Oct 31, 2013

Anti-Israeli BDS campaign facing court test | The Australian

Professor Stuart Rees and Professor Peter Slezak
Professor Stuart Rees of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, and Peter Slezak yesterday. Picture: Stuart Rees Source: TheAustralian
THE emotive controversy over whether the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel is racist and discriminatory will be tested in the Federal Court after an Israeli organisation launched a landmark legal suit.
Shurat HaDin, an Israeli law centre, has filed papers with the court against Jake Lynch, the director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University, over his support for BDS.
The move follows the failure of the Australian Human Rights Commission, where Shurat HaDin initially filed a complaint against Professor Lynch, to conciliate on the matter.
Shurat HaDin alleges Professor Lynch's support for the international BDS movement, which promotes the rights of Palestinians and claims Israel is engaged in illegal and immoral actions against them, violates the Racial Discrimination Act.
The court action will focus in part on his controversial refusal to sponsor an Israeli academic from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dan Avnon, who developed a curriculum for Arab and Jewish students.
Professor Avnon was seeking Professor Lynch's nomination for a Sir Zelman Cowan fellowship to study curriculums in Australia.
Professor Lynch turned him down, citing his centre's pro-BDS policy and claims the Hebrew University had links to the Israeli military and the ongoing occupation of the West Bank.
The case will involve not just a critical test of Australia's anti-discrimination laws, but also a major public debate about freedom of speech and academic freedom, with the Israeli organisation and Professor Lynch's camp accusing each other of violating such principles.
The issue has split the Australian Jewish community, with some prominent academics supporting the BDS campaign, and others opposing BDS but insisting that Professor Lynch and others have every right to express their views in a democracy.
In a statement last night Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, again attacked the BDS campaign, but disowned Shurat HaDin's legal action.
"In our view, attempts to suppress the campaign through litigation are inappropriate and likely to be counter-productive," Mr Wertheim said. "It is for this reason that the ECAJ has had no involvement in the action brought by Shurat HaDin and will continue to fight the boycott campaign through public discourse."
Shurat HaDin's case will argue that Professor Lynch's support for BDS amounts to racial discrimination against Israelis and Jews, in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act and international conventions including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the application filed with the court, Shurat HaDin claims that Professor Lynch's "inherent purpose in participating and publicly supporting the BDS movement is to do acts involving adverse distinction, exclusion, restriction and adverse preference based on the Jewish race, descent, national and ethnic origin of goods, services, persons and organisations".
The application claims Professor Lynch engaged in these alleged actions for "the purpose of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of the human rights and/or fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural fields of those persons and organisations against whom the BDSM campaigns are directed".
Shurat HaDin is not seeking financial restitution from Professor Lynch, but court orders requiring him to apologise for his BDS campaign and desist from it.
Professor Lynch rejected Shurat Hadin's claims, and said he would vigorously fight the court action. "The campaign for an academic boycott, of institutional links with Israeli universities, is a non-violent campaign for peace with justice in respect of militarism and lawlessness," Professor Lynch, who is in Britain, told The Australian.
"I am confident we will prove, in court if necessary, that it does not amount to any form of discrimination or racism."
In a statement read out at a press conference and protest in Sydney in his support, Professor Lynch described the Shurat HaDin action as "a despicable attack on freedom of expression, which is backed ultimately by the Israeli security state".
The Australian lawyer handling the case for Shurat HaDin, Andrew Hamilton, denied claims from Professor Lynch and his supporters that the group, which he said was privately funded and fought international terrorism through the law, was acting for the Israeli government.
He conceded that, as revealed by leaked US cables, Shurat HaDin had received tip-offs from Mossad, but said this was part of the normal practice of lawyers seeking information and evidence to bolster their cases.
"It is Jake Lynch and the BDS movement who are infringing academic freedom by boycotting other academics and calling for the boycott of other academic institutions," Mr Hamilton said.
Hebrew University confirmed it ran two programs that were attended by serving and future Israeli soldiers. But spokeswoman Ofra Ash told The Australian these were also attended by students who were not connected to the military.
Another spokesman, Amir Barkol, denied the campus had expanded on to occupied land. "I can tell you 100 per cent the campus is all on Israeli territory," he said.
Asked about the claim the university had extensive connections with Israeli weapons manufacturing companies, Mr Barkol said: "I don't know anything about that. Which companies?"
On a visit to Australia, Israeli Science Minister Yaakov Peri, former head of Israel's internal security agency Shin Bet, said yesterday there was a risk that political boycotts of Israel could encourage anti-Semitism more broadly. "Such boycotts . . . are dangerous, because there are some, I hope not too many, but some groups or individuals that can encourage them to play on that ground."
Mr Peri said academics were entitled to oppose Israel politically but warned boycotts could attract those who might have other motives. "To declare a boycott on a country or a boycott on a country's education, it's a precedent that can encourage . . . those who are waiting for such an occasion to build."
Additional reporting: David King, John Lyons
- See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/anti-israeli-bds-campaign-facing-court-test/story-fn59nm2j-1226750044189#sthash.dWjKrHr6.dpuf

Oct 30, 2013

To Jewish leaders, incidents prove you can never stop fighting anti-Semitism | The Australian

Ernie Friedlander
Holocaust survivor and community leader Ernie Friedlander, in Sydney yesterday, has warned of a rise in anti-Semitism in recent years. Picture: Sam Mooy Source: TheAustralian
THEY were two very different events: one the bashing of a Jewish group at Sydney's Bondi Beach that put some victims in hospital; the other a juvenile anti-Semitic act by students in a university council election.
Yet they occurred within hours of each other, in the same city, and have led Jewish leaders in Australia and Israel to question whether complacency over anti-Semitism is starting to creep back into Australian society as it is in the US and Europe.
According to a victim of the bashing incident, about 10 youths allegedly shouted "dirty Jews" before hitting several people returning home from a religious observance in Bondi, in Sydney's east, early on Saturday morning. Two 17-year-old boys and one 23-year-old man have been charged with affray over the incident.
The Jerusalem Post yesterday reported that Efi Stenzler, world chairman of the Jewish National Fund, had announced he would convene an emergency meeting of his organisation's international representatives following the event. "The violent Sydney (incident), which came just hours after an anti-Israel protest in Denver, Colorado, as well as demonstrations in France and Belgium, require that we address the situation immediately," the Post quoted Mr Stenzler as saying.
Holocaust survivor Ernie Friedlander yesterday warned of an alarming rise in racial intolerance, including anti-Semitism, in recent years.
The 77-year-old, who today heads the anti-discrimination unit at Sydney community organisation B'nai B'rith, lost almost his entire family during the Nazi occupations of Austria and Hungary. He escaped certain death by fleeing from German soldiers outside Budapest and worked as a nine-year-old in the city's ghetto, breaking ice and shovelling snow for extra bread to feed himself and his mother, until the Soviets liberated them in February 1945.
Although Australian children were being taught to respect others, Mr Friedlander warned some would not shed their "tribal outlook" unless they were exposed to other cultures. "We are relatively lucky in Australia that (anti-Semitism) is not severe, but unless we watch it, it can become severe," he said.
Racially inspired physical violence against Jews in Australia remains rare, according to the director of international and community affairs with the Australia/Israel & Jewish Council, Jeremy Jones -- but only because "people no longer think they can get away with it".
Mr Jones said non-physical abuse was on the rise, including emails, posts on social media and remarks in the street or in social or political settings where people thought they could get away with it.
On Friday, in the heat of an election campaign forum for the University of NSW student representative council, two drama club members, Stuart Maclaine and Dom Foffani, danced around a political opponent, Jake Campbell, doing Nazi salutes and singing Springtime for Hitler.
Mr Campbell, a prominent Jewish masters student on campus who is an office-holder in the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, had run unsuccessfully on the Stand Up ticket associated with the Labor Right.
Mr Maclaine, supported by Mr Foffani, won a seat on the council on the Voice ticket, associated with the Labor Left.
Mr Campbell was incensed, and took to social media. "Today I had the worst experience of anti-Semitism in my life and it was in student politics," he posted on his Facebook page. "Clearly, anti-Semitism is still sadly a problem and I would hope to never see this in a student election ever again."
Mr Maclaine and Mr Foffani quickly issued apologies, explaining that they had both performed in a production of The Producers, a musical by the Jewish producer Mel Brooks, which among other songs features Springtime for Hitler.
They claimed they had no idea that Mr Campbell was Jewish.
"Today during the campaigning of the SRC elections at UNSW I partook in anti-Semitic actions thinking of them innocently and lighthearted, which were regarded as a personal attack on Jake Campbell . . . I must apologise for this conduct wholeheartedly and emphatically," Mr Foffani posted on his Facebook page.
Mr Maclaine similarly apologised unreservedly, and posted on Facebook: "It has been suggested by friends of Jake that I participate in a volunteering program with a Jewish organisation and visit the Sydney Jewish Museum, something I will be making arrangements for and gladly undertake."
"I did something inexcusably insensitive . . . if Jake and the Jewish community require . . . my resignation (from the SRC), I will act accordingly."
Mr Campbell told The Australian he did want Mr Maclaine, who could not be reached yesterday, to resign from the SRC, but he was prepared to leave it at that and did not want to further publicise the affair.
He said he fully accepted the apologies, did not believe the act was racially inspired, and did not want to victimise Mr Maclaine. "I am very happy with the way he has responded; I don't want his life ruined," Mr Campbell said.
A UNSW spokeswoman said: "The university does not condone any form of racist comment or behaviour on campus", and said the matter was under investigation.
Mr Jones and other Jewish leaders said the UNSW episode was particularly alarming because the perpetrators were not rednecks or racist extremists, but university-educated students who subscribed to the mainstream ALP.
A spokesman for AUJS, Dean Sherr, said: "Student politics is supposed to be very liberal and progressive, (but) you don't expect that people would be going around singing Springtime for Hitler and doing Nazi salutes."
What also concerns Jewish leaders is that while Mr Maclaine and Mr Foffani have apologised and are clearly contrite, others in the social media sphere, many of them presumably university students, have backed them, made light of their antics, and urged Mr Maclaine to not resign from the SRC.
UNSW has been one of the hot-spots for the boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign against Israel, with protests against the establishment of a Max Brenner chocolate shop on campus, on the basis that the parent of the original Max Brenner chain in Israel had connections with the Israeli military.
Alexander Ryvchin, the public affairs officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said it was significant that the incident occurred at UNSW "just months after the anti-Israel Max Brenner protests there attracted appalling anti-Semitic hate-speech to social media".
The head of Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Jake Lynch, who supports BDS, rejected the suggestion. "The campaign for an academic boycott of institutional links with Israeli universities is a non-violent campaign for peace with justice in respect of militarism and lawlessness," Professor Lynch said.

