Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cut wasteful spending, not just public servants

Whole departments need to be abolished.  Why do we need Federal Depts. of Health and Education when there are already large State government Depts. in those fields?

alex-philipatos Following a long-standing pre-election commitment to cull Canberra's bureaucracy, the Coalition government will cut 12,000 Commonwealth public service positions. A slimmer and more efficient public service means a smaller burden on taxpayers, but the method employed to cut the bureaucracy is questionable.

These jobs will be shed via attrition rather than by targeted cuts to departments and programs, which means that any savings can be easily reversed and the government cannot control where the cuts fall.

In the 1990s, the Keating and Howard governments set about implementing large cuts to the Commonwealth public service. In 1993, the public service consisted of 143,000 ongoing employees, and by 1999, employees had been reduced to just over 100,000 - a 30% reduction. Though there was a concerted effort to reduce the size of government by the incoming Howard government, both his government and the Keating government achieved some public sector cuts by privatising select public assets.

From 2000, public sector employee numbers rose strongly throughout the remainder of the Howard years and the first term of the Labor government. It was not until 2009 that the rate of growth eased, quite possibly because of the renewed urgency to mend the state of the federal budget. By 2012, there were 154,000 ongoing employees in the Commonwealth public service.

The cuts made in the 1990s were much steeper and more targeted than those proposed by the current Coalition government.

Abbott's planned cuts to the public service represent just seven percent of its current size and there is no guarantee that the workers who leave hold positions the government wants to shed. Nor does it address the pressing productivity issues.

There are departments, agencies and programs that should be scrapped altogether. Some departments duplicate existing state equivalents and add to red tape. Others complete functions the government should not be involved in at all, such as Wine Australia, the government's wine marketing body.

Cutting by attrition addresses none of these issues. Instead it simply requires existing departments and agencies to operate with a slightly smaller workforce on a slightly tighter budget. These departments can easily expand and rehire workers if the government loses cost discipline.

A better approach to public sector reform is to focus on productivity, eliminating waste and improving delivery of the services the community really needs. By targeting unnecessary agencies and terminating wasteful programs, the Coalition can also make long-term inroads to the federal budget position and ensure that the savings will endure beyond the current cost cutting campaign.


The ALP of late 2013

They’ve re-sprayed the Morris Minor, put on some chrome wheels, and hung some fluffy dice from the rear-view mirror and now claim it will win a Grand Prix - but it’s still running an 800cc engine with three main bearings.

I wonder why they think that elevating a collection of extreme-left ball-busters to the front bench is appealing to anyone. Perhaps it is to the likes of Germaine Greer, Anne Summers and “comedian” Corinne Grant.

But I’m sure that Billy “Young Frankenstein” Shorten knows exactly what he is doing. He is very impressive on TV as we saw during the Beaconsfield mining disaster when no camera could escape having his face in its lens and the whole thing turned into a job application for him. True to form, he’d flown down to take advantage of the photo ops on supreme fraud and swindler, Richard Pratt’s, private jet - as any working class fellow would.

Similarly I am sure that rampant bull-lesbian and Emily’s Lister, Penny Wong, a person who’s never actually had a job requiring the making of a profit (or paid less than a 6-figure salary), will be great in Trade and Investment. She has all the right qualification as Samesame named her as one of the most influential lesbians in the country. Maybe I’m just slow, but I can’t see much connection between international trade and investment and being deft enough to buckle-up a strap-on device in the dark.

At least Joel Fitzgibbon actually knows what it’s like to get his hands dirty, having been an auto-electrician and, almost unique in the working-man’s Labor Party, seems not to have attended an exclusive GPS school. But in true Labor fashion, he inherited his seat of Hunter from his father, Eric Fitzgibbon. I am sure he was pre-selected after an exhaustive merit selection process.

It often astonishes me how often the children, nieces, nephews, wives and husbands of Labor heavy-weights get pre-selection for safe seats. Take Kim Beazley for example, both of them, both members for Fremantle and then, of course, Kim’s daughters also get Labor pre-selection. It seems there is no-one in Labor ranks who has more merit in WA than a Beazley.

