The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

Bolt’s Laws of Climate Change

1. Unusually warm weather does not prove global warming.

2. Unusually cold weather disproves global warming.

ABC OnlineWeather does not drive climate. Repeat three times daily until inflammation subsides. If symptoms persist, see a doctor.

Filed under: Ass Hattery, Environment, Media, Nonsense, , ,

The cost of rampant reporting mechansims

Despite last minute posturing from both sides, the Victorian Government seems poised to strike a deal with teachers over pay and conditions. The teachers’ trump card at this time is to sabotage the upcoming National testing for literacy and numeracy standards. It is timely therefore to read John Hirt’s op-ed in The Age Ideas for achieving the goals that we agree on wherein he proposes three stategies to reach commonly agreed goals:

  • Reduce accountability in the public provision of professional services
  • Increase class sizes in schools
  • Teach a different Asian language in the schools of each capital city

The first recommendation is something I have pondered for some time. Hirst hits the nail on the head.

Doctors, nurses, teachers, academics and scientists are mostly committed to their work. They have a shared understanding of what good practice entails. Their dedication and training produces this; they have no need of mission statements to tell them what they must do or what their institution should achieve.

Increasingly, governments have imposed new tests of accountability on these people as if they were all lazy or bored or corrupt. They do this with the aim of producing better services. However, frequently what is needed for better services is more money. Instead of providing this, governments decide to better manage the funds already allocated. This involves more reporting and paperwork and more administrative staff to produce and manage it. The effect, if there is no increase in funding, is actually to decrease the amount of money going to provide the services. More time and effort goes into administration. Nurses have to decide whether they will attend to their paperwork or to their patients and their patients are in danger of losing out.

Now extra grants of public money are being made not to support services but so that institutions can install the new reporting mechanisms.

In Tony Blair’s years as prime minister of Britain there was a huge increase (47%) in the amount of money going to health services, but once this disappeared into the administration of health there was only a 17% increase in the money spent on the front line, that is attending and curing patients.

Increasing surveillance reduces morale of dedicated people.

The campaign for performance pay for teachers and endless demands for accountability standards is a cynical exercise by politicians to demoralise and diminish the status of teaching by which they hope to convince the electorate that the problem with education lies with the teachers, not the diminishing funds being spent on it. In this mission they are aided and abetted by economists pathologically opposed to any kind of increase in public expenditure unless it directed at private profit for consultants and outsourced service providers. It’s all a sleight of hand.

While further reduction in class sizes may bring diminishing educational returns there is little evidence to suggest that Hirst’s plan to double class sizes wouldn’t have negative consequences – not the least of which would be individual stress levels of both students and teachers. You could do it by plugging the students into immersive digital learning environments a la Second Life but that would cost a fortune. Most school buildings have been designed for 24 students per classroom so there are also significant infrastructure constraints.

While there is also little doubt that our economy and national security would be enhanced by the increased teaching of foreign languages, Hirst’s recommendation for teaching specific languages in specific location is rather whimsical. It ignores the diversity of our cities and the propensity of individuals to have preferences and proclivities for particular languages.

But as for the costly and ineffectual growth in administrative reporting processes in education, health and public science Hirst is spot on. A waste of time and money and of no benefit to anyone other than Business Management School graduates.

Filed under: Economics, Education, Politics, ,

A weekend of binge thinking sidelines opposition

If bringing out Lord ‘Dolly’ Downer to characterise the 2020 Summit as a revival of a politically-correct Keating-esque leftist elitist love-in is any measure, then the Summit has been a great success. Detractors continue to deride the 2020 Summit as being all spin without substance — a sycophantic gathering of hand-picked mates (Bill Heffernan?) to reflect and affirm the Government’s agenda. But as Michelle Grattan offered this morning, even if it was only a piece of political theatre, the 2020 Summit is a master stroke which has completely sidelined the Opposition.

I dare say the forth-coming polls will reflect a popular sentiment at odds with the increasingly jaded and cynical MSM commentariat. Rudd has won the affections of an overwhelming majority of voters who appreciate that he has at least had a go at popular inclusion. Compare and contrast with the Howardian ‘relaxed and comfortable’ vision for the Nation. Just absorb yourself in consumer self-interest and we’ll take care of everything else. No need to worry your pretty little head about complicated issues like invading Iraq while bribing its putative dictator to buy our wheat, or torture, or a dozen other things we’ll tell to you be afraid of.