Oct 28, 2013

High cost of flawed projects sustained by official fictions | The Australian

ADELAIDE, August 28, 1993. Prime minister Paul Keating launches the first Collins-class submarine. As the gleaming vessel hits the water, Australia's technological prowess glistens as brightly as its military strength. Led by the ABC, the media hails the event as a triumph.
But it is a hoax. The steel plates are timber painted black. The engine has never been tested in salt water. The pipe fabrication is not finished. Nor is the design of the vessel. And the combat system doesn't work. Far from intimidating our enemies, the greatest threat the submarine poses is to Australia's taxpayers.
Coffs Harbour, July 4, 2013. Beaming with pride, deputy prime minister Anthony Albanese pushes a big yellow button. "Done," he exclaims: Coffs Harbour is on the National Broadband Network. Thanks to "the greatest nation-building program in Australia's history", Labor has propelled one more electorate into the digital age.
But this too is a sham. The building isn't connected to the NBN; only Telstra's copper wire links the big yellow button to the outside world. And with problem after problem crippling the NBN, ever greater doses of fiction have been required to disguise mounting delays.
Had Keating and Albanese been company directors, the stunts could have landed them in jail. But they are above all that. And like a recurring nightmare, the disasters keep coming: from subs and the NBN to pink batts and school halls, governments seem unable to deliver.
True, the greatest disasters bear Labor's mark; but as the Adelaide to Darwin railway shows, no party has a monopoly on folly. With billions of dollars slated to flow to major projects over the next decade, understanding the failures and their implications should be a priority for the Commission of Audit.
Not that the pathologies are particularly mysterious. Tolstoy's unhappy families were each unhappy in their own way; but program failures are depressingly similar. Like lemmings hurling themselves over a cliff, governments are propelled by forces as powerful as they are pervasive.
At the beginning come the hygiene factors: or rather their absence. Invariably, governments would rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. So the goals being pursued by new programs are not clearly defined, and the difficulties and risks involved not rigorously and transparently assessed.
In Collins, for example, the commitment to proceed was made without proper cost-benefit appraisal either of the program as a whole or of key design choices within it. As the Coles review of the program noted in 2011, this led the Hawke Labor government, "perhaps without fully appreciating the consequences", to specify a vessel "quite unlike any other in the world".
And as a review of Collins by RAND found, options to reduce the resulting risks by "backing off requirements slightly, especially for the combat system" were ignored, as were the "trade-offs between operational requirements and technological risks, and their associated cost and schedule implications".
Equally, in the case of the NBN, the decision to proceed was largely based on unpublished advice from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, which lacked the capability to evaluate the options and bore no responsibility for the outcomes. By the time a more thorough analysis was commissioned, the government's decision was well-entrenched, and the analysis was limited in ways that precluded that commitment being questioned. A proper cost-benefit appraisal was therefore never undertaken.
But even when some type of cost-benefit appraisal is carried out, the multiplicity of objectives any program can serve makes the benefits easy to inflate, while optimism trumps realism in evaluating the outlays that will be required.
That benefits typically flow from the outset, while burdens only become fully apparent in the distant future, means the temptation to commit those errors is all the greater. Sure, from an economic perspective, the inputs programs consume are mere costs: they are what must be sacrificed to achieve the goal, rather than the goal itself. In political terms, however, those inputs are the exact opposite: they are highly valued jobs for marginal constituencies, contracts for favoured companies, patronage opportunities for cronies. That the program will deliver outputs as well is just cream on the cake.
Given such poor foundations, it is hardly surprising problems occur. In itself, that complex public projects run into difficulties is unexceptional: experience and common sense suggest the costs and time required to successfully complete projects of this kind will be hard to predict. As a result, it is simply unrealistic to expect each project to be completed on time and to budget. And as a famous RAND study found, the problems also beset similarly complex projects in the private sector, and at about the same rate.
In commercial markets, however, troubled projects are either fixed or terminated; but in the public sector, it is only good programs that die young, as governments, faced with projects in difficulty, throw good money after bad in a desperate attempt to avoid recognising defeat.
That troubled programs prove such hardy survivors is partly because the "tyranny of sunk costs" comes into play. Projects that would never have been undertaken if their total costs had been known at the outset are not cancelled because each evaluation concludes spending a (relatively) little bit more might still make the exercise worthwhile. As hope triumphs over experience, natural selection is put on hold.
But if that mechanism proves so compelling it is mainly because of the enormous scope governments have to postpone pain to the future. Each government would rather its successors bore the political grief of program termination, while it reaps any joy continuing the program has to offer; as a result, so long as it can get away with inflicting that "externality" on the future, it will. And everything makes it easier for governments to do so than it would be for private firms.
After all, listed entities are under stringent obligations to disclose any material adverse events; and as their share prices reflect expectations of future earnings, a firm's equity is marked down as soon as losses become likely, even if those losses are years away.
In theory, there are processes in government that should have similar effects: the requirement to properly value the assets and liabilities on the government's balance sheet is especially important. But those processes work very poorly indeed.
In the case of the NBN, for example, the government apparently knew from a report it had commissioned that it was likely to accumulate very substantial losses. However, by keeping that report in draft form, it was able to refuse its disclosure. And as they were sitting on that advice, Stephen Conroy, the then minister for communications, echoed by Penny Wong, the finance minister, assured parliament that "this is a project which returns all of the government's money and interest costs".
But it was not only parliament that was potentially being misled. The value of the assets on the government's balance sheet must be confirmed by the Auditor-General; and public sector accounting standards specify that when it becomes "reasonably likely" that an asset will not provide "a pre-tax rate of return that reflects current assessments of risk", the shortfall must be "recognised immediately".
If the assessments available to the government are taken seriously, the assets committed to the NBN should have been written down to zero as they were being acquired and a net liability registered. However, the budget treatment of the equity injected in NBN Co suggests the project would more likely than not break even or come close to it. It is difficult to believe that conclusion could properly have been reached had the Auditor-General been fully briefed on the project's financial prospects.
None of that is to say cover-ups are the only response when programs such as these run into trouble. Rather, further mechanisms kick in that often make matters worse.
Perhaps the most common is the escalation of commitment to what would seem to be a deeply flawed course of action. As government circles the wagons, goal displacement sets in: what was a means becomes an end, cementing the support of the constituencies that are the project's major beneficiaries.
The NBN again provides a textbook case. Deploying fibre-optic cable should be one way among others of providing very high-speed broadband, not an objective in itself; but the greater the obstacles the project encountered, the more strident became the government's emphasis on fibre as the magic cure.
This was not a case of the tail wagging the dog; rather, the tail had reshaped the dog's breed, altered its appetite and dominated the lives of its owners. And ultimately, in Conroy's theatre of the absurd, the tail completely swallowed the dog, leaving the farce of the big yellow button as the only action that mattered.
Yet if such failures can occur and persist, it is also because accountability is so weak. Nor is the NBN an isolated case in that respect. In his recent review of the events which led to the early decommissioning of HMAS Manoora and the extended unavailability of HMAS Kanimbla, Defence Audit and Risk Committee chairman Paul Rizzo concluded that "accountability, authority and responsibility was misaligned, fragmented or simply misunderstood".
As for Collins, the Coles review of the submarines' sustainment could not identify a clear locus of responsibility for the key decisions that had been taken.
And who has been held to account for pink batts and for school halls? No one.
In a classic study of major program failures, economist David Henderson emphasised the "unimportance of being right": the fact that there were few rewards for long-term success, and few penalties for those involved in projects that had plainly failed. Twenty years on, that lesson has still not been learned.
Far easier instead to rely on shams such as Keating's and Albanese's, while shifting the costs to future taxpayers. Little wonder getting these programs right has proved so intractable. And little wonder the dollars thrown at these vast programs result in more and more of worse and worse.

