Another view of the Rudd/Burke/Campbell/Bowman/Santoro mess…

18 March, 2007

The amount of mud flying around at the moment is utterly ridiculous and really not doing anyone any favours. Santoro had to go for many reasons, and I suspect his departure was hastened by links drawn between him and complaints leading to the raids on three lower house MPs. While I’m keen to see corruption exposed, I don’t think *that* particular incident was anything more than minor incompetence on somebody’s part (probably a staffer or two).

An interesting thing that seems to have come out of this – have you noticed how when someone finds something about someone, it seems to be there’s a neutralising, opposing argument that claims somebody’s job on the original firing side? It’s as if they hold onto these long term as a kind of investment and if someone breaks the silent code and releases something, they soon find out very publicly what the other side has on them (be it the other side of parliament or of their own party).

I hope politics gets back to issues soon – this stuff is becoming tedious and annoying and I’m sure I’m not the only voter (Labor or Liberal) who thinks that.


More on daylight saving

18 March, 2007

It seems the West has finally turned a corner in its reporting on this issue. After the Nationals’ poll, which now has 37,000 signatures demanding an early referendum for daylight saving, and the former Liberal leader Matt Birney’s desire to modify it to run only from October to December (does this mean Gloucester Park has to spend twice as much each year?), along with Channel Seven and other community polling suggesting between 60 and 75 per cent opposition, the West has launched a profoundly parochial broadside at the effects of daylight saving, clearly recognising the needs of its advertisers the small businesses which have been affected by daylight saving. Apparently 65% of restauranteurs intend to vote against it in 2009 (or earlier if held then).

The last couple of months has amply demonstrated in my view exactly why we should not have daylight saving. I am not against the concept as such, but I am against it as it applies in Western Australia. Especially in Perth, where I now have to go to uni in the dark and can’t get to sleep at night without my airconditioner because Perth in effect already has daylight saving, being about 6 degrees, or 20 minutes, west of the 8-hour meridian, and the areas which actually do need it actually have their own way of resolving the problem.

I’m glad that these real issues are getting debated now in the media, where they should have been before our anti-democratic government decided to shove them in our faces with the media triumphantly in tow.

As for my quietness to the present, I think I underestimated how busy I was going to be with offline priorities! I’ll repost something I wrote elsewhere in a sec regarding the current “crises” and the like.

Nationalism on the loose… again

22 January, 2007

Firstly, sorry for quiet over past weeks. I intend to get this blog going at full pace again in about two or three weeks, but have had a lot of offline stuff to sort out prior to reenrolling at university for the first time in a while. Career changes are interesting, but a lot of paperwork.

Anyway, to the latest nationalist bait of the week. Apparently the Big Day Out, realising that some rather nasty groups use the flag for purposes other than that which it was intended (usually as an excuse to carry out entirely anti-Australian activities like maiming non-“white” Australians, burning down their places of worship, and other such wholesome activities), have banned the flag. All of a sudden the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, NSW Premier, even the *Nationals* leader, have come out railing against the BDO, even calling for its banning. It’s starting to sound like the Camilla cheer squad from Big Brother last year all over again.

So I sat down and thought, after having attended 4 Big Day Outs and numerous other festival events (and never once having seen a flag there) – why would anyone *want* to bring a flag to a music festival?

1. I’m not entirely sure that a modern flag would fit on the Big Day Out rollercoaster rides
2. Flags aren’t cheap. It’s like wearing your best shirt to the weekend rugby scrum.
3. My experiences of being squashed and pushed into odd contortive poses in the front rows in past BDOs suggest that it’s not even a terribly practical way of showing one’s appreciation for the mostly overseas bands on offer.
4. Many of said bands would probably be quite curious as to why on earth people are waving New Zealand’s national flag at them, dismissing it as some odd local custom.

Gawd, you’d think from the intense reaction in the media to this that people weren’t allowed to bring beer in. Or water bottles. Or “offensive” t-shirts. Or food items. Or projectiles. Or deodorant cans. Or drugs. Or … wait, they’re all already proscribed. Funny, that. No beer! How Australian is that?

