Saturday, June 12, 2004

And this is why people think politicians are liars 

The following excerpt is from the ALP website:

"JOURNALIST: Do you still believe Pine Gap should be closed?

GARRETT: I don't believe Pine Gap should be closed. I'm fully prepared to accept the position that Labor has taken. There's no doubt about that it's the threat of terrorism and the intelligence that we can gather from terrorism that is now one of the primary and most important things that Australia, in terms of our national security, needs to consider. I'm not in favour of Pine Gap being closed."

Does anyone seriously believe that these are his true convictions? If true, Watcher commends Peter Garrett for finally supporting the correct policy on this matter. However, like most people, I don't believe Garrett on this and I'm going to struggle to believe him on many other policy changes of heart that he might have in the future.

He's lying before he gets into Parliament and he'll continue to lie when he gets in there. No wonder the public opinion of our elected representatives continues to remain so low.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Vale, Ronald Reagan 

The following article by David Boaz, Vice President of the Cato Institute, is an admirable tribute to Ronald Reagan, and is better than anything that I could possibly produce. The world is a better place because of Ronald Reagan's eight years as president of the United States. Without wanting to further diminish this fact, I simply urge readers to follow this link for what Boaz said:


Garrett: man of the people 

The pre-selection of Peter Garrett into a NSW ALP safe seat, despite any consultation of the local branch members, should be about as successful as the recruitment of Cheryl Kernot a few years ago. Watcher wonders who the ‘Gareth Evans’ of this electoral manoeuvre is for the ALP!

Aside from the fact that Garrett is too extreme for a place in mainstream politics (he’s a natural candidate for the Greens), this will only create a festering sore within ALP ranks.

The slanging has already begun. Setting the tone today for Peter ‘Man of the People’ Garrett is defacto henchman for the pro-Garrett camp, Tom Uren. Uren was a former Whitlam Minister, so he has plenty of experience in talking down to the dirty masses. Here is how Uren was reported in The Age defending Garrett today:

"I hope (he will stand) because a lot of the people that have really been speaking out against him are rednecks,'' Mr Uren told ABC radio.
"They're been very, very conservative people.
"I haven't heard any progressive person come out and say anything against Peter Garrett.''

Ah, yes. How to win heart and minds, really. Uren is completely right – those Rednecks are probably so ignorant and uncivilised that they couldn’t tell the difference between a latte and macchiato. The swill.

Another ALP stalwart, the factional union leader Bill Ludwig, is clearly in the redneck camp. Here is an interview extract from an of Ludwig by Your ABC’s Hamish Fitzsimmons:

BILL LUDWIG: I'm not too sure of what the message is. You know, if Peter Garrett as the leader of a successful band, and Mark Latham as the leader of the party, I could see some conflict there but perhaps we'd have to get Molly Meldrum to, you know, to mediate some sort of a debate between the two of them.
HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: What sort message does this send out to rank and file members in your opinion?
BILL LUDWIG: I think it's pretty ordinary, actually.
HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: What does this say about the leadership of the party then?
BILL LUDWIG: Well I mean, I think the leadership has lost the plot to some degree. Are we just going to recruit people from whatever, you know, populist particular position that they come from within the community and ignoring the will of those party members that really thought that all the years that they have put in, that they would have some input into selecting the candidate that would represent their views at a political level.

Watcher will go out on a limb now and state that this Garrett pre-selection to the ALP, especially if the ALP wins government (ie, will he demand a Ministerial position?) will be as unsuccessful as the Kernot affair (pun fully intended.) but Watcher digresses; going back to Bill Ludwig:

“And they [the branch member] always must feel a bit disappointed when some high profile people can circumvent the structure of the party and be put up for representation which, you know, we haven't been real good at doing this. We've had a couple of goes at it before and it hasn't worked.”

Monday, June 07, 2004

Correction: speaking too soon on plastic bag choices 

Watcher clearly spoke too soon when singling out Mark Latham for criticism over Labor's policy plans to ban consumers' choices in relation to plastic bags (see Watcher 6.6.04.)

According to a media release from Environment Minister, Dr David Kemp, MP:

"On the eve of World Environment Day, the Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, has called on fast food outlets to join the growing tide of retailers slashing plastic bags."

