Friday, December 22, 2006

December Celebrations

As many people prepare to celebrate Christmas, it is worthwhile to reflect on a few questions:

  1. What religious festivals are celebrated around this time? Some of them are:

    Jews celebrate Hanukkah - the festival of lights - recently publicly celebrated in Sydney
    Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day - the day Buddha achieved enlightenment
    Muslims celebrate Id al-Adha - the feast of Sacrifice - celebrating the day Abraham decided to follow God's instructions
    Christians celebrate Christmas - the Feast of Christ's birth

  2. What does Christmas mean in a secular society?

    For Christians, it derives from "the Mass of Christ": the religious celebration of Christ's birth, and all that follows from it. Churches swell with people: it is both a religious and social event.

    A cynic once suggested that the only bells at Christmas time are those of the cash-register. He was making the point that Christmas is a retail event, and that while people profess and wish for peace on earth, they don't practise it during the year. Cynical, because few go out of their way to be violent the rest of t he year!

    Christmas in Australia is both a religious and cultural/social event: a time when those who profess Christianity take part in the religious celebrations, and the people make time for family and friends to wish them well. To many, "Merry Christmas" is a secular greeting of goodwill. No-one should be offended by it: indeed, people should be pleased that someone else wishes them well.
May all people celebrate this "festive season" in peace and with good will.

Merry Christmas to all

The Analyst

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Justice? - You're Joking

Several headlines in the last two days have made me think about our legal system and its relationship to justice. Some would argue there is no relationship between the legal system and justice. A cynical view, perhaps, but consider the following cases, reported in the media on 18/19 Dec 2006.

  1. "Black mark for white man's justice"
    Here was an aboriginal woman's story of domestic violence and sexual assault. It dealt with social attitudes of women and men, aboriginal and otherwise, to reporting domestic violence and rape. It covered perceptions of how Police handled the compalints: a Police Domestic Violence Officer showed the patience and understanding needed for this woman to bring her complaint of rape against her partner.

    During the trial, the defence lawyer is reported to have repeatedly suggested that she made up her injuries, inflicted grievous bodily harm on herself and provoked the defendant into hitting her. At one stage the defendant is alleged to have hit her with an iron bar.

  2. "Brethren member guilty of indecently assaulting girl, 10"
    In this case the defence argued that the offenses were so bad, and because the accused is a member of a religious community, that the jury could not possibly believe a 10 year girl. After the guilty verdict, they also argued that there should be absolutely no reports of the case in the media. Why? To protect whom? (Hint: it wasn't to protect the child, the defence lawyers were not acting in her interests)

These two cases raise the points about our system. Ours is a system of "us versus them"; a system where it is reasonable, even encouraged, for the defence to belittle and character assassinate a victim. Ours is a system concerned not with justice, but with "what can we get away with". If they want, accused can avoid questioning in court; if questioned they can refuse to answer (it might incriminate them); they can provide last-minute alibis, (arranged between charge and court appearance?)

In both the above cases, the defendant was found guilty. The system "worked", but I'm sure those who study law could cite many cases where it didn't.

It is time we changed our system to provide a more appropriate, more just, outcome. To start with, we could look at the NSW Police Association's suggestion of reducing the effects of sudden, last-minute, in-court alibis that have not previously been provided. Those accused of criminal offences ought to answer questions in court. We should look at even better protections for victims of crime, especially those who have suffered violence and sexual assault; and we should look at compelling witnesses to answer more questions. Only then, can courts make more informed decisions: decisions that are more likely to result in justice.

The Analyst

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Education Reform and Unions

The Federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop has again raised the spectre of Australain teacher unions blocking "uniform educational standards" in Australia. She has doen this in response to the Labor opposition statements that the Federal Government should be working cooperatively with the States towards a national curriculum.

