Tag Archives: benny

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Benny on electoral reform

The latest Electoral Reform Green Paper, Strengthening Australia’s Democracy (available from http://www.pmc.gov.au/consultation/elect_reform/strengthening_democracy/index.cfm ), was recently released. While it covers an issue that has been jumped all over recently by mainstream media, that of lowering the voting age, which while somewhat interesting, it also covers issues which I think are far more discussion worthy.*

I love talking about electoral reform. It is one of my favourite topics. I could talk about this paper a lot.

For today, sections 5.42 to 5.62 discuss the voting system used in the house of representatives. Currently, the house of representatives uses a preferential voting system. In effect, this means you can choose to give each candidate a number, and if for some unknown reason you give your first preference to a Family First candidate, throwing your vote away, you get an automatic reprieve and your vote is reallocated to your second preference. This process of preference skipping is repeated until a preference for a sensible party (or occasionally the greens) is reached.

In all seriousness though, the preferential system is a mostly sound system. The main problem from most perspectives is preferential systems always favour majority groups. A candidate needs to be the first to reach 50% of votes, via an initial majority or through preferences. For example, in Queensland, in each electorate, the candidate who gets to 50% first will win. Thus, as one of the main parties will generally get to 50% on preferences first in each electorate, minority parties will generally fail. Thus, even if 10% of Queenslanders support the anti-environment party and everyone else puts them as last preference, if those who support are roughly distributed evenly across all electorates, they won’t win a thing. Thus, sizeable minorities that otherwise do not form the majority views in any electorate will have no representation in the lower house.

Alternatively, the Senate has a proportional system. A fantastic article on how our proportional voting system for the Senate works can be found here : http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2004/guide/senatevotingsystem.htm . Or if you are dull like me, go read (the incredibly wordy and complex) section 273 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The way our proportional quota vote counting system works is very interesting, and I don’t think too many people in Australia have much idea how the Senate is actually elected.

So, back to the new green paper. One of the opportunities it outlines is for the House of Representatives to shift to a form of proportional representation, with divisions at the state or sub-state level. The green paper even discusses many of the arguments for and against the idea (it is quite the paper). This change has the potential to change the political landscape. It also raises some interesting issues for how the ballots will be developed (i.e. will the option remain of voting “above the line” for a single political party, thus accepting the party’s preference order for candidates).

I am still making my way through this paper (at 260 pages it is quite a study). And there have already been a few parts of it I have been disappointed with (the discussion of current proportional vote counting in the paper is poor). But this thing provides topic fodder for months.

*Utilising Nathan’s asterix technique, and noting my prior post, lowering the voting age is pulp news. Further, a 16 year old who wants to sail around the world is not news, and everytime the State Premier/Deputy Premier etc has a press interview, they should not be asked their opinion on said teenager sailing around the world, and their comment is not news.

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The father of all links posts

Ah, another week, another post chock full of links from the narrow sector of the world wide that I like to call the blogosphere.

I thought I’d get a little bit geographically specific with this little link edition. Just to give you an idea of the spread of blogs that I read (that you should too). This is by no means comprehensive – but here are some of the homes of regular commenters, people I know, and people I reckon you should discover (along with some choice posts from their sites).

Right-o. Lets go.

Starting with those in my own neck of the woods – the Townsville scene… (in no particular order). 

  1. Tim – doesn’t post often and when he does it’s usually a YouTube video.
  2. Leah – is the Andrew Bolt of the North Queensland Christian blogosphere, or perhaps the Tim Blair. She also covered North Queensland’s lost and found saga this week where a local lad from a local church went missing in the bush, and was found a couple of days later.
  3. Stuss – has picked up the pace a little, though most of what she’s saying is about gardening and decluttering. Which is fine. Because both are good things.
  4. Phoebe – hasn’t really said anything for 21 days. I just counted. But no list of bloggers from Townsville would be complete without her.
  5. Joel – if Leah is the Tim Blair of the Townsville blogosphere then Joel is the Piers Ackerman.
  6. Carly – is an education student and gives some interesting insight into the female psyche with pieces like the one she wrote last week about Oprah.
  7. Chris barely posts enough to rank a mention. But he’s a blogger. In Townsville. So he sneaks in.

