Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Federal 2007 Election Preparation (Nov 2006)

The Federal Government faces an election in the next 12 months. As Parliament draws ever nearer to its end of year sittings, it is appropriate that we voters ponder on the current and future activities of John Howard and his Ministers.

It has been revealed in Senate Estimates that the Government spending on self-advertising increased from $137 Million to $208 million in 12 months! That is is an increase of 52% in one year.
Worse, the figure had to be drawn out the senior bureaucrat from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It is difficult to believe that the omission from the official report was anything other than deliberate!

To other matters. In the last 10 days, we have seen:
  • the PM tour drought-striken areas, to announce more funding, and stop for a few (party) fund-raising dinners from the farming community. Gives with one hand, and takes with the other??
  • The Government take control of health services for detainees - an area that has been a problem for John Howard and Amanda Vanstone in the past
  • The Salvation Army decline to be involved in the Government's 'unfair' Welfare-to-Work Program. Its decision is based on the lack of social justice in the program
  • Alexander Downer face questions about a possibly UN sanction-busting oil shipment of Iraqi oil to Perth.
  • The Stern Report on climate change, a subject now routinely in the media, and which the Federal Government has previously tried to ignore or ridicule. It seems even Rupert Murdoch, staunch supporter of John Howard, now believes in global warming!
  • Further concerns about workplace safety under the new "Workchoices" legislation.
  • A fatalistic acceptance by the Prime Minister of another interest rate rise. It will be the fourth rise in 12 months.
  • More media coverage about skills shortages
  • Reports of companies routinely abusing so-called 457 visas: those where the Federal Government allows visas for overseas workers on little pay, and adverse conditions. They have finally had to step in and set a public example of one company, to ensure the voters see something happening.
The report on AWB is due at the end of November: it will probably be buried and released over the Christmas/New Year period.

There is a myiad of problems facing the Prime Minister and his government. It will be seeking to minimise their effects, and there will be much political oil poured on troubled waters.

Some of these will be addressed with a bag-o-dollars in the Federal Budget in May 2007. The dollars may be earmarked for spending at some time in the future.

The Analyst

Friday, October 27, 2006

Clerical al Hilaly Lunacy

Lakemba-based Muslim cleric Sheik al Hilaly reportedly made comments about women in a sermon at Lakemba Mosque. al Hilaly is seen by many Australian Muslims as the most knowledgeable Muslim cleric in the country.

His comments included:
  • women were weapons used by Satan against men
  • women were responsible for 90% of premarital sex
  • his speech compared "uncovered" women to a piece of meat, left uncovered, and eaten by cats. You could not blame the cats (men) for feasting, he said.
The past President of Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ameer Ali, reasserts that al Hilaly is "the most knowledgeable" cleric in Australia, but did say that the cleric's comments were "over the top". Indeed!

Andrew Robb, Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs, said "We wouldn't have this problem if Sheik Hilaly spoke in English. He has been here 30 years." This pushes the agenda from some in the Federal Liberal Party that migrants should all speak English. The language is not the problem - it's the content - and Andrew Robb has missed the point. It's not the medium, it's the message.

al Hilaly spoke in Arabic within the Mosque, but the people translating know both the words and the context. al Hilaly has previously used the excuse that he's been taken out of context - I think that few people believe him.

People deserve respect because they are people - al Hilaly seems to think it's what you wear, or your religion: a view that is best described as ignorant and trite.

The Analyst

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wage Rise for Low-Paid October 2006

The Australian Fair Pay Commission has today (26-Oct-06) awarded low-paid workers in Australia an increase of $27. 36 per week for those earning up to $700/week. This represents a 5.7% increase. THe rise is $22 for those earning more than $700, representing a rise of 3.1% in 18 months, or less.

One submission (Des Moore) to the Commission said it was unfortunate that it could not decrease the wages, on the basis of a quote from the Gospel of St Luke ("Blessed are the poor.."), and that welfare payments should make up the rest! (http://www.hrnicholls.com.au/Special/DesMooreFPCsubmission.pdf.)

The increase given represents about 5.7%, but the people affected have not had an increase for more than 18 months! Recent reports have indicated that while unemployment is at "record low levels", the figures are tainted by counting 1-hour/wwek as an employed person! Other reports indicate that profits generated per worker at at all-time highs. The treasurer has expressed publicly his concern at the rate (%) increases in CEO salary packkages and options.

Per centage comparisons with others are difficult, because the dollar cost increases in living are important. Does a politician in 2006 NEED $300/week more to maintain only essential living expenses (as distinct from optional, higher standard expenses), while a low-paid worker only need $27?