Ms Bishop's arguments are of the "reds under the bed" type: the unseen all-powerful enemy wnating to undermine Australian values, as espoused by the current conservative government. It is true that teacher unions in Australia have significant industrial muscle. It is also true that they have resisted John Howard's attempts at determining what view of history he thinks should be taught. That, perhaps, is reasonable: other politicians/governments that have determined the history syllabus include Stalin; and Japan, which has long refused to acknowledge or teach about the atrocities of WWII. Political interference with educational curricula is fraught with danger.

Professor Gordon Stanly, from the NSW Board of Studies, was intervied on ABC Stateline in October, 2006. ( In the interview he gave reasons for the breadth of curriculum in NSW, particularly in the English Syllabus for Years 11 - 12; described the consultative nature of curriculum development; the breadth of representation on the Board of Studies; and the extent and nature of measurement of outcomes in NSW. It is this breadth of curriculum, its attendant examination of multiple views and desire for students to form their own properly-constructed views that seems to so annoy John Howard and his Education Minister.

Both Labor (opposition) and Liberal (government) Parties seem to support the concept of a a national curriculum and consistent term dates. At face value, they are reasonable proposals. It is the political outlook - the Federal Government's desire for political control of education - that should ring alarm bells for us voters.

The Analyst

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Aussie Citizenship Test

Yesterday, Mr Howard announced changes to how people can gain Australian citizenship.

Migrants wanting to become Australian citizens, and accept the responsibilities of loyalty, voting and abiding by the rule of law, will now:
  • have to wait at least 4 years, instead of 3
  • take a "citizenship test" of 30 questions, from a bank of 200, and including understanding of English, history, system of government, sporting traditions and mateship.

I will not debate the merits of these, only the political motives behind them.

Mr Howard had two problems: Kevin Rudd's new leadership was still attracting much media attention, giving the Labor Party much needed "good press"; and the results of polls on voting intentions and preferred Prime Minister. He needed a distraction, and just 1year and 1 day after the Cronulla riots (and associated media coverage), he could give some elements who talk of "Aussie pride" a reason to support him ... this was John Howard's way of jumping up and down, saying "pick me, pick me!"

It's all about timing ... and image.

The Analyst

Sunday, December 10, 2006

NSW $25m Compo for Tunnel Company

NSW Roads Minister announced a $25 million deal with owners of the Lane Cove Tunnel to delay road works . Contracted road closures associated with the (Sydney) Cross City Tunnel caused a voter backlash against the State Government.

However, it should be noted that the lane closures and other associated road works with the Lane Cove Tunnel haven't been scrapped - only delayed! They will happen - after the State election in March next year.

The State Government believes the $25 m is well spent: the Tunnel operators benefit; and the State Government benefits by avoiding voter backlash just before an election.

State Roads Minister Roozendal is reported in media to have said that the NSW Government has "learnt the lessons of the Cross City Tunnel". I wish the State Government would learn the other lessons from the Cross City Tunnel:

  1. Private infrastructure should never interfere with the operation, maintenance & appropriate development of public infrastructure.
  2. Public infrastructure should not be used to funnel people to privately-run, for profit, infrastructure.
  3. No member of the government, ministerial staff or public servants associated with large "public-private" contracts should be able to accept employment with those contractors within 4 years of retirement from government or the Public Service. The potential for conflict of interest is too great. We have had two Premiers of NSW who retired, then took up such employment: one Liberal, and one Labor.
The $25m "compensation" to be paid to the operators of the Lane Cove Tunnel seems to be driven by political expediency and, if so, is a disgrace. ICAC has already declined to investigate, on the basis that the policy change of not starting public roadworks on the day a toll road opens does not constitute corruption, even if it benefits the government. A cynical electorate will make up its own mind.

The Analyst

Damien Martyn Draws Stumps

On Friday, Damien Martyn announced his retirement from cricket, via email to Cricket Australia.

Martyn would have been selected to play in the 3rd Ashes Test in Perth this coming Friday. He leaves with a test batting average of about 47, and cricket-lovers will remember him as an player of elegance, and sometimes effortless class. In that, and other respects, he might well be compared with Mark Waugh.

