Friday, June 22, 2012

A plaintive wail from the Left

His fury is palpable but he has a point.  Australia IS one of the world's most conservative countries:  Second only to Switzerland, maybe.  He must be tearing his hair out at the torrent of conservative reforms underway in my home state of Qld.

Where to start; when did the right get a big leg-up in Australia? Whatever point is picked will be somewhat arbitrary and therefore contestable, but with my age and colours firmly nailed to the mast I will go for 1964-65.

On November 10, 1964, the prime minister, Robert Menzies, introduced conscription for possible service in Indonesia or Malaya. The necessary amendments to the Defence Act were made on April 6, 1965 and he committed Australian troops, including National Servicemen, for service in Vietnam the next day. That was the apex of a right-wing Liberal government, which Menzies led from 1949 to 1966.

The legacy he bequeathed it, in the form of Australia-wide protest at conscription and participation in Vietnam, led to the rise of the Labor Party and the election of Gough Whitlam's government in December 1972. But it fell apart for Gough with the likes of Cairns and Morosi, Connor and Khemlani and Murphy and Morosi and ASIO. It was all too much for Malcolm Fraser who got Kerr to sack Gough. But Fraser was an enigma, he demonstrated a commitment to getting rid of apartheid, compassion for refugees and concern with the welfare of Aborigines.

Hawke, elected prime minister in 1983, together with Keating as an adviser and treasurer, determined they would not go down the path of Whitlam and courted the big end of town. They introduced enterprise bargaining, which did much to undermine the power of the unions, and sold the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas. They moved the Labor Party to the right of centre and Keating as prime minister introduced mandatory detention for refugees, although he kept a small flame flickering on the left for the dignity and rights of Aboriginal Australians. Both Hawke and Keating embraced a jingoistic nationalism, centred on Kokoda and Gallipoli.

Howard redefined the right in Australian politics. He strengthened it. He extended and built upon the jingoism and nationalism of Hawke and Keating, he incarcerated and vilified refugees for political gain; he went to war in Iraq on the basis of false information supplied to the Australian people. He went to war in Afghanistan for the sake of the US alliance but without the sanction of the UN. He gave the ADF a blank cheque book and promoted the notion of entitlement, for senior officers and for himself, living off the best at Kirribilli House, Sydney. The Lodge was made into a bachelor pad. He demonised and turned the lives of powerless Aborigines upside down with an intervention designed to win an election. He set the tone and scene for the conduct of Australian politics today.

Rudd won the election from Howard by shadowing his every move; a tactic which gave left-wing agendas very little oxygen; but as we were to find out, issues of the left had little appeal for Rudd. He had stronger right-wing credentials than Hawke and Keating, which seemed to appeal to them. Rudd kept in place Howard's basic agenda, which was a big loss for the Labor Party and its shrinking support base. The Greens showed through as a political party with a strong sense of environmental and social justice. The battered mantle of left-wing politics passed from a masquerading Labor Party to them. There are not enough of them in Parliament to balance the right wing of Labor, the Liberals, Nationals and erstwhile independents, who soon may not be, if Richard Torbay is anything to go by.

Julia Gillard says she comes from the left, but in fact she comes from the right, where she seems comfortable. Refugees and Aborigines will not erect statues to her. Neither will the rest of the Australian population. She has managed to convince or please no one, least of all herself. She is an honorary and honourable member of the right.

To some extent the Fairfax press provided some balance to the forces of the right. It was hardly left wing, but it did understand social justice, which is an alien concept to the Murdoch media. Out of the desert prophets come and other ancient forms of life. Gina, larger than life, is bearing down upon the eastern seaboard like a scorching summer storm. The dust is rising and we are attempting to seal the windows and doors, but I fear she will still make a mess of our homes.

Gina will get what she wants. She doesn't care who she alienates, just ask her children. And what she wants is to run Australia for her own benefit. Abbott is to be her prime minister and he will fall neatly into line because they recite off the same sheet. The opposition will be scattered to the far reaches of her realm. Bolt will be elevated out of the blue to run a fearsome Fairfax, uncompromising in its ideological, messianic incantations of free-market principles, where the weak, the halt and the lame are to be led away, put away, from the gaze of overseas investors.

Plimer will be her high priest, Pell an avid disciple and Cowin will count the cost, if any. And from the middle of 2013, Australia will be a hair's breadth from being a right-wing, one-party state. Only the Senate will stand in the way - our only barrier to the Mongols. No checks, no balances and a future prime minister who believes the AFP and ASIO should be given even greater power. Bolt rails against the left, but there is no left, not in the union movement, academia or the ABC; with his tirades against the left Bolt looks slightly - no, considerably - unbalanced and a bully. The left in Australia is an endangered species. Its habitat is scattered and its birth rate falling.