Reform the right medicine for sick funds | The Australian

THE Abbott government's first big privatisation will be the one that got away in 2007: health insurer Medibank Private.
As revealed by The Australian last week, new advisers will be appointed before Christmas to undertake a fresh scoping study to facilitate Medibank's sale in 2014. Presumably the study will consider such issues as whether to sell the insurer as an entity or break it up to maximise the return from its most profitable constituent businesses, especially its health solutions arm.
In opposition, Treasurer Joe Hockey talked about Medibank bringing in $4 billion. Now Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has flagged Medibank possibly winning contracts to run the National Disability Insurance Scheme as an added investor attraction.
But the potential benefits of selling Medibank Private go far beyond the government's bottom line. The sale is actually a golden opportunity to bring overdue sweeping structural reform to the clunky, unpopular private health insurance industry. Hockey, Cormann and Health Minister Peter Dutton must ensure not only that Medibank is readied for sale, but that the private health insurance market is as attractive as possible to potential buyers, investors and, above all, consumers.
Of course, privatising Medibank is in itself a significant structural reform, given the insurer has almost 30 per cent market share. Indeed, the sovereign risk implications of government being both the industry's regulator and its biggest operator stifle competition, and scare off buyers and investors. Selling Medibank removes those problems at a stroke.
Beyond that, however, private health insurance is one the most closely regulated and subsidised sectors of the economy. The federal government closely prescribes what insurers can and can't cover, and the industry's prudential regime, complete with its own overzealous watchdog, the Private Health Insurance Administration Council is, arguably far more oppressive than that for general insurers under the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority.
Above all, the industry is addicted to the government's Private Health Insurance Rebates, currently worth about $5bn a year. It also relies heavily on regulatory sticks to capture new members, including Medicare Levy Surcharges for those without private insurance, and premium penalties imposed on late joiners. Price and product competition is discouraged because a common reinsurance pool forces more efficient insurers to cross-subsidise the others.
Yet the Coalition is keeping Labor's private health insurance fiddles indefinitely, especially complex rebate means tests and linking rebate increases to the Consumer Price Index rather than health cost inflation. In May, Hockey reportedly overrode Dutton's sensible warnings that keeping Labor's measures, for their savings, would spur higher real premiums, hurt fund membership and be an administrative nightmare.
The government would be far better off scrapping Labor's ill-considered indexation changes, due to start on April 1, building industry confidence and consumer satisfaction. The forgone savings can be better found in genuine structural reform.
Similarly, the Coalition says it will remove Labor's rebate means tests only when the budget allows. But a flat rebate for everyone of, say, 25 per cent rather than 30 per cent, with no age loadings (that is higher rebates) for seniors as now, would make early abolition affordable.
Less red tape, freer competition, and solvency standards more consistent with general insurance would keep premiums lower for consumers, and make investment in Medibank and other insurers more attractive. And why not simply bring the industry under APRA supervision?
The boldest change would be to end the Stalinist absurdity of health ministers approving premium increases. Removing ministerial approval will force insurers to take full responsibility for their decisions, be more responsive to the market and customers, and compete more aggressively on price, product and service.
Deregulatory structural reforms including these, with government actually trusting private health insurers to behave responsibly, will foster greater competition, efficiency and consumer satisfaction. Cormann, a former senior health fund executive, well knows this and working with Dutton, can apply his deep industry experience to maximise the Medibank sale's success.
Cormann and Dutton, therefore, should insist on necessary industry and regulatory reforms being implemented next year, before Medibank is put on the block. If this delays the sale, so be it. The dividend of delay would be the proceeds far exceeding Hockey's $4bn estimate and, even more importantly, making the private health insurance choice far more attractive and affordable to Australian consumers.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that Medibank Private will be sold "at the right time". If broad structural industry reform isn't undertaken first, however, the time will never be right.
Terry Barnes runs consultancy Cormorant Policy Advice and was a senior adviser to Tony Abbott when he was health minister.

Carbonista bushfire fallacies | The Australian

Tom Jellett
Illustration: Tom Jellett Source: TheAustralian
LIKE the theologians Voltaire skewered for attributing the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 to licentiousness and vice, the green lobby has seized on the NSW bushfires as a sign that the carbon tax must be retained.
After all, say these descendants of Voltaire's "grim speculators on the woes of man", what greater proof could there be of the start of the apocalypse than bushfires in October?
Ah, sighed Voltaire, "One short prayer I made to God: O Lord, make our enemies ridiculous! And he granted it." Indeed he did. For the carbonistas' claims are so absurd one has to stand in line to rebut them.
Had they bothered to check, even a cursory examination would have taught them that October fires hardly portend the end of days. On the contrary, October saw fires causing serious loss of property and life in NSW in 1928, 1936, 1968, 1984, 2001, 2002 and 2006.
Nor is there any evidence of increases in fire severity. The most careful analysis has been carried out by Macquarie University's professor John McAneney and his colleagues at Risk Frontiers, a research centre that provides modelling services to the insurance industry. Surveying the data from federation to the present, they conclude that "it is not possible to detect a greenhouse-gas climatic-change signal in the time series of Australian bushfire damage".
Yet, even were climate change adding to the threat from fires, the question would still be the most efficient way of responding. To believe Australia's unilateral carbon tax reduces the likelihood of global warming, and hence could cost-effectively avert an increase in bushfires, is on a par with faith in the tooth fairy.
But the tooth fairy leaves money under the pillow. The carbon tax, according to the previous government's own modelling, will impose losses with a present value as high as 83 per cent of current Australian GDP, or $1.25 trillion.
Far from enhancing the capacity to deal with natural disasters, making ourselves poorer reduces our ability to invest in mitigating threats and recovering from catastrophes. The carbon tax therefore aggravates the very problem it pretends to solve.
Rather, we need to address the root causes of bushfires' rising cost. As McAneney and his colleagues have shown, that increase is not due to a rise in the frequency, spread or intensity of fires, but to the ever greater number of people and buildings at risk. Controlling the resulting threat to life and property has required growing outlays on fire safety and mitigation, which now amount to nearly 1.5 per cent of GDP, only slightly less than current spending on defence.
Those outlays have been strikingly successful in reducing the harm from bushfires, with the probability of losing 25 or more houses in a week no higher today than it was in 1900. Bushfire-related property damage therefore accounts for only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of annual average losses from natural disasters while lives lost to bushfires are about one-tenth those due to structural fires in homes and less than 1 per cent of annual road fatalities.
But no amount of sacrifice by firefighters can eliminate the prospect of thousands of homes being destroyed, and of hundreds of lives being lost, in catastrophes such as the 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria. That is especially the case because of the continuing rise in the number of homes located on or near bushland.
The facts are stark: in extreme bushfires about 60 per cent of the homes within 50m of fire-affected bushland will be destroyed. In the 2009 fires, for example, 25 per cent of destroyed buildings in Kinglake and Marysville were located within the bushland boundary and 90 per cent were within 100m of it. Conversely, homes 700 or more metres from the boundary face virtually no risk of being lost.
Land use regulations therefore seem crucial in limiting the scope to build in places of greatest threat. At the same time, building codes should maximise the safety of any structures that are built.
But these are blunt tools, and they can readily have perverse effects. For instance, the rising safety requirements imposed on new buildings in fire-prone areas have made it cheaper to extend the life of existing structures than to replace them, increasing the average age of buildings and the danger to people in them.
Ultimately, these instruments do not signal to families and businesses locating in bushland the risks they are imposing on themselves and on the community. On the contrary, current policies subsidise risky locations, both by not requiring property owners to bear the full cost of firefighting and through the compensation provided when catastrophic fires occur.
Given those subsidies, it is unsurprising population pressures in fire-prone areas are as strong as they are. In contrast, obliging all building owners in those areas to be fully insured would increase the cost of living in those areas, possibly by 10 per cent to 20 per cent, thus helping to limit the population in harm's way. And insurers would have incentives to reward property owners who took mitigation measures while imposing higher premiums on those who didn't. Combining that with reasonable cost-recovery for fire suppression would make the gain in saved lives and property all the greater.
But such practical responses are of no interest whatsoever to the carbonistas. For their concern is not really with bush fires; it is solely with advancing their cause. Having elevated the carbon tax into a totem, they have descended from reason into superstition.
Voltaire knew all about that. Faced with moralists who thought renouncing "Lisbon's deeper drink of vice" could save "London, Paris, or sunlit Madrid", he cried "Ecrasez l'inf acime!": crush the infamy of superstition. More than two centuries on, that remains easier said than done.
- See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/carbonista-bushfire-fallacies/story-fn7078da-1226747839843#sthash.P8h9d727.dpuf

