Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Confected outrage? Or genuine debate? Increases to the GST and tax reform

I am delighted to hear some of the debate occurring on Radio National and the news at the moment. Not at the tone of the debate, but at the content.

The Coalition has indicated it is considering tax reform. It has clearly said that it isn't ruling anything in or ruling anything out at this stage. The idea of an increase to the GST is definitely on the table.

Labor, by virtue of the fact that it is in opposition, is crying wolf, and confecting a huge issue about the fact that the GST is a 'regressive tax', whatever that means. It is pointing to the fact that an increase to the GST will have a disproportionate impact on the poor, which is not contentious.

The Coalition, in respose, is arguing that before it publishes its policy, it will put together a cohesive package which includes compensation to low-income-earners. It is talking about lowering the personal tax rate, but also real compensation for those who are below the tax free threshold anyway.

This debate, to me, has actually been fairly productive. Although we don't have any definite time-frame for a proper policy, (other than 'before the next election'), we suddenly seem to have a leader who is willing to take the time to consult widely, and formulate policy by consensus, rather than by fiat or on an ad-hoc basis. I think this can only be better for Australia, regardless of what policies they implement.

The bigger issue here is that the debate has suddenly matured. Not enormously, but noticeably. The biggest improvement is that the ALP and the LNP are both taking positions based on their fundamental theoretical origins, and not on what is the most popular.

The Coalition, as with most economically conservative governments, has an approach centred on lower taxes, and smaller government. (I am separating, for the moment, social policy with economic policy.) Therefore, their debate has been framed around the following concepts:

  • Reducing government spending instead of increasing tax revenue;
  • Improving the 'tax mix' to be as economically responsible as possible;
  • Spending being limited to the most important and fiscally responsible initiatives; and
  • Streamlining government operations. 
Therefore the Coalition is refusing to agree to any proposition which alleges that we need to raise more money in tax. Their default response is 'we don't need to tax more, we need to spend less.'

Then, when pressed on their discussions about tax reform, they argue that they are not increasing the total tax intake, but instead playing with the 'tax mix' to ensure that taxes are as fair and as effective as possible. 

The ALP, on the other hand, has an economic policy based on bigger government, better regulations, and a stronger safety net. By default, this means that they offer more and better services (IE education, health, public transport) but necessarily intend to tax higher. Thus they align more closely with some of the Scandinavian countries, even if they would never dare to tax that much. 

Shorten and Plibersek have been quick to point out that we are in a deficit, and that we need to be raising more money, but have been equally quick to jump on any hint of an increase to the GST. 

It is very frustrating to listen to these arguments over and over, because we can't have any sensible debate until one party decides to publish their policies. 

But what is somewhat encouraging is that the ALP and the LNP are finally displaying something of a division in their approaches, based on their history and policies. We are finally having a debate which acknowledges the differences on principles, and the difference in styles of government. 

And there is a glimmer, just a glimmer, of a debate where the economic arguments are being separated from the social arguments, so we can finally get something done!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Confected Outrage: The Dyson Heydon scandal

Here is the quick and dirty version of what's happened so far:

  • Abbott creates the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption, and appoints a famous Liberal jurist, former High Court Judge Dyson Heydon as the Commissioner. 
  • Before the Commission starts Heydon receives and accepts an invitation to talk at a Liberal Party fundraiser. 
  • The Commission proceeds, and extends longer than expected. 
  • The Unions become aware of the fundraiser, and cause a shit-storm. 
  • Heydon is asked to recuse himself. 
  • Heydon refuses. 
What happens now is up to speculation, but it is probably safe to assume that the Unions will appeal his refusal to recuse himself to the Courts, leading to the unique position where a former member of the highest Court in the land is being judged by his former inferiors. 

But here's the thing - I don't care if Heydon was going to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser (just so long as he didn't get there by chopper on the public dime!)

Let's put this in perspective. Heydon has never hidden the fact that he is a conservative. Indeed, he wouldn't have been selected by Abbott to head the Royal Commission if he was anything but! This isn't new, it isn't surprising, and it isn't uncommon. 