The right already has everything it wants, but its appetite is insatiable, and where do you go on this island girt by sea, when you are chased or threatened, stuck to face your fate, unless you can catch a plane or a boat.


Disgrace:  Sydney home ablaze as firefighters strike

A MAN says he is disgusted that his Sydney house burned while firefighters were striking over changes to the workers compensation scheme.

Kym Loutfy's wife and grandson were rescued from the burning house by a passerby today, while firefighters were turning their hoses on NSW Parliament House during a protest.

Firefighters in Sydney, Newcastle and the Central Coast went on strike for five hours at 1pm (AEST) in protest at reforms to workers compensation they say treat them poorly compared to exempt colleagues in the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and police force.

Firefighters are demanding they also be protected from the WorkCover changes, which cap benefits and medical expenses, with hundreds marching on state parliament in their first major strike in NSW since 1956.

"If the fire brigade weren't on strike they could come more quicker and there would be less cost and less damage," Mr Loutfy said utside his Sans Souci house, which had been extensively damaged in the fire.

"We have nothing to do with the strike ... Anyone can go on strike but there's supposed to be a back-up for emergency.  "I'm very very disgusted."

Radio caller Andrew said he was driving along Campbell St in Sans Souci just after 1pm (AEST) when he noticed flames coming from the front window of the house.  He said firefighters arrived half an hour after he dialled triple 0.

"We went into the house downstairs to check that no one was there. We got a lady and her baby out of there," he said.

NSW Fire and Rescue said in a statement that crews arrived at the scene within seven minutes of receiving a call from police.

It said local crews on their way to the protest responded to the call and carried out search and rescue operations.  However they went on to join the protest after the arrival of the Airports Rescue and Firefighting Service.

Ben Shepherd from the NSW Rural Fire Service said the local RFS sent two trucks and air support as well as firefighters in breathing apparatus.

"With that initial house fire there was probably a longer response time from our trucks," he told Fairfax radio network.
New South Wales firefighters have now returned to work after considering extending their strike.

Fire Brigade Employees Union president Darrin Sullivan said union executives met a short time ago to discuss continuing the strike, but it was decided to go back to work.


The charter school revolution comes to Qld.

In Britain they have also recently taken off -- where they're called "academies" or "free schools" -- but the idea, as in America,  is to get them out from under bureaucratic control while remaining government-funded

QUEENSLAND state schools have been invited to apply to become independent public schools next year and qualify for an extra $50,000 in funding.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek today visited Rainworth State School in Brisbane's inner west to spruik the benefits of moving out from his department's control.  He said public independent schools would have autonomy in decision-making, face less red tape and fewer layers of management.

"Independent public schools will have the freedom to directly recruit teachers and to build a team that is able to deliver innovative educational practices and have more autonomy to manage infrastructure and financial resources," Mr Langbroek said.

"Research tells us that parent and community engagement with schools can have a powerful impact on student achievement."

He said schools that already had significant community input would be in a good position to apply, but he would not expand on other criteria for selection.

"We're not going to use the NAPLAN table as a league table to determine whether someone should become an independent school," Mr Langbroek said.

Schools will have the freedom to pull out after a year, and those that remain in the program will have their involvement reviewed after four years.

The Minister said it would not cost parents any more to send their children to an independent public schools, but there would be some opportunities for business sponsorship.

"This is not going to be a case of businesses being able to come in and plaster schools with commercial advertising simply because they're working with schools to deliver the program," he said.

In the first year 30 schools in metropolitan and regional areas will be selected to become independent public schools with that figure rising to 120 in four years.

The Queensland Teachers Union has previously raised concerns about the program, saying it will ruin the state school system, and create real concerns about job security for teachers.


Boot camps for young offenders in Qld?

BOOT camps for young offenders will take a step closer to reality in Queensland today when Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie leads a round-table discussion about the issue.

During the election campaign the LNP promised to introduce boot camps as an alternative to youth detention centres, which Mr Bleijie has described as "colleges of crime".

"We will divert 80 juveniles, who would otherwise receive custodial sentences, away from the detention system into this three-month boot camp program," he said.

"The Newman Government will work to break the cycle of crime and give these kids a better chance of turning their lives around."

He said boot camp participants would be away from their family and friends for a 12-week regimen of "strict training and treatment to deal with drug, alcohol, mental health and education issues".

"The boot camps will give these young people an opportunity to learn values, respect and responsibility," Mr Bleijie said.

"Ultimately we want to change the culture of youth crime and reduce the number of repeat offenders."

Yesterday the Attorney-General told Parliament 30 per cent of young offenders at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre had been there five times or more.

"What we've seen over the years is a fundamental failure of young people in Queensland," he told Parliament.

He said he would make a submission to Cabinet on boot camps in the next few months.


No comments: