Monthly Archives: June 2016

Slanguage and ‘dinky di’ Aussie talk in elections

The Conversation

Howard Manns, Monash University

Co-written with Kate Burridge

Bill Shorten’s been telling us he wants to give Australians a “fair go”. Malcolm Turnbull has decried Labor for an “assault on the Australian spirit”.

Of course, they’re not the first pollies to drag the Australian spirit and Aussie talk into the dirty business of campaigning. But why do they do it?

It goes without saying that slanguage has always played a pivotal role in the Australian sense of self. ANU researcher Evan Kidd recently set out empirically something Australians have intuitively known for a long time – “using Australian slang increases your likeability among other Australians”.

And useful campaigning fodder are those distinctively Australian expressions with no easy equivalents in national varieties elsewhere. They might be a bit old hat, but they conveniently package some of those cultural values that many Australians hold dear.

Fair dinkums and fair goes in elections

So, in 2007, Kevin Rudd doubled down by telling us John Howard wasn’t being “fair dinkum” by using a likeable term to tell us about a guy doing something unlikable in Australian terms.

Pollies use Australian slang to draw “fairness”, “honesty” and “authenticity” (e.g. fair go, fair dinkum) into public discussions. Recall when Tony Abbott promised a “fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme” in his 2010 and 2013 election speeches – and in every budget reply speech from 2010 to 2012.

There has been a notable upsurge in the use of Australian slang in politics from the 1970s. When Gough Whitlam became prime minister in 1972, Australia’s highest office took on a distinctly Australian voice. This was the case in terms of accent (compare the speeches of Whitlam and Robert Menzies here), but also in the use of a distinctly Aussie idiom.

Menzies was the first to use “fair go” in an election speech, doing it in 1951, but he did so with some cautious introduction (“…the sound Australian phrase, a fair go”). “Fair go” then took a hiatus in elections until 1974 when Gough Whitlam used it six times in his election speech.

Not to be outdone, Malcolm Fraser used the much-loved phrase a record seven times in his 1975 speech. Since then, fair go has featured “bigly” (to use a favourite Trumpism) in campaigns, well except for 1977 and, for some reason, elections in the 1990s.

Yet, it’s important to note that pollies don’t use Australianisms the same way and some are better at doing it than others.

Mateship, battlers and ‘Team Australia’

The late English professor G.A. Wilkes noted that “no word in the Australian vocabulary has such a wealth of associations as mate” and this has certainly been true in politics.

Former science minister Barry Jones provides an excellent example in the story he tells in his autobiography of a phone conversation with a colleague on whose vote he was counting to retain his ministerial position.

“Mate,” he began and with that word I knew that I was gone. “Mate, I’ll have to break my promise to vote for you.”

The applications of mate and mateship by Australian prime ministers have been wide and varied. In 1983, Bob Hawke launched his famed Economic Summit, in the wake of years of political divisiveness, with an appeal to mateship. A little later Paul Keating linked mateship to Asian notions of community and obligation and used mateship to support his argument that Australia should find “security in Asia, not from Asia”.

As historian James Curran points out, John Howard had a deep affection for mateship (going as far as trying to enshrine it in the constitution). But sometimes he used it in baffling ways, even “extending the hand of Australian mateship” and its links to the Anzac legend to rally Australians against terrorism – a sentiment later echoed in Abbott’s “Team Australia” (short-listed for the Australian 2014 Word of the Year).

Ignoring the historical links to trade unionism, Howard also used the narratives around mateship to justify neoliberal economic pragmatism. Along these lines, and perhaps most confusingly, he labelled the famed 1907 Harvester judgement (one which obliged workplace to pay a fair, basic wage): “mateship gone wrong”.

Howard’s economic redefinition (or for some corruption) of mateship and his redefinition of another word, battler, hint at his close relationship with George W. Bush. The American president contributed to the neoliberal redefinition of freedom in a manner similar to Howard’s rebranding of mateship and the little Aussie battler.

Howard took ownership of the word with “Howard’s battlers” or disenfranchised, blue-collared voters who had switched their allegiances from Labor to Liberal. Battlers then moved on from working families to include anyone trying to better themselves.

Suddenly, even bankers and property magnates came under the umbrella of “battlers”, as did, in the words of Bush, Howard himself – it’s a long away from the Dale Kerrigan-type underdog, working hard and struggling to make ends meet.

This leads us to our final questions: who has the right to use Australian slang? When does it work and when doesn’t it?

Larrikins, malapropisms and drunken dorks

Authenticity is the most critical factor guiding the use of misuse of Australian slang, regardless of the speaker (a fact hinted at by Evan Kidd’s research mentioned above).

For instance, Barnaby Joyce caused a stir when he said the Johnny Depp apology video was “going off like a frog in a sock”. People get quite excited about pollies using Australian slang, especially in reference to an international incident. Yet, people weren’t that surprised to hear frog in a sock coming from Joyce – he’s a bit of a larrikin.

Rudd, and his use of Australian slang, offers a stark contrast to Joyce. Rudd’s a dork (this was part of his appeal in 2007), and he didn’t start using Australian expressions (at least publically) until things started to go badly in the polls.

And when Rudd did begin using these expressions, he did so awkwardly and conspicuously. His use (three times) of “fair shake of the sauce bottle” was reported and criticised far and wide – “Antiquated Australian slang, recently deployed by the country’s prime minister” (The New York Times, June 17, 2009). More so, it muddled the earlier idiom (“fair suck of the sauce bottle”), a possible or even likely reference to booze.

But we shouldn’t judge Rudd too harshly. Do we really want an Australian prime minister saying everyone deserves their fair share of booze? (Well, there was that time a drunken Bob Hawke told the nation they could go into work late, but then he was another larrikin.)

Anyway, fair shake of the sauce bottle goes back at least to the 1990s, and as lexicographer Bruce Moore points out, it’s been well-entrenched in politics and beyond (senator Rod Kemp famously used it in 1995).

Besides, we love to play with slang expressions – fair suck of the sav/fair suck of the sausage and even fair suck of the Siberian sandshoe are just some of the variants about. And who could forget Norman Gunston’s “fair bite of the pineapple donut”. So why shouldn’t equality be measured by even distributions of dollops of tomato sauce (and not grog!).

This certainly wasn’t the first time Australian slang has been “adapted” in politics. The swagman took the expression greasing one’s swag straps to mean time to move one. Bruce Moore writes that when Bob Hawke was being advised to step down as prime minister, Gareth Evans is reported to have said to him:

Pull out, digger. The dogs are pissing on your swag.

