Monthly Archives: August 2010

News That’s Fit To Punt – 25/Aug/2010

Laugh Away, Fuzzballs

Here’s a delightfully funny take on the Independents who are demanding a seven point plan.

As the seat count drags on, the three rural independents – Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott – are maximising their moment in the spotlight.

Their policy wish lists range from the probable (parliamentary reform) to the plausible (a more generous broadband deal from Abbott; a more sensible climate outcome from Gillard) to the ambitious (a ”unity” government, where partisanship is suspended in favour of yoga mats and hemp pants; and Katter’s apparent desire to stop imports).

That’s the stated agenda. Unstated, but important, will be reward for their constituents. Sure these guys are serious people with serious public policy aspirations, but they also want to get re-elected. No modest trinkets? Only indirect influence? Sorry, get real.

Both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have little choice but to go along for this ride.

The people have spoken, and the bottom line is they couldn’t decide. Having failed to comprehensively win over the voters, now the Labor and Liberal leaders must woo an ornery bunch whose stock in trade is bagging conventional politics and politicians.

The fun in this instance is watching Julia and Tony squirm. Not in their wildest dreams would they have imagined their vision of forming government and striding into Parliament as the incoming PM would be held hostage by these bushies. I didn’t either.

Surprisingly Climate Change is not as tricky for these guys as it is for the straight Nats and the hopelessly sceptical Abbott-Libs.

Mr Oakeshott also accepts that climate change is real and needs to be tackled.

He says there should be a market-based scheme to provide incentives to reduce emissions but he did not think Labor’s emissions trading scheme got all the details right.

Mr Oakeshott said we should go back to the drawing board, in the form of the 2008 Garnaut report on climate change, as the starting point for devising a new market-based scheme

Mr Windsor also believes in climate change and wants action. He opposed Labor’s carbon pollution reduction scheme because it was too watered down to suit the interests of big emitters.

But he had little to say today about whether there should be a market-based approach or about the design features he would like to see in any new version of an emissions trading scheme.

Mr Katter was evangelical about aspects of environmental policy which will help the bush.

He told the National Press Club there should be more government subsidies for biofuels such as ethanol and a “clean energy corridor” in his electorate comprising a massive transmission line to Mount Isa straddled by giant wind farms and solar/biofuel electricity generation plants.

Go figure. One would think that buying these guys’ position is actually easier than being friends with their whacky causes.

What’s In A Name Moment Of The Day

By the way, has anybody notices the Roman connotations of Julia/Julius Caesar and Tony/Mark Anthony? Maybe they have. It’s interesting that there’s another Tony in the independents mob but a Bob and a Rob.

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Media Spectacle Continues

Oakeshott’s Post-Partisan Idea

You have to feel a bit of sympathy for the independents upon whose heads the formation of government is going to fall. 2 out of 3 of them have had cross words with the Nats. 2 out of 3 want the NBN and the Coalition isn’t really looking to budge too far from their low-rent nickel-and-dime plan. At the same time Bob Katter is making noises that he can still work with people “he despises, if it’s for the common good,” which is an interesting way of saying, he can work with the Coalition who have Warren Truss and Barnaby Joyce whom Bob Katter despises so much in their fold.

The irony may be that the policies that best serve them and their electorate belong to the ALP and not the Coaltion; but because their support base leans towards the Coalition, they’re going to get a lot of flack in their own electorates for supporting the ALP based on the policies at hand.

It’s a tough choice, but somehow I think they have to go back and say, “I’m going to give you what you want without giving you what you say you want.”

Whether they have the brains or wherewithal to couch that argument and make it sit, remains to be seen. If they can’t then, they’ll go with Tony and Coalition and much swallowed personal pride. You sort of wonder why they bother standing as independents and not as part of the Coalition.

All the same, this dilemma has forced Oakeshott to come up with the idea of a mix-n-match government that takes the best from both sides.

He floated the idea of a government formed by MPs from all sides, for example former Coalition environment minister Malcolm Turnbull serving under the Labor prime ministership of Ms Gillard, or Mr Rudd in Mr Abbott’s cabinet.

