My 2 cents

Footy starts tonight and I’m cherry ripe for it. The pre-season of unsatisfying fake football and rampant speculation finally comes to an end, and there’s a general sense of enthusiasm and expectation around town. Around the office people clump and gather to discuss the footy and contemplate their chances. Everyone’s a winner this time of year, and anything is possible, but that can change quick.

There’s likely to be a big crowd tonight of around 90,000 for the season opener, and though it’s likely to be an easy win to Richmond I’ll sitting there on my couch glued to it. The big game for me comes tomorrow night.

For the first time ever I thought I’d give you the benefit of my wisdom by nominating what I believe will be the top eight at the end of the home and away season. It’s a tough gig because you’re basing it off last year’s form and the sketchy, misleading form shown in the pre-season. Players have come and gone and switched clubs in the off season, and how they fit in and what impact they have is no more than speculation right now. Come Monday it’ll much easier because some true form will have been exposed, and most importantly some idea of intensity and attitude will be revealed.

Anyway, here it is.






Port Adelaide



I’ve nominated Richmond for top spot because they’re the reigning premiers and it’s there’s to lose. I don’t expect them to go back to back, but if pre-season form is any guide they’ll be mighty competitive at least. The unknown quantity is how their success has impacted on the. They could go the way of the Bulldogs and fall back, or – and I think this is more likely – the confidence gained will take them to a new level. Having said that they’ll now be the hunted, and will need to adapt.

Sydney is next because, well, they’re Sydney. GWS I’ve tipped with much less confidence. They have the talent but have been a disappointment. I think Leon Cameron is an average coach who has championed a one way playing style. I think we’ll know quickly how they’ll go this year. If they improve their defensive efforts they’ll be a real contender, but last year’s effort won’t cut it. They’re a team who could slide a lot – even out of the eight.

I’ve tipped my team at fourth, but it’s a guess. I think we’re the biggest enigma going into the season. Some have tipped us as premiers, others reckon we’ll miss the finals. I think we’ll make the eight pretty comfortably, and likely finish somewhere in the 4-6 range – but there’s the talent to get on a run and finish top. Recruited really well, and play a dynamic style that can rip teams apart when they’re hot. High expectations, and should be an exciting year.

I think Adelaide will slide a little. They were shown up in the Grand Final, and I thought there were other occasions when they were exposed as great front-runners and struggled under pressure. Very skilled and dangerous when they’re on, I think they go into the season slightly weaker than they ended last year. They need a plan B.

Port Adelaide are another team who could do anything, but they’ve a habit of being frail at the wrong time. Could easily finish top three, but also out of the eight.

Geelong are touted by many by the return of Ablett, but they’re an aging team who have lost a few stalwarts over the off season. They have probably the best midfield group in the comp, but weaker up forward, and with Lonergan and Mackie gone, down back too. They’re invincible at home, but it plays against them away, especially at the MCG where the big games are played.

I rate Melbourne and reckon they’ll be a powerhouse for years to come (watch out for St Kilda and Brisbane, too). I’ve put them so low because two of their main players are missing for the first couple of months of the year – the position doesn’t reflect their quality. In my book they’re smokies for the flag, and will be coming hard come finals time.

Unlucky teams are Bulldogs, St Kilda and maybe Hawthorn – I don’t rate Collingwood. I could see St Kilda sneaking in because they’re a developing team; the Bulldogs possibly too, though they’ve gone through some ructions and lost at least one very good player. Hawthorn are a bit like the Swans, you don’t count them out, and Clarkson is bound to pull a rabbit out of the hat at some point.


Human grace

Hand-wringing about masculinity, manliness and what it means to be a man is a popular pastime these days, and an interesting read. It’s very much a sign of the times, and symptomatic of many of the issues highlighted by recent headlines. It’s a complex, messy topic I think is fundamentally misunderstood, and ultimately mislabelled.

