Occident Prone

Welcome to Australia’s wild West

Archive for August, 2008

Games are over, time to get serious

Posted by occidentprone on August 27, 2008

After two weeks spent presiding over Olympic fencing, dusting chalk from gymnasts and a stint in a re-education camp, this blogger is back. 

The biggest challenge of the Games was trying to assess why the Chinese Central Government’s nationalistic party-speak and tight stage management of every facet was bad and Australia’s jingoistic and patriotic jargon – from media, athletes, Rudd, Coates, the neighbours and colleagues – was good.

The games and everything they symbolise have been raked over by smarter people than me so I’ll leave it to the experts and instead explore what I’ve missed in the interim.

Before the hibernation I remember an election being called but it’s hard to tell the poll stuff from the Olympics stuff, so entwined were the cliches. Backflips, poll vault, race-this-and-that.

Over the few weeks remaining before the election, I’ll be carbo-loading and sprint training to get on top of the WA election before we scratch our markings on ballots at the local primary school.

Meantime, send your thoughts, grievances, score cards.

Posted in Diversions, Media, Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Carpenter calls Sept 6 election – game on

Posted by occidentprone on August 7, 2008

Alan Carpenter’s early election date means he’s running scared of Colin Barnett, says political observer Peter van Onselen.

“I think the timing is a shock on a number of levels, I’m surprised that the Premier has made such a cynical political move because one of the great strengths of his premiership has been in not being a politician almost or at least not having that image…” Mr van Onselen said.

“I think the public are absolutely a wake up to Carpenter’s rhetoric that he won’t be basing his decisions on the problems in the Liberal Party versus the reality that this is exactly what he’s done,” he said.

“He might say he’s not worried about Colin Barnett as leader of the opposition but his decision to call the election so quickly shows he’s that he’s petrified of him, he’s petrified that if given the chance to present himself as a possible alternative that he could win the election.

“So he’s made a strategic decision which I think is a strategic blunder…” (Source: WAToday)

Fellow analysts Harry Phillips and David Black emphasise the cynicism of the move and agree that if not a blunder, it’s certainly risky because it shows them flinching a day after Barnett became leader.

The Australian says the Libs will train their sights on Labor’s links with Brian Burke. But friendly fire has claimed Lib frontbencher John McGrath, who doesn’t want his Burke links to taint his side’s campaign.

McGrath does not admit any guilt, says he was cleared by the CCC and says it is just a ‘distraction’. The Libs cannot ignore this and attack the government on the same charges and it cannot ignore that Anthony Fels transgressed in a similar manner with Noel Crichton-Browne. Just because the two are no longer in the spotlight (McGrath has just stepped down from the front bench, not the party or as an MP), doesn’t mean they are guilt free. The hypocrisy watchers are on amber alert.

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Let’s look closely at Colin’s waterworks

Posted by occidentprone on August 6, 2008

It didn’t take long – Colin’s pipe dream has been resurrected along with Barnett himself. Colin’s Conduit, Colin’s Colon, Barnett’s Shaft – get ready for the puns and headline shorthand.

The Australian says the reheated Liberal leader: 

… has indicated he will revisit plans for a Kimberley-Perth canal in preparing policies for the next election.

Mr Barnett, who was elected unopposed to the parliamentary Liberal Party leadership today, was widely blamed for the opposition’s loss at the 2005 election after he made an uncosted pledge to build a canal to carry water from the Kimberley to Perth.

Mr Barnett took responsibility for the gaffe and quit the leadership shortly after the Gallop Government was returned with its majority intact.

After the party room today unanimously chose him to become the fourth Liberal leader in the fifth leadership change since the election, Mr Barnett did not rule out reviving the canal scheme.

“Let me say that at the time of the last election I made a mistake in the way the issue was handled,” Mr Barnett said at his first press conference as the reinstated Liberal leader.

“But can I also say that since the last election water has become the most important issue for Australia, indeed many parts of the world.

“WA, unlike other states, has the capacity to develop an integrated water supply system to provide water security for this state for another 100 years.”

Asked if that meant the multi-billion-dollar, 3700km covered canal was back on the Liberal agenda, Mr Barnett said any major project needed to be “a long-term, well thought out, well costed and considered project”.

“But we can do this,” he said.

Interesting development – or lack of development if you’re talking Barnett’s policies. But he’s right that water is now a big issue so maybe the masses are more willing to suspend their  disbelief for a bit. After all, we rely on a gas pipeline from the north to the south.

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Mysteries, mass media and mixed metaphors

Posted by occidentprone on August 6, 2008

It’s like the Twilight Zone here at the moment with the missing and mysterious filling the pages of the paper and websites this morning.

