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Election open forum

August 21st, 2010

In place of the usual weekend reflections, here’s a forum to discuss the election. I’m feeling gloomy about the outcome, but I don’t claim any special insight and my gloom may just reflect the awfulness of the whole business.

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  1. Fran Barlow
    August 23rd, 2010 at 09:49 | #1

    @Jim Rose

    It also accounted for the political vacuum that made discussion of leaks more salient. If for example, the dominant issue had been the timetable for action on climate change, leaks would have been a boring footnote. It is when you apparently stand for nothing definite that ostensible “insider” information seems so important.

  2. Fran Barlow
    August 23rd, 2010 at 09:53 | #2

    @Jim Rose

    you forgot about asking for first past the post voting

    In the long run, I favour sortition and direct democracy, as you should be aware, but in the interim, I have proposed preferential voting with localised slates (and a 6% of national numbers for quotas) as a reasonable measure for improving the relationship between the parliament and the electorate while preserving a degree of localism at the margins.

  3. Jim Rose
    August 23rd, 2010 at 09:58 | #3

    @Fran Barlow

    the practical consequences of your preference is to exclude the working class from democratic participation.

    the more intense effort required by a direct democracy favours those with time and money on their hands. those struggling to make ends meet do not have the time to indulge in politics as do middle class political junkies.

  4. Alice
    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:12 | #4

    @Jim Rose
    JR – Reagan established the Privatisation Commission that started the ball rolling in the US . I never said that non conservative governments didnt hop on the privatisation bandwagon (indeed the Hawke Keating and Clinton govt and Gore govt in the US and Labor in the UK all did and look at Carr and Egan and State Labor – cant privatise fast enough.

    …but the impetus for privatisation was primarily a conservatively driven agenda and the Thatcher government is primarily responsible for the initiative (“the private sector does business better and governments have no business running businesses”).
    Thatcher herself described the waves of privatisations that would come. They did and they happened under all governments.

    But as usual with any “silver bullet” it can be adopted and applied en masse without being well thought out. State Labor for example – which has madly privatised but still had an enormous (even bigger budget black hole) because they forgot they were selling assets at fire sale prices…which actually had income streams as well.

    Country Australia for example where our agricultural farmers have been drawn and quatered and hung on their own farm gate by large corporations, where we now have a situation where we import more agircultural produce than we export.

    Ridiculous in a country of only twenty million.

    Thatcher thought that privatisation and de-regulation was the “silver bullet”. Greenspan and Bernanke thought they had solved the “business cycle.”

    This business could do with fewer egos and more common sense.

  5. Jim Rose
    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:22 | #5

    @Alice
    Unemployment from privatisations! I am sure you will not oppose the putting a price on carbon because of any resulting unemployment.

    The leading reason for privatisations was to deal with cost padding, bloated payrolls, and soft budget constraints.

    The incompetence of governments as owners of commercial assets is documented in Professor Quiggin’s forthcoming book:
    “Governments keen to weaken the power of unions, but unwilling to confront their own employees, could resolve the problem by handing public enterprises over to private owners, keen to break unions and eliminate overstaffing and above-market pay and conditions (at the shopfloor level, if not for senior management).”

    If governments were equally competent as private owners of commercial assets, these privatisations to deal with cost padding, bloated payrolls, and soft budget constraints would not have been required.

    The government as owner would just deal with the cost padding, bloated payrolls, and soft budget constraints just as expeditiously as private owners and would not face any adverse electoral consequences.

    Indeed, the cost padding, bloated payrolls, and soft budget constraints should not exist in the first place. Governments are as competent as owners of commercial assets as the private sector so they should have, but did not, anticipated these risks and would have, but did not, nip these problems in the bud!

    p.s. so you cannot name any reagan privatisations? name names!! the appointment of the President’s Commission on Privatization in 1987 is just not good enough.

    p.p.s. Reagan sold Conrail. anything else? a revolution of one!

    p.p.p.s. there was more real privatization during the Clinton administration. Under Clinton, the federal government sold off the Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserves, (wow), the U.S. Enrichment Corporation, (what is that?), and many billions of dollars’ worth of electromagnetic spectrum, as well as the competitive contracting of more than a hundred airport control towers and numerous military base functions.

  6. Alice
    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:25 | #6

    Also JR – you obviously follow “the any privatisation is good” line but you ignore that a short term rise in profitability or share price is no adequate measure when the long term is taken into account. Think of all the mums and dads that own their dismal loss making Telstra shares now??. Do you think they are sitting at home marvelling over their wondeful investment in T1,2,3 now?

    Long term hindsight JR is a wonderful view. Its clearer. It illuminates the fallacies of short term “silver bullets.”

  7. Alice
    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:26 | #7

    @Jim Rose
    JR p.p.p.p.p.s You obviously didnt read my post above yours.

  8. Fran Barlow
    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:31 | #8

    @Jim Rose

    the practical consequences of your preference is to exclude the working class from democratic participation

    One could make the same claim about raising the standards for getting and keeping a driving licence or the HSC or professional qualifications. I don’t accept that. Governance is a social responsibility and people need to be given a reasonable opportunity to make informed choices and for these to be relevant when they make them. Keeping people passive and disengaged only serves the powerful and privileged who set an agenda that convinces people that “there’s nothing to see here, go back to your lives”. That is where we are now. If there are people who are happy for someone to act on their berhalf by defaulting, then I don’t regard that as impropoer. Unwise perhaps, but a choice people can make. If you don’t care, or aren’t sure and can’t be bothered finding out enough to say, why shouldn’t someone else ignore you?

