Friday, September 29, 2006

Carl Scully's Taser Show

On Wednesday, 27-Sept, NSW Police Minister Carl Scully staged a demonstration of a taser within the NSW Parliament.

He had asked permission of MLC President Meredith Burgmann, and been denied. The reason given is a centuries-old tradition that arms (weapons) are not brought iinto the Houses of Parliament. The convention is still upheld today, with special arrangements for Police Officers to leave teh ir weapons securely.

Mr Scully then went to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, a member of his own party, and ... surprise, surprise ... got approval.

There are several things to note here:
  1. Mr Scully was denied permission by the Leader of teh House in which he sits. I believe Dr Burgmann was right to refuse permission.
  2. Mr Scully then sought a "second opinion" from a member of his own party. In so doing, he contravened the long-standing, sensible, convention about not brining arms into the NSW Parliament.
  3. Mr Scully could easily have staged the demonstration, by the Police, in Police Headquarters!

That he chose to defy convention, and permission, really does show his arrogance, and was rather priggish behaviour. We voters neither need, nor want, political grandstanding.

The Analyst

Thursday, September 28, 2006

CEO Salaries, Tax & Australian Values

There has been much criticism of Telstra CEO, Sol Trujillo's, bonus of $2.6 million. This gave him a total "package" of $8.71 million.

$2.6 million bonus represents a bonus rate of almost exactly 30% of salary, leave and superannuation. mmm ... most "ordinary Australians" would be willing to accept that every year. An ethical company would decide what amount of money should be given as a bonus, and share it among ALL its employees.

Criticism has centred on what "performance criteria" the bonus was paid. Among the justifications was that Mr Trujillo devised and is executing a business plan. Excuse me! - isn't that his job?? Others, including some in the government, have questioned whether a bonus should have been paid when the share price has dropped considerably and the company lost more than $45 million in value EVERY DAY.

But what about other CEOs? Many are foreign, coming from the USA, NZ, Scotland & other parts of Britain. The Federal Government generously gives them tax breaks - like no capital gains on shares, for example. So, the savvy CEO takes a sizeable chunk of the package as shares, later sells them, and pays NO TAX on them.

The Federal Government does this while it talks agues forcefully that people who come to Australia should obey Australian law and adopt Australian values (not clearly defined, but a nice term, which appeals to the electorate as we get closer to an election).

I respectfully suggest that foreign CEOs should pay Australian taxes, under Australian law, in keeping with their commitment to "Australian values". John Howard and Peter Costello need to fix this, by amending the tax law to remove the tax lurks given to foreign CEOs that are not given to John Howards "ordinary Australians".

The Analyst

Monday, September 25, 2006

Government Appointment to Telstra Board

The Federal Government has nominated Mr Geoff Cousins to be voted a Telstra Board Member. There is the stench of politics about this:
  1. For 10 years, Mr Howard has maintained that Telstra operates independently of government interference.
  2. Since the appointment of Sol Trujillo, Telstra has been aggressively fighting the ACCC to get its own way, something Mr Trujillo worked hard on when working for a US Telco, and has previously annoyed The Federal Government.
  3. The Federal Government announced several weeks ago, that it was selling the remaining 50.1% of Telstra, which it owns (T3). Some of this will go into the "Futures Fund" to offset unfunded (budgetary) liability for Federal Puublic Servants' superannuation.
  4. The nominee, Mr Geoff Cousins, is a former adviser to the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, and former CEO of Optus Vision, a competitor of Telstra's.
  5. Since the Federal Government still owns 50.1%, it will get its way.

Questions for voters to ask:
  1. WHY has the government waited till after the announcement of the T3 to appoint its board member, especially given its "hands off" history?
  2. WHAT (political) capital does it expect to make? Does it expect to gain access to Board discussions which no other shareholder has? (see also, Q3, below)
  3. Given Mr Cousins' close ties to Mr Howard, is there not potential for Mr Cousins to have a confilct of interest?
  4. WHAT is Mr Cousins' brief from the Federal Government? It would not nominate a person so close to the Prime Minister without having an agenda.
  5. WHY has the government not given Telstra more notice, so it can more thoroughly investigate Mr Cousins' credentials?
Telstra, for its part, won't support the nomination because it doesn't like Mr Cousins' relationship with Mr Howard and claims it won't have time to apply "due diligence" to its investigation of him. This is plainly because Mr Cousins is the Federal Government's choice, and will be imposed on the Telstra Board because the Government owns 50.1% of the company.

This appointment has all the markings of a political stoush between the Federal Government and the current Board of Telstra, and Mr Trujillo, in particular.