So, it isn't surprising that he was asked to speak at a Liberal fundraiser, nor that he accepted. Indeed, if the fundraiser had been 3 weeks after the end of the Commission, nobody would have batted an eyelid! But because the fundraiser was DURING the Commission, suddenly everyone is accusing him of bias! This is totally inconsistent; we knew he was biased, (or at least the facts which support the accusation of bias aren't new), and the Unions didn't do anything about it!

Let me be clear: I think having an arch-conservative lead a commission into the Trade Unions, traditionally the basis of Labor's power, is ridiculous, but how many Royal Commissions have been politically motivated? With some notable exceptions, I would argue that most of them have been! 

This Royal Commission has clearly been a political witch-hunt. It has called Gillard, Shorten, and a whole host of other Labor personnel into the spotlight in a transparent effort to discredit them. So we should be condemning this whole Commission, right?

Well, not really, because there is no doubt that the Unions have been corrupt in so many ways. Slush funds are the least of it! So there is no doubt that a proper investigation is warranted. 

I argue that the Royal Commission is the wrong way to investigate offences, and that the police should have been given a mandate to investigate all instances of alleged corruption, but that's a story for another day. We have the Commission, and it is investigating corruption, and that is a good thing. 

So I accept that the Commission exists. I accept that it is headed by Heydon, who I accept is an arch-conservative. I accept that there is no other way the Commission would ever have been created by a Coalition government! I also accept the fact that he speaks at Liberal party fundraisers. I don't actually care! 

I also respect Heydon as a former High Court Judge, and he has shown over many years that he has a truly exceptional legal mind. 

He has been a little stupid in some ways, and criticising counsel for not reading something carefully has come back to bite him, but in this case, his biggest failure was being naive in not cancelling the fundraiser, because of what it would look like. 

Let me put it another way. The allegation of apprehended bias is based on the fact that he accepted an invitation to speak at a fundraiser, but the strength of that allegation is nothing compared to the facts already on the record about his political leanings. Why are we surprised? What exactly has changed? 

Monday, 24 August 2015

AdLaw Group - $22k Law Jobs - Why this is a problem.

I read this article on The Australian, which set out a little bit about the AdLaw group's $22k law jobs. The comments on the article, however, demonstrated just how little people understand about what it takes to become a lawyer. I thought I would try to clear that up.

I acknowledge the irony - this explanation will appear on a blog written by a lawyer, and probably read mostly by... well, me, but a few people around me who DO know what it takes to become a lawyer.

How does one become a lawyer?
This sounds like a simple question, but there is a bit more to it than is obvious.

Firstly, and obviously, one must earn a law degree. This involves completing the requisite courses to the requisite standard... duh.

Secondly, (in South Australia at least) you have to complete a post-graduate program, called a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. This involves the practical side of working as a lawyer, and includes at least 6 weeks' placement with a law firm (or legal body, such as the Crown or DPP). Frankly, this practical experience is the most valuable part of the Graduate Diploma, and is why people who work in legal firms as secretaries and clerks are often the most sought-after graduates - they have simply been around the business, and know what they are doing.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Joe Hockey's 'living away from home' entitlements - why aren't we more upset by this?

The Bishop scandal has nearly blown over, but I want to draw attention back to the ongoing abuse of 'entitlements'. I suspect most politicians will tread carefully for a while, but without some form of accountability, I doubt there will be a long-term change in attitude.

But why aren't we more upset by Hockey's taxpayer funded accommodation in Canberra? Whatever the numbers, the facts seem to be as follows:

  • Hockey owned a house in Canberra, which at some stage, he transferred to his wife (or to a company run by his wife). 
  • He claims 'living away from home' expenses, which he uses to pay his wife (or his wife's company) rent. 
  • The effect is that he is renting from his wife, and the taxpayer is paying the rent. 
I have said before that politicians should be given privileges associated with their office. They SHOULD be able to travel around their electorate to meet people, attend official functions, They should also be able to live comfortably when they are away from home, and a 'living away from home' allowance is most appropriate. 

But this just stinks. I am certain that it is within the rules, but can anyone say that it feels right? To me, it feels morally insidious, and I can't believe that we aren't screaming about this from the roof-tops!

I am not certain that 'rules' can fix it. I do think that integrity could. The 'living away from home' allowance, or indeed ANY allowance or privilege shouldn't ever be used to profit the person, or their associates. They or their family (or their political party, Bronnie...) shouldn't be better off because of the privileges. 