For a start, what is manliness? A lot of the problem is that many men define it in terms that very easily become toxic. I would argue that notions of masculinity have been corrupted by a culture removed from the heavy work from which concepts of masculinity arose originally: pioneers and explorers, adventurers and men bravely blazing a path for their family. It was a simple doingness, men willing to take on the challenge without shirking from it, men – and women – who possessed a stoic strength and determination to keep on going. That has been lost along the way because the opportunity to live so rawly has become rare. Instead when some men – not all, and men I would argue less secure in themselves – come to assert themselves as men they choose to do so with bravado, by being aggressive, by being controlling, by imposing their will, not to mention in displays of physical posturing. Above all else it seems to me such men define themselves by external elements – against other men, certainly in comparison to women, and by ego enhancing proclamations, rather than by inner qualities.

As an outsider it is silly, and transparently feeble, but it also false. False to the original ideal certainly, but false also when it’s so narrowly defined as a male attribute.

I have two things to say about that. So called manliness can be possessed by women too, and often is; and ‘manliness’, in terms I recognise, is about being brave and honest, no more than that. I think it is essentially humble, with no need to assert itself – in fact any need to assert itself contradicts its existence.

That’s the problem today though, the almost obsessive need to assert itself, the manifestation of which is often ugly.

It’s a curious age we live in. I’m old school because I was brought up in a different time. It seems a simpler time now because there was not the same focus on manliness, probably because it was a more self-reliant age when such true virtues were more prevalent. There was no need to proclaim something that was virtually taken for granted (albeit in an age that was much more basic in other senses too, if not more rustic).

It’s become more today because many men are confused and poorly educated about what it means to be a decent human being. We live in a much more fluid time where traditional gender roles have been given a stir, causing some to question their place in society. Rather than accept the fluid dynamics and multiplicity of benefits society derives from it, fragile egos feel obliged to challenge it because it seems a challenge to their masculine identity. What was muted becomes loud, in inverse ratio to insecurity.

At the same time the world is crying out for many of the virtues traditionally associated with manliness. There’s no secret that there’s a drastic shortage of real leaders. What we used to term as ‘character’ has become a rare commodity. The only people who act with any decision are the toxic, ugly, and often stupid – the Trumps of this world, and Putin. It’s no wonder they draw a crowd, because they mirror the virtues the insecure cherish. (The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity – Yeats, The Second Coming).

Where are the decent, humble leaders who will yet stand steadfast on principle and for just cause? We yearn for that, and so in its place come myths of manliness.

Referenced in the article above is Jordan Peterson. I’m actually reading his 12 Lessons to Live By right now. I’m only a few chapters in and find myself agreeing with chapter headings, but lost in the mumbo jumbo and mysticism he clutters his elucidations with. I think it’s a messy book, and while it has interesting elements it gets carried away. I haven’t read myself some of the comments attributed to him, which are think are nonsense, but symptomatic of a movement these days to elevate such notions of self into mystical realms. I think that’s dangerous and pretentious, but it describes much of modern masculinity as it strives to express itself.

I’ve been saying for years that true strength is in being humble and true, in allowing vulnerability and expressing compassion, in being yourself completely and without shame. I can’t say I’ve yet achieved that, but I believe in it. Unlike exclusive notions of manliness these days, true strength is inclusive. Call it what you will, but I would contend that someone like Obama is much more manly than Trump will ever be – and so too many women.

I’m a proud man, and in ways I suspect I’m a bit of a throwback, but I think we have lost a lot when we define these qualities purely in gender terms. I’m suspicious of some of the new-fangled ideas, but in the end what we’re talking about are human qualities. Times might have changed, but there’s always a need for strength, fortitude, honesty and courage.

This is the lesson. We need more people willing to stand for something, and boys more capable of understanding the true grace of being a worthwhile human being. We are human beings first, men and women second.

Go further

Further to my post yesterday there’s a report in today’s newspaper that Labor’s policy on dividend imputation could be implemented with exemptions to anyone over 65 – pensioners – with minimal impact to the bottom line. For mine this is looking more and more like good – and just – policy.

To be clear, what we’re talking about is tax refunds being given to people who haven’t paid tax. In very simple terms the current policy allows for people with a taxable income at level where little or no tax is applied to claim the difference on their share portfolio when tax has already been paid by the business. For example, if a company has paid their 30% company tax when they issue dividends then someone on a 15% tax rate can claim a refund for the 15% differential. For those with zero taxable income – for example, superannuation payments – then they can claim the full 30% refund, even though they haven’t paid a cent of tax. Obviously this adds up to a lot – billions of dollars, in fact.

This is a ridiculously generous policy that benefits a lot of wealthy and clever Australians, and does nothing for the economy. It’s overly generous when you consider that retirees already get their super payments tax free. In terms of the world, we are an outlier in this regard – most countries have much more sensible policies, as we did ourselves until Costello changed it (as a salve for another policy initiative that ultimately wasn’t passed). It used to be that the recipients of these dividends would get a pass on tax, rather than a refund – that’s what it should return to.

All commentary about double tax is tabloid nonsense, unfortunately some of it coming from the mouths of ministers who know better, and should be more responsible. It isn’t double tax, and in any case we are taxed double whenever we pay for something inclusive of GST. It doesn’t bear scrutiny.

As I said yesterday, I think it’s time for us to get bold on policy initiative. Times have changed and we are stuck with a bureaucratic, inefficient, out of date and unfair tax system. I support initiatives on negative gearing similar to what Labor has proposed on the basis that the current policy is inflationary, and more importantly, the benefit is to the few rather than the many. I don’t see the point in giving a tax-break to those who invest in current property. That’s a circular jerk, and there is no incentive to develop new properties, which is what we need. If we restrict the benefit to those who invest in new property only then it will have a direct bearing on the market. This is what policy should be about – not hand-outs, but shaping the economic landscape for the common good, and using incentives to encourage it.

There are a couple of other areas that need to be looked at. Stamp duty is iniquitous and as Ken Henry suggested, might be better replaced by a land tax, which would be much fairer. And I am in favour of a user pays model when it comes to car registration, which is a state issue. As it stands everyone pays the same amount of registration whether they travel a 100 kilometres a year or a hundred thousand. That’s unfair, but it also has an impact on livability. Theoretically registration fees go towards the upkeep and maintenance of roads and traffic infrastructure, and it’s only fair that those who travel most should pay more. The other aspect very relevant to our times, is that a user pays system of registration will likely take drivers off the road and into public transport. That’s good for the environment, good for traffic movement, and ultimately good for the bottom line because we can’t keep building new freeways, or adding new lanes to existing.

With all these things there has to be another, smarter way. Look again, go further.

Bold and revolutionary

Unlike most people, I find economics fascinating. It’s the science of it that first got me interested, which was back in high school. The thought that there were economic mechanisms that if enacted produced reasonably predictable outcomes was a wonder to me. I remember Keating – the man who made economics sexy for a while – talking about levers and buttons and stimulus as if it was a machine. As it became clear even in his time, it is far from an exact science, but that did little to diminish my interest – just the opposite. I came to believe that economics was a science in which human nature, sentiment and the voodoo of international affairs contributed their unpredictable elements.

I’m now at an age when I’ve experienced the application of economic theory for many years, and not just in Australia, but internationally. I retain my interest in it, but have formed my own views on it.

This is apropos recent economic discussion in Australia. I always welcome the conversation, even when it’s superficial, as so often it is. We should be talking about these things. Economic policy should be a matter we all take an interest in. It’s so easy in this political climate to bury our heads and take no notice, but if anything is ever to change than these serious discussions need to be common.

Unfortunately these discussions, as they are, are heavy on polemic and light on substance. And they are always contested, regardless of whether opposition is sincere.

A few weeks ago the company tax rate became a talking point. As tax goes, this is a bit of an old chestnut. The federal government wanted to reduce the rate to 25%, claiming it would make Australian business more competitive and attractive to investment. Most contentiously they claimed it would kick-start stagnant wages growth. The opposition ridiculed that of course, trotting out the line that the government only looks after the big end of town.

One of the arguments trotted out was a variation on the old, and long discredited trickle-down theory – in this case the argument went that if you give tax cuts then business will pass on much of that windfall to employees in the form of pay-rise. This flies in the face of experience. The credo of ‘shareholder value’ (a poisonous credo, btw) means that most gets passed to shareholders, rather than reinvested in the business, or to pay rises (excepting executives). Outside of the government you had such mediocrities like Jennifer Westacott and Tony Shepherd bleat on about it, a sure sign it’s rubbish.

