Bringing Gross National Happiness into play


In my series of articles about where the Left should be heading in our new world, I suggested that adopting Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a measure of economic progress should be one element of a new approach for the Left. In this piece I will examine why that is important, what it means, and how Labor can also move towards adopting the concept of GNH while still seeking government.

The basic idea is that GNH, in one form or another, would replace, or at the very least supplement, the current measure of economic progress, Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The use of GDP to measure economic activity only arose during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the American government was concerned that they did not see the depression coming. The government asked economic experts for a model that would allow it to keep track of the economy and so have a chance of foreseeing such events in the future. GDP only came into widespread use, however, after 1944, with the Bretton Woods agreement and the establishment of the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund).

GDP measures a nation’s economic activity either by summing the outputs of every category of enterprise to reach a total market value of products and services, or by summing the expenditure in acquiring those goods and services, or the income of the producers in selling them: each approach should come to the same final number.

There is also another measure termed Gross National Product (GNP). It differs from GDP only in terms of measuring the value of all products and services produced by a nation, whether within its own borders or overseas by its citizens:

For example, if a Japanese company such as Honda has an auto-manufacturing plant in the United States then the output of that plant becomes part of the U.S. GDP but not its GNP because Honda is not a U.S.-owned company. The output of the plant instead becomes a part of Japan’s GNP.

It would be interesting to see how Australia measured up on GNP given the prevalence of overseas ownership of our businesses.

The use of GDP, however, began being questioned as early as the late 1950s. Even its creator, Simon Kuznets, said that ‘the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income’.

A major problem with GDP is that it measures only productive activity and takes no account of the losses or costs associated with the activity:

… it tends to go up after a natural disaster. Reconstruction and remediation spur intense activity that is registered by GDP, while the destruction, lives lost, suffering and disruption to families and communities in the wake of a flood, cyclone or bushfire are ignored.

Or as Robert Kennedy said in 1968:

… the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. [added emphasis]

And while GDP aggregates national income, it does nothing to indicate how that income is distributed. That is why the Gini coefficient is sometimes used, as it provides a statistical measure of distribution: under the Gini coefficient it is theoretically possible for a rich and a poor country to have the same coefficient, simply meaning that the low national income of the poor country is distributed among families and households in the same proportions as the higher income of the rich country.

The small nation of Bhutan, rather than relying on GDP to follow its progress, decided in 1972 to adopt a measure of Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Although the term “Gross National Happiness” was first coined by the 4th King of Bhutan the concept has a much longer resonance in the Kingdom of Bhutan. The 1729 legal code, which dates from the unification of Bhutan, declared that “if the Government cannot create happiness (dekid) for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist.”

(Perhaps we should apply that last statement to our governments!)

GNH has nine ‘domains’: psychological well-being, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.

There are also 33 indicators and 124 variables for measuring results. There are roles for government, communities and individuals in achieving ‘happiness’. ‘Happiness’ is defined by having a ‘sufficiency’ in the domains. In Bhutan, the government’s main role is in decreasing the ‘insufficiencies’ of ‘unhappy’ people. While in one sense the GNH is specific to Bhutan (it includes a number of local cultural indicators), its purpose of measuring well-being applies where GDP fails. GNH has been discussed in UN forums and has influenced economists in the developed world.

A number of alternatives to GDP have been developed over the years such as the Fordham Index of Social Health (FISH), the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and more recently the Social Progress Index (SPI).

The UN has the Human Development Index (HDI) which basically looks at life expectancy at birth, years of schooling and literacy, and gross national income per capita — developed countries, like Australia, tend to score highly on this as it is primarily aimed at developing nations. The SPI is similar but adds extra dimensions and allows disaggregation of results, so that while Australia still rates highly overall on the SPI it rates more lowly (as many rich countries do) on the sub-set of ecosystem sustainability: and while Sweden tops the SPI it ranks more lowly on ‘shelter’ owing to weaknesses in affordable housing.

In 2012, the UN introduced the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) which includes not only economic capital, but human capital and environmental capital, and provided a report on 20 countries, examining their growth between 1990 and 2008: an example of four nations comparing GDP and IWI growth is shown in the following table:

Nation GDP growth 1990-2008 IWI growth 1990-2008
China 422% 45%
USA 37% 13%
Brazil 31% 18%
South Africa 24% -1%

The lower IWI growth in each country was due primarily to the depletion of natural resources in achieving GDP growth. An interesting contrast is Germany, which achieved 30% GDP growth but 38% growth using the IWI owing to significant investment in human capital (education).

In the same period Australia achieved average annual growth of 2.2% in GDP but only 0.1% in IWI.

Similarly other measures, like the FISH and GPI show that in the USA, the UK and Australia, GDP has grown significantly since the 1970s (up to threefold in the USA) but the FISH and GPI indexes have barely moved.

When the results of these alternative measures are considered, it clearly suggests that rising GDP has not improved social well-being, and that economies are not growing as strongly as suggested if the costs of achieving GDP are factored in. If the Gini coefficient is added into the equation, it also shows increasing inequality in the distribution of wealth in many nations, both developing and developed, since the 1970s. If those aren’t good reasons for adopting something other than GDP as a measure of progress, I don’t know what is!

These various approaches do, however, indicate that there is a serious attempt being made to move away from the exclusive use of GDP as a measure of economic progress. It is perhaps an acknowledgment that GDP measures economic activity, not progress.

In recent years the GPI was the front runner to replace GDP. It has been adopted by the US states of Maryland and Vermont and a number of other states, Utah, Minnesota and Oregon, are considering it, and Canada has adopted aspects of it.

