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Lies, damn lies and falling cats

By 2353NM

So the election has been called. Everybody that believes they should be in Parliament will be travelling around, kissing babies (if that’s still allowed) and proclaiming from the rooftops that they are the best thing since sliced bread and should be your representative on Capital Hill. Most of them have as much chance of getting into the red or green chambers as I had of having the winning Lotto numbers last week (I didn’t), but it won’t stop them from promising the world and presenting themselves in the best possible circumstances.

We, as the people that vote, have to go to a polling booth on the appointed day, collect a couple of pieces of paper and mark them. All the papers are collated at the end of the day and after the implementation of some mathematics and statistics, one of the hopefuls is destined for the next three or so years of travelling to Canberra on a regular basis and – in theory anyway – representing the views of the residents of individual electorates in the Australian Parliament.

For some reason the role of jumping onto a plane and enjoying the delights of the Canberra Airport or driving along the Federal or Monaro Highways on a regular basis is tightly contested. These people can influence how we live our lives and as a consequence of that can inflict their particular moral or ethical beliefs on the rest of us for a considerable period of time.

And so, some of those pretenders to the throne have a tendency to ‘gild the lily’ a little. For example, Health Minister Greg Hunt (who co-incidentally is retiring at the next election) announced on 16 December 2021

The Morrison Government is continuing to implement its response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, with a further financial investment of $632.6 million.

… on top of record funding of $17.7 billion already committed in the 2021-22 Budget. No doubt this funding increase and probably the marketing of it was approved by Federal Cabinet. While the information is factually correct, it’s not really the entire truth. In the 2016 Federal Budget, the same government, with Scott Morrison as Treasurer made cuts to the funding of some services in aged care that according to the industry at the time would

cost the sector in excess of $2.5 billion over the next four years, almost $840 million more than the government has estimated, a major new analysis shows.

It seems the reality is the new funding from 2021 goes some way towards restoring the cuts of 2016.

As you may have guessed, there is a term for this type of behaviour. It is survivorship bias. Effectively, you have to ask the right question or look for all the information.

There was a study in 1987 that suggests that if you throw a cat off the roof of building up to six stories high it will probably have greater injuries than a similar cat thrown from a building higher than six stories. The expounded theory is that cats reach their terminal velocity (they won’t fall any faster) at about the height of a five-story building and in the last stage of the fall have enough time to place their bodies in the best position for landing and the subsequent attention to fractures and so on from the vet. That makes sense until you consider the entire scenario. Most cats that fall from heights greater than a six-story building die, so there is no need to take them to a vet, measure or manage the fractures and so on, so there is no record of their demise.

Another example of survivor bias is during World War 2, the allied forces ran a study of where planes were damaged on their return to the home airfield. The plan was to reinforce and install additional armour in the frequently damaged sections of the plane to enhance the probability of any individual plane making it safely back to base. Columbia University’s Statistical Research Group recommended the armour be installed in areas of the plane that frequently were not damaged on their return to base as the planes that sustained damage in those areas didn’t return. The ‘real’ question was why didn’t planes come back, rather than how much damage can a plane sustain and still return.

So, while additional funding for the aged care sector in Australia is welcome and hopefully will make a difference, the media release is factual but not really the truth. If the announcement was completely truthful, it should have acknowledged that the 2016 funding cut was wrong and this ‘new’ funding restores some of the funding that was removed five years earlier.

It’s very easy for either of the two major parties to declare a decision taken by the other side is wrong (Morrison is still using that excuse after his side has been in power for almost a decade), but generally very hard for politicians to admit they got it wrong or don’t know all the answers. There are of course exceptions – former Queensland Premier and former Australian Rugby League Chairman Peter Beattie made a career out of apologising when he was found to be wrong and promising to do better.

So when the prospective politician, regardless of their allegiance to orange, yellow, blue, red, green, teal or any other colour promises you the world on the glossy brochure, the well-produced television spot or the slick social media post during this election campaign, remember the term survivor bias and ask yourself if this is the answer to the real question. You also have the right to ask the ‘real’ question of your candidate and expect a reasonable and considered response. After all, if they get to Capital Hill, they are supposed to be working for you, not the ‘party hierarchy’ or political donors who expect a return on their investment.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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8 comments

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  1. leefe

    I think I’m damn glad I”m not that dog ’cause they’d have to put me down after they pried my jaws from ScoMoFo’s torn and bleeding throat.

