The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Kevin Rudd, keeping within the 40-yard lines

Tuesday 27 February 2007 at 11:27 pm

I quite like Mel’s term “the Ruddster”, and thus it shall henceforth be the official name of the Federal Opposition Leader on this blog, by pseudo-Royal decree.

So. Sunday’s announcement about “clean coal” — basically, the Ruddster wants to mirror-without-mirroring the Government policy of pumping money into coal power plants using technology that isn’t archaic — struck me as somewhat of a grand compromise, in that it tries to placate Peter Garrett’s crowd (look! it says ‘clean’!) while keeping unions happy.

Indeed, this is the only pattern that stands out to me when looking over his announcements from the last few months: he sticks to the centre of the playing field, doesn’t do anything all that radical or offensive, and he bends over backwards to keep everyone more or less on his side. I wasn’t old enough to ever witness Bob Hawke in action, but “The man who can bring business, government, and the unions together” was a pretty nifty campaign slogan, and the Ruddster seems to be inspired by it.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — heck, if Rudd can keep some peace with conservatives, it’ll save us from the divisive time we’ve had under Howard — but it also means that if he wins the election, I won’t be expecting any ground-breaking new policy direction from him. There may be an exception in the realm of foreign policy, what with the Ruddster being a former DFAT employee and all, but so far he’s been singing a pretty similar tune to past Labor leaders. Maybe this is part of the whole plan: don’t come across as a loose cannon, keep people sympathetic (or at least tolerant), and then rely on the nerdy charm to win over voters!

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Sculptures, fluoro lamps, and foreign policy

Wednesday 21 February 2007 at 6:33 pm

I am disorganised, which means it’s time for another potpourri list.

[Sculptures at Werribee Park, near Melbourne]

  • This is a cool idea and probably worth supporting. The report in yesterday’s West Australian says it’d be an “Australian first”, which hardly sounds right — I took the photos above in a similar sculpture park in Werribee, Victoria.
  • Valé Elizabeth Jolley. Tis always a shame when an author on my “need to read more of” list passes away …
  • Good ol’ IMDB finally has a new design. About freakin’ time.
  • The Federal Government’s plan to outlaw incandescent globes is a bit of a shock and reeks horribly of taking an easy political target just to seem clean and green. It’s a good measure, to be sure, and should prompt innovation among fluoro manufacturers, but it’s not the panacea that it’s being talked up to be. The thing with most ‘environmentally friendly’ technologies is that they’re a case of lesser of two evils — and in this case, compact fluoros are filled with mercury, thus creating a bunch of disposal headaches. It’s a manageable problem, of course, but one that needs to be considered when saying things like “800 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide saved”.
  • Since I don’t exactly have a copy of The Diplomat in my back pocket, I can’t read the exact words of Kevin Rudd as he was reported last week. Apparently he is interested in being both an ally and constructive critic of US policy, which reminds me of a Kim Beazley speech I heard some years back: “Australia should be the friend America needs, not the friend America wants”. But he also talks about APEC and seems to criticise John Howard for supporting the East Asia Summit. I’m commenting on fragmented quotes, but he may be quite wrong, since APEC has thoroughly lost its way. His talk of revitalising APEC is good, as long as it involves reform, but I doubt it’s achievable — the Sydney meetings are straight before the election. As for the EAS, Howard deserves congratulations (not criticism) for representing Australia at a meeting that has much better prospects for earning long-term relevance.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Sunday 18 February 2007 at 10:52 pm

Green buns for Chinese New Year

May the Year of the Pig be prosperous for you all :-)

I was going to post something about Kevin Rudd, but I’ve been eating large quantities of food all day … amongst which the strangest sight was this:

Drying a chicken, with a hairdryer

Yes, that’s a chicken. And a hairdryer. It’s all part of my cousin’s elaborate fried chicken recipe (which is actually pretty good!).