Oct 24, 2013

Firefighting drones could do the dangerous work | The Australian

AS firefighters around Sydney battle raging October infernos, researchers say fire ground controllers may soon be able to hand the most dangerous tasks to unmanned drones.
A University of Newcastle mechatronics team is working with other Australian universities, the Defence Department and Boeing to perfect “intelligent autonomous vehicles” that can detect new outbreaks, stream images to firefighters and dump water on flames.
With wingspans as little as two metres, aircraft could stay aloft for up to 12 hours, monitoring fires and beaming escape routes to trapped firefighters.
Small drones could be much cheaper than conventional aircraft, possibly allowing fire authorities to deploy fleets of spotter planes.
Team leader Tristan Perez said unmanned water-bombing helicopters would offset the dangers of smoke-choked visibility and water buckets entangled in power lines. “By removing the pilot you remove most of the risk,” Dr Perez said.
While remote-controlled drones are widely used in the military, fire ground deployment has been limited. Dr Perez said drones had been used to monitor forest fires in California, but only after other aircraft had been grounded.
However, Google was experimenting with a fully autonomous vehicle “roaming the streets” of a German city, while autonomously controlled underwater drones were being used in seafloor mapping and offshore oil operations.
Dr Perez said regulators around the world were under pressure to licence drones for civil and industrial purposes such as mapping and surveying, monitoring traffic, predicting crop yields and protecting assets against terrorism.
He said bushfires could function as a “guinea pig” as drone technology made the leap from military to civilian applications, from remote control to autonomy, and from operating in isolation to sharing space with manned craft.
While safety fears could make authorities reluctant to allow drones to be used in routine operations, a bushfire was “already an emergency”, he said.
Dr Perez said technological hurdles prevented the immediate use of autonomous fire fighting drones. Systems for detecting other objects, avoiding collisions, handling emergency situations and maintaining links with ground stations needed to be improved.
But these challenges could be overcome in a few years, he said. “In the military, these technologies have a well proven record of reliability and safety.”
Arguably the bigger obstacles are around public acceptance and liability issues, such is who is at fault in a collision. Newcastle University is already working with Boeing Research and Technology Australia to develop “tools” to help regulators certify increasingly autonomous aircraft.
Dr Perez said a complete switch to fully autonomous technology would present few issues. “The problem is that we’re going to be sharing roads and operational spaces with piloted vehicles. That’s where most of the problems will occur.
“Sometimes humans will not follow the same rules, or not in the same way. That’s where there is uncertainty – how this vehicle is going to react in a situation it hasn’t seen before.”
- See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/firefighting-drones-could-do-the-dangerous-work/story-e6frgcjx-1226745417741?from=google+current_rss%0A&utm_source=The%20Australian&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=editorial&net_sub_uid=17583359#sthash.D1igHzxs.dpuf

