In Victoria, public transport performance data (in particular reliability aka cancellations, and punctuality aka delays) is “usually published on the 10th of every month.” – or so they claim, anyway.
This typically gives eligible passengers just under 3 weeks to claim compensation. Applications normally close at the end of the month.
But the publication of this data has been getting later and later. I’ve graphed it back to the start of 2018, based on PTV media releases. (For a couple of months, the announcement is not on their web site – I’ve used the date of media reports instead.)
The last time they delivered the data by the 10th was September’s figures in October.
The publication of November data on 19th December set a new record. And the December data? As of 5pm today, the 17th of January, it’s not out yet – so it’s at least a week late.
When they publish the information late, are they allowing more time to claim? Nope.
How long does it take to publish this data? Unclear – there may be some manual collation and adjustment that has to take place, including dispensations for events outside the operators’ control.
But keep in mind that some data is published daily by PTV, and the operators certainly use near-real-time data internally.
It’s bad enough that public transport services are delayed, but it’s pretty poor form when even their punctuality data is delayed.
If this is going to keep happening, then at the very least they should allow more time for compensation claims. (Really it should be automatic. They use Myki data to reject claims. They could use it to find eligible passengers.)
A couple of weeks ago I passed through Redesdale, and its 152 year old bridge. This, by Australian standards, is pretty old.
Despite the sign, it opened in 1868, not 1867.
On approach, there’s a warning sign about the width (3.2 metres) and height (4.3 metres) limit. Higher than the Montague Street Bridge, but not as capacious as bridges built to modern standards.
Making the bridge doubly fascinating is the story behind it: the ironwork was intended for the Hawthorn bridge (at Bridge Road), but the ship carrying it from Britain caught fire and sunk in Hobsons Bay. Eventually the ironwork was salvaged and used at Redesdale.
A relative reckons that during heavy rain, it’s not unknown for the river to reach the bridge deck – which must be quite a sight.
But even with the river level far lower, on a long drive, it’s an eyecatching sight.
It seems there were some lessons learnt after Black Saturday. Particularly noticeable was the change from the Stay Or Leave policy, to much stronger language. The emergency warnings are now very forthright, and even quite confronting, including phrases such as:
Emergency Services will not be able to help you
Heat will kill you before the fire reaches you
One can only hope that the dire warnings for people to get out of danger areas before the fires approach has saved lives.
But it’s not over yet.
We all know that climate change alone does not cause fires. But it does cause hotter temperatures.
Climate deniers and conspiracy theorists manage to blame the Greens for a lack of burn offs. As if the Greens have control over anything – they are a minor political player everywhere around the country.
And so we come to the Federal Government’s response to all this.
I don’t mean their direct response to the immediate threat – that was slow to get going, with numerous missteps, but seems to be in gear now. I mean their actions on the longer term threats from climate change.
Since the most serious fires started, our local (Federal Coalition) MP has been tweeting about emissions reductions measures. He sent this one out twice, on 30th and 31st December.
They can claim they’re acting, but they’ve been in power for six years, and emissions have been rising under their watch:
The problem is, ultimately, the Federal Coalition is led by climate sceptics.
It’s really hard to look past this moment from 2017:
As the fires took hold, while Morrison was away, his deputy Michael McCormack finally managed to admit they needed to look at more action on emissions. Morrison then got back from Hawaii and hosed it down.
In some ways, Morrison seems to be the stereotypical conservative. How good is Australia? Everything’s fine. Nothing to see here. Do nothing – which ties into the common conservative theme of small government.
And yet finally, I think people are seeing through this. It’s a shame it took a crisis, but that might be the only silver lining here.
Perhaps it’s easy to be doubtful about climate change when you can’t see it. It’s the (mythical) boiling frog.
Now it’s very, very visible. The skies in many areas have been red from fires. Even in the big cities away from the danger areas, there is smoke in the air.
Metro also put out their own advertising. By train probably is just about the quickest way from Ascot Vale to Broadmeadows (18 minutes back then; 19 now) – but probably one of the slowest if you just missed a train on a Sunday morning (add a 40 minute wait).
One quirk of the changeover from Connex to Metro was that when it was announced Connex had missed their final performance targets, passengers had to apply to Metro for the compensation.
There was also a lot of prominent advertising for Myki – even though it hadn’t been launched in Melbourne yet. (This photo was snapped on the 17th of December 2009; Myki launched on the 29th.)
At railway stations, Myki vending machines were being installed alongside Metcard machines.
In the days before the Free Tram Zone, the City Circle was regularly packed. Nowadays, almost every tram in the CBD is packed.
The view over the west end of the City, towards Docklands. You can see the wheel under construction – not sure if this was the first one being disassembled, or the revised version being built.
A prominent reminder to motorists to give way to buses pulling out from the kerb. One the left you can see signs for Myer’s Lonsdale Street store, since replaced by Emporium. And that lady perhaps isn’t having a great day.
Happy new year everybody. Hope you’ve had a good one.
Yesterday marked ten years since the Myki system’s implementation in Melbourne. It was switched on for Melbourne trains on 29th December 2009.
The roll-out and first ten years of operation ended up costing a whopping $1.5 billion. The only Australian system of comparable size, NSW’s Opal system, was a little bit cheaper, but is still the same order of magnitude. My conclusion is that the size of the system (number of devices, and all the supporting infrastructure) is a more important determinant of cost than anything else.
(If you’re wondering, the $100 million a year of costs is more than covered by fare revenue, which the PTV Annual Report says topped $900 million in 2018-19.)
After a very shaky start, and a long protracted roll-out that took more than four years (from regional town buses in early 2009 to V/Line in 2013), the Myki system has improved over time – and I suspect most passengers have become accustomed to its quirks.
But there definitely is still room for improvement, even without wholesale re-engineering of the system.
How can Myki be made better?
Here are a few issues that should still be fixed:
Passes are confusing, and can result in passengers who travel every day paying more than necessary. This should be replaced by a Myki Money weekly cap, which was originally promised. (Monthly too? Perhaps.)
With readers often awkwardly located, touch-on and touch-off sounds should be made different so it is easier to identify that the card has been touched successfully, and in the intended manner. Sounds should also be consistent across Myki reader types, and made louder so they are easily audible in noisy environments. (There’s no need for them to beep once or twice depending on the type of ticket. Nobody uses this.)
Myki reader speeds are inconsistent. New faster readers have been deployed at many stations, and increasingly on buses and trams as well, which is a big improvement. (Thank you, open architecture.)
It would be good to know if this roll-out is going to eventually replace all of the older readers. Their response times were never acceptably fast and consistent – and are probably why the terminology changed from “scan” to “touch”.
The new readers either don’t display the card balance/expiry, or display it so small that it can barely be read. I know they’re trying to ensure people don’t dawdle at station gates, but some people now never see their card Pass expiry.
Myki Mobile for iPhone would be a big plus – take-up on Android seems to have been reasonably good, despite some glitches, but making it available for iPhone mean almost all mobile phone users have the option.
If this can be achieved, arguably being able to use credit cards directly on the system (as in London and Sydney, both using variants of the same system) becomes less important.
Fare anomalies need to be fixed. This is not strictly a Myki issue, but the result of years of governments of both stripes fiddling with the fare system – first getting rid of zone 3, then making zone 1 and 2 an almost flat fare. The result is that Melbourne to Lara (58km) cost $4.40; to the next stop at Corio (64km) is $12 (peak). That’s completely ridiculous, and encourages people to drive across Geelong to Lara station before catching their train.
Expansion to the rest of V/Line would be useful, to make train usage beyond the commuter belt easier. This was originally the plan, but was “de-scoped” by the Baillieu government in 2011. I suspect there are probably issues getting Myki to handle First Class and seat reservations, which is why it was decided it was all too hard.
Free mode. Myki readers need this for the now regular bus replacement operations, to prevent issues with passengers touching-on when they don’t need to, and for regular free travel periods such as Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. (They might still need to be partly functional to cater for touch-off for people ending their trips, for instance just after 6pm when free rides start on New Year’s Eve.)
Tickets for occasional users need to be easier to get. Single use tickets were also originally planned for the system, and de-scoped in 2011, along with tram vending machines.
Admittedly there’s some benefit from not having single use tickets – it reduces litter and waste, and encourages repeat use – but only if you can convince people to get a card in the first place. If not, the system remains a barrier to new public transport users.
Remember, concession cards can’t be obtained through the vending machines, which are the only option at unstaffed stations.
Are the cards sufficiently available for tourists? Can the refund system be improved?
And what to do about the lack of touch-on opportunities for tram users?
All this becomes less important if both major mobile phone operating systems can use Mobile Myki.
Fix the web site. Most of it (including the overall look and feel) hasn’t been changed since it was originally released. Still the same tiny fonts and non-mobile-friendly layout.
And there’s idiotic stuff still on the web site: When you purchase a Myki Pass online, the default selection is Zone 1 to Zone 1, which would also be the most popular option. Leaving that default returns an error: This myki pass is not available at this time. Please select another and try again.
What does that error mean? It’s because since 2015 you’ve had to buy Zone 1+2 (for the same price). Why not either tell you that, or automatically change the selection?
The same page has a “Which zones do I need to travel in?” link. This goes to a PDF with another link in it, to a page which doesn’t actually tell you anything about which zones you need to travel in.
It happens every year at Chadstone and the other big shopping centres: hordes of shoppers descend. Demand fills the car parks, which spills onto the access roads, delaying buses.
Demand also fills the buses to bursting. And because of traffic congestion, some buses actually get diverted away from the shopping centres, making the whole thing worse.
Here’s Channel 9’s story. (Yes there’s some of my footage in here.)
So was anything different this time?
A key difference this year was the addition of extra Oakleigh to Chadstone express shuttle buses. Funded by Chadstone themselves for the summer, these seemed to be plentiful. And although Oakleigh station is undergoing refurbishment which means it’s difficult to get between the bus interchange and the Citybound platform, the shuttles were frequent and well used, taking some of the load off the other routes.
Last year’s bus priority from Warrigal Road to the bus interchange appeared to be the same, and again worked well. Buses avoided trying to enter via Dandenong Road, and came in from the east – longer for some, but they got a good run once inside Chadstone’s property.
There has been minor infrastructure changes that allow all bus bays to be used, meaning the confusing temporary arrangements from years gone by don’t have to be enacted.
Buses from Warrigal Road still queue at traffic lights to enter the bus interchange. Given all routes were diverting via Warrigal Road, this meant more far delays than necessary. It should be obvious that the lights need to prioritise buses over other traffic.
Worse, the problem of buses having to enter, loop around, exit and re-enter the bus interchange (with long waits twice at the traffic lights) just to get to their bay still affects some routes, for example the 900 towards Caulfield, one of the busiest. See below.
While the Oakleigh shuttles helped, other routes were still overwhelmed by demand. The 625 I caught to Chadstone was 10-15 minutes late, and standing room only from Oakleigh.
There was heavy traffic on the Dandenong Road approach to the centre, from the east, and a bus driver told me it was the same on Warrigal Road from the north.
When I got to the centre, I watched for a while as a queue for the 900 to Caulfield grew longer and longer, and the bus got later and later. It eventually arrived 28 minutes late, and was so crowded that people were left behind and had to wait for the next one.
See it in this short video below. (For some buses, passengers decided to board at both doors. When the 900 arrived, they all patiently queued, meaning it took some minutes for the bus to load.)
What needs to happen
I’ve covered all this in the previousposts, but really, what’s needed includes:
Extra buses on route services, not just the Oakleigh to Chadstone specials
Spare buses to cover for delayed services (similar to the “Block car” occasionally used by the trams)
Better on-road priority for buses approaching the centre
Ensure buses get priority at the traffic lights in and out of the bus interchange – and longer term make changes so buses don’t need to loop around it so much to reach their bays
Better on-the-ground advice for passengers – it might be quicker for some to connect to trains on the Dandenong line via the Oakleigh shuttles or walk to Hughesdale station
Improved pedestrian access to Poath Road. Hughesdale station is only a ten minute walk away, but is via a pedestrian-hostile not-very-direct route that’s hard to find
Ultimately, the State Government and Chadstone management needs to take public transport seriously, starting with more frequent services on all routes. It’s a planned major event every year. So plan it.
More people on buses and other public transport means fewer in cars clogging up the roads and the car parks.
It’s not just Boxing Day – weekend bus frequencies are appalling – mostly hourly – on most Melbourne bus routes all the year round.
And it’s not just Chadstone – many big shopping centres suffer these same problems.
Chadstone must be envious of Southland, where shopper numbers are no longer constrained by the capacity of the car park. pic.twitter.com/jBlV81HjKX
Southland now has its station. Eastland and some of the others also have rail access. Southland station is busy, and for passengers travelling parallel to the rail line, means reaching the centre is now easy, expanding Southland’s catchment beyond the constraints of its car parks.
How – especially in the short term – can the same be achieved for Chadstone and other centres?
I wrote this essay a few years ago as part one of a two-part article that would illustrate some parallels between intellectual authoritarianism in neo-Darwinism and in neoclassical economics. In some ways my response to Paul Krugman’s response to me was Part Two. But, wanting to quote this essay in another essay I’m working on – “Disciplines as institutions” I’m publishing it now in all it’s unfinishment.
I. Denis Noble on what’s wrong with gene centred Neo-Darwinism
A few weeks ago I finished reading Denis Noble’s very intriguing and provocative Dance to the Tune of Life, a comprehensive take-down of Neo-Darwinism and excessive reductionism in science. Noble was one of Richard Dawkins’ PhD examiners and used to identify with the Neo-Darwinist mainstream – of which more in a moment. But, through his work in mathematical physiology gradually became aware of mounting problems with certain doctrinal foundations of Neo-Darwinism.
Often he shows us recent work that seems to debunk very important Neo-Darwinist doctrines at the same time as showing us that those heterodox ideas have been around for many many decades – sometimes over a century – but that they’ve been marginalised by the Neo-Darwinist consensus. And that consensus has been enforced by a Neo-Darwinist ‘political correctness’ police in which Richard Dawkins takes pride of place. My purpose in this essay is to delineate some intellectual roots of this political correctness and also to show strong parallels with the way ‘scientific rigour’ is policed in another discipline – economics – with similar disastrous results.
Fittingly enough, cross-fertilisation between economics and biology has been common. Since economics first threatened to become little more than a branch of applied mathematics as the marginal revolution took hold, numerous economists of note have insisted that economics should be more like biology. In fact the cross fertilisation goes right back to the beginning of modern evolution. When Darwin read Malthus’s political economy, particularly his famous Essay on the Principle of Population it turned his mind toward every creature’s and every species’ struggle for survival. The rest was history – well biology actually, but you get my meaning.
II. Reductionism: Here’s looking at Euclid
Noble’s immediate target is what he argues is the excessive reductionism of the gene centred view of the world, popularised by Richard Dawkins. Of course, judging what’s excessive by way of reductionism can only be properly done on the merits. After all, the extreme reductionism of the Newtonian Revolution was a huge success. As Adam Smith put it (yes that Adam Smith), Newton’s theory of gravity proposed “an immense chain of the most important and sublime truths, all closely connected together by one capital fact, of the reality of which we have daily experience”.
The point is that, at least in physics, although flaws eventually emerged as they always do in science, extreme reductionism was miraculously successful, generating vast new areas of practical knowledge. Many of the motivating ideas behind Neo-Darwinism 1 from which the gene-centred view of evolution grew were likewise a powerful engine of new knowledge. But they and the intellectual ‘temperament’ they embodied also came to marginalise important work and to foreclose its being assessed on its merits.
The gene centred view of evolution so brilliantly and trenchantly popularised by Richard Dawkins’ best-seller The Selfish Gene has a powerful logic to it. So powerful that it feels like some kind of key. If only we can root biology in the genome, then not only will we have got to the bottom of the whole thing – right down to the molecular level – but we can also replicate the Newtonian manoeuvre of building a whole science from crystalline axiom like formal propositions just as Euclid built his geometry all those centuries ago.2
As the great Neo-Darwinist Ernst Mayr is quoted in Noble’s book saying in 1982 “All of the directions, controls and constraints of the developmental machinery are laid down in the blueprint as instructions or potentialities.” And the fact that this is all encoded at the molecular level appeals to native reductionism in which the world is at least in principle, built like a pyramid with the tiniest things at the bottom and with larger things being uncomplicatedly built from them – like a wall is built of bricks, those bricks are built from clay particles which in their turn are built from molecules, then atoms with the atoms comprising sub-atomic particles and on it goes. As Francis Crick put it, “There are only molecules – everything else is sociology.”
III. The science and epistemology of non-reductionism
However there’s a problem with the extent of the reductionism in gene-centred Neo-Darwinism. It degenerates into incoherence. As Ernst Mayr put it in 1999:
An individual either survives or doesn’t … reproduces or doesn’t.… The idea that a few people have about the gene being the target of selection is completely impractical; a gene is never visible to natural selection, and in the genotype, it is always in the context with other genes, and the interaction with those other genes make a particular gene either more favorable or less favorable. In fact, Dobzhanksy, for instance, worked quite a bit on so-called lethal chromosomes which are highly successful in one combination, and lethal in another. Therefore people like Dawkins in England who still think the gene is the target of selection are evidently wrong.
Noble argues that, for all its success, Neo-Darwinism degenerated into hubris:
What went wrong was that the Modern Synthesis became hardened into dogmatism. Starting from the theory that this is the way in which evolution could have happened, it became transformed into the conviction that this was the only way in which evolution must have happened.
Noble proceeds to quote the transcript of a debate he chaired between Richard Dawkins and Lynn Margulis. At issue is the possibility of symbiogenesis in which certain organisms evolved not through the gradual accretion of random mutations a la Neo-Darwinism but by some process by which one organism acquires the characteristics of another – by physically absorbing it:
Dawkins: It [Neo-Darwinism] is highly plausible, it’s economical, it’s parsimonious, why on earth would you want to drag in symbiogenesis when it’s such an unparsimonious, uneconomical [theory]?
One of the exciting things about Noble’s endeavour is the way in which it operates both at the level of science and of epistemology or the philosophy of science. Though Noble dignifies it with a grand title – “the theory of biological relativity” – his basic epistemology or theory of how to encounter the natural world can be simply expressed. Order, and so causation, is emergent at many levels and causation runs both ‘upwards’ – for instance from genetic material to its expression in organisms – and downwards – from organisms to their genetic material – and that there is (therefore) no privileged level from which causation somehow originates. Other essential tenets of his view of biology I relegate to the following footnote.4
IV. Boys, girls, left, right, authoritarianism, permissiveness
It’s worth pausing to consider some deeper undercurrents of gender, temperament and ideology. In the extract just quoted, Dawkins, a man, is policing the discipline for ‘rigour’. Margulis is a woman, a scientific rebel and well to the left of Dawkins politically. It’s not coincidental – it’s part of the plot – that symbiogenisis entails biological cooperation between organisms, rather than competition which is central to the Neo-Darwinist vision of evolution. Something similar seems to have happened in considering the role of group selection in evolution (survival of the fittest groups) compared with survival of the fittest individuals. If the latter effect dominates competition remains the paradigm mechanism. Where the former effect intrudes, a dialectic opens up between competition (between groups) and cooperation (within them).
It’s not covered in Noble’s book, but group selection is another idea that tended to be marginalised by the gatekeepers of Neo-Darwinist orthodoxy, even though of course, as a matter of logic, there’s nothing in Neo-Darwinist logic that renders group selection marginal. The intellectual straighteners Dawkins and Pinker are still policing that boundary. They mount some quite good arguments. Perhaps they’re right. But permit me to be sceptical. (I’ve elsewhere briefly referenced how displinary gatekeepers of psychology resisted the use of the word “love” in Harry Harlow’s exploration of the mothering role with his terry towling monkey experiments. The word “proximity” sounded so much more scientific.)5
If you think this ideological reading of the debate is a bit far fetched, certainly Lynn Margulis bought into it – from the left – objecting to the dominant Neo-Darwinist paradigm is that it’s a “zoological, capitalistic, competitive, cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin”. She thinks it inherently implausible that the singular driving mechanism of evolution is random mutations. “I have seen no evidence whatsoever that these changes can occur through the accumulation of gradual mutations. … There’s no doubt, of course, that they exist, but the major source of evolutionary novelty is the acquisition of symbionts – the whole thing then edited by natural selection. It is never just the accumulation of mutations.” Sounds more plausible than strong Neo-Darwinism to me, but what would I know? And as for citing Lynn Margulis for support, she thinks the Sept 11 attack on the World Trade Centre was a “false flag operation”.
Here are some reasons why in some sense competition appeals to those I’ll suggest are of Neo-Darwinist ‘temperament’.
Given the undoubted role of competition and individual selection, as Dawkins initially argued against Margulis, the more you admit cooperation, the more messy – the less parsimonious – things get.
In a reductionist schema, the individual is also prior to and thus more fundamental than the group.
There are two additional psychological/sociological attractions of gene-centred Neo-Darwinism to someone attracted to policing intellectual rigour:
The Neo-Darwinist position is inherently paradoxical, especially to the intellectually uninitiated whether they’re a ‘creationist’ or just a sceptic about how random mutation subject to natural selection might enable the climbing of Mount Improbable to use Dawkins clever phrase. How can it be that the marvels of complexity, of coordination and cooperation within or even between species come from such a crude, competitive and cruel process? It marks one out as a sophisticated thinker and yet not so sophisticated that one’s case can’t be explained to an informed layperson in a couple of minutes on some TV panel show. Richard Dawkins is generous in that way, forever donating his time to explaining to people what fools they are; 6
Similarly, group selection opens up space for the wishful thinking of the Kumbaya crowd with all their blathering about living together in peace and harmony. The alternative suggestion – that the road to the miracles of nature is the cruelty of ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ resembles the moralist’s injunction that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
To summarise very simply, I’m taking Neo-Darwinism to be what Julian Huxley christened the Modern Synthesis in biology 1942. From Wikipedia “The modern synthesis was the early 20th-century synthesis reconciling Charles Darwin‘s and Gregor Mendel‘s ideas in a joint mathematical framework that established evolution as biology‘s central paradigm“. In what follows, I use the term Neo-Darwinism somewhat loosely as Noble often does to cover this core and a cluster of supporting doctrines sometimes, though not necessarily including a strongly gene-centred view of evolution. ↩
One of my favourite titles for a popular maths book was Here’s looking at Euclid, but I digress. ↩
Dawkins was subsequently gracious about Margulis. He subsequently described her as “one of the great achievements of twentieth-century evolutionary biology”, and regarding this episode (and no doubt others like it) commented “I greatly admire Lynn Margulis’s sheer courage and stamina in sticking by the endosymbiosis theory, and carrying it through from being an unorthodoxy to an orthodoxy.” ↩
Post-Neo-Darwinism a la Noble
Noble summarises his essential points thus (apologies that the list uses terms introduced in the book that may be new to you but I’ve tried to help with relevant links to Wikipedia and some square bracketed explanations). Noble proposes:
2. that genetic variation is not always random with respect to function. In some situations evolution may work as our body develops antibodies – even though this isn’t passed to the next generation – by ‘targeting’ random variation until a successful antibody is found.
3. the existence of other forms of inheritance in addition to strict Mendelian inheritance.
4. that the Central Dogma of molecular biology is better represented as an important chemical fact about coding, rather than an absolute statement about control by and primacy of the genome.
5. the full significance of mobile genetic elements and the reorganisation of genomes.
6. the inheritance of epigenetic and similar Lamarckian forms.
7. the significance of symbiogenesis and many other forms of co-operation.
9. evolution is a multi-mechanism process, that the Neo-Darwinian mechanism is just one of them, and that we really do not yet know the relative contribution of each process to each stage of evolution. This would be a return to Darwin’s more nuanced view that other processes may also exist. ↩
Krugman reflects on something similar regarding free-trade. “It is hard not to suspect that our professional commitment to free trade is a sociological phenomenon as well as an intellectual conviction. … By emphasizing the virtues of free trade, we also emphasize our intellectual superiority over the unenlightened who do not understand comparative advantage. In other words, the idea of free trade takes on special meaning precisely because it is someplace where the ideas of economists clash particularly strongly with popular perceptions” ↩
Of course if you were paying very, very careful attention, this wasn’t a complete surprise. The eventual shift of Geelong trains back to Newport and the Metro 2 tunnel was included in a document leaked in 2018, and has been floating around as a way of helping capacity constraints for the proposed Airport line.
So what do we know? Nobody official is willing to speak on-the-record, but as far as I can make out, the proposal is:
New express tracks from Werribee to Newport for Geelong trains (it appears the recent Aviation Road bridge includes provision for this)
Geelong trains would then join Werribee trains to run through the proposed Metro 2 tunnel underneath the Yarra, to Fishermans Bend (one or two stations, probably two) then to Southern Cross
Werribee trains continue through the City via Flagstaff, Parkville, Carlton and Fitzroy then through to the Mernda line
Geelong trains also continue through the City with stabling around the vicinity of Thornbury
There’d be a rejig of Newport station and surrounds to separate the Werribee and Geelong trains (heading into the tunnel) from the Laverton/Altona Loop and Williamstown trains (heading to the City via Yarraville and Footscray)
Geelong trains using the tunnel obviously need to be electric, not diesel. This means either the tracks need to be electrified all the way to Geelong, or a bi-modal (diesel and electric) train fleet used for Geelong services.
What about other lines?
This proposed change would mean Wyndham Vale and Tarneit would be served by local services – hopefully electrified along with the Melton line (and separate Ballarat express tracks) to provide higher frequency, higher capacity trains than at present.
The Werribee line could be extended slightly to provide interchange with the Wyndham Vale line, assisting connectivity.
(It’s unclear how the Suburban Rail Loop would interact with the Wyndham Vale line given SRL is meant to be a standalone railway. My view is the SRL, when eventually built, should go by a completely different route, helping to spark transit-oriented development in the outer west.)
Long distance Warrnambool trains would either need to terminate in Geelong, requiring passengers to change services, or run to Melbourne on the aboveground line via Wyndham Vale and Sunshine.
How fast would it be from Geelong to Melbourne?
The fastest current inbound service is scheduled to take 58 minutes – the 7:50am from Geelong, stops at North Geelong, North Shore, Corio, Lara, then express to Wyndham Vale, express to Sunshine, Footscray, Southern Cross. But most inbound trains take around 70 minutes, with more stations served.
Let’s assume trains with similar patterns instead will stop at Werribee (for connections) then two stops in Fishermans Bend and then Southern Cross, and assume they could maintain a maximum speed of 160 km/h as far as Newport, then 80 in the tunnel.
Geelong to Werribee would take about 25 mins, same as the above train to Wyndham Vale
Werribee to Newport (21km) would take about 8 mins, plus 1 min for the stop at Werribee = 9 mins
Newport to Southern Cross with two stops along the way, say about 9 mins
That’s 43 minutes in all, with 7 intermediate stops in all. Quite a bit faster than today (a 26% time saving), and that’s without pushing the maximum speed over 160.
That’s also assuming the new trains would have similar acceleration and braking to the current V/Locity fleet. But electric trains could be quite a bit better.
Pros and cons
Advantages of this plan (particularly over the Sunshine to City tunnel idea)
Speeds up Geelong to Melbourne services quite a lot – without the enormous expense and disruption of completely re-engineering the line for actual High Speed Rail
Relieves capacity on the RRL line – which serves Wyndham Vale, Ballarat/Melton, and Bendigo – and may provide enough relief to run Airport trains as well, especially if Melton and Wyndham Vale become Metro services using the suburban tracks
Avoids disruptive track amplification between Deer Park and Wydham Vale – apparently some bridges and cuttings need work to handle 4 tracks
Potential for a bus/train interchange in Fitzroy so that DART/Eastern Freeway bus passengers can complete their CBD commute by train rather than slow buses stuck in traffic (leaving aside potential for a Doncaster train)
Fast cross-town connections from the west could include one-seat journeys for trips such as Geelong to Flagstaff or Parkville – and indeed from the Geelong/Werribee corridor to Fishermans Bend, currently a big weakness of public transport compared to driving
New underground platforms and pathways at Southern Cross could help relieve passenger congestion there
The are a few disadvantages of course.