It was, I think, a smart move on his part to take a two-week holiday to wait till the attention subsides. The press has made something of estimates of how much money this could cost him in the next 12-months. That he made the decision based on how committed he felt to continuing, rather than "the money", is to his credit. I wish him well

The Analyst

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kevin Rudd Gets His Way

New Federal Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, will get his first wish, and pass the first test of his party leadership, when he gets his wish for the front bench.

In the past, factional interests have determined not only who is appointed to the front bench, but which portfolio they are given. Those who did not belong to a faction, such as Peter Garret, were isolated.

There will be 28 nominations for 28 vacancies at today's meeting. Undoubdedly, there has been much politiking behind the scenes, but at least we have not had the openly hostile factional public brawling that has sometimes marked these occasions.

We voters hope that Kevin Rudd can then allocate the best people to each of the 28 shadow portfolios. [28 ! - we thought government was supposed to be getting smaller, but it seems to be growing]

It is time that Labor ditched the factional intervention in it's leader's ability to choose the best person for each portfolio. I hope that today is the start of that process.

The Analyst

Monday, December 04, 2006

Kevin Rudd Wins ALP Leadership

Today's news is rather dominated by the news that Kevin Rudd has won leadership of the Federal ALP. (the party in Opposition).

He has promised Australian voters a new style of leadership. He said to reporters:
"Today the Australian Labor Party elected a new leadership team with a new leadership style for Australia's future, a new style of leadership"
Some recent polls, including those published in this morning's papers, suggest that Mr Rudd will increase Labor's primary vote, if an election were held today. But that is not enough; and neither is a change of leadership style.

Mr Rudd certainly presents better on visual media than Mr Beazley. He is eloquent, reasoned and measured in his voice. His "media style" seems to have similar traits to that of Mr Howard. This ought to mean that Mr Rudd will show an improvement on Mr Beazley in the "Preferred Prime Minister" polls. He will undoubtedly have a honeymoon period of 1-3 months. It is after that, that Mr Howard will be watching for the most opportune time to call an election.

However, style is insufficient to make the Australian public change its voting pattern. It will certainly help, but some more substance is required, especially nearer election time. The substance has to be positive: what will the ALP do; how will they guide Australia's economic and political interests, both nationally and globally.

He has already identified industrial relations, climate change, education and federation as areas of difference between the Liberal/National and Labor Parties. They are certainly areas where John Howard has sought to exercise and increase his political power. One news report suggested there could be a more interventionist industrial policy. Under John Howard's rule, the proportion of Australia's GDP from industry has fallen to about 10% - the lowest of OECD nations, including lower than NZ.

Mr Rudd has much work to do to convince Australian voters that he has more than "style".

The Analyst

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

AWB and Cole Enquiry Aftermath

Much has already been written and analysed in the days following the release of Commissioner Cole's Enquiry into AWB Kickbacks.

The media has been full of Government and Opposition press releases and staged TV & radio announcements.

Some salient points to consider:
  • Commissioner Cole described AWB as having a culture of deceipt and concealment.
  • There were no criminal findings against politicians, nor of anyone within DFAT. Indeed, there were no criminal findings against anyone! Mr Cole has, though, recommended a task force to investigate possible criminal behaviours by 12 people, 11 of them from AWB.
  • The Government claims to be relieved there were no findings against any Ministers - but that was not within Mr Cole's terms of reference. He DID find that DFAT had no policy or procedures to deal with allegations of AWB breaching UN sanctions. That is, a department, for which a Minister is responsible and accountable, had serious failings of competency.
There might well be a slow, quiet cleaning-out in Mr Downer's department (DFAT) over the next 12 months.

There is much angst from some politicians over the future of AWB and the export monopoly ("single-desk") licence it holds. Some suggest that the single-desk should go, others want it to remain in AWB's hands, while a few wnat it transferred, possibly to government hands. Certainly the following will be considered:
  • the political ramifications of upsetting the close relationship between parts of the National Party and AWB
  • the shareholder ramifications, including for families of some politicians, of removing the single-desk from AWB, or its power of veto over other companies exporting wheat
  • the global environment of wheat trading, where the US and many other countries provide prohibitive subsidies
I think the single-desk should stay, given the global commercial practices in wheat trading and other countries' farm subsidies. AWB has shown itself to be not "fit and proper" to trade internationally, and a change of personnel, per se, does not change an institutionalised culture such as that described by Commisioner Cole. Until such time as AWB's board is replaced, and a legal and ethical business culture established and fostered over some years, it should be in government hands.

