Friday, February 23, 2007

Political Involvement

The elections are here!! Yessss - I get to determine who we pay as our local representatives (State & Federal), and I get to make some noise about issues that concern me, the community in which I live, the State and the country. Oooh, that's a lot of responsibility. It is, and we voters should use it wisely.

There are people who say "politics is boring" or "I don't care, I'll just donkey vote". I suggest the donkey vote (numbering straight down the ballot) is well-named: only an donkey would not not use their vote wisely. In our democracy we have many freedoms. With each freedom comes a responsibility. Because we have the freedom to vote, we also have a responsibility to vote wisely, and in the interests of our community, state and country.

Voting is like knowledge and skills that you have: "use it, or lose it". Vote wisely.

Then there are those whose political involvement is to create trouble and violence. Some of those protesting against US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, in Sydney, are professional troublemakers. They have criminal records, Police intelligence can identify them in multiple incidents causing trouble and provoking violence. A few, in Sydney, appear to have been US citizens. I think there would be a good case for cancelling their visas, and detaining them until such time as they are deported. For those Australians that cause that cause trouble repeatedly, I think a case for a control order could be made. eg not approach within 10 km of a venue on a a particular day/days. We don't need troublemakers - they harm our democracy.

The Analyst

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A "Green" Federal Government?

The Federal Government's announced plan to eradicate the incandescent light bulb and replace it with energy-efficient compact fluorescent tubes is a good one. All parties have applauded it. It would be implemented with legislation by 2010, and there are projected savings of 800,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. Relatively, this is a small amount, but there must always be a start.

On Monday, the Federal Government ruled out other changes: changes to planning laws, including inefficient electric hot-water systems, which they said was a "State matter".

Nevertheless, this is an issue that ought to be pursued. Making multiple, smaller changes can have an impact, and reduce the RATE at which we pour greenhouse gases into the air. However, it could be argued that we need to reduce not just the growth, but the absolute amount of CO2 to start undoing the damage we've already done. This means we also need to look at the "big users" - cars (in total); air conditioned buildings; industrial, commercial and governmental use of energy.

The Federal Government has set a standard for intervention in State affairs in other areas: Industrial Relations (WorkChoices); Murray-Darling Basin proposal; Health and Education. While I do not agree with the financial blackmail of States, I do believe that the Federal and State Governments must work together cooperatively , to achieve better results for all Australians (voters!). Perhaps it would be timely to remind them of the costs of building and maintaining the infrastructure of ever more power stations. Budgetary implications seem to be the only blunt instruments they understand.

The Analyst

Saturday, February 17, 2007

NSW - The Leaders TV Debate

Last night (16 Feb 07), I watched the televised debate between the NSW Premier, Morris Iemma, and the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Debnam.

Well, it was called a debate, and was under the direction of the very capable Quentin Dempster. Both leaders looked good for TV: hair cut; makeup; lipstick; suit, shirt and tie impeccable. Their words had suitable makeup, too. Lots of covering up as both leaders spoke, but didn't answer, some questions. Specifically, both would not answer questions about whether Sydney people should move to Level 4 water restrictions, which restrict the use of drinking water for gardens and hard surfaces. NSW hotels and clubs organizations give generous donations to the major political parties, and the political parties want the money! So, neither leader would give a commitment about alcohol availability that would reduce the level of alcohol-related violence! Money talks, indeed.

Peter Debnam waffled on, but did not answer Quentin Dempstr's question about whether he would still call the Police Commissioner to tell the Commissioner to arrest particular people. Mr Debnam had previously made such a statement. He did say there are "tens of thousands" of bureaucrats in "ivory towers" (to sack, or remove). You can be sure, thought, of a multitude of new spin doctors just for him, if he's elected as Premier. Morris Iemma already such a multitude.

Morris Iemma had problems with water issues, and resorted to the deceptive terms "recycled sewage" - a term he knows is incorrect, but which plays on voters psychology. He also had problems acknowledging the Labor Party's 12-year history, and tried desperately to isolate things to only the 18 months he's been Premier. He was not entirely successful.

