Rudd and Immunisations

Rudd is today heading towards requiring all parents to have their children immunised or lose the family tax benefit part A, i.e. removing the conscientious objection provision.  I don’t understand who he’s appealing to with this policy, so I must be missing something.

It seems to me that the people who don’t immunise are usually people who don’t believe the science and believe one of the variants of bad things about immunisations that you can find on the internet – ranging from it causing autism through to it giving you the very disease that it’s supposed to immunise against.  Let me generalise and say that these people would be one of two groups:

  • Green voters who dislike science and disbelieve it
  • Strongly religious people who dislike science and disbelieve it

What Rudd needs so as to win is for people to shift their votes from Liberal to Labor, or (less so) to shift their votes from Green to Labor.  This seems to me the kind of issue that isn’t going to draw people in to vote for you – the people who are getting their kids immunised today aren’t going to shift their votes because of this.  But it could be the kind of issue that shifts votes away from you.  Now he’s retaining the religious exemption (which in itself seems unusual, surely a bunch of people will just claim that exemption instead?), so he probably won’t drive away the religious vote.  But I’m not sure he had that anyway.  But he’s probably going to drive some voters to the Greens, and keep some Green voters from voting for him.

I can see only two possible motives for this change:

  1. He’s trying to demonstrate distance from the Greens, so he’s picked something that’s sure to draw howls from the Greens whilst still keeping enough loopholes that it actually impacts nobody;
  2. There’s perhaps something hiding under the comments about some specific communities having low immunisation rates – so there’s some sort of dog whistle in here that I’m not picking.

I’ll also have a free swipe at the Australian for lazy reporting.  They report the immunisation rate as being 90%, that the rates are unevenly distributed, and that in one Medicare local there are 3600 children not immunised.  But don’t tell us 3600 out of how many – so we don’t know whether this is 89% immunisation – i.e. close to the National rate – or 10% immunisation, which we might be concerned about.

At the moment my money is on option 1 – this is attempting to make the Greens say bad things about Labor, and therefore create media coverage that suggests the Greens and Labor aren’t working closely together.

Vegan pets: crazy?

Inside page on the Australian today, we have people who feed their pets vegan diets.  I guess it’s a story, but surely the reporter who wrote it spent the whole time trying to avoid laughing?  The general story is that a lady called Sally Anderson (who may be a reasonably astute businesswomen) is making vegan pet food.

Useful quotes that give you an idea of the quality of thinking behind this:

  • Nick Costa, a vet professor at Murdoch University co-developed the pet food.  So it might be healthy, if she did her job well
  • Melissa Catt of Sydney’s Paddington Cat Hospital said a vegan diet could pose serious health problems for cats in particular.  “Cats are one of four creatures in the world who are obligate carnivores; they need to have meat in their diet”
  • Hilary Lawrence, worker at “The Cruelty Free Shop”, who stock the pet food switched her cat to a vegan diet because she was unhappy with commercial pet food.  “There were lots of additives, lots of scientific words that I didn’t understand, just so many unnatural things”.  And “when I picked up Veganpet food I knew all the ingredients and I didn’t have to look up any of them.”
  • Filmmaker, spiritual teacher and author Billie Dean feeds the product to her 14 cats and seven dogs (crazy cat lady anyone?).  Ms Dean believed commercial pet food was the source of a range of animal illnesses and domestic animals were becoming “intolerant” to meat products.  “I do animal telepathy and I actually tune in and I’ve had cats say to me ‘I’m addicted to this stuff and it’s bad for me and I feel sick'”

Is it just me, or did they go out of their way to make these people sound a bit dumb and more than a bit crazy?  Or is it that these people are actually a bit dumb and more than a bit crazy?



Canberra Headlines: no doubt where the papers stand

NOTE: This post edited has been edited.

Reading the papers this morning, from the Canberra Times we have:

  • “First home in historic times.”  An attractive young lady is very happy that she’s got a new home, and it’s much more affordable because of historically low interest rates.  No mention of why the RBA felt it necessary to cut interest rates to historically low levels
  • “Abbott vow to cut company tax: $2.5b a year sweetener to secure the business vote.”  Do businesses vote?

In the Australian we have:

  • “Slowdown cuts rates to record” – clearly following the Coalition line that the interest rates are so low due to economic problems
  • “Abbott’s $5bn company tax relief soothes the parental leave sting”.  Not portraying it as a grab for votes

One of the problems I have is that neither appear particularly thoughtful.  On interest rates, I’d like to see an article that explains what drives interest rates.  They’re driven by expectations of inflation, as that’s the RBA’s primary target.  A subsidiary target is economic performance.

So, interest rates go up usually when the RBA is worried about inflation.  They typically get worried about inflation when we have very low unemployment, or when we have a lot of expansionary fiscal policy (i.e. high government spending).

Interest rates tend to go down when the RBA isn’t worried about those two things, or when the economy is in the tank and the RBA is worried about deflation.

So, when we used to argue about interest rates, the argument from the right was that the high government spending of Labor would push up interest rates.  Which was actually true.  But now that the economy isn’t doing so well, the interest rates coming down is only because people are out of work.  If you asked people whether they’d rather have a job and higher interest rates, or no job and lower interest rates, I think I know which they’d say.

