The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Pakistan

Sunday 30 December 2007 at 11:51 pm
  • News this weekend out of Beijing (and not just about the Olympics)! On the one hand, airy statements about how the Communist Party might one day deliver on the promise to bring full democracy to Hong Kong left the pro-democracy movement there feeling rightfully annoyed. 2017 is what John Howard would call a non-core promise …
  • On the other hand, the Japanese PM held meetings with the Chinese leadership that have been much more productive than anything either of the last two Japanese leaders achieved. But that’s not saying much.
  • In Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has brought forth the aspirations of her son (who’s only 19!). I only hope that fresh leadership and public anger at the fundamentalists will put their party on a strong footing, rather than prompting more violence in an already-fragile part of the world.
  • Locally, I’m disappointed that the WA Turf Club and the Swan River Trust couldn’t sort out their bureacratic disagreement so as to let the former’s (awesome) redevelopment go ahead — if either side had any creativity, surely the plan could have been tweaked to minimise its environmental impact.
  • And finally, it’s pretty impressive that Wild Oats XI took line honours yet again, though I’m surprised by Rosebud taking the overall gong.

Changes afoot in Fremantle Harbour

Wednesday 26 December 2007 at 11:37 pm

Proposed development for the Fishing Boat Harbour in Fremantle; Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image

Today’s newspaper reports that the WA Planning Commission gave approval to the
revised plan for Victoria Quay in which a pair of six-storey office buildings and a new shopping area will be built near the Rottnest ferry terminal. In other words, sense has prevailed over petty local opposition.

Along with the DPI plan to upgrade the Fishing Boat Harbour with more room for boats and for people (pictured), this should be a significant boost for Fremantle! Hopefully these projects will draw more visitors and reverse the declines that some businesses in the area have seen.

Quite separately, the State Liberals put forward a proposal last week to shift all of the North Quay operations out of Fremantle to Kwinana, then use the land to create a new residential community. This is basically what was proposed by visiting planning experts at a conference months ago, but it doesn’t strike me as a great idea — though I doubt it’d ever get implemented anyway.

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Sunday 23 December 2007 at 11:47 pm

Train driver looking along the platform at Cockburn Central

I wasn’t the only person in the crowds at the new stations today to be thankful that the five-year wait is over.

And I don’t understand why yesterday’s newspaper insisted on rehashing old criticisms of the project (both in its editorial and from “experts” who’ve clearly never been to London or New York). Sure it ain’t perfect — Mandurah and Rockingham stations are in lame locations, and 7-zone default fare WTF? — but the southern line is the fastest city railway in Australia and on par with the best suburban services I rode on my trip (like Hong Kong’s KCR East).


The new PM making headlines

Sunday 23 December 2007 at 11:20 pm

Why yes, I’m back, and already in a pit of disorganisation. I have, however, noticed that our new Prime Minister has been doing stuff! And quite aside from unexpected (and publicity-boosting) trips to Iraq and Afghanistan.

(In WA, I’m saddened to see Sir Charles’ passing and disappointed to see Griffin’s new coal power station being underwritten by Synergy.)

I was surprised to hear about the Council of Australian Governments meeting; it actually seems to have produced worthwhile results! For the longest time COAG was an institution filled with potential that never delivered — but maybe, just maybe, this week marked the beginnings of change. There was something for indigenous people, for health funding, and for future cooperation! I’m wondering whether perhaps it wasn’t just hot air back when the Ruddster promised a new era of state-federal relations.

This week also saw proof the Ruddster has style quirks all his own, insisting his office sign off on every government press release. Really, I don’t see this as any more severe than John Howard’s decree from 2003 that federal agencies dump their own logos for the now-ubiquitous black coat of arms and “Australian Government” sign. But at least it gave the opposition something to crow about.

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Bali, the Territory, and the Solomons

Friday 14 December 2007 at 12:13 am
  • On the Bali summit, may I just say that while impassioned pleas are lovely and all, this is UN-style diplomacy, which means that getting any agreement is a huge deal. Expecting anything from said agreement, meanwhile, is probably a bit much. (Compare today’s victory in Europe, getting their watered-down constitution signed …)
  • Domestically, the Ruddster’s approach to the NT indigenous community intervention launched by Team Howard a few months ago seems to be very softly-softly, wait-and-see. I guess this means the new government won’t be producing any useful policy for Aboriginal Australians after all (and particularly since the intervention never seemed that big a deal in the pre-election public consciousness).
  • And one other thing: the Solomon Islands just lost their prime minister. It’ll be interesting to see how the Labor foreign policy team responds, since there are still Australian peacekeepers there. That said, I do so hope that the country remains stable, given the turmoil they’ve had in recent years.
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Briefly: ministers, global warming, and the EAS

Thursday 6 December 2007 at 11:24 pm
  • As nice as it is that the Ruddster has gotten all tough for his new ministerial code of conduct, I do believe John Howard was really quite strict on his ministers too, for a while in 1996. But then he fired so many that he had to scale the rules back, and something tells me that Labor types aren’t any more wholesome and pure than Liberals …
  • Also, the poor PM already seems to be having a hard time handling the global warming talks in Bali. And this is before any signs of progress emerge at all!
  • Brendan Nelson’s new shadow ministry certainly seems to keep with his promise to be fresh and new, with Tony Abbot getting the demotion he probably deserved. It’ll be interesting to see if any of the new faces are competent in opposition, because I have no idea how they’d perform as real ministers.
  • I never got a chance to write about the East Asia Summit, which was held in Singapore a fortnight ago. Pending a more thoughtful post, the news reports I’ve seen suggest that the biggest topic of discussion was climate change. It’s lovely to see more awareness of this issue, particularly from the Chinese (now Mr. Wen, can you fix the haze in Guangdong?), but it’s disappointing to see the EAS so distracted by it. With global warming being global and all, this isn’t the kind of issue that the institution was built to handle.
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