1984 wasn’t meant as an instruction manual

Just because Australia is close to China, doesn’t mean we should emulate the place….

No, really.

New South Wales transport minister Andrew Constance has revealed plans to roll out facial recognition technology across the transport network as an alternative to Opal cards.

“In the transport space we’ll use facial recognition technology to scan customers who’ve ‘opted in’ and linked their Opal account,” Constance said in a speech at the Sydney Institute on Tuesday night.

“No more personal freedom gate barriers. Just a smooth journey,” he said.

Andrew Constance? Where have we heard that name before?

Oh yeah, the chap who instigated an Uber “levy” to bail out speculative taxi “plate” purchasers. In case you’re wondering, “levy” is the name Australian governments use for a tax when they don’t have the courage of their convictions to say “tax”.

The irony is he is from the political party most associated with the economic right, rather than socialism. The party is the Liberal Party and was probably named with the English “classical liberal” definition in mind. Political dogma has changed a lot since, clearly.

That “levy” is probably all an outside observer needs to know to understand the Australian voters’ regular insipid choice between socialism and corporatism.

So, to Constance’s latest big idea; biometric ticket authorisation. In his own words:

“This will read someone’s face, retina, breath, gait or voice to enable next level authorisation and access. Think truly contactless payments – entry to buildings, onto planes, at banks and hotels.”

Call me an old scaredy cat and a cynic but this seems to have all the upside for people who might have bad intentions and a considerable risk of significant downside for everyone else.

What’s the corollary to “entry to buildings, onto planes, at banks and hotels“? No entry.

Currently, entry to those locations and services are managed by the local entity. Constance is hinting at a centrally-managed power providing the yes/no decision based on whether or not your face is in the database of acceptable people.

Who gets the job of running and updating that database? I’d like to offer an early application for this God-like position of power.

And there’s this:

The capability could also be used to detect if someone on a train or bus was ill, Constance claimed.

Well, excuse me if that doesn’t exactly give me a cosy warm feeling like a freshly soiled wetsuit.

It may be cold comfort to predict that, based on a previous history of glacial-speed implementation and incompetence, the New South Wales’ transport network is highly unlikely to be the first wide-scale implementation of facial recognition to have its limitations and scope tested in the law courts and court of public opinion.

The exisiting “Opal” card electronic ticketing system is the same as Hong Kong’s Octopus (launched 1997) and London’s Oyster (launched 2003). Following various delays due to political lethargy and systemic organisational corruption and incompetence in the Transport department, Opal was finally launched in 2012.

Presumably, the NSW government wanted to be absolutely certain there were no teething problems to be ironed out with the fifteen year old Hong Kong version before hastily rushing to follow.

In addition to the fifteen year delay to get around to the project, the State Government rolled out 3.7 million cards and the required retail infrastructure to sell and top up the stored credit when the technology already supported use of contactless debit cards. i.e. that thing 99.9% of people already had in their wallets.

Bill’s Opinion

Anyone who buys Andrew Constance’s claim that implementing biometric recognition for public transport ticketing would be a universal good hasn’t been paying attention to the trend of recent years.

Because a bunch of insane Saudis hijacked planes in the USA on September 11th, 2001, your government has usurped huge powers of surveillance, implemented CCTV camera networks throughout most public spaces, eavesdrops on electronic communications, restricted internet access, further regulated banking and the ability to transfer money, changed centuries old laws about detention without trial and due process, and all in the name of “temporary measures” to make us safer.

If you hope and believe these powers will one day be walked back and revoked because the threat of terrorism has been defeated, I’ve got a harbour bridge I’d like to sell you.

Such a throwaway line by Andrew Constance should scare the crap out of anyone who has read the history of what happens when the power to interfere in the day to day lives of others is concentrated centrally.

The counter argument always made to this is, “no, no, when we centralise the power we will use it for the benefit of everyone“. Well, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 100 million times, shame on me.

Imagine an average day in the life of a citizen of New South Wales a century ago. How many interactions would they have had with an organ of government? Perhaps they would have sent their child to a state school in the morning, posted a letter in the state run postal service, perhaps said hello to the policeman on the high street.

Now think about the answer to the same question for 2019.

Foresight Battle Royale

This is hilarious; Australia’s over budget, late, poor quality National Broadband Network can’t cope with the demand from a bunch of teenagers playing video games.

Unexpectedly high levels of downloads can cause sluggish connections for all customers using broadband, not just those downloading game updates.

