Hanlon a minute

Hanlon’s razor is a principle or rule of thumb that states “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.

This describes my default position whenever I try to parse the statements of politicians. Only their words however, not their actions; the motivation behind these are usually painfully obvious as the trusty revealed versus expressed preferences test explains.

Politicians’ words are often a tricky minefield to navigate though. For example, should the public be wearing masks to combat the virus? Well, no AND yes and you’ll be fined if you don’t keep up with the changes.

Experience has taught me to use Hanlon’s Razor as a safe heuristic to quickly make sense of a politician’s pontificating. For a single statement made by a single politician, it’s rarely wrong. They’re all dumber than bag of hammers and usually a one off statement is simply that lack of intellect revealing itself in verbal form.

When several, seemingly unconnected, politicians make similar or even identical statements, we should probably consider being a little more sceptical of relying on Robert Hanlon’s shaving device.

For example; in the same 24 hour period, Boris Johnson claims lockdowns, not the world’s 2nd largest per capita vaccinated population, reduced deaths and Greg Hunt’s suggestion that, even if Australia ever got its shit together and vaccinated the population, we won’t be leaving the country for several years.

Well, aren’t we just living in a very connected world, eh? Two senior government officials on different sides of the globe decide to downplay the effectiveness of vaccines, one of whom has spent the previous 6 months reminding his country on a daily basis that “normality” would return once enough people had done their civic duty and had the vaccine.

Coincidence? Conspiracy? Collective incompetence? Cowardice?

Your guess is a good as mine.

The one thing we can probably bet the house on is we will not be getting on a plane to an overseas holiday or be welcoming friends and relatives from overseas any time soon, regardless of vaccination status, vaccination passports or any other factor.

Bill’s Opinion

There’s been too many of these coincidences to be ignored. From the lockstep changes over last year of every national leader’s position on masks, school closures, lockdowns, herd immunity, not overwhelming the hospitals and now the effectiveness of vaccinations, the pattern has become too obvious to be ignored.

Hanlon’s Razor suggests we should consider a kinder explanation before assuming bad intentions. My view on these frequent coincidences is now not that we have incompetent leaders, I’ve always assumed that, but they compound their stupidity with cowardice.

No democratic leader is going to risk being accused of having “blood on their hands” by returning those freedoms we used to believe were rights while there is a risk of a single death by this virus. Regardless of any other cost.

Lastly, if your income relies on incoming tourism or overseas visitors such as students, what would the rational response be to Greg Hunt’s latest statement?

Yep, close up and go do something, anything, else.

“I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if a million Australian hospitality workers cried out and were suddenly silenced

Whither Australia’s Federal Government?

If you observe Australian Federal politics for a short while, you may draw the conclusion the current Prime Minister provides about as much national utility as a chocolate teapot. However, should you be masochistic enough to observe Australian Federal politics for a longer time, you will realise this “as useful as tits on a bull” characteristic is common to ALL of the modern era Prime Ministers. It’s a feature of the system, not a bug.

It is possible you are unaware of the, cough, subtleties of the political system in Australia. I certainly was prior to moving here. If this doesn’t describe you, save time and skip the following 3 paragraphs.

Australia has a federated system of states, similar to, yet different from, the USA. This is documented in a rambling and confused constitution which reads like a bunch of vested interests wanted to copy the American version but without any of the annoying parts describing the rights of individuals, inalienable freedoms and primacy of self-determination. Frankly, it’s a dog’s breakfast of a document, although it does perfectly demonstrate the nation’s ongoing struggle with English prose.

The important part is that it is a federated system of quasi-sovereign states, where state governments have far more power than someone from most European counties would intuit.

If that wasn’t obvious prior to 2020, it became painfully clear during the response to the pandemic as state premiers opened and closed domestic borders in a spirit suggesting they felt Queensland and New South Wales had no more in common than Spain and Gibraltar. Meanwhile, the powerless Prime Minister and his ministers mouthed silently like fish washed up on the shore.

The “lived experience” of this system is a confused mess of inconsistent laws and competing regulations (up to 11 versions) for a population similar to that of London and the Home Counties.

Practical examples of this include;

There are countless examples such as these. It’s analogous to the American version of states within a republic but without the justification which comes from the sheer size of population. Both versions probably made huge sense before easy transport and communications, but only one still works as an effective ongoing experiment to test new legislation in a limited jurisdiction. Australia’s federated system of states seems to add unnecessary friction and cost to day to day life when one can travel faster than a horse and communicate quicker than a letter.

These annoyances and inefficiencies impacted Australians infrequently and not greatly enough to become a political movement prior to 2020. From March 2020, the various and differing state responses to the global pandemic starkly exposed the flaws in the system.

We could spend much time here discussing the seemingly random, unconnected and different state laws Australians were subject to during the previous 12 months, pointing out the illogical border closures seemingly dependent on whether the neighbouring state was governed by your fellow political travellers rather than location and number of cases.

