Saturday, November 23, 2002

Thank a Farmer Day

Sunday, 24 November 2002

One of life's little displeasures, if you keep your clock-radio tuned to ABC Local Radio, is waking up to Ian MacNamara on a Sunday morning. For those who are fortunate enough never to have heard this radio show, Ian celebrates our wide brown land (almost as big as his wide brown ego), by reading out the many letters he receives from his hordes of adoring fans out there in the bush, congratulating Ian on his wonderful show and giving us inspiring little tales of the countless adversities of bush life that Macca helps them to endure. In between these inspirational readings, MacNamara plays music of some indeterminable genre which is not quite Country and Western nor quite traditional Australian Bush music but nonetheless manages to combine the worst features of both.

One song which occasionally gets an airing is called "Thank a Farmer". I can't quite remember the lyrics of this lugubrious little ditty (a small mercy for which I am truly thankful), but the general theme is that if you are a city dweller who likes a drop of milk or a teaspoon of sugar in the morning coffee that you drink with your breakfast of corn flakes or bacon and eggs, you should really thank those hard-working salt-of-the-earth* bush types for whom considerations of personal gain are quite secondary to carrying out their altruistic duty of providing for the comfort of their city cousins.

In lieu of anything better to write, I am quite happy to make today "Thank a Farmer Day" on the Potemkin and here are three things that I'd like to thank our nation's farmers for:

Adelaide town water;

Algal blooms caused by fertiliser run-off;

Antibiotic resistant coliform bacteria.

And while we're all thanking each other, perhaps the farmers of our nation might like to thank those selfless city manufacturers who, also without too much consideration for personal gain, provide them with their utes, the barbed wire that fences in their stock and of course their Masseys. And no vote of thanks to the people who support our profligate city lifestyles would be complete without at least a nod in the direction of the third-world peasants who provide us with the tea and coffee into which we pour the dairy farmer's milk and spoon the cane farmer's sugar. I think that covers everybody, but if you feel left out no doubt you'll let me know.

* - Personally, I'm not sure that "salt-of-the-earth" is entirely complimentary in an Australian context.

Robert Locke on Race

Saturday, 23 November 2002

A few days ago, while I was busy following hyperlinks like an epidemiologist in search of Patient Zero, I came across this very old article by Robert Locke. In it Locke says that the second dumbest idea of the twentieth century is that "race is a social construct". We won't bother with the idea Locke considers the dumbest, because his concern in the article is to demolish this second dumbest of twentieth century ideas. The article is an extended attack on the views of Dr Joseph L. Graves, a genetecist at the University of Arizona. Locke states his position early:

Human classifications of race are indeed social constructs. ... But this doesn’t mean that the racial differences themselves, as opposed to the language used to talk about them, are social constructs.

He goes on to identify a number of metaphysical faults in Graves work, which are mostly errors of expression - such as Graves' statement that there is more genetic variation within races than between races. Clearly, this an example of muddle-headed leftist thinking which Locke refutes thus:

The next step in Graves’s genetic argument is that there can’t be races because genetic variation between races (again, which don’t exist) is far less than genetic variation within races. ... True again, but it doesn’t prove a thing. The genetic differences among accountants are far larger than the genetic difference (presumably zero) between accountants and architects, but this doesn’t mean that one can’t meaningfully categorize people into accountants and architects.

This is a pretty good example of Locke's consistent application of the debating technique known as the argument pedis transfixus or shooting yourself in the foot. Locke produces another brilliant example of this style of argument in his fisking of his E-Mail correspondence with Dr Graves:

Graves: If we were to apportion humans on the basis of our genetic variability, we would identify several sub-Saharan African races, and one other (all people living outside of Africa.)

Locke: Fine. But as I said, classification according to race isn't the same as classification by genetic variability.

In other words, if science won't support the racial classifications I want, to hell with science.

