Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for the ‘Governance’ Category

Has Gina done us all a favor?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2012-06-20

Has Gina Rinehart done us all a favor by her ham-fisted attempt to stifle the only moderately-balanced privately owned newspapers in the country, by making it obvious Big Money thinks the press can be bought as a proxy means of buying politicians?

The world’s richest woman, mining magnate Rinehart, has made it plain she wants to make Fairfax (The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, as well as numerous popular radio stations) more mining-friendly, more anti-scientific-consensus, and I suspect, more against the opinion of independent economists when it comes to policy in general.

  • No more can informed debate dismiss as ridiculous what was previously almost held as "conspiracy theory" the notion that Big Money will seek to control the press to control debate, and policy.
  • She has certainly increased the feelings progressives have to a decent media sector that, at least as a whole sector, is theoretically important to a liberal democracy.
  • She cannot trash the brand, and profitability, while avoiding the wrath of corporate regulators, without a complete takeover.  This will at least raise the price of fairfax shares during a takeover, putting money in the pockets of people who have been supporting better journalism, and more likely to contribute to society with it than Gina ever would!
  • Her claims that moving to the right editorially is the fix to Fairfax’s woes is rendered ridiculous when the centrist Fairfax, just in Melbourne, sells more newspapers, at least 25% more, than the pro-plutocrat Murdoch "The Australian" does across the entire nation.  She is either stupid, or a liar, or both – and proof not everyone, especially with inherited wealth, should be listened to.
  • If she does destroy what existing investors see as their most valuable asset and product differentiator – relatively independent journalism – then most readers will move their habits online to the likes of ABC Drum for their daily dose of analysis, opinion, and "letters to the editor".
  • The timing, with Murdoch on the nose with criminal investigations in England for privacy violations and improper political interference, could not have been more likely to inflame progressives.
  • By bringing forward the rationalization in size of the print edition, moving many classifieds to the net, less trees will be killed, and the latte sippers will have more room on their tables in cafes!

While progressives may be angry at Gina in the short term, it may be the pigs, the "one percent", the "five percent", those against evidence-based policy, that will be angrier with her in the long term.  That’s not guaranteed, but it is a possibility, a possibility the arrogance of Big Money is naturally too stupid to consider.


  • "Go ahead Gina, build another content company", Alan Kohler, takes a wider view of things, and in places, against the "common wisdom". (Business Spectator, 2012-06-19)

    Gina Rinehart has absolutely nothing to contribute to the transformation of the company into a profitable digital publisher and is not interested in it anyway, …
    the combination of print and digital publishing simply does not work. They are completely different products with different uses, and the construction and operation of them require totally different ways of thinking.


  • "In defence of independent media", Malcolm Fraser, former PM, once-bogeyman of the left, now the only publically-active elder statesman in the country, (Business Spectator, 2012-06-19)

    Media should not be under the direct control of special interest groups whether they belong to this country or to other countries. That is why we need diversity of media ownership. That is why I stood on the back of a truck with Gough Whitlam overlooking Fitzroy Gardens long years ago, to try and prevent the Fairfax empire falling into foreign hands. A foreign owner has interests that are not ours. A mining magnate has specific industry interests that are not necessary those of Australia.

Posted in Australia, Ethics, Governance, Media, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Financial advisors lie – why is the sector any different?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2012-04-29

My SkepticLawyer less-lefty-than-I-am friends (in facebook) linked to "Is the Pope a Catholic" results from an experiment about financial advisors providing self-serving advice, and there is no reason I can see why the same dynamics, behaviour and outcome wouldn’t apply to the financial sector as a whole, pressuring societies into baring their collective throats to the predators.

"Valuable advice on investment advisors" (Tim Harford, 2012-04-28) points to a neat double-blind experiment, sending portfolios with common biases and some stupidities to financial advisors to see what would be advised.

