Australian Liberals

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Here’s a letter I wrote to my MP, who happens also to be a Minister in Australia’s Liberal-led Commonwealth Government. I have just received a stock answer.

Dear Christopher,

As one of your constituents and a Liberal voter since I came to Australia in 1978, I have to tell you of my growing disenchantment with your party, to the point where I feel I can no longer vote for it.

I would like you personally to remain in Parliament and on the front bench, whether in government or in opposition, but the ongoing factional civil war and our new PM’s antics have me in despair. First there was the lump of coal in Parliament, now we’ve had the abandonment of the NEG, the refusal to take a stand on climate change, the description of the country’s most iconic building as a ‘billboard’ and – the last straw for me – the news that Mr Morrison is considering moving our Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem!

I know we have to trot submissively at President Trump’s heels to some extent, to keep our place under the USA’s nuclear umbrella, but to kowtow to a rogue state whose disregard for humanitarian principles and international law matches Russia’s or China’s, and to take sides against some of the most oppressed and dispossessed people in the world… well, words fail me.

And is it really only a device to curry favour with the 13% of Wentworth voters who are Jewish, as I heard on Radio National this morning? Is our foreign policy being driven by short-term electoral gaming? If so, I’d rather give Penny Wong a go.

I don’t usually send off an email while I’m still angry; I prefer to wait, re-read and edit. But not this time. I suspect my anger will only grow, so I might as well shoot this off now.

With good wishes to you, if not to your party or its present leader…

John Standingford
Linden Park
https://StroppyGit.com
16/10/18

Explanatory notes:

In February 2017 Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal into Parliament as a prop for a speech promoting the continued mining and burning of coal in spite of its alleged contribution to climate change.

NEG was the National Energy Guarantee, the closest thing to an energy policy that Australia has had for many years. It resulted from hard negotiations between parties that put energy prices ahead of decarbonisation and vice versa, Federal and State Governments, industry and consumers. Scott Morrison dumped it as soon as he became Prime Minister.

Wentworth is the constituency where Malcolm Turnbull, the deposed PM, had a 17% majority. The Liberal-led ruling coalition had a 1-seat parliamentary majority and was desperate to retain the seat after Turnbull’s resignation. They lost it to an independent. Coincidentally a TV serial called Wentworth is running at the moment. It’s set in a women’s prison and shows brutality almost on a par with what’s going on in the Liberal Party.

Penny Wong is the Shadow Foreign Minister – fair-minded, level-headed and popular.

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Life Imitates Monty Python – Again

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Three recent news items had me shaking my head, unsure whether to laugh or cry. You have almost certainly heard or read them already, but I’ll share them anyway…

No.1: President Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the US Supreme Court. A woman comes forward saying that he attempted to rape her at a teenage party 35 years before. BK denies it. The FBI is asked to investigate the allegation – with a whole week to complete the task. Not surprisingly, they could find no evidence one way or the other. If everything I did when I was 17 were made public, incompetent fumbling included… well, I just hope it never is. How about you?

No.2: The promoters of a new horse race (The Everest) want to project advertising material on the ‘sails’ of the Sydney Opera House. The CEO is interviewed by notorious radio shock jock Alan Jones, explains that the Opera House’s charter forbids commercial advertising, and is vilified, shouted over and threatened on air.

The Premier of New South Wales immediately orders the advertising to go ahead and the Prime Minister backs her, describing the Opera House sails as ‘the biggest billboard in Sydney’. 300,000+ people sign an online petition against the decision and a crown gathers to shine torch-beams on the sails to disrupt the display.

At one stroke the Liberal Party, already in bad odour because of the ongoing civil war that toppled Malcolm Turnbull, has alienated lovers of culture, opponents of gambling and anyone who was appalled by a) the on-air bullying of a conscientious public servant and b) the State Premier’s kowtowing to a shock jock. It is not known whether the scandal has also jeopardised the Opera House’s World Heritage status.

No.3: There is to be an APEC meeting in Port Morseby. To ensure that the participants can travel between their hotels and meeting places, a fleet of 40 Maserati Quattroportes is being airfreighted into PNG. Reportedly, they are to be distributed to Provincial Governors when their very brief service to world leaders is over. I cannot think of any words that would usefully embellish the raw facts of this act of lunacy.

Suicide

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People in rich and peaceful countries don’t have enough to worry about, so they look around for irritations and talk them up into Big Issues. This is happening now in Australia with male suicides.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I know there are people who kill themselves during fits if depression or in response to tragic events, from which they could have recovered to lead happy lives, and I wish they’d had second thoughts. But there are also people who rationally consider their prospects and their options and decide that they’d rather be somewhere else. They’re not enjoying the party so they want to leave. For those people, suicide is rational and even admirable. Their leaving the party means that the net sum of happiness in the world is increased.

But what makes me stroppy is that the people who are promoting this as a Big Issue in Australia speak as though suicide among Australian men has suddenly become a crisis that has to be moved up the political agenda. Notice my italics. The implication is that Australia is the suicide capital of the world and men are disproportionately affected.