    The fact is that 9% of people at my booth had informal ballots. About 35% were clearly deliberate spoilages. These people aren’t happy but they do care, and in Gladesville, they are far from being even the lower middle class. Large numbers of people don’t think it makes a difference and even those who vote formally are often holding their noses. One heard this often as they passed us at the entrance to the booth.

  9. Alice
    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:33 | #9

    Come to think of it.. p.p.p.p.p.ns is a good description for Sydney’s transport problems

    Multiple “p” private partners but no decent solution and p (for problems) getting bigger.

  10. Jim Rose
    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:39 | #10

    @Fran Barlow
    the labour party had no problem quickly becoming the leading contender for power despite far lower levels of education.

    I have no difficulty with the proposition that the rise of left wing parties was the result of expressive voting, rational ignorance, and rationally irrational voting. the left is big on appealing to anti-market, make work, anti-foreign and pessimism biases among voters.

  11. Alice
    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:48 | #11

    @Jim Rose
    JR says “the labour party had no problem quickly becoming the leading contender for power despite far lower levels of education.”

    You have already posted the stats on education levels in the major parties relatively. We can reasonably assume Labor has higher educated politicians given the propensity of liberal politicians to deride academics (just jealous really). Oh I know Tony Abbott is a “roads scholar” and spends a lot of time staring intently at bitumen – no need to tell me that JR.

  12. Fran Barlow
    August 23rd, 2010 at 11:00 | #12

    @Alice

    given the propensity of liberal politicians to deride academics

    It’s teabagger-style populism, disingenuously deployed. Most of them are highly educated, even if they failed to learn much of value in looking after the people who didn’t get as far as they did.

    One hears that from Jim too, with his dichotomy between “real work” and fake work (i.e. the public service, academia/knowledge industry).

  13. Jim Rose
    August 23rd, 2010 at 11:17 | #13

    @Alice
    an ambiguity.

    I meant the labour party had no problem quickly becoming the leading contender for power from 1900 onwards despite far lower levels of education in the early years.

  14. Ken Fabos
    August 23rd, 2010 at 11:39 | #14

    Whilst I think there is an element of protest in the growth of Greens votes it’s legitimate protest about real issues; the idea that that swing means little more than annoyance with Labor and LibNats trivialises the issues that the Majors have been doing their best to trivialise – like sustainability and climate change. Hasn’t the primary swing towards the Greens been greater than the swing towards LibNats? That doesn’t indicate widespread support for inaction on these issues; by taking climate out of the election agenda Labor hasn’t reflected widespread public sentiment – more like the sentiment of powerful, revenue producing vested interests and the limited but noisy gains they’ve made in undermining public trust and confidence in our scientists. The reasonable basis for people forgoing some of their immediate opportunities for the sake of longer term ones was undermined amongst some swinging voters but those are not the majority and are given a prominence they don’t really deserve. Real efforts to convince voters that facing up to this will not diminish us – when does doing the right thing for our kids and grandkids ever count as diminishing us? – have not really been made. Until the majors start taking sustainabilty and climate extremely serious issues the Greens will continue to gain votes as the only party that actually does. This isn’t necessarily a good thing – it’s deeply dismaying to me and I suspect to an ever growing number of informed and concerned Australians that mainstream politics has failed to get serious and that they appear to be in the thrall of interests that do not have the greater long term good as any kind of primary concern and who are active in preventing climate and sustainability being part of reasoned policy development.

    These issues aren’t going to fade away – they will only grow as the real world impacts of climate change and unsustainable economic practices grow in strength. A conscience vote within parliament would already yield a clear majority who believe they are real and significant and only Party unity within the LibNats is preventing parliament reflecting it. I don’t see that Labor or LibNats gained any significant votes through their decisions to portray their weakness on these issues as strengths

  15. Alice
    August 23rd, 2010 at 11:54 | #15

    @Alice
    Yes I know Fran – real work/real jobs versus fake jobs in the public sector and academia. Its a bit sad isnt when a party derides the government it seeks to run and the research generated within the nation …oh and dont forget other research institutions also so derided that have brought enormous “real tangible dollar value” to us over time… like the CSIRO.

  16. August 23rd, 2010 at 12:25 | #16

    It’s interesting to see what various people consider ‘real’ work. Academics, bureaucrats and speculators seem to be popular choices for those who aren’t doing real work. It’s false, of course. Some contributions are more important than others, and that importance isn’t always reflected in the market reward scheme, but with rare exceptions everyone is contributing to society in some way.

  17. paul walter
    August 23rd, 2010 at 14:26 | #17

    Good comment Ken Fabos. so few Australians under stand the nature ofthe constraints faced by this country and the world in general, under the current global regime.

  18. Jim Rose
    August 24th, 2010 at 23:20 | #18

    with postal votes closing at the end of next week, and leads changing daily in close seats, there is no real basis for bargaining over who governs until saturday fortnight.

    who would want to disclose their hand to the party to ends up to be the losing side?

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