Tag Archives: LNP

Covid-19 and the ‘Protect Scotland’ app

This post is primarily for Australians because the Protect Scotland app does exactly what our own CovidSafe app was supposed to do… and doesn’t.

A trailer explaining how the app works and what protections it offers

How do we know the Protect Scotland app works?

We know it works because it was developed by Apple and Google [at the 1:00 minute mark] together. This means that the relevant bits of both operating systems that are needed to make the app work, actually talk to each other.

The Australian CovidSafe app failed so spectacularly in the Victorian outbreak because Apple and Android [Google] couldn’t be made to play nice with each other. The media have been silent about this failure, despite the fact that the Federal government’s whole recovery plan post-March was based on the app being able to contact-trace infections without human intervention.

Do I trust Apple and Google to be honest about how much of our privacy they retain? Ordinarily no, not it a month of Sundays. But with this app? I suspect that the rivalry between these two companies is what will ensure that they keep each other honest. After all, if one company manages to sneak something in that gives them a long term financial advantage, that could spell disaster for the other company.

So, if mobile phones can be used to track and trace people infected with Covid-19, then it might just be possible to ‘live with’ the virus. Maybe. Technology aside, though, just because the app alerts people to the fact that they may have been infected, that’s no guarantee that said people will do the right thing and self isolate.

Human nature is the big unknown, and given what we’ve seen conspiracy theorists doing already, I don’t like our chances of getting 100% voluntary compliance. I fear that things will have to get a great deal worse before the knuckleheads acknowledge that there is a problem, and that they are it.

In the meantime? Maybe Australia should buy the Protect Scotland app for those who actually give a flying fruit bat about their fellow human beings.

Meeks
[My thanks to Dr John Campbell for alerting me to the existence of the Protect Scotland app].


Covid-19 in Melbourne [Australia] and Viral Load

For those in other parts of the world, my city, Melbourne, is in the middle of a Covid-19 resurgence, and we’re being locked down again.

Much has been made about the so-called ‘error of judgement’ that led to a private security company being tasked with keeping travellers in hotel quarantine. The truth, however is a lot more complicated:

  • yes, the security guards assigned to the hotels were not properly ‘educated’ about the virus,
  • and yes, some of those security guards caught the virus themselves,
  • and yes, the infected guards did bring the virus home to their friends and family,
  • but…they would not have been able to infect as many friends and family if Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Liberal National Party had not pushed so hard for Victoria to reopen.

Part of the re-opening in Victoria included the ability to visit more people outside of our immediate families. This led to big family get togethers, especially in migrant families for whom family connections are not only strong but vital.

Now think – what would a family get together be without kisses and hugs?

‘The government said it’s okay to get together so it must be safe. And if it’s safe, why should we not kiss and hug?’

One of the reasons why social distancing is so important could well be viral load.

No idea what that is?

I was struggling with the concept myself until I watched Dr John Campbell’s video this morning:

There is some technical stuff in the video, but Dr John is very good at explaining complex ideas in simple ways so please don’t skip this one.

For those who only want the bottom line, it’s this:

  1. a small viral load – i.e. about 10 viral particles – will likely get caught in the mucus membranes of the nose and throat, giving your immune system TIME to mount a counter attack. By the time the virus has spread enough to reach the lungs, the body is already fighting back. This could explain why some disease is less deadly.
  2. a large viral load – i.e. about 100 viral particles – goes straight to the lungs. Once in the lungs, it begins causing pneumonia before the immune system has had a chance to fight back. The lungs are a perfect place for the virus to reproduce and spread, so it does. This could explain why lung infections can be so deadly.

The mechanism determining whether we get a mild infection or a severe one is much more complicated that just viral load, but understanding the impact of viral load can make a difference in how we behave.

If I walk down the street, wearing a mask, and I pass you, also wearing a mask, the chance of being infected with a large viral load is almost zero.

But if you and I are in a crowded bus, and neither of us is wearing a mask, the chance of breathing in a lot of viral particles goes way up.