It is probably the most popular because, like GDP, it is still measuring economic growth based on monetary values but, instead of just summing all production, it includes the dollar value cost of some activities and tries to give a value to other activities not currently valued in the market, for example:

  • the poor benefit more than the rich from a rise in income, so the GPI rises when their share of national wealth increases
  • the value of housework and volunteering are added, calculated at the rate of hiring someone to undertake the same tasks
  • the costs arising from crime are deducted
  • costs of pollution, degradation of wetlands, forests, farmland, etc are costs to be deducted from economic growth, as are estimates of longer term environmental damage
  • the GPI also goes up if leisure time increases
  • for consumer durables GPI treats the capital expenditure as a cost to the economy and the value is added for each year of service they provide.
It is more difficult to calculate than GDP, which may weigh against its widespread use and with the UN’s Inclusive Wealth Index now in play, the latter may become more favoured over the next few years (especially if it adds a measurement of social capital which it is aiming to do).

While the GPI and similar approaches may keep economists happy and provide governments with a more realistic measure of economic growth, it may not necessarily make the people happier.

Even the OECD has recognised that measuring well-being goes beyond purely monetary indicators. Subjective measures such as ‘life satisfaction’ are now included in survey questions on well-being and the OECD acknowledges evidence that this subjective measure actually shows up in objective measures: people showing a higher level of life satisfaction are likely to be more productive, more collaborative in the workplace, generally have better long-term health, can better pursue long-term goals and so on.

A problem with the current approach is that it is leading towards having a number of different measures operating together— some suggest that GDP remains important to monitor the economic cycle. So we could end up with GDP reflecting movements in economic activity, something like GPI or IWI taking a wider view of the costs of achieving GDP, and something that measures social well-being. Such a combination, while valuable, would leave policy makers with the discretion as to which they choose to drive policy. Public debate needs to drive policy and that really requires a single approach that can be readily understood, not having to combine the different evidence from three or more measures.

To my mind the GNH already blends much of what these other measures are trying to achieve.

In its surveys, it asks questions on life satisfaction and self-reported health status but also about the number of healthy days a person experienced in the past month; it asks about time use, working hours and sleeping hours (as sufficient sleep is seen as necessary for health and productivity); it asks about political participation; about social support, community relationships, and victims of crime; about pollution and wildlife and an individual’s environmental responsibility. In approaching education, it looks at literacy and educational qualifications but also at knowledge and values (based on the dominant Buddhist precepts in Bhutan). Three of its five knowledge questions are about local cultural issues, but it also asks about the Constitution and HIV/AIDS (a significant issue in Bhutan). The 2010 report concluded that despite rising literacy, people’s ‘knowledge’ of their locality was poor. I think that wider focus on local knowledge and values is an interesting inclusion that could have application in Western countries, as it attempts to quantify knowledge obtained outside the formal education system.

Yes, the GNH would need to be adapted to a modern western economy but the basics are there. For measurement purposes it would be possible to use the statistical approaches developed for some of the other indexes mentioned previously. In Australia, the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) already conducts Social Trends surveys and that data can also be used.

So this is not an impossible task. People may baulk at the idea of a ‘happiness’ index but it can be renamed – perhaps a National Well-being Index or a National Progress Indicator.

Labor, in seeking government, would no doubt be reluctant to take the concept of GNH to an election. They would be open to criticism by the LNP that they were ignoring ‘economic fundamentals’ — the LNP already rates higher with the electorate in terms of ‘managing the economy’. That is one reason I suggested in my three part article on the Left that Labor needs to work at changing the tenor of the economic debate.

Being realistic, I would see Labor adopting the multiple-measure approach, at least initially: so there would be GDP, GPI or IWI, and a well-being measure akin to GNH. But what needs to be done is make GDP a background measure, and begin emphasising the real value of our economy (GPI or IWI) and the social benefits (improved well-being and equity). Labor should seek to emphasise that the order of importance of these measures is GPI/IWI first, well-being second and GDP third, and focus on GPI/IWI, not GDP, in public debate. The long term strategy should be that GDP drops from public view as the main measurement of economic progress and that, over time, well-being assumes first place in the public hierarchy of progress measurements. The other measurements, and eventually only the GPI/IWI, then become the economic background against which the government decides which policies are tenable to improve social well-being (happiness).

That will take time and will not be easy. The vested interests of big business and global corporations will mostly oppose it. They like GDP because it measures what they are producing, taking no account of environmental or social costs. While GDP reigns, so does big business because it can argue that for every downturn or slowing in GDP growth it needs government policies that will help it boost production and so increase GDP again. I will concede that at the WEF at Davos in January this year, the global corporations represented there did show some concern for environmental and resource costs because they are realising that continued unfettered use of natural resources and damage to the environment will eventually affect their ‘bottom line’. Unfortunately there appears no sign of this realisation in Australia and that is unlikely to change while GDP rules the economic debate here and while political parties also pay homage to it.

What do you think?

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TPS Team

6/04/2014What is Gross National Happiness (GNH)? Sounds like something we all want more of. In this week’s article, Ken Wolff examines the traditional methods of measuring a country's economic progress, including Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With a comprehensive recount of the history of GDP, Ken considers whether an increase in GDP necessarily leads to improved social well-being. Ken suggests that there are other ways we could rate a society’s ‘success’ - one which includes quality of life, health, education, community cohesion, resource costs and environmental values. How would Australia score if our performance were rated in a more holistic way? What would be the outcome if the scale of progress went beyond monetary issues, and measured the national happiness of a society? Ken describes how the ideas behind GNH and other measures of progress and happiness could be adapted for use in a modern western democracy like Australia. Could Labor adopt a new model to measure progress? Would this have any traction with the voters? Looking forward to a lively discussion.

