Can anyone guess what the report will say?

As stated here previously, Australians have a codeword which, when used by the ruling class, means, “we are going to raid your wallet and hand the contents to our cronies“;

Fair.

Seriously, it’s a stunning example of DoubleSpeak; on face value it seems perfectly reasonable to want things to be “fair”. But without a common agreement on what fair might be and who arbitrates it, we are left with the age old problem of power being wielded by those who have it for the benefit of themselves and their cronies.

Consider this example; the Australian state government of Victoria has commissioned a report into the “gig economy”.

Some background for those readers unfamiliar with the Australian state of Venezuela Victoria, it is the most-heavily unionised state in the country, with some fairly militant and unreconstructed 1970s style comrades calling the shots in many areas of life. The Victorians deserve what they get though, as they voted into power Daniel Andrews, a man with zero experience of managing anything more commercially-complex than a local political party branch office.

To illustrate his lack of commercial and contractual savvy, his first act upon gaining the office of Premier was to cancel a construction contract resulting in a $1.2bn bill to the ratepayers for which they received precisely nothing in return.

So, what do we think this report will say and what subsequent regulations might it be used to justify?

The Victorian government will investigate the practices of the so-called gig economy and on-demand workforce, amid claims that workers are being underpaid and exploited.

Victorian Industrial Relations Minister Natalie Hutchins said the inquiry, chaired by former Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) Natalie James, ill [sic] investigate the conditions of workers working to digital platforms.

It’s hardly a newflash that Socialist governments funded by militant unions are going to be somewhat unwelcoming of the likes of Uber, Deliveroo, Airbnb and Amazon, is it. Hilariously though, there’s a clue in the article as to the unintended consequences of increasing the cost base of a company by regulating how they contract workers. Workers who, by the way, weren’t coerced into that arrangement, especially not in a country with an unemployment rate in the mid 5% range (bearing in mind our previous point that around 2.2% of the population are, through no fault of their own, not intelligent enough to be suited to the most basic manual tasks).

The move comes are [sic, BI isn’t having a good day today] German food delivery multinational Foodora, under pressure from the tax office and the FWO over how the company classified its workers as independent contractors, was placed in administration as it prepared to shut down in Australia.

The FWO dropped legal action against Foodora over “sham contracting” in its employment contracts as a result.

Bill’s Opinion

The Victorian ratepayers are bloody and bruised enough from Daniel Andrews’ previous dip in to their wallets, but now they are going have to pay for a report that we already know will find that Uber et al are not fair, and then, to add insult to injury, will find that they’ll be taking expensive taxi rides home in future as gig economy companies like Uber will be regulated out of the state.

However, they voted for this bunch of strugglers, so they can enjoy the consequences.

Google might need a new company motto

Actually, it has already changed it from “Don’t be evil” to “Do the right thing”.

Regardless, the contents of a leaked memo suggest the mottos are to be considered more a guideline than a non-negotiable rule.

Google has allegedly created a search engine that would censor information that the Chinese government finds objectionable. The memo shows that Google planned to require users to log in to perform searches and the software would then track their location. The memo also said that Google would share Chinese users’ search information with a third-party Chinese company, which could then be available to government authorities.

Oh, that’s nice of them. What might be the consequences of Google handing details of an individual’s search history to a “private company” (if such a thing actually exists in China)?

Nothing to be concerned about, I’m sure. China’s record on human rights and the integrity of their legal system is so impeccable after all.

Bill’s Opinion

I’ve recently been considering weaning myself off Google products.

Despite what people might suggest, they don’t actually have a monopoly on providing many of the services we use on a day to day basis.

The response by Google to the James Damore memo was a major indication that the company has stopped taking their motto(s) seriously.

If this latest leak is correct, perhaps now is the time to find another mail, maps and internet search provider.

“Something must be done”

And something, therefore, shall be done.

Some complete and utter idiot stuck pins into strawberries somewhere between the farm and the supermarkets in Australia a week or so ago.