Of course it would be unfair to suggest that Locke is implicitly conceding that race is a social construct after all. It may be a purely personal construct, which is an entirely different thing: and possibly one he would do better to keep to himself.

Free Trade Relaxation Therapy

Saturday, 23 November 2002

Hugh Mackay has returned to form after last week's abberation, with an article in today's Age on the Free Trade Agreement that we intend to start negotiating with the US in another couple of months. Hugh notes some interesting provisions in the fine print of the proposed deal: relaxation of foreign investment controls,food labelling laws, dismantling of marketing authorities for agricultural commodities and possibly relaxation of quarantine laws. He comments:

At a time when the Federal Government has garnered strong community support for its border protection strategies ("We have the right to decide who comes here"), serious consideration is apparently being given to the idea that another country might override our foreign investment rules and quarantine regulations in return for a greater willingness to buy our products.

I think Hugh is being a little alarmist here: the clauses in question may simply be treaty "boilerplate", similar to those antiquated clauses in mortgage contracts which grant your bank manager the right to pasture his horses on your back lawn and, of course, very few bank managers ever exercise this right. Or they may represent an ambit claim, and we can be sure that Prime Minister John Howard, who has so capably demonstrated his ability to enunciate a foreign policy that reflects Australia's national interests rather than a sentimental attachment to the US alliance will do his utmost to ensure that our sovereignty is preserved.

Looking to the other side of politics we can be equally assured that a Crean Labor government will be equally firm on these issues. Simon Crean has made it abundantly clear that he believes that the agreement must be comprehensive so I'm sure that at the very least he will insist that any concessions we make in the area of national sovereignty must be matched by an equal willingness on the part of the US to make similar sacrifices. On the whole, I think Hugh should calm down and try to feel a little more relaxed and comfortable with this.

More Perils of Modern Life

Saturday, 23 November 2002

One of my serious researcher friends E-Mailed me this report of the hazards of lap-top computers. After reading it, I was glad that I never succumbed to the fad for silk boxer shorts but stuck with the old reliable cotton jocks. All the same, I think I might go to the local hardware store or the army disposals to get a fire safety blanket before I next place a lap-top computer anywhere near the Trotsky family jewels.

Afterword: speaking of family jewels I can't resist passing on this personal anecdote. A few years ago I went into the back yard one Sunday morning for a quiet moment of cigarette-assisted reflection. I was sitting on a low step near the back door, with only a towelling bathrobe to preserve my modesty. Our young tom cat came to me and rubbed himself against my legs. I didn't pay too much attention when he then slipped under the dangling hem of the bathrobe. The kittenish playfulness that followed soon convinced me that this was a mistake.

A Little Spot of Me-Tooism

Saturday, 23 November 2002

Fred Nile's comments on islamic dress and our Prime Minister's response have been given a good going over in the blogosphere in the past day or so. Some of it is a little over the top: if, like me, Nile's detractors had seen the excellent film Rules of Engagement they would realise how terrifyingly easy it is for an apparently innocent Muslim woman to transform herself into an AK-47 wielding harridan with only a little assistance from creative montage. I thoroughly reccommend this film (which, along with A Time to Kill confirms Samuel Jackson as the finest blaxploitation actor of this generation) to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the present day realities of global politics.

There has been criticism too of the Prime Minister's customary diffidence when it comes to making statements of personal principle which might convey the unfortunate impression that he considers himself morally superior to the rest of us. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer shows none of Mr Howard's admirable tact, in making this statement:

I suppose people could hide all sorts of equipment in all sorts of clothing," Mr Downer said.

"You could hide things under a raincoat I suppose - I don't think we're going to ban raincoats.

"But look, at the end of the day I don't think banning clothing is going to be a path the Government would go down."

Of course, as Foreign Minister, Mr Downer is speaking entirely outside his portfolio when he comments on domestic matters, especially events in New South Wales. Treasurer Peter Costello has shown a much clearer appreciation of the political niceties of the situation and kept his head buried in the national accounts, where his portfolio obligations require him to keep it.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Some Might Call this Flattery. I Don't.

