August 26, 2010 | Ronda Jambe

It’s about the governance, stupid

The Greens have come out of this election mess smelling sweeter than the rest. The ALP pulled at least two wrong reins: not standing on their principles and calling a double dissolution over the emission trading scheme, and then axing their leader and replacing him with another slice of milk toast on climate change.

How sad that the ALP couldn’t deal with Rudd’s mannerisms or personality, sadder still that they keep choosing unsuitable people. We can all blush over Mark Latham, but we should also blush over Julia’s ridiculous use of cliche over substance. The ‘real’ Julia, the ‘yes we will’, the ‘moving forward’, without tying any of it down to real action, that was all stepping backwards.

The strength of a Parliamentary system is supposed to be the ability to form solid policy by consensus, not to mimic a grandiose presidential system with a superhero at the helm. Rudd should have been tamed and they should have marched to victory – after all, Australia was not as battered as other countries by the GFC, wastage from the stimulus notwithstanding (although that was another big pointer to the need for governance reform). Why didn’t they listen when told about the insulation scandal? or the over-spending in schools? Somebody was sloppy, or compromised, as with the Wretched Gretch affair: lots of warnings, no attention paid.

But the bullying and posing that passes for management in some parts of the public service seems to have been equally absorbed by the Parliament. Maybe that’s where it originated, if you look back to the classic text on neo-liberalism in Canberra by Michael Pusey.

Now the cat’s out of the bag, the independents are increasiungly bolshie, and the previously unheeded murmurs calling for a carbon tax are bubbling up to a roar. Suddenly we  can dispense with the big talk fest, which was all Julia was able to offer.

And now it just might be possible to have a kinder polity, as Abbott suddenly realises, and perhaps private member’s bills and other forms of collegiality might get a look in. Have a look at the extensive papers on electoral and parliamentary reform on the Democratic Audit of Australia site: time for real change, and the ALP needs it internally more than ever. Are theypaying attention in NSW, or just hoping their spin will compensate in time for the election next March?

All overdue, and this surprisingly dramatic turn of events just might reinvigorate our democracy. Or they can all run and hide, but not forever.

The ACT has announced it will go for a 40% cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. This was the policy many community activists were pushing hard for, especially the group ‘Canberra Loves 40%’.

A triumph of the local will – and if our federal elected officials don’t listen, they can expect to be booted by those who do.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 6:33 am | Comments (4) |
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August 25, 2010 | Graham

Rudd Astroturfs Griffith?

It’s possible Kevin Rudd may have been behind a community campaign to independently support him, going on photos supplied by a reader. Apparently signs that weren’t official ALP signs,  supporting Kevin went up without being authorised. The authorisation was written on in pen later on in the day when the lapse was pointed out to the returning officer. (more…)

Posted by Graham at 9:17 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

August 24, 2010 | Graham

The inevitability of parties

Independents can be independents, until they have to exercise power. Then they seem to remarkably quickly coalesce into what looks like a political party of sorts. Or at least that appears to be the case of the three men in a tub – Katter, Oakeshott and Windsor.


Posted by Graham at 7:06 am | Comments Off on The inevitability of parties |
Filed under: Australian Politics

August 21, 2010 | Graham

Libs alternate wrap

The Liberals are running two separate versions of their wrap. Both are negative, but one tries to rope Anna Bligh into the argument. Could be a smart move, because from the polling it is obvious that state Labor is pulling federal Labor down in three states. If Tony Abbott wins today, much will be owed to incompetent Liberal oppositions who couldn’t win their last elections against incompetent and unpopular state Labor administrations.

Julia Gillard and Anna Bligh election wrap

The photo above is from Ryan. It’s different from other wrap that they are running elsewhere in Ryan and in other electorates which you can see below, edited from the image in my earlier post of Coorparoo State School.

Liberal positive wrap at Coorparoo

I don’t think either wrap works particularly well. What do you think? Does either work? How do they decide where to display it?

Posted by Graham at 4:12 am | Comments (2) |
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August 21, 2010 | Graham

Where’s Julia?

Never forgive and never forget. I’m not sure how you render that in Mandarin, but I’m sure Kevin Rudd does, and in a hundred other languages. And if you’re going to render it in words, why not pictures? (more…)

Posted by Graham at 3:46 am | Comments (1) |
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August 14, 2010 | Ronda Jambe

A quick test of your financial knowledge

Quickly now, in 3 seconds answer this question: does your family have private medical insurance? If you know the answer, give yourself 5 points. Now another quickie (no cheating, by looking at your will or asking your accountant) Do you own any properties? If you got that right, you get another five points and hit the jackpot.

You have now scored better than the Greens candidate for the Senate in the ACT, Lynn Hatfield Dodds, who, according to an article in today’s Canberra Times, could not say whether her family had private health insurance, even though she was holding forth on the topic.

Shocked? It gets worse, this time from the ACT Labor government. They were going to buy Calvary Hospital for $77m, but it got messed up and fell apart. Now it turns out (I’m don’t know whether to laugh or cry) that they paid Price Waterhouse Coopers to look into the ACT government finances, and it turns out the ACT government already owns that hospital. So I guess that was $77m that would have been down the drain.

