Friday, October 23, 2009

Final Post - least for now

Dear readers, thanks for visiting the L Party, this will be my last post, least for a while. Present priority and interest changes have prevailed and piloted me to this decision.

Though it was not the primary reason for beginning this blog, I have admittedly harbored more than a casual interest in entering the political fold by seeking pre-selection or perhaps working in a behind the scenes role. Indeed, the future is still open to this - change is a constant.

Only recently, I weighed up the question in a broad mode taking into account a whole gamut of factors including but not limited to, the impending cost to family in terms of the time and effort required, the potential loss of privacy due to my sometimes-audacious nature, and remuneration factors. On that last note, while guarantees go begging, let us assume that I did in future become a Victorian MP. One of my conundrums stems from my present salary as a train driver for the much maligned and not so endeared Connex. Yes, I know, the latter may come as a revelation to those outside my immediate sphere of acquaintances and family. Though I hardly find the role inspiring, it pays well, in my case, pre-tax and pre salary sacrifice earnings fast approaching $110K this financial year. When I compare this to an MP’s base salary of around $124,000 I begin to fathom what Age political reporter Melissa Fyfe meant in an August article, “If you pay peanuts”:

"Victorian MP’s gets a $124,360 base salary … That is about twice the average Australian wage, but it is not an endearing sum to a well-established professional or even a higher-level public servant. The result, some argue, is that only two types of people will go into Parliament: those who think $124,360 is a great wage and have few other prospects of earning that money elsewhere, and those who are independently wealthy".
I am compelled to add, that I am not one of the "two types" that Melissa refers to.

Why did I consider the question so thoroughly you ask? Only a short time ago, I was courted by a party member and official with far more than a common measure of clout. Names are not necessary, let’s just say that this person is part of an influential fold of Melbourne’s inner eastern Liberal party cluster. After two face to face meetings what followed was not exactly a concrete offer, in this game that’s not how it works. Rather, I was presented with a genuine window of opportunity to begin building the necessary bridges – profile – required for a successful tilt at pre-selection at a future date and furthermore, in the electoral seats that really matter. Though I declined the offer this time around, I was and remain, both honored and immensely grateful for having being seen in such light.

Finally, much like my previous blog American Interests, I recognize the role The L Party’s content plays in the larger ecosystem of related insight and information; accordingly, its contents will not be removed from blogosphere just yet.

Therefore, as I continue tendering to the needs of a modern family, which includes pushing trains around Melbourne’s rail grid and pontificating the vicissitudes of politics and the Liberal party, I would be somewhat insincere if I told you that I did not - at least intermittently - feel frustration of the kind felt by a certain, David Larkin.

I rest my oars ...


For those wondering whether Melbourne’s train services will get better when Connex is replaced by Metro Trains in December, the short answer is no. Moreover, here is why. The new company will have to make do with a limited capacity to improve services due to years of government neglect that has resulted in an infrastructure capacity that is limited at best. However, this is only part of the story, that bloated left wing bureau mass known as the Department of Transport and its two of supporting constituent bodies – can you name them? – will ensure that mediocrity prevails behind the glossy facade. A veneer made possible by MTR’s winning a staggering sum of taxpayers’ money - $474 million to run the service per year compared to $398 million for Connex.

I am of the belief that ultimately, it’s the quantity and quality of people that matters most.

In the case of our public transport establishment; it is littered with pretenders and baseless types and nothing is expected to change. At the least, they are grossly hypocritical and in just about all cases, second handers that are great at acting as speed humps for those that do wish to excel. As someone more qualified than me once said:
"How often have we heard it, about being part of a brain based economy where the best assets are your people, but how many leaders appreciate what this means? In the interests of doing something, anything, they create diversions, give the impression that they’re actually doing something, they fool around with the latest management fad, they re-structure, engage in deal making more oft than not, to consolidate their own arrangement … Organization doesn't really accomplish anything. Plans don't accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don't much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great things. In a brain based economy, your best assets are your people. We've heard this expression so often that it's become trite. But how many leaders really "walk the talk" with this stuff? Too often, people are assumed to be empty chess pieces to be moved around by grand viziers, which may explain why so many top managers immerse their calendar time in deal making, restructuring and the latest management fad. How many leaders immerse themselves in the goal of creating an environment where the best, the brightest, the most creative are attracted, retained and - most importantly - unleashed?"
On the question of establishment quantity, one could scale back numbers to the tune of 20% and you would not notice, save saving the taxpayer a bundle.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Victorian Government cache of annual reports

