Jenna Hates MOPs

Today’s target of stern disapproval is a piece of legislation that performs no function other than enabling Ministers to hire staff.

The emerging facts as we know them:

Yet another Liberal Party staffer has alleged she was sexually assaulted by a parliamentary colleague, this time in Parliament House.

Yeah, that’s bad. It’s only 18 months since a similar alleged incident occurred in the offices of the same political party.

To be fair to Jenna Hates, she nearly continues along a non-partisan route of argument as if she might be interested in seeking truth:

Is the Liberal Party the worst workplace in the world? Is Labor any better? Can women only speak out after they leave?

That’s the second last time we hear about Jenna Hates’ side of the aisle though.

At the beginning of 2020, the Liberal Party released its National Code of Conduct, which insists any victim of criminal conduct should report the complaint to the police and parliamentary staffers should refer the matter to Parliament or government departments. Labor is in the final stages of updating its code of conduct and harassment policies and procedures. In its draft form, it at least says it will support the victim through the complaints process.

So, in summary; the code of conduct says “if the law is broken, tell the police“. Labor’s forthcoming version may add the coda, “and we will support you“. Lovely.

Jenna Hates seems to have also spotted a reversal of William Wilberforce’s famous campaign success:

Parliamentary staffers are the Uber drivers of the political process – they have no rights at work. They are hired and fired at the whim of the member of Parliament, under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act (MOPS).

The staff have no rights at work?

Wait. What??

What is this legislation that makes indentured labourers out of political staffers? Has anyone informed the UN or the International Court of Justice in The Hague?

This is the act of parliament she’s referring to. It may be worth a few moments of your time reading it (which would be more effort than Jenna Hates bothered to invest). The spoiler is, there’s nothing in the legislation giving immunity of prosecution for criminal acts nor overturning existing workers’ rights. It’s basically a vehicle allowing Ministers to use public funds to employ staff. That’s it.

Sadly, the premise Jenna Hates has wasted a column to assert is simply not true; the staff have all the protections any other junior employee has in the workplace.

The problem Jenna Hates has missed is these simply aren’t effective when very junior staff with huge ambitions are put in an environment with more senior staff with bad intentions and these two elements are mixed with alcohol. Taxpayer funded free alcohol too.

What has been alleged to have happened is simply what is always a risk in every workplace across the country when the edges are blurred between professional life and social life.

Bill’s Opinion

If Jenna Hates could think in a non-partisan way for just five minutes she would realise the alleged rapes and sexual assaults are not a problem unique to one political party, one parliament, one city or even just one country.

This is a uniquely human problem which can be reduced but is unlikely to ever be completely avoided.

If she were serious about preventing rape in the Federal Parliament, she’d write a column calling for an end to taxpayer funded parliamentary piss ups rather than trying to suggest the staff in Canberra are plantation workers being abused by the slave owners.

Then at least she wouldn’t be guilty of knowingly funding a rape culture with her taxes if that change were then to occur.*

* That’s a joke, I don’t really think she’s funding rapes, I’m just playing by her idiotic debating rules.

Everyone back in the trees!

Observed evidence suggests a possible hypothesis; in some pockets of the human species, evolution has stopped and has gone in to reverse.

The human species has reached a level of such great technological advance, the resulting inventions and indeed much of everyday life contains too much detail for the vast majority of people to fully comprehend. For many, it could be indistinguishable from witchcraft, to borrow a theme by Arthur C. Clarke.

This idea is neatly demonstrated by the excellent book and subsequent short animated video, “I, Pencil“. Although we take a pencil for granted, no one individual is capable of making one or even has the complete knowledge of how to make one.

Many of us are able to understand the principles behind much of the process though.

William of Ockham’s evolution in reverse hypothesis suggests we’ve left some people behind in this ability to understand complexity at a high level.

Today, I will offer two items of evidence for this but there will no doubt be plenty more over the coming weeks and months. Once seen, this phenomenon becomes visible everywhere.

Item 1: A CEO, whose entire business model is to offer sage advice to other organisations, couldn’t predict there would be any significant problems with paying exactly the same wage to every employee, regardless of age, skill level and skill value. In fact, the poor love seemed almost childlike in his wonder when he discovered a web developer in central London won’t work for the same wage as the office receptionist.