If you’re in Townsville, and I’ve missed you, let me know in the comments.

Moving south, here are some of the notables in Brisbane…

  1. Kutz – I mentioned his new endeavour last week. It’s been trickling along. I’m sure more comments from nice friendly readers would keep his motivation levels up.
  2. Tim and Amy – The same could be said for these two. They’ve kept a pretty steady pace and you should go over, read what they have to say, and say hello.
  3. Simone – well, I’ve talked about her blog enough for you to know what goes down over there. She gets a prize for being the third blogger to mention my dad* this week. Her little piece of speculation about narrative in the new creation was interesting enough to get my hippocampus firing today.
  4. Will Henderson – gets the prize for being the first to mention dad*, and also for being the first Acts 29 affiliated church planter in Australia – a story that apparently hadn’t received all that much coverage before I mentioned it the other day (based on some posts like this one from Jeff Attack)… check out the website for his upcoming plant. Unfortunately it’s a bit grungy. And we all know how I feel about grunge.

Now, on to Sydney. The city of my birth and home of many good blogs.

  1. Izaac is back from a holiday and taking on the challenge of posting about Christian love and social justice.
  2. Ben celebrated his birthday yesterday – and I promised him a link. Then he posted a story about how the Governator has the Conan sword in his office – that I was all set to feature in my next little string of “Curiosities” posts.
  3. At the fountainside Soph asks the important questions about train etiquette – something we’ll have to (re)familiarise ourselves with next year.
  4. Ben (of the Bathgate variety) lists five things that made him tough(er). I score one on his list.
  5. Dave Miers managed to scoop Mikey Lynch by posting an interview with Andrew Heard, one of the Geneva Church planting crew (another post on the network from Dave), before Mikey could wrap up his series of similar interviews with church planting figures (including Will Henderson and Al Stewart).

Mikey (from Tasmania) was also the second person to, somewhat vicariously, mention dad this week because his name came up in one of the posts from the aforementioned series of interviews.

It has also become apparent – from what Andrew Heard said on Dave’s blog and what Al Stewart said on Mikey’s – that the Geneva portmanteau was only a vicious rumour, and that the name is actually a reference to Calvin’s work in that city. Which is a good thing.

And to conclude, here are my favourite ten posts from my blog this week (including bits from Robyn and Benny).

  1. Benny on Ministry
  2. Robyn on Grammar (PS – you should all encourage Robyn to blog more – she needs some comment love…)
  3. Good bad haircuts
  4. Bad relevance
  5. How to pick a cafe
  6. Cool stuff to do with your photos/iPhone
  7. Tips from a guru (my dad – since he’s the flavour of the blogosphere these days…*)
  8. The one about being wrong.
  9. The one about yawning.
  10.  The one about being a PK, and the follow up about being a PK being a bit like being Harry Potter.

* I should point out that these constant mentions of dad being mentioned are a mixture of patri-pride and because I think it’s slightly funny that he feels a sense of discomfort about being in the spotlight. It’s not because I think he’s super special (though he is). And if you want to join the fan club here’s the video I made for his 50th.

Benny on equality

There have been many articles popping up the last few weeks on gender pay inequality, and I have noticed many contain the following analysis:

Women:

1. Get paid less.
2. Work fewer hours around the work office as they undertake more family related duties.
3. Generally have less work-related experience compared with a man of the equivalent age, due to having a more disrupted career (due to family commitments).
4. Have less super at retirement, due to working/earning less.
5. Have difficulty getting into higher work positions, sometimes linked to the impact of family duties on work commitments or a disrupted career path.
6. Are worse off financially, and do not have the same career progress as men.

Further, this can lead to second-degree problems, such as women being financially disadvantaged when involved in a relationship breakdown, due to losing the financial security built into the family unit and having lower savings/lower future earning capacity/less superannuation than the male counterpart.