The Analyst

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Time for P-Plate Driver Rule Change?

26 Nov 2006

Since August 2006 ther have been more than 14 young people killed in car accidents involving P-Plate drivers. The accidental death of anyone is tragic. The effect of a death involving a young driver &/or passengers in a car accident on communities, friends is devestating: the effect on parents and family, unimaginable.

This week, the father of one child killed on the north coast will meet with NSW Roads Minister, Eric Roozendaal, to press for changes.

Should there be changes? If so, what changes? Are legislative changes enough?

Some possibilities for Provisional licence holders suggested in the media include:
  • restrictions on the number of passengers they can carry.
  • restrictions on night driving (eg curfews)
  • increasing the amount of experience (ie driving hours) before a person can gain a P-Licence.
Legal restrictions already include:
  • a maximum speed limit of 90 km/hr for P1 licence holders
  • zero blood alcohol level when driving
Certainly at P1-level, drivers do not have a great deal of experience. Despite any restrictions it is incredibly easy for any driver to drive any car too fast for the conditions, especially on unfamiliar roads. As licences, and cars, are gained, there is increasing peer pressure for "a drive". Passengers, especially those without licences, could be more inclined to suggest inappropriate behaviours, because they have even fewer skills and understanding of the real processes involved in driving. ie concentration, observation, anticipation, driving to conditions, as well as the coordination of accelerator/brake/clutch.

I believe that some restrictions on the number of passengers (eg not more than 2) could be appropriate. Also appropriate might be suggestions for parents of young drivers, so that they are not left to "fend for themselves" once they have a licence/car; and compulsory group sessions for learner-drivers on the effects and consequences of serious accidents and how to avoid them.

Whatever we, as a society, decide must NOT be based on a "political response" only. Our response must help to create and reinforce parental and community expectations about responsible, careful driving. ... For all our sakes.

The Analyst

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Nuclear Power for Australia?

The Federal Government has released Dr Ziggy Switkowski's report on the feasibility of Nuclear power generation for Australia.

Some of the recommendations of the report include:
  • the possibility of up to 25 nuclear power plants by 2050.
  • their cost-effectiveness would rely on increased taxation on carbon-based fuels (mostly coal)
  • the Federal Government would "have to" provide some money to (private) companies to build them
  • Overseas workers would be needed, because we don't have the skills (at the moment)
  • They could be situated near existing (coal) power stations
  • The rate at which Australai contributes to global worming could fall, but there would still be significant increases in greenhouse gases.
Mining companies (esp those that mine Uranium) welcomed the report. I'm not sure about the coal mining companies, such as BHP-Billiton.

The report did not address the problems of nuclear waste disposal, a topic that has been contentious in the past.

Mr Howard is supporting the proposal to build nuclear power stations in Australia, and today, the Federal Energy Minister, Mr Ian Macfarlane, has said electricity prices will need to rise by as much as 30% !

The report looked at the economics of installing nuclear power stations. It dealt only superficially with the effects on greenhouse gas emissions, and still concluded that there would be a significant rise in greenhouse gas emissions, even if Australia installed 25 nuclear power stations. It did not properly consider the issues of mining, transport, enrichment, safety, environmental issues, reliability, waste transport and storage, reprocessing (to make plutonium) or security.

The report to the Prime Minister provided Mr Howard with the report he wanted to hear. We voters should be sceptical of any use of the report to justify nuclear power based on economics. Any environmental arguments put forward by Mr Howard or others are of dubious value.

The Analyst

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Political Leaders - NSW & Federal

This week has seen events that could well question the leadership of Federal Labor Leader, Kim Beasley; and NSW Liberal Leader Peter Debnam.


