We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A light has gone from my life

I did so enjoy contemplating the coming inevitable defeat of Julia Gillard and the Australian Labor Party. Unimportant in the greater scheme of things, I know, but just to contemplate the ululations of grief and ritual cries of “misogyny” that would have come from the Guardian the morning after the next Australian election was a little thing that gave me a few snatched moments of innocent pleasure in this hard world.

Now, however

Note to the Australian government

If you are a national government wasting spending investing at least A$27.5bn (£18bn) of taxpayers’ money – over $1000 per capita – on building a government owned “National Broadband Network” because you think it is the job of the government do do this kind of stuff, and you then employ civil servants to ghost-write articles that can be published in the media under the bylines of lazy journalits, it is not a terribly good idea to include journals published by libertarian think tanks amongst your target publications.

The ever-annoying Kevin Rudd carbon tax factoid

If it is true that venom has medicinal uses, the leading figures of the Australian Labor Party must be the healthiest people on Earth.

Entertaining stuff, but one thing keeps bugging me. In about half the articles giving background information on Kevin Rudd I read, I see something like this:

When Gillard, then deputy prime minister, moved against him in 2010, she did so against a backdrop of internal disquiet and profound electoral disappointment.

Rudd had back-flipped spectacularly on an important pre-election pledge to introduce a carbon tax and his sky-high popularity with voters had slumped. (One of the major figures who urged him to listen to the mining and business lobby and jettison that promise was the deputy who would later depose him.)

You would think from that that the righteous planet-protective wrath of the Australian people was directed at Rudd for his failure to fulfil his pledge to introduce a tax (actually an emissions trading regime) intended to retard global warming. Cobblers. He had backed out of laying the tax because the voters loathed the idea. In fact so unpopular was the proposed carbon tax that it also resulted in the ousting of the opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, from leadership of the Liberal party, he having offered bipartisan support for the scheme. While it is true that voters do despise retreat and will punish a politician who backs down even when they howled for him to do so, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme was only politically attractive in the sense that the song of the siren was attractive to Odysseus. Any Australian political leader who began to find that tune catchy had better hope that his Parliamentary colleagues had tied his bindings firmly and plugged well their own ears.

(Ears. Plugged. Rudd. Don’t think that thought too late.)

Nor has the curse abated since then. One big reason for Julia Gillard’s unpopularity is that she in turn “back-flipped spectacularly on an important pre-election pledge” not to introduce a carbon tax. I studied Australian politics at the University of Tim Blair’s Blog and I know that much. Why doesn’t the Guardian?

Robin Horbury at Biased BBC made a similar observation about a BBC story in July 2010. The link to the BBC story is dead, but, trust me, it was one of many.

Added later: another story from the Guardian exhibiting the same symptoms:

Ms Gillard’s once famously popular predecessor as Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, lost first that popularity and then his leadership partly because he failed to steer through the legislation he had promised to deal with what had earlier been called “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time.

Those nice people from Greenpeace

While some of its members may genuinely believe they are doing good by their fellow human beings in protecting health and potentially dangerous things, as they think genetically modified plants to be, the dangers of the Precautionary Principle are highlighted to a stark degree by the activities of Greenpeace activists in Canberra, Australia. According to a report, trials in producing GM wheat have been badly damaged.

The persons who did this will, hopefully, be caught and punished with the full weight of the law. Remember, if these guys had their way, the Agricultural Revolution that took place in the decades leading up to the Industrial Revolution might not have happened, or at least to the same degree.

Here is an article by the excellent Ronald Bailey on the GM crops issue.

Samizdata quote of the day

It is difficult to know how seriously to take China’s red revival. Like the idea of a Cultural Revolution-themed restaurant – could the world imagine an Auschwitz Café? – to Western eyes the campaigns are almost beyond parody.

Peter Foster discussing the nauseating celebrations of the communist party in China

Safety wowsers and health wowsers. Fight! Fight! Fight!

No libertarian purist is going to love London’s new public bike hire scheme but it is nearer to harmless than many other state schemes. Apparently it looks to be quite popular. The same cannot be said for Melbourne’s scheme, launched two months ago with high hopes and high rhetoric about the benefits of cycling for people’s health and the environment. The reason for these “ranks of unused blue bikes” is that another bunch of health-promoting statists had queered the pitch.

Andrew Bolt in the Australian Herald Sun writes:

Most cities around the world with such a scheme – a network of docking stations of hire bikes – have found it works a treat. Take Montreal, a city Melbourne’s size, which in its first five months logged a million rides.

But Melbourne? Two months after parking 600 bikes in 50 docking stations in the city, the Government has sold just 70 rides a day.

The reason is as simple as it was predictable, and Melbourne Bike Share’s own surveys picked it up as the most cited disincentive: it’s having to wear a helmet.

A conversation about the Australian election

My native land of Australia is having a federal election on August 21, in which Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott will challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who came to office in a party coup a mere five weeks ago. For those who are interested, I recently recorded a conversation with Patrick Crozier, in which he attempted to interview me about the issues at hand.

In this conversation, we cover issues such as how the Australian political system differs from the British system (and perhaps more crucially, how Australian political parties differ from British parties), just how and why Kevin Rudd managed to go from having some of the highest opinion poll ratings of any Australian Prime Minister to being tossed by his party in approximately nine months, the issues at hand in the electioin, and The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin.