This is all fair enough. However, I think it is important to recognise that the characteristics above are not necessarily evidence of different earning realisations due to pure gender-related pay discrimination. It seems that most of the arguments that stem from these points is misdirected, often mistaking inequality of opportunity or pure wage discrimination based on gender with different earning capacities due to circumstance leading to inequality of outcomes. A true example of discriminatory pay rates would be if, for the same inputs, there were differing outputs, as in for the same factors (including hours worked, qualifications, experience), there was differing pay. and at present, with the recognition of the above factors, I think the evidence being spread doesn’t align with the suggested problems, or required solutions, being touted.

However, the main point I want to make is that currently it seems that the pro-equality groups direct their anger at the businesses/employers for failing to ignite gender equality. Why is it the employer’s role to do this? Businesses should not be required to fulfil social welfare redistributive role. Employers should be required to pay an employee what their work-related characteristics require. Employers shouldn’t have to act on the idea that 10 years of life experience is equivalent to 10 years of on-the-job experience. If, as a society, we want to undertake wealth redistribution on whatever grounds, there are better institutions and better ways of doing this.

It is unclear exactly what the ultimate goal/solution of recognition of gender wage inequality will be. However, I think it is important to recognise the above distinctions, and most importantly, be careful what solutions are implemented, and not use business enterprises as a blunt weapon for attempting to right the perceived wrongs in society.

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Benny on religion

In these initial posts I thought I would continue the Christian themes that are abundant on this blog, so I thought I would comment not on why/why not I believe certain Christian beliefs, but rather my opinion of religions as a whole.

A little background, I think it would be awesome if there is a God, and it would be almost as awesome if people were born believing in God and this never changed. This would be good as everyone could just live out this life, and then move onto the next one. It would be one big spring break. I also think that this would probably make the world a much less stressful place, and everyone would treat each other better. There would be no need for selfishness, no reason to feel sad if anyone was lost, this world would be only temporary.

However, moving away from the crazy perfect dream, in the actual world it is difficult to tell if religion has more beneficial points than bad points.

Nathan and I have had the discussion of the origin of morals before, which I firmly established my belief that morals aren’t a derivative of the Christian faith. Still, I accept the role of religion in developing many people values, morals and ethics, and I think for the most part Christianity does instil people with a certain standard of goodness. From this perspective, if the Christian faith was more dominant, maybe we would have a better moral grounding, however it is hard to tell. It is possible that morals developed to an extent through general life experience. Maybe religion helps people developed these attributes at a greater rate. This seems likely.

However, what I think is more beneficial to the development of good societal morals and ethics is the community group that religion often fosters. Church groups bring people together, teach the group the expected standards of behaviour, and the younger generations learn how to behave form the older. This almost tribal oversight on the development of younger people I would think would result in them developing better behaviour principles. I would think that belonging to a community group would benefit the morals of people almost as much as being within an organised educational institution and even a strong family unit.

Where clashes occur is across religious boundaries. It seems religions aren’t good at being friends. And some religions aren’t even good at liking their own members if they aren’t religious enough. This is a major mark against religions, and causes divides within the larger community. This concept is one of the prime reasons I do not like any religious divisions in schools. There are enough artificial lines drawn in other areas of society along religious boundaries. I strongly believe that if anything we should be trying to get schools as culturally diverse and free from any types of potentially dividing lines as possible. This means removing all religious-focused educational institutions, and trying to ensure that we preserve this one institution where developing children interact with children from other cultures and religious backgrounds. I understand that many will feel this somewhat impacts on their religious choice and ability to make decisions for their children, however from a whole-of-society standpoint, I think this aids in developing a more inclusive, open society.

Further, religions, relevantly the Christian religions, are not tolerant. Some say they are, but they are not. To some extent I think Nathan has both become less tolerant and more acknowledging of the fact the Christian religion is not tolerant. I think it is important not to get confused between the recognition that different views exist, the tolerance of different views such that there is a willingness to allow those different views to be incorporated into society alongside your own.

This is not the case with many religions, well at least western religions anyway (but I’m not overly familiar with the religions of the world, so I am likely unfairly stereotyping far too many religions into this broad religion umbrella). In the grand scheme of things, it has to be said that rarely do religious ideals greatly impact on non-religious day-to-day choices or lifestyles for the most part.

