Friday, February 7, 2014

Black Saturday - 5 Years On



Fourteen years ago, on the 6th February, Lesley and I were married, in a service conducted on our property in Pheasant Creek. We celebrated that day amongst the company of our friends and family, enjoying a game of backyard cricket, with some playing a game of tennis, or swimming in the pool. A great day.

Whilst never formally celebrating our wedding anniversary in the early years, we seem to almost forget that day, due to another anniversary that seems to loom over us each year, a day later.

In truth, the events of Black Saturday are never too far from my mind. Living in a community where the evidence is all around you, it makes it difficult to do so.

Yes, the natural environment regenerates, as it does after a bushfire.  The community also regenerates, though not as a carbon copy of life before Black Saturday. And that's to be expected too. Though sometimes not always welcome.

Today is a day for reflection. To remember those that died, to remember what has been lost and how so many lives have been changed, to remember and reflect on those that have shared the journey with us over the last five years, and to think about what lies ahead.

Lest We Forget

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Election 2013: Final Act

This is my final post on the 2013 Election, unless something extraordinary happens on Saturday night and I feel compelled to write about it on Sunday.

I was going to look at a comparison of small business policies.

A bit pointless, really. Whilst a lot was made of the small business vote, the policy announcements were Mickey Mouse, to say the least.

Instead, the political events of today have really highlighted some of the negative points of both this election, and politics in general.

Liberal Party Costings
At 2:30 pm today both Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb faced the media with their version of what constitutes a complete review of Liberal Party costings for their election announcements.

Truly an underwhelming document, with mean-spirited and poorly targeted spending cuts. Now that you can see all their costs and savings measure in one document let me highlight the key goodies that will disappear for you (all figures noted are the total for the next 4 years):
  • Abolish Schoolkids Bonus $4.64 billion
  • Abolish Instant Asset Writeoff for small businesses $3.1 billion
  • Abolish Tax Loss Carry Back for small and medium sized companies $950 million
  • Abolish accelerated depreciation of motor vehicles for businesses $425 million
  • Reduction of Regional Infrastructure Projects $2.49 billion
 Can I humbly suggest that most families and small businesses (and a number of rural communities) will feel the pain of these cuts much more than any savings they will get from the removal of the Carbon Tax.

Also, take note of the $9.967 billion not being invested in both the NBN and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

In addition take $4.5 billion from foreign aid, and redirect it to building roads, or the PPL, or the company tax cut of  1.5%. Apparently because we can't afford it.

Greg Jericho summed up this beautifully in his blog:
Our two main political parties have become like people who live in a McMansion and who when the Red Cross come knocking say, “Oh gee, I’d love to but I don’t have any cash on me”.
And I am sure that South Australians will really approve of the delay in the Murray Darling Water Buybacks being extended out for an extra two years.

Or the warm feeling we will get by reducing the humanitarian immigration intake to 13,750 per annum (down from 20,000).

Goodbye ACT Pokies Trial. Goodbye Community Cabinets. Goodbye Rail Projects. Goodbye 12,000 public servants.

Hello roads, roads and more roads. Hello Green Army. Hello National Commission for Audit. Hello Marriage Vouchers Trial.

Pathetic.

Kitchen Cabinet
Over two nights the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition try to look human by cooking.

Big Brother
The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition tape messages to the Big Brother household (I didn't that was still on).

7:30
Leigh Sales apparently thinks talking over the person she is interviewing, constantly, makes for good journalism.

Internet Filter
The Opposition announce a policy on mandatory internet filters, then Malcolm Turnbull vigorously argues in favour of it on ABC JJJ, before denouncing the policy as an error on Twitter (I think backflip is the official term). His excuse was that he only read the policy just before going on air. Because, apparently, the Shadow Minister for Communications doesn't actually develop policies on Communications.

Twitter came alive like no other topic that I have seen, to date. Since his vain attempt at trying to explain himself, Turnbull has now retreated from Twitter, to lick his wounds.


