Saturday, February 13, 2010

Political Ethics & Standards Vary

Political ethics and standards of responsibility vary depending on whether a party in in government, or opposition. Consider the following.

Peter Garrett has had a tough week with calls for him to be sacked as Minister for the Environment. The cause: his government's policy of funding insulation in houses. There have been house fires, and deaths of 4 workers employed to install insulation. The Coalition Opposition, led by Tony Abbott, accused Mr Garrett of ignoring 13 warnings about aluminium foil insulation, and the use of metal staples. My understanding is that this is not cause for sacking/resignation, although he must be accountable to Parliament for the policy. The blame must lie with the employers, who bear responsibility for the standard of work, and worker safety. On Channel 7's Today Tonight program, one employee indicated he'd done a Certificate 4 in Insulation Installation in 2 days' training! The course requires 4 units of competency, and I question whether long-term competency can be achieved in that time. Nevertheless, the Opposition has been baying for blood, insisting on Ministerial standards. However, the current Coalition Opposition, when in government 3 years ago (2007), saw no need for an inquiry, or sacking of then Minister, Kevin Andrews, over the deaths of 3 foreign workers under the 457 Visa Scheme which he implemented. They did nothing. The then Opposition, now Labor Government, called it "revolting".

In NSW this week, Labor Premier Kristina Keneally refused to stand down Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Karyn Paluzzano. Ms Paluzzano has been referred to ICAC over allegations she used public money to help fund her (re)election. Premier Keneally has also publicly ridiculed and, possibly tried to intimidate, the whistleblower. Ms Keneally's actions have now been referred to ICAC by the Police Commissioner. Ms Paluzzano is a member of the NSW Labor Right Faction, which installed Ms Keneally as Premier. The Coalition Opposition has called for her to be stood down as Parliamentary Secretary unitl the ICAC investigation is over.

So, politicians apply different standards of ethics and behaviour depending on whether they are in Government or Opposition, & possibly whether their colleague voted for them as leader. Hypocrisy, from all parties?? You decide.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Abbott's Climate Change 'Crap'

Having previously decried the concept of climate change as "crap", Opposition Leader Tony Abbott released the Coalition' "Climate Change Policy". Why would Abbott would release a policy on climate change, an argument he described as "absolute crap"?? The answer is ... political expediency. There, that wasn't so surprising, was it?

Pru Goward, then Liberal Shadow Minister for Climate Change in NSW, put it so well in an address to the Lowy Institute in Nov 2007, when she said "the most important part of developing a climate change policy was to ensure it had wide ranging public support" ( - the headline is 'Climate Change Action Needs Public Support')

That is, the MOST important part of Liberal Policy is that it be electorally popular. No mention of the need for good policy. At all. And Tony Abbott has tried hard to deliver a 'popular' set of slogans and ideas to the following groups:
  • farmers, who will not be restricted in the amount of land clearing they can do. Any pollution they create, or vegetation they remove will not be counted.
  • big polluters, who are promised $Billions to conduct "business as usual"
  • so-called "mum & dad" voters whose only worry is when the next tax cut is coming, and fearful of paying tax for public good (Note: that is not all of us! Many of us DO want good policy)
  • Industry, which will not have anything extra to pay. Yes, there are promised "sanctions" for those who exceed "business as usual" levels of pollution, but how much is unspecified. The base level seems to be 2010 levels. The reduction is supposed to be from 1990 levels.
  • climate change sceptics & deniers, who will recognise how very little this scheme will do.
  • The Liberal Party right-wing, who will have been happy to hear Opposition Shadow Finance Minister, Barnaby Joyce, say he would cut public service jobs to help fund the subsidies. Abbott later distanced himself from this, but didn't specifically rule them out, either!
Tony Abbott further uses some smoke & mirrors. The "same 5% cut as the government" is deceitful, because Abbott't 5% is from 1990 levels of CO2, while the government's is from 2000 levels. The '5%' part is the same, but the amounts of CO2 to be reduced are significantly different - more than 300 000 tonnes of carbon different! The scheme is to be funded from "budget savings" - Barnaby Joyce has already flagged a cut in the number of Public Servants - but Abbott has not committed to where the savings will be made. (Under John Howard and Peter Costello, the Liberal Party targetted lower income earners, and those on unemployment & disability pensions to make savings for middle-class welfare)

So, Tony Abbott has heeded Pru Goward's 2007 advice, and gone for electoral popularity over good policy! "Looks good (in the smoke), sounds good, but it isn't. Now, if we can only get PM Kevin Rudd to improve his ETS legislation from 'ordinary' to 'good' policy ...