The Minister, Kevin Andrews stated that the $27.36 was good news for workers and that any criticism of the Government was unwarranted. However, the basis if the Fair Pay Commission is that it resides as part of the Ministry, and could therefore be subject to political interference by the Government. With a Federal election due in the next 12 months or so, the Government would not want a low pay rise - the backlash and political implications would be too great!

I think that it is not possible to fully trust the independence of the FPC, because it was established to give the Government control over who got pay rises, when, and how little.

Anything the Minister says is just spin - take it with a barrel of salt.

The Analyst

Carl Scully Resigns

Last night (26-Oct-06), Carl Scully resigned as NSW Police Minister.

He had admitted making two "mistakes" which misled the NSW Parliament within the last week.

Mr Scully appeared to be tired and upset when announcing his resignation on TV. That is understandable. He, and NSW Premier (Morris Iemma) ought to be embarrassed - that a Minister does not know what he does, or does not know likely important information from an imminent report, could indicate problems with his/her Ministerial performance. The voters of NSW have seen Mr Scully perform as a "tough guy" of the Labor Party, towards politicians of all sides.

Mr Scully has had Ministerial responsibility in a number of different portfolios, including Police, Roads, Transport, Housing, State Development. At times, controversy seemed to follow him.

The voters of NSW might not miss Mr Scully as a Minister.

The Analyst

Monday, October 23, 2006

Water Trading for Non-users

The Federal Government's "National Water Initiative" has recommended that the water trading market be opened to include "non-users". That is, people who do not need the water from farm production can buy & sell the rights.

It says that having more people buy & sell the rights to use water would make the market "more efficient". It does not say how.

I believe that that the non-users would be market speculators, and include thaose who would want to control the market. The effects of introducing non-(production) users into the market will be:
  • greater demand for water rights, due to more players in the market
  • the amount of water is largely fixed, depending on seasonal variations
  • increased prices for water rights, as new, cashed-up, marketers buy, and then re-sell the same water rights.

Increased prices for water are the last thing Australia's farmers need.

We can only hope that the Federal Government is not so stupid as to increase the costs borne by our farmers.

The Analyst

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Renewable Energy Policy for Australia

The rate of increase in use of, and the sheer amount of, fossil fuels contributes to glocab warming. There is a myriad of data to support the hypothesis of global warming including: increased average temperatures over the last century; the hottest years of the last 100 yeears have all been in the last 10 years; the prolonged periods of el nino effects; frequency and intensity of hurricanes and tornados; and the increasing rate at which our farming lands are becomeing deserts.

As Prime Minister John Howard and his government are dragged inexorably to accept global warming, it would be timely for the Federal and State Governments to look at policies designed to increase our use of renewable energy sources and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, the primary cause of global warming.

Data from 1999-2000 from the Environment Protection Agency of the NSW Government indicates that the biggest users of electricity are, in order: Industrial (45%), Household(32%) and Commercial (22%) users. The biggest direct users of coal energy are industrial (99.5%).

What policies can be employed across Australia??
  1. The ALP has promised federal funds to buy solar technology for schools if Labor wins the nest Federal election (due in 2007).
  2. What about (State) planning policies that specify minimum number of dwellings with solar power, solar hot water systems, or both in new residential developments. Some allowances would be needed for unit developments, or developments in areas wil lesser amounts of sun. Most new homes built have reverse-cycle air conditioning, a hugge drain on power supplies. A 1kW solar panel could reduce the amount of energy drawn from the grid. 1000 homes across the state would represent a saving of 1 million Watts (1 MegaWatt) of electricity! Costs? Solar panels are expensive, but with increased demand and production the cost should fall. Furthermore, the Federal Government (Still) has a rebate scheme in place. It should retain it, not just for energy reasons, but it will help Australian production and manufacture of solar panels. There are ECONOMIC benefits for Australia.
  3. Why restrict solar panels to residential developments? Surely they can extent to commercial and industrial developments, too.
  4. Governments should set renewable energy targets for electricity distribution companies. At present the uptake is minimal, to say the least. I believe it's about 7-8% for NSW. A target of at least 20% should be set, rising incrementally over some years.

That's a start. What do you think?? Contact the Prime Minister, your State/Territory leader and local MPs and TELL them they should be acting now! (and remind them there is a Federal Election in the near future)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Carl Scully and the Report on Cronulla Riots

Carl Scully had been Minister in a number of portfolios: Transport; Roads; Utilities; Police. He has a reputation in NSW politics as a "head-kicker", whose performance as a MInister has not always been a good as voters hoped.