Some games companies release their updates, which can be tens of gigabytes worth of data and are known as “patches”, without much notification or the ability to download in advance of the release.

Hang on, that’s not what we signed up for. Back in those halcyon days of 2009 we were told we’d get 100Mbs over which we’d be able to run all sorts of society-changing services.

Here’s the original 2009 press release, just for the record.

Ah, promises made, not honoured. Just $43 billion over 8 years, eh? And the suckers believed them.

The NBN really has stood the test of time in the 24 carat lies department hasn’t it, right up there with, “the cheque’s in the post”, “yes, I love you too” and “of course I won’t come in your mouth”.

Gaming was baked in to the capacity according to the original “business case” (we use that term loosely; it doesn’t bear much resemblance to any I’ve seen in my career). Here’s the document, page 26 has the mention of gaming.

You’d think a modern, highly technical and, most importantly, centrally planned telecommunications network would be able to either cope with a few spotty kids playing shoot ’em up games OR be capable of prioritising other traffic.

After all, the UK are planning to block porn sites unless people have registered to have them unblocked (nobody’s told the government nanny state about VPNs), so it must surely be simplicity itself to block or throttle a single games company?

Yet here we are, begging Epic Games for details of their forthcoming updates and promotions.

How utterly embarrassing.

Bill’s Opinion

Australians are no different to many other nationalities in their belief that the government can magically deliver major programmes of work on time, to quality and on budget… despite all the evidence to the contrary.

I still have conversations with people who believe the plan was poorly executed because their political opponents’ duplicity and/or incompetence.

The reality is, a simple further deregulation of the telecoms industry would have done the same job quicker, cheaper and more suitable to the demand.

The government could have concentrated on making some provisions for the 3% of the population who don’t live in the metropolitan areas. Posting them porn DVDs each week, for example.

Great news for the global economy!

Kevin Rudd is predicting economic doom.

There are very few certainties in life beyond death and taxes but one can make a solid fortune by betting against any economic prediction offered by the former Australian Prime Minister.

No, not that former Prime Minister, or that one, or that one, or that one, or that one, this one just died, but this one who was fired from the job…..hilariously twice.

We can’t be certain that his woeful predictions are due to incompetence or whether he’s got the McGrath-Bouris merdeus touch (everything they touch turns to shit) of being able to pull suckers in to their scheme of handing over wealth.

After all, this is the Prime Minister who had such a poor understanding of basic supply and demand that he unintentionally opened up an entire murderous business opportunity for Indonesian people smugglers to sell unseaworthy end of life fishing boats to Africans make a perilous thousand mile journey.

He also oversaw the Australian response to the 2008 global financial crisis which, arguably postponed what could have been a minor domestic recession to something with the potential to be much worse in the near future. But hey, people got a new TV and some house insulation out of it.

Reading Rudd’s opinion piece today reminds us of the gaping intellectual hole that has been left in Australian political life by his quiet and statesmanlike retirement;

This time last month, I was having breakfast with a Chinese friend in Chengdu, the prosperous provincial capital of Sichuan, discussing the increasingly toxic US-China relationship.

Not just a friend, but a Chinese friend, because he’s Kevin Rudd, Mandarin-speaker extraordinaire.

As for the increasingly-toxic US-China relationship, relative to what? Pre-Nixon in China, days? The years immediately following Tiananmen Square?

Well, if things are toxic now, viva toxicity because the two countries are fairly deeply linked these days.

Rudd can’t help himself by chucking in a little bitterness at his opponents;

Mysteriously these also happened to be the headlines in every newspaper in China that day. I hadn’t seen such editorial discipline since Murdoch’s coverage of the Australian elections.

This is worth looking at in more detail for a quick diversion. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the NewsCorp (Murdoch) titles don’t attract as many eyes as the Sydney Morning Herald. And that’s before we count the various media outlets of the ABC, the Guardian, and most other media outlets landing to the left.

Frankly, any left of centre Prime Ministerial candidate who fails to win an election when the majority of the media is on their side ought to have a good long look at themselves in the mirror. Being a famous narcissist, Rudd looks in the mirror more than most, yet struggles with self-awareness.

Back to Rudd’s panic about the trade war…

His hypothesis is that China has reached the end of their patience and will not offer anything more in negotiations:

My prediction is that the Osaka G20 Summit will see a “reboot” to the negotiating process. And after Osaka, Trump will yield on the first two of China’s new red lines. And Xi will increase the quantum of the proposed Chinese purchasing agreement from China’s previous offer, although not by as much as Trump has demanded. That way, enough face will be saved all around.