But anyone can do a bit of research on the ALP’s front bench, and back bench, and you’ll be surprised just how many are “connected” - and just how many went to GPS schools, started their careers with sinecures in Union HQs, and are lawyers. For a party that was started by shearers, agricultural workers, factory and mine fodder, low-level clerks and shop assistants, they’ve really moved up in the world. I doubt you could form a Rugby League scrum with the Labor members who have ever worked in any sort of primary or secondary production. But you’d have no trouble fielding two AFL teams of careerists with law degrees. It’s been a long journey from the cloth caps and hobnail boots to the top-hats and tails, ski chalets, and private boxes at the opera.

What the ALP has become is a party of the smug and satisfied upper-middle classes for whom the working class is a theoretical construct; whose aspirations are an abstract concept; and with whom they have nothing in common. I think solid proof of the disconnect between the worker’s party and the workers they purport to represent was exemplified by Julia Gillard’s safari to Rooty Hill for a week. If you really are a worker’s party, why would you need a Labor PM to spend a week doing field research on your own heart-land?

Is it any wonder that Union membership has dropped to about 18%? How often have unionists, on the lowest wage rate, seen their officials claim salaries greater than the US President, endless perks and rorts, outright theft and fraud, and glib, educated and connected clean-hands getting appointed to lucrative positions without even the semblance of a merit selection process.

And just to rub salt in the eyes of the great unwashed, Little Bill selects Tanya Pilberserk, with degrees in Public Policy and Communications and wife of convicted narcotics importer, former GPS schoolboy and Graduate in Journalism Michael Coutts-Trotter, who was made Director General of Education by the Obeid Government in NSW - needless to say, without the slightest expertise in education other than having attended Riverview and doing a few years of porridge at Long Bay and elsewhere in the corrections system. How he got a job in the NSW Public Service after being convicted and sentenced to 9 years, though serving less than three, is anyone’s guess. I was under the impression it was impossible for anyone convicted of a serious felony to be employed in any of the Public Services.

The Morris Minor has been re-sprayed, but all the same luggage is in the boot.


Muslim levy costs Queensland abattoirs thousands each month

QUEENSLAND abattoirs are being slugged thousands of dollars a month through a religious levy on meat exports so powerful Muslim clerics in Jakarta can raise money for Islamic schools and mosques.  The Halal certification fees can cost some meat processors up to $27,000 a month.

The Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI), the top Islamic body which orders fatwa religious rulings, has even banned a Brisbane business from operating - because it was not charging Queensland abattoirs enough to give the religious tick-off to export meat.

The scandal has stopped most of Queensland's Halal meat exports to Indonesia, as angry abattoir operators boycott the more expensive Halal certifiers endorsed by the MUI.

Australian companies that certify meat as Halal, or legal under Islamic law, must be accredited with Indonesia's MUI - which approves just one certifier per state or territory.

The MUI has suspended Brisbane based Australian Halal Food Services (AHFS) for engaging in "unfair competition'' that could "weaken (the) Halal certification movement".

Certifiers must donate a share of their revenue to mosques and Islamic schools.

AHFS - which refused to comment on Saturday - sponsors the As-Salaam Institute of Islamic Studies, based in Eight Mile Plains. It has also spent funds repairing and maintaining mosques in Rochedale and Rockhampton.

One big Queensland meat processor, which did not want to be identified, claimed it had been quoted $27,000 a month in Halal certification fees through another MUI-endorsed certifier - four times more than AHFS had been charging.

JBS Australia - the nation's biggest meat packer and exporter with more than 8500 employees - has been unable to export beef from Queensland to Indonesia.

"We need to look at options (for hiring certifiers) rather than be dictated by one supplier of a service,'' JBS director John Berry said

But MUI chairman Amidhan Shaberah said AHFS had been suspended for trying to work interstate, as well as Queensland. He said setting minimum fees and restricting one certifier to work in each state was "part of our control''.

"We have to standardise the charge to avoid any unfair competition between certifiers,'' he told The Sunday Mail during an interview in Jakarta.

The federal Department of Agriculture confirmed it had no power over approvals for religious certifiers. A spokesman said the Government "values our close relationship with MUI".


