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:
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/senate-report-says-more-investigation-into/6571950

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.