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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Supersize me - but do it where I live

Miss Eagle seldom is on message with Paul Kelly of The Government Gazette. However, his analysis yesterday of what Howard is up to at the moment - and it is a moment by moment policy roller-coaster ride - is sound. Governance, not only under Howard but under any future Federal Government, is the issue.

Australia has a three tier system of governance: Local, State, Federal. Governance is on a declining scale of parochialism from Local up to Federal. Until now, when a Prime Minister who has been able to gain neither traction nor momentum against Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd is becoming desperate. Howard has long demonstrated a bottomless capacity for buying votes but this attribute has now reached proportions which are both grandiose and parochial.

The Shock and Awe intervention appears to have some sort of policy identification and the place, the Northern Territory, seems to have been merely the place over which the Commonwealth had power to intervene easily.

John Howard, with Member for Braddon Mark Baker, make the most of a celebrity welcome at Mersey Hospital, Devonport as part of their Stick it to the States Campaign

The Shock and Awe modus operandi has continued week by week. Last week, it was the intervention in Tasmania singling out one hospital in one small community (the 70,000 population figure by Abbot is a blatant lie and does not describe the population of the community serviced by the Mersey hospital). This week it is offering disaffected local councils in Queensland funding for plebiscites in their municipalities on amalgamations proposed by Peter Beattie's Labor Government after long consultation with local government.

The ACT is the latest government in Howard's "Embarrass a Government To-day" program. This time he is offering to fund timber mill employees' entitlements to the tune of $5 million on the condition that the NSW Government issues the mill with a long-term licence. Now, there appear to be a number of interests coalescing here.

  1. Most of the employees are resident in the electorate of Eden-Monaro. Eden-Monaro is known as a bellwether seat. Eden-Monaro, since 1972, has been held by whichever party forms government.
  2. The purpose of the proposed funding and the request for a long-term licence is that the mill can be sold as a going concern. So, while employees may benefit and continuing employment in a marginal electorate are supported, the main beneficiary could well be the employer/company. Another case of business welfare?
  3. The relevant union is the CFMEU. This union is a blessing and a curse to the constituency of the Federal Government. Its members employed in the timber and forest products industry cost Labor two Tasmanian seats at the Federal Election of 2004 and have forced the ALP this time into a me-too Howard-image policy which dares not deviate in any environmentally responsible way or it will pay dearly in Tasmania. On the other hand, Howard and Co loathe the CFMEU's members employed in building and construction and have done everything they can to legislate against and prosecute the CFMEU's officials and members in this industry. But...timber and forest products industry union members appear to be a well-beloved species!

So since the Shock and Awe Campaign, Howard has struck at two states and two territories. Three states if one considers the position of the NSW Government in relation to a long-term licence for the ACT timber mill. So WA, SA, and Victoria are still to come. WA is open to vilification because they were the one stand-out state against Howard's armed intervention in Aboriginal affairs. Victoria has been a stand-out on the Howard Government attempt to nationalise water policy with all its private sector market-driven consequences. So there is room for Howard nastiness and meanness to operate against WA and Victoria.

So what will happen in SA? Undoubtedly, somewhere along the line will be incursion into Pitjantjatjara lands. And, just as certainly, the excuse will that Pitlands cross the border of South Australia and the Northern Territory.

So Back to Reality.Yesterday, the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 [NTMERB] passed through the House of Representatives in spite of Labor attempts to amend the legislation and in spite of the difficulties faced by Warren Snowdon and Senator Trish Crossin.

CEO of NITV, Pat Turner AM, at the Indigenous leaders press conference in Canberra yesterday.
Valda Shannon, a significant Aboriginal woman from Tennant Creek, at the press conference
Bill Heffernan, Homo Horribilis, puts in an appearance and an interruption at the Indigenous leaders press conference in Canberra yesterday

And who should raise his head above the parapet but that shameless and nasty old homo, Bill Heffernan. Homo, you ask? Homo Horribilis, don't you think Dear Reader? Aboriginal leaders came to Canberra yesterday to discuss the NTNERB and held a press conference. Bill the Buzzard came along, clearly seeing fresh meat to pick over, more dreadful people to put on his hit and smear list. He had the hide to interrupt. But good manners have never been the hallmark of of our hero, Homo Horribilis.

But perhaps I sell him short. Perhaps he only wanted to see what Aboriginal people look like. Maybe there haven't been many around his property in Junee lately. Maybe Bill just wanted to get to know some Aboriginal people before he sunk his ploughshares into their land as he farms Northern Australia!

Anyway, they told Bill where to go. Miss Eagle loves the photograph of Jack Ah Kit eyeballing him.

So, if Bill Heffernan was shameless yesterday, another Senator, Stephen Parry of Tasmania, found himself feeling shameful. Stephen, it is now believed, has learned not to open his mouth in lifts when uncertain of the discretion of all present. Parry has thought about this. So have the clinicians who have resigned from Mersey at the prospect of a Howard take-over. And then there is the Tasmanian Labor Government and its view.

So John Howard has let it be known that, if anyone anywhere in the nation has a proposal which is believed to have been neglected by a State Government, get in touch and they will put it on the list. Word has it that people are queuing up.

Parochialism across the nation is standing up and demanding to be supersized by superhero government. Damned is good governance.

Thoughtful policy is for the birds when making it up on the run and trying to shaft Labor is much more fun.

And Mal Brough is expressing concern about whether his legislation can survive a Federal Labor government. Well, Mal, when you carry on like this why would you expect the legislation produced to stand the test of time? When you expect everyone to toe the line when you say the magic words "child abuse" because they fear being labelled as unsupportive of efforts to combat it, why should you be surprised when more considered opinion will want to override your legislation? And when people realise that you have lead them up the garden path by failure to implement the recommendations of the very report you have used to force action after a decade of neglect, you still expect them to say you did the right thing?

Miss Eagle wonders what the so-called committee hearing will produce on Friday. What can it produce that will be meaningful? Some sound grabs?

And, dear Reader, if you are still not clear about what good and sound governance in this nation might look like, you can get an idea of it here. Whatever happened to this process, Miss Eagle wants to know? Buried between the manila folders and red tape of bureaucracy or withering for lack of funding by a grandstanding Prime Minister and his political, advisory, and bureaucratic lackeys?