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posted 19/04/2013

Drive Friday: 19 April 2013 – Matters Discussed

19 April 2013


Drive Friday: 19 April 2013 – Matters Discussed


Presented by Jon Shapiro


Below are Jon’s speaking notes for discussions which broadcast during Drive on Friday 19 April 2013.


For the philosophical basis to these discussions, please see Jon’s vision for constitutional reform, Democracy Without Politics, at: www.myspace.com/dwop98




Undignified citizenship … no democracy


Days since I wrote to my local Member of the House of “Representatives”, without response …


Tanya Plibersek MHR:           165

Minister Bill Shorten:              133


Original email sent:                           5 November 2012

First follow-up email sent:                7 December 2012

Second follow-up email sent:            26 March 2013


(see next item …)




Missing the point


The Business, ABC1, 17/4/13:


TONY SHEPHERD, BUSINESS COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA: The plan we’re putting forward for Australia requires political leaders who are prepared to lose their jobs to get things done.


Analysis: this demonstrates a complete failure of understanding of a political system of government; the main point of which is to get and keep their jobs, that is the primary objective.  This is recognised by satirists in The Thick Of It, for example, but not august bodies like the Business Council of Australia.




The jury’s out … of its mind


The Australian, 17/4/13 (online):


Courts face massive problems as jurors corrupt trials by turning to social media for help






April 17, 2013 1:08PM


JURORS are asking Facebook friends and Twitter followers to help decide the fates of criminals with no regard for the consequences, a report has found.


The Centre for Law, Governance and Public Policy, at Bond University, says existing punishments for rogue jurors – including criminal prosecution – fail to address the problems created by social media.


It warns trials around the world are being corrupted, delayed or aborted by jurors who:


CONDUCT polls of their Facebook friends as to whether a defendant is guilty.



RESEARCH the case they are hearing through Google.


EXCHANGING Facebook messages with the accused person.


The centre’s report, released today, echoes concerns expressed by Supreme Court Justice David Peek last month.


He warned witnesses were researching criminal cases before giving evidence in court, leading to tainted outcomes.


In its report, the centre says social media misuse by jurors is the “single most significant challenge” faced by the world’s courts.



“Another UK juror […] asked her Facebook friends to help her decide on the verdict.


“(She wrote) ‘I don’t know which way to go, so I’m holding a poll’.”

The report says judges and prosecutors have struggled to make jurors understand the problems they are causing.


The centre says jurors pay little attention to the penalties for misconduct and are therefore not swayed by them.

“It has also been argued that imposing punishment is contrary to the notion that jury duty is a civic responsibility and jurors should be supported and encouraged to do it to the best of their ability,” it says.

The centre recommends judges provide written directions to jurors before the start of a trial.

Those directions should clearly and unambiguously tell them not to use social media, and refrain from using electronic devices during the trial.

They should also spell out the consequences for defendants, prosecutors and courts if jurors do go rogue, such as increased cost to the community and incorrect verdicts.

The centre further recommends potential jurors undergo a “brief pre-trial training module” to better understand their duties and responsibilities.

“The model would also include a self-test of jurors’ understanding… by seeking their response to ‘rogue juror’ scenarios,” it says.

Analysis … my recent jury experience:


This article was published the day after I was myself called to attend for Jury Duty (Tuesday 16/4/13).


Several times throughout the lead-up to being empanelled, we were told that if there is any reason why we cannot do jury service, let the sheriff’s officer know, and even if the sheriff says no, we can still ask the judge.


During these explanations, many people were focussed on their mobile electronic devices, or chatting or reading, like people on aeroplanes during the safety demonstration.


On at least two occasions, we were specifically advised not to say nothing, hoping not to be empanelled, then say something after, for that may risk discharge of the whole jury.


When a group of us were called to a particular courtroom, the judge asked if anybody had a reason not to do jury duty; one person put their hand-up, and after giving the reason, the judge said “you’re excused – now, everybody else, see how easy it is, if there’s anyone else please say so now”.


I was very lucky to be empanelled, but before we heard a word of evidence, the judge told us that one of us had asked to be excused, so the whole jury was discharged.


That cost the state (ie taxpayers) almost $1500 to pay the jurors for the day, plus a day’s payment for the judge, court staff, crown barristers and solicitors (however much that is, but I don’t imagine it’s cheap), plus, for the defence, they’re legal representatives, plus, the time of the jury, all because one selfish idiot couldn’t be bothered paying attention to important information.