Spread the word: Vegemite turns 90

For the better part of a century, Vegemite has divided families and friends around the world. To date we've enjoyed over one billion jars and nearly 90 billion servings. But whether you're an Edger (spread to the perimeter of your toast), Streaker (apply sparingly) or Nudist (sans butter or margarine), the iconic Aussie spread turns 90 next Friday, charging past the average Australian life expectancy. While it may not be the most epicurean ingredient, Vegemite scores a tick of approval from most of Australia's top chefs.

Shannon Bennett of Vue de Monde fame is a “less is more kind of guy” when it comes to Vegemite. During service Bennett coats eel with white chocolate and tweezes edible flowers, but like 40 per cent of Australians he begins most days with Vegemite, pairing it with quality butter on artisan toast. Bennett refers to Vegemite affectionately. His four children have been “on it” since they were young, and Bennett himself is addicted: “I'm trying to cut down carbs in the morning,” he says, “but I still can't resist the convenience or the taste of it.”

Sydney-based chef Dan Hong (Ms G's, El Loco and Mr Wong) cooks with Vegemite more than he eats it. “Vegemite has a lot of umami qualities… it's really savoury, it has that meaty flavour,” he says. On Australia Day last year, El Loco's secret taco – a regular special where diners don't know what taco they've ordered until it is in front of them – was kangaroo marinated in Vegemite with a Vegemite mayonnaise.

Back in Melbourne, Chin Chin's Benjamin Cooper also uses the much-loved breakfast staple in Japanese-style lamb braises. “It fits with Japanese food because it's quite like miso,” he says.

Cooper is one of the eight out of 10 Australians with a jar of Vegemite always in the kitchen. He regularly beefs up his braises with spoonfuls of the stuff, cooking down stocks until another dimension of meatiness kicks in. He even kept some in his cupboard during a five-year stint in England, although he never converted any Britons into Vegemite lovers.

But on occasion, the English convert themselves. Darren Purchese from Melbourne's Burch & Purchese grew up on Marmite in the Motherland, but switched to Vegemite when he moved to Melbourne. “When I first came over I wouldn't eat Vegemite… I was getting mum to send over Marmite. I got the taste for Vegemite and now I use it all the time… I reckon you could live off the stuff,” he says.

After working in his sweet studio all day, the saltiness of Vegemite is a savoury sanctuary for Purchese. He spreads it thickly on Baker D. Chirico seeded toast with Myrtleford butter, “so it's dripping down my arm,” he says. Purchese often indulges in Parmesan Vegemite popcorn, mixing butter and a tablespoon of Vegemite in a pan until glossy, then pouring it over hot popcorn and adding an avalanche of grated cheese. He's yet to explore Vegemite in his Willy Wonka-esque shop, although he hinted at a caramel Vegemite crumble with a salted oat base next Australia Day.

Adam D'Sylva (Coda and Tonka in Melbourne) is one chef who grew up as a happy little Vegemite, despite his Italian and Indian heritage. “Vegemite has a unique flavour, but there's a nice balance to it also,” he says. D'Sylva is what's commonly referred to as a Wormer, sandwiching crackers loaded with butter and Vegemite together so that squiggly worms escape from the cracker holes.

Unlike D'sylva, chef Paul Cooper from Sydney's Bishop Sessa is a Vegecadoer (one who adds avocado to their Vegemite toast). He eats it daily with his 18-month-old daughter, who's becoming a Vegecadoer just like her dad.

Over 234 serves of Vegemite are in the process being enjoyed somewhere in the world while you're reading this sentence. If you were to line up a single year's consumption of Vegemite toast, it would create a bready trail long enough to wrap around Earth more than 3.5 times. The MoVida Sydney staff account for a steady slice of these statistics. Head chef and Vegemite poster boy James Campbell feeds the kitchen team Vegemite on the previous night's sourdough for breakfast most mornings. Campbell grew up in western Victoria on a cattle station and enjoys his Vegemite for breakfast, lunch and tea. “I like the irony of it,” he says, “it flies in the face of everything culinary and balanced.”

With over 22 million jars sold every year, Campbell is onto something when he points out that whether you love it or hate it, Vegemite is “part of our DNA”.

After 90 years on Aussie shelves, one thing is for certain: Vegemite will outlive us all.


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