The Analyst

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Labor Party Factions

Federal Labor Senator Robert Ray has caused much angst in Labor circles after his speech to The Fabian Society 20-Sept-06.

In the speech is reported to have been critical of:
  • Labor factions looking out only for themselves and being too concerned with being in political control
  • Members of Labor factions some of whom, he says, are robots
  • Stifling of new, enthusiastic members, especially if they are aligned to a a faction.
  • a lack of passion in the Federal Labor Party.
As a swinging voter - I must agree.

The concept that Shadow Ministers/Ministers are chosen by agreement among the different factions, disregarding the concept of choosing the best person for the job, is a socialist anachronism. Australia needs competent, enthusiastic shadow ministers/ministers. It does not need such positions to be given as a "reward" for past service, nor based on political "mateship".

Furthermore, I believe it is entirely appropriate for (shadow) ministers to issue statements or interviews on behalf of the party. Yes, Kim Beazley needs to be seen to be leading the Party, but if he has to hide his erstwhile ministers from public gaze, then perhaps we should be worried!

There has been little or no response from members of the Federal Labor Party. Perhaps they are all whispering "Not I, surely!" to the nearest journalist.

Finally, the Labor Party has to realize the following: it's NOT about the Party; it's NOT about internal power; it's about demonstrating useful, timely criticism and competence at fixing problems they identify with the current government! To do that, they need to work as a team - not as a bunch of factional idiots.

The Analyst.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Religion, Violence and Holy Wars

Pope Benedict XVI's recent speech about religion and violence included comments about the Prophet Mohammad by 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who said everything Mohammad brought was evil "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

I make the following observations:
  1. The quotation was probably insensitive, and the point about religion and violence could have been made more generic.
  2. Christians are sensitive to blasphemy, just as Muslims are sensitive to criticism of Mohammad, but some societies and cultures react more violently than others.
  3. The Pope also said that violence was "incompatible with the nature of God". That is, it applies to Christianity (& other religions) as well.
  4. "Holy Wars" tend to be anything other than holy in their execution. We need only look at some of the events of the "crusades" to see that. Holy wars, whether called "Crusades" or "jihad" or any other name, are usually anything but holy.
  5. "Holy wars" are usually:
    * driven by some religious "goal" eg revenge (an unholy motivation)
    * promoted by some leader who uses religion to justify political ends
    * characterised by some religious reward (indulgences for sins committed in war!; promise to be met by a number of virgins at heaven's door ...)

In short, "holy wars" are almost always anything but holy, regardless of their "banner of justification".

The Analyst

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Democratic Political Parties? ROFLOL

Ooh! Sorry - I was Rolling On The Floor Laughing Out Loud

Alex Mitchell is a respected political journalist, but I could not help but feel the imprint of a tabloid pen when he wrote in the Sun-Herald (17-Sepr-06) that

"after skilfully finessing seats for two of its highest profile candidates, the Coalition (Liberal-National Parties) has gained ballast, authority and perhaps greater respect."

The suggestion is that the Liberal Party machine, and Peter Debnam (Leader) used considerable political skill to find two seats for two very different people who both wanted the same seat! Greg Smith, supported by the powerful "religious right" faction, won preselection for Epping. Ms Pru Goward, supported by PM John Howard and Peter Debnam, lost.

Peter Debnam (Leader of the NSW Liberal Party) was quoted as saying
"Our system is democratic and it produces the best candidates
and the best results. We don't just plonk our mates in seats
like the ALP - we have a democratic process."

Democratic? - Mr Debnam worked behind the scenes to get Peta Seaton, current member, to NOT stand for pre-selection, and he later went on ABC News saying that he would (personally) interfere and discourage any other Liberals comtemplating pre-selection for the seat of Goulburn. He stated this was because HE wanted Ms Goward to be the Liberal candidate! Democratic?

Mind you, the NSW Labor Party is no better. John Watkins, Labor Deputy Premier for NSW issued a statement about the Liberal Party being "run from the shadows by the extremists". Perhaps, but NSW Party aparatchiks are selecting candidates for seats, bypassing local branches to do so. It dumped its current MP for Newcastle, Bryce Gaudry, for a candidate who has been a member for a few weeks!

Both Liberal and Labor Parties have been finger-pointing about lack of "democratic" processes in the other. They should take a good l-o-n-g look at themselves in the mirror!

The Analyst

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11, Foreign Policy & The "War on Terrorism"

With the remembrance of the devestating events of 11 September (9/11) yesterday, there have been some political reminders of "the war on terrorism" and the implied need to continue the physical war in Afghanistan and Iraq by US President George W Bush and the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard.