“It is a cheeky option,” he told ABC Radio. “I do think here is a moment where we can explore the edges, and explore outside the box.”

Mr Oakeshott said it was his understanding that Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott actually got on and were friends.

“That is not presented in Australian public life, and it should be.”

It got derided, but it actually has some merit in the sense that sometimes war cabinets resort to this sort of thing to have the best talent at hand. It certainly makes some kind of sense to have a war government in the context of  a hung parliament, just to see how good both sides can provide the talent. Tony Abbott dismissed it, and Julia Gillard laughed it away, but Oakeshott’s point actually is a point that needed to be made. It’s worth considering what can be accomplished with the talent at hand, fully.

They’re Kidding Themselves Aren’t They?

The SMH is reporting the Coalition’s odds of forming a minority government has increased because Andrew Wilkie might be taking Dennison after all.

Analysts have given the crucial Tasmanian seat of Denison to the independent Andrew Wilkie after he drew 1375 votes ahead of Labor’s Jonathan Jackson.

If Mr Wilkie wins the seat it will push the number of independents in the new parliament to four, adding confusion to an already complex situation.

Neither the coalition nor Labor will reach the 76 lower house seats needed to govern in their own right.

Instead, both will have to negotiate support for a minority government with a crossbench that could include six MPs.

The coalition is in the box seat with 72 seats so far, to Labor’s 71.

Hmmm. The SMH’s front page has it as 72 Labor, 70 Coalition. BTW I find it highly unlikely that Andrew Wilkie will be siding with the Coalition. That seat under Andrew Wilkie and ALP are interchangeably against the Coalition.

Don’t Get Ahead Of Yourself Little Man

Gerard Hendeson is trumpeting the virtues of Tony Abbott by dumping on Abbott’s critics.

On Channel Nine’s election night coverage, Labor parliamentary secretary Bill Shorten maintained that Abbott was part of “the Second XI of the John Howard team”.

Can you believe it? In just nine months as Opposition Leader, Abbott’s political tactics contributed to a Labor panic that saw Rudd junked for Gillard. Then Abbott’s campaign ensured, at the very best, Gillard may lead a minority government.

This although no first-term government has lost office in Australia since 1931 and Australia probably has the strongest economy among Western nations. Only someone in serious denial would believe Abbott underachieved in the campaign.

In this election, the voice of the voters invariably carried greater weight than the analysis of many experts. This was evident in the success of the Sky News people’s forums held at the Rooty Hill RSL Club in Sydney and the Broncos Leagues Club in Brisbane. It was evident when the views of voters were reported. Take Anne Fay, a Victorian farmer, who complained about the waste in the Building the Education Revolution program. She told The Australian: “We are farmers out here. If we ran our business like the government ran the BER, we would not be here.”

Then there was Paul Murphy, a small businessman from Illawong. Responding to claims that Abbott worried feminists, Murphy wrote to the Herald about the young women he has employed for more than two decades. He said they were primarily “concerned with conceiving, managing work and kids and running households”. Murphy wrote that most of the women in the outer suburbs of his acquaintance “have strong circles of friends and generally hold ‘old-fashioned views’ “.

The left-wing community action group Get Up! ran advertisements against Abbott advising women not to vote for the Coalition. Millions of women rejected this advice. And millions of men and women failed to respond to warnings from the likes of Professor Robert Manne and the author Paul Collins that Abbott did not deserve support because he is a conservative Catholic. This used to be called sectarianism.

You get the drift of the article. The thing is, it flies in the face of the evidence at hand. If Tony Abbott were such a resounding success, how come there’s a hung parliament? You don’t get prizes for coming second in footy. You sure as hell don’t get first prize for leading your party to a hung parliament.

As for the used-to-be-called-sectarianism part, Abbott himself distanced himself from it, so as not to let his own beliefs become a talking point. If the point of all this discipline that Henderson praises was to hide his true feelings from the electorate then I guess he’s a great success, but I don’t really see how that makes him a better candidate than ‘Real Julia’ – and neither did the rest of the electorate.