Oct 20, 2013

A wag in the tale of Horrie the War Dog | The Australian

Roy Brooker, left, with Jim Moody and Horrie. Source: Supplied
Horrie on the front of Jim Moody's motorbike in Syria. Source: Supplied
ON March 12, 1945, a white terrier dog was put down at Sydney's Abbotsford Quarantine Station by order of the Federal Government's Department of Health. What followed was months of national outrage over the "murder" of a war hero and a mystery that endures to this day. The dog in question was, allegedly, Horrie.
He'd been picked up as a pup by members of the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion, who found him starving and abandoned in the Libyan desert in 1940. Horrie became the battalion's mascot and a new friend for a thousand Diggers. But little did they realise how their kindness to one small animal would be repaid countless times over. It turned out that this foothigh mongrel had one extraordinary feature: oversized ears that could pick up the sound of enemy planes two minutes before any man. Once his uncanny ability was noticed, he became the battalion's early warning system, vital against Hitler's feared weapon, the Stuka aircraft, which attacked out of the blue with a whine like a thousand banshees.
Horrie was panic-stricken during his first war experience, trembling and whimpering when the battalion was attacked from the air in Greece's Piraeus harbour on April 9, 1941. His distress caused his master, Private Jim Moody, a moment of regret for bringing him into the war zone. Moody, a professional photographer, amateur historian and dare-devil motorbike rider from Victoria, had joined the battalion as a signaller. He was a dog lover who communicated with Horrie as if he were human. But on that occasion at Piraeus he felt his "dog-whispering" skills had deserted him. Moody did his best to soothe Horrie, holding and stroking him as they sheltered in a drain, but when a bomb thumped close by and sent up a spray of rocks and dirt Horrie wriggled free, raced out, looked up at the enemy planes and voiced his disapproval. Having adjusted to the noise he was his defiant self, ready to take on the Luftwaffe. Moody had to dash into the open, scoop him up and return to cover to make sure his little quadruped did not end up as collateral damage.
A few days later, when Moody took Horrie on his first hair-raising motorbike mission to the war front, the dog froze inside his jacket as Stukas swooped low, causing rider and bike to crash into a ditch. Within a few minutes Horrie overcame the shock, broke away from Moody and stood in the middle of the road, growling and barking at the sky. He could hear the planes returning. His antics sent Diggers in a convoy of trucks running for cover. In a matter of days, Horrie had become a true warrior dog.
From then on the entire battalion, along with thousands of other Diggers in the Australian 6th Division, became aware of Horrie's reaction to Luftwaffe attacks on their camps. He was almost like a mechanical toy. He would sit, stand, sit and get comfortable facing one direction. Those floppy ears would then do a dance until they'd go erect.
Then he would growl - a prolonged guttural utterance was enough to send hundreds of men scurrying to trenches.
Horrie would join the dash for cover just before the planes swooped low, dropping bombs and strafing. Once an attack was over, the gunners would wander back to their tents, often finding craters instead of their former living-quarters. Horrie would then accept heartfelt thanks from the men, whose affection for him caused some to vow that they would "take a bullet for him".
The insightful sergeant of the battalion's signallers, Roy Brooker, a veteran of World War I, believed that the love for Horrie went beyond the gunners' gratitude for saving their lives.
"I've been in two big wars," he told Moody and the others in the group of signallers known as the Rebels. "Men kill and maim and hate the enemy. You've all had a go at the Vickers [machine guns] and they can kill several men in seconds. They have incredible power and such weapons do strange things to the men manning them. They make hard men even harder. But it is not in man's nature or mentality to be so damned brutal. We have been closer to mass killings than any other members of our army.
We need a balance, an antidote to that. Horrie is a worthy recipient of all the gunners' love and sympathy. But he is also a recipient of all that necessary balance of positive feeling."
Moody, Brooker and the rest of the Rebels took responsibility for Horrie during the war, smuggling him in their packs through Libya, Egypt, Greece, Crete, Palestine and Syria and finally, in the most dangerous venture of all for them and the dog, back to Australia. The captain of the troop ship USS West Point followed Quarantine directives and decreed that all "pets" on board had to be handed in. They were to be destroyed before reaching Fremantle, the first port of call for the 6000 men of Australia's 6th Division, being brought home urgently by Prime Minister John Curtin to meet the menace of marauding Japanese forces.
When they refused to produce Horrie, the captain, who had a reputation as a "Maritime Caesar", thundered that the ship would not dock at all if the dog was not handed in. He slowed the ship to a stop in sight of the Australian coast, much to the chagrin of all on board. Other animals, including a cat, were given up but not Horrie, who was hidden in the Rebels' cabin. In the stand-off, a delegation led by a defiant Moody made it clear to the captain that he could not touch Horrie. The captain in turn said he would have Horrie "thrown in the ship's furnace".
"The men of my battalion are wild enough to dish out similar treatment [to you]," Moody told him. The captain only had to look into the faces of these hardened soldiers, who relished the prospect of fighting the Japanese in New Guinea, to know that this was no bluff. On top of that, he was reminded by an Australian liaison officer on board of what it might do to the captain's commission and reputation if there was a mutiny on his ship. The USS West Point started up again and sailed into port. Horrie was smuggled into Australia and left with Moody's father in Melbourne's St Kilda.
Three years later, in 1945, Moody returned with the Rebels to Australia after fighting the Japanese. He was approached to bring the dog out of hiding to raise funds for the Sydney Red Cross. Horrie was already well known as a "war hero" and was about to feature in a book by Australian author Ion Idriess. Yet Moody was not convinced by the overtures from the publisher and Idriess. Horrie had not been quarantined on entering Australia and he feared the Department of Health, which was obsessed with slaughtering any pets brought home by returning Diggers. Moody only agreed when Brooker managed to talk the Melbourne branch of the RSL into making Horrie an honorary member in recognition of the lives he'd saved.
Horrie was taken to Sydney so he could be exhibited by the Red Cross, and was photographed wearing his special coat (which had been made for him during a cold winter in Syria), his colour patch, gunner's disc, identity tags and now RSL badge. Moody and Brooker were in another photo with him. The accompanying newspaper articles were the beginning of what seemed to be a superb public relations exercise. Each piece mentioned his "amazing" war career. There was careful mention of a wound when a bomb splinter lodged in his leg, but that he was in rude good health, which was a signal to any Quarantine official who might be thinking of pinning a disease on him. The second day after his "coming out", Idriess visited the Sydney home in which Moody and Horrie were staying and was photographed with the dog for the newspapers. Moody fielded hundreds of calls from journalists, battalion members and other soldiers and well-wishers. It led to a nationwide surge in interest in Horrie.
On February 24, 1945, press articles on Horrie reached the desk of Ron W. Wardle, the director of the Division of Veterinary Hygiene in Canberra's Health Department. He reckoned he could sniff a crime; he told colleagues that Horrie's appearance was "nothing more than a money-making stunt for the publication of a book" and vowed to put a stop to it. Quarantine pounced. Moody was ordered to bring Horrie into its Abbotsford station within a week. It was still wartime and such a directive had to be adhered to, or the Rebels would face jail terms.
Handing the dog over did not necessarily mean that Horrie would be put down. After all, this dog was disease-free and had been checked by a vet in Tel Aviv before being smuggled to Australia. Moody was told that Horrie would be given a medical examination, and if he proved healthy there was every chance he would be released. But Moody was suspicious. The speed with which Quarantine moved to impound the dog worried him. Would the Health Department make an example of Horrie, to demonstrate its diligence in tracking down animals with potential diseases such as the much-feared rabies? This led to a dilemma.
If Moody handed over the dog, the odds were that he would be put down. If he didn't comply, he would be jailed and Horrie would be hunted down and probably euthanised.
Moody had to act. He did deliver a dog he called Horrie to Abbotsford. Wardle was informed that the animal was in very good condition; a Sydney vet's report, which Moody had obtained, backed this up. There was no sign of any disease. John King, the director at the Abbotsford station, rang the vet to verify the report's authenticity, but Wardle didn't care. He had made up his mind that the dog was to be executed. "[Horrie] must be made an example of," Wardle told King. "Can't have any soldiers smuggling pets into our country. Rabies kills, as you well know."
As Moody feared, the animal was destroyed.
But was it Horrie the war dog? The public, newspapers, the military and government, Idriess and the publisher believed it was. The media went into overdrive, with newspapers running a campaign akin to a witch-hunt to assign blame for this "crime" against a certified saviour of Diggers. The zealous Wardle became the main target as protest over his action reached the desk of Prime Minister Curtin. Questions were asked in the House of Representatives concerning the "Horrie tragedy". Parliamentarians responded to anger from their constituents and continued to pressure the government. There was a public rally at Sydney's Town Hall. Even while the war in the Pacific continued to rage, letters-to-the-editor correspondence was dominated by the issue.
Wardle received scores of death threats. Typical was one from a person calling himself "Y.S", an old soldier of Sydney's Chatswood. He ended his letter with: "I hope and pray that when your day comes I will have the pleasure to put you to sleep in the same way that little mate [Horrie] died." More worrying was an unsigned message: "I was trained to kill in the Great War and I am still a very accurate shot. Your killing of this creature of God deserves a similar fate and I know how to do it."
Moody and Brooker organised their battalion to carry out a funeral for the dog, although there was no body in the coffin. Quarantine refused to hand it over, saying it had been incinerated. The press covered the funeral. A special service for Horrie was carried out on Anzac Day and a wreath in his honour was laid at the Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney (an act repeated for another 20 years).
If the real Horrie was not executed it was easily the greatest hoax in Australian history. Moody, an enigmatic character, was described by the wife of one of his closest mates as a "larrikin with a heart of gold". If he did indeed pull off a hoax, it was unusual, if not unique in the annals of grand deceptions. Unlike most other pranks the Horrie tale was, as the cliche goes, for the greater good. It was not silly, a confidence trick motivated by greed or publicity. No one who knew Horrie ever doubted that every effort to save this exceptional animal was merited. Moody's love of dogs caused him much personal loss, but he was first to say, without equivocation, it was all worth it for Horrie.
So was it a hoax or not? A pointer to the answer was the character of the Anzacs, especially concerning an iron-clad loyalty to fellow soldiers, alive, in trouble or fallen. Horrie was in the first two categories and was in danger of falling. Another indicator to Moody's thinking was the enormous trouble the Rebels went to in order to have Horrie illegally and secretly stay with the battalion - and the efforts they made to protect him on their return. Would Moody, Brooker and the other Rebels abandon him? Logic and their emotional attachment to him dictated they would not. And they didn't.
Horrie the War Dog by Roland Perry (Allen & Unwin, $27.99), out Wednesday

- See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/a-wag-in-the-tale-of-horrie-the-war-dog/story-e6frg8h6-1226741756627#sthash.3pytAxRJ.dpuf

Oct 18, 2013

Nicola Roxon's attack on Kevin Rudd - full lecture transcript | World news | theguardian.com