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Posted in Economics and Business, Ethics, Governance, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Tabloid Justice Consultation

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-08-02

The consultation about sentencing by Ballieu’s Vic Libs seems, from the structure, bent on whipping up another Laura Norder storm.

To be fair, it’s better structured than a typical yes/no "do crims get off too lightly" reader poll in a tabloid, but it is still dangerously simplistic.

At the end of the survey is a list of factors that might alter sentencing, things like whether the person was drunk, low IQ, impact on the victim…  This should have come first, before the section asking for judgements on case studies.  (Ask any teacher about well designed exams – you do the bits with individual elements first to get people warmed up, then give the questions that require all the elements to be integrated!)

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Posted in Australia, Governance, Law, Politics, Society, Victoria | 1 Comment »

Bushfire bastardry

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-04

The dead in the horrible Victorian bushfires a few years back, and those that will die in the future from similar causes, seem to be, by misdirected investigations and blind eyes to evidence, poorly served by both current and previous governments.

Who benefits from this? Only the negligent – the privatised power supplier cutting corners on safety, or a government unwilling to pay compensation, or politicians in both major parties who do not want a proper evaluation of the fundamental dogma that pushes privatization of state assets in general and utilities in particular.

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Posted in Australia, Economics and Business, Governance, Media, Politics, Victoria | Comments Off on Bushfire bastardry

Bent and Bungled

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-06-29

There are three billion more reasons to detest, and hopefully prosecute, the unlamented ALP Brumby government of Victoria.

The general continuity of policy under Liberal Premier Ballieu will be tested to see if it can use legal smarts to annul the 10 year pokies contracts the came out of deceitful behaviour by one, if not all parties.

Will Ballieu use the chance to kill two birds with one stone – sink the ALP in Victoria for a decade or more while helping the states coffers to the tune of billions at the same time?

It’s a win/win for Ballieu and Victoria if he does, and if he doesn’t, there is no reason to believe the Liberals will be any more honest, any more competent.

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Posted in Economics and Business, Governance, Politics, Victoria | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Most Oz Auditors-General do not provide RSS feeds

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-04-13

It’s bleg time… for people who’d like to get all Auditor General offices to provide an RSS feed of announcements and reports.  I’m after ideas (a list of questions near the bottom of the post) and even cosignatories for a request that each audit office provide such a feed.

These days, with Gov 2.0 a buzz-word, and given the excellent work by Club Troppo‘s own Nicholas Gruen, you would expect almost all agencies to provide RSS feeds, and preferably, like the parliament, a range of news feeds for different purposes.

You might expect that an Auditor General would provide RSS feeds, as such an agency is not responsible to the executive, but to the parliament.

Yet only the audit offices of Western Australia ( and the federal ANAO ( provide RSS feeds, or are getting them set up.

I’d searched both with Google ( and visually through the Victorian Auditor General’s site ( for news feeds, with no joy, so sent a nice polite email to the office asking for a link to their feed for new reports and/or media announcements.

I received a polite reply as follows, but no joy. (I’ve linkified the relevant bits).

Dear Dave,
We do not have an RSS feed for our reports as we have a subscription service.
We use this purely to send alerts when we publish our reports.
You can subscribe vis this page:
Lesya Bryndzia
Communications Assistant
Victorian Auditor-General’s Office
Level 24, 35 Collins St. Melbourne Vic. 3000
t: (03) 8601 1666 f: (03) 8601 7010 e:

Well, I knew all about the subscription service – I get those emails.

But I want an RSS feed, easy to read, easy to share, and would have thought any agency would want their work spread easily – unless burying something is an aim.

I want the same in RSS as I get via email, a paragraph or two per report, and a link to the main report page – but one RSS item per report, and with a useful subject line.

<p>Because setting up an RSS feed is pretty trivial compared to an email subscription service (with all the costs associated with keeping an address list of private citizens private), I’d have thought the agency responsible for reviewing value-for-money issues would jump at the chance for a cheap way of making it’s work well known.

