The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Swan and the Ruddster versus the Global Financial Crisis

Tuesday 12 May 2009 at 4:29 pm

Hourann’s Federal Budget verdict: not perfect, but decent, and surprisingly well balanced.

Most of the criticism I’ve read is rubbish — what’s up with Joe Hockey and this “lost control” nonsense, or his constant dummy-spit about taking on some debt? There is a pretty strong global consensus that cutting spending is unwise (witness California, or indeed any American state), and while it’d be lovely and morally pure to remain debt-free, that’s nigh impossible in the current climate. We will at least still be one of the least-indebted OECD members, and unless the recession becomes long-lived and revenues drop sharply again, the proposed debt is quite manageable.

Rather than arguing about how much is spent, though, I think it’s quite fair to entertain criticism on where it’s spent. There is room for decent arguments that this budget does scant little for the environment, that the spending on education is good but not targeted correctly, or that the proposed infrastructure spending is neither big enough nor bold enough. But then again, see above; not going too far into deficit is a pretty important consideration, and on that front I think the general balance looks about right. (Imagine if the spending levels had been Keating-esque!)

Oh, and the budget includes $236 million for the Northbridge Link rail project in Perth (leaving the Sydney Morning Herald to whine on the front page). Again not perfect (it’s not enough to go past Lake Street!), but still, who says the Commonwealth never did anything for WA? ;-)


Budgets and Asian disasters and work and parties

Monday 9 June 2008 at 6:16 pm

So I have been naughty and working too hard, quite apart from being naughty with respect to this blog. Although we did squeeze out a new Lichen version a fortnight ago, and if or when things finish up at the day job I do believe the next version of Azureus will be sweet.

Some of the things I’ve been wanting to write about:

  • Oh how the honeymoon has come crashing down for the Ruddster and his peeps! First there was the Federal Budget, which was generally sensible but reeked of compromise in every direction (that, and an unhealthy obsession with Costello-style future funds). Then we have inflation egad, public sector overworking oh my, and premix tax eeek! But it’s okay: they had pictures of troops leaving Iraq to distract the masses.
  • Speaking of Budgets, WA’s was remarkably unremarkable given it’s what Carps will be calling an election on. I mean, sure there are billions being splashed about for infrastructure and whatnot, but that kind of announcement is kinda getting old. (Then again, I’ve documented enough times how poor the field is.)
  • It amuses me how much sound and fury has been generated by the plan for a national version of FuelWatch. Surely the logic should be simple: did it work in WA? if so, implement! … just like the other State policies that went national (TravelSmart, Go For 2 & 5, and others; WA actually does have a reasonably inventive bureaucracy. Not to say FuelWatch is perfect, but having foresight does make us all feel better).
  • If Burma’s military leaders were a little less skilled at crushing dissent, they’d probably have riotous mobs demanding their heads for the latest in a long line of cock-ups. Alas, they’re not, and so their country has become even more of a mess than it was. Compare the Chinese government, who have done a far better job handling their natural disaster — not to say the Communist Party are any good at logistics, but at least they didn’t get unfriendly headlines before the Olympics.
  • Onto less weighty matters: may I briefly say, I deeply dislike the new Google favicon? It doesn’t look Google-ey at all, making it that much harder to find searches amongst twenty browser tabs …
  • The WordPress party of two weeks ago was fun! There was schwag from Automattic! I met people from such diverse places as Connecticut and Sweden! And there were many more ladies than your average geek event ;-)
  • This, I think, is hilarious — who’da thunk a metro ride could be so rowdy! And it reminds me of how weird it (still) seems to see people downing beer on trains here, while the staff walk past not caring.
  • Although, speaking of, I felt sorry for the girl across from me on the last Caltrain service out of San Francisco after the WordPress party, whose parents were going off at her on the phone for riding the train; apparently nice girls don’t do that sort of thing …

Rudd in China, the GG, and transportey things

Tuesday 15 April 2008 at 6:37 am
  • The Ruddster didn’t do a bad job of communicating to the Chinese government their failings last week. Not that I expect this to achieve anything — he certainly isn’t the first leader to quiz ’em about Tibet — but it’s nice to see him not kowtowing. Although the greatest substance from this meeting seems to have been some muttering about clean coal, which won’t exactly save the world from Chinese pollution.
  • We are soon to have a new Governor-General, and like the bloke who appointed her, she’s from Queensland! (Oh, and she’s female.)
  • In the airline industry, I’m sad to see Oasis Hong Kong shut down — all the British backpackers I met in Hong Kong were raving about how cheap their fares were — and I wonder how many other airlines’ business models are in trouble.
  • Finally, I’m not yet sure that I trust Google’s Transit service, which recently added data from Transperth — apparently it takes twenty minutes to walk the platform bridge at Cockburn Central. And for all its flaws, the Transperth site is at least reliable in its recommendations since it knows about things like station closures. Compare to the Bay Area’s equivalent sites, which suck in general but also do wonderful things like leave me stranded in San Jose for an hour because a light rail station was being rebuilt.
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Some bloke in Canberra is actually doing stuff!

Saturday 1 March 2008 at 10:09 am

Ruddster, oh Ruddster, what are you doing?

Signing the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture? Promising to reform campaign donations, including removing tax-deductibility and maybe even banning corporate donations? Subsidising the construction of rental homes?

Are you sure your government isn’t taking a hard swing to the left? Because it kinda sounds like it is!

(Not that that’s necessarily bad — it’s certainly quite effective at keeping the public happy!)

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Wednesday 13 February 2008 at 7:03 pm

Whether you were celebrating or stumping up in the “I’m not sorry” camp, today does count as one of the most significant days in recent Australian history. It’s not often that Parliament admits to ever being wrong, nevermind offering remorse. And the Ruddster has yet again ticked an item off the left-o’-centre wishlist (right after dumping the Pacific Solution, too).

The speech was, I think, thoughtful and well-balanced, befitting an occasion this important. And Rudd’s delivery was impressive — he’s getting in to the role and doing the prime-ministerly thing very well.

Brendan Nelson, however, showed no such dignified charisma, even if his speech had crackly-voice moments that suggested he has emotions! I don’t actually think it was a bad speech (particularly given past Liberal policy) but it also wasn’t up to scratch for such an historically significant day.

The prize for not getting the significance, though, goes to ol’ Wilson Tuckey — who hilariously stood by yesterday’s welcome to country in the wings with arms crossed, and was equally standoffish today :-)

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It’s crucial that Parliament apologise! … or something?

Friday 1 February 2008 at 4:27 pm

Oh look, even the syndicated BBC cable TV news picked up on the story! Our Ruddster is going to be all symbolic, just like he was with the Kyoto Protocol, and deliver an apology to Aboriginal people.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a long-overdue move, but making it the first official action of the new House of Reps strikes me as all symbolism and no substance. Wake me when they come up with an actual plan to fix service delivery and welfare programmes to help out Aboriginal people lacking education — and those frittering what cash they have on booze.

And on this matter of compensation. Aside from the fact that the Commonwealth is rich beyond anything in recent memory and can realistically afford it anyway, the fears (and demands) from different people are all pretty irrelevant if compo ends up as just another payment that’s not directed at improving life for indigenous Australians …

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