- Sentiment of the moment: “pandemic swine flu, aaarrrggghh”! And in fairness, there is a reasonable risk here, but right now it’s just a tiny problem — so it’s entirely correct to act swiftly to stop its spread (nip the problem in the bud, as it were). But hearing about this has clearly gotten a bunch of people awfully panicked (to the point that I’ve repeatedly been warned to avoid New York?! xkcd summarised this pretty well). Thus it seems the world’s public health authorities are getting better at managing outbreaks, but failing miserably at managing public perceptions and PR …
- Good grief, President Obama has announced a lot of stuff these last few weeks (maybe it’s the hundred-day anniversary thing?). Talk of spending cuts, prodding Congress with its environmental legislation, proposing investment in high-speed passenger rail, and more! It is wonderful to see people getting excited about these announcements — but for now, they are just announcements. I dearly hope some-or-all of these plans turn into reality, because that would be really exciting.
- Looking back at Australia, and to wrap up the National Fibre Spend-fest coverage, I noticed an interesting comaprison of fibre prices — although I suspect the numbers in my last post, rough-and-ready though they were, are more accurate — and it’s interesting to see a defence of the ownership model that Team Rudd are going with. (though, who left the stupid Perth comment?!)
- It so happens that I fly into Perth on the day of the daylight savings vote! And I still think it’s breathtakingly pointless; I mean, c’mon, anyone notice anything wrong with, oh, the economy lately? But still … this is pretty funny (via Rick!)
- I was saddened to hear that the fourth East Asia Summit meeting, due to be held in Thailand, was cancelled (and the accompanying ASEAN meetings were cut short). Not to dismiss the protestors — Thailand is in a rough state and the current government is far from universally representative — but they are screwing with their country in ways that don’t seem to be helping.
- And finally, there’s been a server change around here (yay OpenVM and cheapness!), but hopefully that was seamless from your point of view.
Once upon a time, when the Coalition were in power and Labor in opposition, Parliament House in West Perth would (occasionally) host moments of real debate amidst the normal mud-slinging and childishness. And for a while after going into opposition, the Coalition were organised and vaguely competent and strong in their criticism … sometimes even with valid logic!
That, of course, was then. Nowadays the coalition is dissolved, the major partner is struggling to find relevance, and the best that the minor partner can do to influence policy decisions is to mount civil disobedience on a rather minuscule scale.
It’d be nice if the 2009 election isn’t a one-horse race, but I don’t have high hopes.
(And a nitpick to the news reports: WA already has two timezones, since the hundred-odd people living around Eucla unofficially set their clocks to UTC+8:45.)
- First up: the proposed new building for 140 William Street (above the new train station) is awesome. Not as pretty as the Raine Square development across the road (which, BTW, is definitely going ahead), but very functional and very bold in its design — and we need more buildings in Perth with architecture that triggers strong reactions (as long as they’re not all bad …).
- Glenn Milne’s little scuffle at the Walkley Awards nicely epitomises, I think, the way that old media stalwarts simply don’t get this new-fangled Internet thang. (Though admittedly, Crikey has hardly been angelic in its treatment of Milne. The sneaky buggers have also, by my guess, bought AdWords that link to news.com.au rather than their own site …)
- There’s another leadership spat in the Labor Party. Yawn. Although I think it’d be cool if Big Kim were to win the next election, Howard-style, it’s not exactly something I’d bet on. Problem is, I’m far from convinced that anyone else on Federal Labor’s frontbench could do any better.
- The continuing debate about daylight saving on newspaper letters pages annoys me for its pointlessness, but I notice that among the pro camp there’s a strong sense of the old mindset that says Perth is still some sort of country town, and can’t function without the assistance of our older & better-established bretheren o’er east. I keep reading things about how farmers and other businesses desperately need close-timezone contact with Sydney, as if the west coast is devoid of warehousing or financial services or something.
- Speaking of daylight saving, it amuses me that the Lotteries Commission had its “you can take an extra hour with your Lotto ticket!” ad out days before the State Government launched its (lame!) attempt to inform the public about the time change yesterday — an entire four days before the change happens!
- Today is World AIDS day, meaning the world’s been reminded of how bad the situation is, and a former American president is out pointing to the next problem area. Sadly, the Pope was also in today’s headlines, and while it’s good that he’s healing rifts within Christianity, it would be far better if he actually tried doing something to address the problem of AIDS among poorer people, many of whom are Catholic. Oh sorry, my mistake, that’d be against his principles.