Friday, 22 November 2002

Clearly, hero-columnist Janet Albrechtsen of the Oz has nothing left to teach blogger Jozef Imrich of Media Dragon. In this posting Jozef offers his opinion on Gary Sauer-Thomson's suggestion that blogging is a form of public intellectualism, using language that shows a remarkable resemblance to my posting A Saturday Allegory. True, Jozef does include my name and E-mail at the bottom of the post but I hardly consider that attribution under the circumstances.

While it's flattering that Jozef liked my fable well enough to quote it in full, I think it's a little mischievous that he chose to do so in a way that suggested that it was a comment on the "bloggers as public intellectuals" discussion. It wasn't. It was motivated by an entirely different set of concerns which I wasn't fully aware of until after it was written but the problem with fables, of course, is that you can persuade them to mean whatever you like.

All the same, Jozef, the next time you have an opinion to offer on any topic, I'd be grateful if you use your own words, rather than using mine to express opinions that I may not actually hold. Or you might at least have the basic courtesy to ask me first, before you appropriate any more of my writing for your blog.

Update: Jozef and I have exchanged E-Mails on this subject and a dignified funeral has been arranged for the hatchet. The funeral will be attended by a few close friends and relatives. No flowers please, by request of the hatchet's widow, the chain saw.

It's the Grief, Dummies

Friday, 22 November 2002

Brian Deegan, father of Joshua Deegan, one of the Bali bombing victims, is getting a lot of stick for his open letter to the Prime Minister. Instead of playing the honourable and socially acceptable role of outraged relative, happy to accept a little US military payback for the loss of his son, Deegan has raised questions about John Howard's possible role in creating the political climate that led to the outrage. A lot of commentators (including the Prime Minister himself) feel that this is a little out of line, which is hardly surprising in a political climate where there is a wide-spread bipartisan agreement that the best thing to do about the War on Terrorism is to terrify the electorate with dire warnings about the state of the world, then pacify them with promises of new police powers to deal with the threat. Civil liberties? Phooey!

Anyone who has experienced the death of someone they love or a close friend will understand what Deegan is experiencing. It's called grief, and it's a very messy business, an uncomfortable emotional rollercoaster ride through extremes of anger, black depression and above all the pain of irreparable loss. Even if the death is from natural causes, you can feel anger about it and the desire to strike back at something, anything - but when my best friend from University days died of leukemia a few years ago, the last thing that I felt like doing was to go and punch his oncologist's lights out for stuffing up his therapy. When the death occurs as a result of human action, it's understandable that the desire to punch out some lights is even stronger but I suspect that any relief it gives to the anger of the grieving is going to be equally suspect and short-term.

And I am talking about anger here - not the self-righteous outrage that thinks a supportive friend is one who will go out and get you a little payback and sod the collateral damage. I'm quite frankly sick and tired of hearing this sort of stuff. If it's indecent for anyone to raise the question of why the events of September 11 and the Bali bombing occurred, it's at least equally indecent to insist that the only proper response is a hectoring moral outrage that insists that the only solution is to go out and play Command and Conquer with live ammunition and live targets. I like to think that I am a civilised person and that it is possible to defend civilisation without resorting to barbarity. If we can't we're all in a lot of trouble.

Making a Killing in the Futures Market

Friday, 22 November 2002

How do you fund a popular uprising that nobody wants? Well, if you're fortunate enough to have access to natural resources which are in demand, the answer is very simple. It works in pretty much the same way as the heavily leveraged corporate take-overs of the 1980s (or should that be highly geared? Sometimes the language of corporate finance confuses me as much as the language of industrial relations).

What you do is sell some booty* futures**. In essence you sell exploitation rights on the natural resources you intend to seize control of, in exchange for the money (or weapons) you need to seize control. It's a much more effective form of insurrection financing than the traditional method of extorting funds from the population you are "liberating".