Overhanging all this, though, is the recent party coup against Kevin Rudd. We spend quite a bit of time attempting to figure out the man’s downfall, and trying to figure out exactly how such a man became PM in the first place.

On the other hand, there are times when a music video is worth a thousand words. People without the time to listen to our conversation might instead consider simply watching this, which I think gets to the bottom of Kevin Rudd fairly quickly.

Unfortunately, although the conversation is timely and should be posted quickly, I have not had the opportunity to give it a great deal of editing. (I am presently in Romania, as part of having a life, and a touch short of editing facilities). As a consequence, the conversation still contains a few ums and ahs and pauses, and I think it is a little slow in starting. However, for those who want to give us a fair shake of the sauce bottle, I think it is pretty coherent once we get going. Enjoy.

Getting your priorities right

Things have been a little odd in Australian politics recently. In the last month, the governing Australian Labor Party has sacked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and appointed Julia Gillard as Australia’s first woman Prime Minister. While this has been going on, former Labor PM Paul Keating has been having a weird slanging match with former Labor PM Bob Hawke and his biographer/wife Blanche d’Alpuget. She was his biographer first. Long and somewhat tawdry story, which is some but not all that the slanging match (which has included a TV mini-series) has been about.

Obviously, the only thing that Ms Gillard could do in such circumstances was to call an early election, and thus Australians will be voting on August 21, even though the election may constitutionally be held as late as April 2011 . If this gamble does not pay off, Ms Gillard will be Australia’s fifth shortest serving Prime Minister. (Three of the shorter serving PMs held office very briefly during the period between when their predecessor either died or went mysteriously missing in the ocean and when their party elected a new leader, so she would be the second shortest Prime Minister ever placed in the job for reasons other than constitutional technicalities.

Australians, however, know what is important. Although televised leaders debates are a relatively new thing in the UK, they have been normal in Australian elections for over 25 years. The convention is that a debate will be held at 7.30pm on the first Sunday evening of the campaign. For this election, this would mean this coming Sunday.

Except, however, if it were held to that schedule this Sunday, the debate would clash with the season finale of the reality TV cooking show Masterchef Australia, and thus nobody would be watching. Therefore, the debate has been shortened from 90 minutes to 60, and has been moved from 7.30pm to 6.30pm. Really.

I am hoping to record a conversation about the personalities and issues behind this Australian election with fellow expatriate James Waterton at some point during this election campaign. Hopefully this should be up soon.

Update: The winner was Adam Liaw, the Japanese-Australian lawyer from Adelaide.

The joys of regulation

The Australian state of Western Australia has a population of 2.2 million people, and occupies an area of just over 2.6 million square kilometres. Just for reference, that is seven and a half times the size of Germany or alternatively ten times the size of Texas.

However, average house prices are amongst the highest in the world, as there is a shortage of land.

It rather boggles the mind.

Correction: Texas is actually slightly more than a quarter of the size of Western Australia. My apologies to Texans.

Samizdata quote of the day

“The fluffy stuff you put in your roof for rats to urinate on.”

Matthew Paris quotes Australian Shadow Finance Minister Barnaby Joyce‘s description of loft insulation. Paris says that politics throughout the West is moving towards the uncouth right. Mr Turnbull’s fate has made him, he says, “shudder”.

Australian deserter in Afghanistan gets a free pass?

A member of the Australian military went missing in the middle of a deadly clash with the Taliban then, fourteen months later, she just wanders back into camp. Is a court martial convened to see if she is guilty of desertion? No, people just shrug their shoulders and start playing tennis with her. What madness is this?

What is the world coming to when a valued member of the armed services takes off under fire and leaves their comrades chasing their tails wondering what happened to her? And it should be noted there were persistent rumours that far from being held captive by the Taliban, she was sniffing around an area of Afghanistan notorious for opium production while her compatriots were risking their lives facing down the enemy. How can this not cause serious repercussions when she wanders back to base after being located by US soldiers (who reportedly said she was a real bitch)? Shocking.

Michael and Brian chat about the Ashes

Tomorrow morning, the third test in the current five match Ashes series begins in Birmingham, weather permitting. Ashes as in cricket, between England and Australia, which is as big as test cricket (i.e. the long-drawn-out goes-on-for-days-and-days variety) in England ever gets. Both Michael Jennings and I have had a break from blogging in recent weeks, but earlier this evening we got together to record a conversation about it all, and here it is. We rambled on for just under forty minutes.

However, two blemishes should be noted. First, for some reason, there are occasional little bursts of crackly sound, of the sort that used mysteriously to afflict gramophone records and which caused all classical fans other than vinylphiliacs to switch to CDs. These noises are not that obtrusive, given that this is a mere chat between mates, but they are a mild irritation. Apparently something weird happened every now and again in Michael’s laptop, which was what we recorded into. Sorry about that.

Second, I (Brian) referred to the current England player Stuart Broad as “Chris” Broad, which is a quite common error because Chris Broad, Stuart Broad’s father, was also a test match cricketer. Nevertheless, apologies again.

Apart from that, and if you think you might like this, do what we did. Enjoy.