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6/04/2014Ken Thank you for another erudite exposition on how best to measure a nation’s wellbeing. As you point out, big business and global corporations favour GDP as the definitive measure because it suits their interests. For them, self-interest almost always trumps the common weal. To introduce complementary measures that challenge them with the environmental and human costs of their enterprises would be resisted simply because they would add to their costs and alter their bottom line in ways they would deem unfavourable. Few seem able to envision the economic benefits of environmental conservation and having a happy, fulfilled workforce. Yet the combination of measures you suggest seems so rational, seems to offer so much more than the unadorned GDP, and seems so much more in tune with progressive ideology and values. Conservatives though would find some of your suggested measures ‘soft’ and inconsistent with their hard-nosed approach, governed by their ‘strict father’ political morality. The challenge is not just explaining the concepts in ways that are understandable and appealing to an electorate addicted to years of mindless slogans repeated mantra-like by the conservatives and unopposed by meaningful alternatives from the progressives, but actually initiating sensible discourse that might lead into the discussion your piece invites. The people will remain lazily disinterested while nothing more inviting and exciting is presented to them. To illustrate the malaise that afflicts political discourse in this nation, take this morning’s commentary on the outcome of the WA Senate election yesterday. The conservative commentators excused the Coalition’s substantial slide in support as ‘what they would expect’ in what they termed a ‘bye-election’, and was therefore no indictment of the Abbott Government. But of course Labor’s decline was painted as a disaster, since it ‘should have picked up many of the votes the Coalition lost’. Some Labor figures agreed, but took comfort in the fact that its decline was less than the Coalition, and that it had bled votes to the Greens. The Greens, and more balanced commentators interpreted the result as a signification fleeing of the electorate from the major parties, and a victory for concern about the environment, even an endorsement of opposition to the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes, those ‘anti-Western Australian’ impositions. Conservatives were silent on this matter, so central to the Coalition campaign. Other commentators concluded that the PUP success ‘proved’ that seats could now be ‘bought’. Almost everyone agreed that the result would make little difference to the July constitution of the Senate and how it would handle legislation. Some concluded that Tony Abbott would now look askance at the prospect of a double dissolution of federal parliament. All of this commentary is understandable, but its superficiality, its preoccupation with voting possibilities, its focus on political strategy and how the parties will use the result to their advantage, illustrates how difficult it would be to initiate a philosophical discussion of the measures of national economic wellbeing you outline, a discussion that might in the fullness of time lead to a better approach. The infection of political discourse by partisan self interest that parallels that of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infections in humans, the bugbear of the medical profession, makes progress along the lines you suggest almost unimaginable. Yet Ken, such discourse must be established. If the Labor Party can’t, or won’t, others must try. Otherwise our nation is doomed to stifling political mediocrity and a worsening imbalance between the haves and the have-nots.

Ken

6/04/2014Ad Agree that changing the debate to economic 'progress' rather than economic 'activity' will not be easy. I have commented a number of times that politics and political commentary are now about 'politics', not policy. The parties and the commentators are each involved in the strategy and tactics of winning elections and no-one seems to think that better policies may actually win votes! Nor consider what is actually best for the nation and its people. But I think there is hope. The very fact that so many alternative indexes are now being developed suggests that there is increasing concern with the current approach - a singular focus on GDP. And these indexes are coming from major economists, not any ratbag fringe that can be summarily dismissed by politicians and commentators. The other issue arising from this, also for future benefit, is that it may lead to a diminution in the influence of the economic rationalists (and I am addressing that in another post)

Curi-Oz

6/04/2014Well, that's that job jobbed http://wp.me/p3xJZ6-7h

Michael

7/04/2014We can only hope someone has wised Abbott up that you don't grab the Emperor of Japan's forearm while you shake his hand, or spin him towards the cameras for a better picture focused on PM Abbott... and some other guy. There's not likely to be anything like a handshake, as Abbott shouldn't be able to get within arms length of the Emperor, but our (sickening thought) PM has a habit of trying to hijack public occasions, almost always putting his foot in it when he does.

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7/04/2014Curi-Oz A job well done. I enjoyed reading your 'insiders' account of polling station activity in the West.

Michael

7/04/2014Well, he did it. Abbott strong-armed the Emperor of Japan. Unbelievable.

TalkTurkey

8/04/2014Bad Turkey tweeted: Tony Loves Peta! Ridgy-Didge! Keeps her Toad-Spawn In his Fridge! Sweetie Peta's Mutually fond: Keeps his Tadpoles In her Pond!

TalkTurkey

8/04/2014Michael You are PRESCIENT!

jaycee

8/04/2014TT. "sweety Peta" indeed!....You are a "bad boy"....

jaycee

8/04/2014Is anyone else having trouble accessing TPS.?...I can only scroll down the comments page so far and then it all goes into a blurr...but I have no trouble with any other site..I am accessing TPS. now from another computer.

2353

8/04/2014Ken - use of the GNH may also reduce the reliance on the 'economic' debate that has overtaken the debate in this country. While economic measures such as GBP measure some parts of a society - anything that increases the 'human condition' is eliminated.

