Friday, August 30, 2013

A week to go...

A week to go before the Coalition is voted in to be our next government. They'll win by default because people have turned against Labor, so it'll be an anti-Labor vote rather than a pro-Coalition vote.

All they have to do is to avoid too many gaffes and they've played the game well, avoiding answering questions and keeping their candidates well away from the media and voters. They've turned down invitations for candidates to appear on radio and television, except for the heavyweights - Abbott, Hockey, Julie Bishop. There've been cameo appearances by Christopher Pyne and Shadow Minister For Stopping The Boats Scott Morrison. The rest are nowhere to be seen or heard.

The Nationals have been completely invisible apart from Barnaby Joyce, the only person from the Nationals to put his head above the ramparts, and that's only been once or twice.

Both sides, or rather both leaders, have been announcing 'policy' on the run, promising billions of dollars for just about anything on the day they think will attract a few votes. It's all bullshit of course, it simply won't happen.

When the Coalition takes over there'll be the usual claim that now they have access to the real figures things are much worse than they thought, so thanks to the previous government they'll be unable to deliver on their pre-election promises.

None of them deserve our vote, but voting's compulsory.  And worse, our shonky electoral system will deliver our votes to people we didn't vote for.

For the lower house in my electorate we have nine candidates to vote for in order of preference. We have Labor, Liberal, Greens, (Clive) Palmer United Party, Fred Nile's Christian Democrats, Democratic Labour Party and three independents to number from one to nine.

Voting for the Senate is always a joke but this time it's even worse than usual. The ballot paper is over a metre wide with 44 parties or independents putting up 110 candidates. The Electoral Commission is providing magnifying sheets in the polling booths because so many candidates have had to be packed in that the type is too small for many people to read.

We have two ways to vote for the Senate. One is 'below the line', which means numbering each party in our order of preference, and  every single box must be numbered for the vote to count.

Realistically almost no-one will do that. Attempt to do it properly and you need to find out what the 44 parties stand for, which is just about impossible anyway. Then you have to spend more time deciding which candidate you like the best, which you dislike the most and where all the others come on your like and dislike list. 

So most voters will take the easier option of  'above the line' voting.

That means voting for a party or group by putting the number '1' in their box only, above the black line.  It's much easier but it means, as the AEC says, voters are allowing the order of their preference to be determined by the party or group they are voting for.

And of course that's where the shonky backroom deals have been done and our vote is given to someone we didn't vote for.

It means, for example, that we could get Pauline Hanson as a NSW senator thanks to the preferences deals she's done with other parties. She's high on the preference tickets issued by the Shooters & Fishers, the Liberal Democrats, Christian Democrats, Katter's Australia Party, the DLP and Rise Up Australia party.

The Newcastle Herald throws a bit of light on the murky world of preferences:

If  (Hanson) wins (only) 5 per cent of the vote this time, minor party preferences give her a serious chance of winning. She is one of several outsiders who have cornered the best of the preference deals...and stand a chance of vaulting into the Senate on the back of those preferences.

While a party requires 14.3 per cent of the vote after preferences to win a Senate seat, in 2004 Family First candidate Steve Fielding won a seat in Victoria with 1.9 per cent of the vote, but lots of preferences.

That could be matched this time by Ray Brown, who heads the Building Australia Party ticket. His party will get eight second or third preferences from other parties, and is in the top 10 on no fewer than 27 of the 42 preference tickets submitted.

Few voters will fill in the 110 boxes required to allocate their own preferences, so party tickets will decide almost all preferences from the state's 4.8 million voters.

Some of them show surprising preferences. The No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics will allocate preferences to the party which introduced the carbon tax (Labor) ahead of the one that plans to abolish it (the Coalition). The Shooters & Fishers and the DLP will also give preferences to Labor ahead of the Coalition.

Conversely, the Republican Party is directing its ultimate preferences to staunch monarchist Tony Abbott, while the Protectionist Party will give its preferences to the Liberals' Arthur Sinodinos, who is more of a free trader.

The system needs changing but only the government can do that and they'll only change it if it gives their party an advantage.



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Truck danger

It's been a while since I had a rant on here about the need to get trucks off our roads. That's because it's been a while since I drove on a freeway or main highway and so I haven't been endangered by dangerous truck drivers.

But they're back in the news again with the release of figures from NSW police.

