Monday, December 19, 2011

Drongos in charge #auspol

A decade ago one of our likely lads was caught up in the "War on Error" as junior Bush invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq - exporting freedom packaged up and delivered the American way.

It took almost ten years for David Hicks to get back to the relative calm of his homeland and family after the Liberal/National Government abandoned him to Guantanamo Bay - all to please the neocon's in Washington and to enhance little Johnnies' election prospects at home.

Fast forward another decade and Julian Assange awaits a similar fate after using "actual evidence" to expose the skulduggery that is US foreign policy. And another Australian Government has abandoned him to the wolves and charlatans in the US administration. But this time it won't enhance the election prospects of our Prime Minister - quite the reverse.

WTF is going on with our Governments?

Back when David Hicks was incarcerated, The US was an out of control warmonger and our Liberal/National government was obscene with its encouragement. Little Johnny thought of himself as regional deputy to Bush’s global sheriff. As if.

Back then, Mark Latham our Labor Leader of the Opposition called junior Bush the "the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory". Not very far from the truth as it turns out.

And two Labor Prime Minister's later we have young Ms. Gillard refusing to support Julian Assange because her friend Obama is now US President and he wants our help to wage war across our region. The last thing he wants is anyone exposing US belligerence and skulduggery via Wikileaks so he wants Assange locked up - preferably in Guantanamo Bay.


"Does it seem to you that we actually have a sovereign government that is looking out for the interests of Australian's - or have we somehow become the 51st US state"?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Evidence and Policy #auspol

I am not normally a big fan of this place - but their paper "Price Drivers: Five Case Studies in How Government is Making Australia Unaffordable" tells the unfortunate story about how Australian's have been ripped off by successive governments. Here is what they propose.

* Bananas - Dismantle the ban on importing fresh hard green bananas from the Philippines into the non-banana growing states of Tasmania, Victoria, ACT and South Australia, if not all
states and territories.

* Books - Repeal the "30 day rule" in the Copyright Act 1968. Allow a three-year adjustment period for the industry before the changes come into effect. Review the changes five years after the repeal.

* Cars - Abolish the remaining import duties to allow commercial importation of new vehicles. Abolish the Luxury Car Tax. Allow the private importation of used vehicles into Australia that are – not older than 10 years and have not been driven more than 120,000 kms – only from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Japan and New Zealand, and – fit to obtain a "pink slip" on arrival.

* Housing - Increase supply by encouraging councils to take on more residents through local government finance reforms that reward councils for accepting more residents. Policy recommendations are available in the CIS report Australia’s Angry Mayors. Abolish both negative gearing and first home buyers grants. Abolish or at least reduce stamp duty on property transactions. Cap infrastructure levies or replace them with funding streams based on income tax. Alternatively, give councils access to a share of the locally generated GST revenue.

* Retail - Support the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to relax planning and zoning regulations to – increase land supply for retail, and prevent these regulations from being used by established retail-space owners as anticompetitive tools. Abolish commercial viability testing for new shopping areas.

All of these things make perfect sense. The only thing that amazes me is how long it has taken for the expose to become public. Everyone of us ought be asking our MP's to demonstrate what action they are personally taking to put pressure on their leaders to fix these things.

And the fulltime focus of our Prime Minister and her Cabinet should be to deal with them. I do accept that they didn't create the problems but they could win lots of kudos by fixing them. It's not exactly rocket science - all you have to do is look to New Zealand to see how the car proposal has worked out.

Perhaps this is how Julia can re-connect with the people? We can only live in hope.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to Fix Broken Stuff

This post by Dave Winer got me thinking.

Not so much about Android and the tech industry - I already use Android and have been in the tech industry for nearly 40 years. And by the way I agree with what Dave says.

But more about how our various Governments seem incapable of getting things to work properly. Particularly those things that they have responsibility for. Like Health.

If you have been following the schemozzle that is QLD Health you will know what I mean.

Disaster follows disaster. If it isn't bogus medico's performing unnecessary surgery and maiming patients then it is bogus finance staff who are embezzling millions. What about the things that haven't yet made it into the media? The place is a circus.

It does remind me of similar stuff up's in another state health system where some of their staff were being paid twice - and a few were being paid three times. And apparently that had been going on for years. Bet you didn't hear about that?

And the various QLD Managers and Ministers and their Premier seem completely lost. Yesterday the Premier announced the dismantling of the Health Department - to be replaced by what? Disneyland probably.

Why is it so hard for seemingly smart people to build an organisation and management capability that actually works? That is the $64k question.

And the answer has two main components;

* The nature of state politics means that they are only ever thinking short term - which is between now and 5 minutes after the next election. An average of 2 years.

* And inertia conspires to keep things just as they are. Change involves pain and it doesn't really matter how broken the system is - trying to fix it will make a lot of comfortable people feel very uncomfortable.