Saturday is Election Day
When the election was first announced, I nominated the issues I was most interested in:
  • How do we prepare our kids for the future (education, cultural development and broadband)
  • How do we help those who can't help themselves (aged care, child care, health, welfare, Foreign aid, Refugees - as in helping them, not getting rid of them)
  • How do we encourage and promote innovation (broadband and education - again)
  • How do we grow, as a country (infrastructure, education, business, taxation, cultural development)
  • How do we tackle the challenges of the future (climate change and environment)
One could successfully make the point that some of these issues were not even talked about.

Some of these issues were poorly dealt with. By both major parties.

The difference between the two major parties on some of these issues is stark.

Sometimes the decision is not who you want in government, but who you don't want in government. And with what oversights do you want that government to operate under.

I'll leave you to work out who you think I'll be voting for.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Election 2013: Liberals: Our Contract With Australia

The Liberal Party are ahead in all polls that have been released in recent times. They are sounding pretty confident about actually winning Saturday's election.

So it seems weird that I received a pamphlet in the mail today titled "Our Contract With Australia".

These "contracts" have been used before, and are obviously gimmicks that really didn't achieve much traction in previous elections.

And when you look at the detail of this "contract" it looks just as gimmicky as all the previous ones.

Take side 1:

It starts with "Keep this card". Then - "My team and I are committed to delivering on our contract. Keep this contract to hold us to account". It is signed by Tony Abbott.

Hands up everyone that intends to keep this card for the life of this next government, and then refer to to it at the next election in order to determine how they vote.

Ludicrous.

Turn the card over. In big letter on the top it reads OUR CONTRACT WITH AUSTRALIA.

And what is this "contract"?

1. A Stronger, Diversified Economy - If they cannot achieve this over the the next three years, we'll have had one hell of a recession. Consider this one a done deal. Not a hard ask.

2. Carbon Tax Gone - Good luck getting that through the Senate. Nothing in this "contract" about reducing carbon emissions, though.

3. End the Waste and Debt - Hang on. End the waste, I get. Standard promise by an opposition party for every election I can remember. But end the debt? How are they intending to do this? Isn't there something like $400 billion in debt currently owed at Federal Government level (according to Liberal Party literature anyway). How are they intending to eliminate that debt over the next three years? How high must taxes go, how much will spending be cut and what assets will need to be sold in order to achieve this goal. And to what end? I'll call this one an impossible target. And a pointless one.

4. Build Modern Roads and Improve Services - Isn't road building one of the standard functions of government? If they don't build them, who does? Improve services for what? Does this mean I will no longer need to be on hold to Centrelink for 2 hours only to be cut off? Will the staff at the Australian Taxation Office actually be able to help me? And given that most services are actually provided by State Government or Local Councils, how are you intending to improve those services? Maybe give them more money (but wait, how does that work, if you are going to end the debt?).

5. Stop The Boats With Proven Policies - Is buying Indonesian boats a proven policy. Where has this occurred in the past? What are "proven policies" do you have? And isn't your focus here totally wrong? What about helping the asylum seekers (or refugees, as they once were known)?

6. Two Million New Jobs Within A Decade - The July 2013 employment figures per the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the number of people currently employed is about 11,653,200. This is out of a total population of about 23,171,500. So almost half the population is currently employed. ABS projections also indicate that population growth in Australia will mean we will have a population of 28,723,000 by 2026 (An increase of just over 5 and a half million). Given that the contract is for 2 million jobs in a decade I'll extrapolate this data to say that the population in 2023 is projected to increase by about 4.25 million people by the end of 2023. If the employment participation rate stays about the same (which it may not due to an aging population), there will need to be more than 2 million jobs created just to cater for the extra people looking for work. If the participation rates actually starts to decline as the aging population starts to retire (which is the expected scenario), there wont be enough people available to fill the 2 million extra jobs created.

Putting the numbers to one side, Tony Abbott will not be Prime Minister in 10 years time. It's easy to make a "contract" when you aren't there for the end of it.

Is this "contract" worth the card that it is printed on? Do I actually want them to deliver on this "contract"? And how much better off will the country be if this is all they are wanting to commit themselves to do?

Will we have any choice, after Saturday?