- I am miffed at missing so many cool events last weekend, most notably PodCamp Perth. I guess I’ll just have to live vicariously through Flickr.
- I had been hoping that with discussion of firebrand union bosses and the question of ratifying Kyoto making headlines over the weekend, The Economy ™ might have stayed in the shadows for a few days more. I was wrong. I’m hesistant to call the election outcome, but the way the Liberal Party is clinging to “low interest rates! strong economy!” at the expense of other messages does have me wondering.
- Remember the one-vote-one-value arguments shortly after the State election in 2005? Yesterday the WAEC released new electorate boundaries based on the changed laws, with one MP per 21-ish thousand voters. Basically, there’s a few more metro seats (e.g. Mount Lawley) and a few less rural seats (e.g. lumping Esperance and Boulder into Eyre). There were reports yesterday of panic within the Liberal and National party rooms about who’ll be preselected where, but I have to say the new boundaries look sensible, and contrary to early sky-is-falling claims the Mining and Pastoral seats are no more huge than they used to be. And with both conservative parties still incapable of showing any competence, with or without these changes they ain’t looking good for 2009.
- Over in Melbourne, the poor diddumses who run the trains have decided they can’t handle the crush of peak hour (what with it always cropping up unexpectedly and all), so they’re trying to bribe people to take earlier services by dropping fares to zero. Um. Somehow I think calling it a “stupid band-aid solution” doesn’t quite cut it …
- And finally, Federal Labor have taken their photocopiers to last week’s announcement by John Howard of money for highway upgrades around Perth, throwing in an extra $200m for good measure. For proof that these announcements are no more than pork-barrelling, consider that neither major party has promised serious money to railways or seaports, anywhere.
Alongside the news yesterday of John Howard repeating a $400m pledge for road upgrades across Perth (half of which is for the highways around Perth Airport in partnership with its owners; what, you say, the airport needs money elsewhere?!) was the first letter in my mailbox to tell me who my Liberal candidate is.
What struck me, apart from the absence of commitments to spend money in the region (which I think is the most prominent feature of Liberal campaigning so far), was this line near the end: “Don’t experiment with your vote.”
This seat has been held by Labor for decades.
It’d be an experiment to vote Liberal …
- It’s annual report season, which means there are even more documents vying for my attention than normal. Telstra’s one, pictured, reads very much like that of a company slightly stunned as its industry changes around it, and is basically one big whinge at the regulations laid down by the Federal Government. So much so that I’m surprised they haven’t started running ads urging people to not vote Liberal.
- The machinery of the WA public sector is also busily churning out reports, some of which have thrown up headline-worthy allegations. The biggest was last week from the Information Commissioner, an anti-corruption office set up in the 90s, whose foreword complains of being screwed around by the Attorney-General. This gave ripe pickings for a new round of swipes at Jim McGinty — for a while, at least.
- There was also news of enormous shortfalls in the budget for the local Flying Doctor branch, and corruption problems in the Health Department; cue more swipes at Jim McGinty. Collectively, these revelations are not a good look for the Carpenter Government, but with all eyes on Federal matters (why do the papers care so much about a TV debate?) they’re having no trouble getting away with it.
- Last weekend’s local government elections were disappointingly uneventful, though Lisa Scaffidi won (suprisingly easily) the top job at the City of Perth. I look forward to seeing if she lives up to any of the campaign hype, though I can say she’s already brought more glamour and a higher profile to the role than old Peter Nattrass did. (And this at least was more interesting than my local government, where the election was basically just a string of wins for incumbents.)
Back around the last election, I recall hearing lots of shock and disbelief at the single-seat Senate majority the Liberal Party won courtesy of Mark Latham’s campaign implosion. This was echoed in 2005 when the Senate election took effect, with everyone left-of-centre seeming to be worried about the future.
And indeed, later that year the majority was used to rush through WorkChoices and a couple of other changes (like voluntary student unionism). But since then, there have been remarkably few big-ticket laws, and certainly nothing that took advantage of the opportunity for serious reform in contentious areas like tax (and I don’t mean this frittering with thresholds nonsense).
So there is some truth (and, of course, some falsity) in Team Howard’s claim to have stuck to their promise of using the majority ‘responsibly’, by which they mean in a boring and conservative manner. It’s like they’ve run out of ideas for major change despite having a silver-platter opportunity.
There have been not-well-heard voices pointing to the Government fiddling with procedural matters, like scrapping committees and ignoring amendments. Maybe these will cause the Senate’s role to change, like how it stopped caring about the complaints of State politicians (and even local candidates) in saying “waaaaah Canberra isn’t giving us enough money”.
Or maybe Labor will win the lower house, while the Liberals hold on to their majority, and things will drift back to the way they were.
Since it’s become mildly fashionable among newspapers and bloggers to make a statement of neutrality during election campaigns, now that we finally have a date, I thought I’d jump in with one of my own.
I promise to be almost entirely neutral during the coming election campaign … because I won’t be in the country to see it
1999 called. They’d like their failed referendum back.
It must be said that acknowledging past mistakes, and offering to give formal symbolic recognition to Aboriginal people, is an outstanding first step. But given the context — indeed, will Parliament be sitting next week or won’t it? — something tells me that step #2 might not come soon, if at all.
And for crying out loud, while a USyd law degree is wonderful it does not qualify you to arbitrarily nominate events as ‘history’, nor to choose words for one of the country’s most important legal documents, no matter how many times you try.