Monday, July 19, 2010

At last some detail about how the Australian Left plans to deal with the pressure on services caused by high levels of immigration

It looks like Gillard's idea is to keep the immigrants coming but send them to small towns rather than the major cities. Just how she is going to enforce that is unknown. Her Labor Party predecessor, Gough Whitlam, tried that in the '70s with his policy of decentralization but the big cities just kept on growing regardless. Quite laughable really: Just more ill-considered "policy on the run". It's exactly what got Kevin Rudd tossed out of the top job

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard is risking a backlash from Labor voters, ditching Kevin Rudd's "big Australia" concept and promising to "take a breath" to get immigration right.

Vowing to "always put our quality of life first", she linked rapid population growth with Australians' declining quality of life. "Let's not make our national goal a `big Australia'," Ms Gillard said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott seized on her population sustainability focus, immediately linking it to the other election wildcard, asylum seekers.

Ms Gillard's focus on sustainability is also a reversal of the stance of the former prime minister, Mr Rudd. "There is no easy way to simply go on absorbing large-scale population increases without something giving way," Ms Gillard said. "We need to think carefully about our future population - and where and how growth can be accommodated in the years to come."

Mr Abbott said he thought Australians "want to feel like they are in charge of their destiny." "That's the problem with the boat-people issue. We feel that we've become a soft touch," he said. "We feel that people are in a sense taking advantage of us; that the people smugglers and not the Australian Government, and ultimately the Australian people, are in charge of the immigration program."

But refugee advocates remain concerned that the immigration debate is a cipher for a more inflammatory debate below the surface about border protection and asylum seekers in the wake of continuing unlawful arrivals and the Government's attempts to neutralise the problem.

Ms Gillard's "sustainable Australia" comments overturn decades of support for high immigration intakes and echo Pauline Hanson's One Nation message to Australians worried excessive immigration would disadvantage them. "Australia cannot and should not hurtle down the track towards a big population," Ms Gillard said.

The new objective of a sustainable Australia "that preserves our quality of life and respects our environment", reveals her main campaign theme in the August 21 election and is likely to be the guiding principle of her yet-to-be-revealed climate-change policy.

Three "expert panels" will inquire into issues like liveability, sustainable development, and productivity, with the objective of drafting Australia's first population strategy.

The move is designed to woo outer-suburban voters once referred to as "Howard's battlers". It aims to quell their concerns over traffic congestion, competition for GP appointments, and housing.

Research by both parties shows these voters hold the election in their hands because they occupy many marginal seats.

In her first official dip into the national wallet, Ms Gillard committed a future Labor government to providing $200 million to give 15 regional towns up to $15 million each to help them cope with population growth. The money, from existing programs, would help build up to 15,000 new homes over three years as well as roads and other infrastructure.

But only one SA town, Mt Gambier, will be eligible for the new assistance, in what could emerge as a recurring problem for SA because the main election contest is on the eastern seaboard.

In NSW, 19 towns will get assistance, 10 in Queensland and eight in Victoria.

Whyalla Mayor Jim Pollock was unimpressed, but remained hopeful a prime ministerial visit to the upper Spencer Gulf later in the campaign would yield a better result.

"I'm personally very disappointed that Whyalla and the upper Spencer Gulf and Eyre Peninsula have not been considered, given the concerns we had with the super mining tax, which really was very concerning to Whyalla and OneSteel," he said. "We could quite easily do with more population growth here in Whyalla and hopefully the PM has us and the region in mind."

Previous attempts by state governments to encourage people to move to smaller population centres have usually failed. But Ms Gillard hopes improvements in infrastructure can entice some to consider the shift. "I say to regional Australia, let us use common sense and hard work as our compass and partnership as our way ahead," she said.


Julia Gillard locked into a policy paralysis

By Terry McCrann

JULIA Gillard's claim that the election is "all about the future" is half-right and 100 per cent spin. It's a transparent attempt to separate her from the blunders of the Rudd-Gillard government in general and her own specific responsibility for the $14billion school halls waste-a-thon.