Bill’s Opinion

Kevin Rudd knows a lot about China, he has a greater Mandarin vocabulary and speaks with a better dialect than anyone I know who isn’t ethnically Chinese.

His knowledge and understanding of negotiation, supply and demand and matters commercial have been demonstrated, at Australian taxpayers’ chagrin and expense, to be disastrous, however.

Fortunately, few of our failures cost lives. Unfortunately, Kevin Rudd’s poor grasp of basic human nature and economics has cost millions of dollars and hundreds of lives.

Maybe China will back down, maybe they won’t. It’s more likely they will though since Mr. Rudd is convinced otherwise.

The Australian 26th and 28th Prime Minister, brought to you by Dunning and Kruger.

Monorail! Monorail!

Sydney ratepayers must miss the albino pachyderm that was their late beloved monorail, formerly of their parish. It may have stopped at no useful locations and cost more than a taxi to go there but at least the liability had been paid off and it only cost them operating overheads.

It was removed a few years ago but, rather than learn a lesson about crap public transport projects nobody asked for, the State Government decided to spunk ratepayer’s money on light railways.

How’s the value for money been so far?

Oh: Light rail project costs blow out to at least 30% over budget and is two years late.

The +30% figure is conservative, by the way. That’s a calculation by a journalist based on public information. The real figure when (if) the line is completed is likely to be an order of magnitude greater. Sydneysiders should prepare the wallets for close to $3bn when the final invoice has been counted.

Actually, it’s not the ratepayers in Sydney we should feel sympathy for; the ratepayers of regional NSW are up for the same bill but none of the eventual benefit.

There’s something about grand infrastructure plans in Australia that seem to regularly under deliver and over cost. The National Pornband Broadband Network, for example.

Bill’s Opinion

This isn’t my area of expertise, so I welcome illuminating comments below as always.

However, it would seem that there’s been a fundamental disconnect somewhere between the NSW infrastructure planning department and the legal counsel to have let such an obvious issue of subterranean cables be so vaguely contracted for.

Do you think any civil servant will have lost their job over this $576m screw up?

The eternal lesson is there for another generation; if you want something done badly, get a government department to do it.

Mandate rooted

As we know, Australia is in the insalubrious club of tin pot dictatorships and banana republics that enforce voting by law.

So, turn out must be close to 100% then, with any missing votes due to forgetfulness or illness?

Hmm, not quite.

So despite there being an enrolment rate (ie “we know who you are and where you live for the purposes of issuing the fine”) of over 98%, only 91% of voters turned up?

Ok, but that 91% took the important task of maintaining confidence in the democratic process seriously, though, surely?

Oh;

But up to 1.5 million people on the roll failed to vote at the election. In some seats, once informal votes are taken into account, less than three-quarters of those entitled to vote cast a legitimate ballot

Ah. So, faced with a choice of a $20 fine or turning up and drawing a penis on the form, a quarter of the population chose the genital option.

One Liberal MP said the voting figures suggested ramifications for the political system and major parties.

“Everyone campaigns on the assumption that people vote. This might mean they will have to campaign on the assumption they have to get people to vote,” they said.

You mean politicians will have to go out and campaign for people’s votes and engage them on matters of policy, as if they were taking voters’ views in to account?

How novel.

Bill’s Opinion

A major difference one notices when experiencing an Australian Federal election compared to general elections in other western democracies is how little you see of politicians in the wild.

Sure, they are all over the media, dropping well-crafted soundbites in time for the evening’s TV news but you can do the weekend shopping at the local mall safe in the knowledge it will be a politician-free zone.

As for politicians walking the streets, knocking on doors asking for your support? Forget it.

I have long assumed this lack of visibility of prospective MPs is a direct consequence of compulsory voting. Politicians assume everyone is going to vote, and most likely vote en masse for their traditional demographic’s party. If that assumption is correct, then their resources are best directed at potential swing seats only.

Perhaps this taking for granted of the electorate is now becoming a poor strategy when a quarter of the electorate are going to the local school, signing on the register and then flipping the bird at the whole charade?

More of this, please.

No Australian earns the minimum wage anyway!

In a move that will directly benefit the square root of fuck all people, the Australian national minimum wage was raised by 3% to $19.49 this week.

