Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh - how the worm turns

Prior to November 24th, the Liberal party was so out of touch on climate change that one of their most informed insiders – Guy Pearce felt compelled to blow the whistle in his book – High and Dry. Here is an extract from Guy’s website.

“Paul Keating put it well on November 27th: ‘Saturday night's victory was not just a victory for the Labor Party; it was also a victory for those Liberals like Malcolm Fraser, Petro Georgiou and Judi Moylan, who stood against the pernicious erosion of decent standards in our public affairs.’ No-where was the erosion of decent standards more pernicious than in the Howard government’s response to climate change. For over a decade, in the face of the greatest threat humanity has seen, the short term interests of a handful of this country’s worst greenhouse polluting industries were put ahead of the interests of the planet, the country and future generations. It will come to be viewed as the most shameful aspect of the Howard legacy.”

But the quite amazing thing is how the “new” Liberal party under Brendon Nelson has also backflipped and are now “climate change” friendly. Listening to the ABC Breakfast program this morning I almost choked on my weeties – here is an extract.

“The Federal Coalition has come out in support of the crucial part of the Bali road map -- the encouragement of developed nations to attempt, as a group, to reduce emissions by 25-40 per cent by 2020. So are we seeing the beginning of a major shift from the Coalition on climate change? The surprising announcement was made by new shadow environment spokesman Greg Hunt, who joined Breakfast to discuss the federal opposition's new policies on climate change.”

The serious question though is: “what will become of all those people who blindly supported the Howard agenda and actually believed that he knew something about the subject?” He created a small army of deniers who have now blindly followed their leader over the cliff like lemmings – just as we thought they would. Even now we can still see the odd “rusted on” sending petulant missives to “The Australian” in the vain hope that it is all a bad dream and soon things will return to normal.

For those who are interested in a little hilarity I recommend the letters page of the ex Government Gazette on a few occasions a week, when one is feeling a little low.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Finally - A Competent Government

It might be that my relatives will not hold the same view that I do but I am personally very happy with our new Government.

For the first time in a decade we have a government, executive and ministers that are acting in the interest of the nation – instead of their own narrow self important agenda.

For the first time in a decade we have a Prime Minister who – is actually participating at a significant climate change meeting – and who is pressing Australia’s position and interests in a way that will ensure change while taking account of our interests, the bigger picture and a global agenda.

For the first time in a decade we have substantial intellect at the helm of our Government and that makes me feel good. Actually better than good – it makes me feel great.

We now have substantial, quality leadership and that can only result in good outcomes. It took a decade to get there but it did happen – a big relief for thinking Australians who thought the nation had been hi-jacked by bigotry, ignorance and self interest.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thank you Maxine and Kevin

It’s Monday 26th November, the sky is blue and the birds are singing - not much more to say really.

I was in downtown Adelaide this morning and there is a real buzz in the air. The place is busier than it has been for months - people were cheerful and chatty and it seemed to me as though the dark veil of the last decade had been lifted. There is a real vibe - a refreshing newness about the place - finally.

Thank you Maxine and Kevin.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

35% of nothing is still SFA

Following on from my previous post about the Libs “rusted on” cheer squad being around 35% of the vote at Federal elections - here is some more.

As background, we know that over the past 20+ years the Coalition had a minimum primary vote of 35%. Psephologist - Possum has suggested that this 35% is the “rusted on” support base of the Coalition.

My question is - why is it so high?

It clearly can’t be because Coalition governments are always the same - because they have been demonstrably different over the past few decades. A bit of history.

In 1975 Malcolm Fraser was elected Prime Minister - he was then head of the Liberal party and formed a Coalition government with the Nationals. At the time this government was seen as conservative but not overly so and certainly not spectacular in any way. It was seen as a safe, relatively risk free government - albeit one that took few chances. It was middle of the road and at the time I remember thinking who cares. And mostly, no-one did.

Then in 1983 the Coalition lost to Labor’s Bob Hawke - arguably this was the most radical change in government in a generation - even given the Labor experiment between 1972 and 1975 with Gough Whitlam - but that’s another story.

