September 05, 2004 | Graham

Quick observations

I’m in the federal seat of Paterson at the moment, and as it is such a long drive from Brisbane I’ve been deprived my usual sources of news and had to even rely on commercial radio. That gives me an opportunity to at least hear and read more like a normal voter. So here goes with a post of what happens when a political apparatchik suffers sensory deprivation.

Election in general

“Stealing an election” is a phrase that is used when you win with less than 50% of the vote. It’s used in other contexts too, and it’s one of the charges made against George Bush. When you talk to a lot of US Democrats it is one of the major things that seems to have them energised.
John Howard has already stolen one election – the 1998 one on GST. How much anti-Howard hatred and division will it generate if he is about to steal another? This thought is prompted by yesterday’s Australian where Newspoll has the Coalition comfortably ahead in the marginal Queensland seats of Dixon, Longman, Bowman, Herbert, Hinkler, Moreton and Petrie, even though it is behind across the nation. Is this the result of the government carefully targetting policies at key groups of voters, or just the way that the demographics lie?

Guantanomo Bay with home detention

I see the Liberal Party half took my advice about Russell Galt – they’re not going to expel him while the election’s on. They are, however, still going ahead with their convention next weekend. That should provide an easy ride for the incumbent president Michael Caltabiano and douse the slim chances of challenger Jim Nicholls.
Still, don’t expect any rapid action on Galt even if they do refer him to the Disciplinary Committee. I was referred around 10 months ago, and have yet to hear anything. At that time Margaret Watts, who was teh GST whistle-blower against Ian MacFarlane told me that she had been referred two years before that, and also had yet to hear anything. However, while she hadn’t been found guilty of anything, she was being treated as though she had, with basic membership rights being denied her. Reminds me a little of David Hicks – even if he does win his case, they still won’t let him go home. Catch 22 is more a work of fact than Fahrenheit 9/11 because it actually happens.

Heads you lose, tails I win

That’s the game Jenny Macklin appeared to be playing yesterday. Early in the morning on my car radio I heard her panning Education Minister Brendan Nelson because the payment of $700 in tuition assistance for children with learning difficulties wasn’t going to happen. At first I thought the Liberals had reneged on a promise, but then I heard on a subsequent bulletin that the legislation had yet to pass Parliament – no legislation, no cheque. Then I found out that the reason the legislation hadn’t passed was because the Senate had referred it to a committee. As the Senate can’t do this without Labor support it confirmed my earlier suspicion that Labor didn’t approve of the policy anyway!
So here’s Macklin whinging about how much these children and their families need the cheques and blaming Nelson when all along it’s her fault! Not bad if you can get away with it, but just the sort of dishonesty that turns most voters off politics.

Is private versus public education such a big issue

I suspect that Ian Causley, the member for Page, a seat based around Grafton and Ballina, either has too much money or needs a little more direction in his campaign. Listening to commercial radio I heard an ad from his campaign a couple of times. The ad criticised the Teacher’s Union for running a dishonest campaign on school funding.
I’d have to agree with Causley that the Teacher’s Union actions are despicable. Here are the people who are supposed to be teaching our children critical thinking running a quite spurious campaign based on selective use of the facts.
But I don’t think that it is the major issue in this election, so I don’t think that I would be spending my money running ads about it. And if I were running ads I think that I would make sure that they weren’t just as dishonest as my opponents.
While it is wrong of the Teacher’s Union to infer that the only money going to schools comes from the Federal Government, it is equally wrong of Causley’s ad to say words to the effect that 76% of government money goes to public schools and only 24% to private schools. Given that 70% of children are in public schools, and many of them are quite expensive to run, the mix is not inequitable, as he in turn tries to infer.

Maybe there are no big issues

Down here in Paterson there don’t appear to be any major issues, at least not according to the bloke who was manning the campaign caravan. He thought euthanasia might be an issue. Paterson is a retirement area, but I think that was an example of last person syndrome, because the people he was talking to before me had a bee in their bonnet about it.
There was a petition about hospitals in the area lying on the table which seemed to be more likely to be Bob Baldwin’s major beef. In an area with retirees and young families, seems reasonable to try to leverage votes on the issue of local services, especially when they are provided by an increasingly unpopular state government.
It also shows a similar campaigning style to Gary Hardgrave in Moreton, a Queensland marginal. The Australian reports he is campaigning on the issue of trucks travelling through his area, even though this is a state issue.
Well, enough campaign ruminations. Time to go and visit my young son. When he was born his mother had to travel an hour to the Manning Base hospital, being the nearest maternity ward. If hospitals in Paterson aren’t an issue, they should be.

Posted by Graham at 8:30 am | Comments Off on Quick observations |
Filed under: Australian Politics

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