Thoughts (An update)

18 December, 2006

Thoughts on a number of key current issues:

Fiji – I am tired of the Australian government and media’s handling of the Fiji situation. I believe that history will eventually show what many of us who watch the Pacific scene already know, that Laisenia Qarase’s government was corrupt and racist, and was on the cusp of freeing George Speight, the guy who ran the last coup when his business interests weren’t being served by the new Labour government in 2000. People seem to forget too quickly that the hero of that situation was none other than Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who restored order and democracy in record time considering the bizarre circumstances. In my view, he has acted honourably in this matter and with a genuine view to fixing intractable problems that the constitution and democracy have proved useless in resolving (Qarase ignored the constitution for years in refusing to allow Opposition members to sit on Cabinet). The constitution Bainimarama has suspended was decried in the West as a racist document at the time of its formation, yet now the West (including Australia and, surprisingly, New Zealand) are condemning Bainimarama’s suspension of that very constitution. Alexander Downer’s incitements to violence from the floor of the Australian Parliament under parliamentary privilege, rightly criticised by the Commodore, show a government in this country that has as much respect for the rule of law and international diplomacy as they showed during the Iraq war. I think the coup is the best thing to happen for Fiji in some time, I only hope that the Commodore can control the actions of his men. One of my friends has refused to cancel her holiday there and from recent emails, seems to be enjoying the sunshine and the hospitality, cuisine and culture of the local people.

Rudd – Kevin Rudd has so far lived up to my expectations. While I don’t agree with some of the things he is putting forward, the fact he is putting forward a solid platform of ideas and benchmarks on a range of issues across the political and economic spectrum is the most positive thing the Federal Opposition has done since it lost the 1998 election. Howard is still a skilled operator and one mustn’t underestimate him, but I think Labor is really in with a chance in 2007. My own views on politics are that no party should be in too long at any level – especially if no serious opposition exists (as in WA at present), governments have a tendency to become complacent and arrogant. It happens to both Labor and Liberal governments and is symptomatic of the increasing polarisation of Australian politics and the weaknesses of the two-party system which mean it has to be one or the other, rather than the superior European systems which, although not always granting stable majorities, are true to the people’s wishes and ensure that politicians have to listen to more than simply their own constituency in the electorate.

Iraq Study Group – This was worth a full post when it came out but I was otherwise occupied. The actual report (519k PDF) is well worth a read, but basically it says what we’ve all known for years and requires something of a backflip by Bush in order to succeed – one that I sadly doubt is forthcoming. Colin Powell‘s statement broadly in support of the ISG report, that “it’s grave and deteriorating, and we’re not winning, we are losing”, is critical, but if he wasn’t listened to when in power, all this will do is persist in convincing a largely-convinced electorate that their president is aloof and out of touch with reality.

For more on Iraq, some very interesting comments at Didge – The View From Down Under.

Palm Island – Quick one. Why should murder or manslaughter be ignored by the law because the perpetrator is a police officer and the victim is an Aboriginal not being held for any major offence? This is a day of shame for the Beattie government in Queensland.

Sense has prevailed.

4 December, 2006

It appears we have a new Opposition Leader.

It also appears that for the second time I’ve been right well in advance about the Labor leadership – in late 2001 I forecast at a time when he was not even in contention that Latham would be the next Labor leader (we’ll conveniently let that bit slide about me predicting he’d be the next Labor PM – I can’t be right all the time!) I’ve been predicting a Beazley->Rudd shift for most of this year, although I was starting to think it would never happen. My predictive abilities once won me a Hungry Jacks whopper for foreseeing the short-term end of One.Tel in Sep 2000 when it was still (publicly) doing well.

Anyway, enough of my semi-serious grandstanding. The party was getting stale and didn’t know where it was going under Beazley. He’s tried and failed twice before, and to be honest, I found myself only reluctantly supporting Labor after Beazley regained the leadership. The only inspired comments I have heard coming from Labor in recent months have been from the backbench and from Kevin Rudd and Lindsay Tanner, and I hope that with the new leadership team they establish both leadership and policy direction.

People who think they can’t make it should read the back cover of Dean Jaensch’s “The Liberals” (1994) – I don’t have it on me right now, but let’s say the cover text had written off the Liberals as a political force divided by factionalism and lack of leadership – just 18 months before they won back office. I think with a less radical leader than Latham, who is clear and level-headed in stating his stances on a range of issues with support from a solid team that the party can pick on Thursday, this country has a chance of moving forward in 2007.

Guardian editorial – The morning after

9 November, 2006

From the Guardian (UK) newspaper:

For six years, latterly with the backing of both houses of a markedly conservative Republican Congress, George Bush has led an American administration that has played an unprecedentedly negative and polarising role in the world’s affairs. On Tuesday, in the midterm US congressional elections, American voters rebuffed Mr Bush in spectacular style and with both instant and lasting political consequences. By large numbers and across almost every state of the union, the voters defeated Republican candidates and put the opposition Democrats back in charge of the House of Representatives for the first time in a dozen years.

