Thursday, 23 August 2018

Here We Go Again (again) Redux

Putting on my political scientist hat, I can confirm that the Liberal Party (particularly the Queensland LNP) have lost their tiny fucking minds.

It would seem they are about to sacrifice another leader — one who has led virtually every preferred PM and individual approval poll since taking office — with a raw potato.

A potato who has no name recognition (because he's a potato) and is about as popular with the electorate as a potato is among 8 year olds.

The idea that the Liberal Party needs to lurch even further to the right to "regain" its base is laughable. This alleged "base" it has lost holds a grabbag of redneck grievances with little consistency or process of thought. It is an anti-establishment mob that has drifted over to One Nation and, so the thinking goes, might be convinced of placing 1 against the Liberal candidate once again if a sufficiently xenophobic and anti-intellectual leader can be found ("he's just like me!").

Well, quite frankly, the potato can have him. The careful calibration of the Liberal Party "broad church" its members have maintained since its formation has been trashed by alleged "conservatives". It can now only be called a reactionary racist rump that represents "mainstream" Australia about as well as Crocodile Dundee.

We've been here before: 2010, 2013 and 2015. Not one of these leadership changes worked out well for the incumbents at the following election. Gillard, Rudd Mk II and Turnbull: each had a commanding preferred PM lead leading into the following elections. Each had a honeymoon period. Each — with the possible exception of Rudd Mk II — squandered it.

How a putative PM Dutton — likely to be passionately disliked by a large portion of the civilised electorate — is supposed to close both the personal ratings and the 2PP is beyond most right-thinking people. How Dutton actually improves Coalition electability anywhere — except Queensland — is difficult to see.

What isn't difficult to see is that the reactionary rump of the "Liberal" Party has little grasp of reality. They ignore the 62/38 result of the same-sex marriage plebiscite; they ignore the vast majority of Australians who consistently say we should be doing more on climate change — they ignore the prevailing wisdom of the country.

And they ignore it at their peril.

Friday, 16 March 2018

The Great White Nope

Following on from that time I suggested old people be disenfrachised until they can stop being selfish old buggers, comes the confected outrage of propsed modest changes to how mostly old, mostly white, mostly weathly people get money for doing nothing.

Yes, Labor is shockingly proposing the removal of a rort which sees people get free money. That's right, money for doing nothing (I won't detail the policy here, because the policy detail doesn't matter. Subsitute 'dividend imputation' for any other rort that disproportionately benefits wealthy oldies — negative gearing, superannuation et al — and this article would be the same). But instead of supporting this reasonable measure — as old people who rail against money for nothing usually do — they have come out against it because, surprise², self interest.

Funny, isn't it? When people of different skin colours who don't speak English receive money from the guv'ment, the Boomers are usually the first to decry these recipients as unworthy bludgers. But when old, mainly wealthly, mainly white people get money for doing nothing, it's their "entitlement" because they've "worked all their lives" and "paid taxes". Naturally living in a liberal democracy and doing what you're supposed to do entitles the bearer to a lifetime of taxpayer funded largesse, even while the amount of revenue going to the guv'ment to provide their perceived entitlements decreases.

There's an opinion piece in the Fairfax papers yesterday by Ian Henschke, chief advocate for National Seniors Australia. For Labor, it's a taste of things to come. He issued a thinly veiled threat that any change to the franking credits rort — or indeed any other policy that is a financial boondoggle for senior Australians — will incur the wrath of the oldies. He implores Labor to remember that "half the voting public is now aged over 50". And it's for exactly this reason that Labor must continue the fight for reasonable reforms, because the political right in Australia has vacated field, captured and compromised by this selfish cohort.

With all due respect to Mr Henschke, it's time to think about a future for all Australia. It's time to make sensible policy decisions that ensure there is an Australia for future generations to inherit. Mr Henschke represents a group that, because of its economic and political clout, has received every. single. piece. of. pork. for the past twenty years, economic responsibility be damned.

They've enjoyed the spoils of the housing boom, ably assisted by demented government policies which have distorted the housing market and locked many young people out. They've succeeded in transforming superannuation policy from a retirement savings program to a government sanctioned tax avoidance scheme, where the wealthy squirrel away millions tax free. And let's not mention the free, high-quality education many oldies enjoyed in their youf, while saddling us young'uns with a higher-cost, lower-quality one — oh, and let's not mention that job market either. Of course the oldies will continue to enjoy the government largesse well past retirement, unlike us younger people who will likely have to work until we're 80 and will probably never see a government pension.

Look, it's not fair to apportion blame to an entire generation — many Boomers+ are rightly ashamed at the selfishness of their generation — however the policies which their generation's leaders have persued have led us to the fiscal mess we find ourselves in today. And while us young people are — in technical policy terms — fucked, it's the oldies who haven't benfitted from government pork barrelling who are going to be the first to be adversely impacted by their generation's selfishness if some equity isn't restored to the system.

It's their pensions that will suffer.
It's their aged care that will suffer.
It's their health care that will suffer.
And, of course, it's their children and grandchildren who will suffer.