His brain hasn’t quite made the leap to the realisation other humans might have agency and will make choices that best suit their personal circumstances. Imagine reaching adulthood and not being even vaguely aware of that?

Item 2. A Senator of 14 years longevity in the Federal Parliament, who has spent her entire career sitting in vehement opposition to the government on the often inferred basis that it is a combination of corrupt, incompetent or even evil, believes a Government-developed internet search engine would be a useful project for taxpayer dollars.

This, despite the not entirely irrelevant facts there are already a dozen alternative free search engines which, between them, spend perhaps more than $3bn every year on research and development.

Yet she still believes we should trust the bureaucracy that brought you the NBN, CovidSafe App, expensive national firewalls to block websites such as PirateBay without understanding what a VPN is and countless examples of IT procurement and development with quadrupled budgets and minuscule realised benefits. This time they’ll get it right though, surely?

Bill’s Opinion

That they walk amongst us without their jaws wide open in amazement at the miracle of electric light bulbs, coffee machines, bicycles and adhesive stamps on envelopes, says much about these people’s lack of imagination or introspection.

Without getting all eugenics on the subject, it’s a bit of a worry for the species these genes are still washing around the system.

Somewhere in the world there is a tree working really hard. I think Calvin Benton and Sarah Two Dads owe it an apology.

Camembert Voltaire

I may disapprove of what you search, but I defend to the death your right to search it.
Evelyn Beatrice Hall
François-Marie Arouet
Voltaire
Guys, guys, let’s not break how search works.

I don’t know about you, but just like Voltaire, I’ve spent my life defending how search works.

It’s right up there in my list of priorities along with freedom of speech, the non-aggression pact and a commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

After all, when I offer my friend directions to a coffee shop, it’s unreasonable for me to have to pay a fee to all of the other coffee shops they didn’t visit. Or at least I think that’s what she said whilst sincerely looking to camera.

If you can fake sincerity, you’ve got life sorted.

Bill’s Opinion

To summarise my earlier statement on this kitchen sink drama between Google, what remains of the Australian news industry and the government:

Two things can be true at the same time; Google can be a bunch of cunts and the Australian news industry can be a village populated by a collection of the entire nation’s village idiots.

I just don’t understand why we have to pay for either of those facts in a massively inefficient transfer of money via the Australian Tax Office.

Oh, and before anyone points out she was doing this media and Senate merry go round whilst heavily pregnant, I have been present at the birth of enough children to know there are plenty of women in this world who are equally, if not more, stunning and brave.

UPDATE: It’s been pointed out that the ATO aren’t involved in the proposed levy on Google, et al. It’s still not zero cost to the Australian public though, as new laws will need to be written and policed.

Just duck duck go and call their bluff

Executives from Google and Facebook’s Australian offices were dragged in front of a Senate hearing where they were savaged by Green politician Sarah Two Dads, which must have been scary for them.

If you missed the story, the chronology can be summarised as follows:

1989 Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web

1998 Larry Page created Google

2020 The Australian news industry discovered the internet

2021 Australian politicians tried to tax the internet

Ok, there’s a bit more to it than that….but not much.

To get a completely unbiased version of events, read this article published by the Sydney Morning Herald, an organisation whose entire raison d’être was to write about new stuff, yet has failed to change its business model every year since 1998.

Bill’s Opinion

As Ben Shapiro is fond of saying, two things can be true at once. Google and Facebook can be ruthless and unscrupulous operators, willing to steal content and commoditise everything they touch AND the Australian news media can be guilty of failing to adapt their business model to make money and not have to keep firing journalists.

In the unlikely event Google switch off their search engine in Australia, nobody should care. Other search engines are available and some, such as Duck Duck Go claim not to track you like a Stasi surveillance team.

I suspect the politicians will blink first, but who really cares anyway.

What is most amusing is the news outlets most exercised by this. Outlets like The Australian and, in the UK, The Times, Telegraph and Spectator have all made a success of the paywall model. This Australian spat says more about the outlets who haven’t, doesn’t it?

Newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald are desperate for a government handout, nominally paid for by Google. To understand why, one only needs to answer the following question; “where would a Sydney Morning Herald reader go for free news if they locked the paywall?”.

The answer is, of course, the government news agency, The ABC.

The SMH can’t compete because they have no Unique Selling Point to offer to someone whose politics leans towards the left.

Yet don’t expect to see calls in the SMH for The ABC to be defunded.

It’s the Australian equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.

As for losing the Google search option in Australia…. I’m reminded of this exchange in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

Prosser: Mr. Dent, have you any idea how much damage that bulldozer would suffer if I just let it roll straight over you?

Dent: How much?

Prosser: None at all.

Dine and discover unintended consequences

There’s a trial underway in New South Wales which apes Boris Johnson’s “Eat out to help out” stimulus from earlier in the year.

The NSW version is the “Dine and discover” programme.

It’s being trialled in The Rocks area of Sydney, later to be rolled out to the rest of the state.

It differs from the UK version however, as the business categories eligible for the stimulus are far greater, including “scenic and sightseeing transport”, “recreational activities such as go-karting, indoor climbing, mini-golf, billiards, bowling or ice-rinks”, “outdoor adventures”, and “travel agencies and tours.

Can anyone see a flaw in the scope of the trial and what do we think happens next?

Bueller? Anyone?

There are plenty of pubs and restaurants in The Rocks, but go-karting and outdoor adventures? Not so many. Similarly, there’s not a huge number of travel and touring businesses based out of the small historic part of Sydney.

Why is this a problem?

Well, what won’t be tested as these $25 vouchers are rolled out is whether there’s an opportunity for misuse and fraud.

Anyone who’s ever previously met another human will instinctively know the axiom, if fraud is possible and a large enough number of people are involved, fraud will occur.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s an absolute certainty there will be multiple cases of newly-registered or previously dormant businesses making a load of free money from innovative use of these vouchers.

At its simplest, a scam might simply launder part of the $25 back to the consumer, say, $20 in cash back to you while my “scenic tour business” pockets a fiver and nobody says anything.

More imaginative minds than mine will be working on various elaborate and profitable versions of this idea right now.

This is little league stuff compared with some of the Bernie Madoff-esque scams surely underway already in financial markets, though.

2021 is going to be the “everything bubble” party. Perhaps 2022 is when the hangover kicks in?

2021 surely can’t be any worse?

Gonna sleep down in the parlor

And relive my dreams

I’ll close my eyes and I wonder

If everything is as hollow as it seems

When you think that you’ve lost everything

You find out you can always lose a little more

I been to Sugar Town, I shook the sugar down

Now I’m trying to get to heaven before they close the door

Bob Dylan

Last year’s predictions weren’t too far off the mark, with the minor exception of missing a global pandemic and subsequent complete overreaction by practically every national government…..

“Other than that, Mr Waite, how was your holiday in Beirut?”

On to this year’s predictions then:

Australian Politics

Internal borders will continue to open and close like a hooker’s legs throughout the year. The two week quarantine for international travellers will remain all year.

An Australian university will threaten to declare bankruptcy and will be bailed out by the federal or a state government.

An interviewee will point out to a Sky News Australia talking head that they can’t simultaneously berate Dan Andrews for his response to Kung Flu whilst complaining the rest of the world are overreacting to a virus with a 99.93% survival rate.

Global Politics

Kamala Harris will take over the presidency from a medically-impaired Joe Biden. For this selfless act of bravery, she will will receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

A proxy war between China and the western powers will be fought in SE Asia.

The USA will return to the Iran nuclear deal. Somewhat related, mysterious explosions will continue to occur at various locations in Iran followed by an innocent face and shrug of the shoulders in Jerusalem.

The UK will have a new Prime Minister, most likely Dishy Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss.

An EU-sceptic party will win an election outright or by enough to form a coalition government in one of the 27 states.

The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell will result in weasely apologies and withdrawal from public life of several high profile figures.

A Black Lives Matter leader will be arrested for embezzlement and fraud.

Zeitgeist

The new “Trump TV” internet channel will overtake CNN’s viewing figures within a week of being launched.