10 housekeeping tips for a future Labor Government
The John Button Memorial Lecture, 2013
Given by Nicola Roxon
The Wheeler Centre, Wednesday 16 October
It’s a great honor to be invited to give this speech. As a fellow Victorian, and part of the Maurice Blackburn alumni, I feel an extra buzz of closeness to John Button, although we were of different eras.
John Button was an honorable and good Labor man – much loved, in particular for his straight talking. I’m going to adopt that straight talking style tonight because we have some lessons to learn from the last six years. It might seem indulgent to go back over old ground, but if we don’t talk frankly and constructively there are worse risks. So I’m going to adopt John Button’s “tell it as it is” style, although this will inevitably be painful for some people. 
I say this only because Australia will need a stronger Labor Government next time, to repair the damage that will be inflicted by Tony Abbott and to pursue the next generation of positive reforms for the nation.
You will be the first and last audience to have my version of events, and my perspective on what the Party can learn from our 6 years in Government. I have no intention of writing a book, or providing further commentary on these issues after tonight.
We don’t want to airbrush our history, or we’ll lose the good parts along with the bad. The good policies implemented by the Rudd and Gillard Governments should not be hidden, we should be proud of that legacy, even if we owe an explanation to Labor people about what went wrong. 
The Party needs to own its proud history of compassion and nation building: whether its the historical snowy mountain scheme and Medicare, or the contemporary NBN and disability care.
Tonight I want to do something a little different than talk about Labor’s policy purpose and direction. I want to provide some practical tips for the next Labor Government, and for Labor MPs, on how to best conduct themselves. And how to ensure that a fresh Labor purpose is constantly in focus, and ways that mission can be delivered. I hope it might be of use to Bill as the new leader, and to others, as they go about their work of regaining ground for Labor.
Superficially it may seem boring to talk about housekeeping and conduct, when a Party of progressives wants to be about ideas and improving lives. But I use examples to highlight their necessity if we want to deliver fabulous policies effectively.
We can want power, but we have to want it for a purpose. So we have to know how to use that power well, and to full affect.
So, here are my 10 housekeeping tips for members of a future Labor Government (from someone who has recently swapped the cabinet table for the kitchen table – and thus now has the freedom to offer such opinions!).
(1) Labor must always focus on the fact that good policy improves people’s lives and that is why the Party exists
If this is always at the front of our minds and the top priority in decision-making, we will be less easily diverted by polls, personalities and punch-ups.
This must be a constant focus. In government, a Labor party needs to choose a few big areas and focus on them, taking people with them. 
A Government needs to take time to explain the problem, work on a range of solutions, build coalitions to campaign for them, understand the opposing arguments so as to improve your own and measure their validity. It must allow enough time and sufficiently foreshadow the change so local MPs, branch members and citizens can be part of the campaign for change. And take time to get all the technical detail right.
The best example of this done well was Disability Care. When Bill Shorten first started advocating for it, it was not government policy and money had not been allocated. Slowly and surely the reasons for acting became overwhelmingly clear – the productivity commission’s work, the growing community campaigns, Jenny Macklin’s endless detailed and careful work on design, structure and coverage. Julia’s steady determination to find money to make it happen. There was rightly no room in this for personality or internal politics or leaking.
This vital social policy change was handled so well, that the Liberals had no choice but to adopt it as their policy too. This was a sign of success, policy wise, but it was also obviously designed to neuter the political impact of such a substantial reform. 
I think we erred by letting this claimed “bipartisanship” stop us campaigning on it during the election as a top class achievement, painting the perfect picture of Labor’s purpose. I was surprised we seemed reticent to talk about it in the campaign - Jenny Macklin should’ve been allowed to travel and get on to the front page of every regional paper in the country.
Other good examples of strategic, consistent work was our approach to getting rid of Workchoices and the Better Schools investments, the apology to the Stolen Generation and our aged care reforms. Examples in my portfolio areas that I think worked best on this front were the regional cancer centres and plain packaging of cigarettes.
The mining tax was probably the worst example – not necessarily for its content - but for its lack of preparing the ground, understanding better the arguments against us and identifying how we would deliver. Not to mention announcing it in a confusing period where we crammed this new mining tax policy in with finishing up health reform and dropping the CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme).
So a related issue here is - don’t do too many things at once.
The truth is a government can’t cope with it and the public can’t absorb it. At best, no one will know you’ve done it and you won’t get any credit. At worst, people will be confused or stressed by too much movement and activity, and end up opposing something that with more time might have been palatable. And in a rush or confusion, the policy might not be the best one either.
(2) Governments as a whole, and the Prime Minister in particular, need to keep their focus high level – spending time and energy on the things that really matter.
If you can’t describe what you are doing in general terms, and its purpose, then either the policy isn’t right, or you’ve descended into detail most people don’t need and probably don’t want to know.
The art as a Minister should be to be across the detail and be sufficiently trusted by colleagues to manage and explain the policy detail when needed, but to allow the PM to focus only on the big picture. The Cabinet should be used to sign off only on purpose, direction and broad structure, but not excessive detail. 
In our first term of Government we struggled with this. There were some contentious issues and policy problems that ran for months, in some cases years, without there seeming to be a way to bring contentious issues to a head. There was no avenue for Ministers to bring genuinely difficult issues, where there were legitimately tricky calls to be made, to Cabinet for a real discussion. Health and climate change were the two longest running “non-discussions” for the first term of Government, with some other contentious policies getting only cursory cabinet approval at the last minute. There was a reticence by the Prime Minister for big strategic calls to be made by Cabinet, or sufficiently in advance to prepare properly.
In contrast, carbon pricing, disability care, immigration and aged care reforms all had detailed Cabinet coverage.
Kevin as PM simply refused to list contentious, and often strategic, items for Cabinet, and effectively stopped that conversation. In retrospect, many of us, me included, should have insisted on bringing on these discussions anyway, demanding strategic decisions be made by Cabinet early enough to be useful.
Kevin also had an overwhelming inclination to focus on minutiae, as a way of avoiding the big, harder decisions. This took up a lot of valuable Prime Ministerial head space which is better spent on the big picture.
I’m sure the inevitable outcome from the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference could have been prepared for differently, and the Government might have responded differently, if Kevin had allowed Penny to bring a proper discussion to the full Cabinet. And we know how much turned on this political issue and its handling.
In addition to the lack of Cabinet engagement on some big strategic calls, Cabinet was also misused by being asked to deal in enormous detail with material it could never hope to be fully across. This meant that many Ministers managed to be both frustrated about lack of attention to some key issues, as well as being exhausted by huge amounts of energy required on less significant matters. 
In John Button’s era, the public knew of some of the big battles Cabinet was grappling with. They did not pretend issues were always easy, but thrashed them through and then – all importantly - respected the outcome and stuck to it. Only then did the PM announce Government policy.
This had the benefit of protecting the PM from having a public position too early. Which leads directly to me third tip -
[3] Good leaders are good delegators
If they don’t delegate, they and their governments ultimately drown in less important matters.
Having seen it up close, I have a huge amount of sympathy for just how much work a PM has to do. The sheer weight of government and the crushing level of personal demands are far more intense and all encompassing that most people can imagine. Kevin and Julia fully devoted themselves day and night to this task. For all their issues, no-one could fault either of them for heroic work ethics and sheer determination to do everything humanly possible in the job.
But the Prime Minister is still only one person. 
We can’t let the system slide, if it hasn’t already, to expect this person to have superhuman powers. Our increasingly presidential-style campaigning doesn’t help this. I hope any new Labor leader will not continue this pretence – it will ultimately be a great benefit to the Party and protection for them.
This desire to fix the world’s problems became crushingly exhausting for Kevin and debilitating for the government. Julia also took on too much – as the new leader, the promised “fixes” were all attached to her, she wore every mistake and every set back. 
My overriding point here is, that future Labor Governments need to allow Minister’s to act, give them real responsibility with consequences if they fail to deliver.
Over six years some big political problems could’ve be stemmed earlier if this approach had been taken. This respects the role of Ministers, but at the same time demands Ministers to step up to the real work, instead of spending time on other distractions. 
This also frees up some precious Prime Ministerial time and it protects the PM too - the Government’s most visible and senior spokesperson is shielded from some inevitable failures and mistakes.
[4] Labor needs to welcome debate, not fear it.
A progressive party needs to be able to argue over issues and not see it through the prism of internal politics.
Both internally and externally Labor, in the time I’ve been involved, has become more afraid of real debate. For a progressive party that prides itself on a constantly renewing its social purpose, this is not good news.
Of course, a shallow and manipulative media can make debate or dissent difficult, sometimes nigh on impossible, but we need to push past that and learn to welcome a contest of ideas. 
For this to be truly possible we need to relearn that debate has to be about an idea or an issue, not about people and personalities. We have to learn that disagreeing on an issue doesn’t mean you don’t or won’t support a leader or a group. The National leadership ballot has been good for us on this front, although I confess this pleasantly surprised me.