Despite what The Age’s article says, I think there’s no way you’d send Geelong trains back via Newport without a tunnel for them to reach the City
It’d be expensive. Tunnels never come cheap
Does not inherently speed up the Ballarat and Bendigo lines, though the capacity boost would have a positive effect on punctuality
Mixing Geelong and Werribee trains on the same tunnel tracks may have issues. Probably made a lot easier if there are 4 platforms at Southern Cross to help deal with CBD dwell times
Ditto Geelong and longer distance trains if they end up sharing some of the same tracks
Equally, capacity on the Sunshine to City corridor needs to be carefully managed, especially if Airport trains join the mix
If sticking to maximum speeds of 160 km/h, it postpones the development of actual high speed rail
What have I missed?
Tunnel vs tunnel
I’m sure the debate will continue between the merits of a Sunshine to City tunnel against other proposals, including Geelong via Metro 2.
Some of the arguments coming from the Committee for Ballarat are a little odd – including repeated claims that their trains get caught behind slow Metro services – something that hasn’t happened since 2015 when RRL opened.
In a discussion on Twitter with a Ballarat Courier journo, it was clarified that the paper at least is referring to outer-suburban V/Line stations between Sunshine and Melton. This is an important issue, but not one resolved by a Sunshine to City tunnel – it’s better fixed by track quadruplication between Sunshine and Melton – something also needed for the Bendigo line between Sunshine and Sunbury. And further cutting travel times can be achieved by duplicating the rest of the line to remove single track bottlenecks.
Compared with the Sunshine tunnel proposal, a key advantage of Metro 2 is that it doesn’t just parallel existing tracks – it expands the footprint of the heavy rail network, which is why I think it’s a better plan.
For these expensive projects, the more boxes they tick, the better.
I was after one of the sillier charts to illustrate CSR. It was a tough choice, but this one hit all its KPIs. Originally worked up from the map which guided the bombing of Hamburg, all Troppodillians will join with me in celebrating its use in a civilian capacity.
CSR, shared value and its old establishment incarnation, pro bono work, arose from the old sense of noblesse oblige. Actually I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how it arose, but I thought I’d begin this post with a bit of strategisation – you know, where I say that a social institution suited its own time but now needs to be brought into the modern world, that given the state we’re in this issue has never been more important etc etc? </strategisation>
In any event, today CSR and similar initiatives arise from various motives.
The company would like to do something good, either because it wants to of its own accord or because it’s got up the community’s nose in the past.
The company would like to associate itself with Good Things which it hopes won’t hurt, and ideally will help its bottom line. This can happen through:
Continued licence to operate (it minimises the number of people chaining themselves to its bulldozers or snarking about it on social media);
Increased sales through improving its image with consumers; and/or
Improved recruiting power in appealing to employees who want to ‘make a difference’.
In my discussions with big consulting and legal firms, one driver of pro bono work is its capacity to address the angst of the best graduates. Amid all this money making, they want their careers to be about making the world a better place. As the saying goes “All work and no change we can believe in makes Jack a dull boy”. Of course this hankering can only be addressed within reason – we’re not running a charity here. Nevertheless, a managing partner of BCG once told me that this was worth 5% of payroll to them to attract the best graduate talent.
Of course billionaires – even billionaires – can’t on their own do much to address inequality. But, as Anand Giridharadas’ point’s out, their do-gooding papers over the structural inequality that has been responsible for their wealth and very few do anything to tackle structural inequality – like tax avoidance for instance.
I think it’s worth exploring how one could broaden the idea of CSR to CSPR or corporate social policy responsibility. A firm signing up to CSPR would undertake not to lobby for or otherwise support public policies to support their own corporate interest unless it was also in the public interest.
Obviously the hard part is how it could be operationalised. Firstly if the idea is to be pursued it’s most likely to be pursued as a result of some kind of activism seeking to push companies toward it. That would come from various movements for ‘ethical’ consumption and investment 1 seeking to broaden their mandates to pursuing CSPR. Perhaps it could also come from such movements seeking to politicise the issue of what firm you work for.
Accordingly activists trying to get this off the ground would need to have some objectives which can be demanded of the targets of their activism which operationalise the principle – which is to say ensures that a firm can’t just say nice things and resume business-as-usual.
As a first cut I’d suggest that it include these requirements for a firm to be accepted as CSPR compliant:
They would maintain a publicly accessible log of all policy positions and requests made of government
They would undertake that any policy position they sought to promote with government would go through some process of ensuring that it was in the public interest.
Given that opinions would differ regarding this, some independent process would be required for determining this, or perhaps some weaker standard of being unlikely to violate the public interest.
A waystation towards such a position might involve activists making it clear that their intention was to campaign against some firm if they publicly articulated a position that was determined by some process as in 3 above, to be clearly against the public interest. The Disney corporation lobbying for the Mickey Mouse Protection Act would be an example of a violation of CSPR.
I’d also like to see a situation where some firms came out in favour of plugging tax loopholes, and that CSPR would not require them to unilaterally foresake taking advantage of them. This places the onus where I think it is reasonable in a competitive market. I recall the ex South Australian Premier Steele Hall when a Senator campaigning against politicians getting a pay rise as a matter of policy but not foresaking it when he lost the vote and the pay rises went through.
Is it realistic to think that this might be an avenue for successful activism? I don’t know. If so it would definitely start out as a niche play. But I can imagine activists raining on the parade of firms trumpeting their CSR and shared value credentials and so making it a bit harder for firms to bask in their glory without some compromise on the CSPR front.
Anyway, for too long CSR and shared value have been suited to the twentieth century where they spent their early years. But this is the age of smartphones and AI taking everyone’s jobs. So just like Henry Ford brought the horse up to date by taking it off the racetrack and running it down the assembly line and putting four wheels on it, we need to update CSR to make it fit for our age. We need to do to CSR what Uber did for the sundial.
What sayest thou O Troppodillians?
[Thanks to Davis Sligar for reading a draft of this post. He did so on condition that I take responsibility for the content but he gets credit for the (incredibly funny) jokes, jokettes and jokesque asides. NG]
For almost a century the royal road to becoming a top politician in Anglo-Land was to study law and/or a bit of economics. In Australia that was the ticket for Keating, Hawke, Gillard, Howard, and Turnbull. In the US, that mold fit Obama (law), Clinton (law), and both GHW and GH Bush (one studied economics, the other business). In the UK, the royal road is recognised to be the PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) study in Oxford, which for instance begat Cameron and several other prime-ministers since WWII.
Yet, currently, we have marketeers in charge of the most populous Anglo-countries. They are invariably men who have spent their working lives engaged in selling ideas and themselves to the general public. In Australia we have Scott Morrison, a marketing man, and before him Tony Abbott, a journo. In the US we of course have Trump, who spent decades in showbiz. I include Justin Trudeau of Canada in this list because I regard him as a born marketeer. And in the UK we now have Bojo, a journo for many years who is also, like Trudeau, a lifelong and natural self-promoter.
This is a bit much for coincidence. Politicians have always had to sell themselves, but in previous decades it was the marketing departments of political parties that helped them do it. Margaret Thatcher was famously re-dressed and re-branded to make her electable, and the Bushes had a lot of professional help in selling them. What is interesting is that now the top people themselves are marketeers. Any other skill or interest other than how to sell stuff seems a burden when it comes to reaching the top of the political tree.
Can we say the same for top politicians outside of Anglo-Land? Not really. One might at a stretch include Berlusconi, who is in many ways Trump’s predecessor but with more panache. Yet, if you look closely you will find that all the major countries are run by the usual types: Macron of France studied public administration and was in charge of a ministry; Merkel of Germany is an engineer-administrator with a similar trajectory as Thatcher; Modi of India did political science and then became a professional pollie; Jiping of China is the usual engineer-administrator normal for Chinese leaders; Putin is the usual for Russia (secret service); and Bolsonaro of Brasil is the usual for that region (military). Even Berlusconi turns out to have started with a degree in Law, the usual for Italian politicians before and after him.
So no, the non-Anglo countries do not get their politicians from the world of marketing, not even in those places we associate with populism or right-wing nationalist politics. In the rest of the world, politicians still come from the same place they came from 20 or 50 years ago. Anglo-Land has changed with the rise of the marketeers.
What is equally interesting is that really, tree of these seem to have had to reform the way politics was done in their own party and have pushed policies their parties disliked: they were resisted internally and had to force their parties into new ways. This makes their rise to power even more impressive because they will have been told constantly how wrong they were and how obviously their attempts at gaining power would fail.
Trump’s constant critics in the media and within the Republican Party are famous. Bojo argued for Brexit against the top of his own party, then once in charge kicked out his rivals from within the party, notably alienated his own brother, and was famously unpopular and disliked by the vast majority of his own parliamentary party when he was voted in by his MPs. Morrison had to battle Dutton and others for supremacy within, and was then written-off by the Labour supporters and their friends in the media till his stunning single-handed victory. In all three cases did their party insiders only grudgingly accept them as leaders in the belief they had to in order to have a chance of retaining power.
They also had professional or political careers outside of the center of their party: Boris was first major of London and then had to work his way up in the parliamentary party; Morrison was a tourism manager for many years; and we all know the stories of what the Donald was up to before politics, even trying to get into the other party first.
What is it about Anglo-Land currently that makes marketing men so electable now and not before, to the extent that these characters can make it even against the wishes of their own party? Maybe we should have a look for clues in history and find someone similar who rose to power, looking at the characteristics of that time.
I think it is not coincidental that Boris Johnson is such an admirer of Churchill, because really, all four of these men are children of Winston Churchill. Their previous careers, rise to power, and even their alleged inadequacies are close copies of Churchill.
Churchill was also a journo, a child from the elites with huge charisma who milked his journalistic experiences in the Boer War in South Africa in 1899 to great effect in order to get into parliament. There, he made sure he was constantly in the news, even switching political parties when it was convenient to him. Twice no less, earning him a lifelong reputation as a ‘rat’, a disloyal liar!
He was also a famous womaniser and drug addict, playing with the institutions of his country with total disregard for expertise or loss of life to others. Sound familiar? By the standards of today you would have to call Churchill corrupt, racist, and a war-mongerer (see here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29701767). Again, sound familiar? Amongs the policy disasters that have been laid at the feet of Churchill one can include the disastrous campaign of the Dardanelles and even the loss of the British Empire, though of course people disagree about this and this is not the place to argue either way.
My own English grandparents, who were conservatives their whole lives, thought Churchill was one of the biggest idiots in British political history (a title for which there is stiff competition!) and the biggest disaster to its standing in the world. They had to bite their tongue for decades as their country decided Winston was a hero, not an unmitigated disaster. But even my grandparents recognised he was someone who had the gift of projecting authenticity: a wonderful speech writer, quick witted and charismatic. He was a gifted marketeer and a magnet for romantic nationalists, just like Trump, Boris, Scott, and arguably even Trudeau.
So really, we are seeing the return of Churchill. It is almost as if the spirit of Churchill has infested four different men of different ages in Anglo-Land, each managing to grab power at almost the same time. Each has a bit more of this talent and a bit less of that talent than Churchill, but with essentially similar skills.
It is tempting to conjecture that our times, at least in Anglo-Land, must resemble the time and place in which Winston rose, which was the UK of 1900-1910.
What are the similarities between 1900-1910 UK and Anglo-Land now? In 1900-1910 the UK was at the height of its colonial powers, a period of rising nationalism. It was also the time of impending loss of power as the UK was economically already overtaken by the US and, arguably, Germany, with Russia well on its way too. It was a period of immense inequality, with previous elites (the aristocracy that controlled land) feeling the hot breath of new ones in their neck (industrialists that controlled labour). It was an era used to violence and used to solving international problems with gunships.
Is our time really like this? Some bits seem similar, some not. The times are not violent at all now and the indicators we have of support levels of nationalism have been very stable for decades. What is true is that geopolitical power is being challenged by the newcomers, China and India. Inequality has also increased, though the big increase already dates back well over a decade now.
Still, then the UK was shoring up ties with France, not breaking up with France as the UK is doing now. The Labour movement challenging wealth then was up and coming, whereas now it is weak and waning.
Conversely, the 1900-1910 period in the UK had no Murdoch media, no social media, no analogue migration issues, and an even less educated and informed voting public.
The analogy with the 1930s is similarly poor, not merely because the usual politicians were in charge then of Anglo-Land (with Churchill somewhat sidelined, only to be dug up after the outbreak of the War). We are now not in the aftermath of a huge recession, but enjoying record levels of low unemployment in the UK and Australia. There are no colonial empires to lose. And there is no obvious ‘embedded elite’ that is fighting a battle with rising socialism, certainly not in Australia or Canada.
So what is going on? Why are the marketeers now again so in vogue? And why only in Anglo-Land? What are their skills that were undervalued by the existing party machineries and why are those skills so much more important now than before? Essentially: why has Churchill returned?
I have many ideas, but none that really convince me. It’s a puzzle. Maybe it’s just a coincidence and the analogy is less good than it seems. Maybe Churchill was a one-off marketing genius who was going to make it in politics in any era and we should not look at his career for clues why we currently have so many lookalikes in Anglo-Land. Any good ideas?
Are you pro-choice or pro-life? Language like this shows us how fundamental framing has become to political combat. Political debate isn’t just ‘dumbed down’ or simplified. There’s a geography to the ground on which it’s fought and those with an eye to victory head for the high ground.1
There’s much talk these days about the divide between political elites and ‘ordinary folk’. It’s tearing western democracies apart. I think that the elite lack respect for the hoi polloi and their view of the world. Hence my frequent reference to the ancient Greek political principle of isegoria or equality of speech.2
In Sam Roggeveen’s response to my review of his essay Our Very Own Brexit (which I recommend by the way), he isn’t the first to argue that I do my cause no favours by “aligning it so closely with causes that our political elites would endorse (e.g. welcoming of immigrants and refugees; against Brexit)”.3 This is definitely sound political advice if one ventures among the red meat folk at Quillette.
But for the record, while I think Brexit makes lousy economic policy and statecraft, I wouldn’t just respect the will of the British people if they chose the course they are embarked upon with open eyes. I’d be awestruck with admiration. I’d think it was a fantastic development in which people decided that there were more important things than money and power to live for. But I don’t think any of that. I think they’ve been sold on a particular framing of the story in which the EU is an elite project gone mad, and so something which is coming after their nationhood and something on which they can heap their rage.
Roggeveen’s response goes on:
The problem I identified in the book is that the party-political class in Western democracies has become a separate caste with few connections to a social or economic base; Brexit shows what happens when the policy preferences shared by that caste runs too far ahead of the public.
I’ll call this the ‘frolic’ school of analysis. The elites have just kept doing what elites do – pursuing various hubristic agendas until the inevitable Wile E. Coyote moment comes and they realise that they have, in their zeal, arrived at a place where there’s no ground underneath them. Now it has to be admitted that the EU has major flaws. It seemed to me that its treatment of Greece was and continues to be a disgrace, and even if you disagree with that – as Paul Frijters does – the whole Euro project was ill-conceived and devastating. I’d go so far as to call it a frolic – and it’s a frolic of spectacular, and spectacularly ill judged proportions.
But there’s a problem with this analysis that the elites left the community behind. Firstly, the UK dodged the bullet of the Euro (though it won’t dodge it when it comes back into the EU in a few decades) so if frolics are the problem you’d not think the UK would be the first cab off the rank. More fundamentally, if this break was the product of an elite frolic getting out in front of public opinion, you’d expect it to be about something else. In the UK you’d expect it to be about austerity, economic development in the periphery and so on. (I admit Brexit did carry some flavour of addressing what was seen by some to be excess immigration – though, as I understand it, it was only in London where EU immigration was seen as much of a practical issue for the populace.) Brexit simply didn’t rate as a major concern until it was cranked up by a faction of the elite and their cheer squads in the media.
By the same token if the ‘elite frolic’ thesis were to explain Australia’s ‘Brexit moment’ in which we abolished carbon pricing, there were no shortage of fault lines between elite and mass opinion. More than half of the agenda of economic reform divided elite and mass opinion. In Australia that includes cutting protection and national competition policy, cutting corporate tax rates, and perhaps cutting the top marginal tax rate.
What was happening with carbon pricing in Australia and Britain’s relations with the EU was that the elite was managing a dilemma and choosing the lesser of various evils, though imperfectly. In the act of doing their job they encountered various dilemmas and solved them as best they could. In Australia we gradually accepted that carbon pricing offered the best prospect to meet most of the burden of meeting our emissions reduction targets.
These agendas were not the source of division between the elite and the masses. But there were tensions between the right and left on them which were then able to be exploited for party political advantage when the occasion presented itself.4 On Brexit I’m fairly sure something similar can be said. The EU had been broadly supported by the public, and not much interest was taken in it. Also, what led to carbon pricing and Brexit being chosen as the pretexts du jour was a split in the major parliamentary coalition on the right.
In this context, the benefits I see in a citizens’ jury are not just the idea of greater consideration as an antidote to dumbing down and sensationalism. Rather it is placing those who represent the public in the position of having to choose between two concrete, considered and possibly difficult alternative pathways for their country – i.e. the position in which the governing elites of left and right were in when they made the choices they did – on Europe in the UK and on carbon abatement in Australia. There’s very good evidence that all it takes is for this to occur – for ordinary people to be placed in the invidious position of having to choose (rather than munch popcorn and throw brickbats) for their rage at elites die down considerably as they set about trying to solve the same dilemmas that have preoccupied the elites.
In this situation, participants realise it’s not as simple as the elites just looking after their own. In this way, citizens’ juries engender far greater respect for our political institutions. Jurors’ opinion of their politicians and their officials rises strongly. There’s one exception. Jurors’ opinion of the media – already pretty low – sinks further as they come to see how misled they’ve been. The effect is particularly strong when they see their own deliberations put through the media grinder to produce a story of conflict and sensation they barely recognise.
So it seems to me that in characterising Brexit as an elite project, a frolic which is not supported by the public Sam Roggeveen is falling for the framing of the Brexiteers. It’s not an elite project particularly. It’s the gradual enmeshing of the national economies of Europe. But its great vulnerability is not that it’s an elite project or that some aspects of it have been managed incredibly badly, but that its various aspects are dull and difficult to explain in a sound bite. So they’re easily misrepresented when factions of the elite see some advantage and push comes to shove.
These considerations are my reason for arguing for the changes I am. I may well be wrong. What kinds of things do you think we should be pursuing to address this crisis?
Precisely the same happened in the early 1990s when it became good party political tactics for Paul Keating to argue that Dr Hewson’s GST was a Great Big New tax – the same tax for which he’d previously vigorously campaigned for years. ↩
This is part five of a series that charts the short history of the Ku Klux Klan in the Northern Territory of Australia and the involvement of NT police officer Constable David Jennings in that story.
The following is the full text of an article in the Darwin Star, a modest newspaper that ran in opposition the NT News for some years. The article is noteworthy for two reasons – firstly that, apart from the brief comments made by Constable David Jennings to the NT News (see part two of this series), this piece represents the only available record of Jennings speaking about his membership of the Klan and his activities.
Second, this piece is disappointing because, despite the fact that the Darwin Star made a good get in putting Jennings on the record, the article doesn’t set out relevant facts, contains minimal critical analysis and doesn’t put Jennings to proof for his statements – many of which are contrary to established facts – and conduct, both in his capacity as an NT Police officer and his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan.
The Darwin Star, Thursday, November 9, 1978
“I have no money, no job. All I have is
a crusade.” Klan chief calls for separatism.
“The Ku Klux Klan in Australia is about 1000 financial members today-and if I don’t treble that figure in three months, I’ll be very surprised”, David Jennings said last night.
Jennings, the former NT policeman who is self-styled leader of the KKK, told The Star he had no political leanings or ambitions… Simply a desire to see separatism between white and black. “I have no job, no money. All I have is a crusade” he said. “I want to see white with white, and black with black. “Let the white man live in peace with his neighbour, according to white man’s law. And let the black man do the same, without white man’s interference.”
Jennings, 28, resigned from the NT police a fortnight ago after five charges were preferred against him departmentally. All the charges, in effect, accused him of conduct prejudicial to the good name of the police. All arose from his confession to his superiors that he was the leader of the KKK in the NT.
Son of a commissioned police officer in another state, Jennings, married with three children, admitted he first came under notice of his superiors last year. The first occasion, he said, followed an attempt by Aborigines at Hooker Creek, on the northern edge of the Tanami Desert where he was stationed, to bring a “flagon wagon”, or truck laden with booze on to the reservation there. Jennings said he intercepted the truck, unloaded the 80 flagons of port wine, then he and others destroyed it with shot gun blasts and hand-held implements.
Later, some aborigines confined to the lock-up were released to do some manual labour, cleaning up weeds in the Hooker Creek town area. A station hand from the outlying area had some horse hobbles which were placed on the legs of the offenders, restraining them from running away, but causing them no discomfort.
“Through the efforts of some misguided white people, who enlisted the aid of the Central and Northern Legal Aid Services, these matters were given a lot of publicity, and brought to the notice of senior police officers” Jennings said.
“But there had been no wrongdoing on my
part-departmental enquiries proved that” he said. According to Jennings, two
cases in the white man’s court turned what was a joke into reality for him. The
joke was when he wore a sheet to a fancy dress social function while he was
stationed on Groote Eylandt.
“Everybody thought it was a great joke-and I certainly wasn’t serious about it” he said. The first case was that of Aborigines charged over the fatal wounding of another tribesman after the man had made sexual advances to his wife. The accused man was released on a six-month good behaviour bond. Two weeks later a white man who shot and killed another white man was jailed for seven years.
Jennings said one of the primary aims of the Klan was to achieve the division of white and black so that the black man lived in his own domain, according to his tribal law. “We must remove white police from the aboriginal reserves – and we must tell the black man: ‘Don’t you leave your reserve all you will be subject to the white man’s law’.
“Just look at the inequality of the Aboriginal land rights question. “Anyone with a miner’s right can dig up my front yard in search for minerals. The law says, though, that the white man cannot even venture onto the black man’s reserve without an entry permit.
“The former Prime Minister, Mr John Gorton, put the thing in its proper perspective when he said: “there cannot be any justice when black and white are not equal before the law”. So let’s have two sets of laws, and separatism, or self-determination, for both” Jennings said the KKK was not racist, not anti-Semitic, and didn’t hate anyone.
He said the burning cross of the Klan – which too
many people associated with crucifixion, murder and other atrocities – simply
signified the truth and the light of the KKK doctrine: the blazing spirit of
Western Christian civilisation.
The grand wizard of the main section of the Klan in the United States, David Duke of Metairie, Louisiana, had sent him a telegram after his exposure as Klan leader. “Mr Duke asked me to ring him, reverse charge.
I did so, and he told me not to hesitate to call on him for funds if I ran out of money.” Jennings said. “Well, I have resigned, and I have no chance of getting a decent job in the NT, so my family and I will be moving on. “My resignation pleased my superiors, but not the regular non-commissioned policeman in the NT who know that, despite my so-called prejudices, I have never allowed anything to interfere with my duty. “Everywhere I have been stationed – and that’s a few places since I first joined the NT force in June 1974 – the aborigines have liked me, trusted me.
“Many of them think just like I do – and for the
same reasons. They know there’s no place for the black man in the white man’s
“I came here with an open mind. I have nothing but
gratitude and admiration for an aborigine who ran 25 miles one day to get help
after I was seriously injured in a tangle with a bull, on Granite Downs
Station, just over the South Australian border.
“I had a fractured skull. That bloke probably saved my life.” Jennings said there were about 500 financial members of the Klan in the NT, many of them keeping a low profile, for obvious reasons.
Many other people sympathised with his crusade, and provided moral and some financial support, without actually becoming financial members.
He said Klan sympathisers were active in universities in New South Wales and Victoria, and he hoped to visit the eastern states during the next few months.
He said high-ranking officials of the KKK from the USA would visit Australia in January, to further the cause of anti-white discrimination.
Hello, my name’s David Sligar. Nicholas Gruen has kindly encouraged me to do some blogging here. I started reading this blog over a decade ago, so I’m excited to contribute.
First up is a slightly modified cross post from my blog proposing a “job of last resort“. The policy is intended to be a modest variant on a “job guarantee”, a policy idea gaining increased attention around the world, particularly on the left.
I’ve long been a sceptic of a job guarantee (JG). A world in which a government department can effectively evaluate the needs and capabilities of every unemployed person and assign them to a suitable individualised job is beyond the scope of plausible reality, in my view. It’s just not my experience of the way bureaucracies work.
Such a program would also bring macro-economic risks, potentially suppress wages in JG worker sectors, and do an injustice to the unemployed by making promises it can’t keep. Unemployed people suffer enough stigma. It would only get worse if the government effectively told the community the unemployed were all there entirely by choice, as would be the implication of claiming jobs were “guaranteed”. A full blown JG would also have a massive fiscal cost – likely tens of billions each year – which just cannot be hand waived away in budget obsessed Australia.
Nevertheless the motivating spirit behind the JG has its attraction. Long-term unemployment is a waste and a tragedy. Human beings, willing to work, sit idle for years when they could be contributing to society through some form of productive labour. And although I think claims about the “dignity of work” can be overstated, it is true that long-term unemployment is profoundly damaging for happiness, health and human capital. Many of us would prefer almost any safe and dignified job to this. Some – not all – of us have a deep need for a reason to get out of bed, duties to perform, a need to feel needed.
What if we could design something like a JG, but on a relatively modest scale, capturing its merits while dropping the risks and grandiosity of a universal JG? Let’s call this a “job of last resort” (JLR) program.
The starting point is that JLR would only target the segment of the unemployed who are relatively unlikely to gain employment in the private sector any time soon. It would not cover someone briefly between jobs. Rather, it would be limited to those who have been substantially underutilised for a very long period. This is to ensure the program does not interfere with transitional unemployment, which is present even in the healthy labour markets described as “full employment”.
A problem with a full blown JG, available to all unemployed, is that it would divert a significant number of people into the program who otherwise would have quickly obtained a regular job. This may harm the individual, whose career progression would probably be better served in regular employment. By crowding out private sector employment, it may also cause inflation. However, to the extent JLR only targets the unemployed who are not on the margin of employment – call them inframarginal unemployed – these concerns should not be overwhelming.
The program would be available to anyone who has received an unemployment (or related) benefit for:
at least two thirds of the past year and
at least two of the past three years.
Also eligible would be a person who has:
received an unemployment benefit for at least two thirds of the past year,
received an unemployment benefit for at least one of the past three years, and
had total labour earnings of less than $80,000 over the past three years.
The latter eligibility method attempts to capture long-term underutilised workers. An earnings threshold is chosen due to administrative difficulties in evaluating hours worked. Modified criteria would exist for people who had spent time as students or carers.
JLR participants would be paid at the minimum wage. They could choose between programs of different levels of commitment, for example 35, 25 or 15 hours per week.
Eligible participants would be offered a job in city or regional beautification, for example, gardening, litter collection and landscaping. Those who do not have the required fitness would be eligible for placement on low skill tasks in government agencies. The important point is that they are undertaking work that adds value but which would be unlikely to be performed otherwise, such as in basic staff catering – what used to be called “tea ladies”. They could be hired as door greeters at government agencies.
We may consider allowing community organisations to apply for JLR workers. In this event, measures would have to be put in place to mitigate the risk of worker displacement. For example, community organisations applying for a JLR worker might have to demonstrate that their regular full time equivalent worker numbers are growing and will continue to grow. They should have some financial skin in the game, such as covering employee on-costs. One option would be to structure the JLR in community organisations as a 100% wage subsidy that slowly tapers down.
All JLR participants would be held to usual workplace standards and may be dismissed if they fail to complete assigned duties or abide by the code of conduct. In this case, the participant would return to regular unemployment benefits and be eligible to reapply for a JLR position after six months.
Self-directed work plans
After participants successfully complete the first six months of a JLR program, they would have the opportunity to submit a business case to request allocating up to 10% of their working hours to self-directed work. Work options would include arts, culture and sports. The business case would have to satisfy that the activity made a measurable contribution to the community. The threshold would be modest – for example, exhibiting work, publishing articles or even getting hits on a blog post. An approved participant in this arm of the program would be accountable for the delivery of the benchmarks set out in their participation agreement.
Non-completion would result in the loss of the self-directed time and its reallocation to regular JLR activities.
JLR participants who successfully deliver on their self-directed benchmarks over a six-month period may apply to increase the self-directed time to 20% of their working hours.
Job search requirements
The JLR is not intended to be a permanent job. It is a last resort. Participants would be expected to undertake some (reduced) job search activities. The discount on job search requirements, relative to unemployment benefits, would be substantial for 35-hour work week participations. The idea is just that they continue to apply for appropriate jobs, rather than spend their time churning out pointless low-chance applications.