Rudd has identified tax reform as one of the issues that the Federal Government will respond to by the end of the year. If he is able to follow through on this alone, Rudd’s conquering  of Coalition heartland will be secure. If you add to that the prospect of reforming State and Federal bureaucracies to streamline the cost of doing business and more effectively deliver services, then a Republic will simply be the icing on the cake.

Rudd has truly achieved something unique in Australian history — a weekend of binge thinking. May there be many more.

Vote 1 Christopher Pyne for PM in 2020.

Filed under: Big Picture, Economics, Media, Politics, ,

2020 Summit – the real story

The 2020 Summit is upon us as 1000 of the ‘best and brightest’ gather in Canberra to brainstorm a vision for Australia in 2020. It has been the subject of much hysterical cynicism from the MSM — always looking for an angle and invariably missing the story — the same tired old hacks who spent all of 2007 opining that Howard was unbeatable and that Rudd would never win.

The real story was that the electorate wanted a different style and direction of government and Howard wasn’t it. There are too many issues facing Australian society that Howard simply ignored or treated with cynical tokenism — issues that the invisible hand of the market couldn’t fix.

The conservatives and much of the MSM are still in denial. In 30 months time, the electorate will realise how shallow and ineffectual Rudd really is and then they’ll coming running back for a real government and business as usual. Yeah, right.

You’d expect it from a dolt like Bolt and his ‘1000 of Rudd’s Mates’, but Misha Schubert in The Age today shows us how clever she is with her ‘scoop’ accusing Rudd of stealing his childcare vision from Tony Blair and calling it his own in Rudd’s 2020 hindsight.

So fvcking what?! He wasn’t claiming it as his Own Original Idea. More pertinently, is it a good idea, or not? Worthy of discussion or what? Pathetic. I’m not aware of a proviso that any ideas being brought to the Summit must be entirely original. I’m sure any 2020 participant asked what their idea for the Summit is would begin, “Well, my idea is …” How many truly original ideas do any of us have? It’s so not the point. But it makes for a ‘clever’ story. The MSM commentariat are willing the 2020 Summit to fail and are busily positioning themselves to say ‘I told you so’.

What the hell is wrong with having a workshop for the vision of the whole nation? You can’t have ideas unless they’re already implemented? Give us a break. You have to start somewhere. Every corporate and government entity in Australia has been doing this very kind of thing for decades. ‘Where do you see this company/department in 5 years time, 10 years time?’ ‘What are the obstacles that might prevent this from happening.’ ‘What are the opportunities?’ ‘What would need to happen/change?’ Standard strategic planning stuff – mission statement, objectives, priorities. It works. So why not for a nation? We don’t elect a government of experts. We elect a government to represent us. And this one, by having a ‘talkfest’, is willing to listen. This doesn’t sit easily with authoritarian Howardians. It’s much more Australian to be a knocker and suspicious of anyone who might be an intellectual or has differing ideas. Fancy having the gall to speak Mandarin to the Chinese! He must be up himself.

The dogs may bark and the cynics carp, but the 2020 Summit will be productive, if for no other reason than it is tapping the electorate’s desire for a narrative. A narrative that isn’t about narrow self-interest and fear — a narrative for a better, more inclusive future.

His detractors underestimate Rudd — they always have. In these early days, all evidence indicates that he is hard-working and ruthlessy efficient and methodical, so there is little reason to doubt that he will also be quietly very effective. Sure, there will be policy and political failures along the way, but have no doubt that Rudd will inexorably reshape Australia towards the narrative visions given voice by the 2020 Summit. That’s what the concervatives are really worried about. If Rudd is even partially successful in making progress toward that vision, the conservatives will still not be electable by 2020. They think they do, but they just don’t get it.

Filed under: Australian values, Big Picture, Howardians, Media, Politics, Society, ,

Mismanaging IT systems

What is it with mega IT information system upgrades that cost unbelievable amounts of money and fail to deliver? The latest is a $320 million IT program to help streamline Victoria’s health system which is running late and over budget, a new report has found. Crickey! I would have taken it on for $32 million. It’s only databasing — not rocket science or brain surgery. It seems the larger the project, the less likely it is to work. We also have Victoria’s public transport ticketing system. They’ve been trying to build a successful one since the days of Jeff Kennett and still haven’t succeeded!! How hard can it be?