Now consider the following facts, drawn from Wikipedia with a WHO citation and with age standardisation:

  • In a ranking of 171 countries, Guyana is ranked No.1 with 44.2 suicides per 100,000 people in 2012. Australia is at No.63 with 10.6.
  • In every country except two (Pakistan and Iraq) the male suicide rate exceeds the female, typically by a factor of about 3.
  • If we compare Australia with the other countries of the developed Anglosphere (our usual benchmark) it falls pretty much in the middle – see the extracted table below, which includes countries that are tied with those of the Anglosphere for a bit of extra colour.
  • The 17 countries at the bottom of the ranking – ie with the lowest suicide rates – are all located in or around the Caribbean Sea or have predominantly Muslim populations. This has nothing to do with the main theme of my post, but I think it’s a fascinating fact and someone should be doing a PhD thesis on it.

suicidestats

Where it says ‘more info’ you can click and see more if you go to the referenced Wikipedia page.

So how the hell did the UK manage to tie with Swaziland at No.105?! Perhaps most of the unhappy Poms have emigrated.

 

Olympic Medals

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I hope I’ve waited long enough since the closing ceremony to make a stroppy comment about the Olympic Games. Actually, it’s not about the Games themselves; it’s about the way certain nations have reacted to the medal tally:

MedalTally

More particularly, it’s about the one-eyed jingoism in the UK (whose athletes are described as Team GB, pointedly excluding any from Northern Ireland) and the public hostility to Australian athletes who failed to justify the huge public investment in their training by winning gold medals. If you find the latter hard to believe, read this article at the news.com.au website headed ‘Is Australia’s disastrous Olympic campaign really $340 million well spent?’

Just like diplomacy, the Olympics have become ‘war by other means’. Rich countries spend huge amounts of public money on employing and training elite athletes, and then claim their position in the medal tally as an indicator of national worth. Is it really more important to British people that Team GB’s gold medal count exceeded China’s (and Germany’s and Japan’s and France’s) than that British athletes strove to do their best against their peers and fell below 3rd place with good grace? Do Australian taxpayers really think the Games are about buying medals?

We all know what comes next. China will launch a massive expenditure programme to ensure that they come 2nd in 2020. The Japanese will do likewise to ensure that, as the host nation, they at least come 3rd.

Finally, I hope that calls for British people to buy lottery tickets as an act of patriotism, because much of the investment in athletic prowess was funded from the National Lottery, will cease. What if the main contributors were manufacturers of junk food, fizzy drinks and tobacco? Or importers of cocaine? Or brothel-keepers?

Daylight Saving Time

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I got up early this morning, with plenty of time to prepare the porridge, shave and read the Sunday paper before taking Mrs SG her bed-tea at 0730. Or so I thought. “I hope you all remembered to put your clocks forward,” said the nice man on Radio National.

So it’s time to get stroppy again about the idiotic practice of putting clocks forward every spring and back again every autumn. In Australia (where I live) we have 5 time zones for half the year: Eastern, Central and Western are with us all the time, and the 5 southern states/territories go onto daylight saving time (DST) while the other 3 stay put.

This is crazy – not just in Australia but in most of Europe, North America, much of Brazil and bits of Africa and Asia. In China, which is a pretty big place, they manage with 1 time zone for the whole country and throughout the year!

There’s a good map at Wikipedia. There are 3 colours, the most interesting of which is orange which identifies the many countries have tried DST and abandoned it. Let’s all do that!

“Ah,” I hear some people say, “but what about the schoolchildren who would have to go to school in the dark? What about the farmers who would sleep through an extra hour of valuable daylight?”

To those people I reply, “Balderdash! Schools, farms, shops, factories and offices can decide to shift their hours of business forward, backward or sideways if they wish – without mucking about with anyone’s clocks!”

Muslim Takeover of Australia?

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I get a lot of emails expressing fear that Australia, or the Western world in general, will be taken over by Muslims because of a) immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, b) Muslims’ high fertility rate or c) both.

Obviously, if Muslims do breed faster then non-Muslims they will inevitably achieve a majority one day. But is it imminent? I constructed a small Excel model and put in some simple assumptions for Australia. Here they are:

  1. Muslims represent 3% of the Australian population now.
  2. Muslims’ natural rate of increase is 1.5%pa while that of non-Muslims is 0.5%pa.
  3. Annual net immigration is equivalent to 1% of the population.
  4. Muslims represent 30% of net immigration.
  5. Anyone born to Muslim parents adopts their faith.
  6. Nobody converts to or from Islam.

This set of assumptions produces a Muslim majority in the year 2289, at which time the total population of Australia will be 3.6 billion.

I’d be happy to receive evidence-based data to replace my crude assumptions; or to send out my little model to be played with by you or anyone else.

As an atheist myself I earnestly hope that nobody follows any religion at all by 2289, rendering this a pointless exercise. Fun, though.