This posting does not take sides on whether the military intervention is justified, or not. However, there are some questions that ought to be asked:
  • is a physical war on a an idea possible? How CAN one fight a war against ideas with tanks and bullets?
  • Why are countries such as the USA, Britain, Australia targets of muslim terrorist groups, but Finland, Switzerland and others are not?
  • George W Bush's reign as US President has seen a concerted push for democracy in the Middle East. John Howard followed: he wanted a "free trade" aggreement with the US, among other things. But why have some countries been targeted for democracy, but not others? Saudia Arabia, and Jordan are examples, and are supported by the US.
  • Why has foreign policy of some (major) Western countries been inconsistent in their approach to different countries in the Middle East??
  • Is there a "root cause" of disconent in the Middle East? Did the historical creation and forced maintenance of some Middle-Eastern countries, by "the West", contribute to the rise of terrorism against the West? Iraq was created after WWI, and kept together by military action by Britain. Keeping Iraq together has always benn about access to oil! Kuwait and Israel are also creations of the West.
  • How can we overcome centuries of violence between groups such as Kurds, and Shiite and Sunni Muslims? Bringing them to a "table" at gunpoint won't help.
Perhaps the root problem is/has been the inconsistencies and selfish politically-driven foreign policy of some Western countries towards the people of some Middle Eastern countries.

Certainly, we must work with the governments of all countries to help find and deter those who would would inflict violence upon our society. (Aside: are there any Middle-Eastern countries that feel the same way ... about us?) It might also be that a radical shift in the foreign policies of "the Coalition of the Willing" is needed to start to overcome the concept of terrorism against us.

People from Middle Easter countries, particular religious and ethnic groups also need to consider that "the West", per se, is NOT the devil incarnate; that leaders who preach suicide, but don't practise it, are charlartans who should not be trusted with their lives, or the lives of their sons and daughters.

The Analyst

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Education Report Card - John Howard

"School" Report Card

John Winston Howard

(Government of the Commonwealth of Australia)

Outcome Grade (A-E)

Honesty - E
John is developing a history of being
less than honest with the Australian People

Integrity - E
John is showing more signs that he treats
people differently, according to their
wealth, social advantage, status as an MP
or business person

Social Justice - E
John is treating disadvantaged people
more harshly than others. In particular,
his drive to push people on disability
support pensions back into “work”; his
proposed “treatment” of those who seek help
and those out of work, and his push to drive
down the earnings of “ordinary Australians”
is contrary to his own Christian principles.

Education - E
The big one: John and his Education Minister,
Julie Bishop, clearly have no understanding
of the way classrooms and schools operate; no
understanding of the role TAFE plays in
preparing a skilled workforce and no
understanding of the economic benefits
provided by those who gain tertiary

A Voter

Queensland State Election 2006

Peter Beattie has won another election for the Queensland Labor Party yesterday, 9-Sep-2006.

Today, Federal Labor Opposition Leader Kim Beazley claimed it was because of John Howard's IR Laws, which are designed to lower wages in Australia.

But was it? There was little in the media about Federal issues, although John Howard's entry into the campaign was tarnished by some political bad news: interest rates up; more superannuation for federal politicians. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the major media stories about the election centred on:

1) (Labor) Government problems with:
  • electricity supply
  • hospitals, especially the quality of care & doctor competence, including the "Dr Death" scandal
  • water shortages, especially in SE Qld
  • and
  • accident prone ministers (incompetent?)
2) (Qld) Coalition problems with:
  • who would lead the coalition
  • a new Liberal leader chosen JUST before the election
  • poor voter identification of leaders
  • ineffective leadership and communication with voters

It's true that there will be people in Qld who registered a "protest vote" about IR Laws, because they are an ongoing source of discontent, especially in light of Federal Politicians "collective bargaining" for more superannuation! However, I believe such a vote would have been small, because there was no mention of it in the media during the campaign! (at least not in NSW media)

The test of Mr Beazley's statement will be at the next Federal Election, due before the end of 2007. He has much work to do before then to convince the "ordinary Australians" and the "aspirational Australians" that they should vote Labor.

The Analyst

Friday, September 08, 2006

Super MPs - Australia

Yesterday morning the recentlypoliticians' push for more superannuation hit the headlines. By yesterday afternoon, they had an increase form the statutory minimum of 9% to 15.4%.

The increase applies to politicians elected from 2004.