It’s not only improper but very wrong, not merely discourteous but out-and-out rude and most certainly contemptuous conduct. I am referring to the Victorian Governments decision to release 300 reports simultaneously; reports that are expected to be tabled in parliament on Thursday.

What is more, Premier John Brumby is out of town and most nearly all his Ministers are scattered throughout the state. It may be politically adept however, it underscores the very tangible level of disrespect the Brumby Government has for its constituents. In the words of Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu:
"There will be hundreds tomorrow and they'll be piled high to the ceiling yet again," adding, "That's just another example of this government not wanting to be transparent or accountable and wanting to do a snow job on Victorians."
This practice of hoarding annual reports and dumping them at once to avoid proper scrutiny may be common practice, but the Victorian Government is expert at it.

3AW launches Our Afghanistan heroes site

We will ever be grateful for all they have done for us, may God bless them all. Lest we forget…

I have always held the greatest respect for our members of the armed forces past and present. Those with the courage to stand against that which threatens the peace and security of this world and ultimately, the way of life we enjoy. They are highly regarded, as General JAMES N. MATTIS, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation & Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command once wrote, “We Marines would happily storm hell itself with your troops on our right flank.”

In a noble gesture, 3AW has launched a new site “Our Afghanistan heroes” to honor those fighting our war in Afghanistan. On it, you will find just some of the faces that have given the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe and free. The words of Steve - an early site commenter – are most fitting:

They, like our forefathers forge the ideology, freedom of speech & choice, supporting your brothers, sisters & mates which is 'the Australian way'... It is from their sacrifice that we live in the best country in the world & why the rest of us are proud to be Aussie... Never forget what they do for us and lest we forget the fallen ones...
See also: Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SAS): Strengthening the Alliance

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Victoria: "On the move" no more

“So are you saying that we’d be better off under the Libs”? “Ah yes, I am”, and so a discussion with acquaintances concluded on a mid August night this year. In the end, agreeing simply to disagree on the question of a Liberal Government versus a Labor one here in Victoria. With strong conviction, my friends - yes I do have friends that do not see eye to eye with me politically – added, “I don’t remember anything good about Kennett, he killed off teachers, schools, the country, and the railways just about everything.” I tried telling my audience that the cuts were necessary after the economic disaster left by Labor, which included a budget deficit in excess of $2 billion and over $30 billion of public sector debt, how else I added, “Could we reign in the economy without some radical budget cuts.”

After some time I realized my words were to no avail, Labor it seemed was deemed good and righteous, the morally superior body, the socially just, and fairer of the two, a perception that prevailed, in spite of some cold facts in relation to economic management issues.

Originally intending to sway my audience during our planned next get together, over the next few days, I penned some notes about some of the more palpable policy failures of the Bracks- Brumby Labor Government hoping to use such to sway opinion. To some degree it worked however, it must be said, excerpt for perhaps one, my audience seemed to consist of those inbred, casehardened Labor for life political types which constitute some 30% percent of the electorate. It was only in the last few days, while planning a meeting with a local federal branch Chairman that I revisited the observations made in August and decided to post them here, albeit in a more coherent written point form. Hence, a concise and I might add, only partial listing of the Victorian Labor Governments failures.

