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.


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).

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.


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?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Election 2013: Local Issues in the Kinglake Ranges, the Arse End of Indi

The large population centres of Indi are Wodonga and Wangaratta. Our current local member, Sophie Mirabella, has her office in Wangaratta.

It's about a three hour drive to Wodonga from my place, according to Google Maps. A trip to Wangaratta takes slightly less time, clocking in at about 2 hours twenty minutes.

In this technological age that we live in, distances shouldn't matter as the Internet has allowed instant information, instant access to people, instant community discussion, if we choose to participate. And yet the 225 km required to travel to meet Sophie, may as well be 2,000 km.

Wodonga has a population of about 31,000. Wangaratta, 17,000. Benalla, 9,500. So it makes sense that politicians and would be politicians will spend the majority of their time in these centres, rather than in the arse end of Indi, where the entire Kinglake Ranges could provide you with a total population of about 3,000 - 3,500. The Kinglake township might get you 1,500.

So, the potential communication and interaction with the candidates down here will be in the form of:
1) flyers and pamphlets
2) one off visits (bad luck if you are busy that afternoon)
3) social media such as Twitter or Facebook.
4) local media announcements

In Kinglake, our local media is Mountain Monthly. As its name suggests, it is a monthly publication that covers the news and events of the Kinglake Ranges. It comes out on the first of the month and I picked up my copy from the local store today.

Page 22 of this month's publication has the title What Our Pollies Say. The editor sent out requests to answer two questions from the the candidates of Indi. There are 11 candidates. There are 7 responses. Because Robert Dudly (Rise Up Australia), Cathy McGowan (Independent)(bad miss there from you Cathy), Rick Leeworthy (Family First) and Robert Murphy (Palmer United Party) didn't respond, or respond in time for their answers to be published, I can't say whether their policies and views resonate with me in Kinglake. And bearing in mind I am only using the information provided by them to our wonderful publication, these are my thoughts on those that did respond:

Helma Aschenbrenner (The Sex Party)
It's fair to say that this is not a local issues party. Helma provided the shortest response of those that responded, and I think the key sentence for her is "The Australian Sex Party is primarily a civil liberties party and we will focus on protecting your liberties". The rest of her 100 or so words feel as though they could have been written for any other rural electorate, without providing any detail on the issues of the electorate nor how her party's policies impact on those issues.

William Hayes (Bullet Train for Australia Party)
Talk about a one issue party. It's all about a high speed rail line from Sydney to Melbourne. That's it. I'm not sure if he is advocating having that train line run up to Kinglake. I think maybe not.

Sophie Mirabella (Liberal Party)
Credit where credit is due. Sophie uses the work Kinglake once in her answer. Unfortunately it is connected to two other words; bushfires and Marysville. Deduct points there, I think.

In reading through the formal response from Sophie, it appears that these are the issues she believes will resonate with us:
  • Developing a plan to reduce mobile phone black spots
  • Pressuring the Vic Government about launching an enquiry about the Harrietville Bushfires
  • Anti dumping policies to protect farmers and small businesses.
  • Additional funding for local hospitals and roads (not sure if any of that is for our area)
Remembering that this is the party that wants to get into Government. I'm not sure they are trying all that hard to win my vote, as a resident of Kinglake.

Jenny O'Connor (Greens Party)
Jenny believes that the big issues are the lack of health services, including mental health and dental care, as well as poor public school facilities and lack of transport options.

Whilst these have been identified as issues, no explanation has been provided about how these issues will be tackled, apart from taking mining companies.

Jennifer Podesta (Independent)
Probably the most coherent response provided by the 7 candidates. She cites mental health issues, pathways for young people, domestic violence, aging population and declining townships.

She doesn't provide answers as to how to fix these problems. She does look to working with anyone and everyone to find a way forward with these issues. I must admit though, as a sociologist who seems to understand these issues more than most, I was probably hoping for a little but more than 'these are tough issues'. Still, it is difficult for an independent, with little or no resources, to have answers.

Phillip Rourke (Katter's Australian Party)
It is hard to not think that a vote for Rourke is a vote for a back to the 1950's. The policies of his party seem to advocate a more protectionist stance on everything, sort of like an economic Nanny-state. A lot of what he is advocating (stop selling off farmland, reducing the value of the dollar, breaking the supermarket duopoly) is really government intervening in areas that they left, decades ago. This may appeal to some, but it feels like a vain attempt at holding back the tide from this party. They do get points however, as the only candidate that invites you to view their policies on their website.

Robyn Walsh (Australian Labor Party)
Her first line - "Jobs and the economy are the main issues for people living on The Mountain" At least she has tried to localise her response.

Two thirds into her response "Kinglake West will be one of the first communities in Murrindindi to receive superfast NBN fibre to the home". Brilliant.

The rest of the response is more along party lines, What Labor has done, and will do, that is good. What the Liberals will do that is bad. But I don't care. The rest of the response was a blur.

WIIFM = What's In It For Me. Which is mostly what decides elections.

So WIIFM? If I had the casting vote, NBN to my home is the winner. Seeing a deterioration in ADSL speeds at home (which is where I work, and I need a good internet service) NBN will allow me to be more efficient in my business, meaning more time to spend time with my family, and be involved in my community.

The rest is just a blur.

Election 2013: One Week to Go

I took a week off writing this blog because, amongst other things, both the politics of this election and the corresponding media coverage of this election is shitting me to tears. Taking a week off to do other things, to concentrate on the things that actually matter, rather than this five week circus, is I think a healthy thing to do.

But I come back to this blog, because there is only a week to go in this election, and there is a lot to look at, and a lot to say.

The small business vote is apparently crucial to this election, according to tonight's news reports on the ABC. I want to look at what is being offered by the parties, and the independents that are wanting our vote, to see if they are really pitching for the small business vote.

I want to look at what the candidates for the seat of Indi think is important and how this resonates as a resident of the Kinglake Ranges.

Finally I'll give my two cents worth over which party I think will win the election, and who will win the seat of Indi.

I'm not really interested in how the leaders perform on television, or in front of the cameras. I'm not interested in how the Murdoch press, the Fairfax press, or the ABC attempt to put their spin on what happens in this last week. Others, often with much more time on their hands, will be able to analyse these meaningless parts of the election.

Do I sound like I'm over it?