In spite of the well-publicised blitz against them some eighteen months ago, companies  and truckies are still breaking the law - and endangering other road users - by tampering with the speed limiters.

Sydney Morning Herald reports that of 7,474 trucks recently inspected by authorities, 245 had non-compliant speed limiters. And in an operation on the M5 motorway in April, tampering was as high as twenty-five per cent of trucks checked.

The article includes the experience of  Geoff and Joan Dartnell, almost killed by a truck driver.

Mr Dartnell overtook a huge B-double truck which, he says, then sped up and clipped him from behind, sending his car spinning out of control and off the road. You can draw your own conclusions from that. Crash investigators found that the truck's speed limiter was set above the legal limit.

Last week an operation on the M7 motorway revealed 184 defects in 56 trucks. The day previously, Bobbins Transport in NSW was raided and their sixty vehicle fleet was grounded as part of an investigation into speeding and drug use.

The crackdown that's been going for just over a year has seen 61,520 infringement notices issued and over 1,000 criminal ' chain of responsibility'  charges against four companies.

There's still talk about ' rogue operators'  but it's much more widespread than that, as motorists and th3e figures can testify.

There really is only one answer to the problem, get the bloody things off the roads.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

From the ridiculous to the bizarre

The asylum seeker political bullshit has now gone completely off with the fairies.

Tony Abbott has long been whipping up hysteria - so successful for his mentor John Winston Howard - with his insistence that it's a 'national emergency' and his endless parroting of 'we have to stop the boats'.

He started to move into a Monty Python policy area when he came up with a faux military slant to support his 'national emergency' rubbish. Within a hundred days of taking power, his government would activate 'Operation Sovereign Borders' with a three-star military officer heading it.

Now he's gone even further into the land of the absurd with his latest escalation.

To stop asylum seekers coming by sea from Indonesia he's planning to buy Indonesian fishing boats.

In his fevered imagination this will deny 'people smugglers' the ability to buy them.

He's serious. No, really, he is.

As with all their 'policy' announcements, there's no detail. Exactly how it would work will be "left to the discretion of our people on the ground" he said.

BTW, it's estimated there are three quarters of a million fishing boats in Indonesia

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Yet another dud foisted on us

He ran a website that's being called, among other things, offensive, off-colour, sexist, inappropriate.

He is Kevin Baker, Liberal candidate for the seat of Charlton here in NSW. Well, he was until his website came to light. Now he's the former candidate.

The site 'included offensive references to incest, domestic violence, racism and child abuse and jokes about sex with strippers.'

When that information hit the media he quit. And rightly so - although he should never have been there in the first place.

Yet another dud candidate put up for people to vote for. I posted about others on August 8, 9, 16 so we're getting one every few days.

You can bet they're just the tip of the iceberg too, there'll be plenty more who sneak through under the radar with some of them ending up in parliament. Then, as with so many over the years, there'll be sweeping under carpets and they'll get away with it for years. 

There are names that spring to mind like Sir Joh, Russ Hinze and the Queensland gang, Obeid, MacDonald and the gang here in NSW, Peter Slipper, Craig Thomson...

Obviously the parties don't bother with background checks before they embrace these people and put them up for election. But then why would they, that would imply that they actually give a damn about the electorate.

The reality is that they spout the clichés their spin doctors tell them to about serving and supporting and caring and understanding, but their actions tell us the real story.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Say what?

Two articles sitting next to each other in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning had me shaking my head.

Then first is about BlueScope Steel. The CEO was reported a bad year - naturally it was all down to everything other than management.

His company achieved a year-to-June net loss of $84.1 million and a revenue decreased $1.1 billion compared to the previous year. After his report the shares crashed 16%.

The adjoining article was about executive salaries. BlueScope's CEO, yes, the very same man, was rewarded with an almost doubling of his salary package, up from $2.8 million to $5.1 million.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Campaign stuff up

Today the media's finally caught on to what's been happening on the election front for at least the past week, and the reason behind Kevin Rudd and Labor's plunge in the polls.

It's the same reason Labor under Julia Gillard took such a battering - a total stuff up with communications.

We never heard about the legislation that was passed, the good policy decisions under Gillard. And we're not hearing them from the Rudd team either.