An inquest into the disappeared Kaz II crew is sitting in Townsville his week and has heard how three Yunderup men went missing off the Queensland coast last year. The catamaran has been called a ghost ship, with reporters yanking descriptives from their Mary Celeste imagery grab bag. But from inquest evidence in the last few days, it seems there were technical issues and nervous preparation before they set off.

One of two brothers fishing off Walpole is also missing this morning. The 82-year-old Manjimup man was fishing in Broke Inlet with his younger brother on Monday when they were swept out to sea. The 75-year-old swam to shore and searchers resumed the search for his brother this morning.

There has been a search of a different kind at a Chittering property for drug dealer Frank La Rosa who, with his wife Kim, is missing.

Frank La Rosa spent 12 years in jail for his part in a clandestine amphetamine factory and was due in court on further drug trafficking charges in July.

Police are treating his disappearance as suspicious, but have stopped short of describing the inquiry as a homicide investigation.

The property being searched today was once owned by La Rosa. (Source: ABC)

Elswhere, new Liberal leader Colin Barnett is missing the days of loyalty to the party, Varanus Island gas is back online but we are still longing for full gas, which won’t be back to pre-crisis levels till Christmas time, and we are all saying a teary farewell to our privacy as Street View is launched in Australia.

The media has been so outraged at Google’s latest venture that they’ve had to spell out exactly what sensitive landmarks will be exposed – Swanbourne Barracks, the WA police training centre, the PM’s house – to guarantee a free kick to Google and voyerism.

Posted in Diversions, Media, Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

NCB wails for what might have been

Posted by occidentprone on August 5, 2008

That ghost of Liberals past, Noel Crichton-Browne, reared his head today in the form of an article on the State Liberal leadership for Crikey. Not so much a think piece as a lament.

Had Buswell not cast his vote for Omodei, Omodei would never have been leader and would not consequently have harboured the bitterness and rage from his own sacking which poisoned Buswell’s leadership. Had time shown Birney not to be up to the job, Buswell would have naturally inherited the position without bitterness or rancour.

The political tragedy for the Western Australian Liberal Party is that it has lost a leader of high intellect, excellent debating skills and good presentation destroyed by school boy misbehaviour.

A tragedy you say? High intellect?

And where does NCB fit in – headmaster to Buswell’s naughty schoolboy? Guidance counsellor?

Buswell, once shire president of Busselton, had meetings with NCB  but in 2006 he denied that he had been threatened by him in relation to the Canal Rocks development. Read more about the Canal Rocks melodrama at the ABC’s 7.30 Report.

Here’s an extract from ABC Perth’s flagship TV current affairs show, Flatline, oops I mean Stateline, in February this year, soon after Buswell became leader:

REBECCA CARMODY: And people have been making suggestions all week that different people wield unhealthy influence within the Liberal Party.

Did Mr Crichton-Browne assist in your preselection?

TROY BUSWELL: No, Rebecca. I was preselected back in 2003 for the Liberal Party. And I would like to think that I was preselected at that time on my own merits by a group of independently minded people.

REBECCA CARMODY: Do you recall the last conversation you had with Mr Crichton-Browne? When was that?

TROY BUSWELL: The last time I spoke to Noel Crichton-Browne was in the back half of 2006, so going back almost 18 months now.

Why is Crichton-Browne a dirty word? He was expelled from the Liberal Party in 1995 for a series of incidents, including allegations of sexual harassment and threats.

The Australian claims a whiff of intrigue and that a small group of senior Libs were behind getting Buswell to step down. But it doesn’t name them. Small group of powerbrokers pulling strings in a political party? Hardly intriguing and hardly news.

Meanwhile, Colin Barnett has confirmed he wants the leadership back and is expected to take the reins tomorrow. No one is expected to oppose him for the leadership but Deidre Willmott is standing between him and his seat (no Liberal seat jokes please).

After all, Barnett did say he was retiring but I guess a grumpy old bloke can change his mind, even if it is at the expense of new blood and potential talent. The Libs have got that in spades so where’s the harm, right?

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Buswell’s gone … now what?

Posted by occidentprone on August 4, 2008

Troy Buswell has quit as leader of the WA opposition. He’s learnt the meaning of the word ‘opposition’ this past few weeks with backbenchers, a former leader and the state’s daily all working against him and working towards this moment. 

Colin Barnett, who failed to set the electorate alight with his personality – and that was against Geoff Gallop – is waiting in the wings. Buswell is in his first term, while Barnett has been a politician for 18 years. 