When the remaining recounts and legal challenges are over, the Democrats may even have narrowly won control of the Senate too. Either way, the results change the political landscape in Washington for the final two years of this now thankfully diminished presidency. They also reassert a different and better United States that can again offer hope instead of despair to the world. Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation last night was a fitting climax to the voters’ verdict. Thank you, America.

In US domestic terms, the 2006 midterms bring to an end the 12 intensely divisive years of Republican House rule that began under Newt Gingrich in 1994. These have been years of zealously and confrontational conservative politics that have shocked the world and, under Mr Bush, have sent America’s global standing plummeting. That long political hurricane has now at last blown itself out for a while, but not before leaving America with a terrible legacy that includes climate-change denial, the end of biological stem-cell research, an aid programme tied to abortion bans, a shockingly permissive gun culture, an embrace of capital punishment equalled only by some of the world’s worst tyrannies, the impeachment of Bill Clinton and his replacement by a president who does not believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution. The approval by voters in at least five more states of same-sex marriage bans – on top of 13 similar votes in 2004 – shows that culture-war politics are far from over.

Exit polls suggest that four issues counted most in these elections – corruption scandals, the economy, terrorism and Iraq. In the end, though, it was the continuing failure of the war in Iraq that has galvanised many Americans to do what much of the rest of the world had longed for them to do much earlier. It is too soon to say whether 2006 now marks a decisive rejection of the rest of the conservative agenda as well. Only those who do not know America well will imagine that it does.

Read the rest of this entry »

US wakes up to a new world order.

8 November, 2006

It appears that the US Democrats have easily secured the House of Representatives with nearly twice the number of seats they needed to gain in the mid-term election. Media commentators have suggested that the Iraq war, economic management and various scandals in which the Republicans have been involved (most recently the Abramoff affair, claiming a high-profile scalp in House leader and key Bush ally Tom DeLay, and the case of Florida congressman Mark Foley sending sick messages to teenage Congressional work experience students) are uppermost in voters’ minds, while local issues played a part in many of the races. A moderate Muslim has won a historic seat in the US House of Representatives, and left-leaning Nancy Pelosi may well be the new House Leader.

The Senate is looking more tricky – whatever way it plays in Virginia, the Senate will be finely divided, and its history of dissent and independence from party bosses (unlike Australia, the US system does not enforce party discipline particularly strictly, but openly publishes voting records) means that no matter who is elected, it will be far less predictable or dependable than previously, and is likely to oppose economic policies that excessively favour the wealthy. Critically, horrendously anti-gay Pennsylvania senator and Republican rising star Rick Santorum has lost his job, with more than 60% of the vote going against him.

The most interesting product is Bush’s response – commentators were unsure whether he would finally compromise, or fight. Bush finally seems to have got the message. Donald Rumsfeld is gone. Old Donald, once famously seen shaking hands with Saddam, before becoming a founding member of the Project for the New American Century in 1997 and becoming Bush’s defence minister in January 2001 and architect of the Iraq war strategy in 2002-03, believing the war to be a done deal with a small commitment. Barely 5 years into the “New American Century”, things weren’t looking very new, or very American. PNAC itself had fallen apart over internal divisions resulting from the conduct of the war in Iraq. As a article said today (can’t find it right now), American public opinion in November 2006 seems finally to have caught up with the rest of the world. Now if only Dick Cheney would take a similar path…

We now find ourselves with a rather different USA. Perhaps a less confident, more inward looking, but maybe a more principled one. Alternatively, a USA which wants a change, but knows not what change it actually wants and ends up stalling or, worse, contradicting itself on a weekly or monthly basis. Either is possible. We still don’t quite know where the Democrats will position themselves, whether they will follow up on commitments to use the powerful House inquiry system to investigate the war in Iraq and other issues, and what they will be capable of achieving in tandem with a Republican President and administration hellbent on salvaging and interpreting their legacy for history, and whether Bush will prefer deadlock to progress. We also don’t know whether the intense partisan divisions that have categorised US politics at the population level since about a year before Bush came to power promising to be “a uniter, not a divider” will start to disappear as has happened at state level in California, where Arnie (after several rather public teething problems) has figured out how to work with a Democratic house and senate productively.

(The people, by the way, rewarded Arnie by letting him stay on as governor. He reportedly said he loves sequels but this was the best.)

As President, Bush is still in control of foreign policy, but the Congress controls the spending and as such may limit his options considerably. But Bush has been told loud and clear what the people think. If he wants to be remembered as a democratic leader in the free world, ignoring their wishes is poison to his legacy.