The first huge mistake in my opinion was Rudd trying to cover the past negativity by saying the country needed a change. That gave Tony Abbott the perfect opportunity to say, as he did, that Labor says you need a change and you do - a change from Labor to us.

So obvious and such a basic mistake I simply can't understand how all the minds running the Labor campaign didn't see it.

Now they've gone negative. Instead of being positive, instead of pointing out their achievements, they're simply attacking the opposition.  'Abbott will be bad for you' is the total thrust of the campaign.

It won't work, as the polls are showing. Rudd is now just another politician, slagging off the other man.

It's quite deliberate too. Rudd told us they were being outspent ten to one by the coalition on advertising, the ads were all attacking the government with negativity so Labor decided to shoot back in kind.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Again, it was such an obviously wrong move that it's as if the coalition is running Labor's campaign!

It's textbook stuff that students of politics - and marketing - will be surely reading about in the future. Running  'our competitor's worse than us' as a theme doesn't work in any kind of marketing campaign.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Stay on message - say nothing

The result will be closer than it would have been but it still seems that we'll have Tony Abbott as our Prime Minister after September 7.

It'll be by default though, with people voting against Labor rather than for the coalition. That's been their strategy all along with the relentless negativity that everything the government has done is wrong. And it's worked.

Coalition it may be, BTW, but we're hearing less than nothing from the Nationals, we're hearing only the Liberals.

Not that we're hearing anything of substance from them, just the usual parroting of stop the boats, carbon tax, economy in crisis.

I live in one of the marginal electorates, held by Labor but only because of our shonky preference system of backroom deals. But more of that later.

The Big Two candidates were on radio this morning. The incumbent listed things Labor, and she, have achieved in the last term.

The Liberal candidate was on message and said nothing about policies, costings, vision. Ignoring the questions she insisted that what was important was what local businesses are telling her - that the carbon tax and red tape is killing them.

Only last week, she told us, a local business told her that they had to lay off 30 staff because of the carbon tax and red tape.  They're two of the big items for the Libs of course. Most of their tax cuts and spending they tell us is going to be funded by savings coming from cutting red tape.

So last week one company blamed the government for all their woes. So what. Management default position is always that someone else is to blame for the company having a tough time.

The Lib's strategy is clear. Get people to vote against the government and they win without having to commit to anything.

Quality candidates

We have another fine example of the quality of candidates being served up too, with the story today that the Liberal candidate for a Sydney seat is an ex-policeman with a questionable past.

Back in the nineties we had the Wood royal commission into corruption in the NSW police force. Ray King, the Libs candidate for McMahon electorate, was among a group of detectives exposed as having provided 'informal security arrangements' to the Marconi Club in return for meals, booze and cash. King also admitted to the commission that he often socialised there with a well-known drug dealer and brothel owner, who's in the slammer for a twenty stretch.

Still, as with  Jaymes Diaz  it won't affect people's voting patterns, up to half the electors will vote for him anyway. The vast majority of the votes for  the Big Two parties go to them automatically, regardless of anything.

Shonky system

And now back to my electorate and our voting system that I so often complain about.

Labor won last time but, naturally, more people voted against the winner than for her, 51,406 against and 33,935 for. That's something which to my mind is very wrong, but it's not unusual in western democracies.

What is different here in Oz is that the second place candidate got 3,216 more votes than the eventual winner. But after the shonky preferences deals were taken into account, Labor ended up with 1,599 more than the Libs.

So this time around it only needs a different set of preference deals or a few people changing their votes, and the Libs will win.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Debate. What debate?

The much-hyped 'leaders debate' last evening was a total waste of time.

Firstly, there was no debate. Just the chairman and three journos asking a handful of convoluted questions for the two leaders to answer in turn.

Naturally they did their best to not answer the questions, preferring to just parrot the usual clichés and slag off the other side.

Both looked nervous and ill at ease, Rudd used notes, Abbott waffled and at the end of it we know as little as we did before about policies, funding, vision for the future.

As ever, we're treated like mushrooms.

Also on the election front, the One Nation candidate Stephanie Banister who gave the interview I posted about on Friday has done the right thing and withdrawn from the election.

There are more than a few others who should do the same thing but self-interest will win the day.

BTW, I loved the comment from One Nation leader Jim Savage: "Stephanie Banister has withdrawn her nomination to stand following the disgraceful way she has been portrayed by recent media [and] ridicule over a minor gaffe in a statement she made to Channel Seven."