Well, the dogs are pissing on our swags and we’re due a fair suck of the sauce bottle ourselves.

The ConversationHoward Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

 

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The Battles of Leyte Gulf and Surigao Strait – an eyewitness account

‘The Battle of Leyte Gulf, formerly known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in historyIt was fought in waters of the Leyte Gulf, near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar and Luzon, from 23–26 October 1944, between combined American and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

On 20 October, United States troops led by General Douglas Macarthur invaded the island of Leyte as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from the countries it had occupied in Southeast Asia, and in particular depriving its forces and industry of vital oil supplies.

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) mobilized nearly all of its remaining major naval vessels in an attempt to defeat the Allied invasion but was repulsed by the U.S. Navy’s 3rd and 7th Fleets. The IJN failed to achieve its objective, suffered very heavy losses, and never sailed to battle in comparable force thereafter. The majority of its surviving heavy ships, deprived of fuel, remained in their bases for the rest of the Pacific War.

The battle consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions. It was the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze attacks. By the time of the battle, Japan had fewer aircraft than the Allied forces had sea vessels, demonstrating the difference in power of the two sides at this point of the war.’ – from Wikipedia

The Battle of Surigao Strait

The following is a letter dated 16th November 1944 by my late father, Bruce Harding (then aged 20), who was an anti-aircraft gunner on the heavy Australian cruiser HMAS Shropshire.  It provides a gripping eye-witness account of the Battle of Surigao Strait from his vantage point on the upper deck of the ship.  The letter was taken back to Australia by a friend of my father’s who was going on leave, and so it escaped military censorship. The original of this letter has been offered to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Shropshire-06464

HMAS Shropshire in action

16 November 1944

My Dear Family,

I had not intended to write in detail about our experiences of the last month, but today I received a letter from Mother threatening me with murder if I held my tongue on this subject.

Geoff Whitten will no doubt be able to deliver this to you, failing that he will post it on at the first opportunity. I doubt if this letter contains any ‘censorable information’ but if I were you I should not make any of it too public.

At the beginning of October we knew something was in the wind. The ship’s rumours or ‘buzzes’ as we call them are generally fairly correct despite the wild guesses frequently made. We knew we were to take part in the landings on Leyte Is. in the Central Phillipines.

In the early days of October, the mustering of the shipping was in full swing and the arrival of powerful naval units in our usually quiet harbour made our small ‘task force’ very insignificant. Up til this time, we had been the naval strength of this area. Every type of vessel from battleships, cruisers, aircraft carriers to destroyers and landing craft were gathering and fueling and taking on stores, troops and equipment.

About 10 days before ‘D day’ we left our harbour with a large fleet and our small unit oiled [fueled] next day at another base, and in the afternoon stood outside while the invasion convoy steamed out to sea. I’ve marvelled at the immensity of the invasion fleets and Atlantic convoys but they were dwarfed by this one [300 ships in total].

Immediately the scores of ships and landing craft were clear of the harbour we took up our position in the lead and the destroyers provided a circle around the whole convoy as anti-submarine guards. Our pace was slow – painfully slow because we had a long journey and the smaller ships had to conserve oil. Fortunately, the weather was fine and the sea calm, although we often thought of the troops in the open barges at the mercy of the tropical sun. To travel a week in an open boat and then storm a beach and fight is no mean task.

Far in the rear of the convoy we could just see the aircraft carriers with their ‘guardian angels’ on deck ready to take off in an emergency. The long journey was uneventful except for the approach of an enemy reconnaissance plane which was shot down by one of our fighters unfortunately lost on his return journey to the carriers.

Two days prior to the landing we changed our dress from shorts and sandals to shirts and long trousers plus boots and socks. Very uncomfortable in the heat but a necessity when action is possible. Everyone on board was given a lecture on our job in the coming event; and with a large canvas map of the area we had a mindful view of the situation. On this day our minesweepers were to sweep the approaches to Leyte Gulf – a dangerous job as they were within easy range of the enemy’s air bases.

During these two days we were expecting an attack from land-based Japanese bombers but apparently the Nip didn’t know of our approach to his shores.

On Thursday night after supper we went to our action stations and slept at our guns and action positions, quite expecting a restless night but I heard nothing until four o’clock in the morning of the landing when we were given soup or coffee.

Since midnight those awake on watch on deck were keeping an eye on a mine caught on our port paravane which left a glistening wake near the ship’s side – too close for comfort. With the slight rolling motion of  the ship the mine surged towards the ship and then away from us at regular intervals – a few silent prayers were offered believe me!

Dawn broke with the convoy still stretched out for miles astern of us and enemy aircraft in the vicinity. A number of ships had reported mines swept up and were detailed off to destroy them in an outlying cove. As we swung at right angles to the course of the convoy, to rid ourselves of this uncomfortable little bundle of ours, the mine broke adrift and lay in the path of the oncoming fleet. We dropped a flare to denote its position making it easy for the other ships to avoid it.

In the meantime, we anti-aircraft crews were scanning the clear sky for a twin-engined Japanese bomber making his run towards us. He approached from the West and went the full length of the convoy with nearly every ship firing at him. The tracer ammunition presented a wonderful sight in the half light. How the Nip escaped so much flak I don’t know. I should advise his people to take a ticket in the Nippon lottery. He held his bombs for the aircraft carriers but they fell wide and he followed them into the sea.

In the meantime, the battleships had commenced their bombardment and we had taken up our preparatory position near them. Our fighters could be seen overhead waiting for aerial opposition. The battleships were laying down a particularly heavy barrage, and we were scanning the shoreline in the hope of getting a crack at opposing shore batteries, but for a while they wisely held fire. Our turn came with the completion of the heavy bombardment and the approach of the troops. For 3 hours we fired at specified targets with 8″ and 4″ guns, and we were pleased when the reports came through – “ammunition expended – none wasted”.

As you can imagine, by noon, we were all tired, dirty and soaked with perspiration, and all as deaf as door-nails. Dinner [lunch]  reminded me of our Sunday night high tea at home – a cup of tea in one hand, a sandwich in the other – no insults Mother!

The first wave of troops were on the beach, the rocket firing barges had done their job and were returning to a safe position in the gulf. Our naval dive bombers were in action coming down from a great height and worrying enemy shore installations. The going was tough ashore but a beach head was established by late afternoon and we were watching for troublesome shore batteries. We couldn’t understand the lack of enemy air activity but the answer came that night and we missed our beauty sleep.