As it happens I support the tax cuts now as I haven’t in the past, though not in the form the government proposes. With drastic tax cuts recently in the US and other parts of the world I think we need cuts to stay competitive. At the very least I think if cuts are to be implemented they should be tied to investment, and encourage wage growth (which is in everyone’s interest), but I would favour something bolder and more comprehensive than that.

Back in 2010/11 the then head of treasury, Ken Henry, produced a massive, detailed and bold proposal to overhaul Australia’s antiquated tax system. It was too strong, and too politically unpalatable for the mealy mouthed politicians of the day, and but a fraction of it was adopted. In the years since it is often referenced, and elements of it are coming into favour, and it is just the comprehensive approach we need.

I think the time has come that we must be bold, and look at left field, revolutionary solutions, rather than evolutionary tinkering. That won’t happen of course, because there’s no appetite for anything bold.

In recent days the Labor party has come up with a controversial policy to do away with dividend imputation and franking credits. It took a little while for me to get my head around this and form an opinion, but when you look at it closely it’s actually amazing to consider that this was ever implemented as a policy. It’s ridiculously lucrative, and extremely costly – and seemingly unnecessary. It’s complex, so I’m not about to explain it here, but fair to say I think this is a bold bit of policy initiative which – with some exceptions – I agree with. The country will be better off doing away with these hand-outs, and I think it’s inevitable they’ll be closed down, whether it be by Labor or Liberal. The only thing I would change is perhaps to incorporate a means testing element, or implement a threshold, as has been rumoured.

For me this would be a part of a larger taxation change that would allow for company tax rates to be cut, potentially to something less than 25%. Why not take the opportunity to get ahead of the curve, rather than forever chasing it? Together with some targeted policies addressing productivity, innovation, investment, in combination Australia would see a net gain to the bottom line, and a more agile economy.

The course of nature

I spent a good part of the weekend wandering around in ever-diminishing circles as I tried – and failed – to make any significant inroads writing the new book. I’ve taken a more measured approach this time. I spent a good 6-7 weeks on the first chapter, knowing that ultimately it will end up very different to the version I settled on. Still, it felt like time well spent because it set the tone for the rest of the book. So the theory went.

In fact as I set about writing chapter two, and with my mind full of ideas, I found that nothing worked – it was all lame or dull or just plain wrong. If I gained anything out of the experience it’s what not to write. As it stands the chapter remains unwritten, and the mystery is ongoing.

No matter, I’ll figure it out. From what I can tell writing is just about torture for even the most acclaimed writers. It’s not meant to be easy. In the meantime I can take comfort from recent feedback, which has all been very positive. It’ll happen.

In line with all that one of the girls at work took me aside last week and said they had heard that I was a writer. She’d been told that I’d written something, and that actually it was really good. She was intrigued and full of questions, and naturally wanted to read something herself.

I was intrigued to. I’ve shared bits and pieces of the book with people at work, but not many and very little. I was curious to know what she’d heard, and from who, but at that time she couldn’t remember.

Later in the week I asked her again, and after some reflection revealed that she had been told about my writing by the girl here I like. Really? I thought. I was further intrigued.

She is not one of the people I’ve shared my writing with. I may have made a passing comment in the past about my writing, but hardly more than that. On top of all that we basically co-exist in a friendly silence at the moment. We haven’t had a decent conversation for weeks, and even random conversations are just about non-existent. It’s a strange situation for sure, but there’s nothing nasty or even uncomfortable about it. We seem both to accept this strange state of affairs, remote but well disposed, aware of the other but feeling no need to engage. On my own part I’m happy to let nature take its course, whichever way that is.

And so anyway it felt odd to me that she had spoken about me to this other girl, and stranger still that she would comment on something I thought she was virtually ignorant of.

I can only surmise that one of the people I have shared some writing with, or spoken to it about, has shared it with her. It felt odd to get the news (and, you know, I knew it would be her even when the other girl couldn’t remember. I felt it in my bones, though it made no sense.), but it was gratifying too. Gratifying that she would take the trouble to talk to another about me even when we don’t communicate at all, and gratifying that she thought positively of the writing too.