If you are reading this from a country other than Australia, yes, that wasn’t a typo; the Australian minimum wage is $19.40 an hour!

Or;

US $13.41

€12.05

£10.64

Look at all the goods and services you’ve bought in the last year. It’s a safe bet none of them were made in Australia. Coincidence?

Before we get into the economics and demographics of Australia’s farcical minimum wage, let’s take a quick journey down a NLP cul-de-sac…

To reduce neuro-linguistic programming to a pithy sentence of dubious accuracy; it is the theory that specific words act as triggers to people’s behaviour. Perhaps that’s what the Australian socialists who came up with the leviathan bureaucracy around the central planning of wages were trying to achieve with the names they gave various elements of the legislation and policies.

In reality though, the persuasiveness of their nouns tends to have the opposite effect. As anyone who’s met a highly dangerous or tough individual has ever realised, if you must tell people you are tough, you probably aren’t. Or, more amusingly, the reason why the 1.85m tall Tiny Tim was called “tiny” was irony.

Hence, we have the Fair Work Commission ruling on Modern Awards and Penalty Rates.

What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good

You’ll find out when you reach the top

You’re on the bottom

So, how many people get this mythical $19.40 an hour?

Nobody really knows. The Australian Bureau of Statistics have one of the worst reputations in the developed world for collecting accurate data on employment. A Melbourne academic study from over a decade ago estimated it was about 3% of the working population (which was about half of the total country). However, there are two factors to bear in mind when reading that study; firstly, academia is populated exclusively by those with at least a left of centre bias and, in many cases, extreme left wing views and, secondly, it’s bloody Melbourne, a city still feeling the disappointment from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the discrediting of Walter Duranty’s New York Times’ reporting on Stalin’s Russia.

Let’s assume the estimates are in the ballpark. Half the population are employed, so that’s about 12.5m people, of which, 3% are on the minimum wage. So about 375,000 people.

What work do these people do? Well, it’s easier to tell you what work they don’t do. Anything covered by this list for a start…..

Take a moment and follow that link to the Fair Work website and pick a random job you’d think is an entry level, minimum wage role. Waiting tables at a café, for example? Nope, that’ll be covered by the Hospitality Modern Award, so they will receive at least the minimum wage or higher plus other benefits such as holiday pay. Similarly, abattoir workers, concrete mixers, grape pickers, sugar cane cutters, sheep shearers, and fish gutters are all on their own “minimum wage plus” deal.

Let’s pause for a moment and state a fact most Australians aren’t aware of; Australia is the only country in the world that isn’t a socialist dictatorship that legislates wages by industry in this way.

Bill’s Opinion

At a stroke, the Fair Work Commission increased the minimum wage by 3%. My statement at the start of today’s rant is inaccurate, it will benefit many people because many Modern Awards are pegged to this rate, this has the effect of increasing those pay rates by 3%.

Great news; everyone has more money to spend.

No so great news; every product or service manufactured in Australia to be exported abroad has just had its input costs increased by at least 3%, thus negating any positive impact of the trashing of the currency by the RBA when they cut interest rates next month to save the banking industry.

But more importantly, who exactly benefits from this ridiculously bureaucratic centrally-planned wage system?

My guess, in order of benefit;

1. Employment lawyers,

2. Union officials,

3. Labor (sic) MPs, both State and Federal,

98. Minimum (or close to) wage workers.

Reagan, journalists and weed

This is Ronald Reagan’s quip on the attitude governments have to business;

If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

With this axiom, we can be certain the end has come for the once never noble profession of journalism.

Philanthropist Judith Neilson to fund a $100m institute for journalism in Sydney. Note the irony of the Gruaniad having to get the begging bowl out at the bottom of that article.

She’s a billionaire, so $100m is just the loose change down the back of the sofa, but seriously? $100m to train people in a job that produces a product nobody trusts and therefore doesn’t want to pay for any more? This is surely the epitome of the concept of “having more money than sense”.

At least the money being pissed up the wall is her own. Over in Canadia, the country that used to be home to people who were tough enough to thrive in a climate even polar bears find depressing but is now the world’s epicentre of thumb-sucking social justice, the government of Justin Trudeau have spunked $600m to help their preferred news outlets to survive a little longer.

The temptation with these two stories of insanity is to point to industries that don’t need subsidies to survive but, when one starts to look for them, they are very thin on the ground.