It says a lot about the Australian people that they chose a Labor government in 1983 after many decades of conservative Coalition rule. Clearly the nation needed a change - and it got one. Hawke and his Treasurer Paul Keating were a breath of fresh air. Along with the rest of the Ministry they embarked on a hectic program of reform to ensure that Australia caught up with the rest of the world. Eventually Keating became Prime Minister - but the reform agenda never really slowed and was still underway in 1996 when the Coalition re-gained control.

In 1996 the baton passed to the conservative Coalition and Liberal leader John Howard. By that time the Keating government was tired - having been in power for 13 years. The early Howard years were unspectacular - even reformist in a minor way. The Port Arthur massacre allowed the new Prime Minister to undertake a gun buy back which was well received. There was even reluctant agreement when he introduced the GST in 2000 - the necessary Hawke-Keating reform agenda seemed to be continuing.

But that’s when something happened and it all stopped - toward the end of 2001. Of course 9/11 was the catalyst for an inward focus on security matters but nothing else even remotely reformist happened until after the 2004 election when WorkChoices suddenly appeared unannounced.

Australians had become relaxed and comfortable and then all of a sudden they discovered that their government was intent on shafting them. Now of course we know what actually happened - Howard became lazy and complacent, he was focussed on sucking up to George Bush - took his eye off the ball and big business took control of government.

And now we are in 2007 in the final days of an election campaign - between Howard and Rudd - who do you think deserves to win?

Anyway, my main point is that the Coalition is not a static thing - over the last 20+ years it has been a very different experience - mostly depending on who was Leader. We can’t just assume that it is a benign thing that is interested in looking after the interests of Australians. An important perspective is that in 2007 even Malcolm Fraser is critical of the Howard government.

The truth is that the Coalition was once quite harmless. In the Malcolm Fraser years it was benign and it didn’t do too much damage. But in the Howard years it has abrogated its responsibility to big business and has allowed them to screw the Australian people - big time. It is now further to the right than Genghis Khan.

So it might be that 35% of the voters still support the Coalition - but my guess is that this is because they are not yet paying attention. One day they will wake up to discover that their beloved Coalition is actually a rabid dog. Let’s hope that they get the message before it gives them rabies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

35% of Nothing is - well it's SFA

According to Possum Pollytics if we look at the primary vote of the Coalition over the last 20 years, it becomes pretty clear that there are a fixed number of voters that support them regardless of how their parties (Lib, Nat) are behaving.

The Coalition never seem to get below 35% for its primary vote. Using Newspoll for example, it has received estimated primaries of 35.5% in 1998, 36% in 2001 and 35% in 2007 – but never below 35%. This suggests that there is about 35% of the Coalition primary vote that is “rusted on” given the ordinary course of politics.

So the question that I am interested in is - why?

Does this mean for example that we can have the most incompetent government (Coalition of course) in history and their primary vote will never fall below 35%?

Could the Coalition government commit the nation to an illegal and immoral war in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people and their primary vote will be around 35%?

Could we have a Coalition government promising to build 25 nuclear reactors around the Australian coast and their primary vote will never fall lower than 35%?

Could we have a Coalition government that is so unconcerned about Climate Change that Australia becomes a pariah as the world’s worst polluter - and 35% of us will still barrack for them?

My guess is that the answer to these and other similar questions is yes - the Coalition primary vote will never be lower than 35%. This is simply because the people who are “rusted on” are unconcerned by logic or truth or facts or morals - they are only interested in their “team” - the Mighty Coalition and how they are going to defeat those Labor Socialists and their fellow travellers the dreaded Communists. And perhaps they are also interested in keeping some “face”.

My suspicion is that a large number of “rusted on” Coalition voters are actually very confused. For much of their lives they believed the utopian story put about by the conservatives - but more recently they have had doubts. The problem is that they can’t change now - after a lifetime of Coalition support - that would mean betrayal. And anyway where would they go - Cuba or Melbourne?

