July 30, 2010 | Ronda Jambe

Bell tolling loudly for major parties

We are now well into the election campaign, and both the Libs and the ALP seem to be scrambling for the lowest risk middle ground. The area I am most interested in, environment, flows into population issues, urban planning and infrastructure, food security and of course climate change.

On none of these issues is either major party providing anything that I would call real leadership. Rather they seem to be playing hop-scotch, seeing who can get a leg up on the other and stay one jump ahead in the polls.

It is important to remind ourselves that in our Parliamentary system the leader elected by the party itself has a different role than in a presidential system such as the US. Thus, the party overall has to bear some of the blame for the vacuousness of their policies. For the ALP, I look to their LEAN group (the Labor Environment Activist Network) to become activists.  The party has slipped into a near narcosis of delusion about current clearly unsustainable economic settings. How long can the housing industy leech off our urban land? See the article by demographer Bob Birrell on immigration. He describes Melbourne as a ‘parasite city’. In that case, Canberra is a virtual Ebola.

As for the Liberals, well, the sooner Tony gets on his bike and keeps going, the better. I would like to see him try to land a job in the resource industry, somewhere near the Pilbara. Maybe he could run a gym, or answer phones.

In the absence of real meat in the polcy debate, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a whole spread on Wednesday about the issues we should be talking about, but aren’t. All experts, all offering their experience and common sense. Evidence, if that is still needed, to direct us towards real change.

But while the major parties try to seduce mature voters with the same old hip pocket trinkets, young voters are just ignoring the whole show. Enrolments of young people are way down, and getting them to participate will take more than token assemblies.

By the way, voters in Kooyong at a citizens’ assembly rejected the climate change policies of both parties. Good luck to the Greens and Independents, maybe for them moving forward can mean more than a soft shuffle.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 5:34 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

July 27, 2010 | Graham

McGorry demonstrates how bad Rudd’s political management was

I knew that John Howard would be in trouble at the 2007 election the instant that Tim Flannery was appointed Australian of the Year. It was obvious that Flannery would spend his 12 months flaying the government on climate change.


Posted by Graham at 9:48 pm | Comments (4) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

July 26, 2010 | Graham

Not the Redcliffe Railway again

When you’re struggling for credibility why would you re-announce the most announced infrastructure project in Queensland’s history? Yes, there must be an election on because someone has promised to build the Redcliffe to Brisbane railway line, yet again. And that someone is Julia Gillard, whose announcements last week of a Citizens’ Assembly and Cash for Clunkers were welcomed with widespread cynicism.


Posted by Graham at 9:37 pm | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

July 19, 2010 | Ronda Jambe

Keeping the lid on for big capital

Is she the ‘biggest dud since Rudd’? Or just Abbott’s twin sister? We’ve seen her mettle, she must believe, because now we are supposed to trust her for a term of her own. A bit too quick for my liking.

We seem to have no choice but to listen politely to endless media talk about old stuff: Hawke, Keating, Blanche, the Rudd and Julia story. You’ve got to hand it to the ALP: whatever else you might think of them, they’ve always been great haters. It was a mate in the ALP who told me their real role is to keep the lid on for capital. The mining industry sure has gone quiet, they clearly are happy with current arrangements.

Instead of ten precious media minutes about who is the more bitter ex-leader, I’d like to hear more than a minute given over to policy and even facts. For example, how about a scientist rather than a political insider, and some less widely flaunted information, such as this from NOAA, the not exactly leftist National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US Dept of Commerce:


It very calmly states that the April-June and year to date temperatures have been the warmest on record. We all know that taking a short term snapshot isn’t of much meaning, but if many different sets of statistics all indicate that land, sea and air temperatures are rising above 20th century averages, shouldn’t we pay some attention?

Instead, both candidates for our leadership (and I deplore the move further into the mindset of Presidential rather than Parliamentary politicking) are wishy-washy at best on the issue of climate change.

I’ve joined a local Canberra campaign to get the ACT gov to reduced emissions by 40% by 2020, and am convinced that localised actions and policies are more likely to provide a buffer for adaptation than federal efforts.

Coal is now the dirtiest four letter word available, and it besmirtches the political process.  I’m waiting ever less patiently for some real leadership to step up.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 6:26 am | Comments (3) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

July 18, 2010 | Graham

Gillard’s first scene

Julia Gillard proclaimed today at her first set speech of the campaign that this election would be a “referendum on services for working families”. Her first offering was a speech on a sustainable Australia in which she managed to wrap up an amazing number of campaign themes, and even attempt to wedge Tony Abbott. Bravura work written by someone off the back of focus group research, but lacking in much substance. What Gillard offered today was one rebadged policy and not one, not two, but three committees into the issue, all to report after the next election.


Posted by Graham at 12:09 pm | Comments Off on Gillard’s first scene |
Filed under: Uncategorized

July 09, 2010 | Ronda Jambe

Let the dithering begin!

Now that the mining tax has been sorted, and already forgotten, we can move on to refugees. Just what was sorted with the mining tax already slips into oblivion, but the miners are happy.  Somewhere along the road to compromise the public good had to yield, all too predictably.

The refugee ‘solution’ is likely to be the same: a blancmange that addresses nothing very well, stirs up all the wrong emotions, and attempts to pass the buck.

Why stop at building a processing centre? Why don’t we pay the East Timorese to take in some boat people as citizens in their country? Perhaps that could work, for the cost of some infrastructure and development aid. How about some serious education and apprenticeship projects that would give East Timor the people and the skills to rebuild their country, and give the boat people a new life along the way? Isn’t that what they want? There must be a triple win solution that could work, rather than the same old approaches that don’t seem to solve anything.