There are currently around 100,000 people who have been unemployed for at least two years. Program eligibility is considerably broader than this, but only some of those eligible will elect to sign up. So as a rough guess – potentially an underestimate – let’s assume 100,000 people will participate in the JLR.
Let’s assume all participants chose to work the maximum 35 hours per week, an obvious overestimate.
The minimum wage in Australia is currently about $19.50 per hour. On-costs for public servants — including superannuation, office space, training, etc — are typically assumed in government costings to be around 20%-30%. But the figure is likely to be much higher for JLR participants for two reasons.
The first is mechanical — the JLR’s wages are lower than those of regular public servants, so a given amount of spending (on accommodation for example) will be greater as a percentage of their income.
The second is that management costs of JLR participants will be high due to the participants’ diverse and complex needs and capabilities, which will be affected by their spell of unemployment. Managers will have a challenging task to create effective and integrated teams out of workers who are given to them ad hoc, rather than selected to fill specific roles based on their personal capabilities. I’m going to assume on-costs of 50%.
Based on these assumptions, the gross annual cost of the JLR will be:
100,000 * $19.50 * 150% * 35 * 52 ≈ $5.3 billion.
The cost will be offset by Newstart savings. The rate of Newstart for a single with no children is $279.50 per week. Let’s assume, conservatively, the average JLR participant would have received half of this due to occasional work and various means testing arrangements:
100,000 * 279.50 * 50% * 52 ≈ $0.7 billion
In addition, the tax office would claw back some money through personal income tax, but this would not be material for this level of analysis. People on minimum wage just don’t pay much tax, and their spell of unemployment would drag down their year’s tax bill to zero in many cases.
Based on the assumptions above, the net cost of the JLR would be approximately $4.6 billion annually. The estimate is crude – a professional costing would require administrative data and sophisticated modelling – but it gives the order of magnitude.
At around 0.2% of Australia’s GDP, the JLR is eminently affordable in theory. It wouldn’t crack the government’s top 20 most expensive programs. It costs roughly one tenth of the age pension, a quarter of family tax benefit and of disability pensions, a third of funding to private schools and half of unemployment benefits. It is trivial compared to tax concessions on superannuation.
But the issue is political will. In Australia we live in a political culture that is fixated on the budget. The immediate question is whether, given political economic constraints, this is the best use of around $5 billion a year. There are probably other ways we could spend this money to get better bang for our buck in terms of human welfare. On the other hand, perhaps this is more politically feasible than other programs. Voters do love “jobs”.
Should we do it?
I remain concerned about the interlinking of social security with work. I would prefer a clear demarcation between safety net programs and labour requirements. Blurring this distinction is a slippery slope to exploitation. Sure this ship sailed with Work for the Dole, but should social democrats be promoting it as part of our grand vision?
I have no absolute answer to this question. What I can say is that if we do go down this path, we should do so modestly, and with concrete policy proposals, rather dealing in grand rhetoric and sweeping claims that cannot realistically be implemented.
The JLR is my offering, for discussion, to this end.
It kicked off at 5pm. You know how at some concerts the support acts are a bit half-rate, fledgling bands still finding their feet? Not a bit of it here. All superb.
And then headliner, Paul Kelly.
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl was packed, and no wonder — this gig had sold out months ago.
I don’t think I’ve been to a concert at the Music Bowl since I was a kid. Carols By Candlelight one year. It poured down with rain. We were so drenched the tram conductor took pity on us and gave us a free ride home.
This time it didn’t rain, and we were lucky enough to get seats undercover in row G – close enough to see everything; not so close that the crowd at the front blocked the view. The General Admission areas were also packed, with some people finding a comfortable spot on the grass where they couldn’t really see anything, but could at least hear all the music.
A friend rang before the main act came on. “We’ve got some spare seats. Row P. Do you want to join us?” Sorry Steve, it’s really nice of you to offer us an upgrade from Economy to Business, but we’re already in First.
There was free bonus entertainment: the couple next to me who got narked-off by the couple sitting in front of them who kept holding their phones up to record long videos of many of the songs. They resorted to tapping them on the shoulder. Then towards the end they got really irritated when the phone couple stood up to dance and see better… but really, that’s part of concerts.
PK played all the hits, and some new stuff. It was all great.
The clouds threatened but the rain held off, the queues for the food weren’t too ridiculously long, and all the musicians and the crowd were in top form.
And one of my favourites, perhaps his best obscure song: Love Letter, probably the most mainstream song from his terrific Professor Ratbaggy side-project from 1999.
As the crowd dispersed, we walked back along the river to Flinders Street Station. Plenty of people around at 11pm on a Thursday night – and I was once again struck at how busy Melbourne can be, 24/7.
This is part four of a series that charts the short history of the Ku Klux Klan in the Northern Territory of Australia and the involvement of NT police officer Constable David Jennings in that story.
Below is the full text of a letter received by the Northern Territory News in March 1978 but not published at that time. The letter concerns the purported conduct of a meeting at Katherine south of Darwin at which it was claimed by Constable David Jennings that the Australian branch of the Ku Klux Klan was established.
I have been unable to locate any record of a “K . Hettinger” – the purported author of the letter – and I believe it is more likely that the letter was produced by Constable Jennings.
Nor have I been able to locate any record of the “David Callaghan” referred to in the letter as the “national director and coordinator” of the Klan branch in Australia – a title that was apparently bestowed on Constable Jennings by the leader of the west coast faction of the Klan, David Duke, in August 1978.
Similarly, in my research to date on the conduct of a meeting of the Klan – complete with burning cross – outside of Katherine in early March 1978 has drawn a blank. If you have any information about that or any similar meeting please get in touch.
Dear Sir: Last Wednesday (1-3-78) I had the good fortune to be invited to the inaugural meeting of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (Australian Division).
The meeting was held on the property just outside Katherine
at a location I have sworn not to reveal, and was attended by a surprisingly
large crowd. I kept notes of the meeting and this is how it went.
The crowd stood around the symbolic fiery cross, none were
hooded and yet no one seemed uneasy and yet there was some well-known persons
From the back of the crowd came a tall, handsome man in his
late 20s, he wore the traditional Klan robe, the hood off his head.
He strode to a position under the cross and after a token
applause, raised his hands and spoke:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope I will soon be able to address you as Klansman and Klansladies or will it be Klanspersons. This is the first official Klan meeting ever to be held in Australia and we have chosen Katherine in the Northern Territory because at the moment it is so like the situation in the States (more applause).
“Let me introduce myself, I am called David Callaghan and I am the national director and coordinator of this branch of the Klan in Australia.”
Turning to the cross he says:
“This is certainly not a 20 foot flaming cross, but in our minds it symbolises for very important things, fire, heat, devotion and the light that it sheds. (Then as if by Divine intervention a gust of wind whips the flames even brighter).
“Many people around the world think the fiery cross is a symbol of hate, but our movement is primarily a movement of love, love of country, love of race, love of our heritage, love of the values of white civilisation. We see in the fiery cross the light ideals and purposes of Western culture. We see in the fiery cross the light of the Western world. This light is the white race.
He next recounted a brief history of white achievement,
including major advances in medicine, technology, art and philosophy.
“All around us we find parasitic minorities who want to leech off our accomplishments.
“The Communists control three quarters of the world, immigrants and Jews control our foreign policies, our governments, the press and the financial organisations.
“Together they will destroy the purity of our race and the fabric of our civilisation. “Black people have organisations that fight for black people and black power. “All minority groups have organisations to support them. But there are no organisations that fight for and support the rights of white people. “That is why we have formed the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan here in Australia.”
He went on to say that the new Klan was a strictly legal and
all aboveboard type of organisation.
None of the activities that originally bought to notice
after the American Civil War were to be used.
He stated that what the Klan was going to preach separatism.
“The Blacks of the Territory especially are sitting back and laughing at the good fortune, wouldn’t you with one law for you and one for the whites.
“Wouldn’t you with massive government handouts enabling you to just sit around and drink up and do nothing other than perhaps collect your checks once a fortnight.”
He also stated:
“The Blacks of the Territory are blockading the advancement of the Territory. Their land claims are no more than black greed, they are trying to force the government and the people of Australia to march backwards instead of forward so that they can receive more and more gratuities.
“This is all the black of Australia understands, he has been pampered and spoiled since the time that some white gave birth to some perverted conscience.
“Yes the Territory especially is the conscience of Australia, you are the ones that are wearing it for those that reckon that they have done the wrong thing by the Blacks.” He further stated: “we know that the Klan will grow in Australia. The whites of Australia need the Plan to stand up for them and fight for them.
“Why only the other week I received the news that black lay preachers are now preaching anti-white sermons in the settlement churches. This is only the beginning.
“The black of Australia, the full blood or the tribal black, is being led to believe by the Governments, by the half-caste city dweller that has only seen pictures of settlements and by organisations like Legal Aid et cetera, that he had a rightful place in the white community.
“Nothing is further than the truth. Who wants included in our society, illiterate, unclean, drunken bludgers, who cannot even sign their names on the Government checks, who is allowed to sign those checks with the cross because he’s too lazy or too ignorant to learn even to write his own name.
“The time has come for changes in the system, better stop the littering of our streets with drunken blacks who are now raping our women and beating up our fellow citizens and escaping the true wrath of the law just because they are black.
“We do not want the black problems that soft governments and misguided do-gooders has thrust upon the United States and Africa. Let us act now and stop it before it really starts.”
Callaghan then stepped down from the front of the crowd
amidst the loud applause and mingled with the crowd. All shook his hand and
express their willingness to help.
30 new members were
sworn in before the night was over, and Callaghan stated his itinerary was to
include Alice Springs, Darwin, Tennant Creek and most towns up and down the
The night ended for the first meeting of the Knights of the
Ku Klux Klan in the very early hours of the following day.
Trust that you find the enclosed information of interest and
worthy of inclusion in your next edition.
I will keep you informed of our progress as we travel. May
white power rise again.
Public Relations Officer
Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (Aust)
Other parts of this series can be found at the links below:
This is part three of a series that charts the short history of the Ku Klux Klan in the Northern Territory of Australia and the involvement of NT police officer Constable David Jennings in that story.
In parts one and two of this series I examined the brief rise and spectacular and sudden fall from peculiar grace of Klan member NT Police officer David Jennings and the only Australian branch of the Klan – of which Jennings was apparently the only member of – authorised by the Klan in the United States.
In this part I will look briefly at public relations advice received by Constable Jennings from Carl Hand Jnr., then US National organiser of the Klan based in Los Angeles. As I noted in part two, the Klan at that time was riven into two warring factions, one controlled by David Duke, based in Los Angeles, the other led by Bill Wilkinson and based in Louisiana.
The letter to Constable Jennings from Carl Hand Jnr. was dated 19 September 1978, nine months after Jennings’ Klan membership was authorised and a month after he was recognised – by David Duke’s Los Angeles-based Klan faction – as an “organiser” of the clan in Australia.
Two other dates are relevant – in March 1978 Jennings wrote a letter to several news outlets outlining a meeting that he claimed to have been held outside of Katherine, south of Darwin earlier that month. That letter was not published in full by any outlet until October 1978 (but see the next part of this series) and was passed onto NT Police Commissioner Peter McAulay. Also in early October NT Police laid two internal disciplinary charges against Constable Jennings – soon followed by a further three – in relation to his Klan activities, including appearing on an ABC TV broadcast in full Klan robes and pointed hood.
The following extracts were first published in the NT News on 31 October 1978.
Territory Ku Klux Klansman, David Jennings, has been advised by his American counterparts on how to use even an unwilling press to get his message across. David Jennings resigned from the Northern Territory Police Force last week, one day before he was due to face internal hearing on charges relating to claims of Ku Klux Klan activity in the Territory.
The advice Jennings received is in a letter, written by the US National organiser of the Ku Klux Klan, Carl Hand Junior, and seized with other Klan items from Jennings home recently.
In his letter to Jennings, Carl Hand suggested that to get across the message of his activities, he take out an advert in the newspaper. In another suggestion was that he send the newspaper a copy of the KKK official publication Crusader, of which, and noted, Jennings had been forwarded 10 copies.
“If both these failed, you might try issuing press releases. And if that still fails, there is always the concerned citizen routine, that is getting a cooperative friend who is not identified publicly with the Klan, to write nasty letters denouncing your activities. This is always as a last resort, but it never fails,” Carl Hand Jnr. concluded.
This is part two of a series that charts the short history of the Ku Klux Klan in the Northern Territory of Australia and the involvement of NT police officer Constable David Jennings in that story. In part one I sketched the nature of NT policing in remote NT communities and the role of NT Police Constable David Jennings in two disturbing events at the small community of Lajamanu (formerly Hooker Creek) in 1977 and the consideration of those events by NT politicians through to March 1978. In this part I will look at the role that Constable Jennings played in the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan in the Northern Territory.
It isn’t surprising that I can find no references to Constable Jennings, the emergent Klan or the unfortunate events at Lajamanu from late March through late October 1978. During those months the NT was more concerned with the introduction of full self-government that was granted effective from 1 July 1978.
The Klan in the NT – fact or fiction?
On Friday 20 October the NT News reported that an unnamed NT police officer – but undoubtedly Constable David Jennings – was facing two internal NT police charges of behaving in a manner likely to bring discredit upon the force arising from letters produced earlier in the year about a branch of the Klan established in the small town of Katherine, south of Darwin. The paper noted that the officer was not under suspension and had been transferred from Hooker Creek (Lajamanu) to Darwin.
The following Monday the NT News reported on the “widespread and angry” reactions from politicians, churchmen and local communities at the news that a Klan branch had been established in the NT and examined the contradictory claims by the leaders of two embittered factions of the Klan – David Duke and Bill Wilkinson – concerning the Klan’s operation in the NT.*
Earlier that day former KKK grand wizard David Duke (see my 2013 post on roadside “DavidDuke.com” signs here) told the local ABC Radio that Australia was, due to “aborigines sitting on rich deposits of uranium” ripe for the establishment of the Klan. Duke claimed that he and Jennings corresponded regularly and that the NT branch was not the only Klan group established in Australia.
On 1 January 1978 Duke – who claimed to have received “hundreds” of letters from Australia – signed a Klan certificate accepting Jennings as a “Klansman” and in August bestowed the official title of “Organiser in the NT”. Around that time the Klan’s newsletter, The Crusader, ran a piece stating that the Klan was “making steady headway under the leadership of Jennings in Australia,”
Bill Wilkinson – Imperial Wizard of the “Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” from 1975–1981 – countered Duke’s claims, stating that no Klan member had ever been initiated in Australia and that the claims by Jennings, whom he described as “an overzealous individual,” were unauthorised.
The “White Giant”
On Monday 23 October a Canberra Times article quoted from letters sent to NT media outlets earlier in 1978 (but not apparently published at that time and subsequently passed onto the NT Police Commissioner) written by the self-proclaimed “public relations officer for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (Aust)” who claimed that a large crowd had attended a meeting of the Klan outside of Katherine.
The crowd stood around the fiery cross, some were hooded … from the back came a tall handsome man in his late 20s. He wore the traditional Klan robe pulled over his head … let us stop the littering of our streets with drunken Blacks who are now raping our women and beating up our fellow citizens … Let us act now and stop it before it really starts.
The Canberra Times noted that “A man calling himself “the white giant” appeared on ABC TV in a white robe with a hood over his head.
Over the next few days matters escalated dramatically for Jennings. NT Police Commissioner Peter McAulay released details of a further three internal charges (taking the total to five) that would be the subject of a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday 25 October 1978. Those further charges arose from a five-hour interview between Jennings and police investigators earlier in the week. Commissioner McAulay advised that Jennings had been suspended from duties because of the continuing nature of the alleged breaches.
“An embarrassment to the force”
The day after the NT Police internal disciplinary hearing into the five charges laid against him – where it is understood that an adjournment would be provided so that Jennings could prepare defences to the charges if required – Jennings outed himself as the “leader” of the Klan in the NT and resigned from the NT Police force, immediately applying for another position in the NT public service and then leaving the NT for New South Wales.
Jennings admitted to the NT News that it was he who had appeared on the ABC TV news program the previous Saturday clad in Klan robes – now seized by NT Police – and that he’d resigned on the basis that the internal charges against him would be dropped.
Jennings spoke to the NT News somewhat reluctantly – he didn’t want to jeopardise three months holiday pay he said he was due. He went on to say that if he was single he would stay and fight on principle, but, being married with three kids he reckoned he couldn’t afford to fight on principle.
“My politics are not in line with the force,” he said. “I’m an embarrassment to the force.”
The next and final part of this series will the full text of a letter written by Constable Jennings to the NT News in March 1978 – but not published until late October 1978 – referring to the conduct of a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan held at Katherine earlier that month.
You can read some fascinating – if fundamentally depressing – history of the various elements of the Klan and the disputes between Duke and Wilkinson at the Southern Poverty Law Center “KNIGHTS OF THE KU KLUX KLAN” page here. This 2015 Daily Mail article provides interesting insights into Wilkinson’s post-Klan life in Belize following his “disappearance” in 1984.
Thanks to Rachel Maddow at MSNBC for the tip earlier tonight that a number of newspaper editorial boards have recently spoken out in support of the Articles of Impeachment against Donald J. Trump currently being considered by the House Judiciary Committee. Much of that comment comes on the back of the results of the House Intelligence Committee inquiry
Here are a few extracts from editorials over the past few days from coast to coast. I’ve just updated this post with extracts from excoriating statement by the Editorial Board of the New York Times Editorial of Saturday 14 December 2019.
IN THE END, the story told by the two articles of impeachment approved on Friday morning by the House Judiciary Committee is short, simple and damning: President Donald Trump abused the power of his office by strong-arming Ukraine, a vulnerable ally, holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid until it agreed to help him influence the 2020 election by digging up dirt on a political rival.
When caught in the act, he rejected the very idea that a president could be required by Congress to explain and justify his actions, showing “unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance” in the face of multiple subpoenas. He made it impossible for Congress to carry out fully its constitutionally mandated oversight role, and, in doing so, he violated the separation of powers, a safeguard of the American republic.
By stonewalling as no previous president has, Donald Trump has left Congress with no choice but to press ahead to a Senate trial. The president insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing, yet he refuses to release any administration documents or allow any administration officials to testify — though, if his assertions are in fact true, those officials would presumably exonerate him. He refused to present any defense before the House whatsoever, asserting a form of monarchical immunity that Congress cannot let stand.
It’s regrettable that the House moved as fast as it did, without working further through the courts and through other means to hear from numerous crucial witnesses. But Democratic leaders have a point when they say they can’t afford to wait, given the looming electoral deadline and Mr. Trump’s pattern of soliciting foreign assistance for his campaigns. Even after his effort to extract help from Ukraine was revealed, the president publicly called on China to investigate his rival. Asked as recently as October what he hoped the Ukrainians would do in response to his infamous July 25 call with their president, Mr. Trump declared: “Well, I would think that, if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer.”
So far, Republican legislators have shown little sign of treating this constitutional process with the seriousness it demands. Instead, they have been working overtime to abet the president’s wrongdoing. They have spread toxic misinformation and conspiracy theories to try to justify his actions and raged about the unfairness of the inquiry, complaining that Democrats have been trying to impeach Mr. Trump since he took office.
The Republicans’ most common defenses of Mr. Trump’s behavior fall flat in the face of the evidence.
There is, above all, the summary of the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president. Mr. Trump still insists that summary exonerates him. It doesn’t — which is why White House officials promptly locked it in a special computer system.
Then there is the sworn testimony of multiple government officials, including several appointed by Mr. Trump himself, all of whom confirmed the essential story line: For all the recent claims about his piety regarding Ukrainian corruption, Mr. Trump did not “give a shit about Ukraine.” He only wanted the “deliverable” — the announcement of an investigation into the Bidens, and also into a debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
ASSUMING MR. TRUMP IS IMPEACHED, the case will go to the Senate, where he will have the chance — on far more friendly territory — to mount the defense he refused to make to the House. Rather than withholding key witnesses, he should be demanding sworn appearances by people like Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, and John Bolton, the former national security adviser.
As recently as a few weeks ago, some Republicans seemed to want to get to the bottom of things. Even Trump’s footman, Senator Lindsey Graham, said, “If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.”
The time for such expressions of public spirit has, apparently, passed. “I’ve written the whole process off,” Mr. Graham said during the impeachment hearings. “I think this is a bunch of B.S.”
Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, says there will be “no difference between the president’s position and our position in how to handle this,” as he told Sean Hannity of Fox last Thursday. Before the House had cast a single vote on impeachment, Mr. McConnell said there was “no chance” the Senate would vote to convict.
For now, that leaves the defense of the Constitution, and the Republic, to the House of Representatives.
Since taking office as president in 2017, Donald Trump has used the unfiltered power of social media to broadcast his daily disdain and mockery of rivals, and to promote his version of the truth.
That he has continued this mockery to the impeachment process — the most serious action Congress can initiate beyond a declaration of war — is of grave concern.
The first article charges Trump with abuse of power for “soliciting the interference of a foreign government to influence the 2020 presidential election” …
But it is the second article – the obstruction of Congress, by his “unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas” — that should have us all frightened … In defying these orders, and through his continued ridicule of the impeachment process and the members of Congress who initiated it, Trump has severely disrespected his office and the document he swore to protect and uphold. Should this process end with a trial and a Senate vote to remove him from office — a prospect that seems highly unlikely — it’s not hard to imagine that he would insist that the process was invalid and refuse to go. Such an act of tyranny is what the Constitution was created to protect against. That is why this impeachment process is urgent and should move forward without delay.
The impeachment investigation has been an attempt to get to the truth about the president’s abuse of power. One career civil servant after another has testified to the same facts confirming the whistle-blower complaint that triggered this investigation. Those facts have not been disputed, even by most of the president’s defenders … And that is why we endorse a vote to impeach the president. While his removal from office is unlikely, his crimes against the country, and the Constitution, warrant that outcome
Trump’s abuses of power are worthy of several articles of impeachment. But two are enough.Los Angeles Times Editorial Board. 11 December 2019.
President Trump’s myriad abuses of power could easily provide the basis for several articles of impeachment. But on Tuesday House Democrats unveiled only two, both related to Trump’s unconscionable attempt to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would benefit him politically … The first article alleges that Trump abused the power of his office when he “solicited the interference of a foreign power, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States presidential election.”
The second article accuses Trump of obstructing Congress by ordering “the unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives” pursuant to its power of impeachment.
By emphasizing that the defiance by the White House was “categorical” and “indiscriminate,” the drafters of the article have anticipated an argument by Trump’s defenders that he has the right to assert privilege to block the testimony of key advisors.
But Trump has gone far beyond asserting executive privilege in narrow cases. Rather, he has refused across the board to cooperate with an investigation that his White House counsel has dismissed as a “purported ‘impeachment inquiry’” and a “charade.”
Still, no one should think that these two articles exhaust the case against Trump, whose contempt for the rule of law and for the norms of governance seem to lead him regularly to the brink of what’s acceptable — and beyond.
But with their careful and damning explication of the Ukraine scandal, the articles more than suffice to justify his impeachment.
Impeach the president. Boston Globe Editorial. 5 December 2019.
From the founding of this country, the power of the president was understood to have limits. Indeed, the Founders would never have written an impeachment clause into the Constitution if they did not foresee scenarios where their descendants might need to remove an elected president before the end of his term in order to protect the American people and the nation.
The question before the country now is whether President Trump’s misconduct is severe enough that Congress should exercise that impeachment power, less than a year before the 2020 election. The results of the House Intelligence Committee inquiry, released to the public on Tuesday, make clear that the answer is an urgent yes.
But the president also betrayed the US taxpayer to advance that corrupt agenda. In order to pressure Ukraine into acceding to his request, Trump’s administration held up $391 million in aid allocated by Congress. In other words, he demanded a bribe in the form of political favors in exchange for an official act — the textbook definition of corruption.
Impeachment does not require a crime. The Constitution entrusts Congress with the impeachment power in order to protect Americans from a president who is betraying their interests. And it is very much in Americans’ interests to maintain checks and balances in the federal government; to have a foreign policy that the world can trust is based on our national interest instead of the president’s personal needs; to control federal spending through their elected representatives; to vote in fair elections untainted by foreign interference. For generations, Americans have enjoyed those privileges. What’s at stake now is whether we will keep them. The facts show that the president has threatened this country’s core values and the integrity of our democracy. Congress now has a duty to future generations to impeach him.
“Put your own narrow interests ahead of the nation’s, flout the law, violate the trust given to you by the American people and recklessly disregard the oath of office, and you risk losing your job.”
USA TODAY’s Editorial Board wrote those words two decades ago when it endorsed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Now, in graver circumstances with America’s system of checks and balances at stake, they apply to another president facing impeachment, Republican Donald Trump.
The current board has made no secret of our low regard for Trump’s character and conduct. Yet, as fellow passengers on the ship of state, we had hoped the captain would succeed. And, until recently, we believed that impeachment proceedings would be unhealthier for an already polarized nation than simply leaving Trump’s fate up to voters next November.
Abuse of power. Testimony before the House Intelligence Committee produced overwhelming evidence that Trump wanted Ukraine’s new president to announce investigations into the Bidens and a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
To pressure the Ukrainian leader, Trump withheld a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in congressionally approved security aid, funding that was released only after an unnamed official blew the whistle.
Obstruction of Congress. Trump has met the impeachment investigation with outright and unprecedented defiance. The White House has withheld documents, ordered executive branch agencies not to comply with subpoenas and directed administration officials not to testify.
Our support for Trump’s impeachment by the House — we’ll wait for the Senate trial to render a verdict on removal from office — has nothing to do with policy differences. We have had profound disagreements with the president on a host of issues, led by his reckless deficits and inattention to climate change, both of which will burden generations to come. Policy differences are not, however, grounds for impeachment. Constitutional violations are.
Bill Clinton should be impeached and stand trial “because the charges are too serious and the evidence amassed too compelling” to ignore, the Editorial Board wrote in December 1998.
The same can be said this December about the allegations facing Donald Trump. Only much more so.
The House of Representatives is moving toward a momentous decision about whether to impeach a president for only the third time in U.S. history. The charges brought against President Trump by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday are clear: that he abused his office in an attempt to induce Ukraine’s new president to launch politicized investigations that would benefit Mr. Trump’s reelection campaign, and that he willfully obstructed the subsequent congressional investigation.
Because of that unprecedented stonewalling, and because House Democrats have chosen to rush the impeachment process, the inquiry has failed to collect important testimony and documentary evidence that might strengthen the case against the president. Nevertheless, it is our view that more than enough proof exists for the House to impeach Mr. Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, based on his own actions and the testimony of the 17 present and former administration officials who courageously appeared before the House Intelligence Committee.
We believe Mr. Trump should receive a full trial in the Senate, and it is our hope that more senior officials will decide or be required to testify during that proceeding, so that senators, and the country, can make a fair and considered judgment about whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office. We have reserved judgment on that question. What is important, for now, is that the House determine whether Mr. Trump’s actions constituted an abuse of power meriting his impeachment and trial.
We take no pleasure in recommending the president’s impeachment and are aware of the considerable costs and risks: further dividing and inflaming our politics; turning impeachment into one more tool of partisan warfare; perhaps giving Mr. Trump unwarranted aid in his reelection effort. But the House must make its decision based on the facts and merits, setting aside unpredictable second-order effects.
That is particularly true because, unlike any previous president, Mr. Trump has refused all cooperation with the congressional inquiry. He has prevented the testimony of a dozen present or former senior officials and the release of documents by the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and three Cabinet departments.
Congress prepared an article of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon for a less comprehensive refusal to cooperate. Mr. Trump’s actions demand that Congress again act to protect a foundation of U.S. democracy.
I have extracted below a section that took my fancy from an academic article about the economist Neild, whom I’d not heard of previously. It is an interesting story on its own terms and a nice illustration of how unhelpful the instinct to locate regimes or their functionality on a singular spectrum between ‘government’ and ‘market’. They are co-dependent entities.
The English, the French and the Oyster (Neild 1995) is a succulent feast of a book, with rewards for readers of different kinds. Neild wrote the book as a result of his love of that mollusc and his interest in the evolution of its consumption. He wondered why oysters were more scarce and expensive in Britain than in France. He looked for an explanation but could not find one. So he researched the topic himself (Neild 2013b). While the book was not primarily an academic study, it dovetailed with his enduring interest in the ‘diversity of cultural evolution that shaped institutions’ (Neild 2017a, p. 6).
The book can be read
with reward by gourmets with no interest in economics, while economists and other social scientists can revel in its historical and institutional analysis of the oyster industry, as an illuminating complement to the more famous study of other common-pool resources by Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom (1990).11
In the middle of the 19th century, oyster production and consumption were as extensive and popular in Britain as in France. Charles Dickens in The PickwickPapers (1836), and Henry Mayhew in his classic London Labour and the London Poor (1851), noted that oysters were plentiful and consumed by the poor as well as by the rich. The new railways brought fresh oysters from the coasts to London and other cities. Some estimates suggest that per capita oyster consumption was higher in Greater London than in France (Neild 1995, p. 30).
The railways had facilitated an increase in the demand and supply of oysters in both England and France. In both countries the result was severe over-fishing of the oyster, leading to a precipitous fall in o
yster production in England between the 1850s and the 1880s. Estimates suggest that the number of oysters sold in Billingsgate – their principal market in London – fell by 90%. During this period of overall price deflation, the nominal price of some types of oyster increased about sevenfold (Neild 1995, p. 55). France faced a similar problem.
Neild compared the responses of the French and UK governments to this mid-century crisis. He showed that differences in institutional heritage and ideological predilection led to very different recommendations and policies. The result was the near-extermination of the oyster industry in Britain but its survival and prosperity in France.
Neild (1995, p. 52) defined a ‘common property right’ in terms of ‘no exclusion of anyone from the use of a property’. This is close to Ostrom’s (1990) definition of ‘common pool resources’, although he was unaware of her work. These are ensembles of assets, which are depleted by use, but where it is too costly to exclude other users. Common-pool resources differ from public goods (such as lighthouses), which are not depleted by use but are similarly non-excludable. Club goods (such as film shows in cinemas) are by definition excludable but not depleted by use (they are non-rivalrous).
Notably, Neild thought about the solution to the commons problem in terms of the standard private versus public and market versus state distinctions, whereas Ostrom showed that other workable governance arrangements had been used. Ostrom showed in her case studies that arrangements to manage common-pool resources effectively had evolved over time, but without recourse to individ-ual property rights, market pricing or overall planning. Instead customs and rules had evolved to ensure the survival and continuing exploitation of the assets.12
In both France and England, longstanding custom and legislation had enforced a closed season in the summer months, ensuring that the oyster population could recover. But unlike the case studies in Ostrom’s book, Neild addressed a problem of common-pool resources facing massive economic and environmental pressures, obliging governments to investigate and make recommendations. The UK and French governments solicited the advice of oyster fishers and scientific experts. But the institutional conditions and the policy responses were very different.
A Royal Commission into Sea Fisheries was set up in 1866, which devoted attention to the problems with oysters, as well as to the supply of sea fish, particularly the herring. One of its three members was Thomas Henry Huxley – the famous friend and defender of Charles Darwin.13 Their report noted that a spawning oyster can produce hundreds of thousands of eggs, and wrongly inferred that the oyster shortage could not have resulted from over-fishing.14 Their report proposed that where possible oyster beds should be placed under private ownership, to encourage investment into and maintenance of the resource. But they also proposed the removal of all regulations and restrictions upon oyster fishing – including ending the closed season in the summer months (Neild 1995, p. 67). The free market should hold sway. This policy proved to be a disastrous failure. Neild (1995, pp. 71–2) commented on Huxley’s role:
After his triumphs in the Darwinian battle, Huxley’s appetite for laying down the law and striking down those with different beliefs caused him increasingly to address political and philosophical subjects which were far beyond the realms of the physical sciences and hard evidence. . . . It is the misfortune of the British oyster that it fell foul of him at that stage of his career, as well as meeting the high tide of laissez-faire.
Subsequent attempts to establish private property rights in oyster beds largely failed, because they proved to be too complex and costly as they were encumbered by the ancient entanglements and ambiguities of British property law.
England had experienced a long history, from the Magna Carta of 1215 to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, where the powers of the monarch were checked by strong countervailing powers. In particular, the barons had forced King John in the Magna Carta ‘to stop enclosing the shore and seabed for his own purposes’ (Neild 1995, p. 86). But this led to a complex maze of devolved property rights. These entanglements made the recommendations of the 1866 Royal Commission unenforceable. Problems in defining property rights over the shore and seabed persist in the UK.
The French response to their 19th-century oyster crisis rested on very different institutional foundations, stemming from the period before the 1789 Revolution:
In France the king stopped the private enclosure of the shore and seabed in order to make it a public domain where he – and the governments which succeeded the monarchy – were able to grant concessions and take other steps to conserve and develop the supply of oysters. . . . Thus the authoritarian actions of the French monarchy providentially furthered the interests of the producers and consumers of oysters better than the anti-authoritarian actions of English barons. (Neild 1995, p. 86)
Neild thus revealed a hardly noticed paradox concerning the development and nature of property rights in different contexts. The prevailing narrative of modern institutional economists is that clear property rights became well-established, first in England, by placing the powers of the monarch in check, thus reducing the risks of arbitrary confiscation.15 By contrast, without citing this rival narrative, Neild showed that checks on the king’s power had led to an impossible tangle of rights over the shore and seabed in the UK.
Regarding France on the other side of the Channel, a prevailing account is that its centralized monarchy restricted the development of property rights, trade and industry. There is probably some truth in this, but the argument does not apply neatly to fisheries and oyster beds. Neild showed that concentrated ownership of the shore and seabed, in the hands of first the monarch and then the republican state, created the opportunity to establish clear leasehold property rights that could be exploited by the oyster producers.
There are further issues concerning the comparison of the English and French political and legal systems that need to be brought into the account. Edward Glaeser and Andrei Shleifer (2002, pp. 1195) argued that in medieval England ‘judges and juries faced both physical and financial incentives to cater to the preferences of local feudal lords’. By contrast, feudal France developed a system of state-employed judges who were ‘better insulated’ from local pressures and interests: ‘France chose to rely on state-employed judges precisely because local feudal lords were too powerful.’ This does not necessarily imply that English lords were less powerful, but that France, unlike England, was capable of a centralizing state response. In France there was a massive tax-funded state bureaucracy, surmounted by a relatively more powerful king (Carruthers 1996, 23). While the 1789 Revolution dismantled much of the feudal state, Napoleon Bonaparte and others followed by building a stronger system of centralized political and legal powers in the early 19th century.
Paradoxically, it was thus easier to establish clear and effective property rights over oyster resources in etatist´ France than liberal Britain. The British fostered the myth that laissez-fare was a longstanding natural condition, as proclaimed by Huxley – the influential naturalist. But in reality all property rights depend on historically specific, complex, political and legal institutions, which are not universal for all time. Property rights themselves involve several aspects or incidences (Hodgson 2015a; Honore´ 1961).
Neild understood that property rights are systems of legal rules, not merely instances of control or possession, as in the manner of ‘the economics of property rights’ (Hodgson 2015b). Hence the response to an existing chaos of complex legislation and overlapping jurisdictions should not be to do nothing (as many proposed in the UK) but to ‘tidy up’ by legislative reform (Neild 1995, p. 112).
In France in the 1860s the authoritarian Emperor Napoleon III accepted scientific advice on how to safeguard the oyster supply and granted concessionary seabed leases to oyster producers. Conservationist policies were further developed after the Franco-Prussian War. The two world wars in the 20th century severely interrupted French production, but it has recovered thereafter.
Of course, the relative success of the policy of Napoleon III does not imply that state ownership of assets is superior in this particular case, or more generally. Neild made no such claim. Peculiar political conditions impelled the French Emperor to take a beneficial course of action. The most important overall message is that market solutions cannot work unless clear property rights concerning use, benefit and responsibility are established; historically, at least in this particular French case, the state facilitated their development.
Neild also shows that the evolution of the British and French oyster industries were affected by laws and cultural practices dating back centuries. They are cases of strong, path-dependent evolution (Arthur 1989; David 1985, 1994).
Neild (1995, ch. 12) related how the regulation of the British oyster industry remained in an ‘unsatisfactory condition’ until 1993 when new and better regulations were introduced as a result of membership of the Single Market of the European Union. It seems that supra-national forces are needed to shake the British oyster industry from its century of path-dependent relapse.
Transport for London (including London Underground) has a calendar that shows disruptions for months in advance – it’s unclear if all planned works have been entered, but TfL Rail (aka Crossrail, which is partially open) shows disruptions listed as far ahead as April 2020.
Back in Melbourne, the fact that passengers can see disruptions as far as mid-February is a big step forward.
But that level of advance warning is unfortunately not routine, and it should be – for more than just the “special case” Gippsland line.
Some major Melbourne rail closures are already planned well into 2020.
For instance, the Upfield line, is expecting a three month partial closure for level crossing removals. I understand this will commence in August.
If they published this information well in advance, there could be a caveat: maybe works would move by a week or two, or the scope of the closure might change a bit closer the date. And smaller weekend-only closures might have to be moved or added with less advance notice.
But often rail closures are locked in months in advance. So why not warn people so they can plan ahead?
I made up the term #Bossplaining. Or thought I did. Turns out it’s already a thing.
The one thing I learned in my university education, the one thing that excited me, was the need for people to exercise real effort in understanding each other. The language we use is so full of shades of meaning and we’re such emotional creatures – particularly when we’re arguing. Johnathan Haight has popularised lots of the evidence of the truth of Hume’s claim that our reason is the slave to our passions.
There’s something funny about the commentary in this thread about aggressive debate in economics faculties. It’s recently acquired a gender politics dimension and the first commenter – a male economist confesses to misreading the motives of the piece assuming the author was a man. Thinking he is dealing with one kind of meaning making – in which someone is right and the other wrong – he encounters another.
Anyway, like my gradual disenchantment with almost all political debate, which I see as simply the thin artefact of the rituals of competition, where words mean less and less (and are chosen for that purpose) with everything in the body language (the body language of an argument – ha ha) I’m pretty disenchanted with aggressive argument itself. I’ve never seen it turn up much, though I guess it could when the argument is about things that are sufficiently formal that there really is a right and wrong answer. Even then though, argument should be direct, but not aggressive as it’s less efficient that way.
Compete if you must – it’s not only natural but it’s good up to a point. It tests ideas. But even if one side wins, there’s usually quite a lot to be gained by looking at the perspective of others. This came to mind when reading this terrific piece by Kevin Kelly. He’s fantastic to read – such a powerful, curious intellect. That’s one reason why he’s not in the footnote chase of academia of course. Anyway, he disagrees with Robert Gordon. I’ve not read Gordon, but he’s certainly a well regarded economist. An A leaguer.
If I had to guess who’s going to be proven right, I think maybe Kelly will be, but who knows? Certainly Gordon looks to be right about all the panic about robots coming for our jobs – at least for now. It’s future gazing so a very difficult call. Both sides have a good case to make. What’s shocking is how juvenile Gordon’s response is. The lack of graciousness is unfortunate, but the lack of curiosity is unforgivable. Rather than explore the issues, elaborate on where he thinks the weaker parts of his thesis are, or take up some of the fertile threads Kelly weaves through his piece, Gordon is in high school debating mode. He’s right and Kelly’s wrong. Note how, in this style the antagonist defines the terms – making the debate about his contribution – and any deviation from those terms results from their opponent’s foolishness or knavery.
What a tragedy that academia is so often policed by people of such desicated, reductive sensibility as Gordon. I’ve been reading recently about the foundation of the internet and it was populated by such clever and curious people with a passion for humanity – seriously, it’s amazing how many of them had a human vision for computers – how much they anticipated the ‘social turn’ that IT took at the turn of the millennium, though that’s now being set upon by various dystopian forces.
Here’s a presentation I gave to a recent Government Economists’ Conference in Canberra. Like some other reflections of my book launching years (only some of which have been preserved for posterity),1 it tries to describe how I go about thinking about economics.
And the thing is, I don’t really know anyone who describes their own approach similarly. Most of the people who are unsatisfied with economics as it is, and that certainly describes me, want some new paradigm to take hold. I guess I could say the same, but only by saying that the paradigm change I want is some self-reflectiveness of the discipline and an ability to get the best out of the paradigms available to it. As I intimate with my use of the image of the plane with feathered wings, a discipline like economics which cannot really mark its knowledge much to market – where falsifiction is mostly only available to prove the obvious – one of the greatest enemies is impatience. The hankering for a new paradigm for the outsiders is like the hankering for the next bit of economic theory from the insiders.
In my experience, most of the good economists can do comes from patiently looking at things, asking people on the scene and trying to find productive ways of describing the situation and finding ways to improve it. Hence my little man with the magnifying glass and the chart suggesting that ‘doing economics’ in a professional capacity is and should be mostly the act of applying ideas. There’s plenty of different ways quite simple ideas can be applied, and the task is to find a principled and productive way to do so rather than just turn up, announce that you’ve got your “economists’ hat on” (what’s with it with these hats all of a sudden?) and then uttering some econo-robo-babble like “it’s all about supply and demand” it’s all about the “incentives”. It’s not that those ideas shouldn’t be used, but, like the idea of putting wings on a plane, they’re the very beginning of the search for insight, not the end.
I know you’ll be looking for book launches at this stage, so here are two. ↩
We, the leaders of the
Gurindji people, write to you about our earnest desire to regain tenure of our
tribal lands in the Wave Hill – Limbunya area of the Northern Territory, of which we were
dispossessed in time past, and for which we received no recompense.
Our people have lived
here from time immemorial and our culture, myths, dreaming and sacred places
have evolved in this land. Many of our forefathers were killed in the early
days while trying to retain it. Therefore we feel that morally the land is ours
and should be returned to us. Our very name Aboriginal acknowledges our prior
claim. We have never ceased to say amongst ourselves that Vesteys should go
away and leave us to our land.
On the attached map, we have marked out the boundaries of the sacred places of our dreaming, bordering the Victoria River from Wave Hill Police Station to Hooker Creek, Inverway, Limbunya, Seal Gorge, etc. We have begun to build our own new homestead on the banks of beautiful Wallis Creek in the Seal Yard area, where there is permanent water. This is the main place of our dreaming only a few miles from the Seal Gorge where we have kept the bones of our martyrs all these years since white men killed many of our people. On the walls of the sacred caves where these bones are kept are the paintings of the totems of our tribe.
We have already occupied a small area at Seal Yard under Miners Rights held by three of our tribesmen. We will continue to build our new home there (marked on the map with a cross), then buy some working horses and cattle. These we will use to build up a cattle station within the borders of this ancient Gurindji land. And we are searching the area for valuable rocks which we hope to sell to help feed our people. We will ask the NT Welfare Department for help with motor for pump, seeds for garden, tables, chairs, and other things we need. Later on we will build a road and an airstrip and maybe a school. Meanwhile, most of our people will continue to live in the camp we have built at the Wave Hill Welfare Centre twelve miles away and the children continue to go to school there.
We beg of you to hear
our voices asking that the land marked, on the map be returned to the Gurindji
people: it is about 600 square miles in area but this is only a very small
fraction of the land leased by Vesteys in these parts. We are prepared to pay
for our land the same annual rental that Vesteys now pay. If the question of
compensation arises, we feel that we have already paid enough during fifty
years or more, during which time, we and our fathers worked for no wages at all
much of the time and for a mere pittance in recent years.
If you can grant this
wish for which we humbly ask, we would show the rest of Australia and the whole world that
we are capable of working and planning our own destiny as free citizens. Much
has been said about our refusal to accept responsibility in the past, but who
would show initiative working for starvation wages, under impossible
conditions, without education for strangers in the land? But we are ready to
show initiative now. We have already begun. We know how to work cattle better
than any white man and we know and love this land of ours.
If our tribal lands are
returned to us, we want them, not as another ‘Aboriginal Reserve’, but as a
leasehold to be run cooperatively as a mining lease and cattle station by the
Gurindji Tribe. All practical work will be done by us, except such work as
book-keeping, for which we would employ white men of good faith, until such
time as our own people are sufficiently educated to take over. We will also
accept the condition that if we do not succeed within a reasonable time, our
land should go back to the Government.
(In August last year, we
walked away from the Wave Hill Cattle Station. It was said that we did this
because wages were very poor (only six dollars per week), living conditions fit
only for dogs, and rations consisting mainly of salt beef and bread. True
enough. But we walked away for other reasons as well. To protect our woman and
our tribe, to try to stand on our own feet – We will never go back there).
Some of our young men are working now at Camfield and Montejinnie Cattle stations for proper wage. However we still ask them to come back to our won Gurindji Homestead when everything is ready.
These are our wishes, which
have been written down for us by our undersigned white friends, as we have had
no opportunity to learn to write English.
witnessed and transmitted by the undersigned:
In the mainstream media, they have word limits. Even online, they have to keep it succinct. Blogs have no such limits, so I apologise not only for revisiting this topic again, but also for rambling on so long.
Bustitution looms again over the summer, with large scale rail closures on the Mernda line underway now, and the Cranbourne/Pakenham, Gippsland and Frankston lines to be replaced by buses for almost all of January, and more around the network right through 2020.
(There are so many closures coming up on the Frankston line that one senior transport bod jokingly suggested: “Have you considered moving?”)
So here’s a braindump of a few points about planned bus replacements.
Divide and conquer
A big factor when designing bus replacement routes is the sheer number of people who catch trains – even on weekends and in the evenings.
One of the ways they manage this is to split the buses up into separate routes, to speed up journeys, and so that not everybody crowds onto one route.
For instance with the current Mernda line closure, the bus routes are:
Stopping all stations Thornbury to South Morang (“S”)
Express Thornbury to Keon Park, then all stations to Epping (Limited Express “L1”)
Express Thornbury to Epping, then all stations to Mernda (Limited Express “L2”)
It’s the same when other lines close: there are often multiple bus routes replacing the trains. It can be confusing, but it’s much more efficient.
But they do need to communicate this well. More on this later.
Shorter = better?
This ties into something else. I used to think the length of the bus replacements needed to be minimised, above all else.
I’m not so sure now that it’s that black and white.
During Frankston line closures a couple of weeks ago, we had buses:
All stations to Caulfield
Express City to Moorabbin – (Express “E”)
Express City to Caulfield, then all stops to Moorabbin (Limited Express “L”)
This meant that only people travelling beyond Moorabbin needed to change services, which can mean an extra wait, especially if connecting from frequent bus to sometimes not-so-frequent train. The rest of the passengers got a one-seat trip on the bus.
For inbound passengers, not having so many people change from trains to buses minimises the risk of long waits like we saw last Easter at Caulfield, with thousands of people shuffling in the queue for an hour or more just to get on a bus. Instead, the bus boarding is shared between multiple locations.
Of course, ferrying at least some passengers people from the closed line over to another line that’s running can also be an option, preferably with extra train services deployed to help cope. But this is difficult in some parts of Melbourne, where it’s a long way to the neighbouring rail line.
Obviously it’s a balancing act, and each decision has consequences that authorities may or may not be able to quickly adapt to – but should at least inform the next round of planning.
It should go without saying that no matter what the combination of routes, whether they run smoothly or not depends very much on the use of bus priority measures.
During recent works on the Sunbury/Ballarat/Bendigo/Geelong lines, buses were taking ludicrous amounts of time between Sunshine and the City.
Back when Regional Rail Link was being built, buses got priority along Ballarat Road, and fed into trains at Flemington Racecourse. It’s unclear why this time instead of repeating that winning formula, they ignored it and put people on slow buses all the way to the City.
The result this time? A lot of passengers gave up and either drove – making the traffic problems even worse – or switched to other rail lines – I’m told Werribee loads jumped by as much as 30%, adding to crowding and delays on that line.
Information: Where are the stops?
Despite the problems, in many ways they’re getting better at these operations, but there are still slip-ups.
A couple of weeks ago I knew I’d be travelling home from the City on a Friday night, which coincided with a weekend of bus replacements on my line – from the City to Moorabbin (and also out to Westall).
Okay – forewarned is forearmed. So where in the CBD would I need to catch my bus? The bus variants were:
All stations to Caulfield
Express City to Moorabbin – aka “Express”
Express City to Caulfield, then all stops to Moorabbin – aka “Limited Express” – this is what I wanted.
The stop information was far too difficult to find. It was actually contradictory.
The bus frequency poster PDF reckoned catch the bus from Flinders Street – with no detail as to precisely where. (Fed Square/Russell Street? Arts Centre? They’re hundreds of metres apart.)
There was a separate detailed list of bus stops, which said I should catch it in Spring Street near Parliament. And there was mention of a third location, in between: in Flinders Street near Exhibition Street.
I wanted to minimise my travel time. (Who doesn’t?) But what to believe?
Asking Metro on Twitter, they replied that they’d depart from Parliament. Or possibly Flinders/Exhibition. Right… This was not helpful.
Eventually after some prodding, someone at Metro and/or PTV realised the mistake, and started correcting the information on the web site. The Limited Express buses would depart from the Arts Centre.
But the advice was still confusing for some Cranbourne/Pakenham people, who ended up going to Parliament, as per the notices, only to be told they were in the wrong place.
Lol, we didn’t traipse around last night trying to find the right bus, they tried to divert buses to Parliament but didn’t quite get it right… Probably would have been quicker to walk to Flinders st in the end!
And I heard of another Frankston line person who also went to Parliament, was then somehow told to go to Richmond (by train), ended up on an all-stations bus from there to Caulfield, then onto another bus to Patterson. Total travel time: about 90 minutes for a trip that should take about 30.
This type of stuff is ridiculous – and it’s not even an operational issue – it’s poor information provided to passengers.
It’s hard enough trying to convince people that they should take the bus when the trains are out, without mucking them about like this.
Even if the information is absolutely correct, some of it is presented in the most incomprehensible manner.
Some of the prominent information is the bus frequency guides, which are just a mess. This is one of the simpler ones.
This is just too hard to read, yet is the most common type of detailed poster out on the system during closures.
They’d do far better, I think, to remove the frequency information, which is in the online timetables – and is misleading anyway, as apart from a base frequency, despatchers send additional buses into service when queues emerge.
Instead, focus the most important information: the different bus route stopping pattern variants, which really should be shown more prominently – rather than the diagram which implies every bus stops at every station.
Spot the difference
It turns out there are different staffing arrangements when it’s project upgrade works (such as level crossing removals or the Metro tunnel) versus routine maintenance works.
For the former, they put temp staff at the bus stops to provide travel information and assistance. For the latter… they mostly don’t.
Because apparently passengers need help when the line is closed for project works, but don’t if the line is closed for maintenance.
On Metro at least, the bus portion of the trip is normally free: it would be far too slow if people touched on and off, and the Myki system can’t handle the special routes.
But the Myki readers are usually left on, which continually leads to confusion. On one recent ride I heard the bus driver call out “No, don’t touch on!”
This is fighting against years of teaching passengers to touch-on, touch-off.
So why not do it properly?
Turn off the Myki readers on the rail replacement buses
Even better, if possible, switch them to a special mode that says “Free ride, don’t touch-on” or something similar – also handy for fare free days like Christmas Day
Fix the Fares & Ticketing Manual. It still claims you should touch on and off at the station – completely unrealistic and unreasonable given it may be hundreds of metres away, closed, or even in the middle of demolition.
The need to do better
I apologise again for the length of this article. It got away from me.
But to conclude, there are a lot more of these shutdowns over the coming years.
There are people who avoid using the buses, thanks to experiences of long waits, slow rides, confusing information. If those people drive to their destination instead, it just adds pressure to the overall transport network.
Overall I think rail replacement bus operations are steadily improving, but they still need to do better.
Instead of munching popcorn at the political theatre, citizens’ assemblies would give the community a chance to reflect.
In what we now see in retrospect as something of a political “golden age” – say from the early 20th century through to the 1980s or so – political parties were the institution through which the political aspirations of different sections of the community were articulated and conveyed to the commanding heights of government. Millions of members joined those parties, which were embedded in the community alongside churches, unions, and business associations.
Yet as Sam Roggeveen has described in Our Very Own Brexit, “hollowing out” has now inverted that process. Senior officers of the parties now comprise a political caste, the majority of whom secured their parliamentary position within their party’s career structure with scant achievements elsewhere.
Each party manages their “brand”, and politics has become a Punch and Judy show. We barrack for our side if we have one – or our point of view in innumerable improvised or staged culture-war skirmishes. We cheer and boo, tweet and retweet.
The governance that emerges from this is an uncanny mix of stasis and instability. Stasis because, at least when seeking their votes, each party hews to a small target strategy on policy while probing for ways to misrepresent and catastrophise their opponents’ policies and purposes. Instability because we the people so hate it all.
We tell ourselves that the pollies are only in it for themselves. There’s truth in that. But also evasion. They’re victims too. The lead players in the show could be living happier wealthier lives out of the madhouse. We fancy we deserve better than this as we sit in the stalls munching our popcorn. Indeed we do. Yet our clicks and our tweets – above all our votes – drive the whole system. Ultimately we decide who represents us and the terms on which they do.
The most significant achievement of Australian voters’ emphatic decision at the 2013 election was the abolition of carbon pricing, which had taken a decade of political struggle to be absorbed into the apparent political security of bipartisan consensus.
Whenever a political party offers a skerrick of leadership – whenever they depart, however cautiously, from their traditional “small target” or “comms” strategies of relentless manipulation and tendentious evasion, they’re easy meat for the scare campaigns and outrage machines of their party political and ideological opponents.
Roggeveen’s definition of what constitutes “a Brexit” for his purposes is situated within his own, and the Lowy Institute’s focus on Australia’s external relations. I would characterise the UK’s Brexit moment and the US’s Trump moment more generally as the point at which the electorate perpetrated some action that the overwhelming bulk of the political class regarded in their heart of hearts as crazy.
If that’s your definition, then just as Australia led the world in various aspects of economic policy – such as income-contingent loans, community strategies on AIDS, and the strengthening and targeting of welfare – our rendezvous with political crazy predates its moment elsewhere in the Anglosphere by three years.
For the most significant achievement of Australian voters’ emphatic decision at the 2013 election was the abolition of carbon pricing. Its demise has plunged our energy sector into crisis and dysfunction. And it’s rarely noted by the commentariat (why am I not surprised?), but it’s also costing our budget more than $10 billion annually and rising.
Of course, simply painting the picture Roggeveen does is useful. Yet if he has any ideas about how we might fight our way out of this frightening situation, he’s not telling. Perhaps like so many others, he wants more “leadership”. Perhaps we need a hero – someone with immense political talents who, having clambered up the greasy pole, still wants to achieve something and retains the authority over their party, the parliament, and the community to achieve it.
But how likely is that in a political culture that almost never lets an act of leadership go unpunished?
The one thing that gives me some hope is the existence of another democratic tradition which has lain dormant in our political culture for centuries but remains healthy as a pillar of our legal system. Those empanelled on a jury represent us as our parliamentarians do. But they do so not by flattering us to win our vote, but more simply by being chosen from among us.
The makeup of a jury is more substantively representative than parliament, with far more of the young, the old, and the less well-healed. Selection by lot was a central mechanism through which the ancient Athenians secured the great political principle they called “isegoria” or equality of speech. It has been driven to extinction in the great political hollowing out.
We’ve learned to distrust those competing for our votes, and those with different ideologies. But when we meet together in citizens’ juries, our trust in each other comes flooding back. For instance, when around 250 Texan citizens chosen at random deliberated in 1996 on various questions including whether they should pay between $2 and $5 more for electricity to increase renewables’ market share. With 52% agreeing before deliberation, 84% agreed afterwards, with such exercises making a material contribution to Texas – under Governor George W. Bush – leading many other states and installing 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy generation.
The evidence suggests that similar methods would have demonstrated a contrast between the opinion of the people, and their considered opinion on Brexit. In late 2017, 50 Britons randomly selected to exemplify the referendum’s 52:48 Brexit vote swung to 40:60 against after deliberation, with not one of them swinging the other way. Something similar happened in a deliberative poll in 2010.
And yes, what evidence we have suggests that this mechanism offers a useful means of tackling Roggeveen’s specific concerns. Just three months ago America in One Room brought together a “state-of-the-art scientific sample” of 523 Americans for a weekend’s deliberation in small groups on five critical policy areas. As the organisers reported:
There were dramatic changes of opinion. The most polarizing proposals, whether from the left or the right, generally lost support, and a number of more centrist proposals moved to the foreground.
And for those seeking to avoid our very own Brexit, there’s good reason to take heart. The deliberations elicited a more welcoming position on both legal and illegal immigration, mostly due to a softening from the right. Deliberation reduced support for cutting refugee intake from 37% to 22% with Republicans’ support dropping from 66% to 34%. Republican support for increasing skilled immigration rose from 50% to 71% (and overall support from 60% to 80%). Republicans also shifted from 31% supporting low-skilled immigration for industries that need it to 66%, with overall support for this policy rising from 53% to 77%.