This week, though, he has been evasive and deceptive about the Report on Police Action during the riots at Cronulla. Statements were made, including in Parliament, that no report had been received.

It seems that the facts are:
  • The report was received by the Police Commissioner in September.
  • The Police Commissioner (Mr Moroney), Assistant Commissioner Scipione and Mr Scully apparently had a half-hour meeting in late September.
  • Mr Scully has since said it wasn't released to give Police Officers named (whose performance during the riots had shortcomings) a chance to respond; and that it related to some operational matters and continuiing investigations.
The question is this:
Why didn't Police Minister Scully admit there is a report, that parts of it will be released now? Why did we have to suffer through all the evasiveness and deception?

He could have stated that but he has not yet been properly briefed, that there are matters involving privacy and current investigations that need to be addressed before its release.

His performance this week can only be described as disgraceful.

The Analyst

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Media Laws

John Howard says that the following events are unrelated to the new media laws that allow concentration of media ownership in different markets.
  • the Seven Network (Kerry Stokes) has bought a stake in a Western australian newspaper, a market where Channel 7 operates.
  • PBL (James Packer) is to sell 50% of his media empire to concentrate more money on gambliing, including Internet gambling comapnies.
There will undoubtedly be other movements in the media industry.

The timing is more than coincidental, and Seven Network's purchase of newspaper interests would not have been allowed under the old regulations.

For Mr Howard to suggest that these events are independent of the new laws reflects either political naivete on his part, or that the statement is designed to be misleading.

Yesterday, Communications Minister Helen Coonan stood before the camersa nd said word s to the effect that everyone will get the same content ... on TV, the papers, on mobile phones. That is EXACTLY the criticisms levelled at the new laws. That is, regardless of teh medium used, the public will get the same content, because the same people will own multiple media outlets in the same market!

Further, I don't know WHY Senator Fielding needed to meet with James Packer or his representative, and other media interests to decide if voting for the legislation was good. WE knew it would be good for media owners. What did Senator Fielding gain from his meetings?

The Analyst

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sell MediBank?

A bill to sell the Government-ownde Medibank Private health insuarnce company has bee introduced into the Federal Parliament of Australia.

Should it be sold?? The government claims selling it will "increase competition".

Voters need to remember a the outcomes of some previous sales of government businesses.
  • Commonwealth Bank: well bank CEOs are paid ever-more handsomely these days. Bank fees have been introduced and risen inexorably. The interest rate paid on bak accounts was a minimum of 3.25% ...once upon a time. Now it's 0.1%, and the fees are usually greater than the interest received.
  • Telstra: enough said? Certainly line rentals have increased markedly. Its INternet plans are expensive; it is currently wrestling with the ACCC to increase its wholesale prices (so competitors' plans must rise & be less competitive)
  • Privatisation of the Wheat Board to create AWB: certainly there were/are some well-paid executives, but what of AWB ethics and the anti-competitive stance of farmers; farmers' organisations; the National Party and the Federal Government. It surely can't argue that "increased competitiveness" is a reason for selling, when it maintains that it is acceptable fro AWB to operate as a monopoly!

I believe that a well-run government organisation can help competitiveness within the industry, because it is less likely to be as "indulgent" as some of its privately-owned competitors.

Medibank Private should not be sold.

The Analyst

Sunday, October 15, 2006

South Australian ALP Conference Lunacy

There is much that is wrong with the Federal Government's 'Workchoices' legislation, including parts that restrict union site visits (& there have since been a number of deaths on sites where unions were not allowed safety inspections), and its undeniable intention to lower wages.

However, we voters could be excused for thinking the South Australian Labor Party had decided that workers can have NO choices, but theirs! How else can one explain the stupidity, let alone hypocrisy, of the SA Branch of the ALP barring non-union journalists from entering (& therefore reporting first-hand) its State Conference.

The national Parliamentary Leader of the ALP, and Federal Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley had to make arrangements for press meetings in the park! This must be a major embarrassment to him, and to the ALP. He attempted to deflect questions on the matter to the SA State Branch. They have much to answer for, to their own party.

That they would stoop restricting the ability of the press to report (they hope) "good news" from the conference can only be described as stupidity; sheer stupidity.

The Analyst

Friday, October 13, 2006

Will Interest Rates go Up in November 2006?

