Moving to one person rule. First it was back benchers who were nobbled and reduced to speaking lines delivered to them from on high and reciting Dorothy Dixer questions within the Parliament. If the threat of not being considered for higher office by a Prime Minister or factional bosses was not a sufficient incentive to comply with such restrictions then the threat of losing pre-selection was. Only in a final term these days has an ordinary Labor MP have the ability to say what he or she believes.

And now we have come to the pretty pass where the same discipline is being imposed on Ministers who apparently have to seek the permission of the Prime Ministerial office before meeting with an editor of a daily newspaper.

As the Prime Minister Julia Gillard put it this morning:

“… as a government we are out and about every day explaining what we are doing for the Australian community and that is important. And we co-ordinate the explanation of that message. We always have and we always will and there is nothing new in that.”

Nothing new in that? We always have?

Since when? The Labor Party used to be a democratic institution where all MPs could have a say. The dramatic change for the worse came when those desperate to become ministers in Kevin Rudd’s government copped that Prime Minister’s demand that he alone should be allowed to choose the favoured ones. Julia Gillard has continued with this authoritarian system.

When choosing their next leader Caucus members should be looking for a colleague prepared to return the party to its democratic  past.

A real end to democracy. Yesterday I thought the rulers of the European Union just believed in the tooth fairy. After the statement overnight from Jean-Claude Juncker, the chairman of a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers, I think they have all moved to Alice’s wonderland.

What Mr Juncker explained is that Greek members of Parliament, who are about to face an election where most of them will be defeated, are expected to provide a guarantee that the Parliament elected in April will be committed to the harshness of the demanded austerity measures.

It is stupidity beyond belief.

Australia’s building bricks. Another little sign this morning that it’s not just the car and aluminum industries where manufacturers are doing it tough. And this time it has nothing to do with the value of the Australian dollar.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that the production of clay bricks in the 2011 calendar year was 7.5% less than in 2010; concrete bricks, blocks and pavers down 8.6%; plasterboard down 3.2%; terracotta and concrete roofing tiles down 16.3%.

That is as good a measure as any as to how crook things are in the housing construction industry.

At least the investment in the mining industry helped the Portland cement manufacturers to increase production for the year by 7% while the figure for ready mixed concrete showed a very modest 0.5% improvement.

What’s in a name? Righto you Smiths and Browns. The secret of your success has been revealed. And we know why you have so many friends at work. You’re not really all that smart. Nor especially likeable. It’s just that your name is easy to pronounce.

A study by Dr Simon Laham at the University of Melbourne and Dr Adam Alter at New York University Stern School of Business, has found that having a simple, easy-to-pronounce name is more likely to win you friends and favour in the workplace. The results of their survey are published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology but I could not find it on the website so have had to content myself with the University of Melbourne press release to provide these details:

… researchers analysed how the pronunciation of names can influence impression formation and decision-making. In particular, they demonstrated “the name pronunciation effect,” which occurs when people with easy–to-pronounce names are evaluated more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names.

The study revealed that:

  • People with more pronounceable names were more likely to be favoured for political office and job promotions
  • Political candidates with easy-to-pronounce names were more likely to win a race than those without, based on a mock ballot study
  • Attorneys with more pronounceable names rose more quickly to superior positions in their firm hierarchies, based on a field study of 500 first and last names of US lawyers

Lead author, Dr Simon Laham said subtle biases that we are not aware of affect our decisions and choices. “Research findings revealed that the effect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce,” he said.

Dr Adam Alter who conducted the law firm analysis said this effect probably also exists in other industries and in many everyday contexts.

“People simply aren’t aware of the subtle impact that names can have on their judgments,” Dr Alter said.

Peter Fray

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