Of course you won't find booty listed on the Sydney Futures Exchange and for very good reason. Neither the sellers nor the buyers in this particular commodity market are too keen to have its existence made public. Michael L Ross, the author of the original paper, did a pretty good job in turning up four examples of the trade and he does an excellent job of examining the damage it does.

At the risk of damning Ross' paper with faint praise, the idea of booty futures is not exactly new - Joseph Conrad covered similar territory in his novel Nostromo, for example. What is new in Ross' treatment of the issue is that he has put the subject on the agenda of political science and economics and shown how market interventions in government can be just as damaging as government interventions in the market - if not more so. While his paper may not bring much comfort to those naifs who believe that every national liberation movement is necessarily acting on behalf of the liberated, there's not much joy in it either for those other naifs who believe that free markets are always and everywhere the best thing.

Of course, it's unlikely that any Australian entrepreneur has ever become involved in this grubby trade. True, Alan Bond did buy the Chilean Telephone company and all that's left of the Skase assets is a house in Majorca and a tiny corner of the Spanish judicial system, but these were abberations and, anyway, it's all in the past.

* - PDF file.

** - briefer account originally from the New Scientist of June 29 this year.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

A Brief Thank-You Note

Thursday, 21 November 2002

I've had a few E-Mails expressing approbation of the Slavery and Double Effect item I posted yesterday. Of the E-Mails I've received so far, 75% have been more or less favourable, with one correspondent who tells me that he is still kacking himself. I've replied to most, although I still have a couple to go. I suspect I may have given Robert Corr shorter shrift than I intended - I suspect my reaction to his E-Mail was similar to that I got from a friend several years ago when he proudly showed me his collection of hand-painted 25mm Napoleonic miniatures and I tactfully pointed out that the skin tones on their tiny hands and faces were a bit off. He was as passionately devoted to his hobby as I am to mine and, as a result, perhaps a little over-sensitive to well-intended positive criticism.

Dr John Ray has also written to draw my attention to this post where, as is his right, he dishes up a little gander-sauce to yours truly. Personally I think Dr Ray's batch is a little too fresh out of the bottle, and a few days in the back of the larder would do a great deal to improve it.

Anyway, thank you to everyone who took the trouble to write, it's good to know that I've got the pointy end of the Potemkin pointing the right way. Sometimes it's hard to tell with a tug boat.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Another Sad Day for Politics

Wednesday, 20 November 2002

Oz columnist Janet Albrechtsen takes a "plague on both your houses" line in her piece today on the appointments of Graeme Samuel as deputy chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Jeff Shaw to the NSW Supreme Court.

On the Samuel affair, Janet reckons it's a case of NSW Treasurer Michael Egan dishing up a serve of gander-sauce to Federal Treasurer Peter Costello for this brilliant display of visual humour:

After a heated meeting over a $166 million compensation deal for petrol excise indexation, and with cameras rolling, Costello foolishly patted the diminutive Egan on the head. With that familiar smirk, Costello said: "Calm down, fella."

Most of you will no doubt remember this moment - it was too good not to make it onto the TV news. In my view it pretty much epitomises most of what passes for wit on the conservative side of politics. It shows the smug self-assurance which goes with knowing that you hold most of the power and that any anger you provoke on the part of the butt of the joke will only make them look foolish - regardless of whether the anger is justified.

On the issue of the Shaw appointment, Janet takes the NSW Liberals to task for suggesting

that his appointment was more a "clearing of the decks" by NSW Premier Bob Carr, keen to appoint people ahead of the March election.

Janet believes Shaw is just the right kind of judge who can be trusted to avoid the hubris of hero judges such as Lionel Murphy or Michael Kirby. I am in no position to comment on this as I am not familiar with Mr Shaw's career.

Finally, like Senator George Brandis she bemoans the fact that public servants (and some judges) are being used for purposes of political points scoring. I'm in complete agreement with her on that point.