Because of our leadership tensions since 2010, and the relentless stalking of Julia by Kevin’s supporters, every substantive policy issue or decision since has been viewed through this unhelpful personality/ leadership prism, and it has massively stifled debate. On top of this, it gave leakers, and those prepared to play kamikaze politics, the chance to use issues day in day out to keep the leadership issue burning.
On a slight tangent, I also strongly believe the party needs to look at options (caucus rules or otherwise) to give local members more autonomy to raise and campaign on issues for their community, or I fear we are leaving this local identity and space open for independents and the minor parties. 
We also need to encourage and embrace more debate in the party and the parliament – and find ways to better use the broader brain power around on tough issues. Disappointingly, even senior and experienced MPs were shunning a chance to be in debates on complex issues – like the resistance and begrudging response I received when I commissioned the respected joint intelligence committee of the Parliament to assess a list of new powers and proposed changes to our intelligence laws that agencies like the federal police, ASIO and ASIS had requested. In my 15 years in parliament I’ve never seen such an unenthusiastic response from a committee being given a serious, real job to do – including, I am sad to say, senior Labor figures.
I have a similar hobby-horse about ballots within the party, whether for pre-selections, ministerial positions or for leadership. I fear that we have become risk averse – trying to avoid having ballots to save embarrassment, rather than recognizing it is good to have a go, that you win some and you lose some. 
Sometimes running in a ballot, even if you lose, can be best for the Party. It can be cathartic. A ballot also bestows credibility on the winner, something our newly minted federal leader will gain substantially from.
And what are we telling young people otherwise – they should only try and do something if they are sure they will win first time up?
 (5) Be polite and be persuasive. Or I could call this “Keep yourself nice”.  (I know I’ll be accused of being “nanny Nicola” here, but it is an age-old rule that needs to be re-imposed)
If you don’t do this, you lose ground for no political purpose. You waste time apologizing and you lose arguments for no good reason.
And this is not a tip, just for the sake of nice manners. It fundamentally affects political outcomes too.
When Kevin was flashed across the TVs icily ignoring Kristina Kenneally in health reform negotiations, it cost us an awful lot to recover from and actually gave NSW the upper hand for the first time. Disparagingly calling her ‘Bambi’ behind closed doors was pretty silly when she was whip-smart and went on to run rings around us at the final COAG negotiating table. As a result, Kevin conceded more to NSW in hospital beds at the expense of money set aside for mental health. As was predictable, mental health became a thorn in our side later on, and in the 2010 campaign was the major health issue that weakened our otherwise great story.
The Garden Island announcement during the 2013 campaign underscored that this lesson had not been learned and we lost a day or two of the campaign needlessly.
It is hard to imagine the disability reforms ever getting through if Julia had taken this approach, rather than the patient consulting, discussing, and convincing that were hallmarks of her style – but for which she got little credit.
I must say that Kevin always treated me appropriately and respectfully. Although I was frustrated beyond belief by his disorganization and lack of strategy, I was never personally a victim of his vicious tongue or temper. I did, however, see how terribly he treated some brilliant staff and public servants. Good people were burnt through like wildfire. Loosing senior people like Chiefs of Staff and deputies or contemptuously ignoring their advice left the Government weaker.
On the “keep yourself nice” front, some of the worst behavior was very overt - brazenly sending up your own materials on TV or ostentatiously packing up your office as cameras just ”happen” to be in obscure halls of the parliament to capture the moment. If Labor MPs follow a few basic tips on decent behaviour, and pull others into line when they don’t, then we need never see such shameful behavior again. 
(6) Always ask what you can do for the Party (and the nation) not what it can do for you. (with apologies to JFK)
If you don’t ask this question first, you’ve lost your focus and purpose and the public will mark you down fast.
There were plenty examples of people putting their individual interests ahead of the team’s, particularly in Ministerial ballots and appointments. Reports of able MPs declining particular portfolios, perhaps because it didn’t suit their long term personal plans, is a sign of this going off the rails. The only correct answer if a PM calls and offers you a particular Ministry is surely “Yes, Prime Minister”.
Of course it is natural to have ambitions, and to be disappointed if they are thwarted, but the focus must always be on the team. 
Almost everyone in politics has some terrible setbacks and disappointments and they are all told time and again to “suck it up” (think of Bill Hayden, Simon Crean – just to name past leaders who went on to Ministerial service with great dignity).
There are some disappointed people across the country this week who have missed out on a front bench position they desired. They, like others before them, will rightly be advised that they will be measured by how they cope and recover from defeat or a set back. To take stock, find other ways to add value and prove why the Party should promote them.
And this is good advice – it just needs to be applied consistently.
This was never demanded of Kevin after he lost the Prime Ministership and it should have been. He and his supporters did not adhere to the standards they had demanded of others.
I’ll deal in more detail with the leadership change in 2010,(so hold judgment on that for a moment), but I cannot discuss the need to put collective interests first and fail to mention my opinion of Kevin’s determined bad behavior after his humiliating removal. Even if you accept the method of his removal was unfair – nothing excuses persistently destabilizing and leaking against your own team during an election, or as a senior minister or as a backbencher.
If you are part of a Labor team, and care about its mission, you put that before your own hurt or ambition.
No–one can any longer be in any doubt how trenchantly and continuously this occurred at both Kevin’s hand and his supporters - caucus knows it and the media knows it. Although his removal was dramatic and brutal, it was his refusal to recover with dignity, to rise above the treatment he was meted out (as has for eternity been required of others) and failure to claim his place as a constructive elder statesmen that, in my view, showed his true nature.
You may think this demand is an unrealistic ask, but its not really. Just compare it to the exemplary behavior of John Brumby, who surely must’ve been as bitterly disappointed and humiliated as Kevin was when he was removed as leader on the eve of an election, after years of hard work in opposition.
 (7) Good governments run best with good diaries – so boring, but universally true.
This is not just about housekeeping, as it seems, but you actually can get better policy, get more done and protect against foreseeable problems if you plan a diary and run to plan. You can only get to an end game if you have planned where you want to go.
The machinery of Government is enormous. And it can be put to enormous good. But it is a slow moving beast – no matter how bold or impatient a government may be. If plans and projects are set, parameters identified and clear instructions given, with regular and consistent oversight – the work produced can be excellent. Thousands of people can work more effectively around you if direction is set early, timetables stuck to, and materials are read. 
But if political direction chops and changes, if the questions being asked constantly move, if deadlines come and go without meaning – it is very inefficient, and ultimately dispiriting. Its politically confused too.
Kevin had a terrible habit of attending meetings not having read detailed papers that he had commissioned at the last meeting – often very complex ones, at very short notice. For example, I remember a meeting only days before Christmas 2009 where a total rewrite of a health policy was demanded. Despite many, many hours of work into the night, I do not believe that paper was ever to do this day read by the Prime Minister, let alone read over a Christmas holiday he had already ruined for others.
Let me emphasize that, everyone, me included, loved having a Prime Minister so interested and passionate about their portfolio, so were prepared to put up with a lot. Everyone certainly understood the level of demands on the PM’s time, and would have willingly provided a brief overview to start the meetings where we left off, but this was never permitted. 
Doctors and nurses also adored having the PM at their hospital and swelled with pride at the interest he showed. I suspect this is why none of them complained about late notice, constantly changing days to visit and being chronically late. Once over 20 hotel rooms had to be paid for as the hospital we were scheduled to visit the following day was en route in the PM’s plane. We went instead to a city hundreds of kilometers away and was cancelled too late for a refund.
Several times we were called to last minute meetings on Sundays at the Lodge – to work through a roadblock. Wayne, Julia, myself and senior staff would be told on the Friday or Saturday to be at the meeting in Canberra the next day. On one occasion staff spent that whole day on the lawn playing handball, not allowed in, but not allowed to go home to rest, or be with partners and family. More than one relationship was destroyed by this relentless disorganization.
The real tragedy, though, was that despite over 100 visits to hospitals and health services (with Kevin, me and three junior ministers), we had not been able to pin down Kevin to use this focus and phenomenal interest to move the debate, to test out our ideas, or even to resolve some key areas of contention (like the takeover of hospitals question, that Kevin favoured and I did not). 
The visits over six months bought us time, and significant goodwill, but it wasn’t time used to also prepare the ground for the final reforms to be put to the states or to capitalize on this amount of energy and enthusiasm. For example, the last minute addition of the GST component of the health deal was only revealed to Premiers in curt phone calls on the morning of Kevin’s press club speech – and we all know how that ended up.
In my personal view, this very mundane “household hint” is one key to why the community did not always understand or absorb how much the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments were actually able to achieve. A lot was being done, but it chopped and changed from health reform, the response the GFC, carbon pricing, mining tax and more.
Although my examples are inevitably health ones, they mirrored what occurred on other fronts too. 
Good housekeeping, planning and diary management is necessary to develop good policy, to shape Labor’s purpose and to deliver to the community. Governments need to plan. Great progressive reforms simply can’t be delivered on a whim. 
(8) Chose good people - as leaders, as MPs and as staff. 
