Jill Singer

Herald Sun

False tears amid orgy of opportunism
If you can believe the glut of commentary across our
electronic and print media, Australia
is widely populated with politicians who “utterly abhor the death
says Jill Singer. But the sad truth is that Australians have once again
witness to an orgy of political opportunism. This week,
Attorney-General Philip
Ruddock, “proudly wearing his little Amnesty International badge,” told
us he
would personally be affected by the execution of Nguyen Tuong Van. But
this is
the same Philip Ruddock who publicly endorsed the role played by the
Federal Police in exposing the so-called Bali Nine to the death
sentence. Similarly, John Howard has made a sincere and concerted
effort to save Nguyen from the
gallows – but when Bali bomber Amrozi was sentenced to death, he
applauded the decision, going
so far as to suggest that Victoria’s Liberal Opposition might like to
capital punishment on the agenda. In a classic piece of political
John Howard stated that while he was personally opposed to the death
penalty, he respected
the fact that a lot of people were in favour of it. And the Labor Party
is no
less hypocritical, with Mark Latham and Simon Crean publicly supporting
death penalty for foreigners. We might at the very least expect
from our politicians. Swinging between opposing and supporting the
penalty according to the whim of public opinion is “as barbaric as
punishment itself.”
Crikey says: It’s all well and good to campaign for the
life of a young Australian, but as Singer exposes, there’s more at work
here than morals and compassion. Political opportunism might be a
better description.


Greg Craven

The Financial Review

Safe rights, sick fantasies
(not online)

During the recent debate on Howard’s anti-terrorism
legislation – admittedly poorly drafted and containing some highly questionable
features – some rights activists could scarcely conceal their pleasure, says
Greg Craven in the Financial Review. In thrilled tones, they told the ABC that
they hourly anticipated arrest for sedition, treason and overacting. The
implicit message being that Australians’ human rights are as vulnerable as the
numbat. But the depressing truth is Australia
is one of the most rights-conscious countries, less in need of a bill of
rights than another good spin bowler. In fact, creating one would cause nothing
but problems – handing the power to decide society’s important questions to
well-educated judges. But the average judge – a 60-year-old private
school-educated bloke whose hobbies are cleaning his BMW and boring his kids –
knows as much about issues of policy and morality as Martian etiquette. At least Parliament has
its leavening of women, ethnics, and members of the working class. And its members are elected and have at least some nodding
acquaintance with democracy. As for those who believe Australia
is a sunburnt concentration camp, where people are beaten for reading Noam
Chomsky, only in a country whose rights are overwhelmingly safe could you have
fantasies as sick as these.

Crikey says: The hysterical overreaction to
Howard’s anti-terror legislation from human rights “fetishists”
shows they don’t know how good we’ve got it in
Australia, says Greg Craven. And they’re crazy if they think
a bill of rights, handing more legislative power to judges, is a good
idea. Well, that’s one argument.


P. P. McGuinness

The Australian

The rise of localism

Conventional wisdom in the press describes
electoral outcomes such as the result in last Saturday’s by-election in the NSW
seat of Pittwater as a punishment of the political party that normally holds it. In
this case, however, the result indicates a far more profound shift in our
voting patterns. It is the triumph of localism and parish-pump politics over
the wider concerns of federal or state politics, says P. P. McGuinness. It is
not just that electorates are tending to vote more and more for independents on
account of their personal qualities and popularity. Even though these
attributes may be useful, far more important for a growing section of the
electorate is that a local representative should be seen to be placing
themselves at the direct service of their electorate and locality, placing its
interests and concerns above those of the wider polity and community. That is,
the trend represents the triumph of nimbyism, the “not in my back yard syndrome.”
For it is not just a matter of advancing one’s own local interests but of
defending them to the exclusion of the interests of the wider community, or
simply narrow-minded selfishness. The reality is that the Pittwater result has
little to do with Liberal factionalism. It has
a lot to do with the victory of nimbyism over serious policy considerations and
good government.
Crikey says: McGuinness gets stuck into the
nimbys, arguing that local interests are increasingly being placed
ahead of the “wider concerns of federal or state politics.”


John Edwards

The Financial Review

Time to review central bank processes

board of the Reserve Bank is given power to make decisions that directly and
immediately affect all Australians, yet none of the non-executive members is
elected to the office, or expected to publicly explain or defend the decisions
of the board. Consequently, says John Edwards, the effectiveness of the bank
depends, “to an unusual degree,” on public trust in the integrity of the board. That’s why it’s doubtful it
occurred to Paul Keating or the treasurer to “propose members who were valued for their
financial contributions to the Labor party.” And they certainly would not have
knowingly appointed anyone whose business interests were the subject of such a “long
and unfavourable investigation by the Tax Office as those of Rob Gerard.”
Moreover, if they had “by mischance” done so, I doubt either of them would have
“vigorously” defended the decision to parliament while “cheerfully implying”
that tax disputes on the scale of Gerard’s were “so usual as to hardly be worth
their attention.” They would have regarded that as “poor policy, and worse
politics.” With the Reserve Bank’s policy objectives becoming more various in
recent years, and its board valued because it “brings business experience and
common sense to the making of monetary policy” and “can be made to stand
between the governor and the treasurer,” there is a stronger case for it to
provide more information on the currents of policy discussion on the
board. It would also be an incentive to
appoint board members whose contributions wouldn’t embarrass the treasurer.

Crikey says: Paul Keating’s former
economic adviser explains why his PM wouldn’t have become embroiled in
a Gerard affair. He also argues for greater access to the Board’s
thought processes.


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