Slavery and Double Effect

Wednesday, 20 November 2002

I've had some correspondence on the Lies, Damned Lies and Doubly Damned Lies item I posted a couple of days ago and I've been prompted to rethink my position. After dragging out a couple of texts from my philosophy studies I think I've got a handle on the moral difference between slavers and the operators of the Nazi death camps. The key is the principle of double effect.

For those who are unfamiliar with this principle, a simple illustration will help. Suppose you are trying to overpower a crazed gunman and that in the course of the struggle, his gun goes off, killing him. Clearly, you are not to blame for his death, as your intention was to protect others and his death was accidental. This should not be confused with the situation where you pull out your trusty .357 Magnum and pop off a few rounds in his general direction, accidentally killing a couple of pensioners who were too slow to duck. This is an instance of collateral damage and although it may exonerate you from blame for the accidental deaths of the pensioners, there are some hair-splitters who insist that this is contingent on at least one of your shots actually hitting the crazed gunman.

Unlike the death-camp operators, who plainly intended to kill their victims, then extract the economic benefit afterwards, the slave shippers and plantation owners were clearly seeking the economic benefit first, and the alleged suffering and occasional deaths of the enslaved were not intentional, but merely a by product of the perfectly justifiable (in economic terms) aim of minimising the operating cost of a business enterprise by obtaining the cheapest labour possible. So the principle of double effect clearly applies here and we can safely exonerate the slavers from the alleged immorality of slavery.

In fact we can go further: the development of the nascent sugar-planting and cotton industries and their expansion produced a great deal of economic benefit in other areas - such as the expansion of the Grand Banks cod fisheries (see Cod by Mark Kurlansky). In the long run, the African slave trade was beneficial to the slaves and their descendants as it introduced them to elements of Western European culture such as Christianity, the Enlightenment Rationalist Tradition and sexual coupling in the face-to-face boys on top mode. (Although the last of these may be accounted a mixed blessing: it was face-to-face sexual coupling which opened the way to the girls on top mode which subverted male copulatory dominance by relegating men to an inferior, passive role and opened the way to western feminism. It is no coincidence that the societies where feminism has made the fewest inroads are those in which the predominant form of sexual coupling is the older "doggy-doggy" style).

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Goose ... Gander ... Sauce

Tuesday, 19 November 2002

Aaron Oakley shows a fine, Shakespearian sense of metaphor in dishing up some well aged gander-sauce to John Quiggin. Of course, as the Potemkin's cook would have been able to tell you before he expired from dietary necessity, the thing with gander sauce is that you have to leave it at the back of the larder to seethe for a few months before it acquires any piquancy. I have some especially fine stuff in the galley that was laid down years ago.

About the Crew

Tuesday, 19 November 2002

I've noticed that one or two of my fellow bloggers are referring to the "crew" of my little satiric vessel. I think I should put it on record that the word "crew" is a polite fiction: the rest of them succumbed to the fine old maritime tradition of cannibalism in adversity long ago. Like Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes, but more in the manner of Gilbert's "elderly naval man":

Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the NANCY brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig.

Scatter her Enemies

Tuesday, 19 November 2002

The Republican debate has come to life again over the past few days. The former Chair of the Australian Republican Movement, Greg Barns, attacked the monarchy as a corrupt institution and a menace to democracy over the weekend and in today's Oz, Senator Amanda Vanstone argues for moderate constitutional change, while Amanda Shanahan makes the case for the Queen, with the occasional gratuitous side swipe at the usual suspects:

The royal household staff is composed of professionals doing a job and they would not have tailored their advice. But the homosexual clique within Prince Charles's household is a different issue.

I suppose it's possible that with the prospect of a Free Trade Agreement with the US, some people are starting to realise that we might cut a slightly ridiculous figure on the international stage if we become an economic dependency of the US on the one hand and remain a political dependency of the UK on the other. We have to make at least some show of being our own masters, so renewing the debate on whether we should replace the Queen with an elected president makes a lot of sense right now. It will certainly make the task of redesigning the flag to reflect our new position in the world much simpler - putting the Stars and Stripes in beside the Union Jack wouldn't have left much room below for the Southern Cross.