The "debate" was probably a draw - a result both sets of spin doctors wil try to say is an outstanding success for their particular employer. It involved, visually and verbally, a lot of impressions and "airbrushed" words, but lacked specifics on too many details.

This voter would want more detail.

The Analyst

Monday, February 12, 2007

John Howard Attacks US Senator Obama

On the weekend, Australian Prime Minister John Howard attacked a US Presidential candidate. That an Australian Prime Minister would interfere with the process leading to a US Presidential election, is an act that should be deplored: it is NOT Australia's, nor the Australian Prime Minister's, right to be critical of another country's political candidates.

John Howard has the right to disagree with Barack Obama's policies. Obama certainly argued that the invasion of Iraq was wrong. But for the Prime Minister to descend to the level of personal attacks, and to advise al Qaeda leaders to pray for Obama to win, is inappropriate.

Mr Howard today said that he was not sorry for the personal attacks, and that it was alright, because the "democracy is strong enough". Mr Howard has a history of not saying sorry, and is now showing a degree of arrogance. He, and his senior ministers, also have a history of choosing a position/statement and defending it to the death - even when it is clearly wrong. And so, with that history in mind, Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, jumped to John Howard's defence. Mr Downer said that John Howard "feels passionate about the issue". That doesn't make the abuse acceptable.

Other US politicians dismissed Mr Howard as inconsequential. In the big scheme of US politics, that's almost certainly correct. With 1,400 troops in the Middle East, Australia has committed just 0.006% of its population to the Middle East war: the US has or will commit 10 times that percentage. If Mr Howard wants to speak up about commitment to the Iraq war, he should be promising many more troops. He can't - Australia doesn't have the military muscle. Perhaps Senator Obama was right to dismiss John Howard's words as "empty rhetoric".

The Analyst

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mr Howard Tells Voters What We Think

Today's press (11-Feb-07) carries an "exclusive" interview with Prime Minister John Howard.

In it he tries to tell us, the readers / voters, what he wants us to see as the issues in the Federal election due this year. He won't be alone: the Labor Party will do the same when it is ready.

He wants us to think that Water is a big issue. It is. It is currently (still) a State issue for State management. But John Howard wants to take it over, and for us to believe that his big-dollar promises will "fix it". The States have baulked because of a lack of detail. But that's how John Howard works the media and public opinion: Big HEADLINES, big DOLLARS, but FEW DETAILS. Only after he has the political power does the real agenda surface.

He wants us to forget about global warming, or at least think less about it. It is embarrassing enough for him to have had to begrudgingly acknowledge that, well, maybe it is happening after all. But he doesn't want to have to do a complete reversal - that would show him as being two-faced.

He wants us to think that his version of "national security" is an issue. Or at least that the opposition couldn't possibly handle that: the sub-text he wants is that "they're the Labor Party - they can't do National Security". We voters must ask him "Why not?"

He tries to dismiss the (newish) Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, as having the support seen in a "honeymoon period" of a new leader. Mr Rudd does enjoy some popularity because of that: the test will be in poll results in two or three months time.

His "interview" did not touch on other matters that are of interest to voters: would the Federal Government take control of all Health matters? It certainly doesn't want to, because it would be forced to allocate much more money, to those areas of current State responsibility, than it gives the States now. It doesn't want responsibilities that are politically sensitive - even if they are in the national interest. There IS more money for aged care (a good thing), but forget about the hospitals.

This staged interview was purely so Mr Howard could tell us voters what we think. At least what he wants us to think. The Labor Party will do the same when it is ready.

The Analyst

Sunday, February 04, 2007

NSW Police - Authorized & Real Numbers

The NSW Police Force has a legislated "authorized strength" of just over 15,200 officers. (Jan 07) Last week almost 800 new officers attested at Goulburn, and were appointed to Local Area Commands. Many might have been appointed to politically-sensitive areas. ie to areas where Government politicians are anxious for votes.

However, there have been suggestions that anything from 10%-20% of officers are not available at any given time because they are on: secondment to Ministers /Premier / ICAC; annual leave; long service leave; sick leave, including because of stress; restricted duties; or suspended from duty.

