Crikey‘s 13th birthday competition

Crikey writes: Jimmy Murphy is the lucky winner of the iPad in the Crikey birthday competition. Congratulations!

Will Fettes writes: Re: “Who’s writing the Coalition’s policies?” (Tips and rumours, Friday). “I was not at all surprised to read that many of the ramshackle Liberal Party policy thought bubbles recently leaked to the media were essentially copied and pasted from the Institute of Public Affairs. We see a similar kind of hollowing out of policy capacity on the conservative side of politics around the world.

The general story goes like this: rent-seeking pro-industry think tanks are initially welcomed with open arms by conservative forces as a friendly and deep pocketed media presence that can echo most of their positions in the media behind the cover of being nominally independent. But over time, as these think tanks accumulate media power and take a more central role in public policy dialogue and party positioning, major problems emerge crowding out internal capacity to understand and develop policy.

First, the rent-seeking nature of these bodies prevents serious policy debate around structural reforms and ideas threatening to major incumbent interests and donors which is a reform straight jacket even the most status quo biased politicians cannot readily accept as proper. Second, said think tanks tend to be deliberately aloof from subject matter experts in academia, relying on a glibly dismissive view of the left-wing academy to protect their work from any real contestation. As such, they lack a real culture of internal debate and accountability based on wide reading, fearlessly following the data and engaging with the most charitable version of the other side. This severely limits the usefulness and rigour of their work — even when it is well-intentioned.

So, one day the conservative side of politics wakes up and realises they have outsourced their brain to the rich kid’s sycophantic follower. Meanwhile, comfortably ensconced in their conservative epistemic bubble, conservative ideas and skills around policy development have atrophied with disuse and the accumulated (and self-fulfilling) rhetoric of government failure has left them bereft of ideas that aren’t based in microeconomic reform and social wedge politics.

WA state of the arts

Anna Vanderbom writes: Re. “My Cup of Tea: Perth’s boom drives a cultural renewal” (Friday). Sure, the companies are supporting the arts. But Premier Colin Barnett and his mining boom have resulted in a situation where housing and rental prices have skyrocketed.

The Premier has the reputation for only listening to big business, including property developers. His “dinners with the Premier”, where party donors of $25,000 can present their wish list, are notorious. They are an erosion of democracy. He has ignored most of his electors. Our Premier’s highly tuned into pushing through big projects without proper consultation, but negligent on saving Perth from some of the detrimental effects of a drastic population increase combined with the effects of the deepening rift between super rich and poor.

The lack of infrastructure has also been of great concern, particularly where public transport is concerned. This is why it’s at the top of the agenda with the opposition. Traffic congestion is a huge problem, and it will be worsened by the close of Riverside Drive which crosses the southern area of our city.

We have a state election coming up soon and we would appreciate Crikey covering some of the issues, particularly in relation to the concerns of the Perth City Gatekeepers and the Western Suburbs Alliance, both of which were formed by prominent generally Liberal-voting citizens in the Premier’s electorate who are highly concerned at the autocratic use of power by the Premier. The major areas of concern are the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority Act which allows the government to wrest heritage land, including A-class reserves and sell it off to developers. This has already happened several times in our city.

Another concern is the proposed forced amalgamation of councils, particularly in the leafy and lucrative western suburbs, which are being subjected to a massive spate of development under the pretext of urban density.

Media bias

Brett Gaskin writes: John Shailer (comments, Friday) has a fair point. If only the ABC and Fairfax press were pro-bias Coalition like The Australian, Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Courier-Mail, The Gold Coast Bulletin, The Advertiser, The West Australian, Channels Seven, Nine, Ten, radio 2GB, 5AA … The poor bloke has hardly anywhere to go to hear his preferred version of facts.