Wage and salary earners in Australia receive the minimum 9% in superannuation contributions. MPs willl aslo revceive 3-months redundancy pay if they lose preselection for their seat, or lose their seat at an election. Redundancy means that the employer is aboloshing the position - not giving it to someone else!

The statements from politicians arguing that the increase is justified have been invalid, and neglectful of every other working Australian.

  • it brings the super contributions "into line with (federal) public servants.
    If this is the standard, then why is it not applied universally?
  • One said "I don't consider that it is unreasonable to ensure that parliamentarians are properly remunerated"
    Did she say that about ordinary Australians when she voted FOR Workchoices, knowing it was designed to give employees LESS!
  • Government MP Steven Ciobo said inequalities would continue to exist even once Thursday's announcement was passed through parliament.
    The inequality would exist because MPs elected prior to 2004 would continue to receive a more generous superannuation entitlement than Mr Howard's proposal of 15 per cent.
    The argument here is invalid: "They got more than us; why shouldn't we get more, but not anybody else"

  • Mr Howard defense was that the changes had bipartisan support!
    Again - an invalid argument - "we assert it's all right, so it is!"
  • Mr Beazley said it was "in line with community standards"
    He's lying - the community standard is that people get 9% superannuation contributions. If politicians want to make it the community standard, they should do so, and increase the compulsory superannuation contributions to 15.4% for EVERYONE.
The Analyst

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Medibank Private Sale

Senior Federal Government ministers have been spruiking the possible sale of Medibank Private. (private health insurer) Health Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Peter Costello and Finance Minister Nick Minchin have all issued press releases saying how a share float would be good.

They suggest:

  1. a privately owned and operated Medibank Private would be able to reduce upward pressure on premiums in the industry.
  2. bring a competitive and pro-commercial tension and enthusiasm to this industry
  3. greater accountability and better governance to this company


  1. Did privatising the Commonwealth Bank reduce upward pressure on bank fees? Does employing a new CEO, Board, Company Secretary mean lower costs? The history of new executives and boards in companies is that their salary packages balloon. Look at Sol Trujillo's salary package, or the salary packages offered to new bank CEOs!
  2. Has (partially, soon fully) privatising Telstra brought enthusiasm to investment and metropolitan and regional maintenance of lines and infrastructure? Some new developments in metropolitan areas don't get access to broadband.
  3. Are these ministers suggesting that Medibank Private, as a Corporation, is not meeting its accountability and governance requirements? Are government corporations that bad?? There has been no hint of problems from ASIC. Why would a minister denigrate a government-owned corporation? So he can sell it cheaply to achieve political ends?

Whether a government should sell a revenue-generating corporation that provides a service, and which does set competitive premiums for the industry is the real question.

Do YOU want to sell and let "market forces" drive the price up?

The Analyst

Postscript 12-September-2006

Following surveys showing that 2/3 of Australian voters do NOT want Medibank Private sold, Federal politicians had different responses:

  • Health Minister Tony Abbott was rationalising that selling Telstra (T3) AND Medibank would be too much for the market! Poppycock - the market copes with multiple share prospectuses at once. But there is an election next year and T3 is already unpopular, especially with rural and regional voters.
  • Human Services Minister Joe Hockey believes that the Government should continue to try to sell Medibank - the old "crash through or crash" philosophy.

The bottom line: I believe the government should retain Medibank Private. As a government-owned corporation, it helps to set the standards for other commercial Health Funds.

The Analyst

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Politicians' Reaction to Pedophiles

Carl Scully (NSW Police Minister) and Peter Debnam (NSW Opposition Leader) have waged a battle of the press statement to show who has/will have the toughest policy about paedophiles, and who can show the greatest political interference with the judiciary. Make no mistake: Lewthwaite’s crime against a little girl was heinous; an affront to society and our collective humanity, but it is not the role of politicians to interfere with judicial processes.

(NSW Justice Minister) Tony Kelly is reported to have called the NSW Parole Board to insist/direct its action. I have a problem with that. He did so under political pressure. At what point do politicians respect the Separation of Powers, but ensure that the legislation and judicial policies are appropriate?

What happened to the other man who was sunbaking nude? Why has he not been locked in gaol, with politicians’ wishes to rot? Is it acceptable for some people with criminal convictions to sunbake nude, but not others? What about people previously convicted of “indecent exposure” by sunbaking nude? Again, what about the other man? Will governments establish squads of “brown-shirts” or “black-shirts” to “manage” people?

As a society, and individually, we must insist on:
  • properly drafted laws. If need be they can be amended.
  • properly drafted policies and procedures for government departments, so that they can operate appropriately
  • properly drafted policies and procedures for the judiciary.
  • judiciary independence and freedom from political interference, including political appointments to the courts. The Separation of Powers is the only thing stopping us becoming a police state!

