Friday, February 29, 2008

NSW Government Sacks Coucil for Incompetency

NSW Local Government Minister Paul Lynch has sacked the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and appointed an administrator, who will run Council's affairs for the next four years.

Minister Lynch acted on the recommendation of NSW Public Inquiry Commissioner Frank Willan. The Minister further indicated that there appeared to be incompetence, but not corruption.

Given the NSW Government's apparent incompetence at managing projects (T-Card, Cross City Tunnel, Hospitals/Health, etc) and the apparent inability of its Premier and Ministers to avoid conflicts of interest concerning development, there is considerable irony in the decision.

I wonder whether, if he had the powers, Paul Lynch would sack the very government of which he is a member!


Monday, February 25, 2008

NSW Labor Set To Supernova

The NSW Labor Government is reeling under ever-increasing revelations of corruption at an ICAC inquiry into the relationships among developers, Wollongong Council, and the NSW Government. There are also press reports of possibly corrupt appointment of Labor "mates" and developer donation to political parties.

There is a real risk to our democracy in the way the NSW Government, its Premier and Ministers appear to do business: those with money to donate, get access to Ministers who make decisions. That level of access apparently does not come cheaply; and some donors might well expect a favourable decision after meeting. These erode our democracy; and increase the likelihood and perception of corruption, and benefit only those closely involved.

But there are other problems, too.
  • Project Management is almost non-existent, leading to waste of taxpayer money.
  • The proposed sale of electricity retail, supply and to lease power station corporations can only lead to higher prices for consumers. The Owen Report was strangled into recommending the sale with a brief to ensure NSW's AAA credit rating. It is being vehemently opposed by unions, employees and others, who cite the lack of benefits to the people of NSW, and the expected large increases in prices.
  • Hospitals, and the NSW Health system generally, lurch from one crisis to the next. Much of the problem stems from chronic underfunding, cost-shifting and incompetence.
  • Over the last 10 years, successive Police Ministers have sought to exercise greater control over the functioning of the Police Force - something that goes against the principle of the Separation of Powers.
The NSW Government has been tarnished by all of this. If they do not "restructure" by shedding some senior Ministers, and possibly the Premier, it risks becoming a political supernova.


Friday, February 22, 2008

NSW Government Unable to Manage Projects

The list of projects bungled by the NSW Labor Government continues to grow. The list includes projects for/at:

  • Royal North Shore Hospital (RNS)
  • The Cross City Tunnel Project (disadvantage to public road users/underwriting private project with public money)
  • The Lane Cove Tunnel Project (disadvantage to public road users/underwriting private project with public money)
  • Orange Hospital Project: indeed health management, in general, seems to lack the investment needed.
  • The T-Card (transport) Project, now cancelled
I have written in previous blog postings about the NSW Government T-Card Project and the proposed sale of electricity - a project that will benefit the Treasurer's next career, but not the people of NSW.

What makes a successful project? In my opinion a successful project satisfies the following criteria:
  • all stakeholders are consulted, and feed back sought, before and during the project.
  • the customer is satisfied.
  • the system works as intended.
  • the project is finished on time.
  • the project is completed satisfactorily on budget.
Good Project Management requires that, at each stage of the project, a review is conducted to determine whether it is worthwhile continuing, and the establishment of an oversight committee.

There appears to have been little or none of the above activities undertaken by Morris Iemma's Labor Government. In the current political climate that has developed over the last 10 years, it is also highly likely that each successive Minister/Premier has has a personal say in what they want, which might be at adds with what the real needs of the people of NSW.

The various Ministers and Premier must be accountable to the NSW Parliament, and in some cases accept responsibility, for failed projects that have wasted NSW taxpayers' money.


Question Time Not About Accountability

Yesterday, in a fit of political pique about not having Question Time as part of the new Friday sittings of Federal Parliament, Joe Hockey said:

"We (the Liberal/National Party Coalition) stand for accountability, we
stand for transparency"

Yet a study of Question Time under the former Coalition Government of John Howard by Parameswary Rasiah, University of Western Australia, in 2006 found that

"accountability is a highly unlikely outcome of Question Time"
given that the (Coalition) government used "Dorothy Dixers" for itself, evasion, changing the subject (usually to abuse Opposition members) and a Speaker who retains membership of, and favouritism towards, the Government. Conversely, it is also probably true that the then (Labor) Opposition asked too many questions aimed merely at political point-scoring.