This means that Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy will have their work cut out for them, but no doubt they will fortify their spirits with the occasional rousing rendition of God Save the Queen. The much neglected third verse (the second rarely gets sung, but the third rarely ever makes it into print these days) is bound to be a crowd pleaser wherever our few remaining die-hard monarchists gather:

O Lord our God arise,
Scatter her Enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Foil all their knavish tricks,
In thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all!

Update: I have had a bit of correspondence on this item from Bruce E, who writes:

Gummo, as I learned it, that verse of our glorious national anthem
God damn all heretics
God damn their knavish tricks
Confound their politics
God save the Queen.

Stirring stuff, eh?
Bruce E

As I informed Bruce, my source for the version I gave is a long lost copy of Hymns Ancient and Modern which I may have misquoted. On the other hand the song may have been bowdlerised at some stage in its history.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Lies, Damned Lies and Doubly Damned Lies

Monday, 18 November 2002

I think an advisory warning is appropriate for this post: there's not much satire in it and what there is is satire of the blackest kind. Those who think satire is a synonym for fairly benign humour on political topics may prefer to stop reading now. This post also employs an argument by analogy, and the analogy will be quite offensive to some.

One of the nastier little half-truths circulating in some parts of the blogging world is that the African slaves of the 18th and 19th century were responsible, at least in part, for their own slavery. This plea of mitigation for the slave shippers and slave owners argues that whites only bought the slaves: it was Africans who sold them, so they must be held accountable too.

When I was in high school, there was a brief fad for horror fiction and for a short while there was a brisk underground trade in horror anthologies, such as the Pan Book of Horror Stories. One of the books that circulated during this fad for the macabre was a personal memoir of Auschwitz written by a survivor, whose name (once again) I have forgotten. Although it was satisfactorily gruesome and horrific its entertainment value was compromised by the knowledge that the author was describing real events which happened to real people. Imaginary horrors are much more satisfactory as entertainment.

One of the ugly facts of Auschwitz and the other death camps, is that much of the day to day work in the camp was done, not by the SS Officers and Guards, but by the prisoners themselves. Those who were "fortunate" enough to be pressed into service sorting the clothing and personal effects of the dead, removing the gold fillings from their corpses and transferring them to the crematoria and performing all the other mundane tasks associated with industrialised pillage and murder received a short stay of execution. But I think very few - even those who are prepared to split hairs over whether English anti-semitism is somehow more benign than other varieties - would dare to suggest that we should realise that the SS were merely managers and supervisors of the enterprise, and that the real work was done by a selected cadre of camp inmates.

Of course, like all arguments by analogy, this one will probably fail. No doubt, there are significant moral differences between buying slaves and working them to death on the one hand, and gassing millions to death then extracting every possible economic benefit from their corpses on the other. I suspect that there are plenty of people who will be only too happy to point out those differences. These people have much more insight into moral subtleties than I can lay claim to.

Words of the Day: nepotism, simony, barratry

Monday, 18 November 2002

With his wife, brother and son all holding ecclesiastical offices, allegations of nepotism have been raised against the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen. Responding to these allegations on AM this morning, Dr Jensen told Philippa McDonald that accusations of nepotism would not be made by those who

know what nepotism means, which means providing ecclesiastical preferrment for money and so forth and so on.

This prompted me to haul out the Macquarie once again where I found the following definitions:

nepotism: patronage bestowed in consideration of family relationship and not of merit.

simony: 1. making profit out of sacred things. 2. the sin of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferments, benefices, etc.