I don't see things changing, and that is depressing. 

Music Video of the Day - 'School Song' from 'Matilda: The Musical', Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin

We went to Sydney on the weekend to see Matilda: The Musical. Anything by Tim Minchin is usually funny, but this was spectacular. 

The following song introduced us to the school, 'this living hell.'

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Friday, 31 July 2015

Young Lawyers' Golgen Gavel Competition 2015

I had the great pleasure to once again represent... myself at the Young Lawyers Golden Gavel competition last night. Although I didn't win (again), I had a heap of fun, and got a free bottle of wine! Yay!

The YLGGC is a 5 minute stand-up routine, where we are given our topics 48 hours prior. Usually the topics are funny, except the ones they give me.

This year's topic was "Yes father: 5 reasons why nepotism in the legal profession is underrated." Urgh. Naturally enough, I spent most of my time off-topic, but at least I got a few laughs.

Other topics were "The Bronwyn Bishop guide to creatively billing your clients", "I withdraw that, Your Honour: 5 things you should never say during sentencing", "Things that should never slip out of your mouth in court" and "How your friends know you are a lawyer".

Music Video of the Day - Oh, Vertigo! by Kate Miller Heidke

This song was running through my head all morning, and now it can run through yours too! I just love her soaring vocals and intensity. If you ever get chance to see her live, she is fantastic. She is absolutely tiny, but puts out the most spectacular voice.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Where is the Hyperbole! The MP's Expenses Scandal and the Lack of Reaction

Normally this topic is reserved for confected outrage, where mountains are made from molehills, and national threats are made from banana peels.

In this case, however, I am surprised at how little noise has come from the Opposition about Bronwyn Bishop's expenses.

Privately, I think that is because if they made too much noise, they would all end up with egg on their faces - this sort of 'expenses' rorting can't be isolated to the Coalition!

There are a few cases of egregious 'expenses' rorts which I want to highlight. The first is the Peter Slipper scandal, whereby he used about $1,000 in taxi charges to attend wineries. To put this in context, this became a public issue only after he 'betrayed' the Coalition and accepted the speakership, thus handing Labor a majority in the house. He effectively became 'public enemy #1' to the Coalition, and of course this

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Role of Men in Womens' Rights Campaigns

Having just finished Annabelle Crabb's excellent book "The Wife Drought", I feel like I have a much better understanding of some of the struggles women face in the workforce, and in society generally. I could pour pages and pages of type through my keyboard, and only scratch the surface.

Whilst I never thought of myself as a chauvinist, the book certainly changed my perspective on the difficulties faced by women, and probably did more to convince me to declare myself a feminist than anything else. For the sake of this article, let's take it as agreed that I am a feminist, and that I want to do more to support women's progression towards equality.

This, then, raises its own problems.  What should my role be, as a privileged male, in campaigning for women's rights?

One militantly feminist view is that, as a man, I could not possibly add anything to the debate. What could I possibly understand about what women go through on a daily basis? I think this is almost as damaging a view as the traditional chauvinist perspective which supports the ongoing inequality in women's rights. This view ignores the essential contributions which must be made by men in advancing women's rights.

An equally damaging view is that the improvements in women's positions can only be attributed to men. This view often espouses the argument that 'men voted for women to have the vote'. This too,

Music Video of the day - Riptide by Vance Joy

As with so many great ideas, this one kinda fell by the wayside, but oh well!

Today's song has been running through my head since I got to work, so now it can run through your head too!

Riptide by Vance Joy.

Also, as an aside, I had never seen the video clip before - it is creepy as hell!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Domestic Violence and Terrorism

This Article from The Guardian has the catchy tag-line "Poll reveals 76% think family violence is as big or bigger threat than terrorism and advocates call for it to be funded in proportion to the scale of the problem."

Frankly, I think this is a win for the Abbott government! If 24% of people responding to this poll think that terrorism is a bigger threat than domestic violence, then their nationalist campaigns must be surprisingly effective!

A closer reading shows that number is actually 18%, as 8% said they 'didn't know' whether Family Violence was more of a threat than terrorism to Australians. It also shows that The Guardian can't add up.

So 18% of people think that terrorism is more of a threat to Australians than Family Violence.