Of course we won't be voting to elect a government to re-run the past three years. But any election is first a judgment on what the government that was actually in power did. Because that's also the best guide to what it will do in the next three.

Gillard wants to have it both ways. Don't judge me on my past performance, at the same time demanding a potential Abbott government be defined by what the Howard government did.

Just how she would "move forward" has been shown by what she's done in the first month of the now Gillard Government. She had three big problems to "tick off". The mining tax brawl. The boats. And climate change.

She threw money at the first. Not just the $1.5 billion claimed, but more like $13.5 billion - which makes it a bigger blunder than her schools waste-a-thon.

She threw spin at the second one. The "Clayton's East Timor solution". And she's thrown some confused rhetoric at the third. She believes in climate change but wants a community consensus.

All three "solutions" point to the same bigger issue. The underlying assumption that the China boom will keep pouring money into Australia. She could "give up" $13.5 billion of resource tax revenue because the China boom would still pump in $10.5 billion under the gutted new tax.

Even if the assumption of a never-ending China boom proves correct, Australia still faces a challenging future.

We need to continue the reform dynamic of the Hawke-Keating and Howard-Costello years. A reform dynamic which stalled or went into reverse in the Rudd-Gillard period. And if China stalls and we hit rocky times, we need that continued reform to protect us from potentially very bitter winds.

The single most important lesson of the past two years was not the one claimed by the Government that its stimulus saved us from recession. But that it was precisely because of the reforms of the two previous governments that put it and Australia in the position to be able to do that.

This should be an election between two sides competing to tell us the truth about the hard and ultimately rewarding reforms we still need.

It is bad enough that a Gillard government would be committed to standing still on reform. Worse, she has sought to "lock" a future Abbott government into the same policy paralysis. And depressingly, she has probably succeeded, with Abbott's politically understandable promise not to touch the labour market.

So we face five weeks of a fake argument over "moving forward" with both sides promising hand-on-heart to not do what would actually move us forward.


Litany of lies judged at poll

Piers Akerman

DON’T be fooled: the choice in the August 21 election is stark. Labor would like you to believe it has moved towards the centre of the political spectrum, that there’s little to separate it from the conservative Opposition - but don’t believe it for a moment.

It’s just another in a long list of fanciful falsehoods the ALP has made a hallmark of its administration. The choice at this election is absolute, and the Rudd-Gillard Labor government has made it so.

Since Labor won office in 2007, it has chosen to distance itself from the Howard-Costello government agenda it claimed it would emulate when it was focused on wooing the electorate.

In this election, Labor has not only chosen the timing, it has provided the weapons - character assassination among them.

Julia Gillard will not say whether she ratted on a deal with former PM Kevin Rudd, preferring to let the political classes speculate she welshed (this may not be a politically correct term, but Gillard has blessed the politically incorrect) on an agreement.

She may have. Although, as she was briefing a suite full of supporters when the supposed deal was in the air, it seems unlikely details of such a deal would not have leaked before. The leak came from Rudd’s supporters. But Gillard still loses credibility and Labor remains a house divided because of her refusal to come clean on the nastiness that won her the prime ministership, and now she wants Australians to trust her.

Gillard would desperately like the electorate to think the choice is solely about economic management; it’s not. Even if it were, Labor’s economic record is one of debt and deceit.

Treasurer Wayne Swan, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner and Gillard were all members of Rudd’s Gang of Four. This is the quartet that signed off on all major policy decisions from November, 2007, until June 25 this year, when Gillard was sworn in.

Three of the Gang of Four are still there, but now they want to blame all the appallingly bad decisions Labor has made over the past three years on their former leader - the man they stood four-square behind right up until June 24.

The rubbery figures released by Treasury in the past week show just how irresponsible the Rudd-Gillard government has been with economic management throughout its term.

