All posts by Noel Turnbull

Taking a break part 2

Policy debates

While it is difficult to imagine that there is a deep policy debate going on in Australia given the current election campaign there actually is one.

Indeed – while we are waiting for ScoMo to announce that if people vote Labor God will send a great plague, fires and damnation to the nation – the Grattan Institute continues to produce high quality work over a wide range of policy areas. Most importantly, they regularly evaluate their impact and report back on it the public. read more

Taking a break part 1

The blog is taking a break – but in the meantime (over the next couple of days) here are some odds and sods.

Western civilisation

It is ironic that those spruiking loudest for the virtues of Western civilisation include not only the Ramsay Foundation, Tony Abbott and John Howard but also America’s far-right ideologues. In a recent book, Not all Dead White Men, Donna Zuckerberg describes how groups from the alt-right to misogynistic men (frequently the same) drawing on the classics for inspiration and justification. read more

Myths, myths and more myths

As Anzac Day approaches are you getting ready to remember afresh how Anzac defines Australian culture and history and why we fought; how the French will never forget Australia and its role in WWI; and, how our Vietnam veterans were spat upon, reviled and denied welcome home marches?

Well, if you are, you probably shouldn’t read Mark Dapin’s Australia’s Vietnam Myth vs History; Romain Fathi’s Conversation essay about whether the French care about Anzac; Peter Cochrane’s Best We Forget; or the blog’s Anzac Day memorial address in 2017. On the other hand, what have you got to lose but some illusions shared by many of your fellow Australians? read more

Better financial management from the prosperity Christians?

One of the arguments in the forthcoming Federal election campaign (if an election is ever called) will be that the Liberals are better economic managers than Labor.

Indeed, it will be a major thrust of the Government campaign even though the evidence since 2013 suggests they couldn’t run a chook raffle or a piss up in a brewery – to use the Bluey and Curly language the Prime Minister favours – even though he might baulk at the second colloquial phrase just in case it upset his Pentecostal brethren (of which more later). read more

Thomas Cromwell – propagandist and PR man

Diarmaid MacCulloch, in his magisterial biography of Thomas Cromwell, at one point asks what differences Cromwell made – what were the innovations he was responsible for above and beyond what could be considered the regular part of his work or position? The first was water management but the second was what we would now call PR. read more

Wages, jobs and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

“This is the West sir, and when the legend becomes fact, print the legend” says the reporter to the Governor who is returning to a town for the funeral of a friend,Tom Doniphon, in the final scenes of the 1965 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The quote came to the blog’s mind when reading an obituary of the economist, Alan Krueger, just after it had read yet another quote from yet another business leader saying that increasing the minimum wage would increase unemployment. And this wage-unemployment myth is very much part of a modern Western myth just as much as it was part of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance US western cow town myth. read more

The billion dollar question

If you were running the Victorian Government what would you do with a spare billion dollars? Education, health, clean energy, public transport, the arts, reduced taxes or something else entirely?

What you probably wouldn’t do is give it to a company to run an event which adds to greenhouse gases; causes noise pollution; refuses to adopt normal standards of financial accountability; and, consistently produces misleading figures on its State economic benefit. read more

What gets left out

Journalists bury the lead and PR people put the facts in the best possible light – but governments often just totally omit the critical information which might put their claims into context.

A classic example was the recent release of the Prime Ministers’ (why not the Australian Government’s?) Veterans’ Employment Awards. The blog’s friend Peter Thomas forwarded it a copy of the Veterans’ Affairs Minister, Darren Chester’s, media release on the subject. It was interesting enough for the blog to use it in a talk to a group of media professionals to illustrate the need for deep analysis of statements. read more

Probability theory and the 2019 election

What do the latest Federal opinion polls mean? The superficial answer derived from political commentary is: almost anything – with the list of possibilities at least as long as the list of journalists reporting on politics.

A better approach is to use probability theory, which the blog has written about before, particularly in the light of Nate Silver’s work on probability – work derived from Bayesian theories and his long experience in sports and poker. read more