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Splintering Leftward

… Or Ballooning Leftward, If You Will

One of the interesting spectacles of this election apart from the hung Parliament has been indeed the rise of the Greens and the impact it’s going to have on the ALP. The ALP have characterised the rise of the Greens as bleeding to the left. Not only has Melbourne moved right out to the Green vote for the Greens’ first lower house seat, Grayndler in NSW is set to perhaps follow in the next election.

If the champagne socialists have their way, it most certainly will happen. The Senate didn’t go hard left at this election by some miscalculation on part of the electorate. It went there with a lot of motivation. They were “wearing hats”, so to speak.

Perhaps for a generation or so, the Left in Australia has had an identity crisis of sorts. The much ridiculed champagne socialists of the 1980s and 1990s have probably moved out of supporting the ALP and supporting the Greens this time around. The ALP has managed for a long time into hoodwinking the champagne socialists into thinking they are their only electoral hope. And so the champagne socialists have hung their hopes on as disparate figures as Gough Whitlam, Bill Hayden Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kim Beazley, Simon Crean, Mark Latham and Kevin Rudd. Of that list, only Gough and Kevin really fit in with the champagne socialist set.

When you think about it, the ALP has taken the champagne socialists for granted for some time now, in their pursuit of the political middle ground that got pushed to the right, all thanks to John Howard. A lot of champagne socialists have not changed their socialist leanings. It’s just that the debate has moved too far to the right – and the ALP simply left them behind in the mid 1990s. But who in the ALP bothered to look?

If there’s one thing about the champagne socialist set, they are into discernment. They are into discerning the difference between good and bad champagne. It’s ‘the ‘High Fidelity’ demographic without the music, if you will. Or ‘Old School’ demographic without the nudity for that matter. The point is, these people have been waiting for along time for the  ALP to do the right thing. Not, “do the right thing by them, nudge nudge wink, wink,” but do the ethically (read, politically) correct thing – such as tackling climate change with something like an ETS, and doing it *properly*. No freebies to the polluters, let them earn their keep doing it the right way like everybody else.

Instead, the ALP has gone courting the bogan vote in Western Sydney with their dumb scares about a ‘Big Australia’ and ‘blue-collar conservative’ values. The ALP cares about the blue-collar bit enough to buy into the conservatism. The champagne socialist doesn’t care enough about the blue-collar to buy into the conservatism, because at the beginning, middle and end of the day, the point of the champagne socialist is to be progressive at all costs. Even if it makes their blue-collar ideological brethren uncomfortable.

This is often mis-understood as ‘elitism’ of the city-living folk. It’s more a case of condescension of the city-living folk towards the less fortunate. They know better than any bogan would.

Indeed, anybody who is interested in the values of the champagne socialist should read ‘Stuff White People Like‘, which is a catalogue of things champagne socialists like, and it is clear that they don’t mind being uncomfortable about a few things if it means they’re doing the right thing. That includes paying higher taxes for greener energy, or wearing ethically-shorn-wool (no mulesing!) jumpers for a higher price tag.

The funny thing is that ‘Stuff White People Like’ also has a term for American version of bogans. They call them ‘The wrong sort of white person’. Ironically Chatswood-Jesuit and almost-blue-blood Tony Abbott may not be a bogan, but he is exactly the wrong kind of white person. The reason he was never going to get over the line even with the Howard battlers on his side, is that his platform is simply not capable of winning over the champagne socialists.

Really, he should have known better – as should have the power brokers of the ALP.

Why Conservatism Is A Losing Bet

Entropy always sets in.

Just As An Aside

Check out the poll at the bottom. Kevin Rudd is in fact the ALP leader of choice amongst the internet-readership of the SMH. Kevin Rudd really was the champagne socialists’ candidate. It’s clear they broke with the ALP without compunction this time around. I’m yet to meet anybody in my circle who voted ALP. The ALP will rue the day they whacked KRuddie for a long time, for Kevin Rudd was possibly the candidate for champagne socialists everywhere.