Dawn broke with low flying Jap aircraft over the area carrying bombs and torpedos. It was just becoming light enough to see nearby shipping when one plane flying very low drew heavy fire from our force and flew between us and [HMAS] Australia about half a mile away. Although she was hit many times, the plane struck the foremast of the “Aussie” with her starboard wing and landed on her upper bridge in flames spraying petrol and explosives in all directions. The fire was under control within 20 minutes but many were injured [30 Australian navy personnel were killed, including the ship’s captain]. AA gunners over the whole area were busy and tracer shells could be seen everywhere.

That dawn began a very busy day for us – the Jap had his victims but we took the toll of his pilots. At one time we saw 50% of his planes making their final dive together. Two spiraled to Earth in flames. One slid down a steep hill a ball of fire and two others plopped into the sea near the landing beach like shot ducks.

For ten days until our fighters were established ashore the enemy airforce put all they had into a vain effort to wipe out the invaders. Of course we were given little respite and remained at our guns for all this time. The lads on deck didn’t go below and those between decks didn’t see daylight. During the lulls we slept. To me, my old army boots seemed the softest pillow I had ever had. Fortunately, the weather was fine although a couple of nights of wet weather spoilt our chances of sleep, and we were forced to sit up or walk around until daybreak.

During this period our job had reverted from bombardment support to defence against possible intrusion by enemy shipping. Things became more interesting when we were told that an enemy naval force was intending to enter our newly claimed harbour and we should contact them at midnight. That afternoon we fueled from a huge tanker sheltering from air attack in a smoke screen thrown out by our destroyers. The crew of the tanker startled us a bit by telling some of the lads that she had oiled [refueled] 3 ships since her arrival – we were the 4th. All 3 were now at the bottom [of the sea]. The same tanker was sunk by torpedo bombers that next morning.

At dusk, the fleet formed up in battle order. It was a powerful force but I think it best not to expose the actual strength [Ed: 6 battleships, 8 cruisers, 28 destroyers and 39 PT boats]. Shortly after midnight, our destroyers launched torpedo attacks on the enemy fleet and the fireworks started. An Aussie destroyer firing Australian-made ‘tin fish’ closed to short range and scored a direct hit. Our part seemed small compared with some of the huge guns in action, but it is believed that out of 30 broadsides we scored 21 hits on an enemy battleship [the Yamashiro] – a good job done by the lads below on the big guns. We members of the AA defence of the ship had an easy task but a grandstand view of the whole business. In the blackness of the night, the tracer shells showed up clearly and we could follow the bout. It was not until the unpleasant whine of shells over our ship was heard that we realised perhaps Nip will throw a few back. We counted only two close ones, but believe me we ducked! With a great flare the enemy ships caught fire one after the other and their return of fire gradually petered out – we knew we’d won.

Dawn revealed four columns of smoke coming from those ships still sinking. And a Jap destroyer, the only one still on top was faithfully standing by her doomed friends. No doubt she was picking up survivors and preparing to destroy any remnants of the lost force to prevent us taking information. No fewer than 4 destroyers and 2 cruisers brought their guns to bear on this bloke, and within 5 minutes the smoke cleared and he had followed the others to the bottom.

Of the survivors, only 3 accepted aid from us – the others preferred to remain in the water. Maybe they believed that we are cruel captors but I rather think that the majority held hopes of reaching shore some 4 or 5 miles away. I understand their courage didn’t last for long and many eagerly grasped lines thrown to them in the second offer of rescue.

The job done we returned to our patrol area and the ‘nuisance air raids’. We had many exciting incidents before our fighters took control of the air over us during which time many good lives were unfortunately lost.  One plane launched a torpedo in our direction at dusk one evening mistaking us for a moving target. I think the fact that we were stationary saved us from a smack in the ribs – some of the lads watched the track of the ‘tin fish’ cross our bows. Another Jap two-engined bomber came so close to us and flew directly across the ship in the moonlight at mast level that had I been on my toes I could have let him have my tin hat fair and square!

A typhoon prevalent in this area happened along to add to our discomfort and by gosh it blew!

As we stood out in the Gulf we saw very little of the natives. Some paddled out in primitive canoes and seemed eager to befriend us. Most spoke excellent English – one greeted us by saying ‘where have you been? We have waited long for this day’. I should say Jap treatment was harsh. The Jap money circulated was worthless and they held rolls of it in their hands begging for clothes. I believe in the southern part of the island the inhabitants reached the ships with no clothes and prepared to give anything they had for a pair of shorts or a shirt. Some of the young women were very attractive with dark wavy hair and naturally received most attention from the sailors.

As you know, a month showed the land forces in control of most of Leyte Island and our job was done. We need no longer ask ‘where will the Jap make his stand’. We only hold one small island of a large group and I should say we’ll fight for the rest of them. No only will we fight a race of hard fighters but we will fight a fanatical belief that to die is a victory won. [Letter ends here without sign off – was it the last page?]

 

 

 

 

 

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Mark Twain on fooling people

Mark Twain

 

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What is a gene, and what is it for?

Footnotes to Plato

ChromosomesThe gene is a fundamental concept in biology, and it has been since Mendel introduced it in the late 19th century, unbeknownst to Darwin, who was just at the same time looking for a theory of heredity, flirted with Lamarckism, and tiene came up with his own, incorrect, notion of blended inheritance.

Mendel’s work was rediscovered in 1900 (it’s bad for one’s academic career when one publishes in obscure journals and agrees to become an administrator, as the Augustinian friar did), and ever since it has been a crucial component of our understanding of biology. But scientists have developed a number of different concepts of gene, concepts that don’t always sit quite nicely and coherently with each other. Sounds like a job for philosophers of science…

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The Medieval Agrarian Economy

by Tim Harding

This striking image depicts the three main classes of medieval society – the clergy, the knights and the peasantry.[1]  Tellingly, the cleric and the knight are shown talking to each other; but the peasant is excluded from the conversation.  Even though the peasants comprised over 90% of the population, they were in many ways marginalized socially and economically.  So who were these peasants and what was their daily life like?

striking

Source of image: Wikimedia Commons

The term ‘peasant’ essentially means a traditional farmer of the Middle Ages, although in everyday language it has come to mean a lower class agricultural labourer.  In the Central Middle Ages, that is the period from 1000 to 1300CE, European peasants were divided into four classes according to their legal status and their relationship to the land they farmed.  These classes were slave, serf, free tenant or land owner.  The first two classes were usually much poorer than the second two.