Kim Beazley has consistently rated poorly in polls asking who would be the preferred Prime Minister. Even if the polls are not accurate to 1% point, they indicate that the Australian voters prefer John Howard as Prime Minister. This weekend (18-19 Nov 2006), there has been speculation in the media about whether Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard would make a better leader, and be more acceptable to voters as a preferred Prime Minister.

Of the two, I think voters would find Kevin Rudd more acceptable, on the basis that voters want a more "conservative" person as PM, and he presents himself that way. Because Julia Gillard is supported by the "Left" faction, she is unlikely, at this stage, to win the support of the NSW ("right") party machine. Or voters! They are more likely to support Kevin Rudd. Neither, of course, have the first-hand Ministerial experience that Kim Beasley has, but that seems to be of less importance than the "image". That is not an ideal basiss for voting in a democracy, but I believe it's how many people determine who gets their vote.

I believe that Labor cannot win a Federal election with Kim Beasley polling only 30-40% as "preferred Prime Minister". Labor needs someone else.


Peter Debnam though he was having a cracker of a week with his Parliamentary attack on (Labor) Attorney-General Bob Debus. That is, until the press revealed the likely sources of his information were (Federal) Senator Bill Heffernan and a Royal Commission witness. Unfortunately for Debman, the witness seems to be a convicted criminal with a history of vexacious allegations. In 2002, Bill Heffernan was one who used fake documents and Parliamentary privilege to falsely accuse Justice Michael Kirby of using COmmonwealth cars for inappropriate purposes. John howard forced Senator Heffernan to resign as Minister and to apologise to Justice Kirby.

That Mr Debnam relied on Senator Heffernan (given his previous history in false accusations) and, reportedly, a vexacious convicted criminal for political advice is downright stupid. This will be one test of his leadership.

He seems to have failed another test: having publicly stated that he was happy with sitting members, it emerges that a third sitting Liberal member has lost preseection. Whether or not the so-called "Religious Right" had a hand in this is less important than the fact that the Liberal Party seems to not follow its leaders stated wishes regarding candidates.

NSW voters take fright at the Liberal Party's lurch further to the right. There is a conservative (Labor) government in NSW. I'm not sure the voters want a more extreme right-wing government where the Liberal Party does not support its leader, or one that simply indulges in inappropriate muck-raking.

Peter Debnam might be not long in the job as Opposition Leader, especially if he loses the election.

The Analyst

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Howard's Federalism Legal

"I am concerned at moves to increase the powers of the Federal Government, at the expense of the States." I wrote that in July 2006, when I established this blog. It still sits under the heading "About Me", at left.

On 14-Nov-2006, the Australian High Court dismissed an application by the States, Unions and other various parties, to have the Federal Government's WorkChoices legislation deemed unconstitutional, because it infringed upon State rights and responsibilities under Australia's Constitution. The legislation is seen as divisive, favouring employers and designed to drive wages down.

Justices Kirby and Callinan dissented. Justice Kirby said that the decision could allow the Federal Government to control any "corporatised body". The Sydney Morning Herald ( stated that this could include schools (esp Private Schools), hospitals, Aged Care, higher education (eg TAFE and universities). All of these are the responsibilities of the States.

Prime Minister John Howard reacted by saying that "It's not the intention of the Government to interpret this decision as some kind of carte blanche for some massive expansion of Commonwealth power."

But it is. Look at John Howard's record on some matters:
  • we now have the GST Mr Howard said we would "never, ever" have
  • we have Mr Howard exerting undue influence in school education. For example, he has threatened to withhold money unless States include A - F grades on all school reports; he and his ministers have tried to influence the history that is taught in schools; he has withheld money from TAFE and universities unless they implemented, or at least offered, AWA's (ie forcing his Workchoices legislation onto bodies that did not come under direct control of the legislation)
  • Workchoices brought wage fixing under the direct wing of the Ministry of Employment and Workplace Relations. ie it removed it from the independent judiciary to a government department, subject to Ministerial influence and control. The government now makes the law, and enforces it!
  • He is currently increasing the Federal Government's role and influence in water, another State responsibility.
  • Some of his ministers have expressed a desire to have more control over hospitals and State health budgets; and indigineous affairs, another State responsibility under the Constitution.

