A voter exercises their democratic right

…. to vote for the thing we voted for 35 months again yet still haven’t fucking received.

Why not UKIP? Because the Brexit Party has momentum and no policies other than a WTO terms exit from the EU.

The message offered by vote for that party should not be interpreted as a “low information vote” or for “we must do a deal at all costs” but an unequivocal, “just leave“.

Just do your damn job, politicians, or move aside and let someone take over who is able and prepared to.

Bill’s Opinion

Democracy is an exercise in mass self-delusion.

The moment those in power make the mistake of allowing us to see behind the curtain, they have put themselves in grave danger.

Political handbrakes

Australia held a Federal election yesterday. They do this every couple of years and also change Prime Minister about halfway through each term, for reasons nobody really remembers. Perhaps this is rather like how the winter and summer Olympics are held 2 years apart to keep everyone interested?

Like many “new” countries, Australia has a written constitution. When one speaks with Australians, they claim theirs is quite analogous and heavily-based upon the USA constitution.

This claim is accurate only to the point that there are States (but also “Territories” which differ to a “State” somehow) that can write local legislation and the Federal government that can write national legislation.

The similarities come to a rather screeching halt there.

The USA Constitution is, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most beautiful pieces of written text in the history of the English language, staking the primary claim that the rights of the individual are paramount.

It’s a work of philosophy first, a declaration of nationhood second. It has stood the test of time and is still the envy of everywhere and everyone else in the world. If you are in any doubt about that, Google the statistics on where potential immigrants would prefer to relocate to and from. The jihadi supporters might shout “Death to the USA!” in the streets of Gaza but they individually change their tune the moment there’s a hint of a Green Card being granted.

Interestingly, Liberia was founded on an almost direct copy of the USA constitution, perhaps demonstrating that national, cultural and ethnic differences might be slightly more important and harder to assimilate than the cultural marxists would like to believe.

One of the wonderful consequences of the American system of maintaining separate Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches acting as checks and balances on each other is the constant drag on making radical changes to anything of importance; a “Hitlarian” populist character simply can’t enter the Whitehouse and start jailing his or her enemies. So, despite what the increasingly insane left would like to think about Trump’s motivations, he’d be hamstrung even if he was maliciously-minded.

Let’s just repeat that in another way, for the simple-minded folk who have let their hatred of Trump cloud their judgement; either Trump is Hitler/Maduro/Erdogan/Jong-Un and wants to jail dissenting voices but the system stops him, or he isn’t actually a malicious person after all.

Either way, brilliant news for Americans and the rest of the world!

If you accept that the system prevents dictatorships, consider that this is a design feature, not a bug, of the American system.

No such designed constitutional devices exist in Australia. The constitution is, in effect, the result of a few months of horse trading and pork barrelling by the rich and powerful at the turn of the last century. There’s even a clause in there explicitly allowing laws to be passed discriminating against racial groups, despite there being no legal definition of what a “race” is in English Common Law. Oh, and there’s the classic “New Zealand can become Australia if they ask nicely” clause.

Did you hear that, Jacinda? You could get those gnashers finally fixed up on Medicare. It’s a shame Uncle Helen Clark didn’t realise that, eh?

However, Australians are a canny bunch. They don’t need a high fallutin’ philosophically-based document to define their nation. They can find more practical ways to slow shit down.

This latest Federal election is a fantastic example of this phenomenon.

Spoiler alert; the incumbent party, the Liberal/National Coalition (ie a left wing party but not the extreme left wing party) won but without a workable majority. The amusing part is that the Labor Party (yes, they deliberately use the American, not Australian, spelling for some bizarre reason) were supposed to win in a landslide.

Turns out people lied to the pollsters. Now where have we seen that before?

This is now the 3rd minority Australian government since 2010 and is likely to remain so for the next three years. At which point, 8 out of 11 years will be under zombie governments.

Why has Australia suddenly started to emulate Italy?

My hypothesis is this is due to a combination of two almost uniquely Australian factors:

1. Compulsory voting. Everyone, even the completely politically disengaged, have to turn up to the local school on a Saturday and write on a form. Many people, me included, resent this forced “right” and either spoil their votes or decide to not vote for the major parties.