The Reserve Bank (of Australia) weill meet in about 3 weeks to decide whether the cash rate (& therefore interest rates generally) will stay the same; go down or increase.

My prediction is that they will increase (probably by 0.25% - the RB doesn't like giving too much of a shock all at once.)

Interest rates rose in May and August by a total of 0.5%.

Current economic data includes:
  • an increase in the number of full-time jobs
  • an increase in retail spending so far of 6% over the last 12 months
  • an increase in prices of 4% over the last 12 months
  • an increase in "average weekly earnings" of 3.5%
  • an expected recession within the farm sector, which will drive regional towns and cities towards recession
  • a 13.8% increase (over the last 12 months) in housing debt, but a slight decline in new housing approvals for August

Australia has traditionally also had

  • a high marginal propensity to spend. That is, we tend to spend most of whatever extra money we get. Many received tax cuts in the budget this year, and the number of people receiving the "baby bonus" has increased.
  • large increases in retail spending over the Christmas/New Year period.

Despite the recession (official or otherwise, I believe it exists) in many rural and regional centres, I think the increased inflationary pressures from an expanding workforce, capital investment expenditure and retail demand will heavily influence the Reserve Bank.

I think interest rates will rise in November.

The Analyst

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Federal Education Takeover

On 6-October, Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop announced her plans for a Federal takeover of school curricula.

There are a number of questions the Minister needs to answer:

1) School Eduaction is a State responsibility under Australia's Constitution, isn't it, Minister?

2) She claims that "ideologues .. have hijacked" curriculums. But State Curricula are set by politically independent Boards of Studies, aren't they? (although they have been forced by your Governemnt to submit to your political agenda for national testing and funding)

3) The Prime Minister agrees with your plan and stated "I don't think at the moment we have sufficiently high standards in relation to basic literacy and numeracy", but have you seen the results of PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment)? PISA is conducted by the OECD. Does the Minister know that Australian students were in the top 3 in each of English, Mathematics and Science? The Sydney Morning Herald (7-Oct-06 at http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/teens-in-top-five-out-of-41-countries/2006/10/06/
) said:
"The then federal education minister, Brendan Nelson, said of the second test (in 2003) the results ... echoed the view of the OECD that Australia was a "high-quality, high-equity" country."

4) With respect to the History curriculum, aren't you showing a White Australia Policy view of Australian history??

For all our advancement in the modern world, for all the history from which we can learn, it is most interesting that we revert back to "the good ol' days ". (slightly edited view of a University student) The "good old days", of course, are how some would LIKE to remember them with nostalgia, not how they really were. They are viewed with rose-coloured glasses.

Just imagine the lessons people WON'T learn from history and literature if Julie Bishop gets her way. Lessons about: power, corruption, humanity, self-actualisation (horrid psychology term), love/hate, conflict, justice, political systems, religious and social tolerance, social structures, ethics, and more. Lessons we, and our children, can use to make ours, and their, world a better, more humane place.

What's the Federal Government's, and Ms Bishop's agenda? Political Correctness from a rather extreme right-wing Government and Minister. She and Mr Howard want to dictate the school curriculum, based ontheir own rose-coloured view of history and political correctness. To that extent, their idea is no different from those of Mao Ze Dong, Stalin, Ho Chi Min, Pol Pot and extreme leaders of other countries that hijacked the state education system for their own political purposes.

As voters, WE must oppose political interference and political party control of education. In Australia, we don't have a politbureau ... yet.

Julie Bishop, Minister for Education, Science and Training, can be contacted via:

The Analyst

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Federal Government Commitment to Solar Energy

In January 2006, the Federal Government announced that the rebate for installing solar panels (for electricity generation) was being reduced from $8/watt (maximum of $8 000) to $4/watt (maximum of $4 000) and will be phased out by the end of 2007!

They are currently manufactured in Australia. The Federal Government, with its relentless "free tade" deals, has seen Australia's manufacturing sector shrink to about 10% of the GDP. This is the lowest of "Developed" countries, including New Zealand (NZ).

The Federal Government is currently relying heavily on minerals and energy to sustain the economy, and it is a strong supporter of the industry. The industry is a supporter of the Liberal and National Parties.

Is there a conflict of interest involved in the Federal Government's decision to abandon the solar panel rebate? Even if there is not, we should be encouraging the installation of MORE renewable energy sourses. Councils, town planners, architects and developers should be encouraged to include more renewable energy devices, especially in new housing and industrial developments.

In the meantime, contact the following to tell them you believe the solar rebate should stay:

The Analyst