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Why political analysis of policy needs the Stanislavski Method as much as Actors do.

01/11/2014


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I remember watching TV after school as a kid having laughing fits at the exploits of Vinnie Barbarino on ‘Welcome Back Kotter’. My favourite part was when he went into his acting dumb routine. He would go into his single word questions.
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Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? For those familiar with the Stanislavski Method (not to be confused with method acting), these are in fact just these questions. Actors are asked to brutally use these questions to ask themselves questions about the character they are playing and finding evidence to verify the answers to these questions in the text of the play or script.
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There is no real order for these questions and in fact one answer can make you ask a question you thought you had fully explored again. For example, in the text of ‘Death of a Salesman’ a lot of WHAT Willy says to his family members (WHO) about his past (WHAT again as well as WHEN) turns out to be a lie. But to Willy, a lot of the lie has become true and the actor must resolve (HOW) this happened over what time (WHEN again) and so on.
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Exactly the same thing must be done with policy. What is the aim of this policy. How does it intend to achieve this. Who will be involved. When will it occur. Where will it occur. How will it occur. Basically you ask as many questions as you can. And you use the text. That would be the legislation. Not the media release or the news report of the media conference. But the actual policy itself because as it turns out, politicians lie. They can’t help it as the public wants to be lied to. And the one that lies the most draws the public’s interest like a moth to a flame.
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For example the fuel excise levy is a carbon tax. But Abbott wont say this in Australia, although he did say it in the USA. And although the coalition keep saying their direct action is about incentive only, it does carry a stick – a penalty for emissions beyond ‘normal’. Now we need to ask questions about ‘normal’.
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The obvious flaw that no one seems to be posing re Direct Action is what happens if you don’t win a bid for cash? I mean the reason they are bidding in the first place is they dont have the cash to do the changes themselves now. So they are bidding for government assistance. So if they do not get that assistance, they will do nothing about their emissions. Further, how will the government go about verifying the claims put in? If a business says they can do (A) and (B) and (C) and lower emissions by (insert arbitrary figure here), surely the government (who is using taxpayer money here) has to first make sure that the emissions claimed is at the level the business claims. Then they have to review the scientific method of the proposal. Then the engineering method. Then model the cost against the proposed cost.
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Unfortunately, none of these checks will be done. Zero. Nil. Nada. So not only will taxpayers never know if their money went to a good proposal, they will never know if the approved project then actually does what it claimed. Further, if the project does NOT do what it claimed, the tax payer money is not returned. Nor is there any action the public can take if their money is wasted or fraudulently used. Apparently business will do the right thing. Then why not put it in law that if they do not do the right thing, they will be punished? Its not they will be punished if they, as the coalition insist, do the right thing. But no. We just have to take their word for it, and they take the 2.5 billion.
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It is sad that no one asks these questions. For example the whole purpose of raising the GST is it will work to alleviate falling revenues from income taxes. The GST is also a transaction tax. More transactions equals more GST. More GST means more goods and services traded and that gives you an early indicator on how your economy is rolling. And you dont have to be working! GST applies to newborn babe all the way to the funeral costs. So if YOU fall on hard times re losing your job, the government still collects income even though you are not.
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But this argument wont be discussed because politicians lie to the public and say taxes are bad. Even when they are trying to increase the ability to collect taxes as broadly as they can so they can keep collecting regardless of large unemployment figures. Nor will there be a need for govt to spend big money raining in unemployment figures as they are still collecting revenue even though the unemployed do not have a job to pay income tax. Which is pretty much the plan I think from the coalition – to not contribute to job creation in any way and leaving it all to the markets to decide.
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So sit down and ask questions. And answer them yourselves. But if your answers frighten you, then you should cease asking scary questions.
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A. Ghebranious November 2014

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