Because the idiocy is contagious, there then followed a spate of copycat cases and other soft fruit was tampered with, presumably by other parties.

The culprits and their motivation have yet to be identified but significant police resources have been mobilised to apprehend them and throw the full force of the criminal law against them.

“Fair enough”, one might think, “a bad actor commits a crime that deliberately risks bodily harm of others. There’s definitely a law against that with a penalty to fit the crime. Let the police get on with their job and let justice be done”.

Except it’s never that simple in Australian politics.

No, in Australia when something bad happens at a state or federal level, a brave and decisive politician must rush to the nearest phone booth (increasingly harder to find these days), make a rapid change of clothes and emerge, Superman-esque, and announce plans to change or write new law.

And that’s precisely what This Month’s Prime Minister ™ has done;

Ten years in the clink isn’t enough disincentive to not tamper with people’s food, so we’ll make it 15 years.

This prompts just a couple of questions from curious minds such as ours;

1. How many cases of deliberate food contamination do we think an extra 5 years in jail will prevent? ie will those extra potential years of incarceration be a factor in the mind of a person who has decided to bring needles to work and deliberately stick them in to soft fruit?

2. Will the legislation go against Common Law precedent and be retrospective, or will the current culprits not be subject to the new penalties?

3. How long will it take for this legislative change to be made and will it be in time to be applied in the prosecution of the current culprits?

Bill’s Opinion

There are two ways of looking at this lunacy.

The first and most obvious way to view this is that it is pathetic virtue signalling that will have absolutely no effect, positive or negative, on the current spate of crimes. It’s an incredible piece of Dunning Krugerism by the government to think that, after 803 years of Common Law, suitable legislation doesn’t already exist to cover a situation of deliberate bodily harm.

But let’s ponder more on the situation; consider how much time and resources will be expended to plan this change of law, announce it to the press, have the legal team draft the new legislation, plan the parliamentary time to debate it, sign the legislation and communicate the change to the judiciary.

Now consider what that big parliamentary machine could be doing instead. It could be employed to create far more intrusive laws in areas that would actually impact the general population, ie, the people who wouldn’t stuff needles into fruit. Laws like a tax on energy production, or to force bakeries to bake cakes for same sex marriages, etc.

No, as daft as This Month’s Prime Minister’s idea is, it’s far better that he and his team are spending their time amending previously adequate laws rather than imposing their incompetency into other areas of public life.

Please, carry on!

Buying votes with other people’s money

Altruism is a truly admirable quality.

It’s particularly virtuous when it is performed anonymously and without any expectation of recognition or thanks.

Other forms of altruism also have virtue but perhaps we could agree a scale of righteousness depending on the motivation and other aspects of the charitable act?

Let’s score it on a 1 to 10 scale; 10 being the most virtuous and 1 being the least virtuous type of altruism.

Where do we think donating $400m of somebody else’s money to somebody else sits on that scale?

“This isn’t fair and it’s contributing to the growing superannuation gap between men and women,” he (Bill Shorten) said.

“Superannuation paid on parental leave is an investment in a better and fairer retirement for Australian women.”

An “investment”? By who? What’s the ROI?

Fairer? By what definition?

Bill’s Opinion

Whenever an Australian politician uses the word “fair”, it’s a safe assumption that someone’s wallet is about to be raided.

Curiously, this crudely political move might backfire on the Australian Labor Party; there’s no hint that the gift will be retrospective, so people who have been on parental leave in the past will not have their pension fund topped up. That might generate just a teeny bit of resentment.

If that describes you, here’s an idea; once the legislation is passed, lodge a claim in the Local Small Claims Court. The threshold there is $10,000. If you took 6 months maternity leave from a $150,000 per annum salaried job, the 9.5% superannuation contribution would be within that court’s purview.

It’s worth a punt.

Lastly, our favourite lesson on the four ways to spend money. Take it away, Milton;

Mission Impossible

Mission Australia are running a “Chugger” (“charity mugger”) funding campaign on the streets of Australia.

Young backpackers in purple T-shirts are pestering passers by with statistics about child poverty.