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8/04/2014Folks Once again, we see the Coalition beating its chest in pride at the conclusion of the FTA with Japan and predictably taking an unnecessary and nasty swipe at Labor's 'tardiness', although Labor has done so much of the groundwork. At least the Labor spokesperson was charitable enough to congratulate the Coalition. It seems that Abbott was more intent on concluding the FTA and getting kudos for himself than seeking a better deal. Since car manufacturing is soon to be defunct in Australia, I suppose it was easy to accept reduced tariffs on imported Japanese vehicles in exchange for agricultural concessions. But many farmers are not happy; it is hard to satisfy everyone. What this episode starkly illustrates is how vicious adversarial politics can be.

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8/04/2014jaycee I have had no trouble accessing [i]TPS[/i] or posting a comment.

Bacchus

8/04/2014Many of the agricultural sectors aren't happy AA. It seems Mr Abbott has ridden in on his trusty steed, stuffing up 6+ years of negotiations by previous governments, just so he could claim the kudos for completing a deal. The sugar, pork, dairy, rice industries missed out or were badly treated: http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/politics/australian-agricultural-groups-attack-the-federal-government-over-the-free-trade-agreement-with-japan/story-fnkerdda-1226877704153 Even a Qld LNP MP is up in arms: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-08/political-reaction-to-japan-free-trade-agreement/5374802 I'm not having any trouble with [i]TPS[/i] either jaycee. If you send a message detailing the problem (OS, browser, problem) via the 'Contact' facility at the top of the page, I'll see if I can help.

Bacchus

8/04/2014I've put up a couple of posts at the [i]AIMN[/i] regarding the [i]Chifley Research Centre[/i] (CRC). http://theaimn.com/2014/04/08/why-the-bloody-hell-are-you-doing-this/comment-page-1/#comment-99775 Rather than reposting in full here, I encourage swordsters to follow the link above and have a look. Essentially, I got an email from the new director of the [i]CRC [/i]and in reply, pointed him in the direction of [i]TPS[/i] & [i]AIMN[/i]. Ken's post and many others recently are very relevant to what the [i]CRC[/i] is aiming to do. They have a blog which may interest some too: http://www.chifley.org.au/category/opinion/

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8/04/2014Folks Casablanca is taking a brief break from posting her Cache.

Ken

8/04/20142353 Yes, that is a key point. As I suggested the long term strategy should be that GDP disappears from public view. Labor has to work at changing the public debate to one about well-being and equity and also about how the economy can add to those. At the moment, as you say, the 'economy' is a debate in its own right which it should never be - a strong economy is a means to an end not an end in itself and Labor needs to hammer that point again and again.

Michael

9/04/2014Australians sold out for a Japanese Free Trade Abbott photo op. How long did it take, 30 minutes, an hour, before dispassionate analysis of what Robb and Abbott surrendered to Japan in supposed free trade is a dud?

2353

9/04/2014Even car reviewers are poking large holes in the Australia-Japan FTA - especially the 'cars will be $1500 cheaper' line. [quote]Either those within the government spruiking the $1500 figure don’t understand how the current 5 per cent tariff on imported vehicles is applied (highly unlikely) or they don’t understand the economics of the car industry (possible, but still unlikely). Or they could simply have been going for political points (highly likely).[/quote] http://www.drive.com.au/motor-news/japanese-cars-for-1500-less-dont-bet-on-it-20140408-369vb.html

TalkTurkey

9/04/2014Hi Swordsfolks, I've been so disheartened not just by Bullmuck's destruction of Labor's second seat in the West, not just the insane process that put such a RW grub first on the ticket, but even more by the seeming emasculation of Labor altogether, that I'm feeling emasculated myself. Hard to think of anything positive to say when one's own Party seems bent on self-destruction; such a turd in the face for all the Members working for it and trusting in it, when those at the very top, both those at the front and those behind, can thumb their noses at us and take such stupid decisions. I hate to sound traitorous myself, but since the first grumbles about Rudd started to surface, (I didn't believe David Marr about Rudd's Control Freak streak, nor his treachery, for far too long), Labor leadership strife has so bedevilled the ALP that it now feels as if it has a death-wish and Bugger the Members. We've seen what sort of a creature Rudd is now, and his scummy supporters, so now we understand why *J*U*L*I*A* had to roll him when she did: she was pro-Party and pro-People, Rudd was is and forever will be pro-Rudd. Rudd was the critical factor in Labor's loss last September. (There were several critical factors actually: Greens' torpedoing of the original CPRS, and especially of the Malaysian AS Plan; Murdoch's unrelenting media assault; Big Money; genuine NSW Labor corruption by genuine criminals like Obeid, and persecution of Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper; but Rudd was the Enemy Within, 'one of Our Own', the only one that Party Members could have hoped to do anything about. As it was, we simply couldn't believe that Rudd could be so treacherous, so petty, so vindictive, and so effective, until it was far too late.) But then the contest for the leadership after the election! The Members' choice by actual vote was Albanese, "Fighter of Tories", but the bloody rump of Rudd's disaster, the Fitzgibbons & Carrs and Evanses gang, knew better, and we got the 'sweak leader we have now. For Shorten is simply failing to perform, a colourless uninspiring presence where we need a passionate street-brawler who will take up the Membership's issues and fight like hell. Why did they even give us a vote if they were just going to override us? And by what idiocy did those powerbrokers in the West put Bullmuck first, a dumb RW slob with a record of badmouthing Labor, when it was obvious that our best chance of 2 seats was to put the sitting Louise Pratt first? Fed me Duck! labor is simply failing to perform. Unions have been powerful in choosing front people but they don't do much upfront in such events as MarchInMarch, instead leaving all the running to Greens and concerned individuals. Remember, *J*U*L*I*A* just once cut loose at PiG~THiNG Abborrrtt and it went viral all over the world. Why didn't we hear a hundred times as many speeches from those who should have had her back? They were and remain like white-bread-&-milk, when we need garlic salami! One Green Senator made a halfway decent speech and people flocked to him. I say "halfway decent" not to be churlish, but because while it so obviously resonated with voters, it really wasn't all that wonderful: it was entirely non-positive, merely a condemnation of Abborrrt and all he stands for, but that was more than Shorten or anyone Labor delivered. Between several % going to Greens because of Ludlam, several % deserting Labor because of Bullmuck, and several % to Palmhair because of his well-funded campaign, it's no wonder Labor did so poorly. But take heart now Comrades, surely Labor powerbrokers with their noses thoroughly rubbed in Bullmuckery must be getting the Members' message by now. Those factors don't apply across the board, they are unusual circs and we must try to see that they aren't repeated elsewhere. Don't give up Friends, Now is [i]always[/i] the time for all good Comrades to come to the aid of the Party. Casablanca I do understand I think. You are a heroine in my book. Or a hero, take your pick.