But the good news is that their children are going elsewhere for their political and ideological fixes - they are primarily heading to Labor and the Greens.

And so the moral of this story is - well nothing much. The dumb and the ignorant will probably always vote for the Coalition - it’s their children that we need to foster and encourage…

Australians named as world's worst polluters

Each one of us should be seriously concerned about this - and putting pressure on our Governments to act - now.

It's a tragedy of inaction on the part of the Howard Government over an extended period of time. Here is a small sample of the report.

"Each Australian produces nearly 11 tonnes of CO2 power sector emissions, the United States follows on nine tonnes per person, while Britain is ranked ninth at 3.5 tonnes and China - heavily criticised by the international community for its rapid development of coal-fired power stations - produces only two tonnes a year per person. Indians emit about half a tonne of CO2 per person."

Howard’s Contribution to Media Mogul Retirement Fund

$500 Million - it’s peanuts really. Half a billion barely buys you a good newspaper these days.

Nobody does a better job shoveling cash into the pockets of Australia's media moguls than John Howard.

In just 16 months, the Howard government has spent $500 million on anti-Labor, anti-union fear campaigns, pro-WorkChoices propaganda and so-called “government funded information advertising”.

This is not Liberal Party money - its Australian taxpayers money...

This responsible, restrained, competent and hugely popular government has spent more than $1 million a day on ads, for almost 500 days running and now spends more taxpayer dollars on advertising, per head of population, than any other country in the world!

Doesn't that make even the most "rusted-on" conservative wonder?

Now we have a bit of an inkling why Howard is so popular with Rupert’s The Australian.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Is It Just Me?

Is it just me who is out of step or are some of my fellow Australian’s really as dumb as they act?

I have had a number of experiences recently where people - who should know better - seem to have no clue about the election that is due on 24/11. Even fundamental questions like the "Role of the Senate?" and "What is a Half Senate Election?" seem to be too much for some voters. This lack of knowledge and understanding makes me despair.

Now I am prepared to believe that I am the one that is out of step but there is that small lingering doubt in my mind. A doubt that is fanned by reports that the Libs are actually still in the race for the election on 24/11. How can that possibly be?

I would have thought that even a superficial analysis of the behaviour of our Government over the past 11 years would be enough to show most citizens that they have been ripped off.

Perhaps no-one at the grass roots is actually doing the analysis? Maybe they are just following their noses like sheep normally do and are going to vote like they always have - regardless of the facts? Maybe people aren’t smart enough to see what is going on around them? Or if they are then perhaps they don’t care?

In any event, I think it makes the case to be rid of compulsory voting.

If Australians are not interested enough to educate themselves about the pluses and minuses of any political campaign and are swayed by bribes or by fear campaigns then we should gently ease them out of the responsibility to vote.

My proposal is that voting should be voluntary.

Additionally, there should be a minimum standard of knowledge that is achieved before people are able to vote. So in the same way that you get to drive a car or fly a plane with knowledge and a test then you should pass the voter test. It’s a big responsibility - everyone should be concerned enough to get it right.

If the price of this is to deny the lazy and the ignorant a vote then so be it. Those who are interested enough to be informed will have the responsibility of electing our Government for the next three years and will determine our future. Who wants the dumb and the stupid to determine where we head?

The test will examine your knowledge of our constitution and system of Government. It will explore the differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate and the States and why and how they exist and their purpose. It will show an understanding of the powers of Government and its officers.

It will result in a more informed debate - one that is built around truth and logic and what is good for the nation - not just what is good for an incumbent Prime Minister.

A Letter to Sturt Residents

Dear Sturt Resident,

It’s not often that I write to Sturt residents - Christopher Pyne is the local member and as some of you will know, his wife does much of his campaigning - woman to woman.

As a working mother of three children, I would have thought that she had enough to do keeping them and Christoper in check. But according to her recent campaign letter, she is concerned about “managing the household budget, finding suitable child care, balancing work and family time and ensuring our children have a good education”.

Well, I thought that Christoper was a member of the Liberal party - but it sounds like she is campaigning for the religious right, Family First party. Maybe she know’s something that we don’t?