The topic of this post is not “Whither Australia’s State Governments?” however. Today, we are wondering what exactly is the bloody point of all the various sociopaths, incompetents, rent-seekers and clock-watchers we are paying for in Canberra? A shorter version of that question is, “what’s the point of the Feds?”.

From what we’ve learned this year, the main duties of the Federal Government seem to be limited to the following:

  • National defence,
  • International Diplomacy (with the caveat some states have been running side campaigns in this area),
  • Immigration,
  • Central banking and the national economy,
  • Collecting income tax and distributing much of it to the states,
  • Erm, that’s about it.

So why then, for example, would the Federal Department of Health need 4,000 full time employees? The department “oversees” the state health departments, doesn’t have any hospitals, and probably doesn’t even employ more than a few dozen medical professionals.

It also failed spectacularly to secure enough vaccines from a diverse selection of pharmaceutical suppliers, despite having been given a 12 month grace period whilst we’ve been locked in a quarantined country. A luxury most other countries did not have. The words, “you had one job” seem somewhat appropriate.

There’s also a Department of Social Services with 1,887 souls desperately doing something, anything, every working day to justify their salary and pension, despite all of the actual governmental social services being delivered at a state level.

Rinse and repeat this question for every federal department listed here, with a particular curiosity for the 107 employees overseeing the $21m spent each year on Food Standards New Zealand.

It’s become painfully obvious over the last year that, regardless of which party is in power, the Federal Government isn’t fit for purpose. If you are unconvinced, let’s try a thought experiment to imagine what Australian life might look like in a version of reality where the Federal Government was fit for purpose.

Obviously, a centrally procured and “needle ready” national vaccine programme, would seem to be a desirable outcome. Also, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken over 12 months to negotiate a standard national policy to determine why and when lockdowns and internal border closures would be enforced.

What about in a regular, non-pandemic year?

How about a national standard for all medical qualifications? Followed by a national standard for any other profession which doesn’t have a specific regional flavour to it?

Or perhaps a joined up immigration system where infrastructure such as roads, housing, health and education capacity were planned and implemented in sync with the new arrivals?

We might expect a fit for purpose Federal Government brokering agreements to standardise rail gauges and facilitate inter-city rail links capable of speeds greater than Stephenson’s Rocket.

The outcomes we can observe in non-pandemic years should be evidence enough of the pointlessness of the Federal Government in its current form. What we experienced during the pandemic simply made it all the more obvious.

Bill’s Opinion

It won’t surprise regular readers of my minarchist instincts. The less opportunity an unelected bureaucrat has to interfere in my life, the happier I am. So, obviously I was in favour of immediately firing as many of them as possible anyway, even before making the observations above.

The post-2020 difference though, is I now have a very clear idea of which career politicians should be given their marching orders first; everyone in Canberra. Raze the buildings, salt the earth, remove the place name from the maps. Replace it with something a fraction of its current size and, while we’re at it, distribute it around the country. There’s a reason why Canberra has the best restaurants in Australia….because you’re picking up the bill for the food and wine every night.

It would seem to me that, based on the dog’s breakfast of a constitution and 120 years of legal precedence, the role of the ideal Federal Government can be summed up in one noun, “diplomacy”.

All we actually need from the Feds is to maintain appropriate relations with other countries (including “muscular” diplomacy, where required) and to use the same diplomacy skills to broker frictionless relations between Australian states and territories.

I’m not even convinced we necessarily benefit by the setting of interest rates and collection of income taxes to be undertaken at a Federal level. Perhaps what’s good economically for Sydney isn’t the same as that which would benefit Launceston, and the ability for their respective state governments to independently course-adjust would be more optimal?

Ultimately, my ramblings on this subject were just an exercise in complaining; there’s zero chance the Canberra political-industrial complex will countenance a change and, unless the people of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane* decide to march on the ACT with pitchforks and singing La Marseilles, nothing will change any time soon.

*sorry Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart, but you’re not relevant. As for Perth; go on, we dare you to declare UDI; we’ll invade and take over those mines within 15 minutes…to save them from China.

Hot dog, boiling frogs, Albuquerque

We’ve all got different limits.

In the film Falling Down, the main character reaches his after a long and difficult day when a store owner refuses to give change to make a telephone call.

For Britons, perhaps it’s the passing of this law later today, banning “non essential” overseas travel, at almost the precise point the herd/vaccine immunity makes itself clear on the offical statistics.

Sorry. WHAT?

Over the 806 years of Common Law, the principle has been consistent: if something isn’t explicitly banned, it’s allowed. Look at how lightly the current crop of politicians are prepared to flip that on its head.

