Topic: Politics

Who’d be Anna Bligh?

Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland, must have the worst job in the world at the moment.

Since late November, Queensland has experienced six ‘major rain events’ as the Bureau of Meteorology calls them.

The Bureau says that, in late December and early January, “almost every river in Queensland that is south of the Tropic of Capricorn and east of Charleville and Longreach reached major flood level at some stage”. It flooded in 17 towns including Theodore, Dalby, Chinchilla, Emerald, Bundaberg and Rockhampton. Some towns were under water for 2 weeks.

In the second week of January, Toowoomba was flooded. Toowoomba? It’s on top of a mountain! How can Toowoomba flood? Yet we all saw the videos of cars and trucks being washed down the main street.

Then Brisbane, Ipswich, Chinchilla and Dalby (again), Maryborough and Gympie.

Almost all of Queensland was awash. 35 people had died. Thousands of properties were knee-deep in mud. Infrastructure was badly damaged.

And then a cyclone or two. Anthony, a pip-squeak of a weather event, crossed the coast at Bowen on 30 January. Yasi, the biggest cyclone ever to hit Australia, crossed the coast last night around Mission Beach.

And during all of this, there has been Anna Bligh.

She has fronted up every day—several times a day—dispensing hard facts, forecasts, good news and bad.

She has been calm, in the face of actual and potential horror. She told us what was happening, in detail, without panic or emotion. But when, hours before Yasi hit, she talked of how frightening the night would be for those in the path of the cyclone, and how much she felt for them, you got the distinct impression she just might mean it.

She is to be applauded for her plain speaking. It’s rare to see politicians talk so much about numbers, names, dates and places (the Prime Minister, for example, suffers badly by comparison).

Bligh calmly reiterated the authorities’ advice. She told people what to do, and when to do it. It seems that, by and large, the people of north Queensland and far north Queensland heeded the advice. That’s the sign of a real leader.

Clever line of the day

From Annabelle Crabb’s WikiLeaks and the ‘Handy Heel’ manoeuvre at ABC’s The Drum:

[Talking about Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi:]

One hopes they also share clothes; an advantageous arrangement, seeing as Mr Putin is frequently shirtless, and Mr Berlusconi rarely in need of trousers.

He said it

There’s a storm in a tea cup going on between our erstwhile leader, Paul Keating, and his erstwhile speech-writer, Don Watson. In the big scheme of things, I doubt it matters much.

But I’ve no idea what Mr Keating meant when he wrote this:

There is no doubt some of these moments when juxtaposed each to the other provide a matrix of a kind that helps paint a more nuanced picture of Australia in a way that people can both relate to and better understand.

Let me try: Some of these moments provide a matrix, and that kind of matrix helps paint a nuanced picture, and people can relate to and understand the *way* in which the picture is painted (not, note, the picture itself).

What does that mean?

20 year olds: Look out

48 hours ago, I don’t think I’d heard of Wyatt Roy.

Turns out he was the Libs’—sorry, Liberal National Party, aka LNP—candidate for the Queensland seat of Longman in last weekend’s federal election. He won. He is the youngest member ever elected to Australia’s federal parliament.

He’s 20. Until a minute ago he was a political science student at the University of Queensland. He’d never voted in a federal election.

I spent 24 hours completely bamboozled by this. How did he win pre-selection? Is it truly the case that the Liberal—sorry, LNP—party could find no-one with more experience or skills to stand as its candidate?

“But it’s good to have young people’s opinions”

You might say that it’s a good thing for federal parliament to include in its number someone who can bring a young person’s opinions to politics.

But that makes no sense.

  1. Opinions are cheap. Gathering them is the role of pollsters. You don’t need a 20 year old in your midst to know what 20 year olds think.
  2. There’s no evidence that Mr Roy can somehow speak for all 20 year olds.
  3. His website suggests that Mr Roy has opinions no differerent from his older parliamentary colleagues. The site could have been constructed from a party template, where someone did a search’n'replace for the name of the seat and the name of the candidate. I found no original thought, and nothing could not equally apply to a 60 year old.

    In a Brisbane Courier-mail newspaper article, copied in its entirety on Mr Roy’s web site, there is a section ‘The thoughts of candidate Roy’. It sounds exactly like the mantras uttered during the election campaign by Tony Abbott and other coalition candidates.

All in all, the old grump in me thought the idea of a 20 year old in parliament was ludicrous. We need knowledge and skills in parliament and (at the risk of massive stereotyping), 20 year olds don’t have much of either. That’s why they’re students.

But I have changed my mind completely

I am suddenly delighted that a 20 year old has been elected to federal parliament.

His generation has caused worry amongst old grumps like me. Too many of his generation seem to take things for granted, are uninterested in work that provides even the least inconvenience, and believe that it’s OK to spend till you’re 30 bumming around, relying on parents and trying to work out what you want to do.

Not any more, folks!

Wyatt Roy has raised the bar.

Now, young friends, we know that, if you’re 20, you can be a student, stand for pre-selection, go through an election campaign, and be elected to parliament.

No more excuses!

Get back to work. Get back to university. Pull your finger out and get on with it. Put up with work (it’s why they pay you money for it). Study. Save some money. Get on a plane. See the world. Others can. Others have. No more excuses!

Smile, Wayne! Smile!

Julia Gillard was this morning elected as parliamentary leader of the Labor Party, which means that she will be Australia’s next Prime Minister. Just give the GG a day or two to get organized and swear her in. Wayne Swan was elected her deputy.

ABC News Online published this photo this morning.

Julia looks euphoric, as you’d expect. Wayne is… Wayne is… What would Cal Lightman make of Wayne’s microexpression?

Google and the goose

China

From January 2006, when Google announced that it was entering the market in China, Google agreed to censor its search results in China. For a while we all had lots of fun comparing the search results searching for ‘Tiananmen Square’ at google.com and google.com.cn.

Last week Google announced that it is re-thinking this idea, following serious attacks on its infrastructure.

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.

USA

Hillary Clinton; photo from US State DepartmentThe US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, chimed in with ‘Remarks on Internet Freedom’. She didn’t hold back:

Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world’s networks. … These actions contravene the Universal Declaration on Human Rights…

It’s worth reading Clinton’s whole speech.

Australia

But… the Australian government intends to censor Australians’ access to the internet. It’s to be known as ‘ISP Filtering’.

People have criticized the proposed ISP Filtering. Several people have taken Clinton’s speech as support for their campaign against the proposal.

Will Clinton’s speech affect the Australian government’s policy? Not according to Michael McKinley, a senior lecturer in international relations and strategy at the Australian National University.

“If we expect consistency from United States Cabinet members, particularly a Secretary of State, I think we’ve sorely misplaced our expectations, because this is a measure aimed primarily at China at this point in time.”

It seems to me that what’s good for the Goose…

Magical thinking and resource allocation

Three cheers for Jeff Sparrow, who presents some facts to support an analysis of public thinking about air transport security.

[T]here’s been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 miles flown, a distance the equivalent of two round trips to Neptune. The odds of traveling on a plane attacked by terrorists have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade, with one attack happening every 3,105 years spent in the air.

Sparrow’s article is based on statistics gathered by Nate Silver in The Odds of Airborne Terror at FiveThirtyEight.com.

Wouldn’t it be good if we believed that government resource allocation was based on facts.