White Ribbon, an organisation supporting men to stand up to domestic violence, lists the following worrisome statistics on their website:

  • Over 12 months, on average, one woman is killed every week as a result of intimate partner violence. 
  • A woman is most likely to be killed by her male partner in her home. 
  • Domestic and family violence is the principle cause of homelessness for women and their children.
  • Intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health in Australian women aged 15-44. 
  • One in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them. 
  • One in four children are exposed to domestic violence, which is a recognised form of child abuse. 
  • The cost of violence against women to the Australian economy is estimated to rise to $15.6 billion per annum. 
  • One in five women experience harassment within the workplace. 
  • One in five women over 18 has been stalked during her lifetime. 
These statistics are terrifying, particularly the fact that intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health for Australian women aged 15-44. 

Even more terrifying is that by 13 April 2015, there had already been 31 women killed by their partners in the 15 weeks of the year, more than double the national average. This statistic does not include children, and it does not include women who were abused, but not murdered. 

By contrast, no Australians have been killed in terrorist incidents in 2015. 

This is not to discount the risks of terrorism. The Bali bombings were a horrendous attack on Australians, and there have been other major incidents. I do not want this piece to seem like an attack on anti-terrorist organisations. 

But there needs to be a balance, and the balance is terribly skewed towards high-profile matters such as terrorism, which engender mass public responses, and away from low-profile, everyday, domestic terrorism. 

If you need help, there are resources that can. 

Never feel scared to call police, or Lifeline on 13 11 14. The SAPOL Domestic Violence Crisis Service is on 1300 782 200, or Crisis Care on 131 611. 

Music Video of the Day - Broken by Seether

In honour of their recent visit to Adelaide, the song running through my head this morning is 'Broken' by Seether ft. Amy Lee. I used to love this song, and played it incessantly on the guitar and piano, much to my family's disgust.

Also, good reflection of how I feel after the weekend!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Music Video of the Day - Swing Life Away by Rise Against

My firm is very encouraging of my music love, and I think that is probably because my practice manager is quite deaf. Anyway.

Most mornings, as I am getting set up, pulling out files, and getting stuck into my third coffee, I usually put on a music video, just to get the day started. It is a different video nearly every day, and I thought I would share.

Don't worry, I'm not going to turn this into a rambling blog about my music choices, and what these songs mean to me - my blog is rambling enough as it is!

So, day 1, "Swing Life Away" by Rise Against.

Get your acoustic punk rock here!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Wind Energy, and how to have a good discussion about wind-farm-itis.

James Carleton is currently hosting RN Breakfast, and doing a wonderful job. This morning, he hosted a discussion between Miles George, Chair of the Clean Energy Council and MD of Infigin Energy, and Tony Hodgson, Chairman of Friends of Collector, a lobbyist campaigning against a wind farm near his property.

If you have read many posts in this blog, you will know my views about wind farms. Primarily that they are fine, and that wind-farm-itis is all a crock.

I believe that there is only one reason why you don't want a wind farm near your property: because you don't like them. That's fine. I don't care, but don't try to make up some bullshit argument about health hazards from 'infrasound!'

Ok, so there's my view, full disclosure.

James Carleton managed to hold a sensible discussion with two opposing views, without alienating or patronising either of them. He made the wind-farm hater answer questions based on the premise "What if conclusive studies showed no problems" and he made the wind-farm proponent answer questions based on the premise "What if credible studies showed real problems."

By forcing both parties to debate the issues based on these assumptions, he was able to advance the debate. This was particularly effective, because Tony Hodgson didn't feel he was being patronised or that his beliefs were being dismissed.

It also allowed Tony Hodgson to sound like an absolute fool, which is always good.

That audio can be found here:

Hyperbole Alert! Or, Confected Outrage

I hate politics. Not government, just politics. I hate when people argue for the sake or arguing, or use misleading and obfusticating rhetoric to 'prove' a point. 

I also hate it when the government (or, more commonly, the opposition) blows something way out of proportion, and tries to confect an absolute outrage over... well, we are never quite sure what. 

Therefore, I will take it upon myself, as a self-respecting wannabe journalist (blog=journal, right?), to point out the worst, most egregious cases. 

We will open the book with a post about the Government's 'green paper' on Federation. It was recently leaked, and one of the suggestions put up for discussion was removing commonwealth funding from public education, and laying that burden on the states. The paper theorised that the states would have to fund this, perhaps by levying a means-tested fee for public school education, for those who could afford it.