It behoves all of us, and especially the media, to remind politicians of their responsibilities to our democracy.

The Analyst

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mr Howard, Muslims and the 2007 Election

Last week, Mr howard was reported as saying on radio that
"there is a section, a small section, of the Islamic population which is unwilling to integrate"
On subsequent days he did not retreat from the comments, but did expand it to include all migrants.

There are, however, some questions we Australians need to ask of ourselves, and Mr Howard:

  • are we, as a nation, racist? Or are just some of us racist?
    I don't know, but there have been incidents at sporting events, and some patterns of intolerant behaviour that might indicate that SOME of us are racist.
  • IS Mr Howard racist because of the comments he made? Was hejust plain stupid to mention Muslims?
I don't think so, on either count. Mr Howard is a lawyer by trade. And he is a VERY astute politician: that's is why he has won so many elections, and why he has largely been able to drive Australia further and further to the Right.

He has played "wedge politics" very well. Consider the political skill used to sell the IR Laws and the political capital he made from:
  • the Children Overboard affair
  • the Tampa Affair, where Australia deliberately broke International Maritime Law.
  • the attack dogs on the wharves
  • the "aspirational" politics of tax cuts, even if it drives inflation through retail spending
  • the "I'm a better economic manager" repetition (As an aside we now owe $500 Billion overseas)
So, why would Mr Howard deliberately target Muslim migrants? Wedge politics. He knows:
  • there is a State election in March 2007 and a Federal Election due before November 2007
  • Australian voters tend to be conservative (previous Labor Governments were often elected with less than 50% of the primary vote, relying on preferences from minor parties)
  • anything controversial he can say about the Muslim community will be divisive. A divided Australian electorate will more likely vote for conservative parties (his)
In short, Mr Howard is not racist, but he is divisive and uses division for his own political advantage.

The Analyst

NSW Lane Cove Tunnel Payments

On 28 August NSW Minister for Roads said the NSW Government was prepared to pay the owners of the Lane Cove Tunnel EXTRA to avoid the fiasco that occurred with the Cross City Tunnel. (remember the closed roads/lanes, the funnelling so people paid more money to the operators, the compensation sought from taxpayer funds, the greed ....)

Minister Eric Roozendaal is very mindful that there is a State election in March 2007! He wants to avoid upsetting the voters, especially those that do/will use those roads. I'm sure he is mindful of the bad press the Liberal Party is getting over branch-stacking in parts of nothern and north-western Sydney, and that the Labor Party just might pick up some votes there.

The Minister was reported in the SMH as saying "The Government is committed to getting this project right from day one so that it works properly." Too late - day 1 of the project has long since passed, and, again the NSW Labor Government agreed to compensation clauses - with OUR MONEY! If a private company decides to invest in toll roads, it needs to bear the risk, as well.

People have asked this before, but "Why is the State Govvernment agreeing to unreasonable terms, especially those that require lane closures on PUBLIC ROADS??"

The State Government, of whatever party, must clarify policies to stop us taxpayers getting screwed by private companies that want to make a quick buck from us motorists. (most companies borrow to pay inflated dividends in early years, to benefit the individual owners)

The Analyst

Friday, September 01, 2006

Stem Cell Research - Australia

The Lockhart Review of the Human Cloning Act 2002 and the
Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 was delivered in December 2005. It can be found at

Currently, there are two Senators working on Private Members Bills to allow Therapeutic Cloning in Australia. This follows a report saying it is possible to extract stem cells from (unused) embryos without destroying them. (not that they are never destroyed)

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has allowed his party a conscience vote on the issue.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of politiking occurring: to influence other MPs and to influence public opinion to pressure other MPs.

There have been press releases and articles written by both sides. Today, the Prime Minister has released a report he commissioned. The report was completed by mpconsulting in June 2006. 'mpconsulting' previously worked with the Federal Government on the legislation that banned therapeutic cloning, and would have its own views about what the Prime Minister wanted, knowing that he is opposed to therapeutic cloning. This voter would have preferred another, independent body, to have conducted the research.

The Prime Minster is reported as saying he
"wants MPs and the public to have the same information on stem cell research as
the Government has"

but mpconsulting's paper refers only to "Extracts" of a Senate inquiry, and only extracts that create an argument against therapeutic cloning seem to have been chosen!

Ahhh! Politics - tell the people what we want them to hear and they will agree with us!
We need to dig deeper into the ethics of therapeutic cloning before we jump on that bandwagon.

The Analyst