My conclusion from all this is that if we’re to avoid our next Brexit, according to my definition, we need to bring citizens’ assemblies into our existing constitution to check and to balance our parliamentary representatives. But existing politicians who’ve worked hard won’t let go of any power they’ve acquired lightly. The beauty of this agenda is that huge strides can be made from outside the system.
A privately funded but independently governed standing citizens’ assembly could surface the considered opinion of the people alongside all those polls that currently measure their unconsidered opinion. And the evidence suggests that swings taking place in such a body would affect voters and, in consequence, their elected representatives. I doubt the abolition of carbon pricing would have made it through the Senate once a citizens’ assembly had twigged to the unseriousness of what was to replace it.
Given that and the fact that the Lowy Institute is one of Australia’s best-funded think tanks, I’d like to see it take the lead. It could do so with a citizens’ assembly focused on immigration along the lines of America in One Room.
Though we have a decade’s experience of advisory citizens’ juries which is very promising, we’ve barely begun to fill out the repertoire of political institutions according to this alternative way of representing the people. But it’s possible to reimagine virtually every political institution to which electoral representation has given rise according to the alternative logic of isegoria or equality of speech.
The Lowy Institute could fund a standing citizens’ assembly on immigration. It could announce its intention to fund a citizens’ assembly whenever any Australian government was considering any combat deployment of Australian troops abroad. It could fund a joint citizen’s assembly of (say) 25 Australians and 25 East Timorese to deliberate together on the relations between our two countries. Despite the tiny size of Timor-Leste, such an exercise could have a powerful demonstration effect.
Some enterprising philanthropists might replicate the experiment somewhere where it really could change the course of global history. They might convene a citizens’ assembly of Chinese and American citizens to deliberate in the first instance, on the impasse the two countries find themselves at on trade. But that could be a precedent for numerous similar exercises on subjects about which Roggeveen is anxious. And he’s far from alone.
It’s not hard to identify problems we’d have to take into account in pursuing some of these courses. I’d rather have seen a citizens’ assembly on Timor-Leste a decade ago. And the Chinese Communist Party might be able to exercise a stronger influence on the Chinese representatives than America’s government could exercise on its own. But such obstacles are always encountered where we explore new territory. They almost never render us powerless. This one could be ameliorated, though not completely solved, by secret balloting.
Personally I can’t see a happy future for any of us if we don’t set our minds and our hearts on evolving institutions that are a little more hospitable to what Abraham Lincoln so sublimely summoned up just by naming them: the better angels of our nature.
Anyway, I’ve found a strong counter argument to Abbott’s point:
“If you live in your suburban castle, and you only ever go out in your suburban land yacht, and the only humans you ever interact with are clerks, it’s the Target checker or your barista at Starbucks, you lose that sense of sociality – you start thinking of yourself as a driver, as a consumer.
“So what’s good for drivers and consumers? That starts to be how you interact with civic life, through that lens: I’ve got to defend my parking, and my access to my local Starbucks.
“I honestly think that suburban living on a subtle, sort of subterranean level, pulls you in the direction of sociopathy. It pulls you in the direction of antisocial thinking and attitudes.
“And conversely, just being out around among people gives you more of a sense of social solidarity, and more of a sense of being in it, together, and having to accommodate other peoples perspectives.”
David Roberts (Vox) – The War On Cars podcast, episode 24
Is this extreme? Perhaps.
Is it stereotyping people? Yes.
But I think it’s making a really interesting point – and it only takes a few people behaving like this to make life difficult for everybody else.
The podcast contains other moments of gold, including this:
“We think of cities as so crowded, but that’s because almost all of the space in them we’ve given over to cars.”
“Public space is what makes a city. If you don’t have public space, you just have an urban area.”
A new Passenger Information Display (PID) being installed at Richmond station
…and one of the new displays actually working:
Is your weekend bus crowded? It could be because most of the fleet is resting in depots.
The old (rebuilt in 2016 when the level crossing was removed) Ormond Station, with its station code OMD on the top. (Pic from Nearmap, which at the time offered free access for personal use – now it’s only $$$ for corporates.)
The level crossing at Ormond caused problems from time to time. On this day, a fault closed North Road, sending thousands of vehicles detouring via side streets and the nearby but narrow Dorothy Avenue underpass. This is the normally quiet Woodville Avenue.
The level crossings also used to cause impacts for the Bentleigh Festival, so the closure of Centre Road to traffic was done in two separate halves.
More seriously, emergency vehicles used to be delayed by trains at the crossings. Of course this still happens in other parts of Melbourne, and is one reason the level crossing removal program is so beneficial.
A rally in Footscray against the then-proposed “Westlink” freeway, the Labor’s proposal at the time for a freeway connection from Sunshine to connect with Citylink at West Melbourne. I remember speaking at this, rambling about how the nearby new Edgewater Estate was served by a new bus route, but it only runs every 40 minutes – even in peak.
Why catch a train to within half a block of the football, when you can park two blocks away instead? Little Lonsdale Street near William Street.
I daily walk past this intersection, which is rife for Rule 128 violations. But in 2009 it wasn’t really on my radar – I appear to have snapped this one accidentally. Note the Owen Dixon East building at right, then under construction.
In public transport land, Myki equipment was being rapidly installed around the network and tested.
Originally it was expected that smart (but disposable) short term tickets would be offered alongside Myki. These got cancelled by the Baillieu government when they decided to keep Myki but reduce the scope of the system in 2011.
November 2009 was notable for the end of the tram and train contracts. Tram operator TransdevTSL and train operator Connex/Veolia (now part of Transdev) finished up. Connex threw a big shindig for its employees and a few stakeholders. They were a French company, so that was the theme. Everyone got given a beret. (Marcus Wong has a blog post all about the last days of Connex)
Start day for the new train and tram operators, MTM (Metro Trains Melbourne) and KDR (Keolis Downer Rail, for Yarra Trams). It didn’t save John Brumby (centre of picture) from electoral defeat a year later.
One of the things people have been wondering is whether the Suburban Rail Loop will be an integral part of the existing suburban Metro network, or a standalone line.
Melbourne’s existing rail network has its origins in the 1854 line from Port Melbourne to Flinders Street (since converted to trams), but also particularly in the electrification of the 1910s and 1920s, to the standards of the time, including 1500 volt DC power.
While the SRL will have many interchanges with the existing network, there’s no particular reason it has to use the same technology.
The State Government announced on Sunday that SRL will indeed be different.
Similar to the NSW decision to make their new Metro line independent of the double-deck suburban lines, the SRL will be completely separate from the suburban network.
It will be built as a separate rail line, meaning it can use state-of-the-art systems from around the world without having to retrofit technology into the existing network â€“ saving time and money.
Passengers will be able to easily transfer across both networks, with the same ticketing system servicing both and up to 12 new stations connecting the existing rail system with the new standalone line.
SRL as a completely separate rail line brings a number of advantages.
Smaller, shorter trains running to higher frequencies can be used – better meeting the non-tidal capacity requirements of a line that doesn’t serve the CBD, while providing real Turn Up And Go services that make interchange from other lines and modes quick and easy.
The key would be to provide infrastructure that makes it possible to easily scale-up capacity as demand grows.
Nobody wants a repeat of the tram 96 situation, where the conversion from high capacity heavy rail to medium capacity light rail, combined with population growth, has seen heavy crowding, with demand swamping the trams.
A segregated fleet means platform screen doors can be used at every station, improving safety.
(Platform screen doors are flagged for the metro tunnel as well, though theoretically could also be retro-fitted at most stations between Sunbury and Cranbourne/Pakenham – with the possible exception of platforms shared with V/Line. And full platform shelter might be required to make it work.)
Smaller trains may mean a smaller loading gauge, helping to reduce tunnelling costs… or indeed the potential to use standard gauge tracks.
Modern AC power can reduce costs as well – as I understand it, fewer substations are needed compared to the 1500 volt DC power used by suburban trains.
If the line is completely grade separated and independent, it also means driverless trains are possible. Again, the new Sydney Metro line uses these, as do an increasing number of urban train services around the world, including parts of the Singapore MTR, Vancouver’s Skytrain, and London’s DLR.
Of course there are some disadvantages from using different technology.
Fleets could not be exchanged with other existing Melbourne lines, limiting flexibility. The deployment of new vehicles, and the cascading of others around the network is common on some networks, including Melbourne’s trams.
These types of factors become less important as the network gets bigger. Overall it seems to make sense the way they’re going. The pros outweigh the cons.
I’m more concerned about them adding some intermediate stations (or at least future provision for them) to the longer stretches of the route, to help ensure plenty of people have access to the line.
Given the apparent wish to seek private investment, it would make sense to have stations at some locations which are not already developed to a high density.
There is also a strong argument for including Doncaster in the first section (currently flagged as Cheltenham to Box Hill) given Doncaster is one of Melbourne’s biggest centres with no rail connection.
Provision for a future connection from Cheltenham to the Sandringham line would also make sense.
And there are still questions about the Airport section of the line, connecting through to Sunshine. I suspect Sunday’s announcement means SRL trains will share the alignment with City to Airport trains, but use separate tracks – but given that’s SRL stage 2 or 3, that decision is a long way off.
It’s good to see the Suburban Rail Loop progressing. It looks like we can expect to see construction begin by 2022 – just in time for the next state election.
As it comes into service, it will revolutionise cross-suburban travel by providing fast frequent connections around the middle-distance suburbs – opening up opportunities in jobs and education.
It does mean it becomes even more important to reform and upgrade bus routes and service frequencies to help more people easily reach the rail network.
Universalists dream of a world empire in which a world government works to solve global problems, enforcing the same law all over the world.
There are many different ideologies that envision a world government, ranging from international socialism, to the brotherhood of Islam, to universal humanism. They squabble about what a world government would do or how it would justify its powers, but they share a dream of one world.
There are many different scenarios for how a world government would arise that truly has the power to force all other entities to abide by a single law. Some envision a collapse in ecosystems to force to a moment of enlightenment and contrition, leading to one government. Others have visions of conquest, either by arms or by divine persuasion. Others envisage a world government emerging in the aftermaths of some huge catastrophe, like a nuclear war, whereupon the survivors combine into one government. Yet others think it will emerge gradually from increased connectivity between nations and increased roles for existing international institutions.
I fear such a world government. I believe it would enslave the vast majority and lead to dreadful abuse, no matter how it arises. I have difficulties imagining it capable of remaining intact too, but that is another point.
My fear is based on the forces that disappear with the end of competing nation states.
A major force that disappears with a single governments is individuals voting with their feet, which currently forces countries to compete to attract talent and avoid losing talent. Countries do this because the individual elites in those countries benefit from having smart populations under their care. With a single world government, power is centralised and hence what matters to any local elite is their relation to the central governing system. What migrating populations do or think is then, at best, of indirect concern.
Another force that disappears is the pressure on a local elite to have the support of their population, simply because that is their power base. At present the need for that support leads the elites of countries to want to grow and to look after their populations, at least to some extent. With a centralised world system, that pressure no longer exists.
The loss of any interest in anything local is even worse at the central level, where the only pressure that remains is control of the single system and survival within it. We know from history exactly what that leads to: the centre becomes an Empire that absorbs all independent sources of power. Everything will be brought under central control. Businesses, villages, households, sports entities, culture, etc. Without the pressure to limit its power, the world will move to a Chine-style single Imperial system, but much worse because China always had some foreign pressures and its leadership could be taken over when it started to atrophy too much. When there is but one centralised government, we would get absolute control by an Imperial court.
We also know from centralised Empires what happens if some group wins absolute power and is practically without competitors: everyone gets enslaved and does the bidding of the Emperor, who becomes a god. The whole population then gets pressed into service to God. Previously that included building the Pyramids and the Terracotta armies.
Indeed, we know from human history that the move to absolutism is very rapid in a world empire: in the generation under which power is truly centralised, the deification of the leader(s) already emerges. The monstrous projects of the Chinese emperors began with the very first emperor, he of the Terracotta armies.
I have an even deeper fear, which is that enslavement might be the best future humanity can hope for. This fear comes from the realisation that in a world political system where you have lots of competing blocks that each have the weaponry to wipe out most of humanity, sooner or later most of us will get wiped out, either by accident or malice.
Would a single world empire under the rule of a human elite safeguard us from this though? I fear not. The history of empires has shown us that the fight for control simply shifts from open camps to hidden camps. Competition between the children of the emperor emerges. Different ministries compete. Army generals dream of revolt. Such tensions lead to assassinations and shadow societies at the top. When there is pressure on the whole system, due to climate disasters or a running out of food, the empire cracks and huge civil wars emerge. With devastating technology, the civil wars would be devastating, and perhaps exceedingly quick.
So I fear a world empire lead by humans and expect nothing good from it. My fleeting hope is the end of human control over world politics. A world empire lead by gods might just be workable.
By 4:45 we were in a minibus headed for our embarkation point.
Time for a Sunday morning balloon flight – a Christmas present from last year from M.
Hot air balloons are very much at the mercy of the weather.
Our flight had been cancelled twice already due to the wintry blast of wind and rain that had been forecast.
That’s fine by me. I’m a little nervous with heights. Did I want to be high in the air in a balloon in turbulent weather? No, I did not.
For the first flight date, I’d optimistically booked a room in the hotel that serves as the meeting place.
Once the flight was cancelled, it morphed into a night away from home – dinner in the CBD, a stroll to the hotel through gardens, a sleep-in, enjoying the views, breakfast out and a walk in the Fitzroy Gardens in the drizzle.
Third time lucky, with the light wind of Sunday morning determining that we’d head to a park in Newport to take off, flying over the City from west to east – along with three other balloons.
It was a group of nine people, and indeed setting up and packing down is a group operation.
Two of us helped take the basket and the balloon off the trailer, and then once the two were attached, we held the end of the balloon as a big fan inflated it. This participation helped wash away any nervousness and replace it with enthusiasm.
Pretty quickly the balloon took shape, and the wind started to blow the basket around, with our pilot directing people to get in to help weigh it down until we were ready to go.
Some blasts from the flame and we were suddenly drifting upwards, quietly and smoothly.
We headed over Port Melbourne, with amazing views of the bay, a cruise ship, and the Westgate and Bolte Bridges.
Steve, our pilot, delivered a small box to one lady, visiting from Colombia, who opened it to find it was an engagement ring from her companion.
She said yes. A round of applause, and we continued our sightseeing.
Here’s some video:
Being early Sunday morning, there were few cars around, so it was very peaceful – except when the flame was burning.
The flame, when used, was noisy and being just above our heads, was pretty warm too.
Steve explained some of the detail of how it all works. Broadly, you follow the wind, but you do have control of climbing and descent, and a little control to turn the balloon.
We drifted higher over the city centre, which was spectacular from above.
Then over the Treasury and Flagstaff Gardens and the hotel where we’d met, reducing altitude over Collingwood.
It was still early – few people were out and about, but one bloke sweeping leaves in the street did look up. We exchanged waves.
After passing Collingwood Town Hall we continued over Yarra Bend Park. Groups of people were down below, dancing to loud music… by this point it was something like 6am, and a party was still going in the park. We drifted down low over them and they saw us and started waving and cheering.
A little further on in the park and the pilot was radioing the ground crew to let them know we’d be landing soon.
He prompted us to brace for landing… no doubt sometimes it can be a bit rough, but this was actually pretty smooth.
It was a spot near the freeway – which compared to the quiet of the park, was surprisingly noisy even from light traffic.
The ground crew arrived, and we helped pack up the balloon – it’s a bit like folding up a sleeping bag back into storage, but involves more people.
Once the balloon and the basket were back in the trailer, we hopped into the bus to head back to the hotel for breakfast, regaled by tails of earlier flights. Steve recommended we Google for Glen Iris balloon landing.
“That was me!” he said. “And it was this balloon!”
“Glad you didn’t tell us before the flight” I replied.
But our flight was flawless.
I’m slightly nervous about heights, but the gentle take-off and landing were fine – and I can see why they cancel the flight if it’s too windy.
Flights are generally around dawn, so winter would involve less of an early start – but it’d be colder and wetter (from dew) while setting up before dawn. It was an early start, but weather was perfect.
It took a bit under an hour to fly/drift from Newport to Yarra Bend. It would probably take longer by car in peak hour.
But you can see why ballooning is a tourist activity, not a mainstream form of transport. The embarkation and disembarkation points are severely limited. You’ve got no guarantee of going where you need to go to.
And any form of transport that requires you to be trailed by a ground crew is never going to be mainstream.
This is part one of a series that charts the short history of the Ku Klux Klan in the Northern Territory of Australia and the involvement of NT police officer Constable David Jennings in that story.
In 1977 the small Warlpiri township of Lajamanu was about as remote a place in this country as you could get. About 900 kilometres from the major Northern Territory centres of Darwin and Alice Springs, Lajamanu, then known to most but the locals as Hooker Creek, was at the end of very long and very rough dirt roads that would often be closed by floods and wash-aways for months on end.
In many respects Lajamanu, like many bush towns in the NT then perhaps as now, was seen as a lawless backwater—at least in the non-Aboriginal sense. Few recognised—again then as now—that most if not all of the Aboriginal people living in Lajamanu lived their day-to-day lives according to their own laws and not the laws made in Darwin and Canberra.
For NT Police officers many of these towns were seen as punishment posts. That is not to say that all Police saw these towns that way—there are some Police—far too few for mine—who will always be willing to spend the time to build local relationships and use enforcement of non-Aboriginal law as a means and not an end.
The coppers that take that approach are usually described by locals as “good coppers”—hard-but-fair men and women who will turn a blind eye at the right time in order to create trust and to truly serve the community within which they live and work. Much like good Police would do anywhere really.
But Constable David Jennings wasn’t that sort of cop. As he told the NT News in October 1978, before he landed in Lajamanu he’d been with the NT Police Force for four and a half years—including a stint on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria (another punishment post) and he’d previously worked as a Military Policeman for a year and with the South Australian Police for three and a half years.
One day in late July 1977 Constable Jennings was asked by the local council to stop a truckload of wine flagons from entering the town. Jennings intercepted the truck carrying the grog and told the driver to stop in front of the Lajamanu Store, where he ordered that the 70 flagons of wine be offloaded out front. Jennings then grabbed his personal 12 gauge pump action shotgun—not a NT Police-issue firearm but one later described as a “Los Angeles-style” riot gun—and proceeded to blast the flagons into shards. Three locals, perhaps more, suffered injuries from the flying glass.
That same store had been selling t-shirts—apparently often worn by Jennings—bearing the slogan “Ku Klux Klan, NT division.” Another shirt had an image of an NT Police “paddy-wagon” carrying Aboriginals and bore the words “Hooker Creek Taxi Service.”
A month later Constable Jennings was at it again. As they are wont to do from time to time, some local juveniles got up to sufficient mischief to attract the attention of the police. Jennings rounded nine of them up and, after fixing horse-hobbles to their ankles in full view of the community, put them to work as an impromptu chain gang weeding the town’s gardens for the day,. All the while a local police tracker stood guard over them with a “decent sized waddy.”
Of course this behaviour didn’t go unnoticed and in October 1977 Pam Ditton, a solicitor from the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS), following a visit to Lajamanu to attend the circuit court from her base in Alice Springs, wrote to the NT Police Commissioner Bill McLaren and to the Country Liberal Party’s Majority Leader in the NT Legislative Assembly (and after Self Government in July 1978, the NT’s first Chief Minister) Paul Everingham. In her letter Pam Ditton made several allegations of theft against one of the Lajamanu police officers and provided detailed allegations against Jennings about the riot gun and the chain gang.
In November 1977 Jack Doolan, member of the NT Legislative Assembly for the seat of Victoria River, far to the south-west of Darwin, tabled a petition in the Assembly on behalf of his constituents at “Palumpa, Port Keats, Kildurk Station, Wave Hill, Dagaragu, Hooker Creek and Victoria River Downs” who were:
… deeply concerned that some members of the Northern Territory Police Force habitually and constantly refer to Aboriginal Australians as coons or niggers which we resent. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Assembly urge the Honourable Majority Leader and Cabinet Member for Police [Paul Everingham] to request the Commissioner for Police in the Northern Territory to instruct his officers to desist from using such derogatory terms so that they may give good example to the general public whom they serve and in future refer to us as Aboriginals, and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Not much seems to have happened about these matters during the long-hot summer months of 1977 but in early February 1978 the MLA for Victoria River, Jack Doolan—whose electorate included Lajamanu—caught the attention of the Canberra Times, which repeated the allegations contained in Pam Ditton’s letter under the headline “Nine Aboriginal teenagers in chain gang”.
In Assembly sittings later that month Country Liberal Party MLA Roger Vale bowled up a dixer on a “recent incident at Hooker Creek” to Paul Everingham. Everingham referred to the minor theft complaints and then turned to the allegations concerning the shot-gunning of the 70 wine flagons and the chain-ganging of the nine teenagers, noting that these matters had been investigated by a team of two NT Police Inspectors, a Detective-Sergeant and a Detective-Constable.
Everingham told the Assembly the Police investigation had found the theft allegations to be without substance and not warranting further action. But the shot-gun and chain-gang incidents were different matters altogether and Everingham advised the Assembly that in regard to both matters the opinion of the NT Solicitor-General was that while “there was no criminal charge which could profitably be laid” in both instances Constable Jennings was “guilty of a serious error of judgement.”
The following day Jack Doolan elaborated on Everingham’s comments, reading into the Hansard much of the content of Pam Ditton’s October 1977 letter and that of her colleague’s follow-up letter to Everingham of February 1978. Doolan also read some statements from locals that he’d met with over the summer, who related their desire to “get rid” of Constable Jennings from Lajamanu because, among other things, “… that policeman chained those kids up, muluka, just like dogs.”
Doolan went on to note that all those in Jennings’ chain gang were tribally initiated, i.e. in the Warlpiri world they were regarded as grown men, and that Constable Jennings’ conduct caused they and their families to “feel ashamed.” Doolan described Jennings’ behaviour as ” … the insane actions of a person who gives every indication of being a psychopath.”
Everingham responded to Doolan’s comments, noting that the letters from Pam Ditton and her CAALAS colleague might not be admissible as evidence in any court proceedings and foreshadowing that, while Constable Jennings’ conduct might not attract criminal charges, it may be possible to lay departmental, i.e. NT Police, charges and that they were the subject of “active consideration.”
The events at Lajamanu attracted national attention in The Weekend Australian of 4 & 5 March 1978, where David Trounce traversed the history of the many iniquities visited upon the Warlpiri over time, including the notorious Coniston massacre of 1928 that resulted in the wholesale abandonment by the Warlpiri of much of their traditional country following Police reprisal shootings across much of the Tanami Desert.
David Trounce related much of the content of the CAALAS letters and the Hansard material from both Everingham and Doolan. He noted that NT Police Commissioner Bill Mclaren was “still studying the enquiry report before deciding what action, if any, would be taken against Constable Jennings.”
Next – in Part 2 I will examine the NT Police charges laid against Constable Jennings and the remarkable events that followed.
Why is it that at most traffic lights, the crossings for pedestrians are so narrow?
Even in Melbourne’s CBD, where heavy pedestrian numbers are expected, most crossings are far too narrow for the number of people.
It appears that technically, anybody crossing outside the lines is in breach of Road Safety Rule regulation 234 (a) – which says you can’t cross a road less than 20 metres from a crossing.
But in many cases, people have little choice but to cross outside the lines.
Short “green man” phases at some intersections mean that you might miss the lights if you crossed between the lines.
At King Street (corner Bourke Street), shown below at lunchtime, there’s only 12 seconds to start crossing, and only 30 seconds in total to cross – because roads authorities have prioritised north-south car traffic. (Hopefully King Street is one of the ones to be reviewed and modified.)
The default crossing width seems to match the footpaths that feed into it.
But this doesn’t make sense, as waits for traffic lights mean people cross in large concentrated groups – quite a different pattern from moving individually along a footpath.
This is not just a CBD problem. Suburban crossings are often too narrow – either not providing required capacity, or not taking into account desire lines, such as the flows here at Bentleigh station to and from the westbound bus stop.
To give authorities some credit, a few re-designed crossings provide a lot more space to pedestrians – at least in the CBD.
In some cases these have been implemented alongside upgraded tram stops, for instance, where the ramps plus the platform plus widened crossings can nicely fill the half-block.
Of course it doesn’t matter how wide the crossings are if motorists keep blocking them – an ongoing problem given there is no enforcement of the rules.
Something very odd happens when people get told a story of how other people with some shared characteristic have behaved in the past: they take it personal and see themselves in those ‘ancestors’, even if they share no actual family relationship to those people and even though they were of course not involved anyway. When a group of people who see themselves as Polish now get told a story of how other people described as Polish behaved 300 years ago, that story becomes part of the self-image of the listeners, making them proud when they hear something that sounds good about those previous Poles. When hearing something bad or shameful, they feel bad about their own ‘Polishness’.
People thus cannot help but ascribe historical continuity in their story of how they relate to the history of their country. Honesty dictates they shouldn’t, but they do and that has enormous consequences for the telling of the history of groups. It makes history politically contentious and a potential reason to go to war, to break up a country, or to work towards a positive shared future. The history story of groups should not be treated lightly.
The inevitability that people see themselves in the story told about ‘the history of their country’ forces a country that wishes to remain united and strong to police the story of its own history. A unified country needs to punish those who put something too negative for the living into the story of that history. The alternative is a recipe for civil war and break-up into smaller bits that then are prepared to police their national story.
Poland shows you how that policing is done. Spain and the UK show you what happens if you don’t.
The Polish government, newly reelected in October 2019 with a majority in parliament, passed a law punishing anyone from mentioning Polish complicity in the Holocaust, despite ample evidence of enthousiastic complicity in WWII. After all, how could a thousand years of Catholicism in that area not lead to complicity? It is now illegal to bring up that evidence in Poland in a public forum.
The government also sacked the director of the national history museum and put a new one in place who ironed out any negative stories about Poles over the ages. The fault of any misdeeds in the past, like, say, the mass murder of the population of Gdansk by the Teutonic Knights in the Middle Ages, is now described as due to someone non-Polish, which means one must avert ones eyes when one looks at just who made up the rank and file in that army of the Teutonic knights.
Intellectuals are of course up in arms about this in Poland, but what the Polish government is doing can also be seen elsewhere in the world for the same underlying reason of needing a positive story for the population to buy into now.
[Added due to persistent misunderstandings:] One should of course not confuse the need for a positive history with blind adherence to the history telling of today, or that one should abide by the history telling of a large dominant group in a society. On the contrary, the logic of needing a positive story for the population to go forward leads one to advocate additional elements and changes in emphasis to the existing history telling to accommodate new migrants and marginalised groups in society. Rather than accepting a particular story and not revisiting history, one is then continuously updating one’s view of history to ensure (almost) no-one is depicted as having an evil history. What we are now seeing in the world is many countries re-defining their history, some indeed accommodating groups not previously catered for, but sometimes not accommodating the whole population but merely a large part of them. The history re-writing is inevitable, leaving out large minorities is not.
In India, a similar historic cleansing is underway to generate a continuous narrative from the Veddas to ‘modern’ Hinduism. In China, the government facilitated the creation of a story of 2,000 years of the Han Chinese nation, falling due to outsiders and rising again due to its innate greatness. We see similar processes in Turkey, Japan, South Korea, and much of Eastern Europe. In each case the new national history story is in a literal sense a made up story, concocted in committees and overseen by politicians, a fabrication that falls apart if you look too close.
It is not necessary that the actual events and interpretations in the favoured national history story are completely made up, though that is rather normal. What is necessary is that certain things are accentuated and others not, ie the perspective is always selective. Hence the new Polish national story does not have to pretend that the murder of the population of Gdansk did not happen, but it does require downplaying the role of anyone described as Polish as perpetrators.
We see stirrings of new history fabrications in the UK and Western Europe, usually in response to the failure to police or update old fabrications. The Catalan government since the 1990s churned out a story of Catalan history that is cleansed and that creates a national narrative for the Catalan people. That lead to civil unrest and the possible break-up of Spain, and reflects the failure of the Spanish state to control the national history story in Catalonia.
Scotland has such stirrings too, for the same reasons and with the same consequences.
