Monday, April 27, 2015

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran should live

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran should live.  They have done their time in jail for the crime of smuggling drugs into Bali.  They have both turned their lives around.  They do not deserve to die.

It appears that the Indonesian Government and President Joko Widodo are intent on killing them very soon by firing squad.

I respectfully ask President Joko Widodo to please spare their lives and give them a pardon.

I ask the Australian Federal Police to consider their role in this.  If these two are killed, the AFP will have Andrew Chan's and Myuran Sukumaran's blood on their hands.


Thursday, April 02, 2015

Some ideas for taxation

Some ideas for taxation and other revenue measures in Australia.

Save $10b per year scrapping fossil fuel subsidies - including $4b per year scrapping diesel fuel excise subsidy for big mining

Save $5b per year scrapping negative gearing subsidies for investors buying houses

We saved $5b per year when Abbott scrapped his Paid  Parental Leave Scheme

Save $31b per year scrapping subsidies for religions.

Tax the proceeds of houses sold for over $2m

Reintroduce a carbon tax. This will raise revenue and provide an incentive for high carbon polluters to reduce their emissions - as happened under the previous carbon tax. Since your government removed it, emissions are again rising. A carbon tax on big companies could generate $5b+ per year and be used to develop clean energy alternatives.

Increase resource taxes on mining so that the companies who extract and sell Australia's non-renewable mineral resources make a fair contribution to Australia.  This could generate $10b+ per year.

Simplify the taxation system for ordinary people.  The current system requires most people to become book keepers and hire accountants to do their tax returns every year.

Remove all direct and indirect government subsidies for the logging of native forests.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Tony Abbott, please keep your promise and retain the RET

Open letter to Josh Frydenburg, Kooyong.


Late last year Prime Minister Abbott broke an election promise when he called for devastating cuts to the Renewable Energy Target. 

This week the Abbott government has used national media channels to deliver veiled threats: take our offer to slash the Target to around 31,000 GWh, or we'll walk. 

I ask that you represent my views in the Australian parliament and your Party Room on retaining the RET in its current form. 

Solar energy is a clean renewable solution for the future. You are attacking on solar energy if you reduce the RET, and breaking a clear election promise. 

Please keep the Renewable Energy Target strong. The Renewable Energy Target is one of the most successful pieces of nation building legislation in past years. 

Not only has the Target helped more than 5 million Australians go solar, it also benefits the entire country - increasing investment, growth, jobs and regional development. 

Yours sincerely, 
Peter Campbell
[home address supplied]


You can send an email like this to your local MP, asking them to retain the RET and stop attacking renewable energy, from [here] 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tony Abbott, the Game of Thrones and why party politics is failing

Its interesting to watch the decline of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.  I was concerned when he became Prime Minister that he would not be a good leader.  My worst fears have since been realised.

Tony Abbott: Source

The list of broken promises and bad policies gets longer almost every day, here are just a few:
  • Funding cuts to ABC and SBS (a broken promise and appalling "efficiency levy lie)
  • "Loggers are the ultimate conservationists" and "no more national parks" (appalling lie)
  • "Coal is good for humanity" (appalling lie)
  • Deregulation of university fees - that could result in $100,000 degrees (no policy for this during the 2013 election campaign)
  • Continued incarceration of asylum seekers (including children) in concentration camps and offshore processing centres - a clears breach of human rights and the UN Convention for Refugees. (Note this is also supported by the Labor opposition)
  • Encouraging Islamaphobia is making Australia less safe, rather than considering the causes of radicalisation of the minority who join the likes of ISIS, and how we can prevent this happening.
  • Lifters and Leaners: vilification of low income earners and protection of corporate tax evaders
  • A budget emergency that actually did not exist, but is now being created by the failed LNP budget and policies.
  • Ongoing denial of climate change accompanied by policies that are crippling our transition to renewable energy and a zero carbon future.
  • The proposed GP Copayment - research indicated that this will have a negative effect on health care outcomes and greatly disadvantage low income earners.
All these policies have a common thread - they are based on ideology rather than evidence.

However, for all this I don't just blame Tony Abbott.  

We have serious systemic problems with political parties, where their policies come from, how their leaders are elected, and the basic failure of representational democracy.

Political parties actually only represent their own traditional support bases:
  • Liberal - medium to high income earners, "the big end of town" corporates, media barons etc. Notional "conservatives".
  • Labor - "working families", unions (some but not all), Notional "progressives" etc
  • Greens - conservationists, some unions, progressives disillusioned with Labor and the Coalition
  • Nationals - the notional "rural vote"
The average citizen has next to zero input into party policies.  Many actual party members (a small fraction of voters) also have little or no input to party policies.

Party policies come from secretive processes that are largely controlled by internal and vested interests.