Clearly, as Australians have less and less choice in relation to the products they purchase, they now also appear to have to less choice in relation to voting, too, at least as far as this issue is concerned.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Another reason to abolish local councils 

Master Builders Australia, the "peak body for the building and construction industry,” (MBA’s words, not Watcher’s) reported that local councils add $500 million per year to the cost of home building. That’s FAMILY homes in an election year, thank you very much, Watcher would add.

In short, NSW residents pay an extra $2,950 per home, Victoria and Queensland top $1,700 per home, South Australia $1,357, and the residents of Tasmania will be disappointed to learn they ‘only’ have to pay an extra $1,121 per building.

According to MBA, these costs are due to “additional council requirements”, which “can relate to any aspect of building including energy ratings, termite barriers, insulation fire safety, glazing overlooking/overshadowing or weatherproofing.”

Speaking from personal experience, Watcher recalls a conversation with his landlord about the landlord’s encounters with the local council (yes, Watcher confesses that he hasn’t reached the esteemed Australian status of Home Ownership yet.) The conversation went roughly along these lines:

Landlord: And then I was told I didn’t have a suitable garbage enclosure out the front. I told [the Council representative] "show me a picture of any garbage enclosure in this suburb and I’ll copy it.”
Watcher: What garbage enclosures?
LL: Exactly, no one uses them around here – they’d look idiotic. But this took six months to sort out.
W: Local Council, do you say?
LL: Then [the Council representative] was looking at my house plans and said I should really have a bigger back yard.
W: Excuse me???
LL: I know! I lost it at that point and yelled down the phone “It’s my f***ing house!!!”

Let’s just hope that Master Builders Australia make some headway.

Plastic bags: announcing your next choice 

On the same day that Mark Latham announced (Sunday Telegraph, 6.6.04, p7) a Labor election promise to ban free plastic bags in supermarkets, the extreme left-wing greenie, Peter Garrett, has been tipped to be the next candidate for the safe Labor seat of Kingsford-Smith.

Politically speaking, the inclusion to Labor ranks of Garrett is a curious one for Latham, at least whilst Latham still pays lip service to concepts such as markets.

Only ‘free’ plastic bags will be banned, according to the Daily Telegraph. Presumably this means the bags that the check-out staff pack your food into, although on a literal reading, this could also include the plastic tear-off bags that fruit and vegetables are packed into.

Once again, the Federal government will be making a decision for consumers that is well within the ability of those consumers to make. Clearly, the average shopper is too stupid to understand how bad plastic bags are for the environment (the environment has feelings, too.) Instead, knowing that stupid consumers will not make the right choice, the heavy hand of government will make it for them.

Of course, this already ignores the fact that the major supermarkets have already started issuing reusable bags, which have been taken up with enthusiasm by many shoppers.

Also, it beggars belief as to how this is a Federal government matter. But I digress…

Watcher just hopes that other evils wrapped in plastic don’t make the Labor Party’s hit-list. One can only imagine having to pack meat directly into on of those reusable cloth bags because the government had banned ‘free’ cling wrap in supermarkets.

Of course, if Garrett is a vegetarian, perhaps meat will be banned, too. (Watcher is unsure of this fact, but is prepared to take a punt that Garrett is a vego.)

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Watching out for a credible Opposition 

Whilst the political focus on a given day is naturally on the government, when an election is looming, it is critical to have a look at the Opposition – after all, the ALP is seeking to become the next Australian government.

Max Walsh, writing in The Bulletin, has raised some excellent questions on the largely unknown economic qualities of the aspirant Mark Latham and his team (maybe Latham is referring to himself when he talks about the aspirational class.)

“The Labor leader finds it much easier to achieve traction with the electorate by talking about child reading problems than addressing economic issues.

“Furthermore, the amount of time he has spent on the road since becoming leader suggests there is no detailed Latham economic strategy; that Labor will go to the polls with its present magic pudding of tax cuts, higher expenditure and guaranteed surpluses.
“The lack of focus by Latham on economic policy leaves his deputy Crean as the central strategist.”

If merely mentioning Simon Crean isn’t enough to scare voters into leaving the outside light on at night and sleeping with one eye open, then Walsh provided additional cogent reasons. Walsh says:

“Crean was a career trade union official, rising to the top of the ACTU before entering politics. He is the scion of a Labor dynasty that has its roots in the Victorian industrial movement, the most protectionist enclave within the ALP.