In the UK they just put a prime-minister in charge who has personally penned down a more romantic nationalistic story of the time under Churchill, leading the charge out of the EU by drawing on narratives of Imperial greatness. The main question in the UK on this point is whether the Brexit movement is channelled towards a resurgence of British Nationalism or towards English nationalism. If it goes the way of ‘rose tinted’ English national history revisionism, it means the break-up of the UK. If it goes the way of ‘rose tinted’ British national history revisionism, I think the union will survive.
I personally feel conflicted about the various fabrications. They offend me because I was taught to value truth and I don’t want to be constrained by a make-belief lalaland of national goodness. On the other hand I recognise that groups cannot function if they do not buy into a story that makes the members feel good about themselves. Without functioning large groups there is massive bloodshed, so if their stability requires history to be fabricated, then it must be fabricated. The alternative is the destruction of large group, and that can involve civil war, ethnic cleansing, and other mayhem. Breaking up the larger groups into smaller ones doesn’t help at all but just pushes the same issue one layer down, only stopping when there is policing of a fabricated story at that lower layer.
The ultimate question is whether peace is more important than truth. Surely it is.
Do I then not believe a country should face ‘the truth’ about its terrible history, learn its lessons and try and do better in the future, meanwhile reminding its citizens of the horrors they have been capable of?
No I do not because that ‘truth’ is just another fabrication, particularly when it comes to things no longer in living memory. You see, none of those alive were actually involved in what happened before their birth and all countries emerged from lots of different entities with lots of people mingling within it. So any story about ‘our past’ that divides the living into victims and perpetrators is a quite nefarious fabrication itself. It is simply another attempt at enslaving the audience to a particular self-image, and we should judge on the likely outcome.
So what matters about the fabrications is how they make you feel about your country and your place within that country now.
This does not mean we have to pretend humanity is good. If you need to remind people that humanity can be brutal, tell a general story of human brutality, but do not accentuate this in the story of your own group.
So I return to the point of my introductory paragraph: since people see themselves in the story told about ‘the history of their country’, countries must police the story of its own history and punish those who put something negative for the living into the story of that history. This is a basic duty of the state. The alternative means civil war and the break-up into smaller bits that are prepared to police their national story. So ultimately there is no alternative: we have to make up a positive national story that gives the vast majority of the population a positive view of their past.
This is a guest post by Frank Baarda, a long-term resident of Yuendumu, NT.
Yesterday hundreds of Yuendumu residents marched on the Yuendumu police station. The police station was going to be opened to allow the station to be swept.
Sweeping is a ritual whereby after a death the areas the dead person had frequented are swept using eucalyptus branches. I will not claim to fully understand its significance, all I can say is that it is a sombre emotional and cathartic event.
The march seemed carefully choreographed. At the vanguard a group of placard carrying children who on arrival lined up and repeatedly chanted “Justice for Walker” and who much later briefly chanted “Peace”. Behind the children a very large group of black clad women with white ochre smeared foreheads followed carrying branches.
Sporadic wailing would emanate from this group as we walked the considerable distance from the basketball court to the police station. Then followed the men and white-fellows and a miscellaneous assortment of visitors including journalists.
As the slow process of first women then men then young people entering the station a few at a time to sweep was happening, the chanting children suddenly broke ranks and covered the police station walls with blood red paint hand prints.
The march had been filmed by the ABC. Overshadowed by the NSW and Queensland fires our march appeared at the tail end of the news. Missing from the coverage were the chanting children. “Tensions are rising at the community of Yuendumu” the voice over proclaimed.
Not long before we arrived in Mexico City on our way back to Australia from Canada, a massacre of students had occurred. That was in 1971 and I recall seeing a police riot squad seated in a long side-less bus driving past. The Mexican police were dressed in black and heavily armed. Never again was I to see such a sinister sight, until yesterday.
“ …They do not know, that a subtle but effective system of terrorism, together with an organized display of force on the one hand, and the deprivation of all powers of retaliation or self-defence on the other, has emasculated the people and induced in them the habit of simulation …. This awful habit has added to the ignorance and self deception of the administrators”
Mahatma Ghandi at his 1922 Sedition trial
Yesterday we witnessed an organised display of force. At the public meeting at the basketball court I counted five police vehicles including one labelled ‘Major Crash Investigation Unit’.
At the airstrip there was another police vehicle. Parked on the apron there were two Pilatus PC-12 aircraft, one belonging to the Royal Flying Doctor Service and another to the NT Police.
I’d been told that earlier on, a contingent of police bristling with weapons had arrived on the police plane. A friendly policeman at the airstrip asked me what I was up to and told me that “The airport is closed off to the public for security reasons”.
Opposite the police station at the other side of town in the shade of a lone tree there were four armed policemen dressed in military camouflage.
At the public meeting it seemed to me that the only unarmed policeman was a senior ranking officer who has a long association with Yuendumu and has many friends here and is well respected in the community.
Yesterday I witnessed the largest concentration of armed police I have ever seen since 1971 in Mexico. Why the overt display of weaponry? Was it out of unwarranted fear? Or was it an insensitive display resulting from ignorance or arrogance or both?
So now once again and for the wrong reasons Yuendumu finds itself in the headlines. Bureaucrats politicians and the media are complicit in spreading misinformation which is once again portraying Yuendumu as this incredibly unsafe and dangerous place where ‘tensions are rising’.
A question asked at the public meeting was “ Why haven’t the police told all government departments that it is safe to come here?” No answer was forthcoming.
The NT Police motto is Building a safe community through prevention, integrity and unity.
If what they’re doing in Yuendumu is their idea of living up to their motto. they’re no better than Centrelink, whose motto is Giving you Options.
On an ABC website the following appeared a few days ago:
At approximately 7:00pm last night a member of the Northern Territory Police was involved in an incident where a 19-year-old man in Yuendumu was shot Deputy Commissioner White said.
It has now been declared a ‘death in custody’ Incidentally almost invariably in Australia when someone gets shot and killed if the person who pulled the trigger is known such a person is arrested and charged with murder and guilt or otherwise is determined by the courts.
At 7:15pm on Tuesday 13 November 2019 the NT Police Force issued the following statement:
Police officer charged – Yuendumu shooting.
A 28-year old male Northern Territory Police officer has been charged with one count of murder.
As this matter is before the court, no further information will be released.
This information is provided in accordance with NT Police Transparency Guidelines.
Is the Cranbourne single track contributing to delays? (It’s hard to believe it’s not. Even the government’s own web site says duplication would remove the bottlenecks that cause delays and allow the number of train services to be doubled during peak times)
Peak crowding? I’m sure that’s contributing. So how about boosting the service? Again, that’s possible if the Frankston trains come out of the Loop.
Not all of the changes are in peak hour. For instance the 1:40pm to Pakenham currently arrives and terminates at 2:58pm. Under the new timetable it takes 2 minutes longer. If services like this are taking too long now due to crowding, is it a sign the base off-peak service needs boosting too?
Will the new HCMTs help cut station dwell times? (And are other measures such as platform staff and announcements and the “burn lines” helping?)
The preference should be to fix issues like these, and then adjust the times…
It’s worth noting that they’re often looking at some seriously intense railway operations. The paper looks at the Tozai line, which carries 1.6 million passenger trips per day:
In many railway lines in big cities, 25 – 30 trains are running per hour per direction on a double track line during morning rush hours. This means trains are running every two to three minutes in one direction. Still, trains are very congested and it is not unusual that more than 2,000 passengers are aboard a train which consists of ten cars and is 200m long.
That’s far more and longer trains than on the Dandenong line, though that’s where things are likely to be headed in coming years.
How do the Japanese railway companies handle it? The paper says they look at their infrastructure and try to make the most of it:
Timetable planners are very cautious to avoid conflicts imposed by capacity constraints.
And station dwell times are certainly an issue:
Because trains are operated very densely, once a delay (primary delay) happens, the delay is propagated to other trains and a lot of trains are also delayed (secondary delay). Primary delays are quite often caused by passengers. If more passengers than expected get on/off a train, the dwell time becomes longer and the train is delayed.
The paper goes on to say that if infrastructure can’t fix it, or it isn’t practical to upgrade it, then yes, absolutely they do adjust train timetables to improve punctuality:
Various factors are relevant to the robustness of timetables. In particular, improvement or increase of facilities such as construction of new tracks is quite effective to increase robustness of timetables, but usually prohibitively expensive and sometimes impossible due to limitation of spaces. So, railway companies are more interested in improving robustness of timetables by slightly modifying them.
And it flags some of the options for modifying the timetables:
…potential adjustments are:
Dwell time of Train Z at Station A should be increased by five seconds.
Running time of Train W from Station B to Station C should be increased by 10 seconds.
Departing order of Train S and Train T should be changed so that Train T departs first.
So then… do they slow down train timetables in Japan to maintain punctuality? Yes they certainly do.
I’d love to visit Japan one day. But whenever and wherever I go on holiday, I’m wary of observing things just as a tourist, and I try not to make assumptions about how or bad and efficient things are, based on limited experience.
So is our State government off the hook? Certainly not. The question is: are the root causes of delays being looked at? And we know Dandenong to Cranbourne is to be duplicated – by 2023 apparently, almost 30 years after suburban trains started on that line. Why has it taken so long?
And how about the other single tracks around the Metro network: Upfield, Belgrave, Lilydale, Hurstbridge, Altona Loop? They all cause problems – delays, and short shunting to prevent flow-on delays.
This isn’t Puffing Billy, a tourist attraction with a train only every couple of hours. Melbourne’s rail network underpins the entire economy.
If they are serious about the public transport network, then sufficient infrastructure is a must, and the other barriers to punctuality all need to be looked at and resolved.
If, as I think, academia has gone from being inefficient but effective to being efficient but ineffective (a proposition I won’t defend here), the mechanism for making the switch was going from embodied cognition to abstract Cartesian cognition, or to be more precise from a rich to a shallow and superficial form of embodied cognition. Along the way a God’s eye view of the sector replaced a system in which the thinking and doing was deeply embedded in and emergent from the system.
The most important thing an academic system must do is determine relative academic merit. Alas, it’s also the hardest thing to do. Here we are at the forefront of human knowledge where literally every next step, if it’s worthwhile, is two things. It’s at the forefront of its field – which may require a substantial amount of learning and specialisation even to understand. And it’s uncertain as to its its outcome – as a rule radically so.
In this situation, the academic system we had in the 1950s was built around a centuries-old institution – the university. At least in its idealised form expressed by the conservative political theorist Michael Oakeshot, a university was “a corporate body of scholars … a home of learning, a place where a tradition of learning is preserved and extended”. Oakeshot’s description of the nature of scientific endeavour within universities helps clarify how potentially momentous the reform we’ve undertaken might have been:
Scientific activity is not the pursuit of a premeditated end; nobody knows or can imagine where it will reach. There is no perfection, prefigured in our minds, which we can set up as a standard by which to judge current achievements. What holds science together and gives it impetus and direction is not a known purpose to be achieved, but the knowledge scientists have of how to conduct a scientific investigation. Their particular pursuits and purposes are not superimposed upon that knowledge, but emerge within it.
In any event, the way this system identified and promoted academic merit was within the broad outlines of the late 19th and early 20th-century notion of professionalism. One generally needed to qualify for admission to the guild of academics with one’s educational attainments (generally a bachelors degree until the 1960s) whereupon one proceeded towards higher status positions which were also more highly and more securely rewarded. More senior academics identified the best of their juniors for support and promotion. The best got the long-term career reward of internal satisfaction and the approbation of those they respected – the very wellsprings of what Adam Smith thought drove a good life in a good society.
We can’t say how good this system was but it seems to have been tolerably effective at allowing the best researchers, or most of them, freedom to pursue their passions. However, there were myriad ways in which the system didn’t work as the ideal suggests it should. Just as lawyers typically come to serve their own interests ahead of the public interest in justice or their client’s need for justice at reasonable cost, academia was inefficient, often failing to put the public interest ahead of academics’ comfort in what they’d grown used to. In addition, crucial public goods on which science is built – such as peer review and the replication of previous studies – went unfunded.
Then came reform. Though it was ostensibly pursued to promote the public interest, and though to this day university research is overwhelmingly funded by the public purse and philanthropy, reformers’ imagination didn’t run to addressing these problems. Reform seems to have exacerbated the latter problems relating to the lack of explicit support for the public goods of academia.
Instead it ‘solved’ the apex problem of identifying academic merit by grabbing the nearest thing to hand – citation metrics. To put it another way, it didn’t start from where it was – with a difficult problem which was being tolerably solved by an existing institution but which could clearly be improved upon – with a thoughtful examination of the problems, a search for potential improvcements which were then slowly winnowed out and worked up into actual improvements.
Instead, it made a beeline for a God’s eye view of the problem. What would God want from the university system? Why He’d want optimality. He’s a pretty optimal kind of guy himself. So he’d want this system to reward the best. The best universities and the best academics. Well, that should be pretty straightforward. Let’s look around. Journal citations look like they do the trick. And they’re even quantitative, so they can all be added up and Bob’s your uncle. What could possibly go wrong? Of course, lots of things could go wrong and go wrong they have, and go wronger they will as the process not only becomes embedded but triggers Goodhart’s Law.
There’s a deep irony here. Economists exalt the way markets avoid this mistake of having some source, however authoritative, picking winners. Rather, the selection of winners is the emergent product of many different forms of valuation and action from many different perspectives. Yet reform of the higher ed sector is driven by economists’ and policymakers’ fondest imaginings that they’re moving towards a market-based system.
In all this what’s happened is illustrated by the image above in which birds wings are fitted to a plane. Birds’ wings played an important role in early aviators’ figuring out how to get machines to fly. But, as a degree of thoughtfulness would lead one to expect, simply taking some features of a market and grafting it onto another, quite different system might make it better or worse. But when things need to be finely adapted, one would surely expect it to make things worse. For each part of a plane and each part of a bird are a highly crafted part of a highly crafted whole. Transfering the insights that birds’ wings might give one into flying machine needed a lot of work. That’s the work that evolution already did on the birds wing and which airline engineers did in developing planes. One is seeking to use an insight from a mechanism in one domain in another domain which operates according to quite different principles. One might as well transplant a dog’s leg onto a Thylacene’s body.
Yet that’s what we’ve done in one area after another. And called it economic reform.
But it’s noticeable than some people wait for the person in front of them to go through and for the gate to close before touching their card. This slows things down.
You don’t need to wait. When the light acknowledging the previous person’s card goes off (or for older readers, when it says “Touch here”) you can touch your card – even if the gate itself hasn’t closed yet behind the previous person.
In the video above, hopefully you can see that the guy in front of me waits until the previous person has cleared the gate and the gate has fully closed, then he touches.
But I touch my card and follow before the gate has closed.
This helps keep the queue moving rather than a stop-start shuffle.
Given ongoing problems at some busy stations, I’m surprised authorities haven’t tried to educate passengers on this – particularly now all the busiest stations have the faster readers.
Keeping people moving through the gate line seems like a logical step to help improve flows through stations.
Update – it turns out there’s a complication! I’m told that at some locations, going through this fast may not be possible – the gate may get confused and close on you. This seems to be an issue with some of the red coloured gates in particular – not the yellow ones shown above. So if the gate is red, you’re right to be wary.
Pedantry is alluring. Especially if one gets some aesthetic satisfaction from the way words are used. Take “begs the question” for instance. I love this term because it is such a simple, chummy way of naming something that’s maddening in is subtlety. To beg the question in its traditional meaning is to mistake the form of answering a question for its substance. One ‘answers’ the question by simply asking it again in another guise.
This can be the product of deliberate deception. But in my experience, and in some ways more maddeningly questions are begged more often by people deceiving themselves. They conclude their ‘explanation’ with great satisfaction, blissfully unaware that their explanation is no explanation at all. Here’s an example of begging the question – which involves answering a question by asserting its premise in different words. From Wikipedia.
To allow every man an unbounded freedom of speech must always be, on the whole, advantageous to the State, for it is highly conducive to the interests of the community that each individual should enjoy a liberty perfectly unlimited of expressing his sentiments.
Today, ‘begs the question’ is much more often used to mean ‘prompts the question’. “The minister says he wasn’t at the lunch, which begs the question ‘Where was he?'” This was a mistake a few decades ago. It pisses me off that it’s not still a mistake. But there you go. Language moves on. A small aesthetic diminishment of the language and that’s it. I don’t use ‘begs the question’ in this way that I dislike but I don’t pull people up on it either. Language is a socially given thing.
I recall a friend of my father’s objecting to the world ‘hopefully’ as in ‘hopefully nothing bad will happen to us’. If you think about it, other than its familiarity, this usage is a bit odd. Because it’s an adverb with an absent verb [I’m no great shakes at grammar so I won’t be surprised if someone corrects anything in this last sentence]. The more logical way to put it is “we are hopeful that nothing bad will happen to us”. But here’s the thing – well two things really:
These horses have bolted so we need to get on with our lives
Their cost can be almost entirely restricted to the aesthetic
But there’s a long tradition of schoolmarmish finger-wagging about precisely this kind of thing as occurred in thisAge column by Stephen Downes. The author takes exception to people using the word ‘multiple’ to mean ‘many’. Like ‘hopefully’, I can see the logic in his point, but so what? I use the word in the way he deplores. With him having pointed it out, I might take to the aesthetic of being more pernickety about it. But so what? Others certainly won’t so it’s a lost battle already and, much more to the point a battle that’s hardly worth anything.
After the finger-wagging in Downes’ column George Orwell is inevitably trotted out warning that sloppy language is a step towards the gulag. The thing about George Orwell is that he was writing about something very serious which is the control of language by power, about certain idioms that render the things that need to be said unsayable. As he said – or words to this effect – the creation of a situation where speaking the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
I can give you an example. I was collaborating on a two-page explanatory memo for an enterprising bureaucrat somewhere in the world who was keen on explaining my idea of an Evaluator General. I wrote that it was to “nurture and protect a culture of truth-telling”. But she wouldn’t have it. “We can’t say that”, she said. You’ve probably already guessed why not. Because it implied that there wasn’t a culture of truth-telling. And truth-telling was already hot and strong in the agency she worked for. Why it was in the corporate values (OK: I made that last bit up, but it may well have been in the corporate values.) The point was, she didn’t feel comfortable writing that in the briefing. That illustrates in simple and concrete terms, Orwell’s point – and the power of Orwell’s point. We’re dealing with a serious and difficult subject which, if we are to give it its due, will make demands on us.
In any event, if people are going to wag their finger to talk about good writing, as Stephen Downes does, they could surely give us some good writing. They should surely make the case with some compelling worked examples leaving us thinking – ‘yes this matters and now I know why’. Is this vivid?
Using multiple is just one way in which the media is diluting its impact. If journalists’ writing was more succinct, more articulate and more consistent grammatically, it might also be more powerful. When – not, “At a time when”, you’ll notice – governments, commerce and organisations of all sorts are stifling the truth, writing with bite is the only antidote.
That paragraph is actually hard to take in. The beginning of the last sentence needs to be read several times – at least I had to read it several times. But that’s not my main objection – which is that it makes a claim about “writing with bite”, proposes it as an antidote but the writing is sloppy and vague. Not much bite! In this piece, I try to explain with a precise example what I object to about a corporate value that specifies “honesty in all we do and say” and try to show how that statement itself becomes the apex deception. As I put it:
There’s something creepy about calls from on high for “honesty in all that we do and say” while the routine deceptions of everyday life, both petty and otherwise, proceed apace.
Well, apologies for my tastelessness in quoting myself as a good example – I’m short on time. Commenters can no doubt offer much better examples – there are plenty in Orwell. Don Watson is hilarious and fun – my attempt at ridicule is here – but also a bit disappointing. Satirising something has some value in itself as social action. It can also be implicitly forensic. Watson’s stuff is brilliantly, hilariously written of course, but it left me a bit disappointed for not homing in on its quarry with sufficiently forensic analysis.
But spare me the finger-wagging without a cause. Downes’ concrete examples of what he anathematises all end up in the same place. After ‘multiples’ we get the use of surplus words and expressions like ‘now’.1 Then we get a nice general wave of the arms:
Weak writing means feeble thinking. Yes, we know what the writer meant in the sentences above. But in writing badly, he or she is signalling a lack of interest in precision, in lightening the readers’ load, in conveying meaning. She’s telling readers that she doesn’t care enough to pick the most powerful verbs, call things by their proper names and write her words in the correct order, the most common characteristics of weak prose. Poor writing also demonstrates to the powerful – to politicians, big business, lobbyists and the malevolent – that we don’t care enough about our thoughts and ideas to aim them accurately. They are easily deflected.
Thoughtful writing is strong and eloquent. I doubt that it has ever been needed more.
It’s two stars from me (and three and a half from Margaret).
“We write skill sets and drought conditions. Why, when skills and drought do the job? The words ‘all’, ‘any’ and ‘location’ are almost never needed, yet we read them time and again. ↩
The life of a military wife can be thankless. Separated from loved ones, their suffering and sacrifice go unnoticed while they live with the dread of a fateful knock on the door. But Kate finds freedom in song and persuades a ragtag group of women on the base to form the Military Wives Choir. Finding their voice together, the misfit choir put two fingers up to stuffy military tradition, anti-war protestors and their own personal differences. As friendships flourish, even the sceptical rebel and rocker Lisa is transformed by the choir’s friendship, humour and courage.
Grace and Edward have been married thirty-three years. When their son Jamie comes home to visit them in the fading seaside town where he grew up, Edward makes the shocking announcement that he intends to leave Grace. As the lives of the family unit begin to unravel through stages of shock, disbelief and anger, Jamie desperately tries to save the situation, while Grace is forced to face the possibility of spending the rest of her life alone.
Ricky is a former construction worker in Newcastle, who lost both his building work and his chance of a mortgage after the economic crash of 2008. Easily impassioned, with a liking for the drink, he is nevertheless proudly hardworking and loves his two kids and wife Abby, an overworked contract nurse, and in-home carer. When Ricky takes a golden opportunity to buy a van, start his own business, and become a freelance deliveryman, things don’t quite work out as planned, and his already dire situation takes a turn for the worse. As the impossible demands of the job edge him further into debt and push his family’s relationship to the brink of collapse, we can only watch as his and Abby’s hopes turn from to confusion and despair.
Mick Travis is a determined young man. Starting off as a coffee salesman, Mick is soon promoted within his company. But then a series of bizarre obstacles occur, all threatening Mick’s trajectory toward success. As Mick becomes smitten with the gorgeous Patricia, he winds up working for her father, the sinister executive Sir James Burgess, where things progressively get stranger.
In 2003, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of the richest men in Russia, began a ten-year sentence for tax evasion. Many believed his downfall was challenging the newly elected president Vladimir Putin. During his decade in a Siberian prison, Khodorkovsky became a world-famous dissident. Today, exiled in London, he continues to battle Putin’s 19-year hold on power. With this exquisite cinematic portrait of Khodorkovsky, prolific documentarian Alex Gibney utilises more than 20 hours of interviews with the man himself, as well as conversations with Khodorkovsky’s friends and enemies.
It’s 2003, and British and American politicians are pressing the case for the invasion of Iraq. British intelligence specialist Katharine Gun is a secret service employee who receives a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: The United States is enlisting Britain’s help in collecting compromising information on UN Security Council members to blackmail them into voting in favour of invading Iraq. Aware of the potential explosive repercussions of this illegal directive, Gun is unable to stand by and watch the world be rushed into war, becoming a reluctant heroine who risks it all in trying to prevent a war and save the lives of thousands.
Rupert and Jan are an English couple in their late 60s living in the south of England. They still receive their milk from a milkman every day, their rural cottage is alive with chickens, sheep and cats, and their family car is a hand-me-down 1936 Rolls Royce. After being invited to a human rights conference in India, they decide to turn the trip into an epic adventure. Shipping their beloved Rolls Royce across to the sub-continent, they embark upon an ambitious 5000-mile, six-month journey from Mumbai to Dhakar battling local officials, dodging tribal conflicts and dining with maharajahs.
Based on Alan Bennett’s acclaimed play, The Madness of King George takes a dark-humoured look at the mental decline of King George III of England. As the monarch alternates between bouts of confusion and near-violent outbursts of temper, his doctors attempt the ineffectual cures of the time. Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales plots to take the throne from the King, whom many blame for the loss of the colonies. However, the prime minister and his wife Queen Charlotte are determined to prevent such a betrayal.
Laura and John are a grieving couple whose young daughter has died in a tragic freak accident. When John accepts a commission to restore an ancient church, the couple travel to Venice, where they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom claims to be clairvoyant and informs them that their daughter is trying to contact them and warn them of danger. Initially, John dismisses their claims, but soon after starts to experience mysterious sightings and frightening encounters himself.
The Queen follows the relationship between Prime Minister Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth in the wake of the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Newly appointed Blair finds himself at odds with the Queen over her reluctance to publicly mourn the princess, and increasing pressure from the heartbroken British public, who view her silence as cold and heartless.
Professor James Murray took on the daunting challenge of creating the most comprehensive dictionary ever developed, but predicted that it would take him and his team over a century to compile all known definitions. However, by “crowdsourcing” the work and enlisting definitions from people all over the world, the dictionary could be accomplished in mere decades. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee led by Professor Murray, discovered that an American Civil War veteran Dr. W.C. Minor had submitted more than ten thousand words. But when the committee insisted on honouring him, a shocking truth came to light that no one could have ever predicted.
When Louis Mazzini’s mother eloped with an Italian opera singer, she was disowned by her aristocratic family for marrying beneath her station. Consequently, Louis was also cut off from the lineage, shunned and made to pay for his mother’s choice. After the family refuses to let her be buried in the family mausoleum, it is the last straw for Louis. He decides to avenge his mother’s death by attempting to murder the eight relatives who stand between himself and the family fortune. But when Louis finds himself torn between his long-time love and the widow of one of his victims, his plans go awry.
Career con artist Roy Courtnay can hardly believe his luck when he meets the wealthy widow Betty McLeish on an internet dating site. Initially to Roy, Betty is nothing more than a lottery prize, but as she opens her home and life to him, Roy is surprised to find himself caring about her. Matters become even more complicated when Betty’s grandson shows scepticism toward his grandmother’s latest companion. Eventually, what should be a cut-and-dry swindle for Roy turns into the most treacherous tightrope walk of his life.
We went to Bendigo for a couple of days, so here are a couple of snaps from that trip.
The only time I saw Powderfinger live was this “surprise” gig in Federation Square. (A surprise except a lot of people seemed to know they were coming.)
I must have been checking out the then-new bus turnaround at the western end of Lonsdale Street. Much of the area has since been redeveloped, including The Age building at left.
Remember these? Back when you could buy a tram ticket on a tram.
Yes, trams used to get crowded before the Free Tram Zone was instituted. But most of the trams are bigger now, and more frequent, and more crowded. (They also take about the same amount of time to get across the CBD, sometimes a little longer, according to timetables.)
Collins Place. Basically unchanged from this angle.
It’s not your imagination. Some City Loop escalators are running slower in peak hour.
Normally: Fast in peak, slow off-peak
Normal practice (for decades now) is to run the Loop station escalators at a reasonable clip during peak hour, and set to slow down outside peak. This is pretty annoying for many of those catching trains at off-peak times.
Why slow them down outside peak? It’s not clear.
Perhaps to save power – but isn’t the travel time of off-peak passengers important too?
Perhaps some off-peak passengers are uncomfortable with the higher speed. But then, they have the option of lifts.
Perhaps it’s one of those operational policies put into place in 1981 when the Loop first opened that’s never been reviewed.
Trialling slow speeds in peak
Anyway, just in the last couple of weeks Metro has been running the down escalators in peak at the slower speed at some stations.
They say it’s a trial to improve safety.
We’ve followed up with Flagstaff and a new escalator speed trial has begun at Flagstaff (and Parliament), designed to improve safety.
The trial will involve slowing the speed of downward escalators during peak periods to reduce the risk of slips, trips or falls.
To my surprise, I’m hearing that the initial results of the trial have been favourable.
But I guess we’ll see how it pans out.
Escalator capacity: walking vs standing
By the way, some people claim that everybody standing (nobody walking) on escalators is faster. I think that’s slightly misinterpreting the results from the well-known London Underground trial back in 2015.
But it’s only faster if having both standing and walking is resulting in queues at the entrance to the escalator – this could particularly be an issue if the majority of people want to stand.
Southern Cross is pretty bad for escalator crowding, especially during their frequent outages.
Of the underground stations, Parliament station might be the worst for escalator crowding, particularly during morning peak. (See above)
In most cases I’d rather walk, but there might be some justification at that location to encourage everybody to stand.