The privacy issue of an email subscription list is non-trivial – especially as subscribers are likely to be a grumpy bunch, wanting the official dirt on government – a list of people of interest to political minders.

It is hard to think of a valid reason why an audit office cannot or should not provide RSS feeds – after all, the audit offices federally and in WA do, or are in the process of doing so.

So… the bleggy bit…

  • Do you think all audit offices should provide RSS feeds?
  • Do you think RSS feeds are trivial to implement?
  • Should a common letter be sent to all audit offices, (excluding the "good guys" in WA and the ANAO)?
  • Should the national Auditors General Club ( get a copy?
  • Should government and opposition spokespersons get a copy of the letter, (and if so, in your state, who are they)?
  • Would you consider being a cosignatory to the email I plan to prepare?
  • Do you want to write individually, to the office in your own state?
  • Do you have an draft fragments you think should be included?

I’ll probably work on a draft, putting it in a follow-up post for further comments.


I used the google site: operator to search for "RSS" at most government audit offices – all but the NT had their own domain.  Here are the results (and follow the links if you want to know how to do such searches – very handy):

Posted in Australia, Governance, Information Management, Politics, Victoria | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Health funds admit they should not exist

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-04-03

It’s good when an advertiser tells the unvarnished truth, sad when you realize that neither people mor government are prepared to join the dots… and the advertisers know this.

The ad in question was for a health fund.  The argument was "use us because we pay out 96 percent of what we collect in premiums, the average health fund returns 91 percent."

In other words, if the 5% difference makes it worthwhile switching to them from a more wasteful place to put your month, the extra 4% from putting your premium under the mattress is even more attractive, and you’d do much better putting it in a bank for another couple of percent.

In other words, they admit the nation is better off without a health fund, or that the best health fund is a bank, where you are guaranteed a few per cent more than you put in.

It would be bad enough if only stupid individuals were being sucked in, but that governments subsidize premiums, knowing they are throwing taxpayer funds down the drain – well, that is stupid, if not corrupt.

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Economics and Business, Governance, Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Funding repairs for floods versus financial meltdowns

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-01-27

Compare and contrast the impact and policy responses of the floods and the latest Global Financial Crisis:

  • How do governments fund the necessary spending?
  • What does the funding mechanism say about the genesis of the crises as an actuary would view them?

Personally, I think whether funding comes from a one-off tax levy, or out of general coffers, the funding mechanism in response to significant crises should be the same, if both are as regular (or not) as each other.

Consider the following principle: one-off levies are appropriate for one-off events, while treatment from general revenue is appropriate for events that are considered likely to occur on a regular basis.

So, the policy response seems to indicate the government thinks that massive financial crises aren’t really that big a deal, or have a reasonably predictable frequency.

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Posted in Australia, Economics and Business, Environment, Governance, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tax-funded profits in national disasters and daily life

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-01-24

As government (thus citizens) will pay for at least some of the rebuilding after the floods in eastern states, how much of this should become subsidized private profit, and what, above minimally decent private goods, should be subsidized?

Consider the starkest example of government/taxpayer funds used in reaction to a disaster like these floods, an evacuation camp:

  • Should the size of the tent, beds, the amount of food, provided to an individual increase with the value of the property from which they were evacuated?
  • Should price-gouging by suppliers of tents and food be permitted, or should those goods be subject to compulsory acquisition by the government, with modest compensation?

Why should answers to the above questions be inconsistent with post-disaster reconstruction?

Why should answers to the above questions be inconsistent with our treatment of those in dire need, on a daily basis, if those needy lack the good fortune to have lived in one particular region at one particular time?

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Posted in Australia, Economics and Business, Governance, Politics, Society | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

When protecting the guilty might be the best option

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-01-17

Another handover of evidence to Wikileaks about misbehaviour in the banking system, another set of questions arising about the desirability of redaction before publication, another chance to see if Wikileaks is playing for short-term fame, or long-term reform.