Relying on Treasury for information is one thing. Using the Treasury secretary as a political mercenary (albeit with Ken Henry’s tacit agreement and approval) has debauched the notion of an independent public service and independent advice.

Gillard says she wants the focus of the election to be “on taking the nation forward” - as you would, if you were up to your neck in a mire largely of your own making.

The litany of disastrous policy decisions taken by this Government would fill a book, but among the best known are the Building Education Revolution - for which Gillard must accept sole responsibility - and its failed border-protection policy - another failure from Gillard’s drawing board, as was its hastily buried Medicare Gold.

Gillard has ducked and weaved and transparently told serial untruths about the wasteful school-building program. She appears to have misled Parliament last September with her claim that the initial $12.4 billion allocated was inadequate because the program had been over-subscribed. The Auditor-General reported this was not the case, “nor was it the result of more schools seeking to participate than had originally been forecast”.

The Auditor-General is now investigating Gillard’s My School program. She even made the totally laughable claim on the ABC’s PM program, and elsewhere, that she was prevented by law from revealing whether she’d even received a draft of the report on the BER.

The Rudd-Gillard ministers and their media cheer squad have made it clear they will target the Opposition’s industrial-relations policy, but in order to make it a bullseye, they will have to lie - just as they continue to promote the lie that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott stripped a billion dollars from the health budget.

Abbott has said from the outset that Howard’s WorkChoices policy is dead. Yesterday, he said it was not only dead, but its body had been buried and cremated. Not sufficiently deceased for Labor, though. It will resurrect the ashes, reconstruct the corpse and revive the remnants for the duration of this campaign.

Many of the issues the public wants fixed are the same problems Labor promised to solve: the health crisis facing all states and territories; the hazardous, and occasionally deadly, traffic in unauthorised people-smuggler boats with their human cargoes; and public education.

Stealing GST revenues from the states is not an answer to the health-funding problem, attempting to coerce regional neighbours into accepting an unpopular offshore processing centre is no solution to the boat-people issue, and the preparation of a left-wing curriculum is not going to better educate the next generation.

Gillard’s plea for the nation to move forward is cliched rhetoric. She wants us to look forward because she can’t afford to have us looking back.

The Opposition has pledged to wind back national debt, lower taxes and reduce wasteful spending. The choice could not be clearer.


The dysfunctional NSW ambulance service yet again

SUSPENDED Sydney paramedic Trent Speering fumed that the New South Wales Ambulance Service was run by "degenerates" and was bigoted towards redheads before shooting dead his elderly mother and himself, a court has been told.

On June 11, 2008, the 40-year-old visited his 70-year-old mother, Monica Speering, at her Baulkham Hills home and shot her twice in the head before covering her with a blanket and resting her head on a pillow.

Mr Speering then killed himself, a coronial inquest into both deaths heard today.

The day after the shootings, Sydney's The Daily Telegraph newspaper opened a letter to the editor from Mr Speering detailing the reasons for his actions.

John Agius, counsel assisting the coroner, outlined some of contents of the letter in the NSW Coroners Court today.

"There are two main reasons as to why I've taken the action I have," Mr Agius read from the letter. "One is that there is a lot of bigotry towards people with red hair in this workplace ... and I've copped my share in my lifetime ... "I work for the Ambulance Service of NSW and you would be hard pressed to find an organisation more morally bankrupt, and run by a bigger bunch of degenerates if you tried."

Mr Speering went on to say that he would kill his mother and himself. The letter triggered a police investigation but officers arrived at the house too late.

Mr Agius told coroner Mary Jerram that repeated recommendations from paramedic colleagues and medical experts that Mr Speering undergo a psychological assessment, had not been adopted.

"There are issues here about the duty of care for the ambulance service to Mr Speering as an employee ... given what the ambulance service ought to have known of Mr Speering's mental state," he said.

The inquest, set down for two weeks, is due to hear from numerous witnesses, including senior NSW Ambulance management.


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