Other notable IT system failures include the recent opening of the new passenger terminal at Heathrow. The switch was flicked and 14,000 pieces of luggage was lost in three days and 100s of flights cancelled. Doesn’t anyone test these things or have a fail-safe fallback position (Information Systems 101)???

Of course we had our own Customs IT makeover a few years ago. The switch was thrown and it fell over. Shipping trade was disrupted for months afterwards while it was sorted out. And then there was the $40 million student enrollment system at RMIT that failed spectacularly. I reckon I could have whipped one up or $40k, certainly for a lazy $4 million.

Perhaps it’s a reflection of the general ignorance of management when it comes to IT. IT consultants may as well be talking in Sanskrit. In my own little IT world, my immediate employers really haven’t a clue. I could tell them anything and they have little choice but to have faith in my recommendations and purchasing decisions. I suspect this is magnified with the size of the budget. I guess sharp-dressing, smooth-talking, Porche driving IT salespeople is about all it takes to convince those responsible for the budget that they know what they’re talking about. Who wants to admit they haven’t a clue about assessing the merits of a major ICT program? At the federal level we still have Ministers talking about filtering the internet to block out undesirable content!

Unbelievable! All the more reason to invest in teaching ICT in schools. Maybe in a generation or so we will have a management class who even begin to have a clue about digital technology and information systems.

Filed under: Technology, ,

The New Pacific Solution

Working for the Man — a great report tonight on Foreign Correspondent on New Zealand’s pacific island guest worker program. It certainly looks like a win-win situation all round. New Zealand’s primary producers benefit from reliable and cheap labour and hence New Zeland consumers and the national wealth. The island workers earn in an hour what they would earn in a day back in Vanuatu. The employers are liable for $3,000 for each worker not returned to the airport when the visa expires. The workers return home after 30 weeks with the equivalent of a couple of years pay saved to invest in their families and community — effectively bypassing the corruptions of government and the millions we have spent on them to little avail.

Rudd’s cabinet is now considering a report commissioned on the New Zealand model, and seems likely to give it the go ahead.

The only problems I see are the provision of sufficient goodwill and oversight to ensure that workers are not subjected to conditions in breech of the program’s requirements — remember Queensland’s sugar slaves last century? Inevitably we will absorb a higher proportion of pacific islanders into our population than we have now. Which means at least a generation of suspicion and fear from the white working poor fomented by the likes of Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt.

Other than those concerns it sounds like an excellent development.

What, with Kevin-spin-master-and-world-traveller-Rudd paving the way for a rigorous free trade agreement with China on his recent photo-op in Beijing, and this — why that’s two sound economic reforms in one week! And a lady GG to boot!

The Howardian Old Guard must be grumbling in their beers. “That damned Rudd is just too bloody clever for his own boots and his massive ego. See! It’s all just spin and style over substance.”

Filed under: Economics, Politics, , ,

A mind is a terrible thing to waste

Professor Peter Doherty asks in The University of Melbourne Voice “What sense does it make to pour federal money selectively into minority, private (and often exclusionary) primary and secondary schools while starving the majority public sector?” The short answer? None.

The Howard government embraced Thatcher’s ‘greed is good‘ free market theology which played to the heart of the human tendency to regard our relative wealth and privilege in comparison to those less well off. After all, one is ultimately able to feel rich and privileged if it’s obvious that so many others are poor and unprivileged.

What is the point of driving a BMW if everyone has one?

Filed under: Australian values, Education, Media, ,

Liberals abandoning Nelson – why bother?

ABC OnlineSenior Liberals are reportedly switching their allegiance from Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson to Malcolm Turnbull. Why bother? For the foreseeable future the Liberals will remain as useless as tits on a bull.

Nelson’s single digit approval rating is more a reflection of the low electoral standing of the post-Howardian Liberals in general than the qualities or performance of the man himself. The Conservative side of politics and its cultural warriors are still struggling to come to terms with their defeat after nearly 12 years in power. They are deluding themselves if they think all they need to do is have a credible leader and the electorate will come running back at the next election. The reality is rather different.

