Apology to Alison Anderson:

On 5 June 2009 Crikey published an article by Bob Gosford titled “Roll up, roll up and watch NT Labour it itself alive”. In that article we suggested Ms Anderson had acted parochially and in self interest by determining that her home community of Papunya should be on the list of 20 “growth towns” and as a result her conduct should be investigated.

We now understand that Ms Anderson was not responsible for the compilation of the list of growth towns. This list was decided by the Northern Territory government and the then Minister for Indigenous Policy some months prior to Ms Anderson being appointed.

Crikey apologises to Minister Anderson for any hurt which may have been caused by this.

Factional politics:

John McCombe writes: Les Heimann’s views (yesterday, comments) are representative of many present and former party members. A handful of faceless oligarchs run both major parties. Federal ALP has just established a committee of factional “leaders” to sort out who we will return as candidates in the next federal election. So where do well meaning and capable citizens turn for genuine political involvement? And how can these parties treat the population with such dismissive arrogance?

The elephant in the room, that produces and entrenches the two party system, is the archaic single member exhaustive preferential electoral system returning the least disliked candidate. Regardless of whether we vote for a genuine alternative for our local member, we are forced to eventually give a preference to one of the major offenders. And the difference between the parties becomes more and more blurred as they scramble for the handful of preferential votes needed to get a bare majority. So in Victoria we have loathed privatised ‘public transport’ and utilities (water’s next), PPPs, secretive Grand Prix deals, etc. Spot the difference.

Even optional preferential would give us a chance to deny preferences to those who disgust us.

The New Zealanders reformed their system in the 1990s and now have a parliament much more reflective of the electorate. Ontario is about to conduct a referendum on something similar. Even Gordon Brown’s cabinet, in the face of almost universal disgust at politician’s behaviour, is rumoured to be considering electoral reform to some sort of proportional representation.

The minor parties, and those who would form the parties of the future, should be campaigning for genuine electoral reform to rescue our sick democracy.

Anna Bligh:

Terry Mills writes: Re. “What’s with Anna Bligh?” (Yesterday, item 16). It seems to me that the Queensland government is hell bent on eliminating itself in the non-too distant future. Consider the changes that the Beattie/Bligh governments have introduced in recent times. First was the amalgamation and rationalisation of local government throughout Queensland, effectively reducing the number of local councils from 157 to 72. Whilst this was not a popular move in all quarters what it did achieve was stronger local authorities with greater resources and the muscle to demand greater financial resources from state and federal governments.

The second significant change is the sale of publicly owned assets (government business enterprises). Again, not a popular move in many quarters as these assets were originally created to generate revenue for the government and thus reduce the burden of taxation on the Queensland community.

An outsider viewing theses changes could be forgiven for concluding that the Qld government was putting itself out of business, making itself superfluous to the needs of the community. With stronger and more powerful local government assuming greater responsibility for services over a bigger regional area and with the GBE’s gone we have to look carefully at what it is that the Qld government is actually doing that cannot be handed over to local government or, in the case of public health and education, to the federal government. Particularly in the latter case, with the sensible moves to national curricula and a greater focus on national consistency it could be argued that the state parliament no longer has a constructive role to play that cannot be more effectively managed by a combination of local and federal administration.

It is interesting to consider that the state parliaments in Australia are made up of two houses, the exception being Queensland where the upper house was voted out of existence in 1922; and guess what, nobody has missed it. One of the observations made at the time of the abolition, and perhaps with some current resonance, was that an upper house was positively obstructive and an obstacle to public business. The same could be said of the remaining state administration, which should ease its current misery and by means of a vote of the legislative assembly abolish itself. A logical move in many ways and one that would clear the way for a council of local governments coordinating governance throughout the state in conjunction with the federal government who, through the GST (a federal tax) and other grants already provide well over fifty percent of state funding.

David Hand writes: Mark Bahnisch seems puzzled by Anna Bligh’s activity when I think it’s pretty obvious. She wants to get re-elected. Fresh from an election win she is doing all the hard stuff. The responsible stuff. Politically damaging stuff. Good Policy and all that. Like selling off poorly managed state business and such like. You know, the sort of thing that would send ALP conference attendees running screaming from the room or turn up to the next conference in a yellow T shirt with a mindless slogan printed on the front of it.

Mid-term, having run responsible policy and restored a semblance of fiscal control so that the downtrodden taxpayers of Queensland are getting some protection from a reduction in service and a hike in tax, she will steer slightly to the left to win the affection of people like Mark Bahnisch back.

Mark, of course, will promptly forget that ALP Governments are capable of responsible policy and thank her for her sterling leadership.

John Craig writes: Queensland’s governance has been on a downward spiral for a long time. Anna Bligh’s problem is that she was the one holding the parcel when the music stopped.