And finally, if we are friends and we kiss and hug when we meet, the chance of becoming infected or passing on the infection sky rockets. Why? Because the pathways for the virus include:

  • breath to breath
  • contact to contact, via saliva
  • hand to hand and then from hand to mouth/nose/eyes
  • passive droplets in the air
  • passive droplets on surfaces
  • passive droplets on uncooked food such as salads, or cooked foods that may have been touched by hand [after cooking], or breathed on accidentally [after cooking]
  • passive droplets on plates, cutlery, towels, toys

I could go on and on, but I think you can see where this is going. The more contact, the greater the likelihood of severe infection. So yes, in hindsight, a private security company obviously wasn’t the right choice. But who would have been? The police? What makes us think the police or the ADF [Australian Defence Force] would have been better educated about pandemic protocols?

And finally, let’s not forget the bloody great elephant in the room: the reopening. If people had not been allowed to visit each other, the virus could not have spread from the security guards in the first place. Or if it had, the clusters would have been small and manageable.

It takes two to tango, and Victoria’s dance partners included:

  • Scott Morrison and henchmen like Dan Tehan, the Federal Education Minister who castigated my Premier for being too cautious and not opening up the schools faster.
  • And let’s not forget Michael O’Brien. Michael who? Michael O’Brien, the leader of the LNP here in Victoria. Yes, the man in the same party as Scott Morrison et al. The man so desperate to gain political advantage that he made attack ads against my Premier, telling Victorians that they were missing out, being left behind, doing it tough because we weren’t opening up fast enough.
  • Smarmy Tim Wilson should probably rate a mention as well. Yet another LNP politician in Victoria looking to cash in on Covid-19.

I’m sure there are more, but I can only handle so much anger in one day so I’m not going to go online to research who else played a part in what’s happening to my city and my state. For me, the bottom line is that my Premier, Dan Andrews, has fought long and hard to keep people alive. Those other politicians I named care only about one thing – the economy.

I ask you to remember those names when Covid-19 stops being an inconvenience and starts hurting the people you love.

Meeks


Climate change & Australia’s National Security

Australia’s current Federal government has been flogging the dead horse of ‘national security’ for a long time now, yet when it comes to Climate Change, they’re incapable of seeing the potential for true national security impacts.

What impacts?

Answer: the refugee crisis looming amongst low-lying pacific nations.

As sea levels rise, many of these small, island nations will either cease to exist altogether, or they will lose so much land mass that their populations will be squeezed past tolerable levels. One of the first to go will be Tuvalu:

Click the photo to be taken to Alltop10.org

As the largest, and emptiest land mass in the region, Australia will have to take responsibility for its share of displaced people. These Refugees won’t be from the other side of the world, they’ll be on our doorstep, and we will have a moral obligation to help.

In the Innerscape trilogy, I forecast that Australia would accept its responsibilities in the region, albeit grudgingly. The way things are going, however, I’m no longer sure we will. But what if we don’t?

If Australia’s government continues denying the impacts of Climate Change, we’re going to be caught without a paddle when reality proves the deniers wrong. There will be refugees, and if we refuse to accept them, our poorer neighbours will not be able to cope. That’s when they will look at our large landmass and tiny population and say “this isn’t right”, “they shouldn’t be allowed to shirk their duty”, “they’re letting us suffer while they live selfish, greedy lives”.

Guess what happens then?

Haven’t we, and our Western allies invaded other countries for similar, ‘humanitarian’ reasons?

For a more detailed analysis of the impacts, please read the article by Chris Barrie on the Conversation Room[Chris Barrie is Honorary Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University]

We have to stop thinking of Climate Change as a ‘choice’. It isn’t. We’re going to be hit from all sides in the not-so-distant future, and only a concerted, united effort with our neighbours will save us.

If the military can see that Climate Change is a problem for national security, why can’t the Liberal National Party?

Meeks

 

 


American politics, Australian echo

The structure of US politics is very different to what we know in Australia, but I read something today that really struck a chord:

If a party stands for nothing but reelection, it indeed stands for nothing.

That quote comes from a joint editorial published in The Washington Post. It was written by three Republican contenders for the Presidential nomination. They put aside their own personal ambitions and political differences, to protest what they see as the sabotaging of democracy in America.

For Australians who are not familiar with the American system, candidates within each political party compete publicly with each other to determine who will be the best candidate to fight the actual presidential election. Usually this is done via state primaries.

But not this time. Four US states have cancelled their primaries on the basis that Donald Trump ‘will’ win in a landslide so why waste the money? But it’s not about the money. Each of those states will vote for Trump to be the presidential candidate without consulting any of the voters in that state. As primaries are a core step in the US electoral process, this is a massive departure from normal democracy.