I agree we should make things as easy as possible for jurors to carry out this important civic duty, so I’m hesitant about imposing penalties; therefore, options I’d like to see in addition to pre-trial training (suggested above) might include:


  • Non-discharge of the whole jury in the circumstance I describe above; perhaps the trial could have proceeded, with minimal delay, if unselected jurors were asked to wait a little longer, until all trials that day are underway, so that an additional juror could still be empanelled


  • Winding back the vocational orientation of our education system, so people leave school with sophisticated communication and life skills, promoting a society where people are conscious of their civic obligations, health and safety, and how their actions have consequences for others.




Drive Friday: 19 April 2013 – Matters We Didn’t Have Time To Discuss


Below are Jon’s speaking notes for discussions which we didn’t have time to broadcast during Drive on Friday 19 April 2013.


For the philosophical basis to these discussions, please see Jon’s vision for constitutional reform, Democracy Without Politics, at: www.myspace.com/dwop98




Politics v Citizens


The aristocracy


David Wroe, “Abbotts daughters back ‘inevitable’ [policy issue]”, SMH, 1/4/13, at 4:


Advocates have applauded declarations of support for [policy issue] by Tony Abbott’s daughters


[advocates] hope the remarks will help the Opposition Leader’s views ‘evolve’


‘If he feels he can’t go so far as to support it, at the very least, he needs to give Liberal MPs a conscience vote’ [advocate]


‘by the time our generation gets into power’ [daughter]


‘The question for Tony Abbott and [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard is, do they want to be remembered as having stood in the way?’ (square brackets in original) [advocate]




1. Unelected offspring of members of the elite have a say in policy development, but I don’t – this is an aristocracy, not a democracy

2. Advocates have accepted a system where policy is made over a long period of time, by a process of a leader’s evolution, rather than quickly and on an idea’s merits

3. Conscience votes (MPs not bound by caucus decision) and a Party system are incompatible; why have conscience votes?  Because the issue is too hard?  Because the issue is non-economic?  Because the advocate, as here, thinks their objective will be easier realised?

4. The daughter’s comment implies “power” is like the centralised monarchical power of old; if there is a centralised “power” then we don’t live in a democracy.  This interpretation also makes sense of the generational comment; so, whatever system of government we have in place, merit should triumph over age/seniority

5. The advocate’s final observation demonstrates how very far away we are from democracy – leaders may be thinking about their legacies, but government is not about the leaders, it is about the laws that apply or should apply across the nation of all of us ordinary citizens




Management culture gone mad


Josie Ensor, “Case closed: victims sent flowers after burglaries in British towns”, SMH, 1/4/13 [source: The Telegraph, London], at 12:


British police are giving bouquets of flowers to victims of burglaries and muggings – crimes they are unlikely to be able to solve.


Forces across the country have started sending flowers to ‘soften the blow’, although one victim said she felt ‘fobbed off’ by the gesture.


In the London borough of Barnet, the Metropolitan Police has sent out about 300 bouquets since the initiative started in November.  The flowers have been donated by a florist, which aims to get business as a result.


The Met’s command there sent flowers to Sarah Miller after she was burgled two weeks ago.


After the burglary an officer dusted for fingerprints.  Later that day she received a card that said ‘Sorry you have been a victim of crime, unfortunately in this case there is insufficient evidence to proceed and investigation into your crime will now be closed.’  The next day a £25 ($36) bunch of flowers arrived.





1. I think I’d feel the same as Ms Miller; fobbed off

2. It’s nice to know the Met aren’t paying for it, but the florist is like many other corporate do-gooders; really they’re primarily interested in increasing their business

3. Maths: In 5 months, 300 bouquets at $36 = almost $26,000 … enough to instead employ extra crime prevention resources, such as increased bobby on the beat?






Heath Aston, “Banks join fight against super tax slug”, SMH, 1/4/13, at 5:


The big four banks have joined a push to stop the Gillard government raising taxes on superannuation.


A delegation will go to Canberra next week to lobby Treasurer Wayne Swan to leave the super system alone.


… to push back against any move in the budget to raid the retirement savings of the wealthy..


The government is considering a raid on super to help rein in the ballooning deficit …


Trade Minister Craig Emerson … [said] ‘We are not seeking to impose new taxes on the superannuation accounts of ordinary Australians.  But there is a legitimate debate about the very top end.’


… [an opponent said] ‘It is poor … to try to justify it as an attack on the wealthy’ …


The super industry said a $1 million nest egg – thought to be in the sights of the government – provided a modest annual income of $50,000, assuming a 5% return on investments.


[Opponents] called … for a greater consultation period than the six weeks until the budget allows.