I couldn't find a definition of barratry, but I gathered from reading Dante's Inferno a while back that it was to civil office what simony is to ecclesiastical office. Of course the notion of barratry is rather old-hat in our present day and age and it's generally accepted, for example, that when private corporations make donations to political parties it's a normal part of the democratic process. Obviously, there's nothing untoward in Australian corporations which trade in the UK donating money to the British Conservative Party, or in English corporations providing the same support to the Conservative Pasrty here. As Ron Walker, former treasurer of the Liberal Party pointed out in his interview on AM this morning, it's perfectly normal for the Conservative Parties in the two countries to help each other out by raising donations of this kind and it's been going on since the Churchill/Menzies years. Which makes me wonder why I raised the subject of barratry at all, now that I think about it.

And the Winner Is ...

Monday, 18 November 2002

Yesterday's paper and this morning's news have produced some very rich pickings and it looks like I'm in for a very busy couple of hours pasting them all up into my personal satire album. I'll deal with the Victorian state election first.

There's been a lot of coverage of Robert Dean's faux pas of course: I was almost tempted to feel sorry for the poor bugger myself when I saw the Herald Sun headline about how the Deans decided to buy their Hawthorn home after failed IVF treatment. Then The Sunday Age blew the whole thing away by actually checking the Electoral Rolls and disclosing that Mr Dean had changed his electoral registration details twice over the past couple of years - first from Berwick to Hawthorn and then back to Berwick where, as we know, a routine sweep of the rolls revealed that he was no longer living in the house which he leased for six months but only actually rented for two. Both Prime Minister John Howard and Victorian Shadow Opposition Leader Robert Doyle were playing it down yesterday, saying it was "yesterday's news" - I suppose by now it's even more dated being "the day before yesterday's news".

This morning brought the announcement of the most recent Saulwick Age Poll on the Victorian election, with Labor in the lead 61% to 39%. 58% of respondents preferred Steve Bracks as Premier, while 21% plumped for Robert Doyle. This makes Peter Costello's introduction of Mr Doyle as "the next Premier of Victoria" at the Liberal Party's official campaign launch look a mite optimistic. I think it's more reasonable to predict that after November 30th Mr Doyle will roll Dennis Napthine a second time and take over Dr Napthine's current position as Former Leader of the Opposition.

This is obviously going to disappoint a lot of Liberal supporters: as usual the media and the general public are allowing minor procedural infractions to distract them from the real purpose of the election which is to oust Steve Bracks who, as Robert Dean has informed us, is really Joan Kirner in drag.

VGC, Partly Renovated, Ideal Tax Haven

Monday, 18 November 2002

The big news from Papua New Guinea over the weekend was the furore over Alexander Downer's announcement that Australia was not prepared to restructure payment of a $200 million dollar loan to the PNG government, with $70 million in repayments due next year. Papuan Energy Minister Sir Moi Avei was a little miffed and made pointed references to asylum seekers. I can see his position: it's a little like your bank manager arriving one Saturday to park his widowed mother-in-law in the granny flat at the back of the house, then following up with a friendly phone call on Monday to tell you that you are 3 months in default on your mortgage repayments.

While I sympathise with the PNG position, I think the current directors of Commonwealth of Australia (Inc) are being entirely responsible in this matter. The country's bottom line is under threat from litigation by the HIH liquidators and we have nearly run out of public assets to sell to foreign investors so that we can pay back the money we borrowed from the foreign investors who are buying the public assets that we're selling to the foreign investors who live in the house that Jack built. I know that the last part of that sentence is nonsense but let's face it, if I hadn't thrown it in, we'd be going round in bloody circles forever.

Cynical as it sounds, if PNG defaults on the loan repayments next year, it would provide the ideal opportunity to boost our country's bottom line by foreclosing on the loan and selling up the country. I'm sure there are a few elements of the Indonesian military who might still have the readies to put down a deposit and we could probably expect some keen interest from corporates who understand what a valuable asset a nation state can be. Of course, if we want to get the best price, we'll have to get the sitting tenants out of the place. I guess they'll just have to move in with the Nauruans.