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9/04/2014TT What an inspired voice of protest you are against the stupid internal machinations of the party we support. I am in the process of writing a long letter to Bill Shorten along similar lines. I will take my time. I suggest you send him your latest comment, as it reflects what many Labor supporters are feeling.

Ken

9/04/2014Well said TT Agree entirely that the pre-selection process is fatally flawed when someone like Bullock is given the number one spot ahead of the sitting Senator. As in NSW it appears the right within Labor has too much influence - Pratt was from the left, so couldn't have her as number one!! But we are seeing in ICAC in NSW just what sort of people are attracted to the right within Labor - certainly not a good look to the electorate. Labor needs a stronger left, particularly within the machinery behind the politicians, and, as you say, there is a greater chance of that if members are given more say. Even where local membership is part of the right of Labor, at least they may feel more committed by direct involvement. One problem is that the unions founded Labor and historically have that important connection. Some aspects of that should be kept but certainly not to the extent of the present arrangements. Unions, like big business described in my piece, will be reluctant to let go of their power but someone from the unions has to step forward and say it must be done for the good of the party. It is pointless having control of a party that cannot be elected because of that control.

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9/04/2014Folks We are off to Melbourne.

TalkTurkey

9/04/2014Think Nick Xenophon's alright? Tim Looker is a friend of mine, he's J****'s local Councillor and it was he for whom I gave out HTV's in SA's recent election. He lost (the seat is unwinnable) but We won of course; during the campaign, as I noted here at the time, almost all his Corflutes were stolen and replaced with Xenophon's. I believe that the caravan inhabitants, who see Tim as the prime mover in attempting their eviction, were heavily involved, and Xenophon is their champion. Today Council and the Caravan denizens' legal representatives put their opposing cases before a judge, but that wasn't enough for Mr X, he went outside and shot his mouth off to the Media. Check out the judge's comments, and Tim's, and a couple of mine too, on Tim's Twitter thread today! Xenophon will be lucky to escape censuring by the Bar Council. This is not the first time he has done something beyond the legal pale: a few years ago he used the Senate as Coward's Castle to accuse a man of paedophilia, irreparably ruining the man's reputation - and it was all untrue. And don't forget, in 1977 he and Julian Glynn were at Adelaide Uni (as was I); the two of them, both in the University Liberal Club, were involved in the falsification of enough votes in the Student elections to elect Xenophou (that was his name then) to the SRC. Xenophou was shonky then and Xenophon's shonky now. Changed his name but not his spots. So read Tim's Twitter timeline all during today. You'll also be able to find, in my tweet there, a link to an article detailing Xenophou's University crookedness. https://twitter.com/TimLooker reCAPTCHA: Recalling tonloyer :~)

Michael

10/04/2014George Brandis does his stand-up routine as visiting provincial buffoon at a US 'think tank'. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/edward-snowden-a-traitor-attorneygeneral-george-brandis-tells-washington-think-tank-20140409-zqsgp.html?skin=text-only Take note of the last two paragraphs in the story, where the "true intellect" Brandis reveals his true priorities in being a government minister - freebies. "At the start of the event, Senator Brandis was introduced to the audience of about 100 by the group’s president, John Hamre, who described the senator as a true intellect, remarking on his dual responsibilities as Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts. Dr Hamre described how, on meeting Senator Brandis, he asked him “How the heck do you become attorney-general and the head of the arts in a country, and he said, ‘Well I get to do real work during the day and I have something to look forward to at the end of the day.’ ” " Nice, George. Return trip to Philistine part of the invitation to that 'think tank'?

Curi-Oz

10/04/2014You know, I'm starting to think that it's not just Labor that needs to be reinvented. But how the hell to convince ordinary people that caring about the quality of all our politicians is something that will affect them at some point is a bit beyond my imagination at the moment. *sighs in frustration* I fear we haven't hit rock bottom yet, and Lee Kwan Yoo's prediction about Australia will come to pass under this current regime, because they really are trash.