Education - Victorian students have the lowest basic skills levels in the nation according to OECD’s latest analysis. Three quarters of our 1,250 schools have over $250 million outstanding in maintenance issues. The Brumby Gov’t spends less on students per head than any other state (~$9,800 vs. SA at ~ $13,000)and in spite of high population growth, school enrolments at public schools have fallen since 2001. We spend less on TAFE than any other state and have raised fees for TAFE training at a time when we are supposedly in the midst of the greatest economic crises since the great depression – the significance being, workplace training should be encouraged to maintain employment levels during harsh economic times.

Law and Order - One only has to scan Monday’s papers to know that Victorian crime statistics are flawed and yet the state Gov’t continued to use these figures well into 2009 to peddle the notion that we have the safest streets in Australia. Labor has failed miserably in addressing levels of hooliganism and general crime especially assault, on both our streets and public transport. On a per head basis, we spend less than any other state on police and consequently have fewer police on the field that the other states with patrols falling 20% in the five years to 2007.

Public Transport - As someone in the know, I can reveal firsthand the levels of inadequacy with respect our train system. Shortcomings that include, massive levels of overcrowding, cancellations, delays, and poorly managed and maintained infrastructure. While the Gov’t is all too happy in blaming the service providers they in turn pin the blame on everything else including trade unions, drivers, rolling stock reliability, adverse weather, ill passengers, and trespassers. Fact is, much like our water crises the Gov’t has failed to plan effectively or provide for adequate funding in the management and maintenance of our train system. They have been far too slow when comes to ordering the new much needed trains with only one coming into service this year. Road infrastructure has also failed to keep pace with both economic and population growth resulting in Melbourne now having the slowest evening peak time average speed of any capital city at under 38 km/h.

Water - The Gov’t hopeless inaction during its first 7 years in office has contributed to our present water shortages and will ultimately be the reason why Melbournians will soon pay up to 60% more for water. The result of the inaction is a haphazard response with the hugely unpopular and very expensive desalination plant decision. What is also remarkable is that in spite of our very protracted drought conditions Victorian Labor has invested less per head than all states bar one (SA) over the past two years in water infrastructure

Country - Regional unemployment levels remain unacceptably high and second only to NSW. We have spent less than 50% of the allocated amount under the promised Regional Infrastructure Development Fund ($272 million of $585 million) with less than 2 years remaining on the decade long program. Bushfire prevention has been almost criminal like with constant squabbling over correct levels of fuel reduction in the most bushfire prone areas. Labors burn-off policies have fallen well short of the benchmark. The Gov’t has failed to adhere to the advice provide by a 2008 inquiry into the impact of public land management practices on bushfires as tabled in Parliament in the same year.

Economy - Our economic growth rate is below the national rate and earlier this year Access economics predicted that both the Victorian and NSW economies could actually contract in 2009 Business investment is the weakest of all states on last available figures for 2008. Exports are also well down on other states growing at less than 5% compared to 35, 70, and 38% for some other states. This alone clearly demonstrates Labors gross neglect in terms of maintaining our international competitiveness. Just last year we were the only state to lose jobs as the job market shrank for the first time since, you guessed it, 1992 when we were governed under Kirner. Infrastructure spending has also been less peer head than other states and we will have to significantly increase debt to catch up.

Health - The provision of services has continued to deteriorate with the number of sick patients having to wait for long periods in hospital emergency departments still too high. Almost 1 in 3 Victorians needing semi urgent elective surgery were not seen within 90 days and The Government needs to explain to ordinary Victorians why it sees it fit to conceal and distort hospital performance data.

To the list of mediocrity, we can add waste and mismanagement. Where do I begin? Let’s just say that in its nearly decade of power state Labor has mismanaged major project costs leading to cost blow outs in excess of $6.5 billion – the major offenders being the East link toll way, Myki smartcard, channel deepening, Wimmera- Mallee pipeline and the State library redevelopment to name a few.

