Friday, July 22, 2011

A Change is Good for the Political Climate.

Last night I was flicking through the channels and came across Malcolm Turnbull giving an address to a crowd of mostly Liberals on the subject of climate change. His ability to speak to his audience and hold their attention was apparent, even with the distance of television. He spoke clearly, eloquently and with passion, all things which the current political field sadly lack.

The entire talk was centred around one thing, science. His belief that this debate should be centred on the policy's presented by each party rather than the science behind climate change was a very interesting argument from a member of the Liberal Party. Not because all members of the party are non-believers, I am sure there are many who are not, but because he has now opened up the Coalition to scrutiny by the nation on it's Direct Action policy. This is a policy that has been referred to in the past but has never really been pulled apart and studied, until now.

In the past week several news sources have looked into it further and all came up wanting. The problem is that those who delved inside were all fringe media and the mass population will have missed the bulk of those reports. Malcolm's statement that we should leave the science up to the scientists (I know, how completely outrageous) and come to the realisation as a nation that we need action on this issue was so rational and sane that you could be forgiven for thinking he was not a politician at all. One person on his Facebook page put it perfectly today; It's a sad day when it takes a representative of the denier's party to make more sense on climate change and action than the party actually doing something.

The problem I have is that the above comment should not be as truthful as it is. For two reasons. Firstly, the Labor Party have been doing an appalling job of selling the tax they have designed with the help of the minor party's and secondly, because it should be BOTH major party's who are 'actually going something'. This particular issue should not be a divisive one. It should offer the best opportunity for the Opposition to be part of the process that came up with this Bill. The entire country should have it's representatives working togerher to ensure the policy that came out at the end was as fair and reasoned as possible. I think that we actually got that but still wish it had been achieved with all party's having the best interests of our nation in mind.

The media has been partly to blame for the attacks on the tax package. There can be no denying that the myopic scope of the News Ltd press has been firmly targeting the Government, in particular Gillard, ever since the minority Government was formed. Crikey did a fabulous piece this week on the difference in the reporting of the GST before it came in and the previous few weeks since the Carbon Tax was released. Some of the headlines were incredible. (see: for the full story)

Since the News Of The World hacking scandal became worldwide news and people started to notice that here in this country we have no competition to the Murdock run press the scrutiny of the headlines and the stories has never been greater. There has been a big change in reporting over the past few days and I know that many other's are noticing it too. Each of Abbott's gaffes has made front page, each of his idiotic rants has been played out in full across all media and Gillard has continued on in her tour of the nation with very little fanfare all of a sudden.

It's been an interesting week in politics to say the very least. Abbott will have to formulate some sort of sane argument against the tax that does not contradict the Coalitions own policy. He'll have to start having continuity in his speeches and that could prove the most difficult thing of all. This week may just be the turning point in this whole political landscape we currently have.

Or maybe not. While the comment on Malcolm's Facebook page I quoted above was very well put and worthy of repeating, most of the comments are extremely vitriolic. The hate on that page directed at Mr Turnbull is frightening in it's acidity and completely unnecessary. I was hopeful that the speech last night would centre debate and get it back where it should be. As an argument for the Carbon Tax, or for Direct Action. Instead what it appears to have done is started a hate campaign against a Liberal member of Parliament, by the Liberal Party members.

Here are just a few of the more interesting comments (please note there is some bad language used in the following quotes, and I don't mean grammatically);

'If Malcolm Turnbull had a brain that the local residents could understand he would take notice of the Australian scientists who know his man made global warming CO2 tax is a scam based on the lefts botched science to fund their pet projects, Mouthing off about the Great Barrier reef and tugging at his green forelock will not change the climate in this winter of his discontent. Malcolm backed the wrong horse for a easy ride, but his fine cotton got caught at the turn as the natural weather cycle returned to spoil his party.'

'You're a bit of a f-ck wit malcolm, you are losing so much credibility, Mount a challenge then F-ck off into obscurity when you don't get the numbers. No other opposition leader has been in such a strong position i.e Tony Abbott and the more you do to keep this kiddies Government in Power the more you are just as useless as Gillard and her mob. Investment Wa-nker.'