Here in Australia, through combinations of direct financial subsidies, tax breaks or artificially high barriers to entry, one could make the case that almost every industry sector benefits from government largesse. Examples that would immediately appear on a Google search would include banking, (the late) car manufacturers, mining, fossil fuel energy, green energy, farming (try buying an imported banana), real estate, electronics retail, childcare, taxis and even national sports.

Probably the only sectors not benefiting from welfare for business are the illegal ones. Coincidentally, the price of marijuana has not increased with CPI and, in fact, has fallen.

Bill’s Opinion

Nobody wants any more journalists. If rich individuals want to waste their money subsidising journalism, so be it, but keep your damn hand out of my wallet.

Oh, and I’m out of Rizlas.

I identify as ethnically grumpy

Australia has a new Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt. It is being widely reported that Ken is the first minister in this role with an Aboriginal heritage which, to be fair, is somewhat surprising given that the role has existed since 1968.

Regardless of whatever political persuasion you gravitate to, the fact that neither the left or the faux right have been able to find someone from that community to make decisions on behalf of them is not a great look, is it? Just to pick on one previous Prime Minister (but the same goes for all the others), Kevin Rudd could tearfully say sorry for something he wasn’t responsible for that happened before he was born but he couldn’t find an Aboriginal to be Minister for Aboriginals?

Little wonder why people are cynical about the motivation of politicians….

Back to Ken, though. Let’s be gauche and point out the obvious; he doesn’t look very Aboriginal.

That statement is not offered in bad faith, but as a lead to a discussion about what ethnicity means and whether it does or perhaps should have any place in decisions about the allocation of employment, particularly those that wield power?

What exactly does it mean to be Aboriginal in Australia in 2019? How is it defined? What difference does it make?

There are three components to the official government definition of who is considered to be Aboriginal;

  1. A person who has Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent; who also
  2. Identifies as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person; and
  3. Is accepted as such by the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community in which they live (or come from).

#3 seems to be the most critical of these; if you can show other “official” Aboriginal people agree you are one of them, you’re one of them. Cynically, this might be considered as somewhat analogous to the Medieval Relic Trade, where a nail from the True Cross could be rubbed on a brand new nail and, lo! the new nail was imbued with the magical qualities of the original.

Yes, I know, I’m sure nobody is deliberately defrauding the public purse with false claims of ethnicity in Australia, I’m just saying the possibility of mendacity is there if someone was so motivated…..

But ethnicity is a funny concept, isn’t it? I have a friend, let’s call him Rupert, who was born to two sub-Saharan African parents. His skin tone is extremely dark and has the facial features one would expect from someone with a long heritage of ancestors from, say, Kenya. Rupert was privately-educated in very expensive schools in England, and consequently speaks and has mannerism like Hugh Grant. If you spoke to him on the telephone, you wouldn’t correctly guess his ethnicity. Culturally, he’s about as English as it gets. We’ve spent many pleasant afternoons together drinking beer watching sports matches at Twickenham and Lords. So, can he really claim to be African?

Similarly, in addition to his Aboriginal ancestors, Ken Wyatt has ancestors from England, Ireland and India. That’s a lot of non-Aboriginal genes.

It’s entirely possible that there are more people alive who are officially recognised as Aboriginal in Australia today than there were when Captain Cook arrived. The British “genocide” of the indigenous people was, frankly, bloody incompetent by that metric.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s great that, finally after 50 years, someone from the Aboriginal community is now in the office responsible for making decisions on their behalf.

It does raise some questions about whether or not we really need people to be selected for jobs simply because of inherent factors like gender, sexuality, or ethnicity. Of those, ethnicity seems the most difficult to define at the margins.

We risk dividing people along lines that are subjective to the point of farce if we take this approach much further along its current course.

Personally, I have no issue with Ken’s “identification” as Aboriginal (and I’m sure he’s going to sleep more easily tonight with the knowledge of my approval); he grew up in an institutional home for Aboriginal children so, even if he was 100% ethnic Faroe Islander, he’ll have a better understanding of Aboriginal issues than most other candidates for his current job.

However, here’s an idea; why not remove the position of Minister for Indigenous People completely, and, while we’re at it, repeal any laws that legislate differently for different ethnicities (of which, there are a few). Finally, enforce existing laws equally; if you physically abuse a child in a remote community, the investigation, trial and punishment should be no different to the same offence committed in a metropolitan area and regardless of “ethnicity” and “culture”.

A voter exercises their democratic right

…. to vote for the thing we voted for 35 months ago 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 a 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.