If they should ever put in Bill Shorten by whacking Julia Gillard, they sure won’t be winning back the champagne socialists from the Greens. It would be a matter of principle then, as it was in this election, and the champagne socialists are always quick to insist on more principles than a convention of ethicists.

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Defrosted Politics

After The Cold War

I’ve been casting my mind back to some similar scenarios of hung parliaments. I figure it’s no coincidence that the Brown Labour Government gave way to an election that resulted in a Conservative and Lib-Dem coalition in the recent UK elections. The GFC has done some strange things to the UK electorate and this in turn has brought about an impatience with leaders as well as some knee jerk polling. In a similar way the hung parliament in Australia is indicative of a similar kind of irritation with politics itself in the electorate.

Back in the 1990s I was lucky to witness the first time the LDP were voted out of government in Japan. Rather, they couldn’t get the numbers so all the little parties formed a coalition just to keep the LDP from forming government. Thus the short-lived Hosokawa government started and went on to fail in something like 8 months. All the same it was historically meaningful to dislodge  the LDP who ha been in power for 39 years straight at the point. It also paved the way for the DPJ to emerge from the ashes of that failed coalition, so the multi-party grand coalition actually did stand for something.

A lot of this seems to do with the break up of the solid blocks of Left and Right that existed during the Cold War and now that the nuances in domestic policy became more important, it seems inevitable that other smaller parties have risen. Even the hyperactive factionalism within the ALP could be understood to be the strains of a party that actually unites a fairly disparate group of people. The Greens ca be understood as a break off from the ALP as well. The ALP has probably absorbed some of the old Democrats after their demise.

Thus it’s no surprise that Bob Katter is talking about ending the two-party system. He is part of the nuanced break up of the old Nationals, as is the friction within the Liberal Party between those who want an ETS and those who are in denial about climate change.

Anyway, the point can be made that the post-Cold War shape of politics has finally arrived in Australia – and it took the GFC to do it.

Balance Of Power?

The other thing to consider is that with the rise of the Greens as the balance of power party in the Senate, any future Coalition government is going to find the Senate a lot more hostile than at any time during the last 40 years. The mere fact that the Greens are actually on the left of the ALP means that it may actually be impossible for the Liberals and Nats to do the necessary horse-trading to get their bills past the Upper House.

This means that the the Greens aren’t holding the balance of power, but rather are being more of a ‘ballast’ of power towards the left. And by left, we mean a long long way to the left; further than is in living memory of the ALP’s own Left faction. This is interesting in that it might exert a real pressure upon the Coalition to come up with policies that at least meet the Greens somewhere.

Or it might end up being that the ALP and the Libs end up forming a workable agreement as they did with the ETS, just to work around the Greens. Working back from this problem, you start to understand why Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull worked together furiously to get the ETS sorted before this election. KRuddie and Malcolm at least had common sense enough to look into the future, and they both saw what was coming down the pike.

The Greens are going to be scary in one sense that they might just continue on as if they are a party of protest; given the nature of election, there is a lot to protest about, but even allowing for that, they have the potential to kill bills dead in the Senate.

As of this election with the Greens holding 9 seats in the Senate, all bets are off. The future of emissions trading might be a lot tougher on business than it would have been under the old ETS proposed and agreed upon by the ALP and Libs. The same thing applies for the Mining tax. That deal Julia Gillard made with the big 3 won’t be ratified by the Greens – I don’t know why Julia Gillard is talking as if her hypothetical government will have the capacity to stick to the deal it made with the Big3 prior to the election. The Greens will really want their pound of flesh, with blood. That means the miners are going to be hit with something they didn’t count on and they’re going to kook back on KRuddie’s original proposal and wonder why they opposed that one so vehemently.

The money they spent on advertising, killing Kevin Rudd’s government has ended up with this hung Parliament with the Greens holding the Balance. The joke’s on them already. I’m laughing, literally, at their expense.