Minor gaffe. Right.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Another quality candidate

Yesterday I posted about a totally incompetent Liberal candidate, demonstrating his complete ignorant of the facts.

Today we have another one, but at least this prospective parliamentarian is from a lunatic fringe party.

The One Nation Party (remember Pauline Hanson?) has adopted Stephanie Banister to contest the Brisbane seat of Rankin.

Her main focus seems to be anti-Islam but as her specialist subject she's woefully ignorant and misinformed about it.

Still, ignorance and not having their facts right never stops bigots from shooting their mouths off.

In Stephanie's world Islam is a country and muslims follow the haram. While not against Jews she was as ignorant of their religion as she is about Islam, although naturally that didn't stop her telling us about it.

You can watch part of the interview here.

And you know what, there are people who will vote for her. I'll watch the numbers with interest.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

It's election time. Bring on the clowns.

I talk about it regularly, the quality - or complete lack of it - of the candidates cynically foisted on us by the political parties.

A political life here seems particularly attractive to the self-interested, to crooks and incompetents. The system of patronage and favour, of jobs for the boys, gets them preselected and we mug voters have no say in it. We simply have to vote for them under our compulsory voting system.

A real doozy of incompetence has been exposed with the Liberal party's candidate for the Sydney marginal seat of Greenway.

He's Jaymes Diaz, a local lawyer, son of a local councillor and member of a family which is said to control the electorate's party branches. He's also under the patronage of one of the party powerbrokers - one of the 'faceless men' the Coalition hammers Labor about and pretends it doesn't have itself.

Anyway, young Jaymes is out on the campaign trail and was interviewed on Channel 10. A classic.

It's deservedly gone viral and is giving the young high-flyer world-wide coverage

You can watch the interview here.   Please do, it's well worth it.

See. That's a candidate for one of our two major parties, the one that's probably going to be our next government. He hasn't got a clue.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Five weeks of crap coming up

New federal election date. It's now September 7, a week earlier than the last PM said it would be.

Naturally, the hysteria, the lies, the stupidity, the cliches are even worse than the phoney war of the past few months.

According to the man who is probably going to be our next Treasurer, low interest rates mean opposite things depending on the colour of the government.

Under a Coalition government it's a sign that they're managing the economy well. Under a Labor government it means they're managing the economy badly.

Today the RBA reduced the official interest rate to its lowest in half a century. So we were reminded of John Howard's claim that interests rates would always be lower under a Coalition government than a Labor government.

He was even wheeled out to tell us he was right, naturally...interest rates are low now because this government can't manage the economy, while his government had low interest rates in a booming economy. He didn't mention, never does, that the 'booming' economy he presided over reflected what was happening around the world - an unsustainable spending binge funded by easy credit that inevitably came crashing down.

It wasn't a boom, it was a fake boom. It was a mirror image of people giving the appearance of doing well but in reality living on their credit cards. When they max out, they hit the wall. So it was with our economies.

Our probable next Prime Minister tells us he will not form a minority government, he will never do deals with minor parties to become PM.

Yet that's exactly what his 'party' is, a deal between his Liberal party and a minor party, the old Country Party rebranded with the misnomer of National Party.

It's also what he tried so hard to do after the last dead heat election, when he negotiated just as hard as Labor to bribe the independents and minor parties to back him rather than them.

Inevitably, Rupert Murdoch has ordered his news empire here to work for a Coalition victory - Kick This Mob Out' screamed the Sydney Daily Telegraph headline the day after the election was announced.

He's going ever more to the right as he gets older but, as always, it also has a lot to do with his, Murdoch's, business interests, but the readers of his papers won't realise that. Roy Greenslade in the UK's The Guardian has a good, short, piece on it, here.

Stupidly, the two major parties are competing with each other to see who can give us the lowest taxes. Meanwhile the things our taxes pay for are collapsing for a lack of funds. People are up in arms at poor education, poor healthcare, poor policing, lack of childcare facilities.

I'm really not looking forward to the next five weeks. There'll be very little presentation of policies, no vision for the future, just slagging off the other side.

It's obviously going to be closer result than it would have been had Julia Gillard still been leading Labor and as always it will come down to a handful of marginal seats deciding the outcome.