Now, I think this is a terrible idea. The whole purpose of public education is to provide the same access education to everyone, regardless of income. It means that everyone should be able to access public education for free, and if your choice as a wealthy person is to utilise the public school system, well, good for you.

But this sort of discussion is good for society. If nothing else, this discussion raised the issue of how lucky we are that we DO have free education, up to the end of year 12!

Ok, so then Labor got on its high horse, and tried to make out that the government was planning to do this. It accused Abbott of planning to dismantle the Australian way of life, and it used, as its evidence, the fact that this discussion paper was prepared by the Prime Minister's department. 

What bullshit. 

Mark Butler, ALP President and Shadow Climate Change and Environment Minister appeared on RN Drive on Monday 22 June 2015, and tried to argue that Abbott had refused to rule it out. This was despite him saying, in fairly categorical terms, that it was not a policy that his government would support. Frankly, he sounded like he was trying to beat a drum that just wasn't there!

If you see any other instances of 'confected outrage', (Such as Abbott accusing the ALP of 'laying out the red carpet for terrorists' because they didn't support the then un-disclosed citizenship bill), please let me know so I can get on my soapbox and get them off theirs!

Friday, 5 June 2015

The evolving nature of political debate has reached the jurassic age.

This article from The Guardian ("Tony Abbott's 'with me or agin me' rhetoric cheapens citizenship debate") is a great example of the politics that I hate. It is one side saying either you support my (as yet unannounced) plan to be 'tough on x', or you are in favour of 'x' being completely unfettered.

Replace 'x' with crime, immigrants, refugees, terrorists, or anything, and you end up with the same problem.

If the other side of the debate is not skillful and, more importantly, loquacious, then they are going to be drowned out. If they try to 'pussy-foot' around the issue so as not to be seen 'in favour of x', then they will never be able to truly debate the issue. They might be against 'x' in principle, but not support the proposal of the government.

This is where we truly lose the benefits of a political democracy. If one side is allowed to define the debate as X vs (negativeX), then anyone proposing Y as a possible alternative to X is simply lumped in with the terrorists.

I would love to see a political system whereby debate focussed on policy and evidence, and truly discussing ideas with a view to improving them.

I suspect that our current system unintentionally forces politicians to present ideas with absolute conviction, even before those ideas are fully formed. Therefore, you can't say "What about we try ABC to achieve XYZ?" unless you already have a fully formed plan. I think we lose something by not saying "I want to achieve XYZ, and I thought maybe ABC could do it, what do you think?"

How much better would things be if the opposition said "That's a good idea, let's see how we can make it better" rather than "That's stupid and you are stupid."

Monday, 1 June 2015

The Dangers of the Subtle Conservatives

It will surprise none of my readers to discover that I lean left. I tend to vote and argue progressively on social justice issues, and generally in favour of government welfare initiatives (although not categorically.)

So this post is a warning to anyone else who prefers Labor over the Coalition, even if only as the lesser of two evils.

Beware the Subtle Conservatives! Because they are coming, and the Left just isn't prepared to meet them.

To quote progressive political campaigner Joel Dignam,
EVERYONE IN AUSTRALIA BE WARNED. A first-term Tory Government just got re-elected with increased representation after five years of attacks on health, education, and social security. If you were complacently looking forward to Abbott's downfall, now would be a good time to be less complacent.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Why Marriage (whatever definition) is the best financial tool

I posit this example based on a 'traditional' family, because it is easier to refer to 'him and her' than to 'A and B'. I in no way support the continuation of marriage inequality. 

I also make the following example based on pure fiction, and it is not based on the circumstances of any of my clients. 

A couple has lived together in happily wedded bliss for 20 years, and are both in their early 50s. They have bought a house (worth $500,000) and have nearly paid it off. They have all the mod-cons, they both enjoy their jobs, and their kids are happy, well-educated, and independent. 

During the relationship, he worked full-time. He earned a good wage, and over the last 20 years, has amassed a significant superannuation balance, nearly $500,000.  He is still working, earning at least $100,000 per annum. 

She worked part-time for most of the relationship, taking time off here and there to have and raise children. She didn't pursue a career, despite having the skills and qualifications to do so. Instead, she took on the traditional 'wife' role, being the housekeeper, child-carer, and generally supporting her husband in his career. Her super is minimal. 