The daily ramblings of conservative commentators that Rudd is an insubstantial windbag concerned only with spin is symptomatic of their failure to appreciate the magnitude of their fall from grace. Rudd continues to enjoy a long post-election honeymoon because the electorate appreciate what he is doing. His gutsy performance over Tibet with the Chinese this week has left the conservatives speechless – something they would never have done in their wildest dreams. The electorate will be a long time forgiving the Howardians and their transgressions.

Spin and pragmatism or not, the electorate is responding to Rudd’s leadership on climate change, foreign policy, homelessness and countless other issues of public management so willfully ignored for more than a decade by the Howardians. There is simply nothing the Liberals can do but snipe ineffectually and irrelevantly from the sidelines, and it will remain so for some time to come. Since the Fraser years Australia tends to keep its federal government for at least a decade. The indications are that Rudd will be a capable manager of public affairs and a skillful diplomat – things which will only serve to remind the electorate of the brutal incompetence and sycophancy of the Howardian era and its pragmatism before principle, money before people philosophy.

It matters little who the leader of the opposition is. The Liberals will be in opposition for a decade or more. They may as well get used to it. I guess the upside of dumping Nelson is that Turnbull will never realise his ambition to be Prime Minister either. It’s way too early. Wait another term or two. May as leave it to Nelson. At least he has a pleasant personality and is good for a laugh.

Filed under: Howardians, Politics, , ,

Of Faith, Hope and Charity

The Oasis: Australia’s Homeless Youth, a heart-rending documentary on homelessness filmed over two years in the life of Salvation Army Captain Paul Moulds as he helps a myriad of broken people. People whose spirits have been crushed by neglect, abandonment, and abuse. People dependent on alcohol and drugs to numb the pain as close to death as you be without being dead.

Captain Moulds, himself abandoned at birth, is a man with a deep faith in the humanity of man. Through his steadfast charity in all his actions he has delivered hope for a better, brighter future to countless young human beings. Faith, hope and charity — the ideal virtues of Christianity, and indeed of all religions.

Perhaps not quite so in the free market place. The homeless are a product of ourselves and the society we create. They are not the ‘other’. They are us. What we do unto them we do unto ourselves.

When Paul gives $30 to one girl from his own pocket, fellow soldier Ken complained that they never give even 20c back to the Salvos. That’s why they never have any money. You have to give as well as receive. The economically rational approach to this problem is for us to give the necessary resources to begin changing the conditions which give rise to the problem. But it will take faith, hope and charity, not consumerism, cynicism, and greed. And we need to do it right.

Congratulations to Kevin Rudd for having the courage to raise the issue again and commissioning some up to date analysis indicating the extent of the problem — a problem neglected and ignored during the Howardian years in pursuit of healthy budget surpluses to spend on handouts come election time.

We have enough information about what works. Now we need sustained public investment rolled out over the next ten years to turn this around. It’ll actually be good for the common wealth and well-being of our nation.

Filed under: Australian values, Howardians, Ideology, Media, Politics, Society, ,

Kevin the Unpredictable confounds Conservatives

ABC OnlineOne of the novel characteristics of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister is that, despite his verbosity, he regularly does unpredictable things and confounds his critics. Throughout the Howardian Era, the actions of the PM were entirely predictable. Of course we were going to invade Iraq, of course we’d deny climate change, of course they threw the children overboard, yada yada yada.

While speaking in Mandarin to hundreds of Chinese students, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has infuriated Chinese officials with a speech in Beijing today raising “significant human rights problems” in Tibet.

Do you reckon Howard or Nelson would do such a thing (excepting the Mandarin)? I don’t think so.

Latham got one thing right – a conga line of suckholes.

Filed under: Howardians, Politics, ,

The Dog’s Bollocks

What they say

The Dog's Bollocks: "Bollocks" is one of my favourite words, and this is now one of my favourite blogs and I've only been reading it for five minutes. – John Surname

This is the person who tried to analyse Hayek. This is actually a person who needs a shrink. – JC

Shut up slim. You’re an idiot.
Just you stay honest and keep that thinking cap on. – GMB

Insightful perspectives on politics and discussion of matters epistemological? I’m sold! - Bruce

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