She goes on to say that “Christopher takes his job very seriously. I see the effort that he puts in to helping our local community… I hope you’ll support him so he can keep using his experience to fight for us in Canberra”. Good point.

I wonder if this would be the same experience that helped push WorkChoices through without any scrutiny - which we now know was designed to reduce the wages and conditions of the low paid - particularly women and young people?

Do you suppose this is the same experience that let Philip Ruddock, Amanda Vanstone and others detain children in the most horrible conditions inside detention centres at Baxter and elsewhere?

Do you think that it might be the same experience that has allowed Mal Brough to invade Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory on the pretext of “saving the little children” when he has not implemented one recommendation of the “Little Children are Sacred” report?

I am wondering if it’s also the same experience that resulted in the AWB scandal where $300 million was used to bribe Saddam Hussein and fund his military at the same time that we were considering whether to go to war against Iraq?

It’s probably also the same experience that resulted in the Australian Government blindly following George Bush into war in Iraq - a war that has so far resulted in 3,867 dead and 28,489 wounded - US military soldiers and over 655,000 dead Iraqi civilians?

It might also be the same experience that caused Liberal insider Guy Pearce to write his book “High and Dry”, which shows how John Howard is wilfully blind to Australia’s real interests - and who has allowed climate change policy to be dictated by our biggest polluters?

So yes Carolyn, it is important for Australians to consider these important issues carefully when they vote on November 24th.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Paradigm Shift or Something

After his win against Latham in 2004, which also gave him ownership of the Senate - little Johnny gained a much bigger backbone.

Thinking he was invincible, he tried to deliver a major blow to his opponents by introducing WorkChoices.

His plan was to entrench the fat, dumb and happy Liberals in power for at least another generation – then he could retire. He was counting on the opposition being incompetent forever.

Trouble is it backfired – he never imagined that the people would revolt – because they had been compliant for most of his reign. He thought they would continue to bow and scrape and worship the master. After all, he had trained them well.

But he missed the paradigm shift - often happens to those who won’t listen – or read, or understand. He contracted a bad case of (I) disease.

The power and money and Kirribilli air finally got to him - he thought he was the smartest of them all and could rule his kingdom forever.

But then the people finally woke up to his scam and asked – WTF?

And as they say, the rest is history.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Who Do You Trust?

I suppose all those Australians who voted for Howard in 2004 - because he was the one that they “Trusted to Manage the Economy” will not want to read this.

It’s a painful thing to realise that you have been conned.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fairy Tales at The Australian

Rupert’s “The Australian” used to have a reputation as a quality newspaper – one that positioned itself as being beyond the antics of the Murdoch tabloids that masquerade as newspapers across most of Australia’s capital cities.

In Australia as the rest of the world, weekday newspaper circulations are in decline. For the decade to 2005, there was a 6 per cent overall decrease in Monday to Friday national metropolitan circulation. Over the same period, online news and commentary has increased significantly. This has caused a rethink at News Corp where significant effort has been expended on protecting it's traditional media businesses.

News Corp has also invested heavily in new media – for example MySpace, those on-line assets that are expected to grow the eyeballs that view News Corp content with particular emphasis on appealing to young people.

And it has changed the presentation and content of it’s newspapers with more commentary and less reporting. This brings me back to my opening paragraph.

There has been a distinct shift in content at “The Australian” over the last year or so. Where once there was an emphasis on the facts and what can be called reporting. Today there has been a shift to commentary by a small group of right wing cultural and political warriors.

Some of this can be explained by Murdoch's political leanings but more likely it exposes an unhealthy alliance between the Murdoch media and the current Howard government. Almost all of these new “opinion” pieces are favourable to the Howard team. My guess is that one of the key objectives of this government is to buy loyalty via it’s media and advertising spend. If that is the case then the advertising blitz will continue – not just to convince voters – but to keep the media barons onside.