However, the laws that religion has spurned, as well as the societal stigma’s and opinions in created still remain, and often it is certain minority or misfortunate groups that they have the most impact on. I find it absolutely infuriating at the thought of gay people being beaten or discriminated against on religious basis. Nathan seems to have an issue with same sex marriage due to the potential impacts it could have on family units. There are arguments on either side of this, many difficult to truly validate (such as studies that tells me that traditional families are better/worse than a different family type), but at least if they are approached logically and rationally, I am willing to think through them, and come to a conclusion. I like rational arguments and evidence. What I find more difficult is arguments based on religious grounds. I accept that religious people developed personal values around their religious beliefs and values. However, I find it unfair and unjust to regulate the lives of others based on such groundings.

I am also becoming concerned that Christians have a certain superiority complex that extends further than their belief they have the correct theological choice. As already mentioned, it includes Christian’s belief in their superior moral compass, but I think it also may extend to thoughts that Christians may be just generally more enlightened in all contexts. However, Christians probably make this argument against non-Christians.

There is also a tear within myself to an extent. While I want to preserve everyone’s right to choose and practice their own religion, I also realise that the way in which religions impede upon each other, it is not realistic to believe all these different views could live contently side by side. I think this source of conflict has a negative impact on society.

Finally, I don’t mind being preached to. while I think a lot of non-Christians are bothered by this, I think most of my religious friends understand certain boundaries, and for the most part in Australia it is quite easy for Christian and non-Christian groupings to get along quite easily. In fact, the way smiley puts it, if my Christian friends didn’t try to drag me in once in a while, they are probably not being a good Christian in trying to save their friends. That said, the extent some people have gone to spread the word I think has been somewhat unacceptable. Organisations that organised for missionaries to enter countries where Christianity was not welcome is a grey area I find somewhat difficult to vindicate. They may be heroes of the religion, but again it shows an element of elitism that exists within a group that is willing to do this. It may have been done with the best of intentions, but in the big picture, being so direct may have done more instances of harm than good. And it unlikely caused further tension between already strained international ties.

So to be a true Christian, you seemingly have to take the good attributes with the bad. And, from the requirements of Christianity of spreading the word and living by the bibles teachings, it seems that there is no solution for the incompatibility between the Christian v non-Christian world.

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Benny’s perspective on ministry

I thought about what my first post should be. I thought and I thought. I was going to do one about tax policy, talking about the benefits of income taxation and its wealth redistribution properties.

I’ve decided to save that and instead make a post that will probably be somewhat controversial on this site but more in-line with the less-Christian alternative that goes unrepresented around here. a post inspired by Nathan’s impending career change. I guess what will be the first of many very alternative perspectives to what is usually on here.

When Nathan first told me that he was going to be a crusader, I probably didn’t give the most positive reaction. In fact I think I outright offended him. That was some fun days there. But I have decided to revisit the topic because it has some interesting points.

So, in the scheme of things, is it in society’s best interests for those with higher abilities to dedicate themselves to a life of religious promotion and services to the church community. Is it in Christianity’s best interests for those with higher abilities to be working in a church, or doing something else?

Is someone with high ability better serving the church in a church position, or better aspiring to a different position more in a non-religious field?

For example, let’s say a capable Christian became a commercial lawyer. They would earn a lot of money, and could then put his money towards training and then employing two ministers for various local churches. so, instead of one minister (who would require a source funding for their employment, and two unemployed guys that could be ministers if given the chance), you could have two slightly inferior church ministers (funded by the lawyer and who still provide adequate services), a competent Christian lawyer fighting the good fight, and the lawyer would probably still come out ahead financially. Further, the lawyer could fight the fight on other fronts.

