Friday, November 27, 2009

'The Crew Are Revolting, Sir'

So said Fletcher Christian to Captain Bligh, when Christian led the mutiny on HMS Bounty. (at least that's the story") They might well have been spoken by Liberal Senator Nick Minchin to Malcolm Turnbull yesterday. Seven Liberals resigned form the Shadow Ministry, including: Nick Minchin, Tony Abbott, Sophie Mirabella, Tony Smith, and Senators Eric Abetz, Mitch Fifield, Mathias Cormann and Brett Mason.

It is a mass desertion of their leader, and a treacherous act of disloyalty on their part. The resignations came after a motion to declare the leadership vacant was lost, meaning most of the party effectively voted to keep Mr Turnbull as leader.

Turnbull's shortcomings have included:
  • being too 'small-l' liberal, as in the mould of the Liberal Party created by (later, Sir) Robert Menzies. He is, therefore not part of the extreme right wing of the party.
  • his wealth is recent - not 'old money'
  • not being from Melbourne's rich establishment
  • not having a Parliamentary henchman to bully dissenters in his party. John Howard used Senator Bill Heffernan and, occasionally, Wilson 'Ironbar' Tuckey.
There will almost certainly be a leadership spill on Monday. Malcolm Turnbull has indicated he will not stand aside, at least for today. Number-crunching on the week-end might indicate resignation is better than the alternative. Tony Abbott has indicated he might stand. Senior party members are urging a Joe Hockey-Peter Dutton ticket. As an aside, having Peter Dutton as the Deputy would almost certainly force the renegade Queensland branch to find him a safe seat.

Neither Abbott, nor Hockey, will be able to unite the Liberal Party. The only hope of winning an election in the next 10 years is if the Liberal Party dis-endorses all those involved in the current stupidity, disloyalty, and conspiring to have the extremist right wing take over the Federal Liberal Party. They should start with those who have publicly contradicted, belittled, undermined, resigned from Shadow Ministries. Until they do, the Liberal Party will remain in disarray, and will not be a viable, strong Opposition, let alone an alternative government.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Politicians 1, Good Policy 0

It looks as though the politicians have won. Using politics as a base for legislation just does not work.

The "negotiated" legislation on an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has resulted in any good policy being abandoned, for the sake of politics. Politicians of all persuasions have ignored the reports from the CSIRO and the IPCC; ignored the science and asked: 'what's politically expedient?'; 'how can I confuse the people with double-speak and pseudo-science?' and 'which big polluters donate to my party?' Except The Greens - they, at least, appear to base their position on something approaching the science of climatology.

The information available to politicians includes information similar to that found in a book by A. Barry Pittock, Climate Change: The Science, Impact & Solutions, 2nd Ed., CSIRO, 2009. Consider the following, from Page 2.

"The World Meteorological Organization ... has declared that 2005 and 1998 were the two warmest years on record ... The decade of 1998-2007 was the warmest on record. ...Since the start of the twentieth century the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74 ±0.18(degrees Celcius), and the linear warming trend for the last 50 years ... is nearly twice that for the last 100 years.

Note that when scientists give such estimates they usually include a range of uncertainty." (Ed. something politicians don't give)

You can read the full sample chapter at:
and information about the book at:

So, among the politicians:
  • The National Party says Climate Change is not happening. They obviously haven't consulted many rural communities and farmers about the effects of climate change on farm viability over the last 50 years!
  • The Liberal Party is divided, and divisive. They have abandoned any pretence at good policy for the sake of infighting, disloyalty, and personal political ambition. (to lead a divided party)
  • The Labor Party (Government) has abandoned good policy for the sake of political expedience.
  • The Independent and small-party Senators seem to have no idea about good policy. This might not be as surprising as it seems: they were Senators for much of the time John Howard was Prime Minister.

To summarize:
Politicians have abandoned any semblance of good government, and good policy for Australians. For their own purposes! Politicians 1, Good Policy 0.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Good News Week!

A group called "Something Corporate" had a song called "Good News". Part of the song goes:
I wanna read good news good news
I wanna be innocent again
I wanna read good news good news
But nothing good is happening

This week, some good things have happened:
  • Conjoined Bangladeshi twins Krishna and Trishna have been separated after a marathon series of operations lasting more than 30 hours. A team of 16 doctors and nurses separated the twins, joined at the head. In intensive care in a Royal Melbourne Hospital, the twins are reportedly doing "exceptionally well". Many have cried and hugged each other: nurses; doctors; their guardian, Moira Kelly; and many people just listening to the news. In a Banglashi orphanage they and no hope, and no prospects. They were brought to Australia two years ago by the Children First Foundation. The rescue, the bringing to Australia, the operations and the care reflect much that is good in our humanity, and much that is good about Australians.
  • Paralympian Kurt Fearnley, a man with no workable legs, and missing the lower part of his spine, has "walked" the Kokoda Track on his hands and arms, in 10 days, finishing at Owen's Corner. He did it to raise funds for disabled people, while remembering the suffering of those who fought in WWII. The Kokoda Track (some call it Trail) was the scene of bloody battles between Australian and Japanese forces in WWII. You can read some of the history at, and Australians remember the heroism and hardship experienced by Australian soldiers.