'Turnbull you have a chip on your shoulder, remove it. You and Kevin Rudd would make good mates. Could both cry over a few beers. Abbott and Gillard are fools, but you bring down your whole party, this makes you a fool too.'

'Perhaps Turnbull should start supporting his party instead of trying to lift the polling numbers of the labor/green/indie failing experiment we have in office at present.'

'Malcolm has already been Leader once, and couldnt do the job, got ousted and the Liberal Party undxer Tony Abbott grew and grew, and only for the Independents & Greens, would have won, and would have been in government. Under Turnbull that wouldnt have happened. Turnbull is self centred, and arrogant, and whats more he should be supportive of his leader, not stabbing him in the back.'

Interesting isn't it? I was astounded as I had watched the full speech and he never once stated anything other than Liberal Party Policy. Something tells me that Abbott is a lot more powerful than most people would like to admit.

While Howard was very good at creating a fear campaign on divisive issues it appears that the student has begun to outshine the master. Fear is an all encompassing thing and turning the tide would be difficult enough with an effective political leader but with the messy situation we currently have, it will be almost impossible.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Government that represents us all.......It's complicated.

Politics is a subject that can be divisive, argumentative, enraging and disillusioned. It can also be enlightening, powerful, exciting and inclusive. I guess it depends on who is doing the talking, whether either side is listening and what the end result is.

Having grown up in a politically minded household, I was taught from a very young age to read, converse and study all things political. This helped to broaden my mind and allowed me to contribute to society by placing a well informed and reasoned vote into the ballot box at each and every election.

I have worked in retail Management in the past and quite a few of my staff were juniors. Some became eligible to vote while working for me. The different methods they had for choosing who to place their trust in for their future were interesting and occasionally truly terrifying. I had one staff member who voted for Pauline Hanson because she 'liked her smile in the photo'. I had one who voted for Charlie Rappolt because 'his surname was cool'. Another voted for Mark Latham because 'He looks like he'd punch out anyone who tried to mess with Australia'.....and the list goes on.

All votes they placed in the Ballot Box were valid and each counted toward the end results. They had no interest in politics and resented the waste of time spent on a Saturday every few years voting.

As time goes by I am noticing more and more young people are politically aware and become active in their community by choice. Usually it is born out of a desire to change the world, whichever side of the political spectrum they find themselves on. Frequently I find myself having complex conversations with strangers at functions, dinner parties and in unusual places where politics have never been before.

Yesterday I had a half hour conversation with someone in the Newsagent which started over the decision to move printing of The Cairns Post to Townsville on Saturdays. We were having a frank dissemination of the pro's and cons of the move (more cons than pros as it was deemed ugly, magazine like, took too long to get there resulting in many phone calls from disgruntled residents waiting at 10 am for their paper delivery....and the list goes on.) but it soon became a Climate Change, unemployment, future of the region conversation.

Where residents were once happy to place their heads in the sand and throw a vote away, they now want their vote to count. If you speak to every person from the region and ask them what they would like changed you will get a varied response. Some want the Precinct mothballed, some want it started today. Some want Climate Change recognised as a myth, others want it dealt with but not with a tax and then there are those who think the Government hasn't gone far enough. On every subject that is out there in the public domain, the 50/50 opinion is prevalent.

If an election was held today (Federally) the Coalition would win. After a small period of time people would begin to realise that Abbott and his party members don't represent them either. The Greens don't. The ALP certainly doesn't and the Independents are now seen as the most fickle of the lot.

It's complicated.

Right now, our Federal Parliament is also complicated. We have a minority Government in coalition with the Greens and a few Independents. When the election first occurred I stated that the result was exactly indicative of public opinion. As far as I'm concerned, it still is. While many complain about Gillard and her ties to the Green Party, not many are stating that Abbott is a viable alternative.

If Abbott does indeed win the next election and a double dissolution comes about as the Senate will remain fairly Green, the vote will no doubt head back to where it is now.