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Minority Government?

This Bit Ain’t Gonna Work

Bob Katter is one of the independent members that may help either major party form a government and he’s got this interesting interview here wherein he’s writing off the 2 party preferred system. It’s curious because Katter essentially burnt himself out of the Nationals’ fold and since that time has evolved somewhat – perhaps even considerably. The Bob Katter I remember was a guy who was always saying embarrassing thing, but it turns out that he finds Barnaby Joyce an incredible unfortunate-ness.

Mr Katter said he had not yet decided where his support would go, but pointed to continuing issues with former Nationals colleagues – and concerns over the Coalition’s broadband policy.

He also said it was unfortunate that the Nationals leader Warren Truss “attacked me personally last night”.

”And (Nationals Senate Leader) Barnaby Joyce…a similar piece of incredible unfortunateness.”

He hoped the two other Nationals-turned-independents, Mr Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, would vote as a block to decide the nation’s political future.

Which all makes for fun reading and prognostication. I was having a chat with Skarp down at the tennis court this morning doing some post mortem of sorts and it occurred to us that this is actually less workable for the Coalition even if they manage to coral these wayward ex-National Party MPs into an extended Coalition to form a minority government.

Consider the fact that the balance of power in the Senate belongs to the Greens. If Tony Abbott and the Liberals wanted to carry out their carbon policy of buying out the polluters to stop, they’re going to run right smack into the Greens who even opposed the ETS last time around for not going far enough. So that suggests that even in Government, this set of circumstance is going to be too difficult.

Now, back in the day of Hawke-Keating and the Democrats holding balance of power in the upper house, you could reasonably say that the Democrats filled a little niche between the increasingly conservative Liberals and the increasingly mainstream ALP coming into the centre. In that sense, they were a decent enough broker of power. This time around, the balance of power is being held by a party further to the left than either of the major parties. In a Venn diagram, there actually is very little overlap between the Coalition’s stated policy and the Greens’ stated policies.

That would mean it is the ALP that has a shot at getting its policies through the senate, through negotiating with the Greens.

The problem for the ALP is that they have to also figure out a way of bringing in the wayward ex-Nationals – except they may have very little in common with these MPs. Further complicating the picture as well are Mr. Wilkie and the Green MP from Melbourne, Adam Bandt. That would mean a very tense relationship as the Greens with the uncompromising Bolshiness may impact greatly on what the ALP can and cannot do with the budget. What’s more, the price of such a coalition may actually be having to give the environment portfolio to Mr. Bandt. One wonders if this is already too high  price for the ALP.

All this circles back to Mr. Katter’s point that the 2 party system enforced by the 2 party-preferred voting system might have to come to an end. It is conceivable that massive electoral reforms that allow smaller parties to thrive will become the price for whoever manages to wrangle these 3 into their coalition. I’m actually looking at this hung parliament result today as having the potential to really change the way politics works in this country.

Oh, and Wilson “Ironbar” Tuckey is gone and the WA National replacing him is saying the Coalition are not getting his support.

Those Informal Votes

Don Quivote was riding high in the polls last night as a near-record 5.64% of the votes cast being informal. This was up from 3.95% in 2007. They’re calling this the Mark Latham effect.

Dr Sally Young, a senior lecturer in social and political sciences at the University of Melbourne, said it was too early to say whether Mr Latham’s urging played any part in the trend.

Mr Latham denied his comments would have had a significant effect when asked about his role on the informal vote on Sky News.

Dr Young said it was clear the public felt disaffection with the two major parties, a reflection of the mood prevailing in other western countries.

”The fact is we’re looking at the possibility of a hung parliament and we had the same result in the UK in the same year,” she said.

”Something is going on in terms of the major parties, there’s certainly disaffection out there, there’s no doubt about that.

”This is a trend across the board, you can see it in the US as well where there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with Barrack Obama after his stunning win.

”I’m not sure [if Latham’s comments played any part]. He’d probably like to think so.”

