Occident Prone

Welcome to Australia’s wild West

Archive for the ‘Australian politics’ Category

Don’t misunderestimate the recession

Posted by occidentprone on September 25, 2008

George W Bush grasps the seriousness of the financial crisis crunching the globe.

“We are in the midst of a serious financial crisis,” he said before hosting unprecedented crisis talks. “Our entire economy is in danger.” (Source: The Australian)

On ABC:

“There has been a widespread loss of confidence and major sectors of America’s financial system are at risk of shutting down,” Mr Bush told the nation from the White House, using some of the bleakest language of the crisis so far.

“The government’s top economic experts warn that without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold,” Mr Bush said, in a rare televised appearance.

“With the situation becoming more precarious by the day, I faced a choice – to step in with dramatic government action, or to stand back and allow the irresponsible actions of some to undermine the financial security of all,” he said.

Mr Bush – finally taking a front and centre role in crisis – listed the prospect that more banks could fail and the possibility the US economy could be driven into recession as more reasons that the massive rescue must be approved.

He punched home the message by referring to the impact such a scenario would have on the lives of ordinary Americans and acknowledging the validity , saying that while tens of thousands of people had have lost their homes.

Acknowledging deep American anger that such huge sums of money – amounting to five per cent of American GDP – are being contemplated for those who created the financial strife in the first place, Mr Bush said that nevertheless, not acting now would cost Americans much more later.

Bush’s heir hopeful, John McCain has suspended his election campaign with all the gravity the Republican war veteran can muster.

His opponent Barack Obama says this is the time presidential candidates (you know, those wanting to be President of the United States of America) should start talking about the economy.

McCain is backed into a corner with Sarah Palin as his running mate. She has shown zero capacity for original, analytical thought and between the pair of them, they seem to have trouble pronouncing economy, for all they have avoided the topic.

I have avoided discussing the American campaign as my blog is predominantly about West Australian, and to a lesser degree Australian, current affairs but as the characters develop more and the financial crisis threatens to engulf all of us, I’m wading in. Since late 2006, I have listened to podcasts from Slate magazine and The New Yorker, so that they have become a weekly serial of heroes and villains and jesters all culminating in a series finale in November. (Although if I hear the word ‘narrative’ to describe a current affairs event one more time I’ll scream – and that means you too Crikey crew.)

So I’m trying to draw some meaningful lesson from across the Pacific that we can apply here. And my main concern is this: Please let’s never get in the situation they have in America where a VP candidate (Palin) is allowed to build a cult following without facing questions from the press. No person running for any office, let alone high office, should be unaccountable – BEFORE THEY’RE EVEN ELECTED.

We saw a little of the cult of personality in the Kevin O7 election last year and our leaders face off first as characters, then politicians with policies (think Nelson v Turnbull last week and Buswell for much of this year). But to allow a candidate escape questioning and scrutiny – from reporters or bloggers or voters or anyone – is totally insane. You get what you deserve if you let this happen.

Back to McCain. Slate’s John Dickerson had this to say:

John McCain has launched his second Hail Mary pass in a month. On Wednesday he called for a suspension of the presidential campaign—no events, no ads, and no debate Friday—so that he and Barack Obama can head to Washington to forge a bipartisan solution. Even more than his selection of Sarah Palin as running mate, this gambit feels like a wild improvisation someone in the McCain team mapped out on his chest: OK, you run to the fire hydrant, cut left, and then when he gets to the Buick, John, you heave it.

Dickerson might overuse the word narrative but he knows how to put politics into language we understand.

Posted in Australian politics, Foreign affairs, Media, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

How can you underpay the lowest paid workers?

Posted by occidentprone on September 23, 2008

The WA economy is characterised as booming, no question. A lot of workers are rolling in it. This we know.

We also know (but may not want to acknowledge) there are those who aren’t keeping up. The elderly, the disabled, the unemployed. Even people who in low-paid jobs, who work for love or sense of duty or because they have no other skills.

