Saturday, May 03, 2003

Strange Bedfellows

It's not often that I find myself agreeing with Stanley of the Billabong but he makes a very good point here:

The Victorian government is about to waive its own discrimination laws in order to indulge Commissioner Nixon's desire to attract more female recruits. "It will also bring a greater diversity of approach to policing, particularly in areas such as negotiation and communication, where women are acknowledged to have different approaches to men," Nixon was quoted as saying. She's peddling trendy tosh from the syllabus of some womyn's studies collective at one of Australia's institutes of higher learning. But let that go - and overlook, too, the sad spectacle of those paid to enforce and uphold the law blithely circumventing those parts of it they find inconvenient.

As a reasonable citizen, what really troubles the professor is that this priority to achieve gender equity in the ranks is an example of grossly misplaced priorities. Since the police force's primary brief now appears to be raising public revenue via speeding fines (and private funds via cooperation with drug runners), does it really matter if it is a male copper or a female one who chooses not to enforce the laws that matter the most - the ones intended to safeguard property and safety? If Victoria had a parliamentary Opposition worthy of the name, some honourable member would point out as much on the floor of the chamber. Sadly, like Mrs. Bunyip, the very people who should be raising a stink prefer to peddle fibs. In this case, the lie of silence.
[Stanley's emphasis]

Back in my early days as a bureaucrat, working for the now defunct Department with a Continuing Identity Crisis, I learned the difference between affirmative action, which is what they have in the US, and equal employment opportunity, which is what we're supposed to have in Australia. It's worth spelling out the difference, because a lot of people confuse the two. Affirmative action aims to overcome discrimination in favour of incompetent white heterosexual males by promoting discrimination in favour incompetents who are otherly genitalled or of other sexual orientations and colours. Equal employment opportunity is based on the principle that the best person for the job is the most competent, regardless of these factors, although it's unlikely to be much help if, despite your obviously superior vocational competence, you keep missing out on jobs because you can't resist picking your nose during the selection interview.

As Stanley points out, it's unlikely that Victoria's decimated opposition will have much of an effect here. It's also probably too much to hope that anyone on the Left of the ALP might get up on her hind legs and point out that this action flies in the face of Leftie principles too.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Curiouser and Curiouser

I took a look at the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 today. I wanted to find out whether the Therapeutic Goods Administration might have dealt with Pan's quality control failures without suspending the company's licence for 6 months. Section 40, Subsection 2 looked promising:

(2) The Secretary may, by notice in writing given to the holder of a licence, impose new conditions on the licence or vary or remove existing conditions.

I'm not sure whether this means that the TGA could have made it a condition of Pan's licence that they replace their entire senior management or submit to a period of outside administration but either of those possibilities strikes me as being preferable to the licence suspension.

I vaguely intended a longish, "well-considered" blog on the topic, but I got derailed by the latest revelation about Pan's bizarre corporate culture:

The theft of a million cold tablets from Pan Pharmaceuticals two years ago led to a security upgrade at the embattled pharmaceutical company, a NSW Health spokeswoman said today.

The theft of the cold and flu tablets, which can be manufactured into amphetamines valued at tens of millions of dollars, from the Pan factory at Moorebank at the end of March 2001 is currently the subject of a police inquiry, NSW Health said.


The spokesman [sic] confirmed the tablets, contained in eight packing pallets, were left on an external loading dock on the night of the robbery.

She also confirmed a large external floodlight was not working on the night of the theft and a security camera had been disabled.

Doing the Numbers

Rob Corr has found reason to be outraged in this Boston Globe report on further shootings in the Iraqi town of Falluja and this report from The Age of a US Marine who mistakenly adopted Tom Highway, Clint Eastwood's character in Heartbreak Ridge as a role model.

It's obvious that Rob hasn't got the hang of our new style of moral clarity. As Gareth Parker has pointed out, apropos the Iraq Body Count, what really matters in assessing the morality of US actions in Iraq is not the body count from isolated, and regrettable, incidents where "excess" force has been used by the US military, but how the casualty rate compares with that Saddam might have inflicted if he were still in power. John Quiggin has obviously got the hang of this, and provides a reasoned discussion of recent events, based on a more rigorous quantitative approach to the problem.

Gareth estimates that Saddam Hussein's regime would have killed 4,420 people since March 20 if the war had not gone ahead. If we throw in the death toll since the first Gulf War (when Saddam was very firmly repudiated by the administration of George Bush I) it's obvious that the US has a lot of catching up to do before the Left are entitled to claim that the actions of the US have any moral equivalence with Saddam's. The fact that the US' actions are taken in the interests of promoting democracy and ridding the world of the threat of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and various other forms of unpleasantness extends the ethical leeway a good deal further. As does the fact that the "innocent civilians" involved in the Falluja incidents were anything but innocent: they were anti-American demonstrators.

Perhaps it's time to move on to more important things, like the scandalous increase in car registration fees that Victorian drivers will face from July 1st this year. Now there's an issue worth getting outraged about - unless you're a West Australian of course.