The clock ticks, but at some point it will strike midnight.


I caught up with an acquaintance on Friday night for a drink at Trunk. I guess I’ve known him for about 7-8 years now, and catch up a couple of times a year. He’s a nice bloke and a handy person to know.

In any case, our conversation followed the usual pattern at first. It was a balmy night and we sat outdoors in the beer garden amid a crowd of people celebrating the end of the week. We sipped on a few pints, catching up on our news and other, work-related, topics.

At some point in the evening, something tipped over. I’d no intention of sharing my story with him, but the conversation had become more candid, and I found myself telling him how I had become homeless, slowly at first, in fragments, which as his curiosity piqued and my confidence grew became more fluent and coherent. Of course, he was surprised, but accepting of it. Like others there came a grudging respect, the acknowledgement that obviously I had come through the far side of it.

It’s still not easy telling the story, but not nearly as forbidding as once it was. Once more I found as I relayed the story it felt as if I was shifting a small burden from me. To hold a secret like that feels dishonest as if you are presenting a false tale to the world. To correct the record is a release. There’s a sense of relaxing once it has been done, the dice rolled. There is nothing more hidden, this is me, take it or leave it.

Then, as so often seems the case now, he opened up to me. He admitted that a few years before he had been declared bankrupt. It was news I would never have guessed at, and once more I wondered how much of the people about us do we really know? I was glad he told me and I suspect, for much the same reasons as me, that he was glad to share it.

How much easier, in the end, is it just to be open and transparent? Hard in concept, but easier than you think – and more true.


I was as flat as I’ve been for months last night, but there was probably good reason for it. I haven’t heard back from the mechanic yet, but I’m expecting a repair quote in the thousands. Then in the afternoon I made a long overdue visit to the dentist. I chipped a molar late last year so a visit was necessary. After examining me he laid out a treatment plan. I don’t have a lot wrong with my teeth, but dentistry is expensive and he was recommending a crown as a long term solution to the molar situation. That amounted to just over $2,000, of which I’d be lucky to get a third back by health insurance. On top of all that this damned recruiter is being elusive, which is both typical and fucking frustrating. And so I was flat.

This morning I bounced out bed – well, as near as I ever get to being bouncy. I’m in a vibrant mood, which is a nice way of saying I’m feeling very willing. You see the world differently when you’re in that mood. You don’t exactly tingle, but feel the extremities of self. The world becomes a place of infinite possibility, and you feel about 10 feet tall.

Fortunately it happens to be Friday as well, so I can dream about actually doing something about it – unlikely as that probably is.

I was out last Friday night celebrating Donna’s birthday. We went on an old Manly ferry cruising out of Docklands and under the Westgate bridge. Not really my thing but it was a good night for it. I was in a buoyant, provocative mood. I realised somewhere along the line that I had become attractive to women again, but it was attitude that was the key to it.

I’d actually observed reactions earlier in the week, which led me to suppose that this way of thinking I’ve adopted has left me with a bit of a glow. I think I appear very generally to be more open and approachable. I’ve always been flirtatious and witty, but it was something to admire before, whereas now it’s something to engage with and – as I’ve reported previously – people are engaging with me.

Friday night I felt its sexual edge. It felt responded too. I felt as if I gave the sign then it might be on. I wasn’t interested in giving the sign though. I’m not saying I won’t at some point, nor am I making a judgement on it. Strangely, for the moment at least, I felt spoken for. I had to save myself, confident that the effort would be rewarded.

One thing I’ve taken from this is that while I’ve become more open and engaging I’ve lost nothing of my self-assurance, and in fact it is burgeoning. There have been moments in the recent past when I scraped the bottom when I felt pretty frail, but in general I’ve never been short of self-belief. Sometimes it has been despite everything, and I think that gave it a harder edge.

The funny thing is that I’ve made myself more vulnerable by revealing the secrets I was ashamed of – but the effect has been to liberate my sense of self and to surmount any lingering shame. I didn’t know what to expect and feared all sorts of implications, but against expectations the experience hasn’t detracted from my self-image, it has bolstered it. Adler would probably have something to say about that.