The two were happy in their respective roles. He worked hard, and as a result of not having to worry about things at home, was able to advance in his career. She worked hard, and as a result of not having to worry about money, the home was a happy one, the kids were happy, and everyone was happy. She didn't regret not having a career, because the role that she had happily accepted didn't require her to. She regarded being a 'mum' as the best thing she could have done. 

(Note that this example could be gender-reversed)

The two are well off, saving for retirement, but enjoying life. The mortgage is nearly gone, and they are looking at maybe investing in another property. The kids are about to move out, and life is pretty good. Even if they both lost their jobs, they are well-enough-off that they would survive comfortably. Especially if they both worked for 5-10 more years, they are looking forward to a comfortable retirement. 

The critical point is that they both assumed roles within the family which contributed to a successful financial model. 

But then they separate. Things just aren't working at home, and they decide to call it quits. They go their separate ways, amicably. 

Here is where things become interesting. 

She is entitled to a property settlement, and I won't go into the fairness of it here. Suffice to say that this couple happily took on the family roles that they did, meaning that he earned more than her. In this example, because of her substantially smaller earning capacity, she receives 60% of the property pool, including superannuation. She walks away with $350,000 cash in hand, and half of the total superannuation, being $250,000. He keeps the house, but has to re-mortgage it to pay out his wife. He then has a $500,000 home, with a $350,000 mortgage, and $250,000 in super. 

Neither of them now are well off. 

He has to service a large mortgage, and although he earns well, suddenly his security in retirement is gone because his super is reduced. He can't pay off the mortgage quickly AND put more money away into Super. 

She has cash, but no house. She can only afford to buy a basic house out of town, because her earning capacity isn't enough to get a loan. She can't increase her earning capacity, because it is 'too late' and she doesn't have the skills to make a significant wage any more. She has some superannuation, but it isn't going to increase much during the next 5-10 years while she can't earn a lot. 

So while the total value of the assets is exactly the same, neither party is nearly as well-off as they were in the relationship, when the assets were pooled!

Duh, so what's your point?
Well, if you have read this far, you have probably worked it out. I suggest that the 'couple' is the best financial structure to make/save money. 

Firstly, when you have two people applying for a loan, you can get a much larger one. Over the course of your working lives, you can then pay it off more easily. Compare two people both applying for small loans, neither of whom can individually afford to buy a house, but together can buy a mansion. 

Here is the thing: the cost of living for a couple is far less than double the cost of living for two people who are not a couple. 

Let's look at saving for a deposit to buy a home. Paying rent while you save is a pain, and let's say you have found a $250/week, 2-bedroom unit to live in. Your expenses are about a further $300/week (groceries, petrol, internet/phone, electricity, insurance, etc.) and your wage is $800/week net. At best, you can put $250/week away into savings. To get a $350,000 home, you need a deposit of approximately $42,253 for a first-home buyer (5% deposit, stamp duty, PLUS lenders' insurance). That will take you 169 weeks, or 3 1/4 years to save. That's assuming you don't have any unexpected expenses. 

That also only gets you to the time when you can get the loan. You then have to pay off that house!

Ok, so contrast having a partner. Let's say that you both earn the same. You still pay $250/week, and your internet, gas and electricity bills don't change much. Your food goes up a little, but in general, your household expenses don't change significantly. Now, your budget is $1,600, and your expenses are say $850/week. Now, you can save $750/week. That same deposit now takes just over a year to save. 

This all seems very obvious, until you separate. Suddenly, this financial model comes crashing down, and you are left with two people wishing things were different. 

What this results in is a lot of anger and hostility, when parties realise that after they separate, things just aren't going to be as good as they were. They are not going to have the same luxury and security as they did within the marriage. Their roles, happily accepted and functional during the relationship, are no longer sufficient when single. 

So when/if you are advising clients about a relationship breakdown, make sure you manage their expectations, because if you don't, they are going to be very upset when they realise that even if they 'win' the settlement, they still aren't going to have it easy. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act - why it doesn't need to be amended

This is going to be a link-heavy post, but I'll try to summarise the use of each link to save you trolling through hundreds of thousands of words. It may also be a long post, but it is something I feel strongly about. For the purpose of any libel suits, this piece reflects my opinion, and nothing more.

