in a blunt response to a question about how a young person who had lost unemployment benefits would be able to afford it, the treasurer said: “I would expect you’d be in a job.”
It’s not really a surprise to me that a minister from the Howard government, who took us to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, would claim that we have to make deep cuts into the public sector (including cuts to scientific research) while pulling $12B out of a hat for new planes to defend against an invisible enemy. That’s about 4 times the budget of the Australian Research Council, CSIRO and NHMRC combined. It represents a grand change in the focus of the government from promoting development to defending what we have currently.
For the sake of this ludicrous argument that “we need to defend ourselves” let’s look to the north for this invisible enemy. There are 230 million Indonesians (10x our population), 1.2 billion Indians and 1.3 billion Chinese (56x our population each). When you rank Australia in terms of density, we’re 266 out of 280 countries. Our north is either not worth stealing, or we’re not capable of defending it even with fancy planes. What will protect our sovereignty is acting as an ally not just to the US but also to major partners in Asia. Last time I checked arms races are not part of being good neighbours.
It is a false premise that 23 million people will be able defend our fronts simply through technological superiority. It assumes, most importantly, that we are more technologically capable than China. Hate to break it to you guys, but we don’t make microchips. We don’t design microchips. Let that sink in for a little while.
This is probably going to be the most unpopular thing I ever say, but we should really just assume that if it came down to a fire fight between Australia and China that we would have our arses thoroughly whooped. Even if you think that somehow our army is smarter or whatever false glorification you give to the Australian military, they have the bomb. They have nukes attached to ICBMs. We don’t and it would be a violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty if we were to obtain them.
Even accepting the “big army” mindset, Abbott’s just spent 3.3% of our current budget on a single piece of equipment. That doesn’t include weapons, pilots, engineers etc needed to service these planes. And it doesn’t include the rest of the cost of the armed services. “But it’s over several years” you claim. That just means we don’t have any capacity to buy new technology in the future. One thing about war is that the modes are never the same, and heavy commitment to a single type of military technology leaves us wide open to attack if that technology is not relevant to a future war scenario.
Not only is this decision a bad decision in terms of the raw cost involved. It is also a bad decision in terms of the type of equipment purchased. These fighter jets are US produced. The US have bases all over the world, control of GPS systems, aircraft carriers and a country with hundreds of medium sized cities. Australia has basically no appreciable overseas presence, no control over GPS systems, no aircraft carriers, and 6 medium/large sized cities with basically nothing in between over distances measured in the thousands of kilometres. What makes anyone think that a jet optimised for US use would be any good for an Australian setting?
It’s a good thing that we aren’t a European nation, otherwise Abbott would take us to war with Russia this winter.
- Here is the proposed legislation. I know you haven’t read it. Read it before saying anything more about it, please.
- Here is the original Section 18C in the act. Yes, you don’t know what the original act says. Read this too.
- Greens once objected to ‘offence’ as being too low of a bar for being against the law. That is, they opposed part of the law Brandis is repealing.
- The proposed amendments adds ‘vilify’ to the act, which is good. It has a couple of defined legal meanings in states in Australia.
- The amendments also remove the ‘good faith’ provisions in section 18D and has been replaced with the following, which means basically any incitement of hatred (including intimidation) is allowed: “This section does not apply to words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter” The President of the Human Rights Commission had a good talk with Tony Jones about this.
- The amendments say that requirement for ‘vilification’ “is to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community, not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community”. It means that if your vilification is socially acceptable by the majority of Australians, it doesn’t count as vilification. So the average white person decides if someone from a minority has been vilified.
Conclusion: these amendments are bad. I would probably side with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity commissioner in 1991 in saying the ‘offence’ and ‘insult’ should not be prohibited by the law. But these amendments in their current form basically make any sort of incitement of racial violence or hatred legal. Ironically, I don’t believe that Brandis intended to make inciting racial violence legal, but the amendments are so poorly written that this is the likely consequence. While it can be said that the Liberals went to the election promising to repeal section 18c, the Brandis amendments significantly change 18D as well, for which the government cannot claim to have a mandate.
Edit: the editor, Darren Goodsir, called me personally tonight to discuss these issues. In particular, the article about using alternative therapies to treat cancer received a lot of attention both internally and externally, and it appears it has been amended to address the concerns raised in my letter.
To the editor, Darren Goodsir,
I have been a long-term reader of SMH.com.au. I used to think that the Sydney Morning Herald represented some of the highest quality journalism in Australia, independent from the News Corporation empire and from the influence of government which is increasingly becoming a problem at the ABC. Unfortunately, two recent issues have made me cancel my paid subscription to SMH.com.au.
The first issue is to do with what I consider to be a racist headline that appeared on the site on January 28th 2013. The headline was “Blind woman groped on train by refugee who asked for a kiss”. The mention of refugee is unnecessary and I cannot imagine the SMH writing “Woman groped on train by white person”. The headline focuses attention of the criminal actions of one person on to an entire group in an unjust way.
I believe that this headline appeared on the front page as part of an editorial decision to participate in ‘click-baiting’, as the issue of refugees surely generates plenty of attention on the site. While I find the process of click-baiting itself problematic, the click-baiting that occurred in this case amounts to race-baiting, and I can no longer financially contribute to an organisation that does this.
The second issue is to do with the promotion of ideas which are harmful. On the 29th of January, the SMH published “The way of the wellness warrior“, a story about a woman who ignored medical advice for her cancer and instead chose to self medicate using alternative dieting. A link was put at the bottom of the article to the Cancer Australia website. On that site it states “There is little evidence that alternative therapies are effective. Most have not been assessed for efficacy in randomised clinical trials, though some have been examined and found to be ineffective.” No mention of this position is made in the article, and a link as an afterthought does not wash the SMH’s responsibility of the anti-science propaganda that you have promoted.
Convincing people to ignore medical advice, especially with conditions as serious as cancer, is extremely dangerous. One of the great minds of our time, Steve Jobs, died as a result of not taking medical advice to treat his pancreatic cancer which had a good chance of survival. Promotion of such ideas is just as bad as the promotion of anti-vaccination ideas. They can have deadly results and the SMH will have blood on its hands if even one person dies as a result of becoming an adherent to this.
The new payment method for the SMH allows me to do something that I was unable to do previously; I can financially punish the SMH for both of these sins. I therefore request that my subscription be cancelled.
Ruby on Rails and Node.js are programming languages/environments used for the creation of back-end code for webservers. They both have their advantages, and I won’t go into that very much here. They are relatively rare in comparison to PHP, Java and even Perl. However, successors for webserver programming are regularly talked about and both of these are considered viable contenders for environments used for webservers. The question I like to ask is “what’s next”? Let’s first look at Google Trends graphs.
As you can see, Read More
So the Liberal Party put up a chart on their Facebook page today. In case you miss it (or they take it down) here it is:
Now look at the axes on that chart. Something strange? Well, last time I checked 371 is not 6 times more than 222. Here’s what the chart should have looked like:
Looks a lot more reasonable, doesn’t it? The Liberal Party is guilty of one of two things here. Either they are bad at mathematics and graphing, OR they are deliberately trying to deceive the public. One way or another, these are not the type of people I would want to have run the country.