Coming Soon: Plain Packaging For Alcohol

As regular readers of this blog would be aware, I have written and spoken at length about the illegal, nanny state, intellectual-property-rights destroying plain packaging legislation, and in doing so, I noted how its acceptance. In doing so, I warned that it shall invariably lead to calls for plain packaging of alcohol, and other products deemed "unsuitable" by bureaucrats. 

It would seem this is happening faster than even I thought possible.

Yesterday, the allegedly conservative British Government announced an "alcohol strategy" inquiry.  One of the things being looked at:  "Plain packaging and marketing bans".

How long do you think before either Gillard or Brown propose this here? 

Tim Andrews

In defence of skepticism on climate change

Major Karnage explains that skepticism is the only way to believe the science and not the spin

Reviewing the "Heartland affair", Robert Murphy notes how one climate scientist did not think that the actual evidence against Heartland was enough and decided to forge a more "damning" document; and how gleefully the rest of the climate change movement began adopting this clearly forged document with no skepticism whatsoever: Diminished Climate Alarmism: Lessons from L’Affair Heartland — MasterResource

Now to be sure, climate science isn’t the same thing as politics and the blogosphere. Just because these climate alarmists showed ridiculously bad judgment when it came to the Heartland affair, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are wrong about the trajectory of global temperatures in the absence of mitigation strategies. However, I do think this episode—and the reaction of the skeptic community during Climategate—are quite illustrative of the two camps’ approaches to the actual science. Back when the Climategate emails were first spreading around the Internet, I distinctly remember many people in the comments at blogs such as ClimateAudit warning their peers by saying things like, “Guys, remember, we’re skeptics. This is too good to be true. Let’s not jump up and down on this, because it might be a trap to make us look gullible.” In contrast, the major players on the other side—when Heartland was “caught” saying things that were far more absurd than what the Climategate emails revealed—jumped with glee. For example…

Walter Russell Mead posits his analysis of the incentives leading to distortions in the climate debate: How Green Gullibility, Hyperpartisanship Are Wrecking The Climate Movement | Via Meadia.

  • The climate movement’s proposals (above all, the global carbon treaty that in theory will subject the economic output of  every country on earth to global controls) are radical, costly and virtually certain to fail.
  • To be enacted, these unpromising measures require an unprecedented degree of consensus, as every major country on earth would have to accept, ratify and then enforce the climate treaty the movement seeks.
  • The climate movement must therefore be, in Dean Acheson’s words, “clearer than truth” in order to stampede public and elite opinion around the world into a unique and unparalleled act of global legislation.
  • Because many in the climate movement believe that this treaty is literally a matter of life and death for the human race, the moral case both for stretching the evidence and attacking critics of that agenda as aggressively as possible looks strong to weak minds.
  • The absence of any central authority or quality control in the climate movement (and the tendency of unbalanced foundation execs and direct mail contributors to provide greater support to those ready to take more aggressive action and espouse more alarming ideas) gives more radical and less responsible voices undue prominence and entangles the whole movement in dubious claims.
  • The increasing obstacles encountered by such a poorly conceptualized and poorly advocated agenda cause the embittered and alarmed advocates to circle the wagons and become both more extreme in their rhetoric and less guarded in their claims when precisely the opposite approach would work better.

I must say that I have a lot of sympathy for this position, although I do not think the phenomenon is limited to the "the world is ending" side of the debate; the other side is just as irrational and just as selective in its facts/deliberately deceptive for policy reasons. What we essentially have is a political debate posing as a scientific one. The best example of this is the fact that the most commonly cited reason to believe in the climate change alarm is the supposed "scientific consensus" shown through petitions like this one – the idea being that if 31,487 scientists agree with something, it can't possibly be wrong. The very idea makes a mockery of

the scientific process. Since when was science measured by opinion polls?!? By politicising the issue so radically, scientists are forced to take sides, and measuring the number that each side has is hardly productive towards settling the debate. Just look at this paragraph from NASA's website: Climate Change: Causes | NASA

In its recently released Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there's a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet.

The "Intergovernmental" is revealing of quite how politicised the debate has been from the very beginning — the "science" of climate change is not being determined independently, but by people with clear vested interests in a certain outcome. This leads to situations like that 90% figure, which I will translate for the non-mathematicians amongst you:

The 90% is the significance level of the model that they have created to show changes in the climate over the past 250 years. A mathematical model is similar to other models, in that it is a smaller, simplified version of a complex original. What they have done is taken all known measurements of temperature in the world and averaged them out per year to try and find the "global average temperature over time"; then they have incorporated all of the factors that they know to affect the environment in order to find an equation that "models" the effects these things have; then they test how well the model fits the actual recorded temperatures. The "significance level" shows the probability that any one point on the model will reflect the actual observed temperature.