There were several factors that influenced the lives of peasants during this period.  The reciprocal benefits of agricultural labour and warrior protection gave rise to closely settled manorial and feudal communities.[2]  More land was brought under cultivation by the communal clearing of forests, draining of swamps and the building of levees or dykes.[3] (Drafting note: I’ll leave it to Corey to provide text about the relevant social and legal relationships).  

The invention of a heavier wheeled plow enabled deeper cultivation of soils, including the burying of green manure from fallow land and also stubble from previous crops.  The deeper furrows also protected seed from wind and birds.[4]

plough

Source of image: Wikimedia Commons

There was also a period of warmer temperatures, milder winters and higher rainfall at this time, resulting in longer growing seasons.[5]  Another important factor was the replacement of the Roman two-field rotation system by a more efficient three-field system, enabling two-thirds of the land to be under cultivation at any one time, instead of only half the land.  This image shows the three cropping fields (West, South and East) of a typical rural community, with the remaining quarter devoted to pasture, the Manor house and Church.[6]

rural community

Source of image: Bennett, Judith M., Medieval Europe – A Short History
(New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011). p. 142.

Interestingly, the typical length of a plow-strip was 220 yards, called a furlong (a word still used in horse racing today).  The width of a plow-strip was a rod, and a rectangle of 4 rods by one furlong became an acre.[7] (Four rods later became a ‘chain’ of 22 yards, so an acre was an area one furlong by one chain).

The resulting increases in agricultural yields raised farm production above subsistence levels for the first time in centuries.   These surpluses not enabled not only trade, but also the storage of produce such as oats for the feeding of horses.  This in turn enabled the replacement of plow-pulling oxen by horses that required less pasture that could be reallocated to cropping.  Horses also moved and turned faster than oxen, resulting in even more efficiencies.[8]

Crop yields for wheat improved to an estimated four times the quantity of grain sown.  Typically, one quarter of the yield was reserved for the next planting, one or two quarters went to the lord of the manor as rent, and the remainder was either consumed as bread or beer, stored for the winter or sold at local markets.[9]

Few peasants could afford meat to eat – they mainly lived on bread, beer and vegetables grown by women and children in small cottage gardens, plus eggs from chickens and milk from cows and goats.  Those living in coastal areas also ate fish. [10]

 Bibliography

Backman, Clifford R., The Worlds of Medieval Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

Bennett, Judith M., Medieval Europe – A Short History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011).

Endnotes

[1] Bennett, Judith M., Medieval Europe – A Short History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011) p.135.

[2] Backman, Clifford R., The Worlds of Medieval Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) p.215

[3] Bennett, p.140.

[4] Backman, p.218.

[5] Bennett, p.139.

[6] Bennett, p.140-142.

[7] Backman, p.217.

[8] Backman, p.218.

[9] Backman, p.219.

[10] Backman, p.220.

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Brexit stage right: what Britain’s decision to leave the EU means for Australia

The Conversation

Ben Wellings, Monash University

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has opened a fundamental crack in the western world. Australia’s relationship with the United Kingdom is grounded in the UK’s relationship with the EU.

Given Australia’s strong and enduring ties with the UK and the EU, the shockwaves from this epoch-defining event will be felt in Australia soon enough. Most immediately, the impending Australia-EU Free-Trade Agreement becomes more complicated and at the same time less attractive.

What will happen to trade ties?

The importance of Australia’s relationship with the EU tends to get under-reported in all the excitement about China. We might ascribe such a view to an Australian gold rush mentality. Nevertheless, Australia’s trading ties to the EU are deep and strong.

Such ties looked set to get stronger. In November 2015 an agreement to begin negotiations in 2017 on a free-trade deal was announced at the G20 summit in Turkey. Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said in April 2016 that an Australia-EU free trade agreement:

… would further fuel this important trade and investment relationship.

When considered as a bloc, the EU consistently shows up as one of Australia’s main trading partners. Consider the statistics below:

  • in 2014 the EU was Australia’s largest source of foreign investment and second-largest trading partner, although the European Commission placed it third after China and Japan in 2015;
  • in 2014, the EU’s foreign direct investment in Australia was valued at A$169.6 billion and Australian foreign direct investment in the EU was valued at $83.5 billion. Total two-way merchandise and services trade between Australia and the EU was worth $83.9 billion; and
  • the EU is Australia’s largest services export market, valued at nearly $10 billion in 2014. Services account for 19.7% of Australia’s total trade in goods and services, and will be an important component of any future free trade agreement.

This is all well and good. But when not considered as a bloc, 48% of Australia’s exports in services to the EU were via the UK; of the $169 billion in EU foreign direct investment, 51% came from the UK; and of Australia’s foreign direct investment into the EU, 66% went to the UK.

You get the picture.

The UK was Australia’s eighth-largest export market for 2014; it represented 37.4% of Australia’s total exports to the EU. As Austrade noted:

No other EU country featured in Australia’s top 15 export markets.

In short, the EU is not as attractive to Australia without Britain in it.

Beyond trade numbers

But the Australia-EU-UK relationship cannot be reduced to numbers alone. It also rests on values shared between like-minded powers.

Brexit represents the further fracturing of the West at a moment when that already weakening political identity is in relative decline compared to other regions of the world, notably Asia (or more specifically China).

EU-Australia relations rest on shared concerns such as the fight against terrorism advanced through police collaboration and the sharing of passenger name records. The EU and Australia also collaborated to mitigate climate change at the Paris climate summit. And they work for further trade liberalisation in the World Trade Organisation – but don’t mention agriculture.

Without the UK, these shared political tasks become harder.

Clearly, Australia-UK relations rest on a special historical relationship. However, it has seen efforts at reinvigoration, as British governments buckled under the pressure of the Eurosceptics among the Conservatives.

David Cameron addresses the Australian parliament in 2014.

Beyond everyday trade, historical links have been reinforced through the centenary of the first world war and the UK-Australia commemorative diplomacy that has come with this four-year-long event.

Cultural ties are most regularly and publicly affirmed through sporting rivalries such as netball, rugby and most notably cricket. Expect these ties to be reinforced as the UK seeks trade agreements and political support from its “traditional allies”.

For those with British passports, there will be a two-year period of grace as the UK negotiates its exit. After that, it will be quicker to get into the UK at Heathrow, but this might be small consolation for the loss of a major point of access to the EU.

The vote to leave is a major turning point in Europe’s history. It marks a significant crack in a unified concept of “the West”. It is not in Australia’s interests.

It’s time for Australia to make new friends in Europe.

The ConversationBen Wellings, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

 

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No massacres and an accelerating decline in overall gun deaths: the impact of Australia’s major 1996 gun law reforms

The Conversation

Simon Chapman, University of Sydney

Twenty years ago, Australian federal, state and territory governments united to reform our firearm laws which had allowed easy access in some states to the military-style weapons of the sort used by the gunman in Orlando, Florida. The main provisions of the new laws included:

  • a ban on semi-automatic rifles and pump action shotguns, with a market price buy-back of all now-banned guns
  • uniform gun registration
  • end of “self-defense” as an acceptable reason to own a gun
  • end of mail order gun sales.

So, after 20 years of our new gun laws, what has happened to gun deaths?

Today, our study of intentional firearm deaths in Australia between 1979 and the present has been published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).

The new gun laws were introduced because of the near-universal outpouring of revulsion Australians felt over the ability of someone to go into a public place and murder lots of people quickly with rapid-fire firearms.

In the 18 years between 1979 and April 1996, Australia saw 13 massacres (five or more victims, not including the perpetrator) where 104 victims died. In the twenty years and nearly two months since the Port Arthur massacre and the passage of the law reforms that followed swiftly afterwards, we have seen precisely none.

The Gun Violence Archive reports that in the United States, the Orlando shootings were the 1000th mass shooting incident in 1,260 days. In those incidents 1,134 people were shot dead and 3,950 were injured.

Mass killings a small fraction of all gun deaths

Australia’s 104 victims of mass shootings represent a small fraction of all people intentionally shot dead in Australia across the years we examined. For every person shot in a mass killing, 139 others suicided or were murdered with guns in incidents where less than five people died (most typically one or two).

While the gun laws were introduced explicitly to reduce the likelihood of mass shootings, we were interested in whether the removal of what turned out to be some 750,000 semi-automatic and rapid fire weapons from the community may have had collateral benefits on trends in these non-mass killings.

By one argument, the outlawing of semi-automatic rifles might have made little difference to the firearm suicide rate because such firearms are irrelevant to suicide: only one shot is generally fired when people try to suicide with a gun, so a semi-automatic is not necessary. But by another argument, any firearm- semi-automatic or not – can be used, so the removal of a large number of one category of gun might nonetheless have impacts on non-mass killings.

Here’s what we found.

From 1979 to 1996 (the year of the gun law reforms), total intentional firearm deaths in Australia were declining at an average 3% per year. Since then, the decline in total firearm deaths accelerated to 5% annually.

With gun suicide deaths, over the same comparison periods, there was a statistically significant acceleration in the downward trend for firearm suicides and a non-significant acceleration in the downward trend in firearm homicides.

We also examined total all-method homicides and suicides data to assess the possibility that reduced access to firearms saw people substitute other lethal methods to commit suicide or homicide. From 1979 to 1996, the average annual rate of total non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths was rising at 2.1% per year. Since then, the average annual rate of total non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths has been declining by 1.4%. This supports a conclusion there has been no substitution of other lethal means for suicides or homicides.

Finally, we found that the post-1996 decrease in the rates of non-firearm suicide and homicide were larger than the decreases for suicide and homicide involving firearms.

There are two likely explanations for this. Another study of the decline in suicide in Australia between 1994-2007 concluded that much of the decline was explained by changes toward the use of less fatal methods. Fewer people killed themselves using motor vehicle exhaust and this explained nearly half of the overall decline in suicide deaths.

Suicide using firearms had the highest fatality rates (74%) with self-poisonings lowest at 1.4%. That study noted that “the decline in firearm deaths over the study period was due primarily to a decline in attempts; lethality remained relatively flat.”

Guns have the highest “completion” or fatality rate in suicides compared to all other methods, so with evidence that suicide method choice is moving more toward less lethal means, it’s understandable that overall suicide rates could be falling faster than those for firearms where there has been no change in the completion rate. If you shoot yourself you are highly likely to die, but not so with many other methods.

Another factor, which combined with the high lethality of guns when used in both suicides and assaults, is the proliferation of the mobile phone over the past 20 years. A 1997 study found 12% of 764 cell phone users had used their phone to call emergency services to a road crash and 6% to a non-road medical emergency. As we wrote in our JAMA paper:

With increasing cell phone use over the past 20 years, it is plausible that ambulances will have increasingly attended traumatic incidents like assaults and suicide attempts earlier than in previous times when landlines were only or more commonly used to make such calls. There have also been improvements in emergency care, and the lower lethality of non-firearm assault and suicide may explain the greater reductions in non-firearm homicide and suicide rates.

When it comes to firearms, Australia is far a safer place today than it was in the 1990s and in previous decades. We have the leadership of John Howard to thank for this.

Today, politicians like the National Rifle Association’s local Australian hero Senator David Leyonhjelm are doing what they can to water down aspects of our gun laws as occurred with Leyonhjelm’s deal with the government to allow the importation of the massacre-ready Adler shotgun. Will the Prime Minister after the July 2 election have sufficinet Howard-like leadership to ban the Adler?

The ConversationSimon Chapman, Emeritus Professor in Public Health, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

 

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We are all liberals now

Although it is difficult to define, liberalism is now the dominant political philosophy.

 By James Fodor

 In this piece I want to discuss the political philosophy of liberalism, outlining its key tenets, the historical context in which it has arisen and developed, and discuss its relationship to various rival ideologies in the political landscape.

     Although I consider myself to be a liberal, and therefore cannot claim to be unbiased, my purpose here is not to convince others to adopt liberal ideology, but rather to explain and clarify a number of terms and concepts which are endemic to our political discourse, but which are nevertheless widely misunderstood or misused.

     To begin, I must first address the thorny question of terminology. In this essay I will use ideological terms in a manner which I think is most consistent with insightful political theory, and which best facilitates the purpose of historical analysis and comparison of competing positions.

     This means that the way I use terms will not always align with how those terms are used in the political discourse, where terms are frequently appropriated, discarded, or projected upon others for the purpose of point-scoring rather than conceptual clarity.

     Perhaps no word has more commonly been subject to this misuse and confusion as the term liberal, which can mean anything from left-wing, to centrist, to right-wing, depending on the context.

     In Australia, a “Liberal” is generally understood to be a member or supporter of the Liberal Party of Australia. This is emphatically not how I am using the term liberal in this piece.

     In the United States, by contrast, the term liberal is used to refer to what in Australia we might call progressives, or even socialists. This is also not how I use the word.

     The British usage of the term, for example with reference to their Liberal Democrats, is closest to the traditional meaning of the term in political philosophy, and thus most closely aligns with my usage in this essay.

     Modern liberalism arose, roughly, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries primarily as a challenge to the existing autocratic, traditional monarchies in Europe. Liberals challenged these political institutions on a number of fronts, generally appealing to Enlightenment ideals of reason and the possibility for human progress. Outlining the key tenets of liberalism is always a problematic endeavour, because the ideology has been deeply contested and divided almost since its inception. Nevertheless, several key ideals and perspectives lie at the core of liberalism, all of which have been widely supported by prominent proponents of liberalism over the centuries:

●  Individualism: liberals regard the individual as being the primary social and political actor. It is individuals who make decisions, take actions, have preferences, possess rights, and exercise freedoms. While not denying the power and importance of social groupings, liberals hold that the most basic and important political relationship is that between a state and its individual citizens. The state exists to protect the rights of individuals, to promote equality between individuals, and to promote individual freedom.

●  Freedom: central to liberalism is the notion that people should be free. Freedom takes many forms, including political freedom, religious freedom, economic freedom, and freedom of speech. Liberals often express this support of freedom in the form of the no-harm principle: people should be free to do whatever they wish, so long as this does not harm others. Of course, what constitutes “harming others” is deeply contested, but nonetheless this overarching principle is central to liberal thought.

●  Equality: liberals have always affirmed two key beliefs about equality. First, that all people everywhere are born fundamentally equal; second, that the state should treat all its citizens, equally. Exactly what these two statements mean has been subject to constant and bitter dispute amongst liberals for centuries. Today differing notions of what constitutes “equality”, some focusing on “quality of treatment” and others on “quality of outcome”, continue to form the fault lines along which political boundaries are often drawn. Nevertheless, the deep commitment to equality is distinctive of and fundamental to liberal ideology.

●  Rule of law: this principle is derived from the commitments to equality and individualism. By it, liberals affirm that the state should establish transparent, just laws that apply equally to everyone. Law and politics should be conducted in accordance with these rules, not according to the whims of individuals or arbitrary traditions. Regular, free democratic elections are one of the most important manifestations of this commitment in a liberal state.

 Liberalism’s Dominance and its Critics

Some readers may perhaps be thinking that the positions I have outlined above are mostly a matter of common sense. After all, who could disagree with freedom, equality, and the rule of law?

     In fact, many people have and still do disagree with various aspects of these liberal positions, rejecting them in whole or in part. The reason they may perhaps seem so self-evident and unchallengeable is because liberalism has become the dominant ideology of our time. Most people living in Western countries today are liberals, even if they would not describe themselves as such. Similarly, nearly all major political parties in democratic countries today have substantively (though not completely) liberal ideologies. Perhaps counter-intuitively, this even applies to most political parties that describe themselves as conservative or socialist. In large part this is because the very political system which we inhabit in today’s world is built substantively upon a liberal framework, and parties which reject this framework typically aim to overturn the current political order. Under normal conditions, such parties are marginalised and have limited electoral appeal.

     However dominant liberalism may now be, there nevertheless exist major competing ideologies which, at different times in history, have provided very substantial opposition to liberalism. In particular, both socialism and fascism (discussed below) were widely popular alternatives to liberalism during the crisis period of the Great Depression. As is the case for liberalism itself, much diversity exists within each of these ideological traditions, and generalisations can only be made with caution. Furthermore, many attempts have been made to synthesise various aspects of these traditions, and other political approaches exist outside the four main ones which I discuss. Nevertheless, I do think it is still helpful to talk about these traditions as each possessing a core set of beliefs which are distinctive and generally consist across their various incarnations. I think that an understanding of these approaches to politics, and where they differ, can cast considerable light on political discourse, and clarify many disputes which may otherwise remain mysterious.

 Conservatism

The oldest opponent to liberalism I loosely call “conservatism”, a term that is nearly as confusing as the word liberal. Conservatives are typically defined by their desire to preserve some existing status quo, but what exactly that status quo consists of can vary dramatically depending on the context.

     For example, in August of 1991 a group of hard-line communists attempted to overthrow President Mikhail Gorbachev and halt his liberalising reforms of the Soviet Union. In any other context these conspirators would most probably be described as elements of the far left, but because they were attempting to preserve the existing set of political institutions, they were characterised as “conservative”.

     Likewise, much of the language of American conservatism, with its veneration of the United States constitution, the Bill of Rights, individual liberty, and freedom of speech, is conservative only in the sense that it wishes to preserve what are nevertheless fundamentally liberal institutions.

     Notwithstanding their usage in current political discourse, the American founding fathers were by no means considered conservatives during their lifetimes; in fact many of them were vital early contributors to the liberal intellectual tradition. In my use of the term conservative, therefore, I do not simply mean anyone trying to preserve the political status quo. Rather, I am referring to adherents to a certain set of conservative ideological positions, as developed by European intellectuals during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in reaction to perceived excesses of liberals, which was thought to offer a partial defence of existing social and political institutions against liberal calls for widespread reform.

     Conservative ideology differs from liberalism in a number of key ways. Critically important is that conservatives are much less likely to accept the individualist approach to politics taken by liberals. Instead, conservatives typically emphasise the importance of social institutions, particularly the family and the church, as vital social and political actors in their own right. Individualism is replaced by communitarianism, which holds that society is not merely an aggregate of isolated individuals, but consists of overlapping communities in which persons are inextricably embedded.

     Conservatives are likely to see the role of the state as supporting and promoting these institutions, as well as in upholding traditional social values, all of which they see as important for promoting social harmony and continuity. Conservatives typically value tradition and social stability, arguing that any reforms should be slow and cautious so as to avoid misguided attempts to overturn longstanding social customs that have proved their value by standing the test of time.

     This emphasis on tradition often brings conservatives into conflict with liberals who argue that such policies can inhibit efforts to promote freedom and equality. Conservatives, for their part, are likely to reject various aspects of the liberal notion of the equality of all persons. Traditionally, this was manifested in a very explicit belief that nobles were in some real sense “better people” than common folk; it was reflected in the widespread pre-modern practice of applying different laws and penalties according to one’s social rank.

     Modern-day conservatives are unlikely to explicitly endorse such practices; however, they are typically more suspicious of what they see as the overly idealistic liberal notion that all individuals are fundamentally equal, or should be treated as such in all contexts. Conservatives are more likely to think that individuals vary greatly in abilities, temperament, and disposition, and that as a result hierarchy is, at least to some degree, a natural and necessary component of human societies.

     In emphasising social stability and tradition, conservatives are more likely to favour rule by accepted customary practice rather than by explicitly defined, rationally developed, and universally applied laws favoured by liberals. Conservatives often regard such overly rationalistic legal frameworks as doomed to failure if they ignore the accumulated wisdom of customary legal traditions.

 Socialism

While conservatism was the primary opponent of liberalism in the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth centuries, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century a new, very different ideological opponent developed. For my purposes here I will refer to this broad set of ideologies as “socialism”, though others might argue that communism or even anarchism would be more appropriate.

     The many distinctions that have been made between socialism, communism, anarchism, and the many variants of each do not interest me here. Instead, what I want to focus on are the core commonalities that characterise this approach to politics and how they challenge and contrast with liberalism.

     Socialism developed as a distinctive and self-conscious opposition to liberalism. While joining liberals in opposing traditional forms of political oppression and hierarchy, socialists argue that liberals fail to recognise the overwhelming social harms wrought by the economic system of capitalism. Socialists believe that a wide range of social ills are caused directly or indirectly by exploitation of the working class by profit-seeking capitalists, and as a result they argue that, in order to truly achieve the ends of human equality and empowerment, capitalism must be abolished and replaced with a fundamentally different economic system.

     Although they differ in exactly how they wish to bring this about, and what such a system would look like, socialists are united in the core belief that the means of production (factories, land, etc.) should be collectively owned, and that many or all forms of private properly abolished.

     This key distinguishing feature of socialism is very important to understand, because many people who describe themselves as socialists do not, in fact, count as socialists under this definition. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, for example, while describing himself as a socialist, does not support socialisation of the means of production, and therefore is more properly classified as a social democrat.

     In championing the socialisation of the means of production and abolition of private property, socialists adopt quite a strong understanding of equality, in which persons cannot be said to be equal unless they have access to comparable material resources. Thus, legal equality and social welfare programs championed by many liberals are judged as insufficient to achieve what socialists regard as true equality between people.

     Similarly, socialists reject the liberal notion of freedom, with its focus on being free from being harmed by others or the state, and instead champion a more positive conception of liberty, which emphasises the importance of empowering people with the ability to achieve their desired ends.

     Socialists also oppose the individualist focus of liberals, arguing similarly to conservatives that humans are not atomic individuals, but are fundamentally socially embedded. Unlike conservatives, however, they tend to emphasise as paramount the position of individuals within a particular socio-economic class, and consider the interactions between these classes as fundamental to political developments.

     This collectivist approach to social and political relations is often extended by anti-racist, postcolonial, feminist, and other critical theory approaches, which focus on group solidity and identity in political interactions, arguing that the excessive individualism of liberalism is both mistaken and, insomuch as it facilitates the perpetuation of unjust social systems, oppressive.

 Fascism

The final class of political ideologies that I want to discuss in this piece arose in the early twentieth century in simultaneous reaction opposition to conservatism, liberalism, and socialism. I will use the termfascism to describe this broad collection of anti-Communist, anti-Liberal, far-right authoritarian movements, although the label is especially problematic because few people openly identity as fascists, and as such the word should be used with considerable caution.

     Fascism also tends towards anti-intellectualism, and therefore does not have nearly as well developed philosophical justifications as the three ideologies discussed so far.

     Despite these difficulties, several broad generalisations can be made about fascism and related political ideologies.

     First and foremost, fascism is authoritarian, rejecting the egalitarianism of liberalism and socialism in favour of the belief in the inherent superiority of some people or groups over others, and adopting the view that strong, decisive leadership is of vital importance for a nation to succeed. As a result of this belief, fascists reject parliamentary institutions and the rule of law as being harmful impediments to the orderly and efficient management of public affairs. In contrast with conservatives, fascists generally do not regard social stability or tradition as necessarily valuable, but instead often campaign for a revolutionary reshaping of social and political life in accord with some idealised end.

     Fascists unite with socialists in rejecting individualism, but while socialists regard class as paramount, fascists generally consider nationality, ethnicity, or race to be the primary social groupings along which social and political life is managed. Related to this is the adoption by most fascist movements of some extreme form of nationalism, which usually involves imbuing their nation or ethnic group with a mythical origin story and grand destiny.

     Fascist movements typically see their nation or people as under dire threat by internal or external opponents, and regard themselves as leading a revival movement of borderline mystical or spiritual significance. Often, but not always, this ultra-nationalism is accompanied by racism, especially anti-Semitism.

     Finally, fascist movements are populist in nature, meaning that they appeal frequently to the popular will and the sentiments and fears of everyday people, while generally eschewing more academic forms of intellectual justification or appeals to complex argumentation.

     One manifestation of this emphasis on popular appeal is the widespread provision of social welfare programs by fascist movements, something that was instrument to their popularity in Italy and Germany. Whilst sometimes leading to those movements being described as socialist, these programs are typically not motivated by socialist egalitarianism ideals, but primarily by a sense of national communal solidarity and unity of purpose.

 Why Ideology Matters

Having an understanding of the key foundational principles of liberalism and its major ideological competitors is invaluable for being able to understand both historic and contemporary political disputes. The core foundational institutions of our current economic and political system, including electoral democracy with one vote per person, a system of laws equally applicable to all, and a largely capitalist economy with significant state intervention to promote social equality, all only really make sense within the framework of liberal ideology.

     Without the belief that individuals are the fundamental political actors, that economic, political, and social freedoms are exceptionally valuable, and that all persons are fundamentally equal, these institutions would lack any justification and make little sense. Indeed, it is precisely because they reject or drastically reinterpret some or all of these core principles that some groups at the extreme ends of the political spectrum oppose liberal institutions and advocate for their abolition.

     Much more common for mainstream political parties is to combine their support for these fundamentally liberal principles with elements from other ideological traditions. Typically the “left-wing” party combines liberal thought with some elements of socialism (as in the Labour Party), while the “right-wing” party instead incorporates elements of conservatism (as in the Liberal Party). Given their common commitment to core liberal ideas, the difference between major political parties in Western nations is thus typically much smaller than political rhetoric alone would lead one to believe

     Many of the political debates that shape our contemporary political discourse are disputes largely internal to liberal politics. Often these relate to one of the critical tensions which is intrinsic to liberal thought: namely the tension between a desire to promote individual freedom on the one hand, and social equality on the other. Efforts to promote equality often require sacrificing freedom, while increasing freedoms can often result in increased inequality or social injustice. Different people manage this trade-­off differently, and also differ in their precise interpretations of such abstract notions as “freedom” and “equality”.

     Liberalism is thus not a recipe one follows to arrive at clearly defined policy positions, but rather a general ideological framework for conceptualising the proper role of the state, and its relationship to individuals in a just society.

     Whether you, like me, regard liberalism as immensely valuable and a great force for good in the world, or whether you regard it as naïvely optimistic, overly individualistic, intrinsically oppressive, or dangerously degenerate (as various critics have claimed), a proper understanding of liberal ideology is nevertheless essential for engaging in informed political discourse in today’s world.

 James Fodor is in his third year of a science degree at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of the blog The Godless Theist.
From the Australian Rationalist (Melbourne), v. 101, Winter [June] 2016: 32 – 35. Journal of the Rationalist Society of Australia, www.rationalist.com.au
(Posted here with permission of the author). 

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How a Brexit could impact on Australia

The Conversation

Lee Smales, Curtin University

The outcome of the British vote to leave or remain in the European Union (EU) will be known in Australia around 2pm on Friday.

Since becoming a member of the EU in 1973, Britain’s relationship with Europe has been fraught. The “remain” camp has focused on the positives to trade and investment of maintaining EU membership. And the “pro-Brexiters” have concentrated on the perceived loss of sovereignty, undue regulation, and lack of immigration controls that this brings.

Brexit would bring extreme short-term volatility…..

In the short-term, Brexit would lead to turmoil in the UK and global financial markets. In the worst-case scenario it may precipitate another financial crisis.

With a debt mountain piling up in China even as growth slows, and the developed world struggling to generate growth despite record-low interest rates, the global economy is fragile. Last week, the US Federal Reserve cited the uncertainty around Brexit as one reason for leaving interest rates unchanged.

The effect will be most keenly felt in the foreign exchange market. The trade-weighted-index for the British pound has depreciated by 6.5% this year, and currently appears to be moving in step with Brexit polling. US investor George Soros, who famously “broke” the Bank of England during the 1992 European Exchange Rate Mechanism “Black Wednesday” crisis, suggests Brexit would cause a Sterling devaluation of at least 15%.

Chance of ‘Brexit’ is impacting the value of the Pound
FT Research and Bank of England

……and longer term uncertainty

The long-term effects of Brexit are uncertain. Much will depend on the negotiations between the EU and UK surrounding the conditions of exit. This could take years.

Since around half of UK trade is with the EU, it is likely that the government will seek to follow the example of Norway and Switzerland in retaining the benefits of a free trade zone without EU membership – however this is far from guaranteed. The Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg suggested that Britons won’t like this since “Brussels will decide without the Brits being able to participate in the decision-making”.

Crucially, this uncertainty will mean that business decisions are deferred and investment delayed. This may result in many firms deciding to take their operations elsewhere. The Bank of England has suggested that Brexit will stoke inflation and raise unemployment, potentially tipping the UK into recession.

Of greater concern are the potentially greater geopolitical risks if other countries follow Britain’s lead and seek to leave the EU. The Eurosceptic political parties of the far-right have surged in popularity in recent years, and would surely push for their own countries to exit. This could mean a disintegration of the EU.

Consequences for Australia

As they are closely linked, turmoil on offshore markets will likely have a large impact on Australian markets. Australian stock markets and the Australian dollar tend to decline sharply as uncertainty increases and investors adopt a “risk-off” mentality. Bond yields will also head even lower as investors engage in a “flight to quality”.

If financial markets seize up, as they did in 2008, then the big Australian banks will find it difficult to secure the vast amounts of offshore funding that they require – share prices will fall sharply and government guarantees will be called for again. The one bright spot could be the stock price of gold mining firms if gold surges as a result of its “safe haven” status as it did in 2008.

A fall in the pound would have negative consequences for the many Australians (such as myself) who have pensions and other assets in the UK. And the spending power of British tourists (last year more than 700,000 of them arrived in Australia) would be lowered.

In the longer term, it is likely that a shaky global economy will severely impact Australia’s trade. Exports have been a key driver of recent GDP growth and so this could have severe ramifications for employment and economic growth. Recall that commodity prices sank quickly in 2008, and also that the UK is still Australia’s 7th largest trade partner.

As with the majority of governments, the lack of desire in promoting structural change, means that Australia’s fiscal position provides little comfort in the ability to stimulate growth. A repeat of 2008-09 when Australia avoided recession is unlikely to be avoided.

Not for the fainthearted

Of course, Brexit is far from certain to occur. If the bookmakers are correct (and they have form) and Britain remains in the EU we should see a rosier picture develop. At least in the short-term, a “relief rally” would likely see global stock markets surge higher along with the British pound (and the Australian dollar).

This “binary” effect, where prices are expected to advance/decline sharply, is one reason why investment in financial markets is certainly not for the fainthearted right now.

In the longer-term, a resolution to the UK’s position in Europe will do little to change the developing situation in China, or the re-balancing of Australia’s economy in the aftermath of the mining boom.

The ConversationLee Smales, Senior Lecturer, Finance, Curtin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

 

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A new Dawkins interview

Why Evolution Is True

Hot off the press, with almost no YouTube views, we have a six-minute interview that Richard gave yesterday to the BBC’s “Sunday Morning Live” (the interviewer isn’t named). This is his first real appearance, beyond his videotaped Reason Rally speech, on a televised interview. Considering his stroke, he seems to be doing very well despite, as he admits, a slight tiredness in his voice (he’s also lost his ability to sing).

I doubt there is much that those who follow Richard will learn from this, but it’s still worth watching for as least one thing. At 5 minutes in, the interviewer seems to become a bit insensitive, not only asking him about his mortality and what he thinks lies beyond the grave (the answer should be clear), but then asking him if he’s changed his mind about that (the answer is equally clear). She seems to be probing, à la Larry Alex…

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