Previously, if a citizen (synonym; “free man“) wished to travel overseas, they would only be prevented for a small list of reasons such as to flee prosecution for a criminal offence, or there was a reasonable expectation they were intending to commit an offence overseas (child abuse, for example).

In 2021, we now have just ten reasons a citizen can cite to not be detained in domestic captivity.

These reasons are listed below, you’ll read them and think, that’s reasonable.

But you’d be wrong. Dead fucking wrong.

It’s so unreasonable, it justifies outrage. Not violence, we’re not there yet, but we should be doing everything within in our capability to fire the people who thought this was a good day’s work in Westminster and never allow them to hold public office again.

If you’ve committed no crime, have no intention of committing a crime, perhaps you’ve even had the bloody vaccine like you were told to, who the fuck should be able to prevent you from departing the country?

Some wanky bureaucrat making a decision to hand out five grand fines at Dover because their interpretation of your reason to leave the country is that it isn’t good enough? Fuck off. Fuck right off.

Those ten reasons:

Study

Work

Weddings

Legal obligations

Moving, selling or renting property

Childcare or to be present at a birth

Visiting a dying relative

Attending a funeral

Medical appointments

Escaping a risk of harm

Bill’s Opinion

That last reason is a doozy.

It’ll be interesting to review the final wording of the act to look for the opportunity to cite, “taking a mental health break from an authoritarian government, operating for over a decade without a credible opposition, imposing arbitrary and unscientific laws on citizens” as a valid interpretation.

I no longer recognise my country of birth and its supine, compliant, frit citizens.

This is a country who produced someone capable of delivering this speech with a straight face and honest intentions. An iron curtain has indeed fallen across the continent.

Take it away Byron:

“England! with all thy faults I love thee still,”

I said at Calais, and have not forgot it;

I like to speak and lucubrate my fill;

I like the government (but that is not it);

I like the freedom of the press and quill;

I like the Habeas Corpus (when we’ve got it);

I like a parliamentary debate,

Particularly when ’tis not too late;

I like the taxes, when they’re not too many;

I like a seacoal fire, when not too dear;

I like a beef-steak, too, as well as any;

Have no objection to a pot of beer;

I like the weather, when it is not rainy,

That is, I like two months of every year,

And so God save the Regent, Church, and King!

Which means that I like all and everything.

Our standing army, and disbanded seamen,

Poor’s rate, Reform, my own, the nation’s debt,

Our little riots just to show we are free men,

Our trifling bankruptcies in the Gazette,

Our cloudy climate, and our chilly women,

All these I can forgive, and those forget,

And greatly venerate our recent glories,

And wish they were not owing to the Tories.

Jenna Hates men…

….who won’t fund her friends’ Quangos.

Although, it’s probably a safe bet she hates men in general. You’d likely get about 3-1 from Ladbrokes if you could bet against her misandry, particularly since the messy divorce and the birth of his new baby.

Anyway, the usual unreadable prose is offered today, relying on the tried and tested recipe of taking three unrelated reasons to clutch at pearls, then thread them together with a pure weft of golden tenuousness.

The conclusion to these appeals always seem to use the same formula too; everyone else must change and, by the way, pay.

Today, for example, something something consenting adults are having sex in Canberra, something something two allegations of sexual harassment, something something human rights, something something, you need to pay:

So much of this is easy. It’s about money. But it is also about will. And so far this government has not shown it has it. And I do not know whether even the current events are enough to push it to act. No matter what the now paused Gaetjens’ inquiry reveals, nor the Foster review nor Kate Jenkins’s review, nor last night’s embarrassments.

Bill’s Opinion

Do the left have any other emotional response than to project?

The people most likely to say words to the effect of, “the tories are fixated with money” just happen to be the ones most eager to get their hands on your money.

What’s particularly amusing is their inability to see the disconnect between the following two positions:

The government is venal, incompetent and analogous to some of the worst humans to have ever walked the planet”.

And:

This crisis requires government intervention and legislation to give them more power over our lives”.

Imagine the level of cognitive dissonance needed to simultaneously despise the power of the government but remain optimistic it’ll all be fixed once we replace them with the next lot and let them spend more of our money.

If you’ve lived long enough to suffer male pattern baldness or the menopause and you still have such childish thoughts, you may want to spend some moments in quiet reflection.

Finally, the William of Ockham solution to sexual harassment and worse in the Federal Parliament building is very straightforward; make it subject to the same legislation they’ve imposed on remote aboriginal communities and for the same reason.

Ban alcohol in the Australian Capital Territory.

What’s good for the goose is good for the Canberra.

Today’s Gell Mann example

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

Pay attention at the back….

Cyber attack on hospitals results in cancelled surgeries.

And on the same front page:

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller is spearheading a push to introduce consent technology via an app.

Mick Fuller is NSW’s top police officer. We pay him $649,500 to keep us safe from harm and lead the citizens through times of crisis with a quiet and commanding gravitas-based leadership.