“Don Watson, in his insider's book on the Keating government, describes how that Labor prime minister coined the pejorative expression "Creanite" to mock anyone who sympathised with the industrial policy advocated by Simon Crean. This was characterised by "deal-making" and a liking for "sectoral" industry policy.”

Therefore, while Watcher will continue to keep an eye on the current regime’s big-government tendencies, Watcher will of course be focusing on the Party that seeks to replace the Coalition (and for the occasional laugh, Watcher will look at the Greens’ or the Democrats’ “policies”.)

Monday, May 31, 2004

Governments, not markets, for Tony Abbott 

That free-marketeer, Hon Tony Abbott MP, is up to his latest laissez-faire antics as the Minister for Health. According to today's Age newspaper:

Couples having a baby are set to save more than $1000 after Health Minister Tony Abbott gave doctors the green light to shift costs from their patients to taxpayers under the Government's Medicare safety net.

As The Age reported last month, many specialists - particularly obstetricians - plan to change the way they bill to inflate the component patients can claim back from the Government.

This could save patients thousands of dollars at taxpayer expense, leading some experts to predict a blow-out in the cost of the $440 million safety net.

Mr Abbott told The Age the Government would not stand in the way if doctors chose to save their patients money.

"If a doctor was to charge his existing fees in a different way, and if that was to mean that some people were in the safety net, that's just the way things happen," he said.

The new Voice of Women 

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja is apparently pregnant. Whilst Watcher wishes the Senator and her husband all the best of health for her new baby, Watcher will be somewhat sad to see Senator Stott Despoja abdicate her self-appointed title of Voice of Youth.

Presumably, the good Senator will soon transform herself to the Voice of Mothers. Whilst this might require learning about a few policies other than Higher Education, the range of government activites that the Senator can passionately be a Voice for must surely expand.

Watcher waits with interest to see whether baby Stott Despoja will be fitted with tiny Doc Martens.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The working classes enjoy opera in Victoria 

"Victorian Arts Minister Mary Delahunty today announced new funding and new opportunities for Victorian opera lovers and opera companies" according to a press release by Minister Delahunty.

Minister Delahunty clearly had no less than the the very first Objective of the ALP Victorian Branch Rules in mind when announcing this funding. According to Rule 2.2.1, the Australian Labor Party stands for:

"Redistribution of political and economic power so that all members of society have the opportunity to participate in the shaping and control of the institutions and relationships which determine their lives."

As the Minister for Opening Nights noted:

"The attendances for The Mikado and other opera performances around Melbourne including the recent 15th birthday of Chamber Made Opera, are proof that Victorians love their opera and music theatre".

Funding the opera is the surest means by which any government can redistribute money to the workers. Yup, that's right, it's a little known fact that the working classes have a deep-down hankering for a quality operatic events.

The working classes will breathe a sigh of relief (well, breathe out a lung-full of Horizon 50s smoke in relief) at the $900,000 Opera Australia will get from the Victorian taxpayers in 2005.

Regrettably, it should be noted, "Ms Delahunty said she appreciated Federal Arts Minister Senator Rod Kemp's support for this review."

A message from Watcher: Senator The Hon. Rod Kemp, the Federal government should stop funding these activities.

Still watching those economists 

"There is little evidence that lower taxes make people work harder or smarter" said Tim Colebatch in today's Age newspaper.

Whilst Colebatch rightly acknowledges that "[c]utting taxes might be good for other reasons," this is immediately qualified by the statement "but to expect it to lift productivity is naive."

Of course it is Tim - taxes could be raised to 100% with no noticeable decrease in productivity.

Colebatch's article is challenging Ken Henry's assertion that this budget was "pro growth." Were this Colebatch's only point, Watcher would say fair enough. However, the fact that he spends the rest of the article telling us about ways governments - through higher taxes - will boost savings and growth, then alarm bells should ring.

Colebatch’s big-government colours are apparent, despite his eventual acknowledgment of the significant flaws in the ALP's fiscal policies. For example, at least Colebatch acknowledges that:

”The real objection to Crean’s idea [of government saving and growth] is that it is pie in the sky.” Gee, really?

Nonetheless, according to Colebatch, “that’s a shame because, like so many of the ideas Labor has put forward, it would be real reform that would lift the long term economic growth rates” of Australia. Watcher feels ill just reading that statement.

So long as there is evidence selected from favoured academics that tax do not “make people work harder or smarter” economists like Colebatch will continue to clothe their own prejudices in the language of science whilst obscuring their own agendas.

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