Friday is a new sitting day - there is NO LOSS of existing Question Time, and the Opposition is unsure if it will use the day for its designated purpose - to raise matters of importance to members' constituents: voters who seem unimportant to the Coalition.

Under these circumstances, Joe Hockey's words reek of high hypocracy!

It might well be only media attention and reporting that is maintaining any semblance of accountability and responsibility. They MUST resist any and all criticism from the offices of our political leaders that is aimed at inhibiting "bad news" stories.

Many would agree that similar tactics are used in State Parliament Question Times. Governments, Federal and State, Coalition and Labor, have repeatedly and persistently eroded our democracy, driven by self-interest. It is time for a change in the way Parliamentary Question Time is run.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Libs Try Dumping Workchoices

The Liberal Party has today said that it it will no longer support AWA's, the iconic centre of John Howard's WorkChoices. It has been THE primary instrument used to offer workers lower wages, with fewer conditions, and with a requirement of unspecified "reasonable overtime" with no penaly rate.

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson left it to his Deputy, Julie Bishop, to front the media. Today's news carried the lowest ever "approval rating" of just 9%. Dr Nelson and Mrs Bishop had argued in and out of Parliament for the retention of AWA's, even after Labor introduced legislation to wind back the effects of WorkChoices.

Politically, WorkChoices has been dead from first moments of last year's election loss by the Liberal Party. Even now they want to have existing or new AWA's to have a 5 year term - not the 2 years proposed in Labor's legislation. It is a sop to big business; an attempt to have one last word on WorkChoices, before the Liberal Party tries to forget its ignominious past. But, for this Parliamentary term, at least, every Liberal Member will be tainted with, and taunted by, "WorkChoices". Julie Bishop has indicated that if it is not accepted, they will still approve Labor's legislation.

It is the second issue this week where emboldened Liberal Party members have tried to distance themselves from the defeat. The ABC aired a "documentary" in which senior Liberal Party members lined up to eagerly say "I told John Howard it was time to go". By implication they lay all the blame for defeat at Howard's feet, and none at their own. They included Senator Nick Minchin, Tony Abbott, Alexander Downer and Peter Costello.

They might well be trying a "makeover" - it could a a very long time before it works. It might only work with new leadership: leadership untainted by WorkChoices and meek subservience to John Howard.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Abbott - The I Team

Tony Abbott must think there's an 'I' in team. What else could one conclusde after his individual "look-at-me" media statements and interviews this week.

First there were HIS statements about the Parliamentary motion of apology to the Stolen Generation. Even in Fairfax media today (Sunday) he is quoted as saying that the apology "was not going to make any practical difference to their lives" . This denies any beneficial effect that psychological healing and a more positive outlook might have. He goes on to question whether any benefits that bipartisan membership of a group could have on a program to help Indigenous communities in the NT. Perhaps he is driven because this relates his his portfolio as a Shadow Minister, but it seems to carry the whiff of sour grapes at having been politically railroaded by Kevin Rudd's unexpected offer from within Parliament. The Opposition should have responded with "we are interested, but the Prime Minister has made this offer without consulting us, and we want to know more." but were railroaded by a piece of smart politics.

On Friday, he made sure that the media knew HE took a $90,000 pay cut after losing his position as a Minister after the election.; why shouldn't he get a pay rise of up to 7%! (as he did last year) This weekend, it was reported that workers from QANTAS Valet Parking have been made redundant, and will be offered the same positions on AWA's, with a $15,00 pay cut! Tony Abbott doesn't like his own cut in pay, but fully supports the retention of AWA's, and their effect of lowering other people's income.

I tlooks like Tony Abbott's media releases are more about ... 'I'-Team Tony Abbott.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sorry - A Mixture of Responses

The text of the Australian Parliament's motion of "sorry" to Indigenous Australians can be found here.

Many people, of all backgrounds and communities found the apology an emotional moment: there were tears of joy; tears, too, of remembrance; some frowns, and many, many smiles.

Present in Parliament were Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, Paul Keating and Bob Hawke - all the living former Prime Ministers. John Howard would not attend to say "sorry", having refused to do so as Prime Minister.

Bringing Them Home, a report into the stolen generation, recommended that 26 May be set aside as a National Sorry Day. (see the site of the National Sorry Day Committee) There are many "days" set aside to remember past events, celebrate events, or to raise awarenes of, usually, health-related matters.