You can, and should, read the entire post by Jill Dennison to understand how truly disruptive this development is:

https://jilldennison.com/2019/09/14/three-republicans-speak-up/

Sadly, the Australian experience of politics has been echoing that of the US since the sacking of Kevin Rudd in 2010. Our political system is very different, but almost everything that’s happened in the last decade has been about one party or the other giving democracy the finger in order to be re-elected.

  • Rudd sacked in favour of Gillard
  • Gillard sacked in favour of Rudd
  • Tony Abbot sacked in favour of Malcolm Turnbull
  • Turnbull sacked in favour of Scott Morrison

To be fair, in the Australia system, parties choose who will lead them into an election. Parties also have the right to choose someone else to lead them, even in the middle of an election cycle, so the revolving door of Prime Ministers is ‘legal’:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Minister_of_Australia

But is the letter of the law abusing the spirit of the law?

Much of the nitty gritty of Australian politics is ruled by convention rather than laws laid down by the Constitution. As such, our Prime Minister is important to the voting public, but isn’t actually granted special status in the Constitution. That said, convention or perhaps the rule of common courtesy has meant that once elected, a sitting Prime Minister is not ousted by his own party [note: I’m no historian so I’d welcome clarification of this].

When Kevin Rudd was replaced by Julia Gillard – to win the looming election – many voters who liked Rudd and voted him in, felt they had been robbed. In the interests of honesty, I have to say that I’m one of them. Whatever the constitution may say, the Prime Minister who leads his [or her] party into an election is seen by the electorate as having their vote. Ousting that leader may be legal, but it takes something fundamental away from voters. And it undermines the concept of 1 person, 1 vote. Of course that concept has been undermined in a great many other ways, but this post is about the machinations within parties.

Personality politics is not a good thing, in my humble opinion, but once a political party is voted in because of the popularity of its chosen ‘face’, that face should remain until voted out in the next election. The only exception to that is if the ‘face’ commits an actual crime. In the wake of all this political turmoil, both major parties have created rules of their own that prohibit the sacking of a sitting Prime Minister. It should be noted, however, that these new rules apply only to the party concerned. The constitution has not been amended.

Constitution aside, I believe that having a revolving door of Prime Minsters for the sake of political expediency – i.e. just to get re-elected – is cynical and undermines democracy. More importantly, it raises the perception of popularity above the facts of policy.

Sadly, this seems to be the way Western democracy is headed. I hope I don’t live to see democracy wither and die completely.

Meeks


Australia voted…

On May 18, 2019, Australia voted in an election that we all thought was in the bag. We all thought Labor would win because their policies would be good for the whole country…and because the hard right conservative government was so on the nose. We were wrong. The hard right conservative government was returned for another three years.

The talking heads on the tv were stunned as the unfolding result went against the last 50 polls. I was stunned because this expletive-deleted government was not only being voted back in, it was being voted back in with an increased margin.

Peter Dutton, the most hated man on #auspol, retained his seat of Dickson…with an increased margin.

George Christensen, a politician who posted a photo of himself shooting a handgun and spent more time in the Philippines than in his own electorate, was returned…with an increased margin.

Why? I still don’t know. The voters of Queensland were certainly sending a message, but they were not alone. Even in Victoria, the state considered the most progressive in Australia, Labor did not make enough gains to make a difference.

For a while, I hoped that the results were skewed out of shape by the huge number of pre-polls, but by the end of the night it became clear that even if the pre-polls all favoured Labor, it still wouldn’t be enough. To put it quite brutally, Australia has done a trump, and we have no excuse. All of us voted. Half of us ignored the scandals, the corruption and the actual economic record of the LNP and voted in favour of fear and self-interest.

I am more shocked than I can say. But. The people have spoken, and that’s what democracy is about. The fact that I don’t like it is neither here nor there.

The only bright spots to come out of this election all centre around Independent women:

  • Zali Steggall beat Tony Abbott in Waringah
  • Helen Haines won the seat of Indi after the former Independent [also a woman] retired from the seat. That’s a first.
  • Dr Kerryn Phelps may, possibly, retain the seat of Wentworth.

Whether these Independents will be able to change things for the better is doubtful. There are just not enough of them, and it doesn’t look as if the conservatives will have a minority government. Ergo, they won’t have to compromise to get the votes of the Independents.