Successive NSW Governments have managed Police numbers by having few recruits join in the years following an election; then extremely large numbers attesting as Police Officers in the month or so before an election. This has been part of the "Law and Order" campaigns.

But this is not good management - it generates headlines and large numbers, and to that extent it suits the politicians in government; and opposition parties will promise large increases in numbers.

Proper, responsible management by the NSW government would see the following:
  • a more even intake and appointment of numbers, according to actual need, rather than the "feast or famine" model favoured by politicians. In this model, large numbers of police are appointed shortly before an election, to be announced, and re-announced by politicians for the benefit of politicians
  • the legislated strength of NSW Police increased by about 15%, so that actual available police in Local Area Commands are close to what they should be now. This would accommodate the numbers of officers not available for any of the reasons outlined above. (2nd paragraph)
Both of these suggestions will not only be good management, but should help to boost Police morale, because they would have numbers approaching what they should have, and because they would be less used as a political football near election times. Both of those are desirable outcomes.

Are the politicians only concerned with the politics of providing essential State services, or with proper, appropriate management by responsible government??

The Analyst

NSW Pre-Elction Survey

This weekend's papers carry a story about NSW voter intentions, perceptions and perceived issues for the NSW state election on 24 March.

Peter Debnam continues to lack the skills to create a favourable image with NSW voters. He just does not seem to present well in the media. Voter perception is that NSW Premier Morris Iemma is a "good bloke" who isn't responsible for the mistakes and failures of the Labor Government under Bob Carr, presents well in the media, and that he has a much higher rating as preferred Premier that Opposition Leader Peter Debnam. This is the same problem that the Federal Labor Party had when both Simon Crean and Kim Beazley were Federal Opposition Leaders.

State politicians have, in recent elections, loved to run on the Lora Norder (law and order/crime/police numbers) ticket. The published survey rated crime a distant 6th priority, behind Health, Water, Economy, Education and Environmental policies. Mr Iemma, as with previous Premiers, was prepared to make much of the newly attested 750-800 new police graduates that have just started work. Voters are saying that they recognize the politicization of such numbers at the time of elections.

Health, particularly hospitals and numbers of nurses is seen as more important. NSW likes to have university-trained registered nurses because the Federal Government funds the universities, and therefore the training costs. Accordingly there are few state-funded trainee enrolled nurse positions, even though this could alleviate the shortage of nurses quite quickly.

Water is an important issue because Government ministers have said that Sydney people will not drink recycled water. This week Mr Howard (Prime Minister in a Liberal Party government) tried to tell NSW voters that Mr Iemma (Labor Party) or Mr Debnam (Liberal Party) would introduce recycled water after the election. For it's part, the NSW Labor Government said that "we're not at that stage yet" and that a desalination plant would be the first option: a good statement that tries to placate any voter response, but doesn't actually say that they would not introduce recycled water programs.

Whoever wins voters with their water policy will probably win the election.
If neither party can win the hearts and minds of voters with water, it is likely that the Labor Party will win office again.

The Analyst

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Council Parking Charges

There is a story today (1 Feb) story that Mayor of North Sydney, Genia McCaffery, is charging variable rates for resident parking permits, with higher charges for "gas-guzzling" vehicles. She has said that, as President of the Local Government Association, she will encourage other councils to "go greener".

Her Council, North Sydney, raised more that $175,000 last year. How much went on programs to counter or reduce greenhouse emissions? NIL. That's right, nothing. It went, apparently, to fund the program to collect the money. There are no reported changes to the types of vehicles, no reduction or counter to greenhouse gases. The money is being spent to run the program to collect the money. That is disgraceful. Mayor McCaffery, and other North Sydney councillors, ought to be ashamed. Other Sydney councils have now said they will consider such a charge - they have either not thought through this issue properly and/or see only the potential revenue.

If they want to raise more revenue, they should seek more appropriate rises in the general rate by application to the NSW Government, and seek increases in charges for services such as garbage collection. To create charges and fees that are used to collect the charges and fees is bureaucratic stupidity.

The Analyst