Well, let’s see now. I’m guesstimating that the full 100% of those who voted for Don Quivote did so out of anger at the ALP and its disposal of Kevin Rudd. They’re disaffected Kevin07 votes. so that’s 5.64-3.95= 1.69% of votes swinging against the ALP right there and there, that also didn’t go to the Coalition. That 1.69% probably would have returned a Kevin Rudd labor to government y’know?

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Goodbye Julia, Hello Tony?

Well This Sucks, Doesn’t It?

The election has so far turned in a result that looks like a hung parliament. Neither of the 2 major parties got the 76 seats. As of this writing, it’s Coalition 72, ALP 70, Other Independents on 5 and 3 undecided. Of the 3 undecided, it’s looking like 2 will go to the ALP and1 to the Libs. We won’t know who will form government ad how now because both leaders have to negotiate and persuade the 5 other independents to form a government.

Of the 5, one is Green. 3 are ex-National Party members including the immensely red-necked Bob Katter.  These guys might do one of two things: they might stick to their general side of politics and help Tony Abbott form his government; or they could thumb their noses  at their old party just to spite them and form a government with Julia Gillard. My hunch tells me that the latter is less likely, so it may actually be Tony Abbott who is going to be the next Prime Minister of Australia.

So much for the first female PM of Australia.

What Does This Really Mean?

Eye-balling the election coverage it seemed that the ALP primary vote sat at about 37.7% all night long; the Greens had about 11%; The Coalition had a solid 45%, which left a swinging middle of about 7%. Even with half of that 7%, the ALP with Green preferences were looking at about 51.5%. If you took 1% away from the Greens’ preferences because you can only realy count on 90% of these, that number slips to 50.5% for the ALP (ad 49.5% for the Coalition) which is just about where the AEC said primary votes sat at, at the end of the night.

I watched both Julia Gillard’s and Tony Abbott’s speech and Tony Abbott strongly implied the result was a denunciation of the ALP government, but it seems to me if that were the case, then the electorate certainly didn’t resoundingly back him either. There is no mandate for Abbott any more than there is any legitimacy for the ALP to continue governing. If anything, you can feel the leeriness the electorate felt about the whole election. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Death or Bunji – Death by Bunji.

Truth be known I felt at the end of the night that this might be the last time I’ll bother to care so much about elections and politics. I’ve had enough. I have to vote as a citizen, but I’m eminently displeased with the choices on offer. I struggled with my conscience and didn’t donkey vote, but if the outcome is going to be like this, then I sort of wonder if any of this is sensible.

I’ll think about this for the next couple of days.

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Cold Reality

They Still Suck

More from Peter Hartcher explaining what the major parties do agree upon.

“What we see at this election is a complete reversal of the origins of the postwar immigration program, which was all about a big Australia. Since then, our population has tripled from 7million to 21 million.”

Instead of gearing our population towards a national vision of Australia’s place in the world, we have surrendered to the failures of state governments to accommodate growth.

We have defined our future not by our ambitions but by our failures.

Of the three biggest parties – Labor, the Coalition and the Greens – none will defend the current immigration program, none will defend the current rate of population growth of an average of 2.4 per cent a year over the past decade, and all promise a dramatic cut to the immigration intake.

Tony Abbott’s Coalition has pledged to cut the intake from 270,000 last year to 170,000 within its first term. Julia Gillard has replied by saying that the government was already taking the intake to that level or below in any case.

The Coalition promises to slow the rate of population growth to 1.4 per cent. Labor doesn’t yet have a target. It has created a Minister for Population, Tony Burke, to think about population policy, in the meantime temporising with Gillard’s view that “Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population. We need to stop, take a breath and develop policies for a sustainable Australia.”

With serial and cumulative failures of policy planning in housing, transport, water, hospitals and just about every other areas of service delivery across most states, public tolerance reached a fragile point. Rudd inadvertently applied the final straw.

That bit got my attention. It’s a real drag.