    Would have been worth it, but.

  2. K

    Schrodinger’s cat! I do love irony…

  3. Ill fares the land

    My take on Morrison and the LNP is simple. I despised him before – this country has never, in my estimation, had a more incompetent, blundering ham-fisted halfwit as PM. A person who expends far more energy telling people he is doing great things than actually doing anything – anytime he says the Coalition is doing a great job of managing the economy, he is lying (and ignoring that pre-Covid, and after 7 years of Coalition incompetence, the economy was in a parlous state – even the Reserve Bank said so). An autocratic bully whose belligerent response to any form of attack is to seek vengeance. But endorsing Katherine Deves, knowing full well her divisive and hateful views of trans-women and LBGTIQ people generally was surely the final straw – or it should be. Many of his supporters will just reset a very low bar even lower and rationalise he is still better than Albanese – but when did Albanese do something so deliberately divisive and nasty towards a section of the community just to win votes (outside of Warringah at least)?. That alone surely renders Morrison as a total disgrace. He has to go and the only way to get rid of him and his corrupt band, is to vote the LNP out of power.

  4. Harry Lime

    BOM warning for all future Morrison appearances:Owing to prevailing cyclonic gales of bullshit,interspersed with basketball sized lies,citizens are urged to seek shelter away from these stage managed atrocities,and definely avoid tables, where there is the 90% certainty of falling dead cats.

  5. New England Cocky

    There is a growing tendency among the mainstream media-ocrity to talk about the importance of ”the party” at feral elections, when in fact the Australian Constitution makes only one mention of ”the party” at the Coleson Amendment made after the Bjelke-Petersen mischief during the Whitlam government. Otherwise ”political parties” are irrelevant.

    Perhaps that is why so many Australia voters believe that Independent candidates are the best and most credible people to represent the best interests of Australian voters.

  6. Arnd

    After all, if they get to Capital Hill, they are supposed to be working for you, not the ‘party hierarchy’ or political donors who expect a return on their investment.

    What do you think?

    What do I think?

    I think you’re dreaming, and got bitten on the bum by Hume’s “Is-Ought” fallacy: just because politician’s ought to advance the greater public good doesn’t mean that that is what they are doing.

    Also, if a cat always lands on its feet, and a toast alway falls buttered side down – what will happen if you tie a toast on a cat’s back, buttered side up, and throw that cat out of the window?

    (Now, you may think that’s a totally irrelevant question to be asking. But, realistically speaking, so is any discussion of aged care funding on The AIMN.)

    (Growing up in Germany, as we kids turned teenagers during the 70s, my mother, a trained nurse, went back to work at the local district nursing station. I received an introduction into how the Pflegenotstand (State of emergency in aged care) played out at the actual worker/care recipient back then. 50 years ago – different decade (different millenium, actually), different country, different continent, different hemisphere … – SAME BULLSHIT!)

  7. Arnd

    New England Cocky,

    Perhaps that is why so many Australia voters believe that Independent candidates are the best and most credible people to represent the best interests of Australian voters.

    And that comment, just after you’ve been formally introduced to the survivorship bias? Yes, as at current, the few independent candidates who manage to mount a noticeable election campaign, let alone actually get elected, are a cut above.

    But, for a number of interrelated reasons, I am practically convinced that a whole parliament comprised entirely of independents would be even more unworkable than the current party-dominated excuse for representative democracy.

    We might usefully discuss whether, say, the senate should be selected by sortition – but unless supported by further fundamental review of the expectations and purview of representative democracy altogether, even a change as drastic as to sortition will not provide lasting improvement.

  8. New England Cocky

    @Arnd: The Independents model of Parliament seemed to work OK between 1901 and 1922 when compulsory voting was introduced. Certainly the Australian Labor Party (ALP) represented the workers while the bosses formed various parties to protect their vested interests in parasitic capitalism.

    From hard experience in both the NSW electorate of Armidale re-named Northern Tablelands and New England, the only social progress that has been made in the past50+ years has occurred when the late Bill (& Thel) McCarthy (ALP) represented the electorate in the NSW Parliament and Tony Windsor (Independent) represented New England in the feral Parliament. Indeed, it was the two Independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott who saved Australia from a further three years of Toxic RAbbott destruction of the Australian economy after 2010.

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