Blending cultures surely could work as well for developing countries as it has for Australia.  The US is rapidly turning Hispanic, in another generation Australia will probably be much more Asian, and why shouldn’t a good dose of Afghan or Pakistani population be a welcome addition to East Timor, Malaysia or Indonesia?

Gillard needs to let us assess her performance and policies before she calls an election. And could the ALP please come up with substantive progress on climate? Real commitments to measurable cuts in emissions, not just per capita cuts, is what’s needed.

In the meantime, at least the GetUp mob has produced something entertaining, using all your favourite pollies in an action movie trailer.

It’s worth a giggle:


Posted by Ronda Jambe at 5:33 am | Comments Off on Let the dithering begin! |
Filed under: Australian Politics

July 08, 2010 | Graham

Has Gillard made room for Turnbull?

The Gillard Prime Ministership seems to be in trouble, at least judging from the comments threads on some MSM articles. Whatever possessed her to announce that East Timor was going to be part of her refugee solution without even talking to the appropriate members of their government? It’s an announcement that makes our government look amateur and obsessed by spinning for the news cycle. It’s also condescending to our near neighbours.

Electors have seen the ploy of changing leaders used once too often by Labor at the state level, and seeing it played out at a federal level reminds them of just how tarnished the Labor brand is in every state. Now they are starting to suspect federal Labor is state Labor, just projected on a large screen.

As noted in our polling support for Gillard is soft and the honeymoon bounce muted. Perhaps the only two factors holding her up is that she is not Kevin Rudd and she is not Tony Abbott. Perhaps these factors will be enough for her to win the next election, and perhaps not.

A third person she is not is Malcolm Turnbull. One of the intrinsic problems that Malcolm Turnbull had when he was Liberal leader was that the middle ground liked him, but they weren’t going to vote for him because they liked Kevin Rudd even more. As a result the Liberals had to run to the right hard enough to pick-up working class conservatives, and Tony Abbott was the leader capable of doing that.

But with the spectacular collapse of Rudd, and the growing suspicion that Gillard is little different, Labor now leaves room on both flanks, providing the Liberals with more options. If Abbott fails at this election, and the odds favour this, then they will face the second term of opposition with two potentially viable leaders.

This is not necessarily a benefit. Having two viable leaders, particularly two like Abbott and Turnbull, as often as not leads to instability, or disunity. Still, better to have options, than none at all.

Posted by Graham at 2:55 am | Comments (5) |

July 03, 2010 | Graham

Gillard’s mining tax a fix not a masterstroke

With her rebadged Resource Super Profits Tax Julia Gillard confirms she has no vision for Australia and that big business cannot and should not be relied upon to look after the common interest.

It is a pea and thimble trick that appears to have fooled the mining companies, but should fool no-one else. The original scheme was supposed to raise $12B in the first year, and this scheme will fall around $1.5B short. So the government has gotten 90% of what it wanted. Or maybe they are exaggerating.

The original proposal was completely opportunistic. It was designed to fill a budget hole and fund some election year giveaways. It dressed this up by claiming that miners were making “super profits” and should be taxed differently from other companies because of this. Or alternatively, that minerals belong to all Australians and we should all reap the benefits.

Both of these points are obviously nonsense. As Phil Ruthven’s figures show mining is no more profitable than other Australian industries. The minerals actually belong to the states, not to all Australians, and the states already charge for the use of them.

By only taxing some companies in the mining sector the revamped tax completely blows away the second argument – apparently whether the rest of us are entitled to the value of minerals depends on who is mining them.

By increasing the threshold to 7% over the government bond rate it doubles what constitutes a super profit, showing it to be a completely flexible ad hoc concept.

When Rudd was first elected I expected the government to be incompetent but benign. Rudd’s record in Queensland was very poor, but what damage could he really do to the national economy?

Now we know. When the Global Financial Crisis arrived he panicked and threw far too much money at the problem. So much that the money is still being spent, over a year after the crisis ceased to be a major problem. In the process he caused all sorts of problems. I don’t need to go through the litany, it’s notorious.

But that is just financial and managerial miscalculation. The mining tax is something else, although its genesis lies in the over-reaction to the GFC and the subsequent need to make savings or raise revenue.

When Australia depends on the rest of the world to fund our projects, making our major export sector severly uncompetitive is wilfully stupid. But it doesn’t stop there. By picking on an industry simply because it was deemed to be both rich and politically vulnerable, it brought not just issues of sovereign risk into play, but called into question the whole moral legitimacy of the government.

One of the foundation principles of our system of government is that all ought to be treated equally. This is a principle which applies most strongly to legal liability, but it also applies in matters of economics. While it is a principle which is sometimes breached, it is normally breached by for example positive discrimination to a specific industry like automotive via a measure like export subsidies.

What is almost unique about this case is that an industry that is involved in a perfectly legal form of enterprise has been penalised so that the proceeds can be given to other industries and individuals.

Even in the bad old days of industry protection I can’t think of anything quite as blatant.

It was modern Labor through the Hawke and Keating governments that entrenched the view that the tax system shouldn’t discriminate between industries, although the first steps were taken by Malcolm Fraser.

So, not only has the Rudd/Gillard mining tax grab trashed the moral legitimacy of the government, but it trashes the entire modern Labor legacy.

It’s not a promising start for the new PM. Rather than a political masterstroke the Mining Resource Rental Tax makes her look like a visionless fixer concerned with wheeling and dealing to stay in power, and nothing much else. We could have expected better.

Posted by Graham at 1:26 pm | Comments (5) |