1. As the article suggests, there is a question over what exactly the proposed tax would be, a question I am personally very interested in myself – yet nowhere here (nor in other media) can I find any articulation of what specifically is proposed …

2. Perhaps the government has not yet formulated a proposal, in which case the call for an appropriately lengthy consultation period may be justified (although ordinary people like us would probably be excluded)

3. The big banks and their supporters, however, appear to be closed to any increase in tax; perhaps an increase in tax on super accounts at a level significantly higher than $1 million might be okay? Or, other arrangements could be canvassed?

4. We have the medieval system of lobbying a particular office-holder, rather than a meaningful discussion of the issue on its merits.

5. Note the emotive language in the report: Gillard (government), raid, rein in, ballooning.




Defence against the dark arts of advertising


Good Morning, Sir


(early April, 2013; SBS1, inter alia) Ad for a major bank … a man is woken up by a talking machine, and throughout the rest of his morning commute he is spoken to by more machines; he arrives at a branch of a major bank and is met by a concierge who says “Good Morning, Sir …”, and then the man hugs him.


There is also a bus shelter ad, apparently as part of the same campaign, with the slogan: “Can you spend less time waiting in line?  With more concierges in more branches you can”.




(i) “concierges”


Trying to create a posh image by borrowing language from high-end hotel or apartment building, or the exoticism of French apartment living – has its origins in the Roman “conservius”, meaning “fellow slave”; so, inadvertently, the bank’s campaign reminds us that we are slaves and so is the well-dressed bank employee meeting us at the door.


(ii) less concierges and more tellers would in fact speed things up


I’ve been in this bank and the “concierge” has never added value to my experience, telling me what I already know (either I need to see a teller, or go to the general counter to ask to see a lender)


(iii) cf The Young Ones episode (mid 1980s?) when they rob a bank, and one of them ends up in the “Good Morning, Sir” queue, where the only function of the teller is to say “Good Morning, Sir”!




Free (to air) Education


Speaking up


The Antics Roadshow, SBS2, 1/4/13 (co-producer: Banksy)


In a 1996 case, Hawker jets were trashed by a group of women concerned that they were being sold to Indonesia, who used them to kill East Timorese.  The group had “tried all DEMOCRATIC means” (eg writing to local MP) to stop the sale.  Found NOT Guilty by a Liverpool jury.


Analysis: the important aspect of this story is that so-called “democratic” means were exhausted, unsuccessfully – cf my own unsuccessful attempt, 17 years later, to get a response to my local MP re superannuation.


Reclaim The Streets: (Vox Pop, May Day 2000, London) “The streets don’t just belong to the profiteers or the LAWMAKERS, they belong to the PEOPLE”


Analysis: language is significant – the speaker perceives the people and the lawmakers as two apparently completely separate groups.


The custard-pie-in-the-face people (ie throw or push custard pies in the faces of important people): (advocate/participant) “If only thousands of people threw custard pies, we could put an end to all forms of power”


Analysis: this is an example of the heart in the right place, but by not thinking things through actually making things worse (which is manifest in many ways today; eg “No War” on the Opera House), in two ways; (a) they are actually committing the crime of common assault, which sets a dangerous precedent because law-abidingness is an important protection for ordinary people, and by breaking the law (taking the law into your own hands) it contributes to a general culture of people deciding to ignore the law (a contra example is the Hawker jet case – there, the women left evidence on scene, waited to be arrested, and did not cause harm to persons, and, most significantly, made a considered decision after exhausting all other legal avenues), (b) “put an end to all forms of power” is an ignorant statement, for destruction of the state will result in private manifestations of power against individuals, which is far worse (power cannot be eliminated, but it can be channelled; the question is how to design a system of government so that power is channelled as best as possible).


Overall: the programme celebrates ordinary people’s finding creative ways to have their say in a system of government which does not adequately provide for ordinary citizens to have a say; yet, this is the very problem they all ignore.  Surely, the right thing to do is to change our system of government so ordinary people do have a meaningful involvement in the state’s decision-making processes?  Focussing on stunts to get one’s message across in this environment is a distraction towards the process of campaigning, rather than what is being campaigned about, so that “what is at issue” (ie what is the right thing to do, what should the law be, etc), is glossed over, dangerously (ie simplistic slogans rather than considered proposals) (note also the problem of concision, per Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent)




Media Failures


TV twits


SMH The Guide, 1/4/13, page 2: “TV Tweets” (presumably, tweets sent by people on the telly) …


Wil Anderson (ABC, et al): “[famous racehorse] for PM”

Angela Bishop (TEN): “Is that [character from soap opera] in the new [product] ad with [ex sport star]”




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