Ths is not to say that some areas would be better if properly managed by a Federal Government. But to have the power to simply enact legislation and remove State rights and responsibilities should concern every single Australian.

Governments and Prime Ministers will come and go, but that power will remain until protected by Constitutional reform.

Mr Howard is developing a track record of misleading, or at least not telling the voters, his intentions. We voters hould be very cautious about his statements.

The Analyst

Monday, November 13, 2006

Reserve Bank Inflation Forecast

Nov 2006

The Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) has indicated that inflation will stay at the top of its target range for some time.


  • inflation is the increase in supply of money.
  • Money is "created" by borrowing and spending. Borrowing can be by companies, by governments and by individuals. Currently, companies and individuals are creating the most debt money. Governments are borrowing little.
  • Inflation also occurs because of some external factors. eg the increase in petrol prices; the soon-to-occur increase in farm product prices due to the effects of drought and short supplies. (think what happened to banana prices after the cyclone in Nth Qld)
  • Economies run on supply and demand. If demand is high and supplies are short, then prices increase. This is the capitalist principle so beloved by the Federal Government.
However, the RBA has also signalled that interest rates could rise again early in 2007.


It comes down to economics. Now it's a long time since I studied any economics, but I do remember the following:

  • The Reserve Bank, independently of Government, sets Monetary Policy: that is interest rates. Interest rates can be used to control inflation by restricting the growth in money supply. ie as interest rates rise, we borrow less.
  • Traditionally, Australia has had strong demand in property/housing and retail spending. This is now compounded by a rapid increase in business activity, especially in mining and minerals sectors.
  • Monetary Policy (interest rates) is a blunt instrument against inflation, because they target everyone across Australia. But not "everyone" "everywhere" needs higher interest rates: the rural and farming sector, beset by drought and bank overdraughts do not need them to curtail spending; nor do small businesses. City property investors (at least those looking for a quick buck by borrowing); and inveterate retail spenders on overseas goods, DO.
  • Successive "tax cuts" have produced more spending than the value of the tax cuts. That is, we created more money and inflation than the tax cut.
  • The Federal Government sets Fiscal Policy: this is how the Federal Budget is designed to help adjust the supply and demand side of the economy. It can do this by adjusting the levels of Government borrowings, spending and by adjusting the amount of money in the economy through tax policy.

Recent tax (fiscal) policy has been to dump billions of dollars into the economy, knowing that personal spenders would increase the amount of money in the economy by more than the tax cuts. No wonder we are bordering on an inflation problem. No wonder the last 8 movements in interest rates have been interest rate rises.

Interest Rates must change when fiscal policy is deficient or unable to cope with the current economic climate.

Perhaps the Federal Government's economic management has not been quite as good as they would have us believe!

The Analyst

Thursday, November 09, 2006

NSW Labor Government Crisis

The news that NSW Labor Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Milton Orkopoulos, has been charged with child sex and drug offences has led to his dismissal from the Ministry and the NSW Labor Party. Fair enough - no party wants to be tainted with such a brush.

Mr Orkopoulos is entitled to a presumption of innocence until after his court case, due to start in January.

However, he is the second Minister that has been sacked (Carl Scully was the other) and a third has had four speeding fines in his Ministerial car.

It seems that documents tendered to Newcastle Court this week suggest that a member of Mr Orkopoulos' staff reported allegations to a (Parliamentary) Labor Party member more that 12 months ago. If true, Mr Iemma has promised to sack the person involved. I suggest that is not enough: such a person should also be reported to the police. A charge of complicity in the child sex and drug matters, or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, would be appropriate.

The number of NSW Labor Ministers behaving badly, Mr Orkopoulos's charge and court appearance in January are bad enough. With the State Election due in March, allegations that someone else knew, and did nothing, could be the "smoking gun" that brings down the NSW Labor Government in March 2007.