These two, isolated and singular, events, give our society cause to reflect on the good side of our humanity. Bravo.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Howard Tilts At Rudd

John Howard has given an interview to The Sunday Herald Sun, former Liberal Party PM John Howard has criticised (Labor) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, while attempting to apply gloss to his own history.

Current PM Rudd is criticised for:

  • "spend(ing) the bank balance that Costello and I left behind"
  • "symbolic" only gestures such as the apology to the stolen generation
  • signing the Kyoto Protocol, which he also called symbolic. Certainly there was an element of symbolism, but it also signified Australia's change of attitude towards climate change, a matter on which John Howard dithered and obfuscated. He went on to say that what Kevin Rudd has done/is doing is almost the same as what he took to teh election he lost: he was 'gunna' do it too. Never mind that he had more than a decade to do it, but did nothing about climate change!
  • considering a time frame for withdrawal from Afghanistan, a matter which he says "would be seen as a huge defeat for the West and an enormous morale boost for Islamic terrorism." Here, Mr Howard is greatly overplaying the significance and proportion of Australia's contribution. Yes, the work done by Australian military personnel is important, and one of which we should be proud. But Mr Howard is deliberately overplaying the significance of Australia's involvement, partly to enhance the public's memory of his own self-importance. Australia ranks about 97th of approximately 164 countries in the number of active troops per 1000 head of population. (in 1996, when Howard was still PM). Source :Wikipedia The work we do has a higher level of importance than some others, but John Howard's assessment of our contribution is overstated.
  • his response to increased numbers of 'boat people'. He only says that he "stopped the boats". He didn't, boats still came. However, as with financial advice "past performance is no guarantee of future returns" by Howard.
John Howard said he would not have provided $900 cheques (tax rebates) from his surplus, nor does he indicate if he would have spent ANY money to alleviate the effects of the global financial crisis on the Australian economy, and "ordinary Australians"! He might have spent none, to protect his beloved surplus, and used Paul Keating's line about a "recession we had to have" (under Howard & Costello)!?

If John Howard, or any other current or former politician of any persuasion, wants to criticise a successor, they need to "speak up, and put up". Mere political criticism & glossing self-image is self-indulgent, and contributes nothing that would help develop good public policy.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Pollies, Bl**dy Pollies!

What is it with politicians? Yes, I know they like to micromanage everything, and are especially vulnerable to the merest whiff of changes in polls. And their minders like to manage everything from the clothes they wear to the assertions they make, to the questions journalists can ask them.

However, all this "management" means they forget about their whole raison d'etre: to develop and implement good public policy for the betterment of our society. Instead, they indulge in unfounded assertions; cheap, political point-scoring; invalid arguments and unfounded assertions; and "talk tough" bluster.

Consider the following:
  • Kevin Rudd's "tough talk" on unlawful migrants/refugees. Many Australians had tired of the Liberal Party's, and John Howard's, inhumane treatment of such people. John Howard, and his Government (all of the current Opposition, and them some) were criticised by the UNHCR for their inhumane policies. What does Kevin Rudd do: almost exactly the same. Why? He's afraid the polls (voters) might not like a more humane set of policies.
  • Kevin Rudd indulged in more gratuitous political jibes in Parliament over Malcolm Turnbull's leadership, or lack of control, of his Liberal Party members. Specifically, loose canon Wilson Tuckey, and later Sen. Nick Minchin.
  • Malcolm Turnbull still cannot stop his Liberal Party cohorts from speaking out of turn; or lead them to wards a sensible, public-interest-based Climate Change policy. The policy many of them want is subsidies for big polluters.
  • Malcolm Turnbull, in a media interview, argues that, if reports that Sri Lankans still aboard a Custome vessel off Indonesia had been processed by the UNHCR in Indonesia are true, then Kevin Rudd's argument that external push factors are creating more boatloads of asylum seekers in all wrong. What he should be arguing is that, if true, these people should be returned to Indonesia, to follow proper assessments by teh UNHCR. However, he denies outside influences: the humanitarian disaster befalling Tamils in Sri Lanka at the hands of their (Sinhalese) Government, and increased movement of refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq. Turnbull's argument is wrong, he knows it, the journalists interviewing him know it.

Sadly, few, if any, journalists working for commercial media question the arguments from any politician. The possible exceptions work for the ABC current affairs shows. Kerry O'Brien springs to mind. The commercial press has largely become complicit in the political hoodwinking of voters, by politicians. That's how the politicians, and their minders, want it. We need to change it. Journalists should ask difficult questions, and politicians should feel discomfort if their arguments are invalid, and their policies inhumane, or not in the public interest.