2. “Preferences”. If your preferred first choice doesn’t win an outright victory and has no chance of being elected, your vote is recycled to the political party your candidate has nominated. You have no say in this. Democratic?

The experienced consequence has been that the system has incentivised a proliferation of micro-sized single issue parties, usually staffed with people with zero political experience and often little useful experience of anything much at all. QV The Motoring Enthusiasts Party.

Bill’s Opinion

Great! By a complete accident, Australian has landed on a system that makes large scale radical change highly unlikely.

Given that the economy is showing signs of slowing, it’s possible that Australia might recover more quickly than if a “strong” government were in power with a sizeable majority and an instinct to meddle (politicians of all persuasions seem to have this in their DNA).

Why?

The 1920/21 Depression offers a clue.

Imaginary Australian infrastructure

One has to feel sorry for the Australian taxpayers; they get the worst of both worlds. On the one hand they hand over one of the highest rates of income tax in the world to their governments (Federal and State), but meanwhile they get very little in return for it.

Some recent examples include:

The National Broadband Network – the federal government (of both political hues) has pissed billions into digging up the pavements and roads to install internet cables to the 97% of the population who live in metropolitan areas, rather than letting the free market do its job. The government might have saved the vast majority of the expense by focusing on the 3% of the country living away from the cities and towns. Australians have paid double and have waited twice as long as promised to receive an outcome that is, by the government’s own targets, significantly sub-standard.

The State of Victoria’s non-existent East/West road link – the commercial genius that is Premier Dan Andrews (who’s never had a proper job in his life, completely coincidentally) cancelled the construction contract the previous government had signed, costing the Victorian taxpayers $1.1bn to not receive a much-needed new road.

But, if we think these boondoggles are excessive, wait until you hear about the latest promise to piss away other people’s money…..

If Labor (sic) win next week’s election, they will spend $1bn on a high speed train line between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Really? That seems awfully cheap for such a nation-building piece of infrastructure.

Well, if you  don’t read much further than the Sydney Morning Herald’s headline, you might think Australia is about to join the rest of the world with such convenient and efficient transport;

Labor to spend $1b on bullet train route from Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney

Great. Finally, people will have a better option than shlecking their way to the airport which, in the case of Melbourne, involves a traffic jam of Delhi-esque proportions at most hours of the day or night.

But wait, what is it you’re getting for your $1bn (or about $100 per adult)?

Labor has promised to spend $1 billion buying land between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane to build a future high-speed rail link.

Oh, right. So $1bn gets you a half a kilometre strip of farmland down the east coast and a diversion inland to Canberra. Oh what a fucking bargain.

Bill’s Opinion

Milton Friedman’s four ways to spend money is yet again proven correct. The easiest thing in the world is to spend someone else’s money on someone else; you don’t give a shit about the cost OR the quality of the outcome.

It’s shocking that, despite being populated by Union members with a barely-concealed authoritarian streak and lawyers fully-versed in the powers of the State, Labor (sic) haven’t spotted that they can simply use existing compulsory purchase legislation to grab this land once they actually have a budgeted rail development approved.

Or perhaps they already know this and simply decided that $1bn of other people’s money is a cheap price to pay for a pre-election headline stating they will build the long-awaited Australian high speed rail network.

My personal opinion is that it makes complete sense to build a high speed railway between the 4 major cities on the east coast of Australia, especially given the fact that so much of the land between these cities is undeveloped. However, experience has shown that developments of such a large scale in Australia are always utter disasters for the public purse and very rarely even deliver the promised outcome despite the tripling (if you’re lucky) of the cost.

Here’s a prediction one can confidently offer; if you’re planning on coming on holiday to Australia in the next fifty years and want to travel between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney or Brisbane, set your expectations that you’ll be flying or driving. There’s more chance of the Wallabies winning the Bledisloe Cup in that time than ground being broken on the high speed rail link.

A voter exercises his democratic right

…to treat politicians with the utter contempt they deserve.

The problem with legally-compelled voting is the elected politicians can convince themselves they have a mandate.