- Finally, sense has prevailed in the question of Federal funding for an HPV vaccine (the one that’s reported in the media as a “cervical cancer vaccine”). But it’s actually only partly prevailed — a basic concept in public health is that mass vaccinations are all about stopping the spread of a disease, which means that boys should be vaccinated as well as girls, and the age range should probably be wider too. The current funding arrangement is likely to just paint HPV and cervical cancer as a “women’s issue”, rather than as a real sexually-transmitted disease about which everyone should care.
Here are some random and slightly political thoughts:
- Last weekend’s APEC meeting confirms the argument from my thesis (first suggested to me by Dennis, and seconded by a Lowy Institute paper) that this institution is going nowhere fast. There’s the annual photo of leaders in funny costumes (wonder what they’ll wear in Sydney next year?) and an opportunity to discuss regional issues, but beyond that there’s little real work happening towards the supposed goals of trade facilitation and liberalisation … just more vague promises for an unattainable 21-country free trade area.
- I’m unsurprised by today’s daylight savings vote, but still disappointed in the whole “let’s start in a week!” thing. And, WTF Matt Birney, since when has WA not been the “lifestyle State”?
- I was always a cautious supporter of nuclear power in the past (though I’ve sometimes been swayed by my old-school greenie friends). And I’m inclined to trust the work of the committee that just reported, based on the qualifications of its members, even though I don’t trust Ziggy Switkowski after his work (if you can call it that!) at Telstra. However, I’m not sure that nuclear power is so very ideal for Australia as they claim, given our relatively small energy needs compared to, say, China or the US. But I’ve not read the report, and I don’t know how honest the PM was when he asked for an “open debate” …
- Last Friday was the closing date for submissions to the Immigration Department review that, from my reading of their discussion paper, has probably been told “you will recommend an Australian Values ™ test for new citizens”. Oh, sorry, I mean, they’re carefully reviewing the options (but just happened to think about the content of a potential test in great, great detail). Anyway, my submission is here.
- Ridiculous media circus #1: so Kim Beazley mixed up someone’s name last week. I do that several times a day. Sheesh …
- Ridiculous media circus #2: no, Tony Bullimore shouldn’t pay if he were ever rescued again. Not only is it international convention, but fer cryin’ out loud, it’s not like those navy ships would otherwise be sitting in port with their crews all downing some beer. The navy goes on training exercises, kids, which cost money — sometimes even more money than rescues at sea.
- Finally, my sidebar has a new addition: Houses and Motions, the funniest take on Hansard that I’ve ever encountered. Kudos to Tim, Cameron, and Trent — this is gold.
Today has been an insane day for me (albeit insane in a happy way!) but it seems I’ve got nothing on the kids in State Parliament: Aunty is reporting that the attempts by Godfather D’Orazio and “I wanna stay with the cool kids!” Birnie to introduce daylight saving have been delayed by the Libs in the Legislative Council. According to our ever-reliable Treasurer, this means the proposed start date for the first trial (December 3) is in jeopardy, as if it was ever a serious option.
Just in case the Tardis has landed near West Perth, thus encapsulating Parliament in a space-time ripple, I’d like to point out that December 3 is in two weeks.
I’m hostile to the idea of daylight saving, but even if I was in favour I’d still think it wildly irresponsible to demand that two million people change their clocks with an entire fortnight’s notice. Imagine if Transperth said “we’re changing the timetable for every service in two weeks”. Imagine if UWA said (during semester) “we’re shifting the time for every class in two weeks”. Imagine if a major hospital said “we’re rescheduling every appointment, and here’s two weeks’ notice”.
IMHO, Parliament should drop this ridiculous time-waster (pun intended!) and get back to the many real issues faced by the State. You know, things like the terrible state of mental health services across WA, or the gross shortage of transit guards for our trains, or the problems with education in some remote Aboriginal communities …
P.S. It’s scary how many people are saying “whaddya mean we’ve already had three referenda? Times have changed and the young people haven’t had a chance to have their say!”. By that logic, and given the current scuffle over WorkChoices, can we please have another referendum on the Incomes question? Or perhaps on secession from the Commonwealth? After all, young’uns like me didn’t get a chance to vote in those!