Lets say that the last election had resulted in a minority Government with Abbott leading the lot. Do you imagine that he would be a better negotiator than Gillard? Do you think that the country would have passed a single bill? He has admitted that he will force a vote if the Coalition win and they are blocked from removing the Carbon Tax. On other issues he has also stated that he would not budge from his current stance. He has a sitting member in Malcolm Turnbull who is refusing to answer questions on his personal opinion of the Carbon Bill and I am sure there are others who also know that the Abbott plan for our climate is unworkable. Scientists and economists agree. According to him, that makes them idiots and speaks to the standard of our scientists and economists. Apparently, he can't be wrong....ever.

I can't pretend not to be bias in this issue. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be witness to the Carbon Tax implementation and wish it had been done sooner. I also refuse to lay any claim on Julia Gillard's doorstep for this bill. If she had won the election with a clear majority, this bill would not exist. It's only with forced collaboration that it came about.

Australia wanted a collaborative Government. They wanted each party to have a say in our future. They wanted the vote to exactly indicate what is happening in society. Equally conservative and liberal, a bit green and a bit independent. That's how the public voted and that's what they got. The next election is a little way off but you can already feel the electioneering beginning and I can guarantee you this, whatever the outcome of the next election, it won't be what the people actually want. They already have that, it's just that they hadn't realised what it would mean. It's complicated.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Back to the community.........

It's time to get back to doing something which I enjoy but have not had a great deal of time for this year. Back to polling the neighbourhood. Walking from door to door in and around my suburb has taught me a lot about the needs and wants of those living in my area, but it's also taught me a lot in ways I had never expected. The first few times I did it I had a pre-conceived view on each of the streets (sometimes based on appearance, sometimes on word of mouth) and quite strong personal opinions on the subjects I raised with residents. Hopefully, my blog posts were reflective of the opinions I gathered and not my own as the whole point of this initiative was to step outside and find out if I was writing things that were actually relevant to the people around me.

This time around I am not writing about the particular streets I travel down. This allows people to be a little more open in their responses because last time, once the residents became familiar with the blog, they seemed to measure their words carefully. That's fair enough. With that in mind I will mention the suburbs but not the individual street name.

The questions posed have also changed. Where before I asked about specific items such as the Precinct, this time the questions are broader when they concern the region but specific when concerning the southern corridor. The emphasis will remain the same and the goal will also remain the same. To find out more about the wants and needs of the residents on the south side of Cairns. Specifically Bentley Park, Mt Sheridan and Edmonton.

See you all here, next Tuesday for the first instalment of 'Polling the Neighbourhood - Part II'.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What? A $250 thousand dollar toilet, is it worth it?

In today's The Cairns Post there is much talk regarding the toilet block being built that is costed at approximately the same amount as a new house. The talk centres around the costing and the need for the facility in a time when other services are being substantially reduced or cut altogether.

Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis will be aware that I have previously written about a huge problem that exists on our Esplanade. The Pirate Ship has no toilets.

For some of you this might not seem like a major issue. In fact, for some this will seem like a waste of space in the blogger-sphere. If you would like to understand WHY this is a concern, consider who is using the Pirate Ship on any given day. Mother's, pregnant women and young children. Now, if you can, imagine the concern of a parent when you need to drag a toddler hundreds of metres to the nearest toilets, or the agony of a very pregnant women needing to travel that same distance when the urge to go strikes them.

Neither are in a position to travel that far comfortably and I have heard many stories that are embarrassing, humiliating and discouraging from many who just didn't make it. Children are told to use the trees surrounding the facility which is completely unhygienic for the others using the site as a play area. Pregnant women simply refuse to go down there for fear of adding their embarrassing story to the many others.

Taking all of this into consideration, add the fact that it is one of the most heard complaints on Council facilities in the Council office, then add the fact that the workers along there have copped a lot from the public as well (some even suggesting porta-loo's in the area), it's easy to see why this became a priority.

The reason it's taken 3 years of complaints to get to this point is due to the cost. At that particular part of the Esplanade it is very expensive and difficult to get sewage hooked up and lay the pipe work for that. The cost of bricks and mortar would not account for more than half the total cost of this facility.

So, to all those who are whining about a 'stupid toilet' and the cost involved, take note that there are many, many people in your community who are jumping for joy right now at this announcement. The relief of knowing that you and your family will be able to go down there without worrying about toilet breaks, is much greater than you know.