To say that there is a 90% probability that human activities have warmed the planet is misleading. In actual fact, the model that the IPCC generated including estimated human greenhouse gas emissions has a 90% chance of fitting the observed results — which is a far less persuasive statement; especially since, as anyone who has formally studied statistics would know, general practise is to work to a 95% significance level.

This is not at all to say that CO2 emissions are not playing a role in warming our climate or that the climate is not warming: both of these points are, more or less, beyond dispute. What I am saying is that — contrary to what a certain Australian Government keeps telling us — the science is not "settled". There is a lot we have left to learn and a lot that is uncertain.

Of course, to deny the proven science is not productive either. In fact, I would recommend a healthy dose of skepticism whenever you read anything related to climate change, pro or anti. Nothing outside of the internal debates in the scientific community hold much water these days.

And no Ms Gillard, the science is not "in". Science does not come "in", we're not talking poll results. That's not how science works.

Major Karnage is a Sydney-based young professional. This was originally posted on his personal blog

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Paint it Blue – Queensland and the ACT


Timothy Gow looks at the coming ACT election:

Australians are embracing the coalition.  The Labor movement has failed to sell itself as any of a moderate neo-liberal party, a party of the worker, or a party of the environment.  Instead, it is being rejected comprehensively by the Australian people.  In New South Wales and Queensland, a year apart, we saw Labor Strongholds collapse while Liberals consolidated and expanded.  Labor voters were not turning to the Greens either, with their swing being mere fractions of the swings to the Coalition parties.

The painful damage of the Queensland election to the Labor party is still fresh in the media and the public’s minds.  The extent of the massacre is stunning, even to those who supported the LNP winners.  Two weeks ago, the talk was of 20-23 seats.  No one imagined they would not meet even half that number.  Federal Labor is already rationalising, clinging to the fiction that the election was solely based on state issues.  Even though she apparently accepts that the message of the Queensland election applies to her as well as state Labor, it is a fact that Gillard always viewed Bligh as a liability.  Perhaps she is in some ways relieved that the damage is done, the bloodletting is over, and that perhaps Queenslanders will be sated before the next federal election.

The 2010 federal election seemed to be an expression of uncertainty by the Australian people.  Though the Liberals gained and gained well, it has to be accepted that they were not embraced, especially not in the way that NSW and QLD were.  The coming election will tell a different narrative,  the story of a government of alliances versus a tenacious opposition, of carbon tax or no carbon tax, budget waste or budget cuts.  Assuming that the Gillard government survives its term, there will be another prelude to that show.  It will still take place in Canberra, but be fought on a more local level.

Onward goes the Show

The Australian Capital Territory will be holding its election in October.   The ACT is as much a Labor stronghold as any of those that fell to Newman and O’Farrell.  While the ACT is perhaps not the prize that New South Wales and Queensland are, it is an election that will be held closer to the federal election than they are, and will be a test of how Labor can defend its voter base.

Given that she Gallagher government is one that has failed its constituents in many ways, defending voters is certainly something that the ACT Labor government will be trying to do.  In addition to bringing forth a 181 million dollar deficit, policies which should form Jewells in the ACT Labor Crown are instead thorns.  The Gungahlin Drive Extension, a new major road connecting suburbs in Canberra, blew out severely.  It was promised to be completed by 2004, in 2001 and at a cost of 53 million.  Instead, it cost 200 million, and completed in 2011.  The ACT Labor government still had the guts to claim it was 2 months ahead of schedule.  The cotter dam, a key infrastructure project for Canberra water security, was costed at 120 million originally, but is now at over 300 million and counting

ACTION, the public bus and public transport service with exclusive rights to local bus routes in Canberra, costs every Canberra tax payer $321 dollars a year.  These buses break down every five hours (as noted in the Canberra Times).  ACTION is notorious for providing a poor and inconsistent service that is infrequent and unsatisfactory.  It has also been bogged down in multiple industrial disputes from unions. The waste is also on a smaller level.  One example is the $400,000 owl sculpture, or the $800 monthly phone bills spent by government staff.   All the while, public housing queues are growing, child care is incredibly expensive, elective surgery waiting lists are the longest in the country, and emergency waiting times are growing and growing.  The list, unfortunately, just goes on.  It is therefore a great opportunity to persuade Canberrans to vote for change, as Queenslanders did.

A Difficult Campaign

Canberra provides two very safe Labor seats federally.  This is merely reinforced locally by the fact that the Labor government gets campaign finance from gambling in their local clubs.  Despite finance reform achieved by the Liberals and Greens, the ALP has begun playing with the books to ensure the availability of large war chests for elections to come.   Such a well oiled machine with such a strong entrenchment means that victory in the ACT is all the more important, and would be all the more significant.