Tackling an economically reckless policy like dividend imputation — a policy where three-quarters of the benefits flow to households with incomes in the top 10% — is a good place to start if we all want a country with a quality of life and of services to which we are accustomed. And, given Labor's crazy-brave success with negative gearing policy at the last federal election, I think they're on winner, fear-mongering in the press notwithstanding.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

15* Days Which Would Be More Appropriate as Australia Day than January 26

Photo: Phil Whitehouse, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
*I'm adding some additional brilliant brain farts as they come

1 January — Constitution of Australia comes into force (1901)
3 March — Commencement of the Australia Act (1986), which finally instituted Australia's legal independence from the UK
3 March — Graham Kennedy's infamous 'crow call' on The Graham Kennedy Show (1975)
3 March — Tony Abbott's then-record 'eight flag' press conference, featuring the PM flanked by — you guessed it — EIGHT Australian flags (2015)*
15 March — First Cricket Test Match (1877)
16 March — Advisory Council of Science and Industry formed by PM Billy Hughes. It would become CSIRO (1916)
18 March — Neighbours first aired (1985)
29 March — First Federal Election (1901)
30 April — Nikki Webster's birthday (1987)
21 May — Assent of Commonwealth Electoral Act 1962 extending electoral franchise to Indigenous Australians for the first time
27 May — Henry Parkes' birthday (1815)
27 May — Referendum on the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967, recognising Indigenous Australians in the Australian population
13 June — Vegemite first goes on sale (1923)
23 June — Tony Abbott's record 'ten flag' press conference, featuring the PM flanked by — you guessed it — TEN Australian flags (2015)
4 September — Steve Irwin is taken too soon by some form of marine monster of nightmares (2006)
5 September — Naomi Robson wears lizard on shoulder while reporting on the death of Steve Irwin (2006)
24 September — Sydney wins hosting rights to the 2000 summer Olympics (1993)
26 September — Australia II wins seventh and final race to claim the America's Cup (1983)
24 November — John Howard's Coaltion government is defeated; John Howard loses his own seat of Bennelong (2007)
26 November — Official launch of the Holden FX (1948)

*temporary record superseded in June 2015

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

So on and Sofort

It might seem strange as a photographic enthusiast, but I’m over cameras. There was a time, when I was working in photographic retail, that I visited DPReview a dozen times a day and was forever pressing F5 on, waiting for the rumoured release of a brand new 12 megapixel full frame DSLR.

Not any more.

After selling these products for years and seeing the same people come into the store and purchase mark I, II, III and IV of the same cameras, I realised we had reached the point of diminishing return with digital cameras. Incremental increases in autofocus speed and image quality had not improved the photography of these chumps. All they were getting were larger photos of the same unimaginative crap. For almost all photographers today, the limiting factor is not the camera, but the idiot behind it.

This is why it’s so nice to find a camera which makes me excited to go out and take photos again: the Leica Sofort.

The Leica Sofort is an instant camera that uses Fujifilm’s popular Instax Mini instant film. It is essentially a slightly more brutalist — and more expensive — version of a Fujifilm Instax Mini 90. Why would you go the Leica over the much cheaper Instax? For the same reasons anyone buys a Leica product: because it’s a Leica.

Operation of the camera is straight forward, with a power button, flash and exposure settings on the back, and a lens that offers close range (1–3m) and distance (3m+) settings.

This simplicity makes the Sofort a blast to use.

Travelling overseas recently, I shot around 60 exposures with the Sofort, and part of me thought, in the event of a mugging, I’d much rather lose one of the “real” cameras in my bag than my irreplaceable Sofort frames — don't take that as an invitation!

Instant film allows photographers a different way of seeing. As someone who came into photography at the tail-end of the last instant film era, I can appreciate why the new films and cameras are so popular.

For me, instant film is a sort of visual notebook far more tangible than what can be done with a smartphone and its in-built camera.

The importance of physicality can’t be overstated. My 2 year-old son knows exactly what the Sofort is for. I’ll get the camera out, and before I’ve even turned it on, he’ll be saying “CHEESE!” with the toothiest grin I’ve seen. I’ll never forget his first gasps as the picture developed right before his eyes — a picture of himself. Then I was able to leave a couple of frames on his grandfather’s fridge before we jetted back to Australia. Cue the old man voice saying "you can't do that with digital".

The only slight letdown is the quality of the lens. Yes, I know this is instant photography, but the Sofort isn't cheap and the Leica name is synonymous with extreme glass, so it's sad they sully their good name with cheap plastic. Instax film is very capable when shot with real glass. I can only assume it must have been cheaper for Leica to repurpose the Fuji Instax lens, rather than designing their own. No doubt the inevitable Leica Sofort Super Elmar starting at $599 (plus $299 for the Limited Edition Ostrich Skin Edition) will address some of these issues...

