Friday, April 27, 2007

Businessmen’s union urges command economy

Australia’s flagship businessmen’s union, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, wants Australian children to compulsorily learn a foreign language from the age of seven.

In a new report — or ‘blueprint’, as they prefer to call it (wink, wink) — ACCI has floated some 153 recommendations that flag increased education expenditure of $8-billion by federal and state governments over the next 3 years.

Like any union would when spending other people’s money, ACCI couches its wish list in flowery terms, its purported aim being to socially engineer

A comprehensive education and training system which: enables all Australians to contribute to a cohesive, democratic and prosperous society, in which the attributes and skills of individuals are fully developed.

But, buried in the detail, one finds the central plank of ACCI’s log of claims, the objective being to

improve education and training as a demand driven system that is specifically aligned to industry needs.

Sadly, it seems the old adage still holds true: Scratch a unionist, and a Stalinist commissar is revealed just beneath the surface.

Hockey schtik

Australia’s “avuncular” Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey seems just a little bit confused...

“Kevin Rudd’s speech this morning was long, flat and boring, and it clearly illustrates that he has no policies. And the policies that he does release are clearly flawed...”

Poor Uncle Joe’s going to have an anxious few months leading up to the election if he can’t decide whether or not the Opposition has a policy.

Sadly he can’t even bring himself to acknowledge his own Government’s policy.

Goat Friday

image by jarcob  —  click to enlarge

Introducing... Clover, our family’s new patagonian pocket goat.

I acquired Clover on the way to the market last week, when this bloke who called himself Jack traded her for only three beans. I’m almost ashamed of myself because I really took the guy to the cleaners, as those beans were of a variety that takes over your garden practically overnight.

Anyway, Clover, being a patagonian pocket goat, is a very low-maintenance and docile animal.

Very, very docile. In fact, incredibly docile! These patagonian pocket goats are reputed to have the most gentle disposition in the goat world.

So, if I can coax Clover out of her shell, I hope in future to post some pictures of some of her endearing antics.

Um... I haven’t as yet seen any of those said antics, but I’m sure Clover will endear herself to us all when she’s settled into her new home.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Banana-led recovery for Australia

Australia has recorded its lowest annual inflation rate for two years, with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rising by only 0.1 per cent in the March quarter, leaving the annual increase in the cost of living at 2.4 per cent.

Falling most in the latest three months has been the cost of food, led by a 73 per cent plunge in banana prices.

Who’d have thought that the recovery of the banana industry should help save Australia from an inexorable slide into Banana Republicdom??

Viewer’s of last night’s Lateline program on ABC-TV will have witnessed presenter Tony Jones badgering Labor’s shadow treasurer Wayne Swan to admit that this result is due to the sound economic management of the Howard Government (in vain, as it turns out).

This blog notes, however, that all the commentary so far has failed to acknowledge the role of the Reserve Bank of Australia, whose tweaking of interest rates at several crucial stages in the current cycle may well have contributed significantly to this splendid result.

Oh, that together with the hard work and fiscal discipline of the Australian people generally.

Good work, Australia!!!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

An insider’s view from Iraq

On ABC-TV’s Lateline last week, Tony Jones conducted a fascinating interview with Ali Allawi, former Iraqi defence minister, and now senior adviser to the present Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

I say ‘fascinating’ not just because of Allawi’s informed and sober discussion of the calamity in Iraq, but because Allawi’s views often stand in stark contrast to Coalition of the Willing leaders such as George W Bush, and of course bit-players like Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

It’s illuminating to contrast Allawi’s observations here with the official line, whether from Washington or from our own poodle government here in Australia, from which there’s a grudging and generalised admission that “mistakes were made...” but little if any evidence of lessons learned from those mistakes.

Allawi excoriates both the Iraqi transitional government, of which he was a part, and the management by the occupying authorities of the occupation and transition. According to Allawi, if anything distinguishes these early days of the new Iraq, it is incompetence and corruption on an epic and tragic scale.

...For example, in 2004 2005 the entire procurement budget of the Ministry of Defence was stolen. I mean we’re talking about more than $US1 billion that simply vanished. It’s not a question of commissions or rake-off, but outright theft and you can duplicate this on a smaller scale in various ministries ... the scale of corruption was truly monumental. ...

Billions of dollars were spent ... on the military and on the police who have nothing to show for it. It is an overwhelming collapse in oversight... The whole thing was done not on a shoestring, it was done with huge resources, but nevertheless the outcome is really appalling.

Contrary to the insistence of Bush et al that the invasion of Iraq was integral to the ‘war on terror’, Allawi maintains that...

Saddam had terrible, terrible flaws and was a terrible tyrant. But one of the things he did not do was challenge the United States through terrorism, so the connection between the former regime and Al Qaeda and international terrorism directed against the United States particular and the West generally could not be established...

Allawi’s analysis has more than a little resonance with British High Commissioner Helen Liddell’s comments last week that “our raison d’etre for our involvement in Iraq has not been about terrorism.” This assertion was of course rejected outright by Prime Minister Howard, who responded with the well-worn mantra “that Iraq is part of the battleground against terrorism.” To which Allawi might respond:

What has happened is, in fact, a large number of so-called ... jihadist groups have been empowered as a result of the continuing large scale American military presence in Iraq. And in the process, the threat of terrorism has increased.

So, it appears that Allawi tends to the view — unspeakable among the Bushites and their poodles — that the presence in mass of US and other Coalition troops in Iraq is counterproductive. He is also at odds with the Bush view that a withdrawal of US troops would result in a catastrophic breakdown of civil order in Iraq.

... I don’t think there will be a serious effect on the overall level of violence. But the instability will continue.

Indeed, it is arguably a symptom of the wilful ignorance of the Coalition leadership that the current appalling level of violence in Iraq isn’t considered as already constituting a catastrophic breakdown of order.

On the question of the human cost of the Iraq war — specifically the number of Iraqi civilians killed since the 2003 invasion — Allawi believes that figure to be “around 200,000-250,000.” If Allawi’s present estimate is correct, and if President Bush was correct in December 2005 with his estimate of 30,000 “more or less”, then this suggests a monthly death toll of Iraqis of well over 10,000 per month in the last 18 months or so alone — “more or less”.

Allawi originally opposed a full-scale invasion of Iraq, but is now of the view that

... we’ve moved now beyond whether the overthrow of Saddam was a good or a bad thing and to what are we going to do ... with this Iraq that has gone through four years of terrible hardships? The consequences have to be addressed and managed.

Addressing and managing those consequences should indeed be the overriding priority, as opposed to shoring up US ‘prestige’ and certain parties’ re-election prospects.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Brief newslets

  • A mother, abetted by her own mother and two sisters, goaded her two toddlers into attacking each other with weapons, while filming the fight.
  • Doting grandmother, Carole Olver, said: “I didn’t see any harm in toughening them up — I done the same with my own children.”

    And Nanna done done a grand job of tuffenin’em up, eh what?


  • This bombshell is a potboiler of a story: “Hundreds of scientific papers and years of research could be thrown into doubt, for they may have been based on experiments carried out on the wrong leech.”

  • A blind pilot in a microlight aircraft is expected to touch down in Darwin this afternoon...”
  • ... or Katherine... or Berrimah... or Melville Island... or Noonambah...