The biggest disappointment was that it was really difficult to find out about New Year celebrations around town — even Simone’s otherwise-awesome blog didn’t have anything. The Chung Wah lion dance troupe seems to have focussed on individual restaurants (see skribe’s video of crackly fun) rather than the public celebrations for which they used to close off James Street (as you might see elsewhere).

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Another rant about housing affordability

Tuesday 13 February 2007 at 9:53 pm

This blog is now working again (or so I hope? I broke a bunch of links yesterday), my e-mail is back in action, and after a somewhat annoying DSPAM setup I have a shiny new anti-spam solution (I might even have to document what I did sometime). So I shall now return you to your regularly scheduled programming: random rants on the state of the State, with a bit of geeky tomfoolery and international politics thrown in for good measure.

There’s been some buzz, for some time, about property prices in Perth and their perceived effects on people who can’t afford a house (naturally, the loudest claims are coming from these guys, and they’re still beating their “taxes must be cut!” drum). Although I wonder about the limited evidence that this is an actual, real, screwing-with-social-welfare problem, it’s definitely an issue with votes in it. So yesterday Mr. Carpenter announced that he’d pitch in up to 40% of the cost of a house less than $365k, for families earning less than $60k per annum.

It’s a clever solution, and in the long term, there could even be profit! It’s also not a new idea, with similar schemes active in Scotland and other parts of the UK, though I’ve found little about whether these have worked.

I see only one flaw: $300 million is an awful lot of money to spend to help just three thousand families, even if it will be returned eventually. There are a lot of things that can be done for less that’d be of benefit to many, many more people. That said, the existing Keystart home loan scheme has also been rather pricey over the years … so maybe that’s just the cost of this kind of welfare.

Finally, and unrelatedly, an international smattering: despite some (predictable) opposition, abortion law in Portugal looks likely to change. I’m intrigued by the way that whaling is in the news again. And while it’s great to hear that there’s a new deal to relieve tensions surrounding North Korea, I wonder how long it’ll be before one of the involved parties breaks their commitment? (As pessimistic as that sounds, it’s been the pattern for years now — and there’s plenty of blame to go around.)


Doing the server shuffle

Sunday 11 February 2007 at 10:52 pm

This ’ere blog is moving servers tonight, so things mightn’t work as you expect and any attempt at leaving comments may result in your Web browser spontaneously combusting right before your eyes.

To entertain in the meantime, here’s a brilliantly funny spoof music video involving Battlestar Galactica. Spoiler warning: this includes clips from the season 2 finale (the awesomeness of which I was only recently able to experience).

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Stadium planning 0, vested interests 1

Wednesday 7 February 2007 at 11:22 pm

Today’s announcement from the WAFC confirms the biggest problem behind Perth getting an awesome new oval stadium: there are too many vested interests thinking they deserve primacy ahead of others who might want to use a facility that will ultimately (factoring in budget blow-outs) cost a billion dollars or so.

No, the new stadium shouldn’t remain in WAFC control. No, Subiaco is not the ideal site (that honour goes to the Burswood Peninsula proposal — it’d create so many opportunities for revitalisation!). And no, I don’t expect that the way things turn out will be anything like what they should be.

One of the design proposals for Beijing's National Stadium. Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image.

Meanwhile, weekend reports said that western suburbs realtor Errol Marron reckons we should build a stadium according to this design (rejected for Beijing 2008 in favour of a “bird’s nest”) somewhere near where he lives. Aside from his ridiculous site suggestions (stadiums need road access and rail access, fer crying out loud), what he’s proposing in terms of paying for (partly paying for?) the stadium’s construction seems awfully vague.

But the design is quite nice — certainly better than any other design suggested so far, although the official planning process isn’t yet at that stage anyway. And why is he falling for the Langoulant line of 60 000 seats when the Beijing design is for 80 000, and Perth needs (IMHO) at least 70 000?

(Unrelatedly: the destruction of rock art on the Burrup Peninsula for Woodside’s Pluto project maybe isn’t as bad as the Perth-based critics have said. Or maybe the bloke in that ABC report has been paid out … I’m not sure.)

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