Earlier today, Liberal forces revealed that Mr Buswell saw internal party polling on Friday night which showed him that the Liberals would be devastated under his leadership at the next election.

It is understood Mr Buswell decided to stand down regardless of whether Mr Barnett can be persuaded to lead the party.

The polling is believed to to mirror a recent WestPoll which showed that the Liberal Party would be competitive at an election under Mr Barnett.

However high profile lawyer Deidre Willmott appears to be standing in the way of Mr Barnett’s return. The political hopeful has already been endorsed for Mr Barnett’s blue ribbon seat of Cottesloe and sources say she is “refusing to budge”.

It is understood party officials are trying to persaude her this morning to put her political career on hold for the sake of the party.

If Ms Willmott insists on retaining her endorsement, it is possible that deputy leader Kim Hames or Treasurey spokesman Steve Thomas would step up for the top job. (Source: The West Australian)

Buswell told media today he was not ‘unelectable’ but that the Libs had a better chance with a change.

Some background from the ABC

Mr Buswell’s leadership deeply divided the party during his six months at the helm.

He has survived two leadership spill motions this year.

They followed revelations of inappropriate behaviour towards female staff members at State Parliament in Western Australia.

In February this year he publicly apologised after admitting to snapping the bra strap of a Labor staff member during a drunken night at Parliament last year.

In May, he initially refused to be drawn on accusations that he sniffed the chair of a female Liberal staff member, then fought back tears when he eventually confessed.

The incident drew national and international media attention and senior Liberal MPs were reportedly furious with Mr Buswell for his behaviour.

He narrowly won a leadership spill in early May and shortly afterwards sacked former Liberal leader Paul Omodei, saying he would not tolerate public attacks.

Another leadership plot was hatched in June and Mr Buswell again retained his job.

However Mr Buswell and the Liberal Party have suffered in the polls and many Liberal MPs seem concerned the party would be decimated at the next election if he remained leader.

Speculation is mounting that Premier Alan Carpenter will call an election soon.

So now what? The anti-Buswell camp have got what they wanted after summoning all their backbiting, white-anting passive-aggressive superpowers but what’s the alternative? 

Buswell was the fourth opposition leader since the last election. That points to something and here’s a hint, its not depth of talent.

So with an election soon, can the opposition to learn the meaning of the word ‘opposition’ and stick it to the government?

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

A lesson for the Carpenator

Posted by occidentprone on August 1, 2008

 The West Australian reports the WA teachers pay negotiations with the state government have broken down. 

The teachers’ proposed pay deal was on the brink of collapse yesterday, with almost half the union’s governing body breaking ranks to reveal they do not support the agreement struck with the State Government last week. 
More than a week after the pay offer was approved by the union’s executive and presented by the Government and union president Anne Gisborne as a fait accompli, seven out of 17 members of the executive have broken ranks to condemn it publicly. 
In what could prove to be a major embarrassment for the Government in the weeks leading up to the next State election, the union rebels are urging teachers to seriously question the deal when voting starts this month. 

…The Government has offered teachers pay rises of between 15 and 21 per cent over three years and annual allowances of between $3000 and $19,000 to those who teach in tough city schools and remote schools. Education Minister Mark McGowan says the deal would make WA teachers better paid than those in other States. 
But the seven rebels told The West Australian in a statement yesterday that the agreement would only keep pace with inflation. 

This is a tenuous link but under the subgenre of food for thought: What are our public servants to make of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s move to sack 22,000 California state workers and cut the pay of 200,000 more to minimum wage?

Here in WA the government is crying poor every time some two-bit irrelevant section of the public service, like say teachers or nurses or coppers, wants more money for the cushy jobs they do.

“Most of those laid off are seasonal and part-time staff, while the 200,000 remaining state employees would have their full salaries restored when a budget was agreed, the governor said.

“Today I am exercising my executive authority to avoid a full-blown crisis and keep our state moving forward,” he said.

“This is not an action I take lightly but we do not have a budget and, as governor, I have a responsibility to make sure our state has enough money to pay its bills.” 

… Asked whether his administration would sue the state financial controller’s office if it did not comply with the executive order, Mr Schwarzenegger said:

“If that’s what it takes. I’m here to make sure that our state functions, and whatever it takes, I will do it.” (Source: BBC

Alan Carpenter is no superhero like Arnie and our political system doesn’t allow the premier to sign away workers in the stroke of a pen on an executive order as has happened in the US. But in WA, where we have a worker shortage, the state is not going to function at all without happy teachers or nurses or coppers.

Like the man said, whatever it takes.

Posted in Diversions, Foreign affairs, Industrial relations, Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »