Dear Christian: I used to be proud to stand up in front of my
business sector friends as almost a lone dissenter, proudly saying I
was a Labor voter, and explaining why (particular focus on
Hawke/Keating economic credentials, and social platform). Now I tend to
keep quiet, as it’s got to the stage where I am embarrassed to admit
it. It’s kind of like saying you still like to listen to The Human
League. What the hell do they stand for today? What are the key reasons
I can put forward to defend my continued support of the Labor Party?

Dear John:
Kim Beazley spelt out everything you need to know about the Hawke Government’s remarkable record of economic reform in a speech
to the Melbourne Institute/The Australian Sustaining Prosperity
Conference last month – a record that should give every Labor supporter
a warm inner glow. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any reform ideas for
now. But then, does John Howard? Check out Paul Kelly’s comments from the weekend or have a look at what The Economistsaid about his government last week.

The Labor reforms have transformed Australia, making it a
model of revival for the world. The Liberal Party too, then in
opposition, deserves credit for supporting them, because Labor lacked a
majority in the Senate. The result has been an economy that is about to
enter its 15th successive year of continuous growth… The fact remains
that a second wave of reform is now urgently needed…

Now there
is a chance for change. At last October’s general election, Mr Howard’s
coalition gained control of the Senate… In 1998, Mr Howard devastated
the hopes of his Labor opponent, Kim Beazley, when he wondered aloud,
on radio, whether he had “the ticker” for the job. He was calling into
question Mr Beazley’s political toughness, and perhaps even taking a
dig at his less-than-trim appearance. Mr Howard duly won his second
election. Mr Beazley resigned as leader after a third Howard victory,
in 2001, but four years on he is back in charge of Labor. Mr Howard has
proved a good manager and a skilled political tactician but not yet a
great reformer. The interesting question now is this: has Mr Howard got
the ticker?

Ask your mates that question. Neither he nor his treasurer showed any in the Budget.


Dear Christian: Just a question about Kim’s attempt to vote
down the tax changes in the Senate. Does this count as part of the
Supply where the convention is that it is always passed (apart from
that one infamous time in the seventies)?

Dear Gertrude:
Nice one, but no. Supply is the money a government needs to carry out
its business. Governments secure supply through the passage of money
bills – bills appropriating money for government expenditure. The
legislation the treasurer was speaking about when he gave the budget
address on Tuesday night was the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2005-2206,
one of a whole series of Bills you can find out about here.
The tax rate changes for low income earners are contained in separate
legislation, the Tax Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax Reduction)
Bill 2005 (here), introduced by the treasurer into the House yesterday.


Dear Christian: Reading the fine print at the bottom of the
Federal Government ads, I see they are always authorised by “The
Australian Government, Capital Hill, Canberra.” Have they always lived
on Capital Hill? Why not just Canberra? Has someone been watching too
much West Wing, or does it predate that? It seems like yet
another case of copying the Yanks, especially as most people couldn’t
tell the difference between Capital and Capitol.

Dear Jim:

Capital Hill features on Walter Burley Griffin’s original plans for the
city. He was a Seppo, so pinched the idea from home, from Washington,
although it dates back to Rome and the Capitoline Hill. But did you
know that the issues of the plans for Canberra can take us off into Da
Vinci Code territory?

There’s an author called Peter Proudfoot
who has some interesting ideas about Griffin’s design of our national
capital. He says Griffin’s plan is based around ancient concepts of
sacred geometry, or geomancy – forms of secret symbolism said to have
influenced buildings as diverse as Stonehenge and St Peters Basilica.
Griffin and his wife are said to have been Theophists, members of a
semi-occult religion founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in the 1870s.

You can read a plain vanilla account of his theories here – or a really way out one here. Perhaps we’re lucky the ads don’t read “The Grassy Knoll, Canberra”.