Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Is Julia Gillard doing a Beazley?

So now we have the new Labor Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, launching Labor's election campaign less than a week before the election with hardly a mention of climate change - "the greatest moral challenge of our time".

This election has been largely a content and policy free zone.  It has devolved to a game of cat and mouse between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, both of whom have adopted personas quite different from their own.

Gillards rapier wit and forensic precision so often admired in parliament has been replaced by a bland and carefully measured drone.  She doesn't answer questions and stays on message about "moving forwards".

Abbott's bovver boy combative style has been replaced by a forced joviality and an appearance of calmness and control befitting someone who would be prime minister.

Neither are playing their natural game and it shows.  The winner takes all game they are playing is to form government after the election.  To do this they need to win the votes of a small percentage of swinging votesr  (less than 15%) in a small number of marginal electorates - approximately 20 out of 150.

The entire election has been pitched at winning the votes of this very small proportion (less than 5%) of the Australian population - based on feedback from "focus groups" in these electorates.

Rusted on voters are taken for granted -their votes won't shift.

Voters in non-marginal seats are considered irrelevant as their votes will not determine who will win government.

So what about the issues?

Climate change

  • Gillard has committed to a "community consensus of 150 randomly selected people".  There will of course be no consensus if at least one skeptic is included, and there is nothing new that will emerge that the Garnaut Climate Change Report has not covered
  • Abbot has committed to NOT introducing any price on carbon pollution if he wins government, and to hand out millions of taxpayers funds as corporate welfare to large polluters to "encourage them to reduce their emissions".  This is ridiculous - the role of government is to legislate, not hand out corporate welfare.
  • Gillard scores 1 out of 10, Abbott scores 0.  Neither will commit to the year Australia's emissions should peak then fall.
  • Emission reductions 0.
Asylum seekers
  • Gilllard has "done a Beazley" and aped Coalition (indeed Howard) policy on offshore processing.  This will disenfranchise a lot of Labor voters and drive them to the Greens.  This could a factor that costs Labor the election.  This is moving to the right and to the bottom, not moving forwards
  • Abbott's policy is virtually indistinguishable from Gillard's
  • Both are dog whistling on this too - dropping hints about "border security" and "Australia's population growth", both of which are completely irrelevant, but not apparently in the minds of those few voters who matter
National Broadband Network (NBN)
  • This is one of the few policy areas where there is a discernible difference.  
  • Labor is committing to spending $43b on fibre to 93% of homes offering speeds up to 1gbit per second.  Next generation wireless services to 4 per cent of premises and satellite services to 3 per cent will deliver speeds of 12 megabits per second.
  • This has a very high cost and provides bandwidth than many people need.
  • Abbott is proposing a confusing mixture of cheaper technologies - but it is quite clear he does not know what he is talking about. He has committed to killing the NBN too.
  • I think about $20b should be spent on high speed internet - with the priority shifted to rural and regional Australia that currently has poor and expensive services - and the other $20b allocated to clean energy project to transition us off coal
  • Gillard wins on this - GP super clinics are a good idea and some additional funding for mental health have been committed too.
  • Abbott will kill the GP super clinics.
The outcome will be interesting.  Labor could well lose the election in the key marginal seats, even though they are likely to have a higher overall vote.

Forest destruction and land clearing accounts for over 8% of Australia's carbon emissions, yet neither Julia Gillard nor Tony Abbott is proposing to do anything about this.  The solution is quite simple - protect our native forests for their carbon stores, biodiversity and water production.   However, the silence from Tony and Julia on this is deafening.

Indigenous Australians
The racist Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 brought in by John Howard as an election stunt in 2007 is still in place and supported by Labor.  This legislation is racist as they first had to suspend the Racial Discrimination Act to bring it in.  This suspension is still in force.  Welfare payments are quarantined and indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory are treated differently from everybody else.

It was supposed to be an emergency in 2007, yet in 2010 indigenous affairs have not been mentioned during the campaign.  The gap has not been closed, and needs to be.  Indigenous Australians need to empowered to manage their own affairs, and more funding is required for improved health, housing and employment.

Public Transport
No federal funding is routinely allocated to the States for public transport, unlike roads which are funded 50% federally and 50% from the States.

Consequently, public transport infrastructure has lagged behind and crumbled for over 50 years.

During this election campaign, the Gillard goverment has announced funding for two new urban rail lines that both run through marginal electorates.

  • Gillard has pledged $742 million for the long-awaited $1.15 billion Redcliffe rail connection, should Labor be re-elected.
  • Gillard has promised to build the long-awaited $2.6 billion rail link between Parramatta and Epping.  This rail line runs through the marginal seat of Bennelong.  This is the biggest single funding announcement of Gillard's campaign so far, with $2.1 billion in federal funds towards the project, with the a state government contribution of $520 million.
Gillard have also pledged up to $20 million for a feasibility study into a fast railway linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.  This after they has previously voted down a bill from the Greens for exactly this, prior to the election campaign.

Will we get a minority government?

I think the best outcome would be hung parliament followed by negotiation to form government with independent MPs such a Bob Katter and Tony Windsor, and possible Adam Bandt from the Greens if he wins the seat of Melbourne.

This would curb the excesses of either major party governing in their own right, with the democratic representatives of other electorates frozen out of government and forced into a largley futile opposition" role.

Perhaps it is time for political parties to be banned - as they mostly don't act in the best interests of Australia and they corrupt the basic principle of democracy by putting there "partly line" at a much higher priority than the local MPs representing their own constituents.

This is an interesting "example" of election advertising from the Gruen Nation program that we have not seen during this campaign.  It provides some food for thought.

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