TransIndigenous Mediation

Australian author Bruce Pascoe is in a spot of bother. His ancestry has been referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation into his ethnicity.

Ponder that for a moment; in 2020, it’s in the purview of the police to question and, presumably, lay criminal charges as consequence of what they might find regarding someone’s ethnicity.

How on earth did we get here?

In Pascoe’s case, it’s been a lengthy journey and one which, depending on which “team” you are on looks like this chronology listed by Andrew Bolt or the more sympathetic version (presumably written by supporters) in his Wikipedia entry.

What’s apparent from either side of the story is Bruce’s claimed Australian Aboriginal ancestry is not likely to amount to many actual relatives who existed anywhere but his fertile imagination, if any at all.

But how did he manage to get away with this fantasy for so long?

Obviously, the opportunity was created by well-meaning politicians. When trying to rectify centuries of appalling and egregious treatment of the first people of Australia, politicians needed to create a definition against which they could allocate the additional state funding and resources.

That definition is as follows:

An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he (she) lives.

Can any bright students see the problem with that?

Yes, young girl at the back of the class, what’s the answer?

The words identify, accept and community all require definition to remove subjectivity.

If not, there is a situation ripe for exploitation by people who want free money.

As in most situations, where America leads, Australia follows.

Famously, 2020 Presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, was the recipient of a place at law college reserved for a Native American after claiming to be Cherokee.

Cheekier still, Rachel Dolezal claimed to be of African American ancestry to become chapter president of the NAACP without having any black ancestors.

What can we learn from this?

Bill’s Opinion

As always, incentives matter.

In a situation where there’s free value (money, housing, academic places, increased employment prospects, perception of victimhood) and little obvious consequence for lying, there will be fraud.

The fact that this isn’t obvious to legislators says more about their IQs and knowledge of human nature than the dishonesty of the people who claim to be an ethnicity they are not.

Warren and Pascoe and Dolezal (see what I did there?) are at the top end of the fraud town. It’s not beyond imagination to suspect there are likely countless more frauds at the bottom end.

And who can blame them; presumably people already living an underprivileged life have a great incentive to invent a memory of an distant indigenous background like Pascoe’s to get to the front of the queue for housing or free dental care, for example.

What is going to be interesting about Pascoe’s case is to see what the decision might be regarding the potential crime committed. I’m not a lawyer so my research for precedent utilises the same resources as you, i.e. Google.

The best I could find was this campaign, which infers there’s definitely suspected cases of Aboriginal identity fraud but doesn’t describe any consequence.

My suspicion is, the crime rarely, if ever, results in a successful prosecution for two reasons; 1) there would need to be proof of intent rather than a mistaken “family memory”, and 2) until Pascoe, the people committing the crime were already in relatively humble conditions so the authorities took a lenient view.

Of course, like Elizabeth Warren, Pascoe has a low cost and quick remedy to clear his name; take a DNA test with 23 and Me.

We’ll wait, Bruce. We’ll wait.

In the USA, people who fraudulently claim to be military veterans are guilty of the crime of “Stolen Valor” (in the UK, they’re referred to by the name “Walt“).

In Australia, the Aboriginals suffered the pain and trauma of the Stolen Generation.

Now it would seem Bruce Pascoe and others might be accused of Stolen Victimhood.

Again, incentives matter; when victimhood is increasingly seen as having value, don’t be surprised to see fraudulent claims to it.

The Australian bushfire climate crisis – an antidote to the chaos

After a self-imposed digital purdah over the holiday period where I managed to teach myself a lot about methods to replace structural bulkheads and fibreglassing on 30 a year old yacht, normal service has been resumed.

It may have not have come to your attention, but Australia has suffered a bushfire crisis this summer, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria.

While brave people have worked around the clock, mostly as volunteers, and stoical homeowners have watched as their possessions have been destroyed, metropolitan-dwellers such as me have expended terabytes of data explaining what the cause of these fires is and, by obvious extrapolation, the only solution.

There have been several occasions in my life where I’ve been fortunate to have been able to observe a moment of the zeitgeist in which I’m not personally-invested enough to take a side and could therefore watch friends I’ve previously considered sane, make total fools of themselves.

Examples of this include, the death of Princess Diana, the financial crisis of 2008 and the election of Donald Trump.

To offer a mea culpa and to show fallibility, sadly, I made a fool of myself immediately following the 911 attacks. So, my filter is probably as good as anyone else’s.

However, I’m watching the Australian debate on bushfires and climate change from a position of (self-perceived) neutrality. I’ve accepted that a debate about the various scientific aspects of climate change ultimately converts nobody from one side of the argument to the other.

People pick a team and then find justifications for their team. A compelling chart or dataset isn’t going to dent that certainty.

Once one accepts a role of observer, rather than team player, a different perspective can be offered.