Edit: I’ll shift my comments that were here before to point out that the newspapers have a tradition of interviewing people, then using that story for their own ends without necessarily thinking about the impact on the person concerned.  I am also guilty of having done that, and I’ve edited my post to remove that content.

Australian v’s Fin: Shorten

So, the Australian today has a lengthy article on how Shorten was instrumental, and brought across the late votes that swung it for Rudd – he was actively working the phones.  The Fairfax media, namely the Fin, is saying that Shorten was not the king maker people thought, in fact he had hardly any impact at all, only 3 votes (2 people came across with him) and Gillard would have gone either way.

So, whose interests are being looked after here?  My guess is that Shorten would like to have it both ways – he was decisive and on the right side of history so he’s clearly leadership material, but he is also not guilty of knifing a second PM in the back because that would make it hard for him to be leadership material.

It’ll be interesting to see if either paper changes their story over the next few days.

Politifact – partisan?

So, not entirely happy with the new Australian Politifact.  I’ve seen reports of the US version being politicised, including this (rather partisan) post on the general matter of fact checking sites in the last US election. (HT: Kiwiblog).  I had a little worry about the fact that Politifact Australia was being set up by a guy who used to run the Sydney Morning Herald, which has a noted left wing editorial line.

I was looking at the Australian site yesterday after a day of claim and counter-claim around the budget.  I perhaps expected that there would be some coverage of “the $70B black hole” in the Coalition budget plans, amongst other topics.  I’d seen some earlier analysis on the site, and reserved judgement – it was neither great nor dreadful.

Looking at the latest few posts, I’m quite concerned.  I think it’s really important that a fact checking site be clearly and obviously non-partisan, and it doesn’t look that way at the moment.

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Peter Van Onselen nails his colours to the mast

In the Australian over the weekend, we have this.  I really can only interpret this long diatribe as:

1. The Labor party have been mean to Rudd

2. That’s not fair

3. By the way, I liked Rudd

4. Labor will now lose in the election, and I for one will gloat about it

I always thought that Peter was a not-so-closet lefty, but frankly with this article he’s bought heavily into Labor internal politics, and quite clearly taken sides in that.  Sure, it’s an opinion piece, but Peter’s position has always attempted to be (so far as I can tell) that he is above the fray, a dispassionate observer.  This article definitely puts paid to that fiction.

Key quotes are:

Unfortunately, journalists cannot give up their sources because I would defy any journalist to claim that Rudd himself had committed to running against Gillard this week.

He never was going to.


Anyone feeling sorry for the way that Rudd is alleged to have treated Simon Crean by not following him over the top (keeping in mind that Crean went beyond even the mandate Rudd supporters gave him by running for the deputy PM’s position) should remember the way that Crean has treated Rudd in recent years.

I think these were arguably true statements, and not as partisan as some later stuff:

Wayne Swan takes the cake, however. How can a deputy prime minister, representing the same state as Rudd no less, issue a media release claiming – among a host of other insults – that Rudd has “never had Labor values” yet not begin the process of expelling him from the party?


Stephen Conroy cannot seriously be left in the communications portfolio after the way that he (mis)handled the media reforms, or following the delays to the National Broadband Network rollout sneakily announced on the same day as the spill.

I actually hadn’t noticed that sneaky announcement.  But who’s not in favour of government funded broadband, even if it is late?  It’s not like you’d have to personally pay taxes to get it.  What’s that you say, actually I do pay taxes?  Well, who would have guessed.  🙂

What has been done to Rudd goes well beyond anything we have seen before in Australian politics: the trashing of his name, the weak removal of him as leader, without even giving Rudd a chance to reform his ways.

Those actions by Gillard and her close supporters, more than anything else, are to blame for the state of federal Labor now.


We’ll see how in awe the caucus is of these skills come September 14, when Gillard and her team go up against the most unpopular opposition leader in Australian political history, and are comprehensively demolished.

Can you say dummy spit?

The Australian without registration

I note that I often link to the Australian.  Yes, I know that their journalism standards have dropped in recent years, and that any time I read an article on something that I have deep knowledge of it is clear that 80% of it is blatantly wrong and that the analysis is missing the point.  But perhaps that’s because I know a lot about IT and in general IT reporting is about publishing media releases and hatchet jobs on various projects that aren’t going as well as they could have (and what project does?).  And ultimately The Australian is the bastion of the right in Australian media, the Fairfax press don’t have materially better journalism and lean heavily to the left.

Having said that, The Australian has a paywall.  And that can make it hard for people to view articles I link to.  This is a short tip on how to get to those articles without registering.

First, go to the article through the link.  This will give you an abbreviated version of the article – usually the first two paragraphs.  Copy one entire sentence from that abbreviated summary, then go to your google search bar and put that search criteria in within quotes.  For example, I’d search for:

“THE numbers inside Labor’s federal partyroom are now such that Julia Gillard couldn’t call a spill to end leadership speculation even if she wanted to.”

Then click on the first result that comes back, which is invariably the Australian, unless it’s an article that they’ve published off a newswire somewhere.  The paywall doesn’t apply to views of articles that start from Google – because The Australian want to continue to have a presence on Google, they have to allow free logon from Google.

Sure, it’s a bit of a hassle, and if you read a lot of The Australian it’s easier to just buy a subscription – it’s not that much money.  But if you read only intermittently, or you’re in that lefty camp where you declare “I’ll never give those bastards any of my money” but you actually want to look at what they’re writing once in a while, this works.