Are the best and brightest required for positions in the ministry, or would the Christian community be equally served by adapting the roles to be filled more by the mediocre, with fewer high-ability personnel involved. It almost laps onto another topic Nathan has been talking about, in the use of technology in church, sermon recording, and possibly church planting (I am not sure what this is, I tune out generally to this one, I just thought I would throw it in). By more efficiently assigning human capital, and incorporating productivity improvements, the net benefit to Christianity could be huge.
Alternatively, there is the public representative path. The best and brightest Christians becoming parliamentarians isn’t a great outcome from my perspective. I am not Tony Abbott’s biggest fan. Another of Nathan and my pet arguments has been the role of public representatives in office, and their decision making processes. I am not a fan of super-Christian-values people rocking up to parliament and bringing Christian values to national legislation. The separation of church and state in Australia is rather unsubstantial in word but somewhat recognised in practice.

Further, I am of the strong opinion a distinction can be drawn between personal ideals and public policy. if a candidate was dripping in Christian ideals and champing to bring them to the world, I wouldn’t vote for them. However this topic deserves more than a sidenote, so it will be left for another day. Still, people who are part of church communities often have a good launching pad into more prominent positions. As a facilitator of networking and garnering community support, you probably can’t surpass a good church on a bright Sunday morning. For a person with notable abilities and a strong church community behind them, they could go far.

So, it all comes down to how the Christian community is best served by its best and brightest. Are the best and brightest compelled by their own kind to serve in theological positions? Is this situation resulting in Christians influence on societal policy being at a disadvantage?

However, turning for to the rest of the world’s views, how is this ideology affecting everyone else? The more theological pursuits are undertaken, the more negative impacts on other areas of human development, such through its impacts through the labour force. If the best and brightest are all urged to undertake theological pursuits, it will relegate more earthly positions, such as doctors, dentists, agricultural scientists etc to distant seconds. It will hamper technological and scientific advancement. So, is the Christian community doing enough to promote alternative pursuits outside of theological undertakings, which benefit the current world even if they do not focus on everyone’s salvation to the same extent? Or has the pursuit of theological pursuits taken preference to improving other areas of the world. In this way, is the Christian mindset having a negative impact on world advancement?

This further branches out into the issue, from the viewpoints of the less-Christian people, that all this time and effort expelled on a potential fairy tail being somewhat of a concern, and potentially these resources could be used better. With people suffering, not only is there a lack of aid in many situations, but actual opposing forces from religiously aligned organisations. As it was easier to jump up and down about environmental policy when the economy was going smoothly, it’s probably also much easier to jump up and down about salvation and living without sin when you are either privileged or in comfort with your situation. for the people suffering that don’t share the same religious philosophy, what is preached could almost seem to be pure selfishness.

Introducing…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through reading Vanishing Point it’s that a blog without a Ben is barely a blog at all.

I’ve been toying with the idea of having more people write stuff here – and I’ve offered that to a few select people. I’m not a control freak – though I may appear to be – so I find the idea of other people producing content quite liberating.

I will, as I introduce more people, make it more readily apparent that you can subscribe to posts from particular people (which means missing the stuff from others).

For now, I’d like to introduce you to Benny. He guest wrote a post a while back about protectionism. He’s an economist. And an expert on strange laws that are still in force in Queensland (he’s not a law lecturer, despite the billing he gets). He’s happy to take media engagements on this basis. Actually he’s not. Despite repeated calls to do so from Sunrise.

I went to school with Benny in Brisbane. Good times were had by all. We started a spam newsletter that on retrospect was funny and offensive. And we harvested emails from forwards we received. Turns out that is pretty illegal.

Anyway, Ben intends to blog a bit here. He’s sent me a couple of incredibly long emails. He works best with word limits. I’m going to give him 500.

Here’s what he has to say about this opportunity.

Well, Nathan has said I can be an occasional contributor to his blog. this is most awesome, cause I don’t want to set up my own blog, and Nathan is an interesting person, so I like to comment about him. Further, it seems that this blog and all its affiliates are very Christian focused. So I guess instead of just whinging to Nathan via email, our background discussions with the alternative viewpoints can be brought upfront.
So, first up, it has to be said that quite often I have a very alternative views about things to Nathan. this has included religion (so very, very often), the role of public representatives, taxation policy, the merits of tax subsidies for childcare/rent/home ownership, abortion, stem cell research, home ownership v renting, the Iraq war, religion in schools/school prayer, speed limits/alcohol allowances, police procedure and police powers, criminal punishments, privacy regulations, preferred presidential candidates (well I think we both wanted Obama but one of us had more confidence in his potential success), the definition of marriage and marriage rights, and many other things.
Probably Nathan’s current distinguishing feature is his immense Christianity. I have also noticed that since I have known Nathan (since we were 15) that his Christianity has become a more and more prevalent feature. And it has really ramped up the last few years. We also know he is a good writer (so much so I remember him getting a few writing awards at school), whereas I care little for perfect grammar. And less for word counts. I like long posts. But since Nathan has full edit access, this probably won’t be such a problem.