Here it is:

The Australian debate over climate change and bushfires is not a scientific debate, it’s a discussion on opportunity cost.

By this, I mean Australia has finite resources to apply to a problem, any problem. It also has a finite range of influence over the global climate. Which problem it chooses to allocate those resources against and how, are the only two questions that should matter to anyone who has any interest in improving the situation.

Yet, the current hysterical debate in the media and pages of Facebook, Twitter, etc. is around the global problem and solutions.

Does anyone see a future where the two sides of that conversation could ever be reconciled?

I have a circuit breaker for Australia which I offer free to any Prime Minister (it’s a job filled in the same way jury service works, ensuring a new one every 18 months) smart enough to use it. This is copyright free, open source:

(For immediate release)

From the Office of The Prime Minister of Australia:

Fellow Australians, the terrible consequences of the bushfire crisis this summer has convinced many of us, myself included, that climate change is real and poses an existential threat to our planet.

With our unique flora and fauna and naturally dry conditions, Australia is particularly at risk from an increase in global temperatures,

The debate now is not about whether climate change real; the science is settled. The debate is about what we as a relatively small economic power can do in response to it?

This is not a question that can be answered by ideology or one specific scientific discipline; it is now a question for all aspects of daily life, from agriculture to economics, energy production, health, land-use, planning and so much more.

This is why this government is seeking input and answers from all relevant experts. Today, I announce a Royal Commission on the Climate Emergency with the aim of determining Australia’s response.

The terms of the Royal Commission are to include the following non-negotiable considerations:

  • We will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable in our society if we deliberately hamstring the economy, therefore any proposed solutions will be fully-costed and, in total, will not exceed 1% of GDP (benchmarked at 2020 levels).

  • Although Australia is well-respected internationally and is seen by many as a progressive thought leader, our relative ability to influence the global climate is low, therefore any proposed solutions should assume no international collaboration. We will lead by example but not be reliant on others.

  • To protect the weakest and most vulnerable, Australia needs low cost energy. The balance between ensuring this and preventing climate change needs to be clearly examined, therefore the Royal Commision will undertake a full cost/benefit analysis of all possible replacement energy sources, regardless of ideology and factoring in existing government subsidies, tariffs, tax allowances, etc. It is time to reconsider every aspect of energy generation.

I look forward to the full support of the leaders of all major parties in this, our biggest challenge since Gallipoli and the Bodyline Tour.

Bill’s Opinion

If you are 100% certain of what the primary cause of a multi-variable problem is, consider the possibility you’re suffering from cognitive dissonance.

To frame a Royal Commission around the terms above removes the dumb ideology from either side of the fight and concentrates on the opportunity cost to find the best pragmatic use of Australia’s money, time and effort.

The current narrative is one where we are allowing scientists to not only describe the problem but to also the solution when that solution is economic and societal, ie far wider than physics and chemistry. At the risk of going full Godwin, surely we had enough of scientists driving policy in the 20th century?

It has the added benefit of flushing out everyone’s indefensible ideological thoughts, such as the underlying Malthusianism and Millernariasm which, in my view, seems to be the motivation behind most of the louder commentary.

It’s all about me

Jessica (big) “smarty pants” Irvine was allowed another vanity column again this week:

I’ve lost loads of weight because I’m more intelligent than you“.

This continues along the same boastful theme she lectured us with 18 months ago, wherein she helpfully explained how, if you eat fewer calories than you expend in exercise, there’s a good chance you might lose weight over time.

Quite why it took most of her adult life to learn something most people have worked out by the time they’ve reached puberty, she doesn’t explain.

The entire column is barely more than a lengthy Facebook post that most people unfortunate to be connected to her would either skip past or consider justification for muting further updates from her.

That the editorial team at the Sydney Morning Herald let this get as far as publication speaks volumes for the rate of decline of the masthead.

There’s not much else to be said about this utter vanity effort except perhaps a data point for Jessica (well, she claims to be good with numbers) in response to her featured Instagram post:

A six hour marathon?

That’s the cut-off limit of that race.

Bill’s Opinion

Actually, the official results show Jess “ran” the race in 6 hours and 9 minutes.

So they were clearly packing everything up and heading home when she crossed the finish line.

There were only 39 people behind her. Her finish time is on the last page of those who completed the course.

Perhaps Jess’ New Year’s resolution for 2020 should involve developing some level of self-awareness and undertaking a little more introspection.

As for the Sydney Morning Herald editorial team, it might be worth going on to Google Maps and plotting a scenic route to your nearest Centrelink office for later in the year. If you get in the habit of collecting your dole money by foot, you too can become as fit and healthy as Jess Irvine.

Predictions are notoriously difficult

…especially about the future.

But they are a fun diversion.