With hospital figures manipulated, crime figures inaccurate, ministers accused of corruption in addition to failures in most nearly all major portfolios, state labors ineptitude is cemented. What is even more amazing is that the Gov’ts poor record of service delivery has coincided with a period of unprecedented levels of revenue inflow. The tax grab from stamp duties, land tax, GST funding, payroll tax, gambling tax and new records in speed fine revenue from our roads has resulted in a massive $270 billion windfall for the Victorian Government. Moreover, I have not even mentioned, the Brumby Gov’ts proposed Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution tax that has many landowners screaming as I type. A new tax that labor says will raise yet another 2 billion in revenue over 20 years.

Care to add to the list?

As I see it, the Victorian Labor Government has squandered years of opportunity and I find it shameful that we Liberals have largely failed to hold them to account in a manner fitting of the scope and depth of failure in some key policy areas.

Not surprisingly, not one of my acquaintances bothered to recognize the economic benefits of the Kennett governments capital-works projects, such as the restoration of Parliament House, construction of the Melbourne Museum, the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, the National Gallery of Victoria, refurbishment of the State Library of Victoria, a new Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre and Federation Square, the Docklands redevelopment and Citylink project.

One final note, the Brumby Governments level of spin is almost frenzied; unremittingly we hear (or see) those ads – the one’s ending with the words -"authorized by the Victorian Government Melbourne”? Moreover, how much is this alone costing?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

John Howard: Losing in Afghanistan would embolden the enemy ...

" ... the end game is even less attractive if there is not a greater commitment. the greater the commitment the more likely it is the game will end sooner ... the great worry I have is that we will just drift along unwilling to pull out because that would be an overt admission of failure but unwilling to make a decisive additional commitment ... "

It's time for the President to lead - something he doesn't seem to know how to do - but, when you have troops in the field and the generals ask for reinforcements, you provide them or you go home. I cannot under stand Obama's hesitation in light of comments made in 2008:

“Our bill calls for the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq so that we can focus more fully on the real war on terror, which is in Afghanistan.”
Said Nancy Pelosi on March 8 of 2007, soon after, both houses of Congress passed a bill for ending the war in Iraq, arguing that it was a distraction from the “real fight.” The opinion implicit in that resolution — that Iraq was a war of choice and, hence, the “wrong” war, while Afghanistan was a war of necessity, thus the “right” war — was echoed by the three leading Democrat candidates for the presidency at the time, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards.

Thus if its the "right war" what is the problem? I suspect that whatever decision is ultimately made will have implications for Australia.

Update: As Dr Geoffrey Garrett founding CEO of the United States Studies Centre and Professor of Political Science at the University of Sydney, rightly pointed out:
Amid all the heady global diplomacy at the United Nations and the G20 last week, one issue was conspicuous by its absence - Afghanistan. The reason is clear. Afghanistan is now Barack Obama's war, a war other world leaders want to distance themselves from, and a war over which Obama is paralysed ...
Read the rest here

Monday, October 05, 2009

Say "NO" to an ETS

I was recently asked to explicate my support for the Liberal Party. As always my response was both fluid and spontaneous, describing the party as the foremost political force that, least historically though hardly perfectly, best upholds conservative ideology and Judeo-Christian values that are, for the most part, consistent with my own. Furthermore, I added, Liberals, though perhaps not all, believe in economic liberalism where the role of markets and competitive forces alike, are left to dictate the strength of the economy and the state merely provides the framework in which markets can operate effectively with minimal interference, pertaining or conforming to the principles or practices of laissez faire.

In relation to this last sentence, consider if you will, how an emissions trading scheme runs completely contrary to what the party purportedly stands for. Not least, the Government model proposes to harm the industries in which we have our greatest comparative advantage. Politician’s need ask why we are one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide per head of population? Think coal fired power stations, the mining, and export of coal and minerals. Moreover, I have not even touched on anything about minimizing the regulatory burden on Australian business, which, last I read, forms part of the party federal platform. I also expressed regret that the ETS discussion has not sufficiently included debate in a manner consistent with the platform as opposed to just, ‘denier’s vs. believer’s ideology.

Also disappointing is how Malcolm Turnbull has allowed himself to be lured into the wrong debate, that of accepting the proposed ETS but simply adding amendments in preference to exploring new lines of discourse even if, and I say this unwillingly, based on the notion that carbon is causing the problem. Those who have visited this blog in the past will know that I do not subscribe to anthropogenic contention.