One can only imagine the clown-like thought bubbles and word salads we’d be subjected to if we paid him something closer to the median annual salary which, depending on where you look, might be about a tenth of what he’s pulling.

A source close to the HQ* of the NSW Police Dept. has leaked the following suggestions to keep women safe that didn’t quite make it on Mick’s press statement:

  • Dress shop front mannequins as NYC Guardian Angels and locate them on train station platforms at night.
  • Any women who have a Tinder swipe left to right ratio greater than 1:2 are to be designated as too attractive to be allowed out in public without wearing a full yashmak and are limited to low alcohol drinks in bars and other hospitality venues.
  • All boys of high school age are to register on a centrally-held database once they’ve achieved “2nd base”, along with details of the skatepark or children’s playground in which this milestone was reached.
  • Nobody who has watched Last Tango in Paris is able to purchase butter, salted or unsalted, without the appropriate Service NSW QR code.
  • Women who commence extra marital affairs with men who rely on the “my wife and I sleep in separate bedrooms and are more like good friends than lovers these days” defence, are able to anonymously download their lover’s official NSW shagging records for confirmation.

Bill’s Opinion

No, this is fine. I can’t see any issues arising with the possibility of a central database tracking citizens’ sexual activity being in the hands of government.

I mean, it’s not as if we get a mea culpa about a massive data breach every couple of weeks, is it?

Also, I’m sure there’s absolutely no possibility someone who’s a bit rapey could use your thumb to open your phone after you’ve been rohipnol’d…..

Probably the worst part of this story isn’t the window-licking reporting of this brain fart with the obvious amnesia about how frequently we read of data breaches. It’s the fact it was floated by the person who, apparently on merit, made it to the tippety top of the competence hierarchy of the police force.

It’s quite an achievement, but perhaps Mick Fuller makes Cressida Dick look capable, which is really bad news for the many Brazilians living in Sydney.

*our source is currently unavailable for further comment as he’s just scored a fresh bottle of turps and is sheltering from the rain under a sheet of cardboard.

Consent craving

As is often the case, multiple stories on a similar theme are suspiciously appearing in the media and on people’s Creepbook feeds at the same time.

Exploring the reasons behind the coincidence of the trend, the narrative, can be the theme of another day.

Meanwhile, the current cause du jour is sexual harassment, rape and murder of women by men.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but I’m certain we can all agree those are bad things. Reducing them from our societies should be high on the priority list of everyone.

Note, I didn’t say “eliminate”.

It seems to me, the nexus of anger is to be found between the concepts of reduce and eliminate.

There’s clearly anger. Anger at the murder of Sarah Everard, anger at multiple sexual assaults and allegations of sexual assault by various political workers in Canberra, anger at domestic violence and the fact it’s committed mainly (but not exclusively) by men.

One of the banners at the Australian protest stated we should, “End Rape Now”. I would love to hear the placard owner’s thoughts on how a transition to that world might be achieved.

Banners at the London protests took issue with the fact it isn’t always safe for a lone female to walk on the street.

These statements of protest are clearly well-intentioned uses of rhetoric and hyperbole, but are they helping?

To return to that nexus; if you believe a world with zero rapes is possible, calling for a curfew for men would make sense.

If you rejected that idea, though, the screaming around the theme “all men are rapists” has the effect of drowning out a more sober discussion about practical actions to achieve reduction.

A related conversation was had between a group of fellow parents at our local high school recently; “the school should teach our children about consent“, was the cry.

An unpopular opinion was offered by one foolish soul:

a) I send my kids there to learn maths, English and science. I’ll teach morality, thanks.
b) If your kid doesn’t already know how to respect other people’s bodies by Year 7, YOU are the problem.
c) “Consent” has a specific legal definition which no teacher I’ve met would be capable of teaching in a one hour struggle session.
That went down like a cup of cold vomit, obviously.

Bill’s Opinion

Unusually for Spiked, this is sensible take on the problem.

It is not safe to walk home alone. It’s never been safe to walk home alone. Regardless of whether you are female or, and I cannot stress this strongly enough, male.

As Brett Weinstein stated recently, we are all descendants of rapists and murderers. The statistical probability you aren’t is so unlikely it’s not a credible option. Genetically, we have the capability within us. The miracle is that it doesn’t happen with much greater frequency.

To consider a zero rape world feasible is to believe millions of years of genetics can be overridden for 100% of the population 100% of the time.

If this describes your view, may I politely suggest you meet more human beings.

If you have a son, teach them to keep their hands to themselves unless invited. If you have a daughter, teach them most men are lovely, but some are cunts and they don’t often wear badges to explain which group they are a member of.

In the meantime, if you want to feel safe walking the streets, don’t do it after 6pm if there’s a “man curfew”; the men who stay home won’t be the ones you need to be concerned about.

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.