Ken

10/04/2014Curi-Oz The problem on the other side (the LNP) is that it has lost almost all of its 'liberals'. It is now just the Nationals and the neo-cons - the latter inspired by the Republican right in the US and some, further to the right, inspired by the Tea Party. One can't expect politicians that far to the right to display any real concern for 'the people' - it is very much the nineteenth century approach that if people are poor it is their own fault. It started under Howard and has become worse under Abbott. I think people will see it but the biggest danger at the moment is that Labor isn't offering a decent alternative for people to turn to.

jaycee

10/04/2014Just posted on The Guardian website... I can see many posters on here are pushing the anti-union theme...I don't know which ones are LNP. trolls, or which ones are disgruntled workers..and by "worker", I mean anyone who is on a survival / adequate wage. For even if you are a contractor, working your own tradie business or whatever...your calculation of hourly rate is predicated upon the union negotiated basic wage PLUS. I was a contractor carpenter for many years after the big building companies closed their doors to trade employment and became Building Project Managers. I would work my hourly rate on what was once the union agreement rate hourly wage PLUS extras like fuel, travel time and material costs etc...But it was those union negotiated "living wage" rates that kicked us all off and gave us a base rate as a platform to charge from. Sure, I had fights with the unions in my younger days, I was with the "Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners"..or "the jockey club" as we used to call it...a right-wing bunch of boss's arse-lickers if ever there was some...good to see them gone...sure, we fight with our unions..just like we fight with our family members...with our parents..with brothers and sisters...but we never desert them to struggle on alone if or when they are in need of help...we fight, sometimes like cats and dogs...but we stick together..we have to..our children need family to give them outreach, security of familiar ideas and surroundings...we need unions to secure conditions and wages so we need not beg nor live in fear of eviction..so we can live an honourable life, with our family growing up around us. It will soon be Anzac Day...we will honour those who fought and fell or were wounded, captured and scarred in all the wars this nation has fought in...I don't have the figures in front of me, but we can gaurantee the great majority that fronted those battles didn't come from the Alma Mater of Abbott, Pyne, Murdoch or Forrest or Rinehart et all...some did and more power to them..but the great majority that signed up and fronted and held the line and in the case of Kokoda, advanced against those Imperial powers that would crush the spirit and dishonour the soul of Australia, were from the farms, the factory floors and the suburbs and streets of the working classes of Ausrtalia...THEY were the unionists, the men and women who stood shoulder to shoulder against them who usurp the rights, covert the honour and plunder the reserves of a nation..any nation..they are without shame..they are the ones who stay behind and count their money while sending other's sons and daughters to fight their wars.. There is the story from the time of Saint Peter who, when faced with the prospect of death in ancient Rome for his beliefs, fled away at night down the Appian Way...there, on the outskirts of Rome, he met The Christ going in the opposite direction..."Quo vadis?"(wither goest thou?) ...to which Christ answered..."since you are running away, I am going to Rome..to be crucified once more"......the rest is history. Do we, as a nation, well fed, well clothed and living in one of the best countries on this earth, in a spirit of vexatious spite, curse and destroy that very spirit of comradiere and fraternity that is at the heart of ALL true unionism, and cowardly turn from our duty to our children and our children's children and do we have towitness the shame of the metaphor of seeing our parents and grandparents once more goign to "the front" to fight our battles for us? Better we curse our name and die of shame!......Quo vadis?

Michael

11/04/2014Jaycee, hi. It is AMAZING, A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!, how many Australians are completely ignorant that the work conditions, pay scales and ancillary workplace entitlements, are directly the result of union activity, struggles, and unified determination. I think of these people as 'natural' Abbott voters. They take so much for granted that they can be lied to as easy as he and his cabal regularly do, with no discrimination about anything that comes into their lives except when that thing might cause them the slightest degree of inconvenience. And there is nothing more "inconvenient" than having to examine your own set-in-concrete thinking and routine behaviour. Such people live an unexamined life, and consequently are incapable (actively refuse) to examine what might be going on around them in their name. 'Change government and you change Australia'. Yes, but "Australia" is the land of 'I'm alright Jack' and NIMBY, perfect fodder for Abbott and his confabulators of false realities. And there is no more false reality in Australia than that Australia would be as egalitarian and fair today if there had been no unions in our history.

Ad astra

11/04/2014jaycee Well said.

Michael

11/04/2014'Oddly enough' nothing that Mark Kenny writes in this puff piece about Abbott in Japan-Korea-China actually adds up. Neither as logical exposition of the headline that "Abbott shows skills beyond his years", nor as straight-up reportage of the papiermache PM's activities. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/tony-abbott-in-china-shows-skills-beyond-his-years-20140410-zqsd6.html

jaycee

11/04/2014You know...I wonder where those MSM. journos' who have and in some cases , still are singing the praises of this corrupt govt', are going to spend their retirement...I mean, Murdoch is not going to live forever, the LNP. are not always going to be in govt'...yet these MSM. crawlers are going to have to live in the communities they have sold down the river...will they get around like "Jackie O" in exaggerated dark glasses? Will they retire to a hermit's existence in a gated community? Have the likes of Albrechson, Harcher, Kenny, Uhlmann and those other bits of navel-fluff even given it a thought?....perhaps they are all under the impression that they will be invited to live in Rupert's new apartment in NY.?.......bad news folks!...you are going to remain here..and we've got your "number" !

Ken

11/04/2014jaycee hate to say it but many of those journos will change their spots and pretend they had never heard of the late dearly departed Murdoch (when he goes). They may not become progressives but they may at last move closer to beingh genuine journalists without Murdoch's influence.

Michael

12/04/2014Abbott lies on his biggest stage yet, telling the world from China that the airplane that disappeared with more Chinese passengers than from anywhere else has had its black box position narrowed down to "within some kilometres". Problem is the real figure is still 45,000 plus square kilometres, no advance at all on official reports of two days ago. But he can't help himself, very likely totally destroying the very fine impression Australia's role in the search for the missing aircraft has made in China, as spoken of on Q and A earlier this week. There's no leash on this man's mouth. Or his brain. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/searchers-for-missing-flight-mh370-downplay-tony-abbotts-comments-20140411-36im5.html?skin=text-only This bloke plays a single note tune - the big note.