Where is the child poverty they are trying to reduce? Africa? Asia? South America?

Nope. Australia.

No really, according to Mission Australia, one in six Australian children are living in poverty.

Does that pass the sniff test? If you live in or have ever visited Australia, have you ever seen extreme poverty to that level?

No? Perhaps you didn’t visit the right locations. After all, poor people don’t tend to live in the apartments overlooking the Opera House, one supposes.

But one in six is still a lot of kids, where might they all be living if they aren’t immediately obvious to people in the main population centres?

Ah, perhaps the statistic is due to terrible poverty and deprivation in the Aboriginal townships?

Well, maybe but given that only 3.3% of the population is Aboriginal, that doesn’t make sense either.

Where are all these Aussie kids who are living in poverty then? There’s got to be a small city’s worth hiding in plain sight.

This is just a working hypothesis, but maybe there’s a clue to be found in the definition of the word “poverty”.

About halfway down their webpage, Mission Australia repeat the claim and point to this study as the source.

How is “poverty” defined in the Acoss study?

Ah;

So, poverty is defined as relative to other people, and before receipt of public housing, tax credits, unemployment benefits, Medicare and free schooling.

Of course, when your definition of poverty is based on what everyone else is earning, it’s hardly surprising that statements such as the one above, “Internationally, Australia’s poverty rate remains above the OECD average, despite our relative prosperity” can be written without a hint of irony.

Bill’s Opinion

Relative poverty isn’t poverty, it’s envy.

Anyone who has visited Africa, Asia or South America can tell you what child poverty looks like and it certainly isn’t what Mission Australia claims it is.

I find it highly unlikely that Acoss or Mission Australia were unaware of the statistical obfuscation they had to commit to print T-shirts claiming one in six Australian children live in poverty.

What might their motivation be for such mendacity, do we think?

Not alone again (unnaturally)

On the theme of our recent analysis of bitter cat ladies, the legacy press (c) website, The Sydney Morning Herald, ran an article about the final option available to those who find themselves single, childless and on the wrong side of the fertility timetable.

The answer?

Go to South Africa, buy fertilised eggs and have IVF.

Ok, that’s great that we’ve developed modern medical knowledge to the point where it is possible and even affordable, but, to misquote Lemmy, “just ‘cos you’ve got the power, does it mean you have the right?”

It’s worth looking at the “balance sheet” of our protagonist, Manda Epton;

Debits

  • Manda is 50 years old. It’s highly unlikely her own eggs are viable.
  • Manda is single and has failed to make a success of any of her long term relationships. The men she met in her 30s “already had families”, which infers they didn’t want to have more children with her (or that was a convenient excuse to end the relationship with her).
  • Being single is going to make raising twins highly-challenging. Even with logistical support, such as a nanny, there will be gaps in the parenting of those children that she will be unable to fill on her own.
  • Manda is now a single mother of twins. It’s highly unlikely she’ll find a suitable partner willing to join that family unit in the next couple of decades.
  • Credit

  • Manda’s womb is still viable.
  • Manda has plenty of money.
  • Erm, that’s it.
  • Bill’s Opinion

    It’s medically possible to put one’s finger on the scales of nature to increase the number of fertile years and enable single women to bear children.

    Just because we can, however, doesn’t necessarily mean we ought.

    I wish Manda and her daughters all the best in their futures but let’s not kid ourselves that this is an ideal family unit.

    There’s a couple of fairly straightforward reasons Manda has had to go down this expensive and sub-optimal route to motherhood.

    1. She left it far too late.

    2. She didn’t invest enough time and energy into selecting an appropriate partner.

    The consequence of these life mistakes is single parenthood, at late middle age, of other people’s children (the sperm and eggs were donated/bought).

    She could, of course, chosen to have adopted children to have achieved a similar outcome with the added benefit of lifting two orphans out of institutional care in a third world country.

    But, ultimately, Manda’s own words explain why she took this option, albeit in a form of cognitive dissonance;

    Quite.

