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Monthly Archives: September 2011

This blog wrote a series of lengthy posts on NSW Labor party reform and the introduction of US-style primaries.

The Australian Labor Party and the British Labour Party are thinking of following suit. (I’m posting from my phone so I may post links later).

One crucial aim of this reform is to shake off union ties or diminish their influence. You will be unsurprised to know that I substantially blame the decline of both ALP and British Labour to union influence. Ever since Ed Milliband was elected as Labor leader, despite losing the popular vote amongst party members due to the union vote, he’s had trouble shaking off the ‘Red Ed’ label; its stopped him taking the fight to the Conservatives. And we know the travails of Ms Gillard in Australia, the PM installed by union bosses.

Party reform is needed to bring new members into the party. But it is also needed to break the union dominance over the ALP and the culture of patronage it brings.

One of my favourite expressions is the phrase ‘quantum leap’. In the conventional parlance, it means, ‘a very large leap forward.

It stems from the Latin word, quantum, which means ‘how much?’; quantum theory answered this question by saying ‘very little’. A quantum, I believe, is the smallest possible unit of energy.

So what then is a ‘quantum leap’? Quantum jumping is a bizarre phenomenon whereby an atom, whose probability state is erratic whilst it remains unobserved, may jump from location A to location B because the probability of it being in location B is non-zero. If atoms were ping-pong balls, it would be like a ball being inside a jug magically reappearing outside the jug. Just because.

So a quantum leap might have originally meant a highly improbable leap forward. Instead, it means a huge leap forward – the exact opposite of what quantum leap should mean. Isn’t that a quantum leap in logic?
Edit: Damnit, I just re-read this post and realised how precise my language was. I’m writing an assignment, so my brain has switched to legal writing mode.

Also, the half-pun in the last sentence just failed. It was meant to be witty – its both a large leap and a highly improbable leap.

This blog has avowedly ignored the non-issue of asylum seekers for its entire life, but I’m going to touch briefly on the issue simply because the Malaysia Solution decision by the High Court could radically shift the political landscape in Australia.

There has been so much written about the decision and how it can hurt the Government; I won’t repeat that, I’m sure much of what they say is right and much of it isn’t. But one point which I haven’t heard much about is the one I think is the most critical.

The Gillard government has been facing much woe on all sides – on the economy, on the mining tax, on migration etc; the failure of the Malaysia Solution, all those difficulties I just alluded to, merely add to that pile. They may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

What’s missing from this analysis is why, when the government is wading through this toxic sewage, is it not up to its neck and drowning? The answer is that Tony Abbott’s persona is deterring them from actively committing to vote Liberal. If you summed up that feeling into one phrase, it would be the “Dr No” image he’s cultivated. That image is about to be shattered when Tony Abbott starts to call the shots on the resolution to the Malaysia Solution debacle. That will change the whole tenor of the future debate.

 

*Caveats: (1) This post in no way implies the High Court decision is unusual or political. I have not read the decision, but it appears to be a rather standard application of interpretive principles, albeit one where Heydon J was unusually in dissent. I strongly disagree with Gillard’s comments about French CJ, if only because the case he decided as a Federal Court Judge, Ruddock v Vadarlis (the Tampa case) was decided on entirely and completely different issues to the Malaysia Solution case. It turned on whether there was a prerogative power or a nationhood power to repel asylum seekers by force; that argument was not raised in this case.

(2) I do not endorse Abbott’s views (in fact, I almost entirely disagree with him) but I have consistently said that he has a very effective political strategy. Destroy the government in the polls. I personally think his low preferred PM rankings are understated. People are reluctant to commit to him now, but they’ll change their minds once the looming election forces them to turn their minds to the issue.

This blog has been half-heartedly following the High Speed Rail debate here in Australia, so it would be remiss of me to neglect the Economist’s contribution to the UK debate on high speed rail. The main leader here, followed by a second article in the same issue. The Economist is highly critical of high speed rail, in contrast to some of its earlier commentary which (from my recollection) was more supportive of high speed rail infrastructure in the US.

They raise some interesting arguments, and they certainly make sense in the UK context. What worries me is that they do extend this argument to all high speed rail. The argument that high speed rail can cause economic damage (by by-passing towns on existing long-distance rail lines) doesn’t, for example, apply to Australia.

See also the Infrastructurists’s reply to the Economist