TalkTurkey

12/04/2014From [i]The Wind in the Willows[/i]Kenneth Grahame I love it. My parody verse [i]Tony the Toxic Toad [/i]at the end. http://www.classicreader.com/book/132/10/ As [Toad] tramped along gaily, he thought of his adventures and escapes, and how when things seemed at their worst he had always managed to find a way out; and his pride and conceit began to swell within him. `Ho, ho!' he said to himself as he marched along with his chin in the air, `what a clever Toad I am! There is surely no animal equal to me for cleverness in the whole world! My enemies shut me up in prison, encircled by sentries, watched night and day by warders; I walk out through them all, by sheer ability coupled with courage. They pursue me with engines, and policemen, and revolvers; I snap my fingers at them, and vanish, laughing, into space. I am, unfortunately, thrown into a canal by a woman fat of body and very evil-minded. What of it? I swim ashore, I seize her horse, I ride off in triumph, and I sell the horse for a whole pocketful of money and an excellent breakfast! Ho, ho! I am The Toad, the handsome, the popular, the successful Toad!' He got so puffed up with conceit that he made up a song as he walked in praise of himself, and sang it at the top of his voice, though there was no one to hear it but him. It was perhaps the most conceited song that any animal ever composed. `The world has held great Heroes, As history-books have showed; But never a name to go down to fame Compared with that of Toad! `The clever men at Oxford Know all that there is to be knowed. But they none of them know one half as much As intelligent Mr. Toad! `The animals sat in the Ark and cried, Their tears in torrents flowed. Who was it said, "There's land ahead?" Encouraging Mr. Toad! .`The army all saluted As they marched along the road. Was it the King? Or Kitchener? No. It was Mr. Toad `The Queen and her Ladies-in-waiting Sat at the window and sewed. She cried, "Look! who's that handsome man?" They answered, "Mr. Toad."' There was a great deal more of the same sort, but too dreadfully conceited to be written down. These are some of the milder verses. He sang as he walked, and he walked as he sang, and got more inflated every minute. But his pride was shortly to have a severe fall. ... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ [u]Tony the Toxic Toad[/u] There's Quislings and there's Nero's As history books have showed But never a name to go down to shame Like Tony the Toxic Toad. A scientist from Oxford Say temperatures have growed: Who tells this chap he's talking crap? Denialist Tony Toad! The Animals of the Wide Brown Land Cried [i]Please save our Abode! [/i]Who sold the trees and the sanctuaries? Earth-Criminal Tony Toad! We wanted Fibre to the Home Not Fibre to the Node! What mad dumb-arse preserves the past? Malevolent Tony Toad! The Queen ordered the Royal Sword sterilized! - Her displeasure plainly showed: "Who [i]was[/i] that dumb shit I just knighted with it?" - "Sir Tony, the Toxic Toad!" There are a great many verses, but they are too disgusting to be written down. But EVERYONE is welcome to have a go! [But since it's a parody, try to go with Mr Grahame's original pattern, with the internal rhyme in the 3rd line and always ending with Toad.]

Patriciawa

13/04/2014Well done, Talk Turkey! Lovely work! Kenneth Grahame would have loved it!

Michael

13/04/2014I bet the Americans who share much of the technology the Australian military use (ie, we pay them exorbitantly for their gear) will be all over themselves with enthusiasm about Abbott's planned military exercises with the Chinese. Really, teaching the Chinese Army Navy and Air Force how to link in with the Australian equivalents during hi-tech simulated warfare, so that one of our "best friends" in Asia has a functional introduction to American military technology and hardware, well, it's a no-brainer... Isn't it?