That’s the level of informed knowledge among our political elite here in the capital, and I hope it gives you comfort. That is, you can never now be disappointed at any other politician’s or government’s ignorance.

It’s like when I used to teach high school mathematics, and soon learned that it was impossible to underestimate the abysmal level of knowledge of my students or their total lack of interest in the subject. Now Science Daily News tells me students don’t even understand what the = sign means. It seems they treat it more like a running thing, as on a calculator.

It is surely not OK for government accounts to be so complex, convoluted or opaque that the government has to hire a consultant (I don’t want to know how much they were paid) to tell them what they own.

Another big negative for the Greens candidate was her spiel about how cutting the public service here would hurt the ACT economy, bla bla. Anyone who has ever been near the public service in Canberra knows that it is top heavy and bloats the whole local economy. Sad that the Greens can’t point that out and call for a bit of reform instead.

One would never get to the bottom of it, but I would venture to guess that much more than the equivalent of the wastage of Building an Education Revolution gets wasted on general salaries every year. But who’s counting?

CODA: an excellent presentation today by an environmental epidemiologist said that today’s climate change is happening at 30 times the rate after the last ice age, when wine was indeed grown in England.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 7:40 am | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

August 08, 2010 | Ronda Jambe

CO2, phytoplankton and the air we breathe

Let it never be said I am alarmist. Apoplectic, maybe.

Aside from the freeze on wheat exports from Russia, due to their drought and fires, and an iceberg 4 times the size of Manhattan breaking off in Greenland (thank heavens there’s no climate change, imagine what it would be like then!), we now have reports of steady decline in phytoplankton in the oceans.

Like clathrates, phytoplankton are ‘sleepers’ of climate change, but they are waking. Or rather vanishing. They are the bottom of the food chain, and also absorb CO2. Hence, as they diminish, there is less capacity to absorb the bad gas, and also less capacity to emit the good gas: oxygen.

Why is serious policy on climate change, sustainability and our food security not on the policy agency for the two major parties? Why has the campaign slipped into a quasi-celebrity soap opera, as Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott noted at their launch? But they are also not addressing these issues. Instead we hear the word ‘sustainable’ dropped into paragraphs, as if according to a mathematical, poll-driven formula.

It is disappointing that the Labor Environment Activist Network, of which I am now a member, doesn’t have the funds or numbers to make a real voice for the ALP. I have no idea if there is even a quiet polite voice for environmental awareness and action within the Liberal party. You tell me.

 I recommend Bill McKibben’ latest cris de coeur:

Bill McKibben: A Wilted Senate on a Heating Planet
Bill McKibben: We’re going to have to raise our voices

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 10:23 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Environment

August 04, 2010 | Ronda Jambe

Out of the mouths of babes…

Joseph Stiglitz probably can’t be called a babe, he’s too hairy, too old and much too wise. But to me he’s an intellectual babe, and hearing him speak at the ANU this week was as rewarding as I expected it to be.

The Canberra Times article said the audience, which must have been at least 1000, included many top policy officials, academics, and pollies. I sure hope they were listening and taking heed, because his pleasant, gently humourous discussion of the GFC both reinforced and extended received wisdom on the topic.

As a reminder, Stiglitz is a double Nobel Prize winner, former head of the World Bank, and now a Columbia prof. He also co-authored a book on the 3 trillion dollar war in Iraq.

But it was a question at the end that resonated most with the crowd of insiders, and we joined in the big clap at his answer: he was asked how long Australia could continue to be properous if we depend on exports of coal, and how this might be affected by climate change.

He said what we all know deeply: that the underpricing of risk in the GFC was much less than the underpricing of natural resources. Therefore a price on carbon is a ‘no brainer’.

He advocated taxing bad things, as incentives are the one thing economists agree are important. Taxing good things just doesn’t send the right messages.

From this perspective, higher oil prices, which are coming, quicker than you will want, are a good incentive, as burning oil is bad and preserving it for more important products than driving cars needs to be incentivised.

Obvious conclusions to draw are that a) light rail right down our east coast is both necessary, critical, and affordable (from a future perspective) and b) carbon taxes are the only sensible way to go, because as Stiglitz responded, the earlier you get used to the pain of taxing coal the easier it will be to adapt, and besides, it raises revenue for alternatives. (double duh!), and c) basing our economy on endless growth and consumption is insanely suicidal.

Today Russia burns, Pakistan soaks, wheat crops fail. Are we really so arrogant to believe our turn won’t come, and that we don’t need to change our addictions?

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 11:32 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

August 01, 2010 | Graham

The Weekly curse

Julia Gillard has had appalling polling figures this last week. Nielsen shows her losing, Galaxy has it 50/50 and only Newspoll has her ahead. All this when a week ago she apparently had a 6 point margin over the opposition. Could the  Weekly photoshoot have anything to do with this? (more…)

Posted by Graham at 10:31 am | Comments (7) |
Filed under: Australian Politics