Category Archives: Australia

Empirical Discussion of Malcolm Roberts

Some of us have heard Senator-Elect Malcolm Roberts using the word ‘Empirical’ on numerous occasions.

Last night a whole lot more got to hear him use the word many times during the ABC show, Q&A.

Just what does the word mean and why is it at odds with much of what most scientists say and believe?

The Oxford Online Dictionary has the following definition.


So what Roberts is saying is that you cannot predict anything. If you see something happen and cause an outcome then you can explain it but you cannot use that event to conclude that should the same thing happen again that the outcome will be the same.

So scientists should never predict what MAY happen as a result of certain current conditions.

In Malcolm Roberts’ world anything to do with climate change is unprovable and so should be ignored because it relies on another long word.


In the Malcolm Roberts Universe it seems that any extrapolation is badly unscientific. I won’t insult my readers by quoting examples where we extrapolate outcomes from current data every day. In life or death situations which we simply take for granted.  Tried crossing a busy street between traffic lately?

Malcolm, your repetitive use of the word ‘Empirical’ does not show you to be a knowledgeable scientist.

I note that your degree is in Engineering.  Applied Science. The lesser brother of Theoretical Science.  Yes, you can build stuff, you can play with Meccano with impeccable skill. Yet you have not learnt the skills that are Science. You have not developed a theory from repeated and repeatable experiments. You seem to show little understanding of that essential scientific method.

Every scientific theory relies on extrapolation.

A scientific theory is not something dreamed up at 2am by a group of bored people. It is an explanation garnered from empirical evidence discovered through experimentation, extrapolated within the theory to a predictable outcome then discussed, torn to pieces and accepted or rejected on the evidence and on the logic by others who also know the subject. That is what peer review is all about. Yes, theories do change around the edges but once accepted they are surprisingly robust. Even Newton’s three Laws of Thermodynamics still hold despite the tinkering Einstein provided with his theory of relativity.

I’m sorry, Malcolm, you do not convince anyone with any knowledge of science.

You are just a passing thorn in the side of progress.



A Tale of Two Malcolms



The New Senator From Queensland


A Tale of Two Paranoias

Every now and then I leap in where angels, and sensible people, fear to tread. This is one such occasion. I am about to upset some of my best FB and Twitter friends.


Because they are being silly and contradictory! YES, fb friends and fellow tweeters, this means YOU!

Two weeks ago, with the closest election in years being counted in the seat of Herbert and with its outcome actually being important on the National stage, there were cries for cyber-voting so we could get a quick result. Forget the fact that the Government, through the AEC would need to collate edown with this1very elector’s details onto a single database, the quick result was essential in their minds. Hackable, manipulatable and useful for deciding which electors were traitors to the cause, an internet-based electoral system was essential!

I wasn’t happy with that idea and said so. And was ignored in the heat of the argument FOR internet voting.

Now we have an Australian Census about to be conducted. For the first time it will use the internet to collect information from those who prefer the Internet to paper.  And guess what.

moral outrageMany of the people who were pushing for internet voting are loudly decrying the ‘loss of privacy’ an internet-based census will lead to. Disregarding all the other databases  Government and the Multinationals have on every individual in Australia, somehow giving that same information to the Census is just plain authoritarianism.

Personally, I think that holding information for 100 years and then releasing it, as happens in Britain, is a good thing but then I sometimes wear a genealogist’s hat. When I am just a plain human being, I cannot see why there is this cognitive dissonance between a voting database being potentially misused by Government and a Census form potentially being carelessly handled by that same Government. Or not, as the case may be.

One or the other, people! If online voting is a good idea, so is an online census. Or vicky verka.

Is a little consistency here on the intertubez too much to ask for?

Dont do it again



Poll Sum; 27th July 2016

Ballot box


As the name of this series indicates it is a summary of published polls within Australia.

Since the Double Dissolution Election of July 2nd there has been a dearth of polls. Even the final official numbers from the Electoral Commission have not been released. Not that this is a problem or anything new. The official end of the count is always five weeks after the election. The difference this time is that it is a very close result and in a time of instant gratification, there is an impatience. The main new effect of this apparent slowness is a sudden push by some background groups to change to an electronic system. This idea has been taken up by a vocal group of cyber-savvy supporters. This is despite the fear of hacking in almost every other area of cyber-space. The question should be; ‘Who creates the software and who would benefit from being able to play with the electrons and the consequent organised election result?’


The only company continuing to poll is Essential Vision. Since the election they have released four polls.  Just giving the 2pp numbers is sufficient until a true Poll Sum can be resumed.