The Analyst

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Water Summit Held

7-Nov (Melbourne Cup Day)

The water summit involving NSW, SA, Queensland and the Prime Minister was held this morning.

My previous Posting was at:

The results are:
  • "permanent water trading" will be allowed from 1 January 2007 (brought forward from 1 July 2007). But will this help?? Minimally, if some farmers decide not to exercise their water rights this year. Will it help in the long term??

  • SA Premier Rann announced that SA will build a wier at Wellington to supply Adelaide if (when?) water runs out. Wiers hold minimal amounts of water, perhaps a week on water restrictions.

  • Drought relief for small businesses in drought-affected areas. This is a welcome move, since regional centres have business affected by farmers lack of spending money: for necessities, for farm equipment, for farm chemicals, for seed and feed.

  • An inquiry led by the Dept of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and CSIRO. A report is due within 12 months.

The Summit has produced a morning's woth of talk, the promise of relief for some small businesses and the promise of a report. At least the politicians grasp the magnitude of the problem, after listening to scientsts report that this could be a 1-in-1000-year drought.

The net effects? Very little. The drought relief for small businesses is socially worthwhile. Water trading will do little in times when there is little water, and would be largely unnecessary in times of plenty. There was no proposal to release water from the Snowy Hydroelectric Scheme: like the Murray-Darling System, it has little water (less than 20%). In fact it has the least amount of water since its completion in 1973!

An inquiry will produce a scientific document, possibly corrupted to suit government policies. (remember that there has been prior controversy about Government influence on elements parts of CSIRO operations) By controlling the inquiry from his Department, The Prime Minister could just have taken control for water from the States. The Constitution gave the States the responsibility.

The Analyst

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Water Summit - November 2006

John Howard and his adviser on water, Malcolm Turnbull have called a "crisis" meeting with 3 states, NSW, South Asutralia and Victoria. The meeting is to discuss " ...actions to provide the best possible outcome for water users at this difficult time" and that the meeting would look at options for water delivery to towns during the current sever drought.

QUESTION: Why was not Queensland not invited? Its townspeople and farmers are also affected. Could it be that the headwaters of the Darling River are in SE Queensland and that those headwaters have previously had large amounts of water retained by the owners of cotton farms. Cubbie Station owners drew most of the floodwaters from another farm (Kelso), allowing it to operate with water not needing a licence, but which certainly affected flows into the Darling River system. The owners also made political donations to the Queensland National Party, including Senator Joyce. Mssrs Howard and Turnbull would not want water discussions involving Queensland!

Malcolm Turnbull stated that the meeting would consider solutions for all water users - town and horticultural. Horticultural crops, including grapes and olives need fairly constant supplies of water; and other crops such as cotton and rice need large amounts of water. I do not know how cotton farming is viable in traditionally dry-land areas such as Bourke. The last time Bourke had sufficient water for cotton farming was when it was flooded in 1990.

As part of the summit, I hope that our leaders also discuss the medium and longer-term viability of particular crops and land-use within the greater Murray-Darling Basin! I suspect they won't, because that would be politically unpopular. Popularity, not good policy, is driving politicians of both sides, and that is a shame for our democracy.

The Analyst

Sunday afternoon's TV Media were asking about why Queensland had not been invited.
By Monday morning, Mr Howard had invited them, saying it had been an oversight not to invite them.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Federal Budget 2007

November 2006

The Federal Budget will be delivered in May 2007, an election year.

