Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fight for a healthy Cairns Region.

During the past few weeks we have seen several programs axed and the re-direction of funds by the CanDo team in an effort to reduce Government spending as per the election promise made. While I applaud their intention, the methodology is not workable.

Removing programs which create healthy populations will simply move the spending requirements to other sectors such as Police, Emergency Services and the mental and physical health departments of our hospitals and outpatient services. Almost all programs axed within the health sector are proven ones which are most effective as preventative services, thereby halting the progress of health related issues and leading to long term health and well-being.

This would fairly obviously then have the flow on effect of alleviating the current health crisis, placing less pressure on our hospitals. The instances of poor mental and physical health on friends and relatives is also well documented and prevention would also place less stress on those supporting the person in question which would further alleviate pressure on our health services. This all makes perfect sense.

Why then would the State Government choose to remove Sisters Inside, the Healthy Communities service, distance itself from the National Disability Insurance Scheme and remove Frontline services from our local hospital The Cairns Base?

The cost of each of these varies but the cost of NOT doing these programs or facilitating the services will in future years be substantially more than any savings made today.

I am tired of sitting idly by while these programs fall by the wayside. Expressing disappointment online and via conversations with friends. It's time to get pro-active.

Those who have chosen to make these decisions were elected by this population but our input does not stop with an election. They are OUR representatives. They work for us. That means we are perfectly entitled to let them know when we are unhappy with a decision made, or with a direction taken. It does not mean that we are entitled to attack them as people.

It is the choices and the policy that is up for scrutiny. Only when it concerns us directly is the personality of the politician under attack. In this instance, only the policy and commitments made affect the population.

I urge any of you who are also concerned with the future health of our State and our community to join me and write to Gavin King, Member for Cairns via any of the following:

Phone 07 4051 2868
Address Office 1 "McLeod South", 78-84 Spence Street, Cairns Qld 4870

 For those living in Barron River, Michael Trout can be contacted via these details:

Office 07 4038 2800
Mobile 0488 227 766
Address PO Box 1014, Smithfield, Queensland, 4878

And for Curtis Pitt, Member for Mulgrave, the details are as follows:

Phone 4056 3175
Fax 4056 3340
Office T J Ryan Building, 94-96 Norman Street, Gordonvale QLD 4865
Postal Address PO Box 314 Gordonvale QLD 4865

It's worth noting that Curtis Pitt is supportive of all programs so it may be more beneficial to write instead to Gavin King as the Cairns Base Hospital and Healthy Communities are both within his electorate. That will be entirely up to you however.

I also ask that you forward a copy of your letter to The Cairns Post as well so that the media are equally aware of the impact of these decisions on our community and the fact that many amongst us would like them to be re-instated.

 Together we can make a difference. If I didn't believe that, politics would hold no interest for me and I would never write another blog post and we both know that will never happen.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Checks and Balances in a CanDo State.

The State Government, headed by Mr Newman, are proving themselves to be a Government of their word. The problem is, it's not making people very happy.

Prior to the recent State election, the LNP promised one thing above all others. To cut costs, drastically. They promised to reduce Government debt within the first 100 days and as far as I can tell, they didn't promise a whole lot else.

Then the people of this great State voted. They gave the Newman Government a mandate like no other in a landslide victory which effectively gives them no Opposition. The people have spoken.

It appears what they want is no debt. We already know that debt is a death knell for any Government. A sure-fire way to lose, and lose big. There has not been a government in my memory capable of selling debt as a good thing, a necessary thing, a short term issue for long term stability. Government debt is seen as a reflection on a poorly managed economy, driven by an economically disastrous Treasurer. While I personally don't believe our debt was unmanageable or too large, the voters thought otherwise.

So, here we are, two months later. Halfway through the 100 day plan. The first to go was the Premiers Literary Awards. We are now the only State in the country without a Premier award in any form of Literacy. Seems somehow fitting for the 'smart State'.

During the past few weeks we have seen DERM and DEEDI re-shuffled, the Department of Climate Change shut down, green programs axed, pot plants for government offices removed and the beginnings of a fast-track for approvals for mining. That's the environment taken care of.....or not.

We have seen the beginnings of the process to remove Civil Unions (not cost-cutting but a previous promise nonetheless), removal of all funding for the Department of Healthy Communities, the Sisters Inside program for women in Townsville's prison shut down, no entry to the National Disability Scheme and the removal of the Sentencing Advisory Council. That takes care of all minority groups and mental and physical health advocacy.

Finally, the re-introduction of measures which once formed part of Work Choices. A Bill tabled and passed which gives the Attorney General the power to stop industrial action and the removal of the Queensland Workplace Rights Office. That takes care of the rights of workers.

Halfway through the slash and burn process and almost every facet of society is affected by these changes. Some, like the removal of tea and coffee privileges, are not so important as most government agencies supply their own anyway. Others, like the removal of the Sisters program, are just foolish.

Here's the problem though. This State voted them in. In large numbers. Ergo, the debt has got to go. The real question mark in this entire process, is on the 'where' and the 'why' of the cuts. Is it even necessary to cut funding on such a large scale? No. Does it work when it's actioned in this way? No. It will effectively just move the costs to a different area. When HIV rates rise again, when women return to prison time and time again, when productivity levels drop, when workers have enough and the real strike action begins.....all of those things will cost our Government FAR more than any savings made right now. Is it going to happen anyway? Yes.