The release of the evidence of gross tax evasion should be geared to forcing governments to tax action to close the holes, not make headlines dissimilar from celebrity gossip columns.

How might good long-term results for the public be best achieved?

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Posted in Economics and Business, Ethics, Governance, International | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Backroom and visible policy at odds

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-01-05

The Wikileak about Australia taking Japanese whalers to court being nothing but a to placate the public, not the actual thrust of action by government, raises two points unrelated to whaling:

  1. The publication sequence of wikileaks might be planned, the more damning still to be released;
  2. More importantly, we must wonder what other actions of government are designed to distract, while more forceful occult policy pushes the opposite way.

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Posted in Australia, Economics and Business, Environment, Governance, Politics | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

No Arbibeque – Q and A

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-12-10

Q: With chats with US spiesembassy officials, what is the difference between the probably-innocent chats of most politicians, and the probably-dodgy ones of Senator Mark Arbib, as revealed by wikileaks?

A: Arbib repeatedly demanded to be a protected source, the chats kept secret from all non-US eyes.

Q: So what?

A: Why would he make such demands unless he…

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Posted in Australia, Ethics, Governance, Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Metaleaks and metanews

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-12-08

We need leaks about the leaks.

We are used to the story-about-the-story phenomenon about general news items, but there is now a twist to this waiting to happen.

There will necessarily be a difference between what governments say to public and each other about their attitudes and actions regarding Assange.  Leaks about these will be telling and newsworthy – and give a very accurate understanding of how dissembling works, and why such secrecy is actually necessary.

Are the publically stated reasons justifying secrecy and the seriousness of Assange’s actions the same as the real reasons?

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Posted in Australia, Ethics, Governance, Information Management, International, Media | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Victorian lefties have some things to be thankful for

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-11-30

Well, Victorian lefties should be rejoicing in the election loss of a right-wing government that abused FoI, had sham consultations, threw a cloak of secrecy over everything, spent huge sums of public money on party-political propaganda, handed over information on citizens from police files to private consortia, reeked of dodgy deals with developers, didn’t consider cheap water from stormwater reclamation and injection into the water table, …

The list of Joh Brumby’s sins against lefty goodness goes on and on and on… even before we get to the apolitical issues like incompetence writing specifications for contracts, meaningful penalty clauses, and manage the contract so that there is even a moderate resemblance between actual delivery costs and timeframes to what was presented to parliament and public.

OK, the Ballieu libs have some wrong-headed policies, are not likely to be as progressive as the universally respected liberal Dick Hamer, have pushed the Laura Norder furphy, but at least there is a promise to open up the books (if only to discover and release details of Brumby shonkiness).

OK, it could have been better, the Greens could have had a seat in the lower house to minimize the damage of the defacto right-wing coalition getting a 100% majority…

Maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a purging from the ALP of the right wing nasties, especially the backroom operators… but if this hasn’t happened federally, no right-wing heads on pikes in Canberra after the last federal election… optimism on that matter is unjustified.

I do, however, have a little optimism that Ballieu might be more transparent, more able to manage contracts, and able to do the forensics on the stuff that didn’t get shredded so that things are put in place to prevent any government risking such incompetence, such stench of dodgy deals against the public interest, for a long time.

What is needed, of course, is a public reform of the ALP, a return to principles, and a big row of faceless-men with heads on sticks the whole length of Spring St.

Posted in Australia, Governance, Politics, Victoria | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

NAPLAN-like tests for pollies please

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-09-15

If the pollies to left and right are so keen on academic standards and publishing the results of formal testing, including the notion that it provides choice, then why don’t all the pollies submit to similar tests, across all the subjects relevant to parliaments, of the multichoice sections of year 12 subjects, and year 12 literacy test?

Why not make sitting such a test compulsory for all those standing for parliament, with the AEC supervising, and publishing the results on their website next to each candidate in the list of those running in each seat?

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Posted in Australia, Education, Governance, Politics | Leave a Comment »

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