Politics this week was all about politics, but not the politics of rolling one’s sleeves up and getting things done. It was not an arm-wrestle of ideologies, a punch up over policy, or a battle over border protection.
While Messrs Howard and Costello shadowboxed over the Liberal Party leadership and the ALP sat in mute gratitude for their opponents doing their work for them, the nation continued to wait on answers to some pressing issues.
Here is Crikey’s list of what our politicians didn’t fix this week:
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The horse flu epidemic is still causing a ruckus heading into the Spring Carnival season. There’s still no clue as to how it started. Queensland’s equine industry has been locked into two zones, a restricted and control zone. The zoning is designed to contain the spread of the horse flu that has cost the racing industry tens of millions of dollars. Reports suggest the thoroughbred racing industry could lose $100 million in 2007/2008. There’s an inquiry into the outbreak’s origins, but nothing’s stopped it yet.
Community leaders in the Northern Territory warn that the Federal Government’s abolition of the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) could cost jobs. Fear is rampant that many of the NTs 500 land and sea rangers, who rely on the CDEP, will find themselves unemployed. NT police have made it clear that enforcing the alcohol ban will be no easy job. Vince Kelly, president of the NT Police Association, said that his force had not been given new directions to impose the ban.
Murray Darling Basin – still no rain
The future of the Murray-Darling Basin is looking grim. Murray-Darling Basin Commission chief executive Wendy Craik warned it’s going to be “very tough over the spring and summer” as a result of poor rainfall in July and August. George Warne, the General Manager of Murray Irrigation in Deniliquin (southwest NSW), stated that the situation had worsened since this time last year. Another looming prospect is the rising salinity levels in the Basin, which are on the verge of breaking the World Health Organisation’s recommended levels of 1,000 EC units. Meanwhile, the PM’s plan remains unimplemented.
Family incomes are falling far behind their mortgage repayments. Research by the ALP has revealed that incomes are falling as short as $30,000 in Melbourne and $61,000 in Sydney. The topic has become a sore issue for the Coalition, as battling voters are feeling the financial pinch. Opposition leader Kevin Rudd last night blamed John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello for the national crisis in housing affordability, but changing leader of the Coalition will not ease the pressure on the record number of households now suffering housing and rental stress.
Gunns Pulp Mill
The saga of Gunns proposed pulp mill continues. Australia’s chief scientist is looking at the project. The residents and business people of the Tamar Valley are waiting for a decision. Gunns is waiting for a decision. The mill could become a major election issue should the Chief Scientist’s decision arrive during the election campaign when the government is in caretaker mode. Federal Environment Minister was intimately involved in this week’s Liberal Party leadership stoush.
Despite strong indications that this year will be classified as a La Nina year, there is still no certainty that enough rain will fall to break the green drought. The deceptively green landscapes spread throughout the eastern states, as well as parts of South Australia. Whilst picturesque, it is not helping to grow crops, and is a solid demonstration of how dry the country is. It is either make or break for farmers this spring, as crucial rain over the coming weeks is needed to produce a “reasonable” harvest. Weather maps have hinted at more rain this week, hopefully a good start.
The battle for the hearts and minds of Australia’s workers continues. The Age today published results of a study conducted by Sydney University showing massive pay cuts in the retail and hospitality industries. The study revealed that pay for workers in the two fields were slashed between 2% and 18%. Yet the Federal Treasurer, from whom nobody heard for a number days early this week, and the PM, who spent Monday through Wednesday hosing down leadership speculation, have been too distracted this week to reassure voters that WorkChoices is the way to go. The prize for the party which gets this issue right could be a victory speech on election night.