The following are my predictions about some of its politically-motivated inclusions:

  • re-announcement about changes to tax on superannuation. these were announced in May 2006, but won't become effective till July 2007. They will be announced again.
  • More money for skills training, to address the chronic skills shortage. It is unlikely that TAFE will benefit by any significant amount, despite its obvious role.
  • More money for education
  • More tax relief for individuals: standard election-year practice, but they might not be implemented until 2008. We will also be reminded of all past tax cuts.
  • Easing of harsh welfare policies: this might not be in the budget, but otherwise announced
  • more money for the military services: recruitment and equipment
  • more money for , and greater involvement in, water issues. (a State responsibility)
  • more money for health, although not much of it will be for public hospitals and other areas of State responsibilities.
  • The Treasurer has already foreshadowed that the mining and energy boom is starting to sag, and this will adversely affect economic growth, tax revenue, export earnings (& balance of payments). Expected growth will be announced at the top end of estimated ranges, so it looks good.
  • Money to combat gloabl warming: - more funding to energy companies under the banner of global warning

The sale of Medibank Private will either occur early in 2007 (February - April) or the sale will be quietly dropped. John Howard will hope it is forgotten by Opposition parties.

See also my posting about the election:

The Analyst

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! (

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
) 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

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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Telstra and Alby Shultz

Alby Shultz is the Federal (Liberal) Member for the electorate of Hume, in regional SW NSW.

He has issued a number of press releases about how selling Telstra would disadvantage regional voters, including those in his electorate. The most recent press releases were on 14 July 2006, and in the local newspapers during the week starting 28 August 2006. They concerned regional job cuts by Telstra, including field service officers and telephone network designers.

Alby Shultz has always said that selling Telstra would be bad for people who live in regional areas. ie. non-metropolitan areas, and especially those who live outside regional towns and cities.

Telstra is concentrating its resources in (mostly) metropolitan areas - the areas where it expects to make more profit and greater Return On Investment - to make it more appealing before its impending sale.

Yet on EVERY occasion when Mr Shultz had an opportunity to oppose the sale of Telstra in Parliament, he didn't. The action he took was to abstain from voting.

By so abstaining, and not voting for the good of people in his electorate, Mr Shultz has put the interests of the Liberal Party, and his own electoral (preselection) interests first. The people of his electorate, especially those in more remote areas, came last. They deserve better.

The Analyst

Monday, August 28, 2006

Teacher Salaries

A report by two economists found that academic standards (literacy & numeracy) of beginning teachers in 2003 are lower than those of 1983. The economists report indicated:

  • low salaries for teachers were the main culprit
  • merit pay for good teachers would be more cost-effective

Australian Federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop, has used this report to push for "merit-based" pay. That is, individual workplace contracts, but she did not use those words! Why not? More and more people are opposing them, as they, their friends and families experience them in the workplace.

The political context is as follows:

  • the Federal Government wants all workers on individual contracts (AWAs). The net effect of AWAs will be to lower wages, by reducing the “bargaining power” of individual employees. This is the main thrust of the Federal Government’s industrial relations laws.
  • teacher unions have traditionally been quite strong, and sometimes militant.
  • people become teachers because they want to make a difference: they leave becasue of our (society's and politician's) abuse and because they are crushed by bureaucractic and political interference.
  • The Federal Government does NOT want unions involved.
  • For years, elements of the (mostly tabloid) media have bagged teachers and the teaching profession using populist mistruths about hours worked, union membership and greed. Yet this same research by the economists found that teacher pay levels had fallen, by 4% - 13% in real terms, and up to 17%, compared to other recent graduates!
  • The Federal Government seeks to reduce costs by using an economic rationalist approach. That is, students are production units, and the output of teachers is measured in student grades A-E, and by public examinations on content. Nevertheless ACT Government opposition (Liberal) education spokeswoman Vicki Dunne is reported as saying …

"The real problem in the ACT is that the economic rationalist approach of the (Labor) government is to make economies now and not look to the long term and see where we will be in the future”.

Mmmm … that is probably true of the ACT, and other, Labor governments.. However, this also criticises the Federal Government’s position, because its arguments are also based on economic rationalism, and student results as the ONLY measure of teacher effectiveness, regardless of demographic and social factors.

Julie Bishop is setting out to do to school education what Brendon Nelson has previously done to universities and TAFE: reduce the funds to the barest minimum, and preferably transfer them to the private sector. Every single voter who cares about their children and grandchildren should resist her efforts.

The Analyst