The additional major problem with the Australian version of compelled voting is that one needs a PhD in Confusopoly to comprehend it. Frankly, you stand more chance of accurately comparing a Telstra mobile phone “dollar” with the Optus version than navigate this form;

(Excuse my handwriting; I am a medical doctor).

Here’s a scanned version for clarity, in case you are voting in New South Wales and wish to become more acquainted with the various policies on offer;

Bill’s Opinion

Changing government every 3 years and Prime Minister (by bloodless coup) every 18 months whilst fining those who choose not to engage in the voting process is not democracy.

Convince me otherwise and maybe you’ll get my vote next time…… Be ready to demonstrate that you’ve achieved something in the real world other than organising a union or working for a law firm, you useless and entitled twats.

Sometimes the deck chairs on the Titanic analogy *is* appropriate

Or perhaps we could remind ourselves of the apocryphal story of the English high court judge who asked the defence barrister “what are ‘The Beatles‘?”.

The Australian government is considering enforcing larger quotas on radio stations to ensure more Australian music is played.

No, not just the multiple government radio stations of ABC and SBS but commercial radio stations. ie private-owned businesses.

Let me repeat that; The government of Australia is seriously considering increasing a quota forcing what music can be played on radio stations.

No, not Cuba or Venezuela. Australia.

Check the date. No, it’s April 3rd, not the 1st.

Bill’s Opinion

Podcasts

Spotify

Apple Music

Google Play

Slacker

Tidal

Amazon Music

Who the hell listens to the radio in 2019?

Here come the freedom restriction laws

A good knee-jerk reaction is only worth doing if it’s quick enough, especially in election season (which, to be fair, is every second year in Australia);

Media bosses face jail over sharing content.

Hasty legislation is so very tempting to those in power as they feel under pressure to be seen to be doing something, anything, in the wake of exceptional or unique events.

The Australian government is therefore making noises about introducing legislation enabling the prosecution of the leaders of technology companies on whose platforms the video footage of the Christchurch murderer’s crimes were shared should similar situations occur in the future.

Our confirmation biases trick us into thinking there is merit with this approach. There are multiple problems with what has been proposed in this thought bubble of a policy description however. Let’s list them and see if you agree:

1. Opportunity cost – given finite resources of time, money and personnel, is this the best and most urgent response the legislators and law enforcement authorities can take to minimise the risk similar murderous violence doesn’t re-occur? I say “minimise the risk” because, despite what anyone would like to think, there is no palatable way to completely prevent murders occurring. The shooter was hiding in plain sight on various internet discussion forums, perhaps some more diligence on behalf of those tasked with crime prevention might be the better priority?
2. Legislation requiring innovation – a law that would deliver jail time to the CEO of Facebook Australia for hosting a snuff movie is, in effect, demanding the company either throw thousands of content moderators at the problem 24×7 OR they invent 100% foolproof algorithms to automatically remove the content the moment it is uploaded. Neither of which is particularly likely, which brings us to problem #3….
3. The law of unintended consequences – the CEO will be extremely motivated to remain at liberty and without a criminal record, therefore they will scale back their content and offering to the Australian market. 99.9999% of livestream content breaks no law, yet faced with the risk of jail, an intelligent CEO is going to simply pull that functionality and content from the Australia IP addresses. Worse, the risk to the CEO has still not gone away due to problem #4…..
4. Virtual Private Networks – VPNs are cheap and easily procured. If content is blocked in Australia, it’s likely users could hop on to a VPN and spoof their location to a different geography and see it anyway. Anyone who enjoys using torrent services that are geo-blocked in Australia already knows this. Faced with this risk, perhaps the tech companies would withdraw or scale back their Australian office footprint?
5. Who defines what content is banned? – if we were to legislate against “dangerous” content, hasty legislation would be a mistake. The definition of what is to be banned is going to require significant discussion and debate, followed up with extreme legal scrutiny to ensure the legislation is unambiguous and not simply providing a censor’s charter to a future government.

Bill’s Opinion
In a crisis, people revert to what they know. Politicians know how to announce and create rapid, ambiguous legislation that satisfies the expediency of being seen to act but fails the test of sustainability and desirability over the long term.

Expect more of this.

Also expect legislation to make subscription to a VPN illegal once someone explains their use to the politicians.

If “democracy” is the punchline, what was the joke?