Here’s ten of mine for the year 2020. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Australian Politics

Politicians of all sides of the aisle increase the warnings against reliance on China. There will be noises made by the Federal government to have closer trade and defence links with the USA (particularly following the USA election).

A Westpac executive is jailed for the AUSTRAC issues. Probably Lynn Cobley.

Global Politics

The UK will reach a WTO+ deal (ie closer to WTO terms than a full trade deal) with the EU and negotiations won’t be extended. Boris will call their bluff.

Congress won’t send the impeachment papers to the Senate. The GOP will make political hay about this all the way to the election.

Zeitgeist

Sentiment turns against Saint Greta. There’s a financial scandal involving her parents or handlers.

A judge in the USA finds a single mother of a transgender child guilty of abuse. The Supreme Court supports this finding on appeal.

Sport

Six Nations table:

1 England

2 Ireland

3 Wales

4 France

5 Scotland

6 Italy

Australia finishes bottom of the Rugby Championship table.

Economy

Gold to temporarily breach all time high ($1,895).

The Dow to breach 30,000.

Widening jaws, bouncing dead cats

We’ve not updated this for a couple of months:

Well, that’s certainly telling an interesting story, isn’t it?

Regarding the lending figures; prior to 2019, the monthly change had only previously fallen to 0.3% or lower three times since the 1970s. It had never fallen as low as 0.1% until this October and November.

Market volumes must surely be playing a part in this picture.

Bill’s Opinion

Despite the voices claiming all is well and there’s never been a better time to buy, the lending data is flashing a red warning sign.

Unless buyers have found a new, magical source of capital, this recovery is likely to be short-lived.

My personal view is, stay out of this market until at least three consecutive months’ lending change figures above 0.3%.

The heat is on

Many people all over Australia received messages of support from overseas friends and relatives yesterday.

Why?

Because yesterday was “Australia’s hottest day“.

No, really it was.

See, this is the record of temperatures in Sydney during the day yesterday:

Nudging 25 degrees there. Phewwwww!

In other words, a pleasant day in early summer.

The “hottest day” is calculated by taking an average of averages across the entire continent.

Yep.

In other news, an average of Tom Cruise and Shaquille O’Neal is as tall as Chris Hemsworth.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps catastrophic man made global warming is an existential threat to humanity or perhaps it isn’t.

One thing is certain to anyone with any experience of reviewing data and reporting; the reporting of climate change is indistinguishable from blatant lying.

May Day!

The verb “may” and its synonyms do yeoman’s work again for the cause of global warming this week:

Australia “may” break a heat record this week.

Crikey (to use the vernacular), that’s scary!

What are the details of this climate catastrophe?

The mercury in Sydney’s CBD may shoot 12 degrees over the historical average for December this weekend while the western suburbs face their hottest day ever in the month.

Smart readers will already have mentally filed the first half of that sentence to the folder marked “bullshit” because of the use of the juvenile “average”.

We’ll come on to the second half of the sentence later.

There’s more heavy lifting for “may”:

“If Penrith gets shrouded by bushfire smoke, it may not get that warm – but either way we’re pretty confident of getting temperatures well into the 40s,” meteorologist Rob Taggart said. He noted that in some parts of western Sydney, measurements only went back 25 to 45 years.

Well into the 40s“, eh?

Oh, and records that only span one human generation?

In case you didn’t get the memo, “average” gets another run off the bench:

“At this stage, we’re forecasting a late breeze, but that may change. If it doesn’t come at all, we could see temperatures into the 40s,” he said.

The average December maximum for the CBD is 25.2 degrees.

Bill’s Opinion

Averages should play no part in any reporting of weather. None.

Why?

Last year, the coldest December day in New South Wales was 14.3 degrees. The hottest was 41.4 degrees.

When the wind shifts to blow from the south, there is no land mass between Sydney and the Antarctic. Good luck using an average temperature to make any useful weather-based decision about Sydney.

A note to those who wish to convince me and others of the climate emergency; try not using persuasion techniques that look indistinguishable from confidence trickery and lies.

Wokepac housekeeping

We’d like to tuck our best mate, Brian, up in bed and let him enjoy his retirement in peace, or at least until he gets called back for the court case.

Unfortunately, we have a little housekeeping to do first.

The coverage of the aftermath the source of our amusement today.

Ok, we’re calling plagiarism on the Spectator. An internet search will show the use of “Wokepac” started here. You’re welcome, chaps.

Then there’s this objective review of Brian’s awful performance by Peter Van Onselen much of which is indeed accurate. Let’s face it, Brian took his eye off the ball and didn’t pay enough attention to the core part of his job description, that is, running a bank.

The question is, though, what was he spending his resource on instead?

Well, we’ve answered that question continually here and neatly summed it up with the tag, “Wokepac”.

Peter is unable to point to the rainbow-coloured elephant in the room though.