    “In the firing line”

    This month’s Australian Prime Minister has apparently put the lives of transgender kids “in the firing line”, not once but three times already during the first couple of weeks into his 18 month tenure.

    What a truly awful human being he must be.

    What was it he said or did to put such venerable vulnerable lives in danger? See if you can guess from this handy list;

    • Gave the armed forces the powers to arrest kids on the street if they are wearing clothing inappropriate to their biological sex.
    • Gave an interview inciting violence against transgender children.
    • Whipped up a mob who subsequently recreated Kristalnacht on transgender children.
    • Wrote a tweet suggesting we stop paying “consultants” to encourage kids to identify as transgender regardless of whether they’ve previously articulated such sentiments or not.

    The last one, obviously. This is the age of Victim Olympics, after all. A few alpha-numeric characters on a computer screen saying, “let kids be kids” is now the equivalent of actual violence.

    Helpfully, the Grauniad has a guest column by a “Phd candidate in architecture” (which I think means, they’re not only not qualified in biology, psychology or any other ‘ology’ but they’re also not even qualified in architecture yet). There’s more chuckles to be had too as the PhD candidate’s name is Simona Castricum and they’re transgender and presumably were born “Simon”. So, instead of picking the usual female version of “Simon”, i.e. “Simone”, they decided to really underline the feminity they’re seeking by adding the more unambiguous letter “a” as a suffix. I don’t think I’ve ever met a “Simona” before, have you?

    Hopefully he’s gone the full monty and had his bits removed too, making the surname so much more accurate.

    Anyway, pointless ad hominens aside, here’s further evidence that we are currently living in a world where, as Scott Adams suggests, there are two different movies playing side by side and you’re likely watching a different one to a whole group of other people;

    “Some boys have vaginas”? Not on the planet most humans occupy. We have a perfectly-usable noun to describe “boys with vaginas”. Clue: it starts with the letter “g”.

    And thank you the Grauniad for pointing out that I’ve missed a further proliferation of the alphabet club;

    LGBTIQA+? (the question mark is mine, just to clarify).

    Is there a handy reckoning guide one can cut out and in keep in one’s wallet to help remember the rules of demarcation between those various letters and characters? Should we be concerned that the ASCII code is going to run out of characters soon?

     

    Bill’s Opinion

    Depending on which study you prefer, the scientific evidence points strongly that, left un-transitioned, most (i.e. >60%) of kids who claim they are transgender before puberty go on to return to identifying as their original gender but are homosexual.

    Now, we could give these kids puberty blockers and encourage them to publicly act the part of the other gender but are we really comfortable with making permanent physiological changes and, probably, psychological changes when the chances are no better than a coin toss that they aren’t just experiencing an awakening feeling of being gay?

    Didn’t Darwin have something to say about catfish?

    Or perhaps it was finches…..

    Those of us who spend most of our lives in a reality, not fantasy existence, might not be aware that “catfishing” is a thing.

    Apparently it’s a form of social engineering when someone is fooled into a relationship with another person who doesn’t actually exist or many aspects of their supposed life is a fabrication. A situation one imagines is a bit like the experience of being Christopher Pyne’s wife.

    It would seem some of these relationships are very intense and, to the victim, quite real.

    Here’s an example;

    The article then goes on to explain a situation where a woman spent six years believing she was in a relationship with a man and then had a revelation and realised it was a hoax.

    What was the cause of revelation, the “cruel way” as the headline suggests?

    Erm, she told someone that she’d never actually met the person she called “boyfriend”.

    No, really. Six years of being girlfriend and boyfriend and they’d never been in the same room at the same time.

    Six years. Not days or even weeks. Years.

    The unfortunate woman is an F-list celebrity, apparently, called Casey Donovan.

    In addition to the couple of hundred words published in the Sunday supplements, she’s got a book for sale which presumably devotes a significant proportion of the chapters to this episode, given that it lasted for about half her adult life.

    Here’s a picture of Casey;

    Casey’s 15 minutes of fame came after she won a TV singing talent show.

