Super Hornets are Go

Photograph of US Navy F-18E Super Hornet aircraft

Defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon has announced that the controversial purchase of 24 Super Hornet aircraft will go ahead.

The review of the Howard government’s decision to buy the aircraft — at a total cost of $6 billion even though the RAAF hadn’t wanted them — reached some damaging conclusions, including:

  • There has been a lack of sound, long-term air combat capability planning decisions by the former Government over the course of the last decade.
  • The retirement of the F-111 was made in haste but is not irreversible. The cost of turning the F-111 back on would be enormous and crews and skills have already moved on.
  • The former Government’s decision to leave Australia’s air defences in the hands of the Joint Strike Fighter project was a flawed leap of faith in scheduling terms and combined with the quick decision to retire the F-111 early, allowed an air combat capability gap to emerge.
  • The subsequent timetable the former Government put on the acquisition of an interim fighter left Defence planners with no choice but to recommend the Super Hornet. No other suitable aircraft could be produced to meet the 2010 deadline the former Government had set. One year on, that is now even more so the case.

Cancelling the order would still incur a financial penalty and create “undesirable tensions”, and the final conclusions is that “the Super Hornet is an excellent aircraft… and is the only aircraft which can meet the small delivery window created by the former Government’s poor planning processes and politically-driven responses.”

As a shareholder in Australia Inc, I’d like to know why the former “board members” allowed this to happen. When company directors are negligent they become personally liable so why, given the report’s damning conclusions, does Brendan Nelson not become personally liable?

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Howard vs Rudd: a tag cloud

I’ve already mentioned the two very contrasting speeches given by John Howard and Kevin Rudd last week. Those differences are well highlighted in these tag clouds.

Thumbnail image of tag clouds

On the left, Howard’s speech emphasises “government”, “economic”, “values”, “continue“… “years“. Years… eleven long years. On the right, Rudd’s speech emphasises “development”, “cooperation”, “partnership”, “relationship”, “build”, “future“… “change“.

Have a look at the full images, each showing the top 120 words in each speech (minus common English stop words) and tell me what you can see.

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John Howard wallows in the past, again

Photograph of John Howard with a glass bowl

Did John Howard drop by Area 51 on the way to Washington? You know, Bush-era budget cuts mean poor cross-checking. Sometimes those probes don’t get removed promptly.

Little Winston never looked comfortable in front of a camera. But the way he’s smiling through clenched teeth here… it’s disturbing.

Perhaps we should have a competition for the best caption?

Oh, there’s a news story here too, apparently. I agree with The Road to Surfdom on this one:

John Howard has given his first major post-election speech and…oh, geez, honestly, I can’t be bothered. Read it here if you like. In the meantime, here’s a picture of a shallow empty vessel and a nice piece of glassware…

Lavartus Prodeo summed it up perfectly.

Compare and contrast, as they say, Kevin Rudd in PNG building bridges and restoring relationships and John Howard in Washington ranting about “Islamic fascism” and dwelling on the past.

It’s the exact same dynamic as in the election — Rudd accentuating the positive and looking to the future, and Howard mired in negativity and defending his “achievements”.

I’d much rather read Rudd’s speech.

So, captions…?

Even in defeat, he haunts us… via our folksonomies

I’ve been working on the tag cloud page, and one of my attempts to clarify things has revealed a disturbing fact.

Small screenshot of the Tags page taken today

I decided that the “category cloud” on the left-hand side of the website was already showing that the biggest categories were politics, the Internet, human nature, media and business. I didn’t want the tag cloud to repeat that information. So I decided to remove all the tags which were also the names of categories.

Boy, that certainly changed the emphasis!

Even in the reduced screenshot (right), one name dominates. Yes, out of 944 posts, counting this one, 91 are tagged “john howard”.

My own boyfriend comes in a poor second with just 42.

Is that right?

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So, who’s for Chairman Rudd’s Australia 2020 Summit?

Chairman Rudd’s got a clever strategy going, unless it’s just a coincidence. The usually-secret Red Book warns of approaching “challenges” like climate change, an aging population and the economic growth of India and China. Then we announce the Australia 2020 Summit.

As any management consultant will tell you, develop a shared vision and folks will endure short-term pain — like interest rate rises and having to change the light bulbs.

Actually I’m not that cynical about it. I’m quietly enthused. After a decade of Howard’s backward-looking short-term thinking we seriously need to look to the future. Fast. Of course, back when Barry Jones was science minister we had a permanent organisation to keep watch, the Commission for the Future. Maybe I’ll read Lessons from the Australian Commission for the Future: 1986-1998 [PDF file] when I get the time. But I digress…

If Chairman Rudd wants 1000 of our “best and brightest” in Canberra on 19-20 April, who should they be?

It’s flattering that Nick Hodge and Peter Black nominated me, bless their sycophantic little hearts. And I’ve already gained four votes at Bloggerati. I’d love to be part of this Summit, sure, because I’d be Fighting the Hallucinating Goldfish hands on. However I have a few more modest suggestions…

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Kim Beazley for Governor General?

Photograph of Kim Beazley

Will former Labor leader Kim Beazley be Australia’s next Governor-General? That’s the story out of Canberra today.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always liked Beazley because he’s a strategic thinker and a good orator — both skills in short supply in modern politics. He’d provide a fine counter-balance to Kevin Rudd, able to give passionate, long-ranging and doubtless wordy speeches about grand visions on grand national occasions, while Rudd gets on with the nuts and bolts of running the country.

Indeed, since Rudd’s predecessor, Prime Minister Toad, took on many of the Governor-General’s roles for himself — to the extent that virtually no-one can remember the current GG‘s name — it’d be nice for a bit of profile restored to the role of the Queen’s representative.

Beyond that, since Rudd promised to put an Australian republic back on the agenda, Beazley would make an excellent “last Governor-General”. Well-respected even by his opponents in parliament, and a man of dignity.

Beazley’s final parliamentary speech was filled with history. Even if John Howard didn’t have the manners to show up, commentators like Annabel Crabb agreed it was a fine occasion.

I’m damn sure our troops would rather be farewelled to battle with an inspiring speech by “Bomber” Beazley than a precisely-planned but self-conscious lecture from Rudd or a whining, backward-looking duck-quack from Howard.