As crowds return to sports matches, nobody will kneel before kick off for fear of ridicule.

A new hedonistic and illegal music/dance/drugs genre will emerge as teenagers and twentysomethings kick out against the societal restrictions. It will be inspirational for about as long as the northern hemisphere summer lasts and then it will crash and burn.

Alec Baldwin launches a charity with Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King to help sufferers of the newly identified condition, TransEthnic.

Harry and Megan Windsor-Markle’s podcasts and Netflix output is quietly dropped due to awful listening/viewing figures.

Sport

England wins the Grand Slam in the Six Nations.

The British and Irish Lions tour will go ahead in empty stadia and will be won 2-1 by South Africa.

The Olympics will also go ahead but will be a dull collection of the sports you wouldn’t normally pay to watch, as always.

Economy

Gold will reach new highs and stay above $2,100 an ounce all year.

Bitcoin will reach $35,000 and also fall to $18,000 and back again.

Tesla will reach a market capitalisation of $1 trillion but you still won’t personally know anyone who owns one.

All major stock indices will have and maintain major rises.

Several major airlines will be nationalised.

Bill’s Opinion

Some serious, some jokingly serious.

On verra, on verra.

So what’s the point of the vaccine then?

WHO’s chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan told a virtual press conference that there was no evidence yet that people who had been vaccinated could enter countries such as Australia without the risk of spreading the disease.

I have questions…..

Asked by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age what this would mean for Australia’s quarantine program, Swaminathan said “I don’t believe we have the evidence on any of the vaccines to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from actually getting the infection and therefore being able to pass it on”.

I have more questions…..

Dr David Heymann from London’s School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene went further.

“No matter what we’ve done to date, it will continue to spread, despite vaccines, despite therapeutics, despite diagnostic tests,” he said of the virus. “We have to learn to live with this and use the tools that we can in the best way possible.”

He likened the current pandemic to smallpox and the use of the “imperfect vaccine” to control and eventually eradicate the disease.

Smallpox? That disease with a 30% infection fatality rate?

We’re comparing smallpox with a virus from which 99.35% of people infected recover (and that percentage rapidly improves for those under 75)?

How is that useful?

Bill’s Opinion

Several of my friends are convinced the pandemic is a global conspiracy. I constantly argue against this from my experience of dealing with large organisations and governments, where I have learned hive minds are incapable of such efficiency.

Generally, if you want something really fucked up and not achieving the stated outcome, ask a government department to do it.

However, it’s hard to not sympathise with my tin foil hat friends given we’ve just spent the best part of a year cowering in our spare rooms waiting for the miracle to come, then we were told multiple vaccines with 90+% efficacy rates had been produced and now, as they’re being rolled out, we are told cool your jets, you’ll still need to spend two weeks in quarantine when you travel.

The chances of me voluntary taking a vaccine in such circumstances just became significantly less likely. What would be the point?

Everything needs a bail out

Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it.
Ronald Reagan
I learned something today; there is a 1c per litre tax on the petrol in my car’s tank used to subsidise Australian oil refineries.

Wait. WHAT???

Worse, the unions and Opposition think this isn’t going far enough.

Primarily, the reason given is the usual “to protect jobs” bollocks.

The government argues keeping refineries open will suppress the price of fuel and modelling suggests wholesale prices would increase by almost 1¢ per litre if production ended, adding up to $4.9 billion over a decade.

Oh good; they’ve got a model.

Well, why didn’t you say so earlier?

We love models in 2020, they’re such a great way to build our confidence in an argument, and they’ve got such a good track record, they’ve never lets us down previously…..

Interestingly, the part not being said aloud in this article is the national security argument. It is referenced by the union though, here.

….our politicians now seem to understand the significance that refineries have to our national and economic security and how difficult the operating environment has been.

A similar low bow was drawn before the car manufacturers took the taxpayers’ money and scarpered.

It was never quite made clear how the ability to build a shitty Holden Commodore would dissuade or slow President Xi and the PLA Navy from steaming into Sydney Harbour and Port Philip Bay with all guns blazing. An allergy to garish paint jobs and shaded windows?