So why oh why are some employers screwing the people who work where many others won’t – in the caring industries. Whether it is deliberate or accidental is up for debate. But carers in child care and aged care homes are being diddled, reports ABC.

About 90 West Australian child care workers will be reimbursed $35,000 after random audits found they were being underpaid.

The Australian Workplace Ombudsman randomly audited 31 WA child care providers and found 19 of them were underpaying employees.

Alfred Bongi from the Ombudsman’s office says WA was the worst offender and investigations into other child care services are continuing.

“A number of these employers have been issued with breach notices but in Western Australia so far they have all voluntarily complied,” he said.

“We are continuing investigations on three premises.

“We do these campaigns particularly to focus on vulnerable workers and we selected this industry because of the number of trainees and apprentices who work there.”

The Ombudsman’s report outlined their target:

One of the reasons why the aged care and child care industries were selected for audit was the understanding that they employ a high percentage of workers that the Workplace Ombudsman would classify as vulnerable. This proved to be the case with women being the predominant workers in the aged care industry and women and young workers being predominant in the child care industries.

Read the report further for a summary of issues in WA:

The campaign has supported the rationale behind Western Australia’s selection to undertake audits in the child care sectors with rates of pay and penalty rates as the breaches that were the most commonly identified issues in the industry.

The qualitative information collected highlights that the predominant findings (rates of pay) were due to a lack of understanding/knowledge of the pay scale increases that occurred in October last year. However, in some cases it was due to incorrect classification of employees based on their length of service in the child care industry and their qualifications.

… Another common finding was that employers were not engaging their full-time employees for the required hours under the industrial instrument. Both instruments in this case required a 38 hour week to be paid however, at least 6 employers were found to be in breach of this requirement and back payments for some of these businesses are still underway.

An unusual finding was that an employer was only paying one employee the rate that the business was subsidised per hour under the Commonwealth ‘Inclusion Support Subsidy’. This subsidy is a contribution towards the costs associated with including a child or children with ongoing high support needs in child care and is part of the Australian Government’s Inclusion and Professional Support Program. It does not void an employer from paying an employee their appropriate minimum rate of pay payable under the Act. The employer is currently in the process of rectifying this underpayment.

In Western Australia only 6 businesses (18%) were found to be complying. This is believed to be the lowest compliance figure for a time and wage campaign in Western Australia since March 2006. However, those that were appeared to be up to date on their knowledge of their employer obligations and usually had direct dealings with an external body such as Chamber of Commerce and Industry or a union such as the LHMU.

Seriously, this is bullshit.

And particularly here in WA right now where many workers are well paid and unemployment is low. 

For employers and workers alike, I give you the Workplace Ombudsman’s website: http://www.wo.gov.au  You can register for an email alert of changes to the published pay scales.

And dear readers, if your loved one, young or old, is in the care of a carer, it is up to you to make sure the carer is being treated as well as you would like Cupcake / Pops to be. That’s caring.

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

Ellison resignation ends Howard era, really this time

Posted by occidentprone on September 17, 2008

WA Liberal Senator Chris Ellison and former Howard government minister is quitting politics.

The West Australian senator said he wanted to make way for new blood on the opposition front bench and was keen to spend more time with his family, including his three young children.

He said he would immediately move to the opposition back bench and decide in the coming months when to leave parliament. (Source: The West)

The fact that Malcolm Turnbull became federal Liberal leader yesterday has nothing to do with it he insists. Turnbull is famously a republican and Ellison famously a monarchist. Both famously have double-L in their names.

You can find Senator Ellison’s rollicking resume on his parliamentary website.

Posted in Australian politics, Politics | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Era of half-Nelson puns over

Posted by occidentprone on September 16, 2008

Malcolm Turnbull is humbled. Now that he’s top dog.

Turnbull is the new federal Liberal leader after Brendan Nelson called for a spill and wouldn’t you know got dumped. That’s why he was not good as leader, his capacity to read a situation / nation / party room / voters was notoriously off.

Mr Turnbull defeated Dr Nelson by a narrow margin of 45-41 at