It’s probably easier to convince people to stand if the escalators are not running slowly. And the faster speed will clear any queues more quickly of course.
At the northern end of Parliament, it might also be an option to ask the small number of people entering in morning peak to use the lift down to the platform rather than the mostly empty third escalator – opening up more capacity for those exiting. (This may not be an option at other stations with higher proportions of interchange and counter-peak flows.)
The design, capacity and provision of escalators is no doubt being studied carefully for the new metro tunnel stations. You’d hope they will handle expected growth in coming decades, especially at Parkville which may become a future Metro 2 interchange.
But building more escalator and lift capacity into existing underground stations would be incredibly expensive – so in the City Loop, this is another case where it makes sense to look at operational practices to make the most of the current infrastructure.
Before blogging and the web, there was email and Usenet and FTP sites.
Just over 29 years ago I started writing online, sending out literal undergraduate humour to mates at Monash University and beyond mostly via email, under the truly ridiculous name “Toxic Custard“.
It got into the student newspaper, then in 1996 it went onto the web and became the early version of this blog. Along the way the content has continued to morph, to more autobiographical material, and more recently a concentration on transport.
The email list still exists… and to my surprise it’s still got about 600 people on it.
But I’m shutting it down – because it requires manual intervention to crank it up and send it out, which I rarely get around to doing, and because it relies on YahooGroups, which recently announced most of its features are being shut down. Emails to lists will be the only thing left, but it’s probably pretty safe to say these won’t last much longer. It’s obviously not a business Yahoo wants to be in anymore.
Edit: In classic Yahoo style, the final email to the list took almost 24 hours to be delivered.
The blog will keep going. Those wanting to receive posts by email have a couple of options:
Subscribe to all posts – I’ll be sending out invitations to this to those on the old list.
…or you can subscribe to just transport posts (via MailChimp):
There are also options to get new posts via RSS feeders (just add this URL), and I promote most of them via Twitter and Facebook. Edit: Of course you can just read it on the web.
I also occasionally blog on technology and various geeky tidbits at geekrant.org
Thanks to all who stayed on the email list over the years.
Other Australian cities are moving towards this. Perth has now trains every 15 minutes to most stations until around 8pm. Sydney does even better – they’re every 15 minutes until around midnight, and the new Sydney Metro line runs every 4 minutes in peak, and every 10 minutes the rest of the time.
Some people thought this was cheap. I actually wonder if it might be even cheaper. One source suggested to me that the train upgrades would be closer to $100 million per year.
How did they calculate it? The PBO’s source document doesn’t have much detail. I did ask, and they said they only included scalable costs, which in theory takes into account the cost savings inherent in using existing assets more efficiently.
The Greens policy scope is larger than some other proposals, as it includes 10 minute frequencies all the way to Pakenham and Werribee.
It’s unclear if the PBO took into account potential efficiencies from driver shifts – a driver who might currently run 1-2 peak services in a shift may also be able to drive some additional off-peak services for no extra cost.
The importance of the network effect
The cost would be partly offset by increased fare revenue.
The PBO’s estimate of increased revenue was based on work by Infrastructure Australia, but it’s not clear if this takes into account the network effect. That is, if you run a single route more frequently, that’s good, you get some more passengers. But run a lot of routes more frequently and you make exponentially more journeys more time-competitive, and get a lot more passengers.
It’s like when they made it so text messages weren’t confined to one phone network, but you could SMS anybody. Usage grew exponentially.
(Yes, I am old enough to remember these things.)
Apart from connections between different bus, tram and train routes being easier with high frequencies, it also makes life easier during works and disruptions, when sections of rail lines are replaced by buses, as connections (especially bus to train) involve less waiting around.
Objections to frequent trains
Interestingly, when faced with the idea that most of Melbourne’s trains could run every 10 minutes all day, a few people object to the concept.
Here are some of the points that I’ve seen raised.
“Huge infrastructure upgrades are needed first!”
No they’re not. Although there are sections of single track that are a barrier, most lines can run trains every ten minutes with no issues, because they already run more frequently than this in peak hour.
“There aren’t enough trains!”
Yes there are. While there might be some adjustments needed to maintenance, again, there would still be plenty of trains unused outside peak hours, so this shouldn’t be a big problem.
“It’s too expensive”
Big transport networks are expensive. According to the Budget Papers, the fees paid to MTM for running and maintaining the entire Metro network amount to about $1.1 billion per year.
So we might be talking about a funding increase of around 10% per year to make the network vastly more useful for people. And that doesn’t count increased fare revenue.
(Total rail network costs, including Metro, V/Line, V/Line coaches and the strange Capital Assets Charge, which is an internal government accounting trick, are about $3.9 billion. Against that higher cost, this is a tiny increase of about 3%.)
“Nobody travels in the middle of the day”
Melbourne is now a big city. Plenty of people travel outside peak hours.
Vicroads data shows road demand as strong right throughout the day, and weekend demand is nearly as strong as weekdays.
All-day frequent service can also help spread the peak load, by making it more attractive to travel outside peak.
“Off-peak trains aren’t crowded“
In some cases they are. For instance, western suburbs lines get very crowded during weekday off-peak and weekends – see below.
This plan would solve that, but the main benefit is sparking more demand by cutting waiting times (including connections from other services) to make public transport a more attractive option. This is because transport is supply-led.
“Express trains would be better“
Some argue that instead of trains every 10 minutes, there should be alternating stoppers and expresses every 20 minutes.
This is messy, eats track capacity, is harder for new users to understand, and means only a fraction of stations get the cut in waiting times. And each station skipped only saves about a minute of journey time.
Studies indicate that perceptions of waiting time can be up to 2.5 times that of travel time. Cutting waiting time is the priority to get more passengers on board.
Yes, it’s operating expenditure, recurring funds, which can be seen as bad for government budgets, unlike once-off capital expenditure. But this is the reality with a public service. You don’t build a hospital and then not staff it properly.
Better services would maximise use of the (substantial) rail infrastructure and fleet, and the cost would be partially recouped by increased fare revenue.
Spreading peak demand, just as was the case with the Earlybird fare, can also seen as a way of saving on upgrades to peak capacity (on public transport and on the roads), which are very expensive.
More broadly, it would assist economic growth by providing more opportunity for people to reach employment and education.
“Every 10 minutes? It should be every 5!”
Perhaps eventually, but let’s walk before we run.
With feeder bus services generally poor, who would use the trains if they ran every five minutes? The risk is they’d be under utilised.
Better to build up the patronage, then see which lines need a further boost.
“What about buses?”
Buses are important too, and many bus routes suffer the same problems as off-peak trains – more so, given some routes run only hourly. So yes, buses need upgrades.
But if you had to do just one mode, I’d start with trains:
the fleet is ready to go
they serve both short and long distance trips
carrying capacity is much higher, including passengers per additional staff member deployed
upgrading a network of just 15 lines provides far greater frequent service coverage across Melbourne
trains are largely immune from road congestion, so the investment in new services is maximised
“It would lock up the road network”
Unlikely. Outside peak times, local arterial roads (the ones they typically have level crossings) are not under the same stress as at peak hour, and the proposal is for fewer trains running than at peak hour.
And the extra trains would attract trips out of cars onto public transport, giving more people a way to avoid road congestion.
That said, the continued removal of level crossings means there is the opportunity to boost train service levels with less affect on the road network.
Frequent trains mean huge benefits
Melbourne continues to grow, and all day traffic levels continue to grow.
Running the trains more frequently all day brings huge benefits for many, including better connections across the network, without breaking the bank.
You know the joy of walking onto a station platform and finding there’s only a few minutes until your train? This experience makes using the system far more attractive. That’s the power of high frequency service.
The State government is going great guns on infrastructure, but it’s time they moved on upgrades to services as well, especially a no-brainer like this.
A Metro (MTM) proposal has emerged for big changes to the operation of the City Loop for trains running through the Caulfield and Burnley tunnels.
The page below is from a document discussing CBD station capacity implications from the introduction of the High Capacity Metro Trains. I’m told the document is genuine.
It reveals that the Caulfield Loop will be required to run anti-clockwise all day – the opposite of the current weekday PM direction. Apparently this is due to signalling changes for the HCMTs, which will run in the Loop when they come into service in 2020, until the metro tunnel opens in 2025. It sounds like those upgrades have only been implemented in one direction.
The document goes on to say that to prevent overcrowding on the remaining trains running from Parliament to Richmond (Burnley Loop trains), they propose to have those services not stop at Richmond.
So, what does this mean exactly?
In AM peak, the Loop would run as at present, except Frankstons would all run direct to Flinders St (“full Cross City operation”) – this is good; it allows more Dandenong and Frankston line services.
The bigger changes are in PM peak:
Caulfield Loop trains to/from Cranbourne and Pakenham would run anti-clockwise (Frankstons would all run direct to/from Flinders Street)
Burnley direct trains (generally they are the stopping services to Alamein, Blackburn and Ringwood) from Flinders St would continue to stop at Richmond
Burnley Loop trains (currently mostly express trains to Belgrave/Lilydale, and Glen Waverley services) would not stop at Richmond – they’d stop at Burnley instead for interchange
Not stopping Burnley Loop trains at Richmond is to avoid what could otherwise be dire overcrowding on those trains. But it would mean Caulfield people have to catch a train anti-clockwise around the Loop.
If going to the Frankston line, you would presumably change trains at Richmond or Caulfield. Sandringham line passengers would also need to go round anti-clockwise and change at Richmond.
For passengers from Parliament or Melbourne Central to any of the lines through South Yarra this inevitably means a longer trip outbound, about 10 minutes. Probably about the same at Flagstaff and Southern Cross, and quicker from Flinders Street.
It’s 3 minutes from Parliament to Richmond direct; the other way around it’s 13 minutes assuming no extended wait at Flinders Street. Which might be a big assumption – Metro’s challenge will be to eliminate or at least minimise this wait.
Metro will also need to prevent any transposals – where a train unexpectedly changes destination after people have boarded. This is especially important now that they’re in the habit of hiding the train’s destination on station displays to discourage late boarding.
The change to anti-clockwise all day is similar to when the Clifton Hill Loop changed in 2008 to run consistently clockwise on weekdays. It meant a longer AM trip for passengers going to Parliament, but cut the travel time for those going to Flinders Street – in that case, it was fairer, as they had previously gone the long way around in both directions.
Clifton Hill people don’t have the option of changing trains, but some of them hop off at Jolimont and walk to Spring Street in the morning.
Way more people than you might think hop off the trains at Jolimont in morning peak hour. I’m guessing this grew strongly after the Clifton Hill Loop switched to clockwise all day in 2008. #MetroTrainspic.twitter.com/fBlLHWra9I
Ultimately, people may need to re-assess their travel patterns as a result of this proposal. Their nearest CBD station may not be their fastest option. (My nearest is Flagstaff, but Flinders Street is only slightly further away, and will become my fastest option under these changes.)
I’m sure we’ll adapt… just as Clifton Hill and Werribee people did in 2008, and Sandringham people did in 1996. Those lines continue to boom. But don’t be surprised if people are grumpy about it.
The change would be much easier to deal with if the Northern Loop was changed to run clockwise all day on weekdays, as it does on weekends. This would provide passengers from Parliament a quick way of getting to Flinders Street to pick up their trains. (It would add to loads, but not as badly as Burnley Loop trains, which have their full CBD load to carry from Parliament.)
For people starting their trip at Richmond, or changing off other lines at Richmond and wanting to use the Burnley group, they will be able to use the trains running direct from Flinders Street (about 8 trains per hour in peak hour), and change to expresses or Glen Waverley trains at Burnley instead.
This change will also enables Loop passengers to get to Southern Cross and Flinders St in the PM, not currently possible without changing trains. This is very helpful for V/Line passengers in particular.
But it’s at the expense of the consistency of stopping every train at Richmond, which is likely to cause confusion, especially initially, and will cause a blow-out in some travel times.
Could they leave Burnley Loop trains as they are? Yes, but I suspect the modelling is right: the crowding at Parliament and Richmond would be pretty bad, with people heading to Richmond crowding out Burnley passengers.
A few other questions spring to mind:
Would the anti-clockwise direction be changed back when the metro tunnel opens and the Frankston Line returns to the Loop in 2025? (Probably not. People will have adjusted by then, I suspect if it happens, they’d leave it alone, and keep the benefits.)
What boost in services will be seen on the various affected lines to make use of the extra capacity, and lessen the impact of the changes?
For Caulfield Loop trains, will Metro successfully eliminate delays through Flinders Street and avoid transposals?
How will Caulfield cope with the increase in interchange of Loop passengers to the Frankston line?
Will Southern Cross cope with the passenger increase, especially when there are delays and escalator failures, some of which run for weeks at a time?
Even though consistent Loop direction is in principle a good idea, given the problems with it, why didn’t the City Loop upgrades include bi-directional running for the HCMTs? True those trains will move to the metro tunnel in 2025, but won’t they eventually be redeployed to more lines as the Comeng trains get decommissioned?
Was it really not possible to change the Northern Loop to cut travel time blow-outs?
Overall there are benefits to this proposal, particularly around better separation of services, which helps reliability and capacity – which is of course a key priority. And it helps connections to V/Line and non-Loop western suburbs lines at Southern Cross.
But this comes at the cost of travel time increases for some passengers, and inconsistent stopping patterns at Richmond.
Obviously making lots of changes at one time is hard, but this would be a lot easier on people if the Northern Loop was changed to run clockwise at the same time.
Especially without that, this proposal looks like one of those awkward compromises that adds some capacity and benefits, but unfortunately brings drawbacks for quite a few passengers.
The wave of climate protests (the Climate Strike a few weeks ago, and to a lesser extent the Extinction Rebellion last week) are a good reminder that although our current political masters (especially at the Federal level in Australia) are keen to do nothing, pretty soon a large mass of people who want action will be joining the electoral roll and voting.
Anyway, if you’re working, there’s something you can do.
Pretty much every working Australian adult has superannuation, your mandated retirement fund, and for most people it’s probably their largest, or second largest asset (perhaps second only to their house, if they own one).
For many people it’s Set And Forget. But you can choose to direct your super fund to put your money into ethical investments.
These can avoid your money going into things that you may be philosophically opposed to: for instance arms manufacturing, gambling companies, and fossil fuels. The precise definition of ethical varies by fund, but I suspect they’re all a step in the right direction.
What’s the financial cost of this? Probably nothing. In fact shifting to ethical might well be financially beneficial, as many of these investment options actually have very healthy returns.
For instance, for some years my own super has been half in an Australian Shares portfolio and half in an Ethical fund. The compound return on the Shares in the past 10 years is 8.8%; Ethical is 10.6%.
(Note: this blog does not constitute financial advice, past performance is not an indicator of future performance, etc, etc.)
The easy option
In many cases your current super fund will already have an ethical option, which makes it easy.
Just log onto your super fund’s portal, and find the setting for investment preferences. In mine it’s called “Future investments”, eg where any future deposits go to.
If you’re lucky, this will take all of a couple of minutes to do.
Different funds decide for themselves what is “ethical”. The above explainer is from Australian Ethical Super, but the bigger funds may not be as fastidious.
If you’re super keen, you can look around at the ethical super fund that best meets your values.
I must emphasise that I’m not a financial adviser, and there is inherent risk in any investment.
But your super is (hopefully) a huge amount of money that is working for you. So why not have it match your values?
Note: I’ve got no link with Australian Ethical Super, but I am a customer of their Managed Funds. Managed Funds, if you’re wondering, are similar to Super, except the money is not tied up until you retire.
April 4th, 1968: Greece is under right-wing military rule. In Athens, 80,000 people have gathered at the stadium, while millions are glued to their radios — like the tram driver who witnesses a miracle, the widow visiting the cemetery, the girl dreaming of her wedding day and the political prisoner cheering from his jail cell. Meanwhile, at a betting shop, old and new wounds resurface.
The first film to tell the life story of the legendary Greek-American opera singer completely in her own words. Told through performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs, private letters and memoirs, the film reveals the essence of an extraordinary woman who rose from humble beginnings to become a glamorous international superstar and one of the greatest artists of all time. Callas believed that two different women lived in her: Maria, the woman who longed for a normal life, and Callas, the public figure and icon, from which an adoring public expected a transcendent experience every time she stepped onstage.
In this adaptation of an Italian box-office hit, during a dinner party, seven friends place their mobile phones on the table and agree to make all texts and calls public, in an attempt to prove that they have nothing to hide. Over the course of the evening secrets are revealed and lies are exposed.
In this light-hearted comedy, fun-loving, 40-something, best friends Hercules and Alexandros arrive in Naxos so Hercules can visit his gravely ill godmother one last time. On the island they meet Fotini, aka Phaidra, a Greek girl visiting from Germany, who quickly realises something about Alexandros’ identity. Along with Fotini’s German boyfriend Alex, she, Alexandros and Hercules form a tight bond before Alexandros finally learns the truth.
Early 18th century. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfil her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way.
A retrospective special selection of Greek-Australian shorts and award winners from the last nine years in two fabulous events. From documentaries about amazing grandmothers, to sharply satirical animations. From comedies in the kafenio to experimental spoken word pieces, dance films, music videos and award-winning dramas – the festival has endeavoured to bring an eclectic mix to audiences.
A film about a woman’s empowerment through employment, during the Greek financial crisis. Panayota is a 37-year-old mum who leads a quiet, modest life with her unemployed, domineering gambler husband Kostas, their rebellious daughter and their sensitive son. To ease the burden on her family, Panayota gets a job for the first time in her life, as a cleaning lady at a large DIY store. She becomes a model employee, gains financial independence and friendships but also faces a ruthless system of exploitation and competition. Meanwhile, her family life improves and she gains the respect and appreciation she never had. But how will a series of lay-offs at work affect her?
Set in a Greek community of sponge-divers in Florida, the film tells the story of Luka, a troubled teen who is grieving the loss of her aunt and is desperate to connect with her negligent father. While also struggling in her relationship with her pill-addicted uncle Peter, Luka befriends an older man and slowly uncovers her family’s mysterious past.
A retrospective special selection of Greek-Australian shorts and award winners from the last nine years in two fabulous events. From documentaries about amazing grandmothers, to sharply satirical animations. From comedies in the kafenio to experimental spoken word pieces, dance films, music videos and award-winning dramas – the festival has endeavoured to bring an eclectic mix to audiences.
In this black comedy, Kostas, the owner of a Melbourne Greek restaurant, has employed Jamila, a single mother going through a bitter custody battle, as a belly dancer to entertain customers. When her ex-husband Arman and his new girlfriend Rebecca show up for dinner, she refuses to dance, prompting quirky waitress Sally to take her place. During Sally’s performance all hell breaks loose. Rebecca is abducted and Kostas learns that his son left the scene of an accident, fearing he’d killed the other driver and would fail a drug test. By the time the police arrive, there’s forgiveness in the air. But will this evening have a happy ending?
History has shown that the Myki gates (in particular the readers) were too slow, and many of the readers have since been replaced by units made by Vix, which was the company that engineered Metcard, finally providing sufficiently fast response times.
Gate Controller – these are seen at railway stations, allowing staff to configure and control the gates. I don’t think the deployed units have the large emergency button – this seems to be generally placed discretely nearby.
Myki Check devices were deployed to a lot of busier railway stations and tram stops to sit alongside Myki vending machines, though they are now being replaced by Quick TopUp machines (which can also check the card status).
Note the display shows daily and weekly capping – the latter was never rolled out (though I’d argue that it would be a worthwhile change – it is easier to understand than 7-day Passes, and better value for passengers)
Tram vending machine – only one or two of these were deployed onto trams, for test purposes. They would have allowed people to buy or top-up a Myki card, though with coins only. They were cancelled in 2011 as a result of the Baillieu government’s review into Myki. It was reported later in 2011 that 500 of the machines had been bought in 2008, never to be used.
Myki readers. Like the gates, these have also never performed satisfactorily, which led to the scrapping of the requirement to touch-off trams. These are also being gradually replaced with Vix units – they first appeared on E-class trams, but are also increasingly appearing on buses.
Those with long memories might recognise this part of the test centre – it was where in January 2009, one of the readers fell apart in front of then-Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky, as the TV cameras were rolling. (Kosky didn’t start the Myki project. That was her predecessor, Peter Batchelor.)
Some of this newer technology is probably thanks to the open architecture design of Myki, but it doesn’t excuse that the original rollout was so troubleprone, the result of the State government insisting on building it from scratch.
Despite the problems with Myki, the purchase of an established system for Sydney wasn’t radically cheaper. I suspect the costs are mostly related to the size of the rollout – in particular the amount of hardware to be installed on vehicles and stations.
The scrapping of tram vending machines and short term tickets in 2011 has made life difficult for some users, including those who don’t regularly use public transport, putting them off using the system.
Perhaps more public transport networks will move to cashless in coming years, but it was a backwards move at the time. It would be easier to deal with if London-style contactless credit/debit card payment options was offered alongside the other options.
For all the faults, we’re stuck with Myki now, and at least it mostly works for most users. But let’s hope the improvements keep coming.
Let’s first agree that if Trump is a blessing in disguise for world peace, he makes an exceptionally good disguise.
Trump’s bark is probably the worst of any US president in living memory. He has threatened the total destruction of North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and probably a few other countries. He has made belligerent and antagonistic statements towards nearly all the closest US allies in Europe and the rest of the world, with the possible exception of Israel. He has started trade wars with China, Canada, the EU, and lots of other countries. For private gain, it seems he drew back American support for the Ukraine government in the hope that this would get them to do his political bidding at home. He has similarly trashed the Iran nuclear deal that was the main hope of diffusing tensions in that region, and don’t even get me started on his management of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or his stance towards climate change.
In terms of openly flouting the normal rules of international politics and diplomacy, Trump is the worst major leader I have encountered in my life-time, and I am old enough to remember Reagan and what the CIA was up to under his watch!
And yet, and yet. His bite is remarkably soft. Though his rhetoric and flouting is that of a bull in a China shop, there is a reasonable argument to be made that he has made the shop a lot safer because of his personal behaviour. Everything in the shop has been tightened up out of fear of disruption by the bull. Blessings can come in odd disguises!
Look for instance at his cosy relationships with several dictators of countries the US used to be close to war with. Putin of Russia, Kim of NK and even Xi of China. He gets on remarkably well with these characters, perhaps because they channel a bit of business towards his hotels, or he just enjoys the company of politically strong men. Whatever the reason for this though, this is basically very good news and has reduced tensions a lot. No-one in their right minds would have wanted the alternative of continued or even increasing hostility by a US president towards these characters.
Also look at the lack of new wars started by the US in his time in office. Perhaps because of his need for praise and self-confirmation, he seems to have destroyed the ability of the US State Department and the Pentagon to operate efficiently. As soon as a National Security Adviser gets too comfortable and starts getting things done, Trump fires that person so that someone else has to start again. This has reduced the ability to plan forward, including for new wars.
What is not to like about this? Anyone who, like me, believes the US in previous decades has been too gung-ho in starting new wars should see this internal disruption of the US security establishment as a huge blessing. On his watch, the US have not gone into any new combat zone that I know of, unlike for instance Saint Obama whose bite was worse than his bark.
Look closer at these supposed trade wars that Trump started. For one, his Republican predecessors also initiated trade wars with the EU and China, so there is nothing new here. And also look at how limited the trade wars have truly been. The US is still running a huge trade deficit with China and many announced sanctions get quietly ‘postponed’. Furthermore, the strategic rivalry between China and the US has been coming for a long time and is supported by all parts of the US political establishment.
So look at what has not happened with US-China relations on Trump’s watch. There have been no major incidents in the South China see. There has been no standoff over Taiwan or Japan. There has been little US effort to scupper Chinese investments in Africa or central Asia. Really, one has to say that when it comes to the US-China conflict it is somewhat quiet on the Western front. Lots of noise, little action. The enmity that was inevitably building anyway is so far being channeled in very healthy directions, though seemingly as the unintended consequence.
Relatedly, perhaps the biggest benefit of Trump on the international stage is that he has forced groups of countries together by being so unpredictable and so money-oriented. Under his watch, the Europeans have started combining with the Chinese on finance and the internet, in both cases alerted to their previous weakness by Trump’s weaponisation of these areas. The potential for US (ab)use of their dominance in finance and the internet was already there, but that threat is now being quietly eroded with little fuss because Trump has been using those big sticks for small gains. Trump has used the finance muscle in the case of Iran and the Internet muscle when it comes to 5G and spyware, in both cases alerting others to the presence of the big stick. This is leading to countermoves, such as the French digitax. Bad for the US, probably good for world peace. Thank you Trump.
Trump’s willingness to play hard ball with his allies has, arguably, also lead China and India to be more peaceful to each other. Basically, the Indians don’t seem to trust that the US will stand by them if they really make trouble with China. Thank you Trump.
There are also big silver linings in the increased animosity towards new migrants in the US. What are all these smart ambitious people going to do now they can no longer go to the US? Its obvious: they go to Europe, Latin America, and are thus productive elsewhere. The loss of the US is the gain of others. Once more …. thank you Trump.
We can repeat this for the other instances of Trump misbehaviour, such as on climate change or even on Iran: his bluster and economic violence in those areas have forced cooperation between the rest and are teaching the rest of the world to be more pro-active and serious.
Of course I have skipped over a zillion nuances, but I cannot escape the overall conclusion that Trump has single-handed improved world peace by making friends in unusual places; by upsetting his allies and thus forcing them to make new friends; and by so expertly sabotaging the ability of the American security establishment to make war on others. He may still do a lot of damage in his remaining time in office, but really, you have to say, on the whole: Trump has so far been a blessing in exceptionally good disguise.
Better late than never, here they are – at least here is part one – I’ve got a special part two coming up soon.
Centre Place, always lovely. I notice the sign about when it’s closed to vehicles – it’d be a brave person who tried to drive along it at any time, I reckon.
Myer’s flagship Melbourne store was getting a huge makeover. Here’s the view from the front, which appears to have exposed some brickwork.
…and the view from the back. I don’t actually remember where I took this; it must have been from one of the upper levels of the old Lonsdale Street store.
At Chadstone, some bright spark decided that the thing bus passengers needed was a waiting room, dubbed the Transit Lounge. I think they tried to imply it was “airport-style”, but if so it’d be the scummiest airport you’ve ever seen – just a few seats and a chip machine, though at least it would provide air-conditioned relief on hot days. Since then the bus interchange has been completely rebuilt. (What bus passengers at Chadstone still need is, of course, more buses.)
A snap taken opposite the City Square, now taken over by metro tunnel construction. Hilariously, some people haven’t twigged that the giant concrete monstrosity on the site now is a temporary acoustic shed, rather than the entrance to the new station.
Keeping Melbourne Moving advertised on a tram. At the time, they were using route number 112 for St Kilda to West Preston. Since then the routes have been split into the 11 and 12, which is what they were before.
My car has a spot in the central console area thingy that looks like it has been designed to store your mobile phone so you can kind of see the screen while driving, for navigational purposes. At least, the manual doesn’t seem to document its purpose, and I can’t figure out what else it could be for.
A few months ago I had to drive to Balwyn to pick up a batch of stuff to bring home. My navigational skills for this part of the world are a bit hazy. Anywhere north-east of Kew, and I’m a bit lost.
So I tried out the Google Maps navigation in my phone. I’ve used it plenty of times for planning trips on public transport or on foot. And occasionally when driving I’d use it to check road conditions, but I hadn’t used it in fully-blown GPS mode before.
I have to say, I’m impressed. Pump up the volume and it reads you all the directions as you travel along, including details like pointing out when you might have to be in the left lane to turn right.
(Supposedly, dedicated GPS units are better than using phones, but given how little I drive, I’d struggle to justify it.)
It would be interesting to understand the algorithm, but from my observations:
Time appears to trump any other consideration. Save one minute by using a toll road? It’ll suggest it, unless you set the options to exclude toll roads. But there’s no option to be selective about it – maybe I’m willing to pay $3.18 for the Bolte Bridge, but not $8.27 for the Burnley Tunnel and M1.
It seems pretty good at avoiding big traffic snarls.
In the case of the trip from Bentleigh to Balwyn, it took me on a route which I totally wouldn’t have chosen myself, along numerous minor roads and side streets.
I find this last point interesting. If I’d planned it, I’d have taken a longer route along main roads – because they’re easier to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with an area and aren’t being given directions.
If the algorithm prioritises time over everything else, presumably it’s sending a lot of motorists down streets that previously didn’t get much traffic.