Idiots:

Paul Gilchrist writes: There seems to be a small army of experienced, canny journalists in the Canberra press gallery, feeding us all the inside information from the corridors of power, on TV, radio, printed press and the internet. What were they all talking about last week? Kevin Rudd and tomato sauce.

Meanwhile, Peter Costello was planning to resign, but none of the journalist knew.

I get the feeling I know more about what is happening in Canberra than the chooks of the press.

Jumps racing:

Sharon Hutchings writes: Re. “Jumps racing resumes so where’s the high horse?” (Yesterday, item 25). Ignorant and manifestly offensive is Ralph Horowitz’s suggestion that the genuine animal loving anti-jumps fraternity would have been disappointed that no horse was killed last weekend. A sigh of relief is the real response. However, history clearly shows that it’s odds-on that the next jumps race will be tragically different, and it is not just the highly visible falls and deaths that are intolerable.

As Ralph rightly points out, there are many other brutal unsavoury aspects behind the facade of supposed glitz and glamour that the gambling-based racing industry spins. Aside from the majestic beauty and power of the horses it is based on, it is not a pretty business. Like the three to four day road trip to a horse abattoir where thousands of unsuccessful or unwanted horses are slaughtered every year for human consumption overseas (younger horses) or pet food.

For the horses still considered a chance on the track, there are the long, stressful, tedious hours (up to 22 per day for some) confined in small stalls, the unnatural high energy feed that often induces stomach ulcers, the whipping, and other inherently cruel practices. There may be some genuine caring trainers, owners and jockeys out there who actually manage to reject all or most of the cruel unsavoury treatment, but they are hard to find. The serious money involved at the high end spectrum of racing, and the huge profits from gambling, provide it with useful political and financial power.

Of course it all starts with the rapacious over-breeding in the industry, which clearly has absolutely no interest in the horses once their track profitability wanes. And Ralph, all the anti-jumps people I know also campaign against many other cruel, abusive and violent activities inflicted on human and non-human animals, but you probably won’t bump into too many of them at the TAB or racetrack.

Rundle:

Alex Fishburn writes: Re. “Rundle: GOP take on the real issues, like Letterman and Miss California” (yesterday, item 6). Guy Rundle writes about the outrage over David Letterman’s slur against Governor Palin: “Fox News spent three days on the thing. Closer to home Bolt and Blair had a go, Sarah Palin being their secret girlfriend. And so on. Pointlessly, because if there’s anyone more powerful than FOX News and News Limited in the US media, it’s David Letterman, a place where about 30% of Americans who actually consume a quasi-news source get their info from.”

So if somebody is really powerful, we shouldn’t challenge them?

A Crikey reader writes: Guy Rundle claims that “US hospitals are the last places in the developed word where the faxes run hot day and night with paper records being transferred”. If only it were so. Alas, the NSW governments repeated assertions that we will ‘transition to a fully electronic records system by’ (insert your chosen random date here) no longer elicits even a sarcastic laugh.

Indian students:

Cherian Philipose writes: Re. “Resisting the stereotype of the meek Indian student” (yesterday, item 19). The Australian public has long been aware of the existence of the Indian holy cow. Backpackers would have witnessed this staple of the Indian streets, chewing the cud peacefully. The last few weeks, however, have made Australians aware of another kind of cow — the Indian cash cow — that maltreated beast that now does so much to prop up higher learning.

This animal is less mystical and not averse to a bit of street fighting. We may want to ask her for her blessings! That Australian tertiary education is a senile, wheezing, arthritic, old man is now a well-established fact! The only thing that keeps him alive is regular, restorative draughts from the Indian cash cow.

That, of course, is when he is not sucking from his other (Chinese) teat!

Mungo:

Tony Clifford writes: Re. “Mungo: Banks look to take advantage of a very lucky country” (yesterday, item 17). I have just read & then reread Mungo’s latest effort for Crikey. There is no reference at all in this piece to Mungo’s bete noir John Howard. How can this be so? C’mon Mungo lift your game.

Climate change cage match:

Adam Rope writes: I think that Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) has finally uncovered his true colours — it doesn’t matter what scientific facts anyone puts forward in a debate upon climate change, he’s simply not going to accept them. This refusal is apparently not down to the accuracy or authority of the facts provided, but simply down to Tamas’ own “common sense”.

When I hear someone use “common sense” in a debate such as this I’m always reminded of an Einstein quote I heard years ago, that “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”

Just one question today Tamas — do you really think that the UK Meteorological Office would ‘peddle falsehoods’ when reporting upon global temperature? Really, Tamas?

Can I just put this one small morsel of reason forward, Tamas — not all websites available in this debate carry the same legitimacy, authenticity and gravitas.

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