Australians’ cup of democracy runneth over.

Those lucky souls in the lucky country have the opportunity to change Prime Minister in a few short weeks’ time.

The state of New South Wales getS to change their parish council too.

How exciting!

Except, Australians get a new Prime Minister every 18 months anyway, whether they voted for one or not.

Seriously, they do.

Of course, this leads to a surplus of ex-Prime Ministers. By May this year, the list of people who are still alive and claiming the not-insubstantial pension and benefits of the highest office in the land, will probably look like this;

Bob Hawke (run out)

Paul Keating (bowled)

John Howard (bowled)

Kevin Rudd (1st innings run out, 2nd innings bowled)

Julia Gillard (run out)

Tony Abbott (run out)

Malcolm Turnbull (run out)

Scott Morrison (bowled)

That’s a lot of pension payments, allowances for an office and staff and, of course, the free Qantas first class flights for life.

Thank goodness the Australian economy can afford it. Oh, wait…

Voting is compulsory in Australia. Let me repeat that; it’s illegal to not turn up and pretend to cast a vote in elections.

Chances are, you’re reading this in a jurisdiction where voting isn’t mandated, so you might think there’s something to be admired by this system.

Well, consider the probability that a voter of above average intelligence could navigate and make sense of this voting form;

If you choose to number your preferences “above the line”, the candidates then distribute your secondary votes as they see fit, should they not win a majority of primary votes.

If you choose to vote “below the line”, you can distribute your votes to each individual candidate.

Either way, it’s not clear what each person stands for or what commitments they would give to vote in a particular way should they find themselves in office. There’s an awful lot of single-issue candidates in that list, one assumes the well-informed “high information” Australian voters have read each and every manifesto and election promise these people have pledged.

Yeah right.

Bill’s Opinion

Many of the great leaps forward of the human condition involve a critical mass of the population agreeing to believe a man-made concept. The value of money is a great example of this; a dollar has worth because enough people agree it has. When that changes, the value of money collapses very quickly.

Democracy is a similar fallacy that works because we say it does.

On March 29th, 17.4 million voters in the UK may discover that fallacy isn’t as robust a concept as they previously thought.

With a system as laughable as this one, the people of Australia may not be far behind in that discovery.

If you wanted Bill Shorten’s recipe for Pavlova, you could have just asked

Apparently, China or Russia “a sophisticated state actor” hacked into the Australian Parliament IT servers last week.

Shocking stuff. We are truly fighting a new Cold War, thank goodness George Lazenby is still alive.

We are also told that it is too early to know the motivation or what information was accessed.

However….. here at William of Ockham, we have a handy little blade that can slice away all that is irrelevant to reveal the most likely explanation.

Let’s quickly dismiss the possibility that a foreign power was hunting for an important secret of state; if there is anyone reading this who believes Australia has any secrets China, Russia, Indonesia or even bloody Swaziland don’t already know, I have a harbour bridge I’d like to sell you. And anyway, there are better IT systems to hack to gain Australia’s secrets.

In addition to Australia’s defence secrets not being worth the candle, how many of them are likely to be divulged to MPs, or even the Defence Minister and Prime Minister? Given that that last role is only ever a casual appointment, it’s doubtful the security services go through the bother of setting up a userid and password for each new appointee.

So what information could possibly be of interest on the parliamentary servers?

The more I think about this question the more certain I become that they will have learned about just one topic: who’s shagging with/has shagged whom?

Bill’s Opinion

There’s a Federal election this year (there’s a 33% chance of that statement being correct at any random time though), which means Australian politics might finally become interesting.

Imagine the fun we may be about to have with Wikileaks drip-feeding prurient tittle tattle about the sordid details of the sex lives of, say, Julie Bishop, Sarah Hanson-Young, Barnaby Joyce or Richard Di Natale?

Maybe chuck in some scandals involving expenses being used to fund lavish lifestyles or questionable morality and perhaps some unparliamentary language on emails referring to voters as sheep or worse.

Finally, an election we might actually enjoy!

Write down the NBN? Write the whole thing off

We’ve spoken before on the utter disaster that is Australia’s National Broadband Network and how it was unlikely to ever achieve its stated goal and also cost significantly more than budgeted.