The basic failure of representational democracy is twofold:
  1. Yet we vote for our local Members of Parliament, who are supposed to represent us. In reality, they vote the way their party instructs them most of the time.
  2. Parties have policy platforms during an election that are not binding - promises are routinely broken once government and policies that were not part of their election platform are forced onto society.
Our Prime Ministers are selected by internal party processes such as Party Room votes.  There is never any public participation with this - MPs decided when to sack a sitting Prime Minister and appoint a new one.

Recently, this has been chaotic.

The Labor Party sacked Kevin Rudd due to internal problems they had with his autocratic leadership style.

The Labor Party then sacked Julia Gillard and reappointed Kevin Rudd because nervous Labor MPs thought she couldn't win the 2013 election - which Rudd went on to lose.

Malcolm Turnbull was deposed as Coalition Opposition Leader in 2009 by the Liberal Party room, many of whom were concerned by his bipartisan support for an emissions trading scheme.  Tony Abbott won by one vote and went to become Prime Minister.

Now in 2015, it is evident to the wider electorate that Tony Abbott is manifestly unsuitable for the role of Prime Minister, so nervous back benchers (scared of losing their seats) bring on a "vote of no confidence" in him, which is defeated (61 votes for him, 39 against) with no alternative candidate. 

Since then, Abbott has continued to prove himself incapable of governing the country, he is locked into "attack mode" where he insists he well "beat Bill Shorten" and he continues to bully and threaten anyone who doesn't agree with him such as Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs.

It now seems likely that the Coalition Party Room will vote again on who will be Prime Minister (if someone challenges) and that Tony Abbott is considered likely to now lose.

So these are some big problems.  

Here are some possible structural solutions:

Constitutional change: Form governments based on the skills of elected MPs rather than party allegiances and membership

Constitutional change: Ban binding party votes - make every vote a conscience vote

Constitutional change: Provide voters with the opportunity to directly elect political leaders (e.g Prime Minister, Head of State) and move to some form of Republic

Legislative change: Ban large political donations - these fundamentally corrupt politics as they buy influence and large media driven election campaigns.

Constitutional change: Citizen initiated referendums and issue/policy referendums - give voters the opportunity to vote on binding policy matters that governments must then implement.

If we don't reinvigorate our democracy will continue to be subjected to the whims and vagaries of a largely autocratic political elite that don't act in the best interests of the nation and all citizens.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Why roads are not suitable for mass transportation

The now departed Napthine government was hell-bent on spending up to $16b on the "East West link" tollway tunnel project, claiming that it would "be the transport infrastructure that Melbourne needs".  They included fanciful claims including that the new tunnel would:
  • Reduce commute times by 20 minutes
  • Reduce congestion on Hoddle Street
Both claims are patently false.  The Napthine government lost he election held on 29 November and the incoming Premier, Daniel Andrews, has pledged to stop the East West Link road project  proceeding.

Similar claims were made by Jeff Kennet back in the 90s when he claimed the City Link road project, constructed between 1996 and 2000 would "will solve Melbourne's traffic problems". Clearly, it has not.

However, there is another good reason why roads cannot provide a suitable mass transport system for a city such as Melbourne - every driver is a single point of failure.

Nearly every day there is a crash which can close or seriously disrupt traffic on a route.

Six cars and a truck were involved in two crashes on the West Gate Bridge. Photo: Seven News

For example,a crash closed the West Gate Bridge on Tuesday 2 December. Such crashes and closures are now a daily occurrence.

By comparison, trains carry up to 800 passengers with a single driver - and don't have to contend with road intersections and "lane changes".

We need some real political leadership to build more train lines and revise the train network for Melbourne - given that no new suburban rail lines have been built since the Glen Waverley line in 1932.

A dedicated safe bicycle path network should be included too.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Labor finally opposes disastrous East West Tollway Tunnel

Finally, after months of obfuscation and weasel words, the Labor party has stated that they won't honour any contracts signed for the ill-considered East West Link (road tollway tunnel) that the Napthine Liberal National Government is hell bent on building.

Up until now, Labor has said "they oppose the tunnel but they will honour contracts signed by the Napthine government" - which means they effectively supported the tunnel as it would proceed if they win the election.

This was always nonsense as the Victorian Government is NOT exposed to any sovereign risk if bidders for the project know that the next government might not proceed with the project.

Now, at last, Daniel Andrews has made this statement - that if elected, a Labor government will not proceed with the project.

There are very good reasons they should do this, as I presented to the Assessment Panel, including:
  • The project cost/benefit has not been fully disclosed, and what is known has been proven to be false.  The project will not generate a net return to the community, it will be a net cost.
  • The tunnel will not reduce congestion as it will encourage more traffic and the destination of only 95% of people travelling on the Eastern Freeway system is the CBD, north or south, not across to the Tullamarine.
The $8b would be much better invested in upgrading Melbourne's train network, including building new train lines and bike paths such as the North East Bicycle Corridor.  You can also sign this petition to build the NEBC.