The Liberals are providing a good team with a focus on local government, local solutions and local concerns, and they are giving the territory the best chance it has had in a decade, of painting the city blue and returning sensible government.  The path to October is long and the political tussle will be tough.  Inevitably, it is the support of the people that wins the day in democracy.  Let the ACT follow NSW and QLD.


Timothy Gow is a 22 year old Politics and International relations student, and President of the Liberal Society at the University of Canberra.


The World is Worth Saving from Darkness

The annual let’s sit around in the dark for one hour is on again this Saturday.

It’s actually a glimpse of what our future is like thanks to the Gillard governments Carbon Tax.


Earth Hour is EVERY hour in North Korea.

So don’t sit in the dark this Saturday night. Turn on all the lights and recognise the incredible accomplishments of the human race. The world is worth saving from darkness.

The only good thing to come from Earth Hour is all the new future taxpayers that will be born in December.

Green is the New Red.


Human achievement hour poster

Andy has broken his self-imposed Time Out to post this reminder to celebrate this Saturday night's Human Achievement Hour. So please celebrate. Turn on your lights, the TV, the microwave, the air conditioner. Andy will be back to fulltime posting in early May 2012.


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Taxpayer Funded “Research” says Anzac Day celebrations divisive

FEDERAL government-commissioned research claims commemorating the centenary of Anzac Day is a "double-edged sword" and a "potential area of divisiveness" because of multiculturalism.

Bureaucrats spent almost $370,000 for focus group testing and a research paper to guide commemoration plans.

How do you think we should celebrate the anzac centenary? Leave your comment below.

"Commemorating our military history in a multicultural society is something of a double-edged sword," the paper states. "While the 100th anniversaries are thought to provide some opportunity for creating a greater sense of unity, it is also recognised as a potential area of divisiveness.

"There are strong views either way in terms of how to recognise any 'non-Australian' military service of those who now live here." More research into the impact of Anzac Day commemorations on recently arrived migrants was suggested.



And of course, they want more money for more of this "research"…


Queensland: What The Hell Just Happened?

David-Russell David Russell explains the Queensland election 'massacre': 

Those who live outside the borders of the Sunshine State may choose to think this weekend’s state election means little to them. Entirely their choice, of course. But there are ramifications which will likely impact politics in every state and territory from here on.

So, what the hell just happened? Well, the Australian Labor Party lost office in a landslide after holding the reins of power for 20 of the past 22 years. In which case, one might well say: oh, it was simply natural justice – the other side gets to have a go again. And that is certainly true but there are many nuances which followers of politics may find worthy of reflection.

For a start, it was not just a landslide. It was a massacre. Even the powerfully evocative analogy of voters sitting quietly on their verandahs cuddling baseball bats, waiting to deliver judgment on the incumbent administration fails to get the full measure of this rout.

Labor had assumed the mantle of natural party of government after a decade of reform and reasonable economic management. Its initial triumph over the National Party – itself a government in various guises for 32 years – demonstrated the validity of two axioms: power corrupts and nothing lasts forever.

It was after Peter Beattie’s second election victory for Labor that the seeds of this weekend’s cataclysm were sown. Beattie was glib and his greatest gift was empathy. He struck a chord with Queenslanders and they forgave him numerous faults because he appeared genuine. Time and again he apologised for administrative stuff-ups and all was forgiven – until the electorate worked out that the mistakes were not being corrected systemically. Ministers were not held to account and a culture of arrogance soon took root. This was the genesis of the apocalypse.

In the normal course of Australian politics, Labor would have lost the 2006 election but voters proved that while they may appear apathetic, there’s not a lot of things they miss. Queenslanders, largely, were willing to farewell Labor that year but they were simply not willing to endorse a coalition of Liberal and National parties that were dysfunctional in their relationship. Labor got back.

Much the same happened in 2009. Beattie knew his time was up and vacated the hot seat for Anna Bligh, his chosen successor. Voters again were not satisfied that the Liberals and Nationals could peacefully co-exist on the government benches so, again, Labor won by default. This was to prove pivotal.

Bligh became the first woman Premier to be elected in Australia. Two others had achieved the office: Joan Kirner in Victoria and Carmen Lawrence in Western Australia; but could not win election in their own right. With a fifth victory, Labor – and Bligh especially – began to believe they could not produce a bad odour. So, when Bligh quickly announced that she would privatise $15 billion of state assets to help ward off the Global Financial Crisis, voters were stunned. No mention had been made of this during the campaign and they felt cheated. Bligh failed to sell her reasoning and that was when many Queenslanders decided they would get their own revenge.

