On radicalisation

Richard Middleton writes: Re. “Finding and combating radicalisation: a study in confusion” (yesterday). The risks of dying after falling out of bed or choking on a peanut (you don’t even need to have an allergy!) are approximately 1000 times greater than that of being killed due to the actions of some disaffected nutjob the “security services” have recently (and oddly) taken off their “watch list”. So why no “war on eating peanuts in bed”?
The whole War on Terror (WOT) is really a huge and expensive scam, truly a WOT (Waste Of Time), nothing more than an excuse for big boys to play with nasty toys, and we pay for it, in many ways.

Robert Johnson writes: The method (sic) for detecting an emerging young “radical” (adolescents becoming confrontational or withdrawn or changing friendship networks or getting interested in different ideas) reminded me of the McMahon Liberal government’s advice to parents and teachers on detecting drug abuse in their teenage children. In 1972, whilst working with “vulnerable” young people in the nearby Frankston area, I attended a public meeting in Moorabbin Town Hall, where customs and excise minister Don Chipp talked about the drug threat to “our children”. The entrance foyer included, for the illumination of parents, a secure display cabinet containing some pills and marijuana leaves and so forth (maybe even a syringe!). Chipp’s advice to parents on how to detect potential drug use in their children was to look for such tell-tale signs as change in temperament (moody, argumentative), withdrawal from organised sports groups, and switching to wearing long-sleeve tops. The immediate result was a lot of overly-anxious parents heading home at the end of his address to confront their confused but otherwise normal kids.

Once again, this time regarding “the terrorist threat”, a government with a passion for a narrow concept of social conformity is wilfully risking alienation of young people; maybe even knowingly promoting such an outcome at a time (like 1972) when scaring a larger older voting cohort yields a net electoral gain over any alienation of a less supportive younger and even non-voting population.

Thanks for this series of commentaries, Bernard: this is the “national conversation” we need to have but is far from the government’s intended narrative. In fact, it’s looking dangerously like it’s being treated by Abbott et al as a Howard-style wedge issue, akin to how Abbott’s playing his PPL backflip (evidently turning the larger population of non-beneficiary women against erstwhile beneficiaries that he was momentarily committed to during the election campaign), about as disingenuous and reckless as a national leader can get on such an apparently serious issue as national security.

On the No Land Tax Party’s payment promises

Shaun Ratcliff writes: Re. “Show me the money” (yesterday). Just to quickly comment on the tip you received on the payment of the No Land Tax Party workers who handed out how to vote cards at the 2015 NSW election. For the party to assume it could have paid its workers a total of $1 million in wages purely from public funding, it had to have assumed it would receive nearly 150,000 first preference votes in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council (this would equal $600,000 in the LA and $450,000 in the LC), and that all of its Assembly votes were in electorates where it also received more than 4% of the first preference votes (this is the cutoff in both houses to receive public funding).

This assumption fell short in two ways. First, the NLT Party received barely more than half this: 89,000 in the LA and 82,000 in the LC. This is almost certainly why the party believes if all its committed booth workers had turned up on the day they would have had enough money: double the workers, double the vote. Unfortunately for this assumption, there’s no evidence more booth workers equals more votes. And certainly the relationship is not linear, otherwise the major parties would also pay booth workers in all marginal electorates to increase their numbers. As a result of their relatively small vote, the party had less than 2% of the vote in the LC, taking them below the quota for funding.

Secondly, besides being below the cutoff across state in the LA (they received 2% of the vote), the distribution of NLT votes in the Assembly was not uniform. In some seats they actually received enough votes to reach the funding quota (Wollongong, 4.4%), and in most others, far less (Tamworth, 0.7%). The variation my be due to their presence on the booths in these districts, their position on the ballot (being at the top or bottom will earn you some donkey votes) or other random factors. As a result, even if their vote had been double and they had been above quota across the state, many of their votes would still not have gained them any funding at all, as they would have been wasted in districts in which the party’s vote had fallen below quota.

So, the No Land Tax Party cannot really blame anyone but itself for its lack of allegedly promised payments to its workers. If it really had assumed it would obtain enough public funding to pay $1 million in promised wages, it was making a whole host of unsound assumptions.

On the tampon tax

Malcolm Weatherup writes: Re. “The tampon tax is a convenient distraction. Period.” (yesterday). Proponents of removing GST from tampons should be careful what they pray for with this government … there’ll always be a string attached.

Peter Fray

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