TalkTurkey

13/04/2014Sent to me by my friend Prof.Paul Scott: David Mason is a Writer, a Professor, and a Poet Laureate of Colorado. There's a lot to admire about Australia , especially if you're a visiting American, says David Mason. More often than you might expect, Australian friends patiently listening to me enthuse about their country have said,''We need outsiders like you to remind us what we have.'' So here it is - a small presumptuous list of what one foreigner admires in Oz. 1. Health care. I know the controversies, but basic national health care is a gift. In America , medical expenses are a leading cause of bankruptcy. The drug companies dominate politics and advertising. Obama is being crucified for taking halting baby steps towards sanity. You can't turn on the telly without hours of drug advertisements - something I have never yet seen here. And your emphasis on prevention - making cigarettes less accessible, for one - is a model. 2. Food. Yes, we have great food in America too, especially in the big cities. But your bread is less sweet, your lamb is cheaper, and your supermarket vegetables and fruits are fresher than ours. Too often in my country America , an apple is a ball of pulp as big as your face. The dainty Pink Lady apples of Oz are the juiciest I've had. And don't get me started on coffee. In American small towns it tastes like water flavoured with burnt dirt, but the smallest shop in the smallest town in Oz can make a first-rate latte. I love your ubiquitous bakeries, and your hot-cross buns. Shall I go on? 3. Language. How do you do it? The rhyming slang and Aboriginal place names are like magic spells. Words that seem vaguely English yet also resemble an argot from another planet. I love the way institutional names get turned into diminutives - Vinnie's and Salvos - and absolutely nothing's sacred. Everything is an opportunity for word games and everyone has a nickname. Lingo makes the world go round. It's the spontaneous wit of the people that tickles me most. Late one night at a barbie my new mate Suds remarked: ''Nothing's the same since 24-7.'' Amen to that. 4. Free-to-air TV. In Oz, you buy a TV, plug it in and watch some of the best programming I've ever seen - uncensored. In America , you can't get diddly-squat without paying a cable or satellite company heavy fees. In Oz a few channels make it hard to choose. In America , you've got 400 channels and nothing to watch. 5. Small shops. Outside the big cities in America corporations have nearly erased them. Identical malls with identical restaurants serving inferior food. Except for geography, it's hard to tell one American town from another. The ''take-away'' culture here in Australia is wonderful. The human encounters are real - people love to stir, and stories get told. The curries here are to die for. And you don't have to tip! 6. Free camping. We used to have this too, and I guess it's still free when you backpack miles away from the roads. But I love the fact that in Oz everyone owns the shoreline and in many places you can pull up a camper van and stare at the sea for weeks. I love the ''primitive'' and independent camp-grounds, the life out-of-doors. The few idiots who leave their stubbies and rubbish behind in these pristine places ought to be transported in chains to the penal colonies. 7. Religion. In America , it's everywhere - especially where it's not supposed to be, like politics. I imagine you have your Pharisees too, making a big public show of devotion, but I have yet to meet one here. 8. Roads. Peak hour aside, I've found travel on your roads pure heaven. My country's ''Freeways'' are crowded, crumbling, insanely knotted with looping overpasses - it's like racing homicidal maniacs on fraying spaghetti! I've driven the Hume Highway without stress, and I love the Princes Highway when it's two lanes. Ninety minutes south of Bateman's Bay I was sorry to see one billboard for a McDonald's. It's blocking a lovely paddock view. Someone should remove the MacDonald's Billboard. 9. Real multiculturalism. I know there are tensions, just like anywhere else, but I love the distinctiveness of your communities and the way you publicly acknowledge the Aboriginal past. Recently, too, I spent quality time with the Melbourne Greeks, and was gratified both by their devotion to their own great language and culture and their openness to an Afghan lunch. 10. Fewer guns. You had Port Arthur in 1996 and got real in response. America replicates such massacres several times a year and nothing changes. Why? Our religion of individual rights makes the good of the community an impossible dream. Instead of mateship we have ''It's mine and nobody else's''. We talk a great game about freedom, but too often live in fear. There's more to say - your kaleidoscopic birds, your perfumed bush in springtime, your vast beaches. These are just a few of the blessings that make Australia a rarity. Of course, it's not paradise - nowhere is - but I love it here. No need to wave flags like the Americans, and add to the world's windiness. Just value in Australia what you have here and don't give it away.

Ken

13/04/2014TT Good isn't it to see an outsider's view of Oz. I was sent the same thing by a friend in time for Australia Day, which is, I think, when Mason wrote it. To remind us on Australia Day what we do have here, despite the problems and despite Abbott. Yes, sometimes we should look beyond politics and appreciate what we have. Can only add, perhaps Abbott, Hockey, et al should do the same and stop trying to shape us into a pale copy of America.

Michael

13/04/2014Ken, hi. Unfortunately this country can't get away from "despite Abbott". We're stuck with him and his society-smashing mob, who are doing damage damage damage. Six months in without their first budget, and look how much of what was considered "Australian" is already gone or under threat. The Federal Budget is their big gun. I expect so much of what we cherish to be mown down by it. "No excuses, no surprises." There'll be no excuses, they'll just tell us whatever's done is needed for us to continue to enjoy our "quality of life" as Hockey kept going on about on Insiders this morning, while all the time telling us that's exactly what he's about to trim away. As to "no surprises", we already know how they get around that one. "You misunderstood what we said." Promises won't be broken by this mob, they'll be so bent out of shape that anyone in government will be able to say "this wasn't broken" because "this" will be nothing like what the promise actually was, except in the most faint and cynically reshaped echo of... "you misunderstood what we said". Three years is a long long time in the hands of determined wreckers determined to do so much to preserve the "quality of life"... for them and their cohort.

Ken

13/04/2014Michael Yes, I stopped and went back through the list to see which Abbott will impact. Health care, cartainly. I think food and language are fairly safe. Abbott may even add to our language with new slang to describe him and his government and what they do. Free-to-air TV could be under threat if the Murdoch influence extends. It will be a slow erosion as with sports, with more premium shows going to pay television. And under Abbott's beloved market he would certainly allow that. Free camping. I don't think Abbott can do to much about that as much as he may like to. Small shops could suffer just from the economic downturn in towns that are losing manufacturing and farmers doing it tougher as climate change bites. Yes, both effects are inflated by Abbott's actions. Yes, Abbott has bought religion into politics (as did Rudd), not overtly as in America, but it can be seen as influencing his decisions. On roads, Abbott wants to out more money into roads instead of rail and other more environmentally friendly transportation. Real multiculturalism is being attacked by Abbott and his cohort, encouraging bigots. Although they are under a lot of pressure about it. Fewer guns. It came from Abbott's hero Howard, so I don't think he will go back on that. So, Health care is directly under threat and a number of others face being whittled away over time - how much will depend on how much Australians treasure what we have and how much opposition they show to Abbott's agenda to shaoe a new country. Yes, there may be considerable repair to be made when Abbott goes.

Ken

13/04/2014apologies hit the 'o' key twice when it should have been a 'p' On roads, Abbott wants to 'put' ... ... Abbott's agenda to 'shape' a new country ...
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?