The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Wacky leaders in the state and Southeast Asia

Thursday 28 February 2008 at 5:48 pm
  • Hooray for the state Liberals, who continue to find new ways to implode. I see no hope for them whatsoever at the next election. And hooray for Colin Barnett, who’s mumbling randomly now that he’s leaving. (Does he seriously want to see the state dump preferential voting, the one great innovation in Australian politics?)
  • Egad, Thaksin is back in Bangkok! (This after being kicked out by force.) I do hope that this doesn’t jeopardise the country’s stability; I don’t like the prospects for Thailand returning to a proper model of democracy any time soon. Thaksin’s no saint and the corruption charges may well be true, but it’s a stretch to claim the moral high ground if you were part of a coup!
  • Speaking of stability, Timor-Leste has done surprisingly well after the violence of a fortnight ago, with security forces now getting stuck into investigative work. Along with the extension of the UN presence, this pretty much puts things back to normal, which is good from a yay-the-country-isn’t-imploding point of view but mightn’t be the best thing long-term.
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Castro resigns, and the opposition implodes

Tuesday 19 February 2008 at 5:29 pm

So Fidel Castro has resigned in Cuba — and in a sign of the times, the announcement was made online! (There’s no official English version yet.)

Venezuela took over a while ago as the far-left’s poster child, so this isn’t as big a deal as it might otherwise have been, but it’s still a little sad to see one of the world’s leading stick-it-to-the-man figures go. That said, it’s also good to see the world rid of another tyrant — he did take power by force, after all.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, the Liberal Party is clearly in something of an “oh dear” moment. Not long ago I’d have said that the Canberra crew weren’t doing too bad compared to their state counterparts, but completely backflipping on their core policy of the last three years? Either they’re stark raving mad, or they’re completely and utterly desperate to get the public to love them now that Labor policies are in vogue. Opposition is a hard place to be, indeed …

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Different stories from SE Asia

Saturday 16 February 2008 at 8:05 pm

Turning briefly to Southeast Asia, I am rather disappointed that Malaysia’s government continues to suppress protests by hard-done-by ethnic Indians. It’s no surprise — their Internal Security Act is decades older than the post-2001 police laws in other countries, and positive discrimination for ethnic Malays is a thoroughly entrenched practice — but with elections coming up it’d be nice to not see the same old thing again.

Meanwhile I am impressed that Timor-Leste remains reasonably stable despite a key figure in the anti-government movement being killed, and President Ramos-Horta being in hospital in Darwin. It’s almost as if the dearth of reliable information has left supporters on either side reluctant to lash out like in the past — or more likely, the UN troops are just doing a better job this time.

(And, just as before, the expat who runs Dili-gence is providing the Internet’s best coverage of what’s happening.)

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If only we could be so lucky

Friday 15 February 2008 at 6:02 am

Artist's impression of the proposed Perth foreshore development; Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image.

Aside from the apology in Canberra, Wednesday’s big news (from the State government) was the announcement of the less-tentative plan for developing and cleaning up the waterfront near the convention centre. The Premier used a(nother) business lunch for the announcement, and his office even organised a flashy Web presentation to sell it!

If it goes ahead as proposed, it’ll be awesome. But that assumes it doesn’t get shouted down on grounds of price — the touted $300m sounds ripe for blowouts. For instance, the pictures suggest a cable car from the foreshore to Kings Park (a superb idea!) which I doubt has been included in the figure.

And then there’s the parts that depend on private investment; the pictures all feature a bunch of skyscrapers (including a whopping big centrepiece looking like 2 IFC in Hong Kong) that won’t get built if the market remains how it’s been the last few years.

All in all, though, this announcement is a nice complement to last week’s confirmation that a stadium will get built, and at Subiaco (which certainly isn’t a bad site). But the even more interesting part of that story was the half-billion dollar museum at East Perth, which (if done right) could do far more for the city than any stadium can. For both, though, I’ll reserve judgement until there are actual plans …

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Wednesday 13 February 2008 at 7:03 pm

Whether you were celebrating or stumping up in the “I’m not sorry” camp, today does count as one of the most significant days in recent Australian history. It’s not often that Parliament admits to ever being wrong, nevermind offering remorse. And the Ruddster has yet again ticked an item off the left-o’-centre wishlist (right after dumping the Pacific Solution, too).

The speech was, I think, thoughtful and well-balanced, befitting an occasion this important. And Rudd’s delivery was impressive — he’s getting in to the role and doing the prime-ministerly thing very well.

Brendan Nelson, however, showed no such dignified charisma, even if his speech had crackly-voice moments that suggested he has emotions! I don’t actually think it was a bad speech (particularly given past Liberal policy) but it also wasn’t up to scratch for such an historically significant day.

The prize for not getting the significance, though, goes to ol’ Wilson Tuckey — who hilariously stood by yesterday’s welcome to country in the wings with arms crossed, and was equally standoffish today :-)

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It’s crucial that Parliament apologise! … or something?

Friday 1 February 2008 at 4:27 pm

Oh look, even the syndicated BBC cable TV news picked up on the story! Our Ruddster is going to be all symbolic, just like he was with the Kyoto Protocol, and deliver an apology to Aboriginal people.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a long-overdue move, but making it the first official action of the new House of Reps strikes me as all symbolism and no substance. Wake me when they come up with an actual plan to fix service delivery and welfare programmes to help out Aboriginal people lacking education — and those frittering what cash they have on booze.

And on this matter of compensation. Aside from the fact that the Commonwealth is rich beyond anything in recent memory and can realistically afford it anyway, the fears (and demands) from different people are all pretty irrelevant if compo ends up as just another payment that’s not directed at improving life for indigenous Australians …

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