5th July –   L-NP 50% ALP 50%

12th July – L-NP 49% ALP 51%

19th July – L-NP 49% ALP 51%

26th July – L-NP 48% ALP 52%

The ‘Mediscare’ is finally sinking in as being based in horrible, grotesque fact and the general public has realised that $50Billion being given to overseas multinationals will not create one job in Australia and will do nothing to promote growth in Australia.


Interestingly, the National Vote according to the AEC has swung Left again. It was out to around 50.37 to the LINO’s (Liberals In Name Only) when there were 80% of electors counted. It is now almost back where Poll Sum had the numbers three days before the election. That is on 84.19% of electors counted – it will rise to around 90%

Liberal/National Coalition 6,252,988 50.11 -3.38
Australian Labor Party 6,225,927 49.89 +3.38




Malcolm Turnbull was able to fluke an election win on the day yet appears to have continued to lose popularity. How long will he last as leader?

How long will this dysfunctional Government last in a fractured Parliament?

Democracy and the Zamia Palm

(I wrote this in November of 2006.)
(A decade on, with events in Turkey, Thailand, Burma, on the) (African Continent and elsewhere it still seems relevant.)

bar - stones

Macrozamia riedlei, the Zamia Palm is a pretty, palm-like plant of South Western Australia. It is also quite poisonous and has lead to the death of many imported herd animals. Yet the original inhabitants of the area, both human and animal, all lived comfortably with this plant and were even able to add it to their diet.

Macrozamia riedlei (Zamia Palm)

I am led to wonder about other transplants and importations. Democracy is a wonderful political invention. There is no doubt of this fact. It is also a recent evolution in history. It may even be a short-lived failure. Yet if it were so, it will be remembered as a beautiful failure.

Perhaps we should look as closely at Democracy as we do at our plants. Should it be grown in all soils? Does it need a special fertiliser? Could it be poisonous in some climates?

A quick overview of the origins of Democracy would note that an aborted form occurred in Ancient Greece. That Democracy, in part, grew out of the very bloody French Revolution and was immediately transplanted to North America. That it also grew out of the 13th century Magna Carta in England. This was a slow gestation and it was not until the early years of the 20th century that it finally bore the fruit of electoral equality in Britain and its Empire. Europe also saw a successful flowering of Democracy.

There have been many attempts to transplant and impose Democracy into other parts of the world. Most have failed and the transplant has turned poisonous. Much of Africa is ruled by poisonous mutations of democracy. Other variations can be seen in much of Asia and Arabia. Democracy seems to work for a while, then it degenerates into a dictatorship of the small majority. Genocide and electoral manipulation leads to that small majority entrenching itself. Without the correct soil and nutrients, Democracy rapidly mutates into a poisonous caricature.

My American friends often tell me that they do not live in a democracy. That the USA is a Republic. Looking at the political garden in North America, I tend to agree. Democracy has failed that particular transplant. It now exudes a noxious patronage which is afflicting the whole system.

Our headlines at the moment, without mentioning the word, are about America’s urge to transplant democracy yet again. This time into Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea. As political horticulturist I fear for the twisted forms these experiments will take.

Like the Zamia Palm, Democracy can be fatal to those who have not been acclimatised to it from birth.

This Land Was Your Land

So now we look forward to another three years of a Coalition Government.

The Abbott/Turnbull Government did a good job implementing some of the IPA’s 75 dot-point ideas. However there are still many as yet unimplemented ideas. The Coalition, with its huge majority in the Reps thought it was going to be immortal and so did not have to rush things.

The new Turnbull/Whoever Government knows it only has this term to complete the real Conservative plan. The one no one talks about. The one where Australia is sold to all their supporters. And the Bill Shorten-led ALP has proven that the electorate does not want that to happen. The next election will return Labor  to the Treasury benches.

With a fractious Senate, a bare majority in the Reps and falling popularity in voter-land, Turnbull will have to give all he can to the IPA to keep the position he paid a million dollars to hold. He may not get the full three years. In fact this divided Government may not get the full three years.

Things are going to get a lot worse for us ordinary folk. Medicare and pensions will be just the tip of the ice-berg. By the end of this Government we probably will not have a public broadcaster to rescue. We shall lose all credibility as a provider of Foreign Aid. Our USA-China problems will be exacerbated.  The Union movement will be completely emasculated. Don’t even think about the possibility of taxation fairness or economic recovery. We will be lucky to salvage a -A rating by the end of this term.

Things will get so much harder for the average Australian and it will be because the Coalition will be pushing as much through to benefit their cronies as they can before losing the 2016/7/8/9 election. Whenever it is.

A maximum of three years to pad their mates wallets before the hard times of an honest Labor Government.