So is the fun of instant photography exclusive to the Leica Sofort? No, of course not. Any Instax camera provides a similar experience — and the larger format Instax Wide looks very enticing — but none does it with the same bold presence as the Leica Sofort. Anyone who truly loves images owes it to themselves to give one of the Instax lineup a try.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Credit Where Credit is Due...and Nowhere Else

Malcolm Turnbull was in high spirits the morning after the same-sex marriage vote. ABC News: Matt Roberts

For those who say today showed the 'best' of our Parliament, it did not. They abrogated their responsibilities for craven political purposes. Even with the vast majority of the electorate behind him, the Prime Minister couldn't find a spine to vote NO to the hateful and hypocritical amendments put forward by the regressive 'conservatives' of his own party.

In his final spar with Leigh Sales for the year — unfortunately this interviewer/interviewee combo has jumped the shark and can serve no further purpose aside from meta entertainment — Turnbull said he was "so proud" the legalisation of same-sex marriage had occurred during his prime ministership.

That's a bit like saying "I'm so glad there have been more sunny days in Sydney this year under my leadership". His leadership on this matter has been non-existent and same-sex marriage has occurred not because of him, but despite him. If his leadership wasn't terminal in the eyes of the average centrist voter, this is likely the final confirmation they need that this PM stands for nothing except for his own preservation.

Remember, parliamentarians went out of their way to avoid doing their one job: voting on legislation. This could have been resolved in days, not months, saving tens of millions of dollars and the untold (and unmeasured) pain from vitriol hurled at the LGBTIQ community — they will be counting that cost for a long time to come.

But now those delusional (mainly) old, white 'conservatives' will reap what they have sown, with a thousands of newly-enrolled younger voters ready to give them the toss at the next election. They have trashed the institutions that, as 'conservatives', they should trying their best to conserve. They deserve everything they will receive.

To those who have championed this cause — inside the parliament and out — I salute you, particularly those who have fought the eternal intransigence of the antediluvians in your midst. You deserve to cheer and celebrate, without spineless blow-ins jumping on the bandwagon.

Like most Australians, I am truly delighted with the outcome, but I am dismayed by the process. Now run along and get married — it's pretty great.

Edit: oh and I forgot to say this — eat shit, Lyle.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Overheard: Google Home

“Oh I soooo want Google Home,” one woman said to her colleague as they commuted into the city.

The benefits were self-evident, she said, like being able ask the omnipresent connected listening device to convert ounces into grams when cooking in the kitchen, “But because my husband works with computers — like, how do I describe it, like…”

“Like a competitor?” The colleague asked.

“No, not a competitor, but he works with like with spyware and that sort of stuff, Google products are off the shopping list.”

The colleague made a sympathetic disappointed noise, “I love my Google Home. It’s so good.”

“He’s concerned about like security and hacking and stuff.”

“Oh yeah, but you know, you’d like to think a company like Google would be protected from hackers and stuff,” the colleague said.

“Yeah if you couldn’t trust Google, who could you trust? They’d have to be safe from all that. They’re so big.”

“Exactly. It’s just so great, so convenient, just being able to ask it anything…”

“My husband always talks about how these things are always listening…but seriously, good luck to anyone listening to our conversations. They’d be bored in a few seconds!”

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

25Mbps is more than enough

Watching last night's Four Corners on the clusterfuck that is our National "Broadband" Network, I got angry. I got angry that the rarest beast in Australian politics — a truly visionary policy — got trashed for the purpose of political point scoring.

I got angry that the people who are vested with responsibility for the future of this country can't (or won't) see a future that many can, where fast, future-proof technology (yes, fibre is as close to a future-proof technology you'll ever find) places us at a substantial competitive advantage.

I've written extensively about the Coalition's clusterfuck of an NBN many times before on this blog, critiquing the Coalition's policy from its announcement in 2013. But even going back only 4 years, to that infamous press conference where Turnbull and Abbott pretended to be friends announcing the Liberal's deficient NBN policy, even I'm surprised how much their assumptions have dated.

At the press conference, both Abbott and Turnbull said 25Mbps was "more than enough" for home users and that the network would be completed by 2016. They said that instead of the "expensive" fibre option connecting 90 per cent of Australians, the Liberal's use of the existing copper network would allow the network to be rolled out faster and cheaper than Labor's policy.

The network is now scheduled to be completed in 2020 — only four years late — and will likely end up costing about $20 billion more than the Liberals originally claimed. All this for a woefully inferior product.

But what's most interesting about the 2013 press conference is just how inadequate 25Mbps is — a fact known to most tech people then as now.

As Four Corners mentioned, data use by Australian internet users has more than doubled over the past two years. Going back even further to the time of Abbott and Turnbull's awkward presser shows how wrong assumptions of data use only a few years ago were. Since June 2013, total data use has skyrocketed by more than 350 per cent, with fixed-line connections accounting for the vast majority of increase.

If that increase occurred in only four years, imagine what will happen over the next four? Or the four years after that? Very quickly, the NBN begins to look like a DIY crystal radio set in a 4K HDTV world. Then what? A future government will likely have to spend billions more upgrading the network, when it could have been done once, done properly and be done with fibre.