Fortunately, this September 22nd article by Christopher Pearson is comprehensively discredited at the Possum Pollytics blog. Perhaps “The Australian” thinks that this type of extreme and biased commentary will increase it’s circulation – I don’t know. But I do know that it serves to trash it's reputation.

It’s ironic that Murdoch has reverted to Fairy Tales to protect his circulation in the face of an assault by new media and yet it’s those same new media that are now able to expose and discredit those Fairy Tales. Catch 22 – sure looks like it?

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Australia Institute and Clive Hamilton

Some of you will know about the Australia Institute. This is an organisation, led by Clive Hamilton that is not afraid to shine the spotlight on the shady antics of our Liberal government. Clive is a prolific writer - having produced "Growth Fetish", "Silencing Dissent" and "Scorcher". Each is a ripping read.

But I had no idea that our Federal government is in the business of funding 'reality' TV programs. Here is an extract from the September 2007 issue of the Australia Institute newsletter.

"After John Howard's success in the 2001 election campaign demonising asylum seekers, the government wanted to portray itself as running a firm but fair immigration policy. Instead of an extensive advertising campaign or courting journalists, three federal government agencies teamed up with a commercial television network to launch Border Security, a 'reality' TV program. One provision in the contract negotiated with the agencies is that they have the power of veto over material to be aired".

No doubt everyone else knows about this - obviously I wasn't paying attention. It's a joke right?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We're Great Economic Managers

Is it just me or do others get the sense that the "We're Great Economic Managers" story pushed by the Libs and their cheer squad in the mainstream media is really just froth and bubble?

Or perhaps even wishful thinking engineered by their spin doctors and PR hacks - because they have run out of credible ideas.

The only reason that I ask is because I have been trying to understand the facts around Mal Brough's Indigenous intervention and frankly his story just doesn't add up. This article at "the road to surfdom" is a good summary of where things are.

Is anyone in the mainstream media even remotely interested in the answers?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Daily Brain Food

Here are a couple of Australians who help to cut through the FUD of our politicians and their spin doctors and cheer squads in the mainstream media.

John Quiggin is one of those rare folks with a very good understanding of both the climate change issue and Australia’s compromised political response. John is also not afraid to present the facts and speak his mind – a quality that would surely enhance the standing and reputation of Australia’s media. If only.

Ken Lovell produces some outstanding articles at Tim Dunlop’s blog – roadtosurfdom. This morning’s piece is typical of his efforts. Ken has a particular style that cuts to the chase and exposes the manipulation of the various “players” – it’s always a great read.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hurry up and Wait in Adelaide...

I wonder why the people of Adelaide would want to re-elect Michael Harbison as their Mayor when he seems to be steering the city of Adelaide toward the “Clayton’s” solution to global warming.

Of course we all know about the “Clayton’s” solution – “the one that you have when you don’t have a solution”. This is the one that John Howard has attempted to impose on the nation. It might look and feel OK from a distance but it is mostly irrelevant – a diversion that will keep the rest of us occupied while his big business mates continue to rape and pillage.

Now I only mention this because Michael has been Mayor of Adelaide for six years and a city councillor since 1998 – nearly ten years.

His re-election web-site tells the glorious story of his achievements as councillor and mayor with a lot of emphasis on his “environmental” credentials. Check it out and read his articles on “A Green City” and his personal commitment to the environment and riding a bike.

Now I don’t want to get between a mayor trying to be re-elected and his constituents but what about the big issues facing the city of Adelaide? Does he even know what they are?

I don’t pretend to be an expert on Adelaide matters but I do know what frustrates me enormously there. Last week I wrote Michael an email asking him what his plans are for the Adelaide traffic system – here is what I said.

Hi Michael,

It is good to see that you have a website and are prepared to talk about your achievements and invite commentary and questions from the people of Adelaide.

Many years ago when I was a conscript we had a saying about the mission of the Australian Army - it was “Hurry up and wait”. That seemed to be the single thing that drove the place and which all conscripts could identify with - we had to rush to get somewhere and then we had to wait.

Well it seems that Adelaide has adopted the theme.