Let us be perfectly clear, based on the present flawed community consensus, if the party resolves to do nothing it is going to pay a heavy price at the polls. However, I firmly believe that consensus will in time shift for at least a couple of reasons:

  • Copenhagen shall not deliver anything other than a new date for a follow up talkfest
  • We will witness an increase in anti-consensus publications and Media/film releases and
  • Climate models gross disagreement with observations & the discrepancy (something that is becoming more evident with each passing year) will in due course garner greater attention and scrutiny of global warming adherents

I expect that the October 18 release of “Not evil just wrong” will serve to alter the playing field whereby robust, and cogent examination will filter through to mainstream 24/7 news/opinion cycles thereby diluting the lefts hold on the debate. Those that have already seen the film have written, “Not evil just wrong” will do for the AGW/Carbon caused/Al-Gore/Kevin Rudd/Penny Wong case, what Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 did for George W. Bush.

In the interim, that is ahead of Copenhagen and the consensus shift to which I refer, fear not the Double-D, for if Liberals fail to fall in line with Malcolm Turnbull then, with or without him, the party must begin crafting and structuring the debate with the purpose of contributing to viable policy options. At least provisionally, and in the interests of commonsense and effective PR, there is nothing wrong with exploring policies that seek to curtail greenhouse emissions without the tax/regulatory burdens of an ETS. They could for example, investigate some of the solutions recently proposed by a panel at the Copenhagen Consensus on Climate which opposes ETS in favour of technology based climate engineering solutions. I feel compelled to add, the expert panel included three (3) Nobel Laureates, which reviewed 21 research papers submitted by climate economists. See the 11 solutions proposed here - I am not advocating any of the solutions, what I am doing is highlighting alternatives to an ETS.

I honestly admire Malcolm Turnbull’s latest posturing, there are leadership qualities within, but the admiration stops well short of subscribing to his progressive views on climate change. At any rate, Malcolm’s recent bravado will finally bring the party’s climate change debate to the fore. I say to any Liberal still vacillating, consider the very recent (posted: October 01, 2009) words of Ross McKitrick, a professor of environmental economics at the University of Guelph, and coauthor of Taken By Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming:
I have been probing the arguments for global warming for well over a decade. In collaboration with a lot of excellent coauthors I have consistently found that when the layers get peeled back, what lies at the core is either flawed, misleading or simply non-existent. The surface temperature data is a contaminated mess with a significant warm bias, and as I have detailed elsewhere the IPCC fabricated evidence in its 2007 report to cover up the problem. Climate models are in gross disagreement with observations, and the discrepancy is growing with each passing year. The often-hyped claim that the modern climate has departed from natural variability depended on flawed statistical methods and low-quality data. The IPCC review process, of which I was a member last time, is nothing at all like what the public has been told: Conflicts of interest are endemic, critical evidence is systematically ignored and there are no effective checks and balances against bias or distortion.

I get exasperated with fellow academics, and others who ought to know better, who pile on to the supposed global warming consensus without bothering to investigate any of the glaring scientific discrepancies and procedural flaws. Over the coming few years, as the costs of global warming policies mount and the evidence of a crisis continues to collapse, perhaps it will become socially permissible for people to start thinking for themselves again.

Fascinating how the next party room meeting falls just 48 hours after the, “Not evil just wrong” premiere. Let’s hope that many party powerbrokers, MP’s, Senators and members alike, view the film ahead of the meeting, and who knows, it might just, for all intents and purposes loom as a de-facto leadership ballot.

Stay firm, say no to an ETS in all its forms and guises. Let us begin steering the debate away from those who seek to enhance the present social democratic project. Progressive policies that put Government at the coronary centre of the economy reveal the lefts way of centralizing power in the hands of a few who claim to know what is best for us; all of us!

You may also wish to read:
Climate Change: Modelling the Modelers and Novel Science