But while much has been made of Queenslanders’ anger at asset sales, it was not that per se which cost Labor so dearly. The real reason, I contend, is that Labor failed to produce a decent dividend from the privatisation. Bligh still claims the money created jobs but has never produced any evidence that this was truly the case. Meantime, the Sunshine State remains blighted by a lack of infrastructure; a massive debt set to reach $85 billion shortly and the loss of our vaunted AAA credit rating. The signal barometer of Labor’s poor performance is that it inherited arguably the best hospital system of any Australian state and has reduced it to a shambles under which many patients can’t get treatment, nearly as many spend unconscionable time waiting for treatment, bureaucrats outnumber medical staff and a payroll system stubbornly refuses to pay any of them properly.

Just as crippling was a virulent malaise that can be classified as The Labor Disease. This is the insidious practice of spin doctoring. The ALP became a world-class exponent of this fatuous form of power at any price. The astute use of focus groups and qualitative market research enabled Labor strategists to identify emerging issues and pinpoint voters’ hot buttons with laser-like accuracy. Over the past two decades, particularly, they have ruthlessly exploited this capability to inflict enormous pain on the conservative political parties across the nation.

Oh, it is not that the conservatives have not tried to emulate Labor because they certainly have – sometimes with success. But, for Labor, spin has become an end in itself. Ultimately, Labor has forgotten what it truly stands for as it blindly chases any issues which may deliver political advantage. The true believers have been left with no credo. Labor is living a sad fantasy that it still represents the ideals which led to its formation a century ago.

This is the true lesson of the 2012 Queensland election. Brand Labor is a failure because its practitioners have forgotten the fundamental attributes of their product. It is near unsaleable anymore because voters know the quality of the original product has been watered-down so badly that it is over-priced, offers little taste and next to no nutrition.

This is the brutal reality of Labor being left with fewer seats than qualifies it for official party status in the Queensland parliament. This is the brutal reality of electorates that have been Labor strongholds for a century now hosting LNP Members of Parliament with comfortable majorities. The truly brutal reality that Labor must now confront – not just in Queensland but elsewhere across the nation – is that many of its most die-hard supporters have indulged the ultimate act of betrayal and voted for their arch-enemies to deliberately tell their party it has lost the plot.

It must be noted that the staunchest Labor voters generally did not exercise a protest by giving their ballot to an alternative like the Greens or even the Katter Rednecks. No, they went straight to the Liberal National Party – for generations the most hated bogeyman they could use to frighten children – in their droves. Truly, this is a momentous challenge for Labor.

Thus far, there is scant evidence all but a few Labor stalwarts have realised just how precarious is their position. Anna Bligh’s valedictory was an object lesson that those who will not see just won’t ever get it. Her lengthy ode to her own term in office failed to address the factors that brought her supposedly beloved party to the brink of extinction in Queensland. Attempting to defy the adage that it is the victor who gets to rewrite history, Bligh extolled her own perceived triumphs blithely ignoring the hard truths that must be faced if Labor is to rediscover its purpose.

Bligh mounted the most negative, slanderous campaign of character assassination yet attempted in Australia.  At no stage did Labor offer a vision for the future of Queensland. They had zip, zilch, nada. Just nothing. And voters clearly recognised this. It appears to have still not occurred to Bligh that her real legacy is not becoming the first woman elected Premier of an Australian state but failing so badly to capitalise on that achievement that it has set the cause back substantially.

It is just as pertinent that Labor’s opponents do as much soul-searching over these issues as the ALP should. The lesson for those in the Liberal and National parties who are tempted to triumphalism is that the Australian electorate has now tasted a new volatility. The electorate has learned something from this poll. More than ever before voters are today savouring their own power. They proved to themselves that they can forge a new direction if they want to scout new territory. It would be a fool who believes the LNP has won its new constituency for the long term. If it governs well, it may convert them. But if voters who have fled their comfort zone to try this new product feel they have been taken for granted, we now know just how vicious they can be in demanding satisfaction.

The electorate has spoken in a new and compelling way. We must heed their message, not simply count their ballots. 

David M. Russell is a professional communicator with a passion for good governance. His personal blog can be found at

Bob Brown’s Call For World Government

THE world should be ruled by a new "global parliament" under the auspices of the United Nations, according to Bob Brown.

Delivering the Third Green Oration in Hobart, on the 40th anniversary of the party's founding, Senator Brown asked an audience of "fellow earthians" why the "intergalactic phones" weren't ringing, suggesting advanced civilisations elsewhere in the universe could have "extincted" themselves through their own greed.

In a sweeping address, quoting Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, Senator Brown called on Australia to take the lead in establishing a global parliament to govern issues such as nuclear proliferation, international financial transactions and poverty.

"Unless and until we accord every other citizen of the planet, friend or foe, and regardless of race, gender, ideology or other characteristic, equal regard we, like them, can have no assured future," Senator Brown said.