    Without wishing to be overly-harsh in our judgement of Casey, perhaps the fairest thing we could say is that, before and during her period of fame she had some not insignificant unresolved personal issues.

    Question; if you have responsibility for a reality TV show or a newspaper Sunday supplement, what duty of care do you have when providing brittle personalities with a public platform?

    Bill’s Opinion

    Much of what passes for entertainment on TV is a direct descendent of the Victorian-era freak shows, putting those on the mental and physical margins of the population on our screens nightly for our voyeuristic curiosity.

    When their time in the sun is over, if they are lucky they can return to the task of overcoming whatever challenges they had previously but with the additional burden of any new issues as a consequence of their brief fame.

    Such as an imaginary boyfriend.

    Apparently Casey is currently driving for Uber, which is a more productive use of her time with the added bonus that she will actually get to meet real humans.

    On banana republics

    Banana republic:

    A small state that is politically unstable as a result of the domination of its economy by a single export controlled by foreign capital.

    Australian voters were handed a new Prime Minister this month in yet another bloodless party coup.

    That’s 8 in 11 years….

    6 in 8 years….

    5 in 5 years…

    What on earth is going on?

    Well, perhaps the first conclusion we can draw is that it is self-evident the office of Prime Minister can’t be very important to the national interest otherwise there’d be frantic debates about how greater stability might be achieved.

    Any further conclusions will require more analysis. Hopefully what follows adds a new dimension of thinking to what currently passes as intelligent commentary in the Australian media.

    The hypothesis we are putting forward today is that the revolving door on the Prime Minister’s office is a function of three factors in combination, two of which are systemic, the third is economic.

    Reason One – Mandate Illusion

    Australia is a member of a very exclusive but not particularly salubrious club; the group of nations with compulsory voting laws.

    Here’s the global view (from Wiki);

    Apart from those countries mainly being in the Southern Hemisphere, what else do they have in common?

    To borrow an expression I can’t recall the source of, most have “green on their flag“. i.e. they are shitholes.

    The list of countries that mandate voting by law is almost exclusively made up of places you’d think twice about visiting for a holiday, let alone considering emigrating to.

    Why do countries such as Uruguay enforce laws to make people vote? Perhaps because the politicians are afraid of the result if the voters had a choice to stay away from the polls?

    The result is a false mandate. 98% of Australians vote so the winning party convinces itself it has a mandate to govern.

    Here’s an idea; hold a general election and announce that the law isn’t going to be enforced. Who believes more than 40% will be bothered to turn up and vote for a Prime Minister who is unlikely to last longer than 18 months before being rolled by their own party?

    Reason Two – Voting Complexity

    So, you’ve arrived at the polling booth, under the threat of a fine, what are your voting choices?

    Here’s an example from an internet search;

    Believe it or not, but this is a simple example. Some can be as wide as 2 pages of A4 in landscape.

    You now have two options to complete the form; “above or below the line”.

    Marking your choices “below the line” requires you to number at least 12 candidates in order of preference. Marking “above the line”, requires 6 choices.

    What you are, in effect, doing by choosing the simpler option is outsourcing your secondary choices to the 6 candidates who will allocate these to whomever they’ve already made a deal with should they be elected.

    Of course, nobody wants to hang around in a school hall on a weekend writing War and Peace on a voting form so 95% choose the outsourcing option.

    For an example of what can happen with this complex system of preferential side deals, research the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party.

    This is democracy, Jim, but not as we know it.

    Reason Three – The Miracle Economy has Made Australians (and the Australian political class) Fat and Happy

    There’s not been a recession in Australia since 1992. Well done Australia! Although some unkind commentators might suggest this stellar run of the economy might have more to do with the economic foresight of geological forces laying down iron ore under the Australian earth several million years ago than the careful and prudential management of modern politicians.

    Regardless of the cause, this has produced marvellous levels of national and personal prosperity for the population. Many issues that in other countries would be the source of great public debate and contention have simply had money thrown at them as the solution in Australia.