Why?

Awkward.

Bill’s Opinion

Peter’s wife was fired by Brian resigned two years ago and Peter is still spitting tacks over it.

Question for Peter; how absolutely awful do you have to be at your job to be fired by Brian Hartzer whilst in possession of female genitalia?

Ainslie was part of the diversity diversion problem at Westpac. She, like many other diversity quota hires, had the easiest job in the world; turn up late, attend some “women in banking” conferences, collect pay cheque. Rinse. Repeat.

Yet she still got fired resigned.

The ballad of Israel Folau

We’ve been following the petty story of Israel closely for some time now. It was obvious it wasn’t going to end well for Rugby Australia and, lo it came to pass.

They’ve settled with him before the court case, probably because of the minor difficulty that they forgot to insist on a social media clause when his contract was renewed 10 months ago.

I’d guess that mistake is worth about 5 years’ of his salary, so somewhere between $7m and $8m.

The missing social media restriction clause would have been no more than 50 words. So, about $150k a word.

Even Ed Sheeran doesn’t get paid at that rate.

In the main, the commentators on this organ knew what was going on; this was the latest skirmish in the Great Culture War of 2019. Obviously, ever the contrarian, Bardon decided Folau wouldn’t win the case.

If he’d gone to court, perhaps he wouldn’t. But, as we say in our house, “if me mam had wheels she’d be a trolley“.

I daren’t look at Pirate Pete’s opinion piece on the settlement. I genuinely haven’t read it but I imagine it will contain virtue signalling to the diverse (but not religious brown people), wokescolding against the religious bigots (but only one type), and soft criticism of Rugby Australia for signing inadequate contracts of employment.

Bill’s Opinion

As I have said repeatedly on this subject, I don’t care nor want to know what an athlete’s views are on theology.

I also would prefer to live in a world where those views, as long as they don’t call for violence, don’t result in them losing their job either.

Finally, the heuristic remains; if you need to quickly determine what is correct or to predict the future, check what Peter Fitzsimons has preached and assume the 180 degree position.

When errors are a feature, not a bug

Woolworths are burning shareholder value in the latest wages underpayment “scandal” in Australia.

“Scandal” is presented in inverted commas because, frankly, it’s becoming easier to list the organisations not caught up in this problem than those who have.

After self-reporting their heinous crime, Woolworths have presumably poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into one of the big four accounting firms to get to the bottom of the problem.

In addition to the subsequent remediation costs (project resources, IT costs, management time and, obviously, the repayments to staff), they now have a class action to defend.

From the article, we can unpick the top level maths involved:

6,000 staff have been underpaid somewhere between $200 and $300 million since 2010 (let’s assume May 2010, as it seems an EBA was signed then).

So, a sensitivity analysis of this:

Worst case – $300,000,000 / 6,000 / 103 months = $485 a month or about $24 a day

Least worst case – $300,000,000 / 6,000 / 103 months = $323 a month, or about $16 a day

Not insignificant but not the difference between cashed up and struggle street either. It’s the equivalent of having to pay for your car parking if you work in a metropolitan area.

What isn’t explained is what the source and reason for these errors is likely to be. Is it an under calculation of pay, superannuation contributions, rostered days off, over-calculation of tax, etc.

Consider those questions when you read of these “underpayment” cases.

A lifetime ago, I worked in various jobs which involved variable pay for reasons such as overnight shift work, weekends and public holidays.

Every month when the pay packet arrived I would spend a few minutes with my diary and a calculator and check the numbers. Mainly the payroll department’s calculation was correct but there were several occasions where I found an issue to be corrected (always in my favour – strangely, I never mentioned the other ones).

I doubt I’d be capable of performing that check and balance if I were employed in a similar role in Australia in 2019. I’d be impressed if many of the current variable wage-earners could do so either.

Actually, if they could accurately calculate their wages, they’re missing a huge career opportunity to switch to working in payroll.

Bill’s Opinion

We’ve investigated these issues previously and explained why we think it’s a feature, not a bug of the Australian employment environment.

There are some heuristics when discussing this epidemic of Australian payroll “scandals”:

– You will never meet anyone in Australia who earns minimum wage. That’s not to say nobody earns at that rate, but there’s so few of them you stand little to no chance of ever meeting one.

– Anyone who claims to understand how to calculate payroll based on Australian Enterprise Bargaining Agreements is not to be trusted. Do not, I repeat, do not buy a used car from these people. I know payroll accounting managers with decades of experience who, in a quiet moment in the pub, will admit to not being certain about these calculations and waking up at night worrying about it.

– Any worker who claims to have been underpaid has only come to this conclusion after being told so by an “expert” (see the previous point).

– The reporting on these issues will never mention the labyrinthine employment regulations in Australia as being even partially-responsible for these screw ups.