Pax Kiwi

The Gladiator bloke did much to perpetuate the cross-Tasman rivalry this week by suggesting that Australia and New Zealand should unite as a single country under the leadership of Jacinda Ahern, the Kiwi version of Justin Trudeau, except without testosterone (but I repeat myself);

At first blush, this looks like another case of an uniformed lefty Luvvie (again, I repeat myself) projecting their utopian world view on a reality that is incompatible.

But wait, there might be something in this combined Australasian Über Country…..

A casual reading of the Australian Constitution reveals the following clauses;

Australian Constitution, section 6: Definitions;

The Commonwealth shall mean the Commonwealth of Australia as established under this Act.

The States shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, including the northern territory of South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the Commonwealth, and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Commonwealth as States; and each of such parts of the Commonwealth shall be called a State.

Curious. So, according to the Australian Constitution, New Zealand is already defined as a State of Australia.

Really? How do the Kiwis feel about this?

More importantly, what does it mean and what relevant precedents are there?

Well…. Western Australia was not an original member of the Commonwealth, joining 3 weeks after Federation following a state-wide referendum. Interestingly, the time lag between the west and east of Australia has since grown, with Perth now preparing fireworks to celebrate seeing in the Millennium next December 31st.

Interestingly, from my research, it would seem the process for WA to join the rest of Australia was a referendum; by voting “Yes”, the State was granted automatic membership in the newly-federated country. If any students of history can confirm this, I’d be grateful, but it would seem the national parliament didn’t have a subsequent vote to confirm/reject the application.

This has a significant implications for the citizens of New Zealand….

Bill’s Opinion

If New Zealand were to hold a referendum and the majority of Kiwis vote to join Australia, there isn’t a damn thing the Aussies can do to prevent them from joining the federation.

Why would they do this?

Let’s answer that question with another question; hey Kiwis, how would you like a heated pool in your backyards, a speedboat and a new German SUV….. and get the Aussies to pay for them?

Clauses 105 and 105a allow for the Commonwealth to take over States’ debts. So, rack up the credit cards, hold a vote and then ask the neighbours to pay the bill.

Lastly, Clause 25 is, erm, interesting….

“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.

    Westpac and O’Sullivan’s Law

    If their social media profile is any measure of these things, one of the four main Australian banks, Westpac, is firmly in the vanguard of the Australian First Battalion of the Social Justice Warrior armed forces.

    Their CEO, Brian Hartzer, is clearly one of the main drivers of this “progressive” attitude, witnessed by the following samples from his Creepbook for Business activity;

    And this word salad that seems to be channeling Eric Morecombe’s line, “they’re all the right notes, just not in the right order“;

    Some more virtue signalling that is surely guilty of cultural appropriation (or perhaps the drag queen beauty parade was ironically named after Islam’s holiest city?);

    More here. No, really ladies, your promotion was entirely merit-based and not simply to hit Brian’s 50% diversity target;

    We’re starting to run out of female leaders prepared to be touted as public examples so we’ll recycle a couple here;

    And then we see something quite telling, hiding in plain sight, so to speak;

    Actively and publicly supporting a political candidate (multiple times too) on the far left of the political spectrum. Well, that speaks volumes, doesn’t it? Obviously he’s allowed to have a personal political opinion but it seems mildly inappropriate to be expressing this in a work-related context.

    However, he’s got form on this. Last year, during the same sex marriage referendum, Hartzer approved an SMS to be sent to all Westpac employees’ mobile phones encouraging to get out and vote “Yes”. Which, as measures of good shareholder value go, wouldn’t be top of the priority list, one imagines.

    Similarly, Hartzer is happy to splash shareholders’ cash on rainbow lighting on the facade of the HQ during IDAHOBIT Day and have rainbow lapel pins handed out to his staff, none of whom feel at all intimidated or coerced into wearing them, I’m sure.

    In a further example of Hartzer’s Olympic gold medal level of virtue signalling, the latest Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (h/t the Welsh Twinkie) with the staff include the following gems;

    • Time off for transgender transitioning, and
    • Time off for “Sorry Business”, i.e. Aboriginal staff can take leave because many non-Aboriginal Australians are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

    Bill’s Opinion

    O’Sullivan’s Law states that any organisation or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.

    Westpac is the case study of this.

    Let’s remind ourselves of the purpose of banks; they are to provide shareholder value by securely-holding deposits and prudently writing loans in as efficient a way as possible. Anything else is gravy.

    How’s Westpac tracking against that mandate?

    Here’s an example to consider; the New Payments Platform (aka Osko), a method to quickly transfer money using a short ID code, was widely launched last year in Australia.

    How’s Westpac going with implementing it?

    Oh. That’s awkward.