Return of the Hallucinating Goldfish: Help!

“My preferred term is that we’re governed by Hallucinating Goldfish. No long-term memory, and a world of imagined horrors,” I said last night.

My comment was triggered by a discussion about Australia’s debt-to-GDP ratio, which stands at 6%. Here’s a picture from March 2010, showing that even with the recent rise in debt to deal with the global financial crisis our government is debt still within the usual range historically.

Personal debt, on the other hand… Ahem!

The United States, by comparison, sits at 60%. According to one economist even that figure is wrong. It’s really 14 times greater, and he reckons the US is actually bankrupt.

But opposition parties here in Australia screech that 6% is “out of control” — even though, as Ric Hayman reminded me, it’s only a few years since one of their own was congratulated for settling things down to 6%. It was acceptable then. But now…

A debt ratio at 6% of GDP is nothing, of course. To use the traditional analogy, it’s like a household with a combined income of $100,000 taking out a loan of $6000. Quite manageable. Families regularly take out loans of 500% of their GDP to buy their own homes and it’s considered normal, even admirable.

Yes yes, if they spent that money on cocaine instead then might be different, but that’s not the issue here. Anyone who tries to equate stabilising a national economy so people can keep their jobs with a drug habit is in my opinion nothing more than a blind political tribalist. If such comments are made here I shall mock and insult you personally.

This is all part of what my Crikey colleague Bernard Keane calls the Perpetual Present of politics, “in which what happened two days ago, let alone two years ago, is forgotten”. But my preferred term is Hallucinating Goldfish

That must’ve struck a chord, because when I mentioned it last night my comment was retweeted around 30 times. I therefore pointed people to my original post, Post 801: Kill the Hallucinating Goldfish.

I was also reminded that political journalism fails to cover the vast majority of what happens in Parliament and government.

As Tim Dunlop put it, here’s “some stuff you might’ve missed if you relied on the media for all your information.” Like the House passing 29 bills, the Senate 16, and 11 bills passing both houses. Nothing important there, eh?


Now my original Hallucinating Goldfish post now seems quite dated, and I haven’t posted anything in the Hallucinating Goldfish category in most than two and a half years. I reckon we need new examples. This is where you come in.

Please help me identify more Hallucinating Goldfish. Where are policies being proposed, or decisions being made, based on a paranoid fantasy worldview and ignoring the lessons of the past?

[Photo: Goldfish by Helga Birna Jónasdóttir, used under a Creative Commons attribution license.]

7 Replies to “Return of the Hallucinating Goldfish: Help!”

  1. The LNP Coalition is trying to get a inquiry into the BER “scandal” claiming the Labor-Green Coalition lack of support is tantamount to an admission of culpability. Or answer (b) they already commissioned an inquiry into the BER which lead to the Orgill Report which largely vindicated the Govt program and therefore was ignored by the LNP in the run up to the last election. What they really want is a succession on inquiries (the equivalent of taking the same drug and expecting a different result) until they get the answer they want. Forget that this is an entirely self-serving exercise and a waste of huge tax-payers money. Even some twerp from the Daily Telegraph was carrying on Channel 9’s Today program as though no inquiry had ever taken place. Short-term memory losses or Hallucinating Goldfish?

  2. The worst thing about the Hallucinating Goldfish phenomenon is that many of the politicians behaving as though the past is a non-existent country are intelligent individuals (with some notable exceptions, we all know who they are) who almost certainly do remember what happened more than a couple of days ago but they think that the voting public are too stupid to remember. It’s an insult to us all!

  3. Stil – just a brief comment on the statement “I was also reminded that political journalism fails to cover the vast majority of what happens in Parliament and government.”

    I believe you fail to properly recognise the role of Hansard which is the result of private journalism – see

    For the most part those who record what is said in Parliament do so not as an integral part of government but is something that is open ( I believe ) for anyone to undertake. It isn’t illegal to take notes and record them in Parliament.

    I briefly spoke to the Hansard people at the New South Wales Parliament Open Day on October 6th. where I sat in the chairs normally occupied by the Premier and the Leader of the Opppostion and even got to ask a question of the “Minister for Transport” in the lower house as a backbencher – an image which is recorded as a tweet somewhere.

    I thought of asking them why it is that certain motions (on the criminilisation of the possession of “X” rated videos proposed by the Hon. Fred Nile) weren’t available to read. This is the first case I can recall of anything being surpessed from Hansard.

    Hansard is an on-line journal that anyone can read (apart from the debate in the New South Wales Parliament on the proposed criminilisation of the possession of “X” rated video and DVDs)

    reference :

    Long Title
    An Act to amend the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1995 to prohibit the possession of films classified X 18+.

    Text of Bill and Second Reading Speeches
    The text of this Bill and any 2R speeches are not available online.


  4. Addendum to my previous comments – I note that the questions raised by Lee Rhiannon regarding the Enforcement Act regarding adult films and DVDs and the replies by the Attorney General which I noted down at the time (June 2010) are also no longer available.

    Lee Rhiannon asked from memory why it is that that which is legally available to purchase and possess is illegal to sell. The answer given (and my memory is fairly good) is that this is to restrict the general availability of pornography.

    Is this censorship of debate or is it simply a proecdure of Parliament of which I am unaware ?

    Perhaps the government of New South Wales are sensitive on this issue.

    It’s most certainly not discussed in the New South Wales press even though one person has been imprisoned for selling adult material (both “X” and “RC” material). This has been mentioned by David Marr & Fiona Patten in general terms, a journalist in Canberra (in detail) and documented by word of mouth and recorded (in mp3 format) in discussions pointed to in journals – which in the printed form carry the link to the recording but which have been removed from the online versions of the journals referred to.


  5. @Stilgherrian Perhaps….

    may help.

    As for Hansard I have a copy of the “History of Hansard” which covers a number of issues and I must admit the concept of “Parliamentary Privilege” comes into play. Quite often damaging remarks are broadcast on the TV news (the remarks directed to Bob Debus come to mind).

    You don’t appear to be into TV that much but it may be worth noting that the free to air parliamentary broadcasts which disappeared are now seemingly on Channel 648 on Foxtel. I am now a Foxtel subscriber and finding it quite fascinating……

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