ethical advocacy
The Calm
... before the calm                                                18 8June 2012  Vol 7, Issue 7
In This Issue
Yin & Yang of Politics
Bits and Pieces
Escalation - a systems thinking archetype
Whingeing Nation revisited
Enter Chicken Little
Coalitions Revisited (again)

"Bound" Volumes


All issues of Advocacy Update have now been bookmarked and aggregated into their calendar year volumes.


You may read or download them through the links below. They provide a quirky and personal record of federal politics over this tumultouous period.


Volume 1 2006

Yin & Yang of Politics


I have often observed that there are two types of people in the world - those who divide us into two types and those who don't. It usually gets a titter or a groan. In my darker moments I dwell on the concept of a bipolar nation unable to unite on almost any cause - even saving the planet!


Watching the way our leaders conduct political debate I am reminded of the classic Monty Python segment on The Argument Clinic. Our leaders must be graduates cum lauda from this clinic.


I have been reading an article in Psychology Today on "The Yin and Yang of Politics. Based on the thesis that everything has a yin and yang; opposing polarities that are, nevertheless, interdependent on each other, the author proposes that there are two sides to every issue and that good government is balancing them both.


Whilst this has a ring of credibility and a concept we are used to in our preferential voting system, I would suggest that on many issues there are  many facets to an issue and that a black and white solution ignores many aspects which should be taken into account.

Bits and Pieces


I am generally not a fan of politically-connected advocacy firms. However a recent article by the Crosby Textor Group "How to survive a campaign and not sell your soul" is worth a read.

I was stunned to read the headline a few weeks ago "Crook joins Coalition". Ah political honesty at last I thought. But no - it was WA National Tony Crook's decision to attend Coalition party meetings being announced.

With Academy Awards style confected outrage, the Opposition Leader accused the Government of having a "Dirt Unit" digging up muck to throw at the Opposition.  This reminded me of my childhood Lancashire chant "Look at it look at it throw a bit of muck at it".

Here are the ingredients for a hearty winter political soup:

  • Factions
  • Coalitions
  • Party discipline
  • Conscience
  • Moral authority
  • Voters

On second thoughts I think I'll give it a miss.  

With Parliament resuming for its final gallop before shutting down for the winter, I assume policy will once again take a back seat to salacious gossip and innuendo. 

Escalation - a systems thinking archetype


Several years ago in this esteemed journal I ran a series of observations on the 8 Systems Thinking Archetypes. The process of systems thinking is deceptively simple. First you specify the problem/issue to be addressed, second you construct a hypothesis or model. You then test that hypothesis and consequently implement change where indicated.
Of course, as with most simple concepts, things are not quite that easy! Different thinking skills are required for each part of the process as shown below:
  • Specifying the problem
    • Dynamic thinking (patterns of behaviour over time)
    • System-as-cause thinking (this describes the scope of the project)
    • "Forest" thinking (this is the view from above - to gain better perspective)
  • Constructing the model
    • Operational thinking (seeing the causality of an issue)
    • Closed-loop thinking (linking causality to an ongoing, interdependent process rather than as a one time occurrence)
    • Quantitative thinking (quantifying the issues - but not necessarily "measuring" them)
  • Testing the model
    • Scientific thinking (seeking to find high-leverage intervention points

So - lets look at one of the systems archetypes which is particularly relevant to our political system of adversarial Government versus Opposition.  

political escalation
Political Escalation
It's known as the "Escalation" model - see diagram above. The author of this version of the model states that:


"The positive feedback around violent rhetoric create a societal trap, from which it may be difficult to extricate ourselves. If there's a general systems insight about vicious cycles, it's that the best policy is prevention - just don't start down that road.
Politicians who engage in violent rhetoric, or other races to the bottom of the intellectual barrel, risk starting a very destructive spiral"

Another diagrammatic way of viewing this phenomenon is shown from my earlier article.



Unfortunately just as it takes two to tango it also takes two to deescalate - not likely given our current state of politics. Were they ever to consider doing the impossible, the following steps would provide a solution:

  • Who are the parties whose actions are perceived as threats? 
  • What is being threatened & what is the source of that threat?
  • What is the measure pitting you against the other party - and can you change it?
  • What systemic delays are there which could distort the true nature of the threat?
  • Is there a larger goal which can encompass the disparate individual goals?
  • What are the deep-rooted assumptions that lie beneath the actions taken in response to the threat?  
OK - guess it was a silly idea anyway!!
Whingeing Nation revisited


Just over three years ago I wrote a letter to the editor whingeing about our whingeing.


I claimed that Australia had become a nation of whingers. We have caught the British disease and made it our own. The symptoms include petulance, envy, disdain, deprecation, disrespect, greed, boorishness, complaints and wanting everything whilst giving nothing.

I blame the media through their obsessive need to create an issue instead of reporting the facts. The shock jocks, the tabloid pseudo-columnists, the TV breakfast "personalities", and the evening public affairs commentators are all guilty.
Politicians share responsibility. Our political system is adversarial. How stupid when we are confronted with crises in which all views should be considered. The appalling attitude of politicians towards each other has rubbed off on the electorate.

It is a path which, once taken, is difficult to leave.

Has anything changed??
Enter Chicken Little
Chicken Man
Chicken Little



Some years ago a mysterious "Chicken Man" appeared briefly in the House of Representatives before being sent back to the hen house. Popular mythology suggests that it was Bruce Goodluck MHR a former Liberal Member of the seat now held by Independent Andrew Wilkie. 


With the impending commencement of the Carbon Pricing Legislation as well as the MRRT, it would not be too surprising if Chicken Little made another appearance to support the thesis that the sky is falling.


However given that the Parliament goes into Winter recess in two weeks time we may be spared the sight of another feathered politician expect those who are currently in line to be tarred and feathered. 

Meanwhile in order to gain perspective on the carbon price impact on energy costs - see graph below.


electricity costs

Coalitions Revisited (again)


With my predilection for MindMaps I present for your consumption my take on Coalitions of any sort - why they form, what holds them together, what breaks them apart.




Wish I had a Magnifuing Glass to assist.


Well - there's never a shortage of news to pad out the columns of this little newsletter. I hope my articles make you think - even challenge your assumptions.

As always - feedback is most welcome. 

Cheers for now
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