The 'tl;dr' version of this blog post is that s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 does not need to be amended to protect 'free speech' or to enable lively political discussion about unpopular topics. I argue that defence of 'fair comment' which is explicitly stated in s18D of the Act ("Exemptions") is sufficient protection to our freedom of speech, and that we have to balance our freedoms against our right to a peaceful life.

In particular, I argue that Andrew Bolt cannot avail himself of the 'poor me' argument, because he is a crass bigot who benefits from fallacy and sensationalism more than he does from stimulating real meaningful debate.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A new conversation about refugees

Let's call a spade a spade. The reason this country is 'stopping the boats' is not to stop drownings at sea. You stop drownings at sea by rescuing people. You are not 'saving lives' by turning back the boats, you are sending people back to places where they will die anyway. By stopping people fleeing any way they can, you are simply working for their oppressors.

The reason this country turns back boats is because, at a political level, it doesn't think there are votes in accepting refugees.

Conventions and obligations asides, the simple fact is that the people in power are afraid to accept refugees in any significant number, because it will. not. win. votes.

So let's start a different conversation. We will never develop a truly humanitarian policy by talking about what we SHOULD do, or what we are OBLIGED to do. So let's start a different conversation.

Here's one. What can refugees do for us? If we start looking at the question looking for the benefits, there are many. For a start, it costs tens of thousands to educate and raise children up to the age when they can begin contributing to society. Here is an entire wealth of people who could, with the right support, start working. There are the trained professionals, who are refugees from war, famine, or oppression. There are the men and women who are not afraid of hard work. Why not start a conversation about what benefits there could be from opening our country to people in need?

For another, our population is ageing rapidly. In 40 years, there will be fewer than 3 people working for every pensioner. This is not sustainable.

I don't like these conversations. I don't think we should HAVE to look for benefits to us. But the other way isn't working. Appealing to humanity isn't a strong enough argument to sway those in power. So let's appeal to whatever else might sway them.

Let's start a different conversation.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Is it time to forget Gallipoli and the Anzacs?

A google search for 'Gallipoli' returns the following as the first result (sponsored):

"Gallipoli Collectors Edtn - jbhifi.com.au"

I recently got into trouble for arguing that it was time for Australian's to forget the ANZAC legend, and forget the disaster at Gallipoli, but I want to defend that here.

Why should we remember Gallipoli? The website "www.anzacday.org.au" has this to say:
Why does the Nation pause to commemorate what most historians choose to describe as a failure or a sad series of blunders? It is because every person and every nation must, sooner or later, come for the first time to a supreme test of quality; and the result of that test will hearten or dishearten those who come afterwards."
Um, what? We celebrate a failure because we all must come to a 'supreme test of quality'?

The phrase 'quality of our nation' and similar phrases rings empty to me. Not a single man who clambered out of those boats in 1915 is alive today, and to judge the

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Why an Abbott election victory would be good - part 2

On 5 September 2013, I posted this blog post linking to this 'The Vine' post. I can't help thinking that it was somewhat prophetic.

I have been making snarky comments to my friends that the best thing that could have happened at the Libs party meeting this Monday was for Abbott to survive. When he did, I joked that Bill 'short-stuff' Shorten would be cheering.

Because Abbott can't win another election.

The Coalition may be able to scrape another narrow election victory in a few years, but there is just no way that Abbott can remain as leader in the long-run. Moreover, the chances are good that if a competent ALP candidate runs in his seat, we will see another John Howard-style Coalition defeat, with Abbott losing his seat as his party tumbles from power.

And what then?

I certainly wouldn't say that Labor has an easy job at this next election. I don't think the Coalition can win, but I am certain that the ALP can lose. The biggest problem is not the factional in-fighting which has characterised the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era, but the lack of a settled direction.

Bill Shorten certainly isn't helping. His media presence is sadly lacking, to the extent that I didn't really know what he looks like until I googled him this morning.

For your information, this is him. 

Firefly: The good guys are the bad guys

This is, of course, a re-post, which my first post in over 16 months should be.

I love the series 'Firefly' and the follow-up movie 'Serenity', but I find myself agreeing with Misterkristoff in this well-thought-out analysis.


What do you think?