Some communities are fighting back, particularly in the USA where perhaps more people are using them. Apparently the town of Leonia, New Jersey has closed numerous streets to all vehicles except local traffic. And there other strategies some are employing:
Since Waze uses crowd sourcing to update its information, some people – frustrated at the influx of outside traffic – have taken to fabricating reports of traffic accidents in their communities to try to deter the app from sending motorists their way.
Oddly, the article doesn’t mention the measure that I would consider the most obvious: traffic calming to reduce overall driving speeds. Off the top of my head these might include:
Reduce speed limits
Closing off through-streets to create cul de sacs for traffic (see above; preferably still allowing pedestrians and cyclists through)
Speedhumps and chicanes (see below) to slow down cars
Turn or through-traffic restrictions at intersections (a recent high-profile example is Toronto’s King Street)
And I’m sure there are other measures that can be used. In my own local area, Glen Eira has implemented a number of these measures on side streets – great to see.
After all, if the algorithms are giving people the fastest route no matter what, then making residential side streets slower and less convenient might be the only way to ensure that quiet streets stay quiet.
And even better, it also makes life better for cyclists and pedestrians using those streets.
I don’t think we should forget that more Australians have jobs today than ever before in Australian history. That’s a remarkable achievement. [Even more remarkably, this remarkable achievement is remarkably achieved in most countries about 80 per cent of the time where it nevertheless tends to go less remarked on].
Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott wants us to know that it’s not just business-as-usual with the Thodey Review. Well it is kind of business-as-usual, but in a very good way, indeed a way that looks like it has not been precedented (if you know what I mean) over the last 15 years.
Some of the more sceptical among you will point to the numerous reviews of the public service over the last 15 years and question whether this will be any different.
It is different this time — and different for a number of reasons. Firstly, you have strong direction from the government with the PM’s sharp focus on implementation and the Australian people [All previous Prime Ministers over the last 15 years had a fuzzy focus on implementation and were closer to the Chilean than the Australian people at least judging from their secret handshake]; second you have an APS leadership that is committed to reform and understands absolutely the importance of good governance and staying relevant [It was not committed to reform over the previous 15 years and of those public servants who were, they only understand the importance of good government relatively. As for staying relevant – well they were relevant – but that was then. One has to stay relevant and pretty obviously it’s hard for public servants of 15 years ago to be relevant to today – for instance how many of them knew about Adele?]; thirdly, the speed of technological and societal change is creating its own momentum [just 15 years ago we were still phasing out horses. Indeed, horses were put before carts in those days, but not any more.]; and finally, layered on top, are public expectations [15 years ago public expectations tended to be layered very much more towards the middle of whatever it is that they’re layered on top of now, but it is true that those expectations have been managed upwards, so it’s no surprise where they are now].
In this week’s weekend competition you’re encouraged to suggest other examples from around the world and from the annals of history. Prizes include a weekend as co-president of the Free World with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago with a night out in his famed electro-plated panel van “Golden Stormy”.
Things are shaping up for extraordinary developments in the UK, and I’m not talking about Brexit. Well, I am, but not directly. I’m talking about strategic or tactical voting. In Australia we are mightily protected from such dilemmas by preferential or instant runoff voting whereby, if your first preference doesn’t win the election, your vote passes to your next preference and so on until it is counted. In the UK as readers will know, they use a remarkably common and crazy system of first past the post.
And now if there’s a general election it’s entirely possible for the anti-no-dealers (the Lib Dems and the Labour Party) to so steal votes from each other that those relaxed and comfortable about a no-deal Brexit could win far fewer votes yet win government handsomely.
What’s needed to stop that is some strategic voting response. Essentially voters for the Lib Dems or the Labour Party need to vote for whichever of these two candidates is most likely to win – so they don’t waste their vote. Ideally the two parties would sign some agreement to work out which of them would stand and would only stand one candidate between them. But they can’t agree on that.
And they can’t agree on any informal version of the same thing – for instance with the party of one side or the other agreeing to ‘run dead’ in specific electorates. But it seems to me there is another way. A coalition of those opposing a no-deal-Brexit could fund some authoritative process whereby the electorates were polled up to – say – a week before the election with an endorsement coming for one or the other of the Lib Dem and Labour candidates so that anyone who didn’t want to waste their vote was well informed about which of the anti-no-deal Brexit candidates to cast their vote for.
If this was well funded, one could imagine it swinging a substantial number of votes – especially as it gained the public support of those Labour and Lib Dem politicians who independently endorsed it. (It might be harder for sitting Labour members to do so with party discipline at all, but that shouldn’t stop Labour elders from doing so.)
Like the UK, Canada has three major parties creating all kinds of need and scope for tactical voting.
Are you dismayed at getting 100 emails a day you need to wade through, disturbing your concentration? Does your administration bother you constantly with things you just ‘have to be aware of’? Are you tired of the ‘executive reports’, ‘award notices’, ‘compulsory breathing training’, ‘lost car keys’, ‘upcoming events’, and a million other reminders of how everyone else wastes their time? Do you worry that these constant distractions in the long run diminishes your ability, and that of your workers, to concentrate?
If you do, you might want to consider an email service with stamps. What I envisage is that people have to pay, say, 1 dollar for every kilobyte of message they send you, and 5 dollars for every link to some outside website. The only messages you would then get are those that people really want you to see, presumably one a week or so. The stamp is essentially the price of your time.
I envisage a system in which the user can set the height of the price that needs to be paid to reach that user. People who hardly value their time have a low price, people who value it greatly have a high price. There can be minimum prices and discounts for particular groups. This of course goes both ways, so one would see the price list for messaging others before the message to them arrives, and one would need to agree to paying that price before the recipient gets the message.
I think the proceeds of the stamps should in principle go into the personal accounts of the people messaged to (minus the handling fee of course). After all, the stamp buys the time of the receiver who is asked to look at the message. The stamp is then the payment for the attention given. Alternatively, one can send the surplus proceeds towards a good cause, like planting trees.
I would like to see the same service for messages and reminders on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, pings on the mobile, and all the other ways in which social media now distract us. My hope is that some internet organisation develops a whole package of services that embed a system of stamps for all the ways people’s concentration is upset.
I suspect such an internet service would make a very attractive package to many businesses who need their employees to concentrate on their projects and who thus have to protect their workers from all the immediate distractions. The only way to halt the flood of chatter that gets sent round is to charge people for it. This would be particularly useful to reduce the avalanche of stuff that administrations send round to all the workers in the organisation. If administrations and management have to pay for the messages they send round, they would become much more discerning about whether the employees really need to know something or not.
The reaction to such prices would probably be that people start using the phone a lot more and that workers go round to the co-workers in the organisation they want to talk to, rather than ‘flick them a message’. This is perfectly fine and exactly what you want: more conversations and more face-to-face interaction, less spam.
I can see very few downsides to this. The problem of internet scams and outside spam would be solved virtually overnight as those activities would cease to be worthwhile, freeing up a lot of time from the IT services to do more useful things than clean out the viruses that came in via spam.
I do envisage a flood of complaints by the many who love being distracted themselves, and the many more who love distracting others. Yet, since we know that productivity suffers in the longer run from the reductions in the ability of people to concentrate, I see a real business incentive to take the protection of the concentration of workers seriously. I’d certainly sign up for it. It just needs a smart businessperson with real programming skills at his or her disposal to set this up, starting with something like ‘Executive Email Services’.
It’s well known that the Free Tram Zone worsened CBD tram crowding, but the package of fare reforms implemented in 2015 (planned by the Napthine government, matched by Labor) also capped zone 1+2 fares at zone 1 prices.
This removed a long-time bugbear in the fare system: the huge jump from going over the zone boundary. New statistics show the effects.
Herald Sun today: Fare change driving commuter surge towards to outer suburban stations
Here’s the data showing 2014-19 patronage changes plotted onto a map:
Red = patronage reduced by more than 1.5%
Yellow = patronage steady: slight drop, or increase up to 8%.
Light green = increases up to 22%.
Dark green = larger increases
Overall network growth was 7%, but clearly some stations have done better than others.
Network-wide, three of the top four were in residential growth areas:
1. Officer – an amazing 537% increase in 5 years, coming off a low base
2. Diggers Rest – up 234%
4. Williams Landing – up 117%
Shown in dark green, there was also strong growth on the outer ends of the Sunbury, Craigieburn and Pakenham lines
On the boundary
You can also see many of the drops (red) were at the edge of Zone 1, with some big increases (green and dark green) just over the boundary in Zone 2.
Jacana was the third highest rise overall with 183% growth. Ruthven came in fifth at 99% growth. Along with Gowrie (91%), Patterson (68%), Jordanville (54%), Aircraft (49%) – these are all stations which are the first on their line outside Zone 1.
On some lines, the next couple of stations along also saw growth, eg Williams Landing (fourth highest, 117%) – this got the double whammy of zone changes and growth area.
It’s clear that what’s happened is the effective removal of the zone boundary for trips into zone 1 mean that some people switched to these stations when the trip to the City became cheaper.
You might jump in your car to drive to zone 1 to avoid a huge surcharge, but if that surcharge is removed, you’d aim for a station closer to home.
Those just inside Zone 1 that lost patronage included many park and ride favourites: Laverton -20%, Mont Albert, Holmesglen and Reservoir (all -19%), and Brighton Beach -10.6%.
Reductions seem to have been more than matched by overall growth. Using Brighton Beach as an example: Annual boardings fell by about 53,000 over five years, but growth at the Zone 2 stations further down that line more than made up for it: Hampton up 131,000; Sandringham 191,000.
Of the zone 2 stations, Hoppers Crossing and Werribee had notable drops, probably due to Regional Rail Link opening in mid-2015, with stations closer to home for those living in Wyndham Vale and Tarneit.
What’s capping train use now?
For a growing city like Melbourne, it’s important to continue to foster growth in train network usage. Patronage and services are not currently keeping up with population growth, and this needs to be turned around.
Peak hour is difficult until the Metro tunnel opens, but this should unlock a lot more peak capacity when it’s commissioned in 2025.
In the meantime, a lot more can be done to spread peak loads by cutting off-peak waiting times. This would also relieve the crowding that is now a regular sight on the lines still running 20 minute off-peak services.
The reliance on car parking also needs to be overcome. The biggest car parks are never enough to satisfy demand. Alongside better walking and cycling options, better connecting buses are desperately needed, especially in the outer suburbs where service levels are poor.
While we wait for the tunnel, more services – on the trains and on the buses – are the key to helping more people catch trains. And the more people catching trains, the better.
Christian Ferro is a young superstar striker for Roma. Growing up in a rough area is a far cry from the millionaire lifestyle he is now living, which has attracted party-animal friends from home as well as the return of his long-lost father. When Christian’s determination to prove to his friends that he remains rebellious lands him in trouble again, his coach Valerio Fioretti gives him an ultimatum: get back in line and pass the high-school exam, or get out. But Christian’s world of fame and Ferraris clashes with Valerio’s humble circumstances.
Dafne is a witty 35-year-old woman with Down syndrome. Despite being ﬁercely independent, she still lives with her ageing parents. When the sudden death of her mother shatters the family balance, Dafne’s father Luigi falls into a depressive state, and it is left up to Dafne to construct a new life path. When she proposes that she and Luigi undertake an adventure across the country, this sparks a series of events that give Dafne a new and exhilarating self-conﬁdence and provide the ointment needed for her and Luigi’s wounds to heal.
In a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Taranto, high upon the rooftops framed by the Ilva steel factory, we meet Tonino a.k.a. “Barboncino”. Tonino has just committed a robbery and, in a moment of foolishness, ﬂed from his accomplices, taking the entire loot for himself. He escapes upward, clambering from roof to roof, until he can go no further and must take refuge in an old water tank. Here he ﬁnds Renato, a strange and eccentric man who believes he is an American Indian from the Sioux tribe. Trapped with no other choice, Tonino is forced to team up with Renato. A strange and crazy friendship is formed, and Tonino learns to see things from a very different perspective.
Along the roads that stretch through the harsh and beautiful Sardinian landscape, we meet two troubled teens: Anna is on the run from the immigrant trafficker her father used to work for and Basim is an illegal immigrant orphan from the Ivory Coast. Together, they ﬁnd protection as they journey toward safety: Basim, hoping to reach the North of Europe, and Anna, running from the man who is trying to keep his secret from becoming public. Adventuring across the visually rich countryside they form a powerful bond as they dodge in and out of public view, hiding from danger.
Titta di Girolamo is a lonely and secretive Italian businessman living in a Swiss hotel. As punishment for his huge loss in the stock market, he is marooned in Switzerland. His sentence includes that every week, for the rest of his life, he is required to deliver a suitcase of laundered maﬁa money to a Swiss bank. Now, approaching nine years in this condition, Titta is losing his grip on the real world, and any semblance of life in it.
Story of an outspoken Peppino Impastato who lives in an ancient Sicilian town, hemmed in by sea and rocks and ruled by Maﬁa. His father is ambitious to see his son eventually become a “boss”, but Peppino is suspicious of the path he is being forced to take. His rebellion rocks his tainted father and the town’s stiﬂing tradition of silence, setting Peppino down a difficult path.
Michelangelo-Endless is the ﬁrst ever art ﬁlm made about the Renaissance creative genius Michelangelo Buonarroti. The film portrays the immortal personality of one of the greatest artists the world has ever seen. Here the worlds of cinema and art meet to paint a portrait of a man who was secretive as well as troubled. Through the immense beauty of his most famous works: the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Pietà and statue of David, among others, Michelangelo emerges as a master of sharp contrasts and strong passions. The ﬁlm exposes an artist who proved great courage when displaying his beliefs and ideologies.
Elia has no intention of leaving his ghost town of Providence which was struck by an earthquake years earlier. While he spends his days in the company of the memories of his wife and his idyllic past life, the rest of the population has moved downstream into the new community housing. Every so often, someone comes to visit him: the local teacher, his friend Gesualdo, and the mayor. But it is a different and wholly unexpected presence which begins to turn Elia’s solitary life upside-down.
Luciano Pavarotti is one of the most famous tenors in history. His charm, charisma, and impressive ability to hit the high-C earned him a level of renown on par with the biggest pop stars. His death at the age of 70 left an undeniable void in terms of worldwide exposure of classical music which has not since been filled. Through never-before-seen footage, concert performances and intimate interviews, this evocative documentary laments an astonishing singer as well as the robust music industry of his time.
Back in 2011, the train information on this Smartbus sign at Bentleigh station was switched off.
In 2016 during the level crossing removal project, the bus stop and sign were removed, then put back.
For a while the sign wasn’t working, but then the bus times were switched on. But not the train times.
On Monday, for the first time in over 8 years, the train times re-appeared. Eureka!
Thinking ahead, and more broadly: the real-time bus information that was once unique to Smartbus is now more widespread. It’s made its way onto smartphone apps.
The opportunity here is for authorities to get some solid passenger wins for relatively little investment.
Roll-out street displays to more stops, showing departure countdowns for all routes. Sure, most people have a smart phone that can access this information, but it’s still better to “push” it to people.
Put Smartbus-style Passenger Information Displays (PIDs) announcing the next stop into all new buses – London, a place that is serious about their buses, has done this. For that matter, all of Melbourne’s trams are getting it.
Enhance them to be able to show other messages such as the current route, and disruption information (see London example below)
Displays inside new buses should be a no-brainer, given the other required infrastructure is already in place – when a Smartbus ends up on a “normal” route, it appears the displays work correctly.
Unfortunately the current program of 100 new buses for Transdev has missed this. They are adding new generation Myki readers, USB ports for charging, and better external destination displays, which is good. But no internal displays.
The family cycled from Berlin to Tallinn this year, giving me an opportunity to see how Poland and the Baltics have fared after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990s. Some observations:
– Poland is doing well. Agriculture there is as organised and productive as in Germany, with the newest combine harvesters collecting flour for millions of bread rolls.
– You see large new houses in the minor villages in Poland, and lots of new infrastructure in the towns. People drive in reasonable cars, horse-drawn carts have disappeared, and the youth looks tall and healthy.
– Interestingly, the Polish are quite bad at English and usually don’t understand you in bars, hotels, and restaurants. Their German and their Russian is a lot better on average, even amongst the younger generation. This in turn seems to be part of the success of Poland: because their English is poor, they can only do somewhat menial jobs abroad, meaning that they get treated as second-class citizens in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, etc. That in turn encourages them to go back and work on the future of Poland, with great success. So lacking good English language skills, which will have cost them in the early decades after the Soviet Union, is now helping them emerge as a more vibrant and self-conscious society. The opposite can be seen in the Baltics….
– Poland is clearly investing in its historical heritage. The fort of the Teutonic Order in Marienburg is beautiful, with many other relics being restored. They are proud of various scientists who lived there throughout the ages, such as Copernicus.
– You do see some interesting new Cathedrals in Poland and the roads have lots of small places of worship, but there is still no great religious enthousiasm on display. You do not see constant religious processions, groups of nuns and monks, or open displays of large crosses. Television has lots of scantily dressed young people and few preachers.
– Alcohol is cheap, accommodation is cheap, and the parks and squares are full of young people. So on the outside it’s pretty tourist-friendly.
– Road users are remarkably well-behaved. To cyclists, in London an orange traffick light means ‘hurry up’ and a red light is a suggestion. Not so in Poland.
– Interestingly, the Polish have started owning some of the Prussian and Baltic heritage that the North-East of Poland boasts. They are still not quite comfortable with German cemeteries and inscriptions, but things like the Hanze league (which were blatantly German-only) are now embraced. There is also a rediscovery of the Baltic origins of many of the Prussians, which seems to make it easier for them to accept that part of the Polish population. The Polish-Lithuanian alliance is similarly now celebrated.
– So Poland is essentially constructing a new historical narrative that allows it to live harmoniously with the population groups in its border.
– Lithuania by contrast is considerably poorer than Poland. The houses are more often wooden, the fields are less productive and less modern, the roads are poorer, the population density lower, and only a few coastal cities are doing ok. Even the cities are losing people though, with the population in Lithuania going down, just as in Latvia.
– In all the three Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), the young people speak good English. As a result, you don’t see many of them because many live and work abroad. This is a very mixed blessing: because they do well overseas, they often do not return, which takes the pressure off the politicians to truly reform, making it difficult for new businesses to thrive, keeping the talented youngsters away.
– The language history of the Baltics shows the importance of not speaking the language of the elites: in each of the three countries, the large coastal cities were dominated by foreign invaders for many centuries. Danes, Germans, Teutonic knights, Hanze merchants, the Swedes, and the Russians ruled the roost in Riga, Tallinn, and the few ice-free harbours on the coast. These cities dominated the economies of these regions but, crucially, their populations were small and these cities did not bother educating anyone on the countryside. As a result, the peasants kept speaking their old languages, never adopting the language of the small elite in the cities. When nationalism swept through the region and delivered new countries at the start of the 20th century, the identity was essentially language-based as the language had remained fairly untouched.
– There are many ironies to observe in how the populations of the Baltics see themselves. The story of ‘we were oppressed for 700 years until we got our freedom’ could be heard everywhere. Yet, it sounds rather hollow if you press them on who their ancestors were, because they will quickly have to admit that their families are a mixture of German, Polish, Russian, Jewish, and Baltic. So both supposed oppressors and oppressed are liberally represented in the pool calling itself the perennially oppressed. Where have we heard that before?
– I learned a lot about the Hanze and the Teutonic Knights. The Baltic Hanze cities were more ethnically oriented that I knew, only accepting German merchants into their circles. The Teutonic knights were like an ISIS that made it….. German knights returning from the crusades who were given permission by the pope to go kill and rob the Baltic populations as long as they converted them to Christianity … which they duly did … for instance destroying Danzig in order to take over the amber trade which paid for the bills …..
– The tug of war between Riga and Tallinn as to where Christmas trees originated is hilarious. The Ests in Tallinn say it was them because rich bored German merchants organised in the Brotherhood of the Black Heads were first recorded around 1450 to set fire to fir trees in the middle of the city. After a few years of doing this, the practice was forced of the city because of course it caused huge fires in the whole city. Yet, the Lets in Riga say it was them because rich bored German merchants there were first recorded around 1500 to dress up said fir trees before setting fire to them ….. of all the things to be proud of ….
On the whole, things are going pretty well with the remaining populations in that region. No huge tensions or great poverty that I could see. If you force me to nominate something not going well, then it is that the Baltics are rather empty because don’t have enough kids and they encourage the few they have to move away.
I was in Brighton Cemetery on Saturday (long story) and noticed this statue from a distance, so thought I’d have a look.
Someone famous? Not really.
A young man, tragically drowned off Mornington. The statue was made by his workmates.
Thanks to Trove, I found quite a detailed report of the accident.
FISHING BOAT OVERTURNS. YOUNG MAN DROWNED. Forced by a blinding rainstorm to abandon a proposed fishing expedition off Mornington early on Saturday morning, a party of youths attempted to turn their boat shorewards when the light craft was over whelmed by a big sea, and one of its occupants was drowned. Two other members of the party were rescued in an exhausted condition after a stern struggle in the surf.
There is still, I think, not enough recognition by teachers of the fact that the desire to think – which is fundamentally a moral problem – must be induced before the power is developed. Most people, whether men or women, wish above all else to be comfortable, and thought is a pre-eminently uncomfortable process.
Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth
As journalism is the first draft of history, some of my emails are the first draft of blog posts. As here where I was responding to someone with whom I’d already agreed that in economics there’s lots of emphasis on using models to understand reality but not much care given to the question of fitting them to the world.
To paraphrase in a way that’s unfair to him – but which is only intended to provide a point of departure here – he then suggested that social science was about model building and fitting the world to those models and, to shift the world towards better outcomes for social science (we were talking about economics), one needed different kinds of participants in this.
A model that comes to mind when thinking about all this is the model of how movements (e.g., Me too, civic rights, etc) happen. First we need a “0”, a person who would be willing to go against the social norm even if there were 0 people helping them. I would label Rosa Parks as a 0 in the scenario of civic right movement. But then you need a “1” to have observed the 0, and a 2 to have observed at least two people from type 0 and 1, and a 3 to have observed at least 3 people from 0, 1 or 2, and so on. Because they need to be observed to trigger additional behavior, in practice we need a bunch of 0s, a bunch of 1s, a bunch of 2s, and so on, otherwise the movement does not create its own momentum. In terms of making progress in the economic problems, I believe we need all kinds of people like that: the 0s, or the ones that have an original vision, the 1s, or those that make enough progress on those visions, and so on. As I said above, I do believe that in academic jobs in economics most people are in the 10,000s, so we need to incentivize more people to go down their numbers and create alternative paths for progress. For instance, I believe Glen Weyl has been doing important and timely work in economics. He is currently more like a 500 (where a 10 in this scenario might be Henry George).
My response – edited as I fancy going through it again was thus:
I don’t agree with much of that I’m afraid :)
I think it builds a metaphysics around one’s ordinary practice and convinces oneself that one’s own practice is paradigmatic – that reality is built in such a way that the practice not only makes sense, but contains within it the kernel of how all sense is actually made in the relation between us and the world. Here’s a nice passage on the point written in the 1920s you may have come across – I’ve edited and in doing so bowdlerised it a bit, but the original longer quote is here if you want to check it.
Now the history of mind reveals pretty clearly that the thinker who decries metaphysics will actually hold metaphysical notions. .… If he be a man engaged in any important inquiry, he must have a method, and he will be under a strong and constant temptation to make a metaphysics out of his method, that is, to suppose the universe ultimately of such a sort that his method must be appropriate and successful. .… but inasmuch as the positivist mind has failed to school itself in careful metaphysical thinking, its ventures at such points will be apt to appear pitiful, inadequate, or even fantastic.
E.A. Burtt The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science.
I can think of two things I recoil from when I read what you’ve written.
1. Economic theory is very strong on resource allocation and has no strong theory of resource quality or what drives it up and down (other than reductive quantitative theories which might say that there’s a some co-relation between quality and market value). And your depiction of what we need to figure out the world has a given number of types of thinker and a division of labour. Discussing matters of thought in terms of resource allocation always reminds me of the Monty Python sketch where John Cleese explains acting in resource allocation terms – getting the right words, the right number, then getting them in the right order, inserting the pauses, getting the facial expressions right and so on. This also comes up in economics when people debate the role of formal analysis and it’s amazing – to me anyway – how often economists say that there should be a mix (which obviously there should be) and leave it at that.
As I agued in my debate with Krugman, I’m not arguing in any important sense for more or less of one or the other.1 It’s the quality of the thinking – of whatever kind that’s of the essence. And of course the way ideas from different perspectives using different techniques or skills are put together – echoing the original point on which we agreed that the fitting of models to the world is a critical matter which tends to be given short shrift.
2. The whole business of fitting models to the world has a very ‘positivist’ flavour. Reality is ‘out there’. We’re ‘in here’ (either in our own individual subjectivity, or in some discipline or department trying to understand the world as it is) and our job becomes building a ‘model’ or a ‘map’ of reality. That almost invariably begins with the now pat explanations that models aren’t reality, nor are maps of the territory – sigh. It seems to me that we need to be very careful in sketching a picture in our head of what’s ‘really’ going on.
To use a cool expression Wittgenstein used to describe philosophy, it represents the fly trying to get out of the fly bottle. It’s easy to turn one’s own intuition of the way the world is into a metaphysical map – as indeed was done when we thought that the sun revolved around the earth. That was ‘based’ if I can use that expression on the fact that it looked like the sun went round the earth. This was what I call metaphysics by default. As Wittgenstein put it, “and what would it look like if the earth went around the sun?”.
We need to be careful about ‘just so’ stories that reduce our making sense of the world to some simple reductive model. If we don’t pay close attention to what we’re doing, we end up simply reifying our own intuition. One thing we do know is that we don’t ‘build models of reality’ to navigate our daily lives. Yet how could that be if one needs to build models to understand reality? A tennis player seeking to run to strike a ball follows numerous heuristics to get the ball where they want. The knowledge they have – in their bodies and brains – is embodied.
They acquired their knowledge of the world from being in it and interacting purposively in it. In that regard their main cognitive job is not to build some God’s eye model of the world as it is, but to find ways of turning the physical and other features of the world into affordances for their purposes. It seems to me that engineering is the discipline that gets closest to this mindset (though I should make clear I have no extensive familiarity with the discipline(s) of engineering). Engineering, as I understand it, is a body of knowledge to assist in the articulation and pursuit of human purposes. If you want to build a bridge or a battleship or a chemical with certain qualities or a software program, you follow procedures that it is engineering’s task to explore, investigate and prove up to some point after which it’s up to your own critical nous to ‘apply’ in the field.
It’s only preoccupied with some God’s eye view of reality to the extent that that might become necessary or advantageous in the quest for the affordances it seeks. Thus there will be all manner of knowledge about the tensile strength of different materials, how they bear up under stress of different kinds, how they change through time and so on. It may be expedient to seek this knowledge via building God’s eye models of certain aspects of reality. It may be possible to acquire adequate knowledge from common knowledge or trial and error or some other method. The point is that one encounters the knowledge with purposes in mind.
In fact I can’t really see how one would encounter a God’s eye view of reality except as part of the lack of intellectual vigilance intimated by Burtt above which leads me to a corollary claim that seems attractive having come this far. I’d be highly suspicious of any abstract statement about what the physical or social world was like in any circumstances where the person making the assertion couldn’t explain how that conclusion arose from purposive activity – ‘where they were coming from’ as it were. If that couldn’t be done, I’d suspect their statement would be vague, possibly meaningless or poorly defined, or, to the extent that the claim that was being made is clear, wrong.
As an example I’d provide the Arrow Debreu ‘model’ of general equilibrium, though only a fool takes that to be a model of reality. Arrow and Debreu certainly didn’t accuse their model of being a model of reality. Perhaps a DSGE model is a better example. At least there, one may be able to explain the purposes with which it was built, which will then frame one’s investigations as to whether it’s of any use or not. As an aside however it will be difficult to explain why arbitrary (aesthetic) constraints were placed upon the assumptions that constituted the model.
OK, I’ve allowed myself an intellectual shortcut here – which you can fill out for me as an exercise if you like. As things are so extreme it is literally true that the upshot of what I’m arguing would involve more discursive analysis and by implication relatively less formal analysis, but to focus on quantities of two different kinds of discourse is to pretty comprehensively miss my point. You can have any amount of discursive analysis and completely miss my point – as most ‘methodology’ or ‘philosophy of economics’ courses actually do. ↩