Strobel light

I was so intrigued by Lee Strobel’s approach to talking to atheists at the Friendly Atheist, and so annoyed by a Facebook friend’s recent somewhat ill thought out Answers in Genesis inspired attack on the morality of atheists, that I decided to ask my atheist friends for advice on how they’d like to be talked to.

Christians, by nature of their belief in God, have an imperative to share the gospel with their atheist friends, and in fact any non-Christian friends. It would be unloving not to. Atheists have a low tolerance for evangelism – but they do tolerate it when they understand the motivation. Or so I have found, and generalised. The problem for atheists is that once you reject the notion of God any further assumptions about how God might or might act move further and further away from that point of distinction. For the Christian it is perfectly rational, because we believe in God, to then believe that he would intervene in things, provide the mechanism for a relationship and raise the dead. We work deductively from that point. The atheist would prefer to work inductively (it seems) from the point of something miraculous (other than our miraculously balanced continued existence) like a visible miracle or visible, physical, answered prayer.

That’s a rather long preamble. I asked my friends, who I will identify by their online nom de plumes (except for Benny) some questions. While there are some obvious problems with some of their answers from a Christian perspective, they answered honestly and gave a pretty good representation of a cross section of atheist thoughts on the matter.

What should the church do better, in your opinions, if it wants to grow?

Benny

Push its community spirit more. I think people today would appreciate being part of a social group as much as learning their chosen religion. I think the non-church opinion of churches is that they are becoming less of benefit to the community and more benefit to members and the religion. ie, there is a divide opening.

Mr Paroxysm

That’s an odd question for an atheist/agnostic to answer as they wouldn’t want the church to grow.  I think Ben covered this though.  The good churches do is with community building and support systems.  I think it is important however to keep the religious aspect separate from support groups/charity they provide and instead let people naturally discover those aspects if they wish.  The Salvation Army does this extremely well.

What arguments from Christians do you have the most problems addressing?

Mr Paroxysm
I don’t really find any subject difficult to address.  I suppose when the Christian uses "read the bible" as some kind of proof then you fall into an argument about the legitimacy of the bible and considering all the different theories on it’s authorship, differences in translation, included and omitted texts most of which can not be historically proven from either side and likely never will be (with exception to translation issue, the original text isn’t an issue for debate as far as I’ve ever seen just the different translations can be confounding)

Mr Snuffle

Problem is I don’t find any of it convincing, and when you start getting into prayer/resurrection it all just sounds ridiculous. If you want to understand the way I think about what you say, simply replace the words "Christian God" with "Santa", and then ask yourself which part of the argument you find the most compelling.

I think the meat of the argument you make is the argument for a god, any god. Or the likelihood of God as a starting point.

Assuming for a moment that Christianity is true, how should Christians do better at not annoying non-believers and people from other religions?

Benny

Who knows. Toning down the righteousness would be a good start. I think non-Christians are sick of having their views thwarted/not taken seriously because apparently they are morally and ideologically inferior.

Mr Paroxysm

Well your first point is something that I think encapsulates what I was going to say.  Christianity is true… for you.  What Christians need to recognise is that their religion is a personal truth and all other religions are as personally true for other people.  Obviously for themselves Christianity it "True" but they need to recognise that they do not lay claim to any more evidence of truth than any other religion.  You have faith that your religion is true but so does everyone else.  The difference is with the Atheist who sees equality amongst all religions but has no faith in the evidence presented by any.
Christians (as with any other religion) can not expect their personal truth to be impactful to anyone not adhering to their dogma.