I wouldn't even attempt to fix it - it's far too broken for that. What I would do is build a new system from scratch and transfer any good bits across from the old one. Mind you it will take some smart people to design that new system so it doesn't end up like the one they already have. So I probably wouldn't use the same folks who built the current one - Virginia ;-)

And when it was up and running then I would switch the old one off. A bit like what Qantas is doing with Jetstar.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Straight out of Crikey today - Hilarious

The mythical story I most love about the late Kerry Packer concerns the businessman who approached Packer in an airport lounge one day with a simple request. "Kerry, I'm about to have a really important meeting with someone. It would really impress this bloke if you came over and said hello." Packer agreed and a few minutes after the meeting started he sauntered over to help his new friend.

But before he could speak, the man waved him away. "Not now Kerry, can't you see I'm in a very important meeting."

The story has been retold so many times there's probably no chance it's true, but it's a great little fable that underlines how important the backing of men like James and Kerry Packer can be.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Wasted Century #auspol #alpnc

Nearly 12 years into the 21st Century and we still have no coherent rail system within and between the cities of our nation.

Only Sydney has an even partially working metro rail system and that is just creaking along on century old infrastructure. None of the other cities have a system of any real substance or usefulness. But Hong Kong and Singapore have fantastic systems - parts of which have been designed and built by Australian's. Go figure.

And our city to city and interstate services are just woeful. The only regional rail system with any credibility at all is Vline in country Victoria. This is actually quite good - the service is good, the rolling stock almost relevant and the timetable and pricing sensible. The only problem is that it doesn't go anywhere that anyone wants to be. But that is an accident of geography - not a criticism of Vline.

How is it that in 2012 we still haven't managed to build a fast, reliable, environmentally friendly, customer centric and useful rail transport network? And why is no-one in power even thinking seriously about it?

The Europeans have managed it with all their different countries and languages and complexity - but we can't manage it here. What does that tell you about the *dead hand* of Australian state governments? I am afraid that parochial B grade politicians have seriously stifled progress in this nation for many decades.

I am pretty sure that Queenslander's, New South Welshmen, Canberran's, Victorian's, South Australian's and West Australian's would wholeheartedly embrace a quality rail system that operated within and between their cities.

Instead what we have done is spent our state tax revenues bribing voters with hand-outs - all to keep those same B graders entrenched and in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

And we think this is democracy in action.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bogan Politics #auspol #alpnc

Our Prime Minister has spent the past year in vigorous pursuit of her dream. All because she and her colleagues have discarded the true Labor voter, are behind in the polls and need to find a new base.

But her strategy doesn't appear to be working.

Because the bogan doesn't care about politics and isn't interested in becoming anyone's political base. The bogan only cares about cash hand outs and asset bubbles. While you keep shovelling cash at the bogan he will continue to vote for you. When the money runs out - or his house and other assets start to devalue - then you had better get out of the way.

Little Johnny knew that - which is how he stayed in power by dishing out large amounts of bogan cash disguised as family payments and why he set up a tax system to distort the value of bogan assets. He knew that it wouldn't last forever and that he and his party would be toast when it all went pear shaped. But it served his purpose for a decade.

And Kevin knew it too - which is why he did his best to shovel cash in the leadup to the GFC. The bogan got $900 and a house value boost courtesy of the "First Home Buyers Grant" and was happy for a while.

And then Julia deposed Kevin and thought she could continue with the same old ponzi scheme.

But by then the political dynamics had changed. Tony had a firm grasp of the bogan and everyone believed that he would continue with the grand old Liberal tradition of shovelling cash if ever he got back into the big seats. And he probably will - because how else could Tony acquire a base - except with his carefully crafted intellectual argument and personal charisma ;-)

Tony's impossible polling numbers are all in expectation that he will have oodles of cash to distribute when next he gets to pull the levers. I hate to disappoint anyone but that is looking unlikely.

And the rest of us don't want two political parties jousting over the same bogan base - and neglecting everyone else. It might be that capturing a 30% slice of the voting population seems like a grand prize - but is it? And what if the other 70% detest you for doing it?

What if you became the political equivalent of Kyle Sandilands because of it?

There is an opportunity for a smart leader to woo the rest of the nation with a compelling story about their commitment to the national interest.

But we don't seem to have one of those.

Wilful and Blind #auspol

It's a good thing that our high quality media commenteers are not easily distracted - because otherwise they would get sidetracked by irrelevant issues that are being put about by charlatans and politicians and the like.

You know what I mean. Low value things Like the killing of 256 children, when is the European Community going to explode or the fun and games of the Republican Party could be wastefully using up column inches and distracting Australian's from the real and important stories of the day.

Real important stories like - "What the Labor Party thinks about gay marriage".