In every walk of life, successful organizations need a pool of talented people, and politics is no different.
This seems pretty basic. And on this front, I have to say I am very optimistic about our future. We get this right, more often than we get it wrong. Having a strong choice of two capable politicians in the recent leadership ballot is just one measure of this. And I reckon Bill and Tanya are as close to “the dream team” as you can get.
I’d like you to look also, though, at the incredibly capable and interesting new members coming into the Parliament, even at a tough election for us:
o Tim Watts in Gellibrand – a tech-head business person with experience in communications and climate change, a Masters from London School of Economics and a community activist against racism,
o Claire O’Neill in Hotham – a Fulbright Scholarship winner, Victoria’s youngest ever woman mayor and a person who has spent a year living with the indigenous community in Gove before her election
o Nova Peris – Labor’s first aboriginal woman senator and Olympic gold medallist
o Jim Chalmers – a very senior staffer, political strategist and thinker.
We ought notice those community leaders and local campaigners like school principal Joanne Ryan, or Newcastle hometown girl Sharon Claydon and bright spark Lisa Chesters in Bendigo – whose connections with their communities and good local campaigning should not be undervalued.
And this time of rebuilding is a chance for others who have not been utilised enough to date to come to the fore – I see Catherine King (with regional and health policy background), Andrew Leigh (with economic brain power and relentless analytical skills) and Shayne Newman (a Queensland family lawyer with great commonsense that comes from real life experience) just to name a few who are stepping up at this time.
And for every good staffer you employ, you double the effective work you can do – so they are worth their weight in gold. They need to be chosen carefully and nurtured. Time needs to be taken to help staff develop and ensure your senior team is properly overseeing and nurturing the others. In busy political life, time must be taken to get the right people and a good mix in your office of those with technical skills, political skills and maturity.
(9) Accept you are not always right, and cannot always fix everything – it’s easier with this as your starting point.
If the public is promised a messiah, they’re inevitably going to be disappointed.
Political messages do need to be clear. They don’t have cut through if they are not. In the beginning, Kevin was brilliant at this. Its why he was so successful at the 2007 election – he talked straight and people understood and liked him.
The curse, of course, is that the problems you are trying to solve and policies needed to do so are often complex. So we came unstuck when the solutions were necessarily more subtle or convoluted than the cut through message initially delivered. 
“The buck stops with me”, “the biggest moral challenge of our time” are examples that made sense and garnered interest and support, but they come with big risks, as the realities of Government can make this cut through language a dead weight or burden. Its always more convincing to say you’ll “fix” something, when “improve” is a more accurate statement.
In 2007, Kevin was great at cut through, then struggled at follow through.
In contrast, Julia was brilliantly thorough at delivering, but couldn’t always deliver the message. 
Kevin had a fatal attraction to everyone else’s problems. He never saw a problem that he didn’t believe he should try and fix.
I recall at least two shocking examples in my portfolio of the interfering and demanding approach taken to the Fukishima Nuclear plant disaster (Kevin was Foreign Minister by then) and the Victorian Bushfires. Neither of these were situations where the Commonwealth could have much of a direct role and these excessive meetings in the middle of crises took up valuable time of the front line officials who were really needed on the ground.
Fuel watch and grocery watch were perhaps two other examples of overreach.
(10) and lastly, Never forget polling is only a snapshot, not a predictor.
Otherwise we resign ourselves to a static life – and a progressive party will never win without new ideas, and new ideas take time to be absorbed.
Over-analysed, published opinion polls are having a corrosive effect on Australian politics. Their meaning and value have been given enormous weight, way, way above their real value. This is perhaps exacerbated by the advent of online media as these polls, paid for by old print media, is often one of the few exclusives they have – so they are inflated by the same media who commission them.
But apart from that, we have allowed the polls, and the way journalists interpret them, to have too much influence. Polls can tell us what the current state of play is, but not what might happen.
What a poll can never tell us, is what the results may be after a six month concerted effort to turn an argument around. They are unable to show what might change with persistence.
Its hard to imagine, in the Button era, that the Hawke Government would ever have introduced Capital Gains Tax or Fringe Benefits Tax if the polling was slavishly followed, yet they won the 1987 election.
I truly and strongly believe we’ve got to be more prepared to see things through, to sell them, to explain, to meet criticisms. Polls can’t tell you that someone disagrees with you, but begrudgingly admires your determination. So a static reading of the polls only tells you so much.
Some of the post election analysis has been similarly blunt, and dominated by the number of seats allegedly “saved” by Kevin at the election. It stems from the same type of thinking that allows fortnightly polls to dominate decision-making. I don’t agree with the analysis that Kevin’s poll popularity saved us more seats that Julia’s more consistent and planned campaigning would have, but as there is never a control test I won’t waste limited time arguing the toss tonight - my point is broader than that. 
We know bums on seats in Parliament do matter – but they aren’t all that matters. If the damage to our sense of purpose, to our reputation for delivering good policy and for caring for the community is severe – this reputational loss, and lack of purpose, can take longer to recover from than it takes to win back seats here and there. 
And it is harder to win the seats back if you people don’t think you stand for anything. The polls can’t help you on this.
I believe we must also confront the bitter truth that as long as Kevin remains in Parliament, irrespective of how he behaves, pollsters will run comparisons with him and any other leader.
In my opinion, and it is only my opinion, for the good of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party and the movement as a whole, Kevin Rudd should leave the Parliament. Otherwise the action of any Labor leader will always be tested through the prism of popularity compared to him. As well as being constantly unsettling, we should’ve learned this is not a recipe for success either.
So – perhaps there is one remaining question you may have about my perspective on this time in Government. And it is a biggie. 
After all these tips for good and bad behavior for the future … do I believe we behaved properly in removing Kevin as PM in 2010?
While I think the Labor caucus made the right decision, we handled it very poorly.
I think we had all the right reasons to act, but I think we were clumsy and short sighted in the way we did it. We didn’t explain the dysfunctional decision-making and lack of strategy I’ve focused on a lot tonight. We didn’t talk about his rudeness, or contempt for staff and disrespect for public servants (a measure of this was public servants saving up briefs to send to the PM’s office as soon as Kevin went overseas because they got quicker and more thoughtful responses from Julia as acting-PM). 
Removing Kevin was an act of political bastardry, for sure. But this act of political bastardy was made possible only because Kevin had been such a bastard himself to so many people.
Even though the reasons were there to justify our action, I don’t think we handled it properly at the time, and Labor has paid a very high price for this mishandling ever since.
If Kevin had been an employee, he would have won his unfair dismissal case. Not because there wasn’t cause to dismiss him, but because we didn’t explain the reasons properly to him, let alone to the voting public.
As an industrial lawyer I used to see a lot of these cases – where there was good cause to dismiss someone but the employer hadn’t given notice of the problem, or used a different excuse because it was too embarrassing to simply tell a colleague they weren’t up to the job, or that everyone found them unbearable. 
So after the most brutal and speedy sacking, we got overcome with politeness and thought it would save Kevin pain to say as little as possible and move on quickly. What the rest of the world calls a polite white lie, became political poison. It was something that Julia unfairly wore as a heavy chain around her neck for her entire Prime Ministership, although we all truly bore responsibility for it.
In the absence of a more accurate explanation, Julia was painted as a treacherous Deputy, although it was spectacularly unfair and way off the mark. In fact, in the twelve months prior, I watched her work through each and every roadblock Ministers brought to her. She took each Minister’s complex problem or frustration to Kevin and helped resolve pressing matters as a diligent and trusted Deputy. I never saw any evidence to the contrary.
So although at the time it seemed unimaginable to contemplate being so publically rude to your own PM, with the benefit of hindsight, some of us should’ve spoken out – if not before, at least immediately after. 
Instead, we made a brutal decision and then shied from the brutal explanation that was needed. 
We left everyone looking for other answers and by doing this we did a great disservice to both Kevin and Julia. On its own it would’ve cast a long shadow over the next three years in Government, and with active fanning by Kevin and his supporters, it proved impossible to recover from.
So I hope my take on events might be worth something to the next generation. I hope they will have learned from this period, and will not repeat its mistakes.
The new Labor team will need to lift itself above the personality politics, stop seeing things as “Kevin legacies” or “Julia legacies”, and just see them proudly as “Labor legacies”. This will better honour our forbears like John Button.
Surely he, like we, would be proud of how we’ve left the country a better place after our 6 years of government - with better resourced schools and more information on quality and development for parents, with extra funding to hospitals, thousands more doctors, new cancer centres, plain packaging of tobacco, a fairer industrial relations system and paid parental leave, a strong economy enabling
Disability care. This is not to mention the bravery and wisdom to put a price on carbon pollution, the vision and foresight to plan the National Broadband Network and the compassion to set up the Royal Commission into child abuse. All this, and so much more.
And now the invitation is to the next generation to think how they will refresh the Labor purpose – to pump some new blood into its beating heart. And to be ready to conduct themselves with dignity, so they get time to bed down the vital reforms of the next generation, reforms that we know only Labor will deliver.
We should never, ever as a Party be ashamed of our past.
We should celebrate it, learn from it, and use it to improve our nation’s future.