To be honest, at this point I’m pinning all my hopes on people who don’t even have the vote yet. In three years time, the 15, 16 and 17 years olds of today will be eligible to vote. Many of them care about the future. I hope they vote in a government that’s prepared to do something about it.

Meeks

 


The psychology of inequality

I read an amazing thread on Twitter today. It was written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  [@AOC on Twitter], the young woman who is making huge waves in US politics. As an Australian, I knew very little about her and just assumed that she was someone from the usual privileged classes. Wrong. Apparently, AOC used to be a waitress, living on a tiny wage and making ends meet via unpredictable ‘tips’.

That was surprise enough, but then she went on to say:

…1 of the greatest scams in US is the idea that financial struggle is due to “poor character.”

AOC was talking about the poor in America, but I suddenly understood why the Liberal National Party coalition here in Australia has no problem with the growing inequality in our country. It’s because they see the poor as ‘dolebludgers’, ‘leaners’, parasites on the body economic. Furthermore, they believe the undeserving poor are poor because they are too stupid, uneducated, or lazy to contribute to society. Helping these undeserving poor is seen as a terrible waste of valuable resources.

Those who stand for the LNP can heap disdain on the undeserving poor because they see themselves as the source of all prosperity. They see themselves as the ones who create the wealth that’s wasted on the undeserving poor. They see themselves as the good guys because…well, because they’re rich. Obvious, right?

This unquestioned equating of wealth with goodness and value is at the heart of the inequality in both the US and Australia. The rich deserve to be rich; the poor deserve to be poor. End of story.

But as AOC goes on to say in her thread, many of those living below the poverty line in the US actually work two or more jobs. They work just as hard, if not harder, than wealthy people, but the value of their work is so much less. And who determines the value of that work? The top 1% who own all the industries that generate the wealth.

To be honest, until today, I thought that most of the people who voted LNP did so because they lacked compassion, or were fundamentally selfish and greedy. Now I understand that it’s not so much a lack of compassion that’s at the heart of our inequality, it’s a lack of experience. It’s ignorance.

I can’t speak for the super rich, but I can speak for what used to be called the ‘middle class’. My parents sent me to a Catholic primary school and then on to a Catholic high school. They gave me piano lessons, and ballet lessons and even singing lessons. Books, ideas and music were an integral part of my life growing up. University was the natural next step.

But while my parents voted Liberal, I never did. There were two reasons for that. The first was the Catholic insistence on charity and compassion for those less well off than myself. The second was that despite their insistence on a good education for me, my parents were not rich. Dad was an engineer, but he was the sole bread winner. My parents bought a house but never bought a car because it was an unnecessary expense. They gave me the best education they could afford, but I grew up wearing op. shop clothes.

Seeing both sides of the poverty divide turned me into a Labor voter. Living on Newstart for 5 years because I was too old to be offered a job made me realise that anyone can drop below the poverty line. More importantly, it made me see that people without the benefits I had growing up can never rise above the poverty line.

That’s why AOC’s words had such a profound effect on me. Yes, there are a few, rare individuals who manage to make an absolute fortune through their own efforts, but very few [if any] do so without some of the benefits we all take for granted. Most wealthy people inherit a good start in life. Some wealthy people inherit so much wealth that they can play the ‘who’s the richest woman in the world?’ game. But none of these people are inherently ‘good’.

Wealth does not make anyone a good person, and poverty does not make anyone a ‘bludger’.

Until we can provide the kind of stable society that allows all children to grow up with equal opportunities, the economic divide will continue to grow. As it does, our democracies will turn into oligarchies and our countries will begin the slide into global ‘has beens’.

For those who are interested, I’ve taken screenshots of a couple of the tweets AOC posted:

If you’re already a Labor voter, then good for you. See you on the 18th of May!

If you’re a centrist of the Liberal persuasion, then please think about some of the assumptions you make about your world. Society works best when most of the members of that society belong to the ‘middle class’, just like you. If the middle class continues to be eroded then one day, your children or your children’s children may find themselves below the poverty, unable to better themselves because they can no longer afford the opportunities that make prosperity possible.

We all need to ‘walk a mile’ in the shoes of someone less prosperous than ourselves. Only then can we pat ourselves on the back for having ‘made it’, or not, as the case may be.

Meeks


%d bloggers like this: