Predicting the future. There’s an interesting explanation in the London Daily Telegraph this week of the principles behind the Crikey Election Indicator which gives a probability about different candidates winning an election. Worth reading if you are interested in this kind of thing. You might also find of interest the article by Sir Francis Galton F.R.S in the journal Nature of March 1907 which the Telegraph story quotes. I have it on my blog.

The thing we don’t mention. Barack Obama is certain to be the Democratic Party candidate for the presidency isn’t he? And the markets have a Democrat a 62% chance of becoming president. So what is the probability of Barack Obama becoming President? 62%? Well, no actually. The market at Intrade puts it at 59.9%. Which I suppose means that the people who back their opinion with their money believe there is some chance that Obama will not end up being the Democratic Party candidate. Some people clearly noticed what Hillary Clinton said months ago about Robert Kennedy not ending up as the candidate although he was clearly leading in the delegate count all those years ago.

The naked truth about news. Methinks the News Limited group are making a mistake with their blanket Olympic Games coverage — the readers seem to have something else on their minds. Take a look at this morning’s most read stories: Daily Telegraph: Amber Petty strips nude; Herald Sun: Raunchy school musical walkout; Courier Mail: Anna Kournikova bares all for Maxim magazine; Advertiser: Woman ‘shot in crotch’ after s-x demand. Even The Australian seems to depend on key words tapped into search engines to provide its most read item although the readers were probably disappointed with what they found — Paul Hogan’s “naked” tax arguments.

If banks are logical. If the management and boards of Australian banks are logical people there’s no doubt that they will be passing on to customers any reduction in official interest rates that the Reserve Bank delivers in the near future. No to do so will increase the risk of anti-bank sentiment within the Labor Party reaching such an extent that the Treasurer Wayne Swan is forced to bring back some of the regulation of banking that his predecessor Paul Keating got rid of. That would be far more damaging to profitability over the long term than exploiting a competitive advantage and hanging on to a quarter of a percent or two of extra income.

But then again, the history of Australian banks suggests that logic is not their strongest suit as I was reminded when reading David Love’s recently published account of those Keating reforms in his book Unfinished Business. It is easy to forget just how vigorously today’s exponents of the glories of competitive free enterprise fought to try and stop the opening up of Australia’s financial markets.

The look of Billy about him. Brendan Nelson has the look of Billy Mackie Snedden about him. It was nearly 35 years ago when that Liberal Party Opposition Leader had a policy of opposing virtually everything proposed by a new Labor Government and forced Gough Whitlam to an early election. Dr Nelson yesterday committed himself to the same kind of opposition for opposition’s sake. It is a policy which a desperate politician is reduced to in the futile attempt to cover up personal inadequacies. It will not work but there is always a Malcolm to come to the rescue. Snedden had his Fraser; Nelson his Turn bull.

Imitation is … The Liberals in Western Australia are not too proud to pinch a Labor Party policy or two and they are not confining themselves to copying those of their State Labor rivals as they search for ways of giving law-and-order a nudge along in their campaign. This week shadow police minister Rob Johnson has gone straight to the Kevin Rudd play book to start handing out grants to local councils to install CCTV cameras, security screens, locks and lighting. Federal Labor was making exactly the same promise less than a year ago. What the pollies love about this particular promise is they can hand out largesse in every town they visit.

A daring Premier. That Tasmania’s new boy Premier David Barnett is not short of political courage is shown by his promise to follow the recommendations about dealing with corruption of a parliamentary committee on which Labor does not have a majority. The Premier established the joint select committee with representatives from both houses of parliament on his first day in office but his promise to do what it recommends follows the extraordinary case of the State’s police commissioner being stood aside and a former Premier interviewed by police. The Government has recommended to the parliamentary committee that an Ethics Committed with investigative powers be created. Yesterday Mr Barnett gave details of what he called his “Ten Point Plan to Strengthen Trust“:

  1. A review of the Freedom of Information Act — with a view to, if necessary, improve access to information as well as the administration of the Act.
  2. Protection for Whistleblowers — by reviewing the Public Interest Disclosures Act for improvements in the form of amendments.
  3. Approved Protocols and Rules for Judicial appointments — to be released soon by the Attorney General. These new protocols have been subject to scrutiny by the profession and other stakeholders, including the opposition parties.
  4. Improvements in Governance and Accountability in GBE’s and Financial Management Frameworks — a review to ensure best practice governance framework has been undertaken. Recommendations to be adopted include strengthening and more clearly defining the selection and appointment of directors.
  5. A register of Lobbyists — those seeking to register will be required to adhere to a lobbyists code of conduct. There will also be specific rules relating to former members of parliament.
  6. Codes of conduct for members and ministers — a new code of conduct for all members of the Parliament and a strengthened code of conduct for ministers.
  7. A code of conduct for ministerial and parliamentary staff.
  8. Training, advice and induction — for all members, ministers and staff to ensure a very high ethical standard is maintained.
  9. A review of resourcing — the offices of the Auditor General, the Ombudsman and Director of Public Prosecution will be subject a review of resources. This is to ensure they have adequate resources to carry out duties with diligence and the appropriate level of accountability.
  10. A recommendation to clarify the Police Act and create a separate investigation power — there needs to be clarification on the relationship between the Commissioner of Police, the Premier and Minister of Police, as well as the ability of ministers to direct, or not direct, the Commissioner in relation to investigations.