Government spending on MP's has just risen dramatically, with the introduction of Legislation which increases numbers on Committee's from 6-8. This effectively gives every MP in the State, a pay rise of at least $8'000. This increase alone would more than pay for the Sister's program, one proven to work and at a grand total of $120'000 per year, a cost saving measure on its own.

Changing the name of Parliamentary Secretaries to Assistant Ministers won't change the fact that the numbers of them rose and the pay rate and perks remain the same. Another increase in costs that is probably not justified.

Here's the real kicker though. If the majority, by a long margin, want costs cut and debt reduced, where should it happen? Is it not likely that it wouldn't matter where the cuts were made, someone would be negatively affected? Is there any single Department, group or service supported by the Qld Government which we could happily live without? Possibly not.

Will we claw our way back into the black and one day soon revisit the programs now lost? Maybe. Should we be continuing to lobby against closure of those which are cost effective and absolutely necessary, like Sisters Inside and the Department of Healthy Communities? Absolutely.

It now falls to us all to advocate on behalf of those who can't. To choose which battles to fight and which to let go of. To be the voice of reason in the midst of the great cash saving 100 day plan.

Anything undertaken on this scale, with such a short time period given, will inevitably swallow some of the most needed programs. Especially if we choose to look at the plan in its entirety and don't look closely at the merits of each program facing the cuts along the way.

A government without inbuilt checks and balances must have a population willing to provide that for them. Loudly if necessary......and it's definitely becoming necessary.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Women in Power in Australia, and why they can't stay at the top.

Women have had a rough ride over the past 5 years in politics. One would think that having a female Mayor, CEO, Premier, PM and Governor General was a huge step forward in progress for women in strong roles. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

There has been a great deal of talk on why women have become unwanted in politics and where our gender is headed. There are probably many reasons why this is happening but I am focussing this blog on the one I noticed the most. Leadership skills. Our current crop have failed in this area. Remarkably, women appear the most unaware of what they are doing wrong when it comes time to analyse performance.

Here's the deal. Women are great at multi-tasking, can do any job a man can do (sometimes even better), are physically and psychologically capable of taking on anything and have a very strong work ethic. That should be great ingredients for a future in leadership roles. So, what's missing?

Two things are noticeably lacking. The first is necessary for any role where the majority of time is spent in the public arena. Retail skills. Great policy is fantastic. Charisma is a good thing. The ability to speak well is also wonderful. Having no ability to 'sell' it.......leads to failure every time. Just because something is good doesn't mean that the general public will listen.

The media control our sound bytes and our snippets. Leaving them room to fill that space with negative speak from those opposing is not just the fault of the media. It is also the fault of the salesperson. Marketing cannot be underestimated. Neither can connections with the public. Separate yourself from them and stand apart and you will win no friends.....or votes.

We need our representatives to be people we can relate to. That's difficult to do but past PM's have shown what people want. Bob Hawke and his day off comment after the Cup win. Howard and his walking suit. Keating and his........acually, Keating is one of those who fit this same mould. Aloof, apart and unreachable. Campbell Newman is another. In fact, in this deconstruction, Anna Bligh is the anomaly as well.

The second thing you need to do as lead a TEAM. Do not stand alone, as if you are the only one with the decision making ability and tell the public what YOU decided. That is the sign of a dictator. Nobody wants that. I can guarantee you that Julia never made the decision to stand Slipper or Thomson aside all by herself. Her advisors and several other members of her caucus would have had talks with her before this decision was reached. She said 'I have made the decision.........' What she SHOULD have said was 'This Government has decided.......' or 'We have decided.......'

While I applaud people for wishing to be the person held accountable for decisions and policy, the fact is it doesn't work. They are not alone in the job. It is a team effort. Instead of standing as spokesperson for a group of shadows, they should be standing as spokesperson with a full team of supportive people right behind them.

Now, after attacking women and their lack of leadership skills, it's time to ask real questions. Are women given enough support as they rise through the tiers of power? Do they have people they can rely on to hold them up or provide a sounding board when they need it? Is there so much scrutiny of hairstyles, clothing and voice modulation that they somehow lose themselves in the effort to become perfect? Those questions need answers.

Men in these positions will often delegate answers to their Ministers, they will stand before media scrums with at least the Deputy behind them. I've never seen mention of a bad tie or an ill-fitting suit or bad rug. It seems to me that it is a hell of a lot tougher to get to the top if you are a women. The journey is tough but it's a damn sight more difficult to actually stay there once the top is reached.

Maybe this post has provided more questions than answers and it certainly doesn't apply to all women in powerful roles. It's more an observation of those who are 'on the nose' and the reflections of a woman who would like to be chosen at some point to represent a much smaller group in a position of influence.

As mentioned, there are also many men who fit this profile, including Queensland's current Premier. I will be watching carefully to see if his lack of retail skills and 'stand alone' attitude will be perceived in the same way as it has been for the women of this country. We'll see.