saying “I can't believe that women in this day and age are so dumb to get pregnant willy-nilly”.** There is no mention at all of male responsibility in this — in 21st century Australia, the government feels that men are absolved of any responsibility in getting women pregnant. This somewhat unsurprising, given that the debate is dominated by men. (Potential logical extensions of “the men are not responsible for conception” idea: (i) men should not pay child support, because it was the “stupid sheila” that got pregnant in the first place (ii) it was her fault she got raped, she was [stupid enough to go out] dressed like a tart …)

*Deep breath* Maintain some sense. This makes me seriously mad.

As pointed out in the Age, this is not even an informed argument that women are getting pregnant willy-nilly — there is no basis for arguing that there are too many late term abortions in Australia. There are no reliable statistics indicating that such an “epidemic” exists ***. Statistics that are out there generally do not differentiate between abortions and other procedures. (The procedures included are generally curettages. I am willing to admit I did not know what a curettage was this morning, but I do now. If you don’t, go here).

The interesting about thing about all this is that in the Age and Oz articles mentioned above, there are no women quoted being in support of this argument. Maybe it is not so surprising that women aren’t coming out and saying that it is a women’s sole responsibility to ensure contraception, and that women who accidentally get pregnant are “dumb”.

Amongst the pre-eminent misogynists this week are the mad monk, Ron Boswel (calling for better statistics), the dumb-ass, and Julian MacGauran (who wants to removing Medicare support for late term abortions). Boswell was supported by the ALP’s John Murphy.

There is so little coverage given to female political and public figures. You have to dig around in the AFR to find decent canvassing of what some female politicians are saying on the issue****. Minister for Family and Community Services, Kay Patterson has sought female colleagues’ opinions and says:
“their overwhelming response has been to leave [the laws] exactly as they are”.

Julia Gillard *sigh* says:
“I have stated my position very clearly and I am pro-choice. But understand this, the federal government’s only involvement in abortion is through Medicare, it does not have the power to decide if abortion should be legal or not; that power resides with the states. But if the federal government removes Medicare funding for abortion … poor women will end up in the hands of backyard abortionists — that’s the end point of this debate”.

Jenny Macklin (yes, she still is alive) says:
“you will be hearing from a lot of Labor women over the next few days”.
Well, yeah that’s threatening, Jenny. Get up and say something — you are the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In the highest position held by a female politician at the moment, this your opportunity to stand up and actually do something.

Why does no one take any notice of this?

I think that Helen is absolutely right — this is a case of Australia taking a political agenda directly from the USA. This is not a policy ‘issue’. This is not a public debate. This an agenda that is being pushed incessantly by a small group of (male) conservatives with disproportionate access to the public sphere seeking to impose their religious concepts upon the rest of us.
There had been no argument within Australian politics for some time over this before the mad monk piped up last November. As Katherine Betts points out, this was not a stated part of the coalition agenda in the 2004 election, and there have been no opinion polls that she can find indicating any shift in opinion.

There is nothing to justify this push against a woman’s right to abortion at all. FUCK OFF, ALREADY. Stick to screwing over the rest of the country but stay away from my girlfriend, my sister, my friends and everyone else’s bodies.



* The absolute bollocks that I have read in today’s papers is astounding.

** If you google cadman & willy-nilly you come up with the good member’s website, where he is talking about how “the government needed to take steps to prevent people coming into Australia willy-nilly”. Don’t even start me on that one, baby.

*** If you were to accept, for a moment, the phrasing imposed by the ill-informed misogynists pushing this line! (thanks to > for pointing me there).

**** Can’t link to it here, because it is subscription, but it is the best coverage given today.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

trade, cotton and the principle of hypocrisy.

Last week, John Howard (rightly) got stuck into the EU for maintaining protectionist agricultural policies. It is true that, as JWH says;
the trade policy of the European Union, ... [has] denied access to ... agricultural exporters from some of the poorest countries in the world.

By all means criticise this, Mr Howard. I am a supporter of trade liberalisation, particularly as a means of aiding developing countries. But, if you are going to do this, and for the sake of the credibility of the argument with the developing countries, please apply the principle of free trade in a consistent manner.

What about the Americans? (Oh. That's right, European criticism of George Bush is "ridiculous").

As reported in USA Today, whilst US cotton producers were busy growing bumper crops, they were receiving roughly 1.5 times the market price per bale. This amounted to $US 2.7 bn in 2003.

This is important stuff - the issue of cotton is a major part of the Doha Development Agenda, and holds major opportunities for the economic expansion of a number of LDCs. And yet our Prime Minister, proudly batting for the liberalisation of trade, refuses to criticise the Americans for fighting tooth and fucking nail to protect their cotton growers from those who can produce at less cost and for greater communal benefit!

To quote our Prime Minister again, this denies "agricultural exporters from some of the poorest countries in the world". And we won't say anything about it because it is the Americans that are doing it.

rain.

weather system

How terribly mundane to write about the weather, but it was seriously cranking last night in Melbournia. Sheets of rain pelting down on my roof, gutters overflowing, wind blowing me all over the street – nothing to do except snuggle up in bed with my sweetie-pie, and find other ways to distract ourselves.

This morning we awoke to carnage. I can see from my window at work the Yarra covering cycle paths, and I have received numerous stories from the crew at work about trees falling over, trains being delayed (like, forever), and a crane falling over at the MCG. I love it.

To keep track of further developments, go here.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

bill and ben the (best) flowerpot men.





I am struggling to publicly admit this, but, at home last night, ironing shirts and descending into the mundane cycle of working week once again, I watched … the Australian cricketing community pleasure itself on national television last night*. What a contrived, boring and unnecessary session of communal spanking off with that horrible slug from Collingwood running the show. Cricketers should not talk, and cricket does not need this rubbish.

That all being said, I am admitting this only to able to congratulate Damien Martyn and Justin Langer on finally being recognised as the best Test batsmen in the best side in the world.

I have watched these two for ages and had the joy of seeing them both hit centuries in Perth last year. They are essential to the team, and are both wonderful to watch — and I am glad to see the rest of Australia, albeit grudgingly, acknowledge this.

I am not biased in any way.

* To be honest, not even a cricket junkie like me could take it. It is a terrible show. I had to keep flicking across to Desperate Housewives (there is no point me talking about this — refer to the blogging galacticos at ausculture for more on this one).