Others stood and turned their backs as soon as Opposition leader Brendan Nelson stood. The right to disagree, though, does not condone bad manners. Some booed when he mentioned that child abuse still occurs within Indigenous communities. (it also occurs in the wider community) Others are agitating for monetary compensation, and money for communities.

The hope that yesterday's apology brings will only bear fruit if Indigenous leaders, and thier communities, work with governments and their Councils to do what is right for individuals and their community. Alcohol, petrol-sniffing, disconnction from their heritage, and violence will be best stopped from within, and by, communities. Great things can come for individuals and communities when they work together. That is the hope that is what yesterday's apology brings.

Some "activists" were keen to push for monetary "compensation", but reparation can be in kind: it can be in the form of cooperative action with, and for, communities.

The apology was made in good faith by, and on behalf of, the Parliament of Australia. Many Australians agree with its sentiments. Many Indigenous people accepted it with good grace. Others should do so, too.


Sorry Tugs the Heartstrings


The Parliament and Government of Australia today said "sorry" to aboriginal people for pain and suffering caused by the actions of past people and past Government actions.

The full text appears below.

Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.


Comments on the apology can be found here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Politics of Saying Sorry

The Australian Parliament resumes this week and, on Wednesday 13-Feb-08, it will affirm a motion of sorry to the Stolen Generation. The motion will be an expression of sympathy and acknowledgement of the pain felt by many families after the forced removal of their children.

John Howard steadfastly refuses to attend Parlaiment for the motion - his former MP's probably won't miss him, as they begin to think for themselves, albeit with considerable division.

Kevin Rudd's team is still working on the exact wording, but he has consulted with Brendan Nelson and Aboriginal representatives.

Coalition MP's, long used to John Howard telling what and how to think, have been a rabble. Some, like Julie Bishop, have revereted to "What would John Howard have told me?" Others, like Malcolm Turnbull and Senator Bill Heffernan, believe the proposed apology is overdue, have abandoned their Howard straitjackets, and have been actively lobbying their colleagues.

The Coalition has indicated that some of its MP's and Senators, including Tony abbott, will make statements questioning the term "stolen generation" and stating the good that forced removal of children did. (?) It means the apology is not unanimous and hearfelt by all MP's and Senators - there is a big "But ..." from the Coalition. For the Coalition, at least, "sorry" seems to be the hardest word. Along with unity.

Worthwhile Links:


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Banks Screwing Customers

The 'big four' Australian banks - Westpac, National, Commonwealth and St George - have all lifted their interest rates again, after the Reserve Bank lifted rates by 0.25%. That was the eleventh rise since May 2002. The banks have also unilaterally increased rates during January.

They blamed the sub-prime lending market problems in the US. But, their home loan rates are noticeably higher than non-bank lenders (eg Wizard, Aussie, etc) that have to borrow more of their funds from the troubled US market. The banks are clearly profiteering.

Best advice - find another lender - Credit union, super funds, Aussie, Wizard ...
but do your homework, first.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Costa 'Right' - But Wrong for NSW

Michael Costa, member of NSW Labor Party "right' faction, and Treasurer in the NSW Labor Government might not be the right person for the people of NSW. (image:

His most recent outburst occurred after he was stuck in traffic, after an accident on the F3 freeway north of Sydney. Certainly his criticism of the handling of the incident was scathing. Yes, the RTA does need to look at its processes for diverting traffic after accidents, among other things. I'm not sure he needed to make a public song and dance about it - except to justify his penchant for "public-private" relationships. Those relationships have not always been in the public interests, or made the best or appropriate use of public money. He used his privileged position to gain access to Minister for Roads, and mate, Eric Roozendaal, to complain. He used the media to then use his delay as an argument for building more private tollways, partly with public money, so private companies can profit. He has forgotten that the original stretch of the F3 tollway was built by the NSW government, with public money, for public benefit.

But he is developing a history of arguments that support his short-term tenure as Treasurer and politician, but which are not necessarily in the best interests of the people of NSW. Funding by the Treasurer for health/hospitals, transport, and other government services; and his
specious arguments for selling NSW electricity infrastructure seem to indicate a politician who acts in his own short-term interests, and the interests of his and his party's "image", rather than one who will act in the best interests of the people of NSW. In the NSW Government, and Parliament, he is not alone. Sadly!