Well, things just got a whole lot worse for the beleaguered Australian taxpayer as it would seem reality is starting to rudely impose itself on the business model, such that it is: The NBN will need to write off a huge chunk of value, if that’s even possible now.

Crikey (in the vernacular), who ever could have predicted that?

Oh yes, everyone.

From the article:

It is self-evident that you can’t write $20 billion off a $10 billion (or less) equity base.

Ya reckon?

Rue made the point that when people called for a write-down, what they were actually calling for was a dramatic reduction in wholesale prices. It’s a mechanism, not the objective.

There are alternatives to a write-down that could lower wholesale prices, although they would involve heavy costs for government.

Hold on one second, sunshine…. heavy costs for whom?

The government? Nope, don’t think so. The government only has money for one of the following reasons:

1. Taxes paid by citizens (yes, that includes corporation tax – who do you think buys their goods and services?)

2. Borrowing on behalf of the public….which will be repaid by, yep, taxes

Read this with that in mind:

If the federal government were to cash out the $7.4 billion of subscriber payments and buy out the lease agreement, it would effectively inject more than $20 billion of value into NBN Co by carving those payments from its cost base and boosting its cash flows.

The substantial change in its economics would enable NBN Co to pass through the savings to retailers without damaging its ability to generate a positive IRR.

Or, in English; if the government spent more money it would make the NBN company seem like it was less of a turd.

Bill’s Opinion

The lesson every generation of voters always has to learn the hard way is, if you really want to fuck something up, and I mean really fuck something up and stay fucked up for a bloody long time, get the government to do it.

Who in Ireland voted for this?

There is a worrying trend in the West of leaders with absolutely no personal investment in the future driving huge changes to the very fabric of their country.

To illustrate this point, ponder this question, What do the following leaders (or ex-leaders) have in common?

– Angela Merkel

– Theresa May

– Emmanuel Macron

– Julia Gillard

– Nicola Sturgeon

– Leo Varadker

Apart from the obvious point that they all suffer from varying degrees of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome, not one of them has any practical experience of changing nappies or dealing with 3am episodes of croup.

For differing reasons, they have no tickets in the genetic future of the species. Yet these are the people who are overseeing seismic changes to their countries, or even the entire European continent.

Today’s focus is the last one on the list, the Prime Minister or ‘Taoiseach’ (bless you, are you going down with a cold?).

His government has recently published a 30 year plan for the country, ‘Ireland 2049‘, which sets out a vision for the population, infrastructure and a wide range of other aspects of Irish life.

Thirty years. It makes the old Soviet Five Year Plans seem positively humble by comparison.

As you’d expect from a country that has a thousand year history of fiercely fighting for its independence from the neighbouring colonial power yet handed it over to Brussels in a heartbeat, the report has all the usual cause célèbre du jour boxes ticked such as climate change, diversity and gender pronouns for left-handed penguins.

This little gem seems to have slipped past without question however;

Wait, what?

The current population is 4.74m, the aged demographic is increasing and the young demographic is decreasing yet in 20 years’ time the population with have increased by a fifth?

Has Ireland invented cloning?

Of course not, they’re going to invite a million people from the rest of the world in.

Fair enough, that’s their right as a sovereign nation if that’s what the voters want.

However, is that what the voters want? Have they been asked at all?

Browsing the Irish press, there seems to be scant discussion on the immigration point, instead, the debate seems to be more about pork barrelling for infrastructure investment for various geographies.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s curious that people don’t question the fact that our children’s future is being heavily influenced by people with absolutely no skin in the game.

It’s also strange the assumption isn’t being challenged that Ireland must replace such a significant proportion of her population over the next 20 years.

Why does Ireland need to grow the number of citizens?

I can think of only three reasons:

1. To care for the aging population.

2. To maintain the pension Ponzi scheme.

3. Pursuit of a Cultural Marxist agenda.

Is there another reason?

What are the Swiss and Japanese doing? One assumes automation will factor into their plans rather than importing an additional fifth of the country from places with little cultural similarities.

If the Ireland 2040 plan continues, what’s the chances that the real number of immigrants will be more or less than one million?

Update: maths corrected.