    The net result; there’s not much fundamentally wrong in Australia, people aren’t dying of hunger, unemployment is down to levels that can be explained by the IQ bell curve.

    Politicians, therefore, feel no sense of urgency or need to concentrate on bigger issues other than their continued ability to use publicly-funded chauffeur-driven cars and expense overseas “research visits”.

    Self-absorbed navel-gazing, in other words.

    Bill’s Opinion

    Australia’s political system is fundamentally dysfunctional whilst having the illusion of an engaged voting population.

    To find a solution requires acceptance of the possibility that compulsory voting and a Byzantine voting form outsourced to politicians to complete are not signs of a healthy democracy and, in fact, can mask the symptoms of a disengaged population.

    The political class are simply responding to the opportunity to avoid doing their job as one would expect in any other country. To accuse them of lethargy and venality is to misunderstand the nature of those who would seek office.

    A banana republic indeed.

    The world “Could” needs our sympathy again

    Could” and his/her/zher’s synonyms are doing all the work in an article about climate change again, the poor things.

    By 2050 the average Australian snow season could be between 20 and 55 days shorter under a low risk scenario modelled by the CSIRO.

    It’s always good to throw in a graph or chart showing how the trend is pointing to us all going to hell in a handbasket;

    Ok, that looks bad. What’s the source, how was it collected and for what purpose? And why does it only start in 1955?

    Here it is.

    The data was collected by the Snowy Hydro project to keep track of what the likely water flow will be during spring each year.

    There’s a handy disclaimer on the website about how much scientific credibility should be given to the data set;

    Snow Depths Disclaimer

    Snowy Hydro undertakes snow depth readings as required for operational purposes during the snow season. Updates on our website may be made on an irregular basis. For the latest information on snow conditions, we suggest that you visit the appropriate ski resort website.

    Snowy Hydro supplies this information in good faith for the benefit of the public. The information was accurate at the time of recording. However, Snowy Hydro advises that the information now posted should not be relied upon, and therefore cannot incur liability for any loss or damage to third parties arising from how the information may be interpreted or used.

    Ok. So an employee of the hydro plant goes out each month and shoves a measuring pole into the snow to estimate how much water will flow through the turbines later in the year.

    On this basis, we’ve extrapolated that the Australian ski season will be half as long in 30 years’ time.

    One might be excused for not putting one’s boots, poles and skis on eBay.com.au just yet then. As David Camacho points out, measuring snow depths in ski fields is not without its challenges too;

    David Camacho

    One of the biggest reasons for lower snow depths and shorter seasons is increased skier numbers and increased descents/day, carving away the snow which is not totally overcome by piste grooming machines.

    Every time a skier descends, they carve away some snow. This is most extreme on warm sunny days. But also important after fresh snowfalls on thin bases. Especially if the season opens before a firm natural base has developed.

    Data should be limited to stations where no skiers affect the snowbase, as then you have eliminated an enormous variable from data.

    Just like quadrupling the size of resort villages creates an urban heat island effect….

    Unfortunately for Eryk Bagshaw (and presumably his boss, Peter “weather is climate” Hannam) his own article suggests that the public aren’t buying this Chicken Little-ism. Expressed preferences versus revealed preferences are most apparent in the price of property in ski fields;

    But there have never been more skiers or snowboarders heading to Perisher, Thredbo or Falls Creek.

    Houses prices in Jindabyne and Cooma have grown by 42 per cent since 2008, below the 65 per cent average for the rest of regional NSW.

    Victorian alpine areas have been more fortunate, mostly due to their closer proximity to Melbourne, according to Domain data scientist Nicola Powell. Bright has seen Sydney levels of price growth, up 122 per cent over the past decade.

    Bill’s Opinion

    It would be interesting to seek legal opinion on the likelihood of success of a compensation claim for an owner of a ski-field property in Australia who sold on the back of Erik’s advice and subsequently lost money when the big thaw never happened.

    What are the consequences of predictions such as these based on highly-questionable scientific methods?

    Oh, and we’ll just leave this little gem from today here;

    Awkward.