Bill’s Opinion

Putting aside the hilarious concept of Australia needing a refinery for reasons of national security, the protection of refinery jobs is a classic example of the Broken Window Fallacy, best described by Henry Hazlitt.

It’s probably only fair we subsidise fuel refining, after all, we chuck money at wind farms, solar energy and the coal mining industry. Why not oil refineries?

2020; the year we all stopped worrying and learned to love being Keynesians.

What’s the secret soy sauce?

The Spectator’s Cindy Yu hosted an interesting podcast this week; Has China really beaten coronavirus? in which she interviewed a correspondent in China who pointed out life has been back to normal since about May. Domestic flights are full, about one in ten people are wearing masks in public (which is a rational decision for anyone worried about pollution there) and nightclubs are operating as they did in 2019 with no social distancing restrictions.

That’s quite a turnaround from the situations we were seeing on the news, YouTube and social media back in January and February.

Do you remember? People were being welded shut inside their homes, others were collapsing on the street, including this man who died and whose photographed corpse made it on the Grauniad’s coverage on January 30th 2020:

Compare and contrast with practically every other country in the world and the varying levels of incursions into centuries’ old freedoms they have imposed. Going nightclubbing must see like a distant memory to New Yorkers, Londoners and Parisians.

So what’s going on? What’s the secret to China’s success?

That’s got to be the question of late 2020, surely?

As documented in the media in the early months of 2020, China enforced city-wide lockdowns, including the infamous door-welding.

But so did many other countries and cities. Why is it that, say, London is still moving in and out of lockdown on an almost weekly basis while the disco twinkies in Guangzhou can boogie the night away inside a steamy nightclub?

From the dead body in the pages of the Grauniad and the nightclubs being open was barely 4 months. How is it that New York, Paris, Milan, Barcelona and Sydney have nobody in their nightclubs?

Indeed, that famous Churchillian libertarian and free market advocate, Boris Johnson, is considering stopping Britons from going to the pub on Christmas Eve, something that wasn’t even implemented during both world wars.

So what on earth is going on?

Bill’s Opinion

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know why 1.3bn citizens in an authoritarian regime like China have, prima facie, greater personal freedom than the heirs to Magna Carta.

All I have is a blunt razor that suggests (not proves) the explanation requiring the fewest number of assumptions to be correct is likely to be the cause.

I’d love for people to offer alternate suggestions in the comments but my current view is the other countries are now dealing with a problem of fearful and incompetent leadership. They are fearful that the initial reaction was justified on the available data but, with what is known now, would be judged far too extreme. They are also incompetent at explaining the trade-offs required to be accepted for us to return to normal life.

Is it an international conspiracy of the Illuminati? Of course not.

It doesn’t really matter though; the impact is indistinguishable.

William of Ockham’s First Law of NSW Politics

All NSW political careers end suddenly with a difficult conversation at an anti-corruption hearing about property development.

Don’t blame me, I only observed the pattern;

Exhibit 1 – Eddie Obeid

Exhibit 2 – Ian McDonald

Exhibit 3 – Eric Roozendaal

Exhibit 4 – Barry O’Farrell

Exhibit 5 – Gladys Berejiklian (pending)

Exhibit 6 – Rod Staples (pending)

That’s just a small, hastily-collated sample, of course. Readers with a better grasp of history will no doubt be able to furnish us with multiple examples from all political hues, as this is a problem that crosses the ideological divide.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s not that these politicians are more or less corrupt than any other group of politicians, they aren’t particularly smarter or dumber either.

It’s just that Australia’s economy is so heavily skewed towards property as the only reliable way to make capital gains that the inevitable subset of corrupt politicians will top up their salaries almost exclusively in that sector.

Who can blame them though, when the executives managing the nation’s pension funds are shameless in their contempt for their customers by switching their own funds to avoid losses whilst letting the regular punters take the hit.

Of course, any reasonable “civilian” would look at that behaviour, conclude the deck is stacked against them ever seeing useful capital gains and that their pension fund is simply a forced deposit account. They logically conclude that the only safe place for their savings is in bricks and mortar.

Which brings us back to the incentives for politicians to take a dip; it’s not going to stop, ever.

Rinse. Repeat.