The local traffic management system was obviously designed to keep people waiting in the city. It’s a stop start system that seems intent on wasting time and money. Progress through Adelaide is a series of small steps from intersection to intersection - each followed by an excruciating wait for the signals to change to green so we can continue to the next - only to approach and confront the dreaded red light.

Some think it was designed like this - but did anyone calculate the impact in terms of fuel and pollution cost and wasted time?

A simple calculation will show that the cost in wasted time, fuel and pollution is enormous. The cost of fixing the system is probably large but using smart technology, it is likely to be significantly less than the cost of doing nothing. The environmental savings alone would justify urgent action.

The benefit/cost ratio is likely to be compelling – so why won’t the city council and the state government fix it?



Michael’s response was.

Roger, well spotted I think you are right.
We have recently joined our traffic light coordination to the states to
achieve metro wide synchronisation, but Waiting for the benefits does
now seem to be the operative word.
I will keep trying

How long do we wait I wonder? Clearly the city council worked out that this was a big risk and a liability and so they offloaded responsibility to the State Government.

Many questions exist around the “process” that the council and the state went through to pass this issue across, especially the liability that seems to have moved between the council and the state. Does anyone understand the implications?

The truth is that the Adelaide city council has ignored important issues associated with the Adelaide traffic system over an extended period of time. The people of Adelaide have been subjected to a stop-start system that not only wastes time but also imposes enormous additional fuel and environmental costs.

How can the Mayor pretend to have a green agenda when for 30 years his council has ignored the largest environmental impact in the city? What is his real vision? Does he even have one?

When are we going to get a council and council politicians who understand and reflect the needs of the community with respect to the environment?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Mining in South Australia

The South Australian Government has often spoken about how the mining industry will be the saviour of the state as the manufacturing industry declines. There has been a lot of coverage about this in the local newspaper but many people are still confused - due mainly to the scarcity of facts.

There is a good paper which analyses the situation and has attempted to quantify the employment implications (2006 -> 2014) at the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies.

It's well worth a read - here are a couple of relevant quotes from the paper.

"For 2006, the Centre projects an average of 5,090 mining-related jobs in this State. It should be noted that this is only a small component of the overall State labour market – just under 1 per cent of total full-time employment in South Australia. Mining is not a labour-intensive industry."

"Direct employment resulting from the ‘mining boom’ is estimated by the Centre to average 4,000 persons over the period 2005 to 2014. This is not a large number in context of the overall State labour market, currently generating over half a million full-time jobs. The significance of this labour requirement is that the majority of these positions involve trade, professional, or para-professional skills that are already in short supply. Furthermore, this labour demand may have a significant positive impact on regional areas where unemployment has historically often been very high."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Steve Jobs is Smart

Steve Jobs is demonstrating his smarts with the latest iPhone and iPod announcements at Apple. This guy is a good example of how to run a tech company in the 21st century - here is the story.

Mr Haneef and Mr Andrews

Today, the Federal Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Mr Andrews announced that the Federal Government would appeal the decision of Justice Spender's findings that Mr Andrews had acted in excess of his powers in cancelling Mr Haneef's visa. Here is today's ABC News story. And here is the judgement of the Federal Court.

Check out Julian Burnside QC's website

A Conversation with the People

The main problem that I have with Australia's current Prime Minister is that he has not once chosen to have a deep and meaningful conversation with the Australian people.

Not once over the past 11+ years has he thought a matter to be of enough significance that he ought raise it and discuss it with us. Of course he has dealt with many significant issues over that time and the people have collectively had opinions on most of them. But unfortunately, he has not bothered to engage with us on any of them.

There are dozens – perhaps hundred of matters of significance where he has pursued his own self-interested agenda or that of his friend George Bush. Never once has he developed his argument, made and presented his case or listened to an opposing view. His approach has always been to push his own extreme view. No discussion, no dialog, no alternative, no argument. Take it or leave it, like it or lump it.

Well I don’t like it and I won’t lump it and it appears that a majority of my fellow countrymen agree – and that is why he and his colleagues are destined to learn a little history lesson.