Thursday, May 01, 2003


The German port of Hamburg has been offered 10,000 euros ($US10,500) to change its name to "Veggieburg" by animal rights activists, who are unhappy about the city's association with hamburgers.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003


Instead, history has degenerated into mere emotion. The black armband is fastened so tightly, it has cut circulation to rational thinking. Historical facts that make us feel proud have been expunged. [My emphasis]

The anatomically correct Janet Albrechtsen in today's Oz.

Mouldy Oldie

I don't know why I got two referrals from Ken Parish's oldest site looking for Slavery and Double Effect but it's a good excuse to revive a personal favourite.


Thanks to James Russell for this report on the interesting business background of Pan Pharmaceuticals founder Jim Selim:

... In 1976 Mr Selim appeared before the Pharmacy Board of NSW charged with professional misconduct.

The charge - failing to include a substance in a manufactured item - related to his making of paracetamol tablets. Some batches contained no paracetamol.

Not exactly what you'd call a fair cop - it's well known that in about 40% of cases the tablets would have cured headaches anyway.


Phil Ruddock is very cross:

It's a dose of virtual reality that the Immigration Minister could probably do without: a computer game in which players try to escape from Australian detention centres has received $25,000 in federal funding.

The game, Escape from Woomera, will be modelled on four of the country's most contentious detention centres. It received the money from the Australia Council, the federal arts funding body, last month.


"The decision reflects poorly upon the Australia Council and its judgement, that the organisation should lend its name to the promotion of unlawful behaviour," Mr Ruddock said yesterday.

He's going to hit the roof when he hears about the boss monster on level 9.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

An Unfortunate Contrast

According to ABC News, there have been two gunfights today in that dangerous WMD-owning rogue state which recently got democratised. First, there's this report of a gunfight involving Australian troops:

In a statement, Defence Force spokesman Brigadier Mike Hannan says the soldiers came across three men carrying guns during a patrol of the city on Sunday.

Brigadier Hannan says rather than engage in a street battle, the patrol broke off the contact after a few shots were fired.

And then there's this report of a gunfight involving somebody else's troops:

Lieutenant Christopher Hart, of the 82nd Airborne Division, says his unit, which is occupying the school, used smoke to try and disperse a crowd of 100 to 200 people who came down the street towards them chanting.

But US troops opened fire after two men carrying AK-47s suddenly came from behind the crowd on a motorcycle and started shooting at the school.

"They had AK-47s and, as they drove by, they opened up on the near side of this building here," he said.

"What happened was we engaged personnel on the motorcycle."

He says some people in the crowd also fired at the US troops.

He says he is not sure how many people were killed but estimates the death toll at between seven and 10.

[Local people, including the head of the main hospital in the town, say at least 13 people were killed and about 75 wounded.]

Monday, April 28, 2003

Looting the Looter State

I got an E-mail from dj the other day about Strawman's post Treasure the Memories at the Australian Libertarian Society Blog. Strawman questions whether the looting of Iraq's museums is such a bad thing:

The fact is that some individual (or individuals) made a decision in Iraq to deprive the collective of these relics of the past. Perhaps this was the act of a thoughtless hooligan, or perhaps it was someone who thought that it was time for Iraq to move forward.

Thinking about it, there's some merit to the idea of depriving the collective (an organisation which imposes the wishes of the group at the expense of the freedom of the individual) of treasures that they really don't appreciate anyway. Especially in my current circumstances: as well as feeding the cats and fishes (but not, I hope, acting as feline undertaker) it would be pleasing to repay my absent hosts with some small gift to show my appreciation for the way they have more or less given me the run of their house for the next couple of weeks. There's a couple of Arthur Streetons and Frederick McCubbins at the National Gallery of Victoria which would really enhance the decor. However much the curators might miss them, I doubt that the hoi-polloi who drag their icy-pole sucking toddlers through the place would notice much more than a few blank spaces on the walls. While I'm at it, I might as well pick up a Norman Lindsay for myself. After all, it was my taxes that paid for the damn things.

Back In the Saddle

I'm house-sitting for the next couple of weeks: in return for feeding three cats, six siamese fighting fish and nine goldfish, I get access to Foxtel. As usual when people go away and leave you in charge of their house, there's been a swag of last minute written and verbal instructions: how to set the video recorder to record Due South each time it's on, when to put out the garbage, where to find the spade if the oldest cat dies and you have to bury it.

Now I have the place to myself, I figure it's time to get back to blogging, although there's a lot to catch up on since I last posted 11 days ago. Just to ease back into things, here's a little gem from AM's Finance Reporter and master of purple prose, Stephen Long, reporting on the OECD's latest economic forecast:

The OECD's forecast was glum enough six months ago. And since then, war and pestilence have further undermined the outlook for economic growth.

Still, with only two of the Four Horsemen of Global Economic Recession abroad, the news isn't too grim: at worst we're in for a period of slow growth ,that is "growth below potential" or "growth below trends". Thank heaven for minor mercies.