Back in the 1960s, the cities around the world started planning for metro and light rail. London, Paris, Tokyo and New York have a very developed system which supports the high volume commuting in a mega-city. Most cities worth spit have built a metro system. Around 1960, Sydney dismantled its light rail rather than develop a way to build a metro – much like LA.

The consequence of that disastrous decision has been the urban sprawl, the lack of infrastructure, the freeways everywhere that end up in gridlock at peak hours anyway, and the massive discontent out in the western suburbs. All of this happened because in a nutshell, successive governments have favored the car over trains and absentmindedly stretched out the outer limits of the city while keeping most of the business centered in the old CBD.

The point of mentioning all this lack of decent planning is to say, it’s not as if a single term of either Labor or Liberal government can fix these entrenched problems in Sydney alone. The absence of serious planning has created the massive combined problem of infrastructure and transport issues. It is, as they call it, a cluster-fuck. Everybody knows it’s unsustainable; they’ve known it for some time; and yet they’ve been zoning these crazy suburbs out in the middle of nowhere filled with McMansions for a couple of decades, and now those residents can’t get to work in Sydney’s CBD without major delays and they’re all angry out there in the Western suburbs.

These problems arising from no planning are starting to be duplicated in Melbourne, Brisbane-Gold Coast and Adelaide. The fact of the matter is that there’s simply too much of building freeways instead of trains, and everybody wonders why they end up either trapped in gridlock or on crowded trains every morning.

To date, the Federal Labor government has announced they would put money into extending the rail link from Epping to Parramatta but it’s too little too late. Sydney is in need of a serious injection of investment into building an ambitious metro system over 30 years to make up for lost time. Except every time a metro gets mooted it gets buried by successive governments in the pockets of general construction companies that own toll roads.

They wonder why the electorate is angry and cynical about these announcements. It’s going to take a lot more than either party is offering to get at the fundamental problems of Australian urban dynamics.

The Arts Get What?

Here’s a nightmare.

THE Gillard government’s interest in the arts is easy to measure. The Arts Minister, Peter Garrett, has announced that if re-elected Labor would give the Australia Council a fresh $10 million for “new and emerging” artists.

Always an enthusiastic talker, Garrett had a lot to say that day in Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre about reviews, appointments, awards, commitments, delivery, process, education, etc. But the only new money Labor was pledging for the arts across Australia in the campaign was that $10 million given over five years.

But on a wet, grey day early in the campaign Julia Gillard promised the same money to a NSW soccer club to fix its oval. Side by side at the microphone, the Prime Minister and Wayne Swan – both wearing scarves in team colours – offered to kick $10 million into the “world-class professional and community sports campus” planned by the Central Coast Mariners Club.

Garrett is unfazed by the $10 million comparison: one footy team in a marginal seat v the arts across Australia. “We have maintained significant opportunities in the budget as we have built on the substantial investments over the last two budgets,” he says. “I’ve made sure we are not having fanciful debates about arcane areas of ideological warring but rather concentrating on what is the main game, which is to recognise where the gaps are and where the necessary support has to go.”

Garrett’s tiny offering reinforces a widespread verdict in the arts community that he is without clout in his own government, unable to deliver for an industry which he boasted at the Athenaeum launch “contributes over $3 billion a year to the Australian economy”.

You sort of wonder where they get this $3 billion p.a. figure. Pleiades was telling me the other day that the recent survey showed that the average person in the Arts in Australia earns about $37k. most of that $37k does not come from their work in the arts – it comes from supplemental income. The Arts part, they do for next to nothing through to about $6k.

Those figures from Pleiades sound about right from my personal experience. In the link you’ll find that Arts bureaucrats and administrators have a higher salary and more secure incomes than the artists (surprise surprise!)

So, what are we to make of this $10m one off funding boost over 5 years to the Arts Council as the sole Arts Policy announcement by the incumbents? It seems to me the ALP is pandering way too much to the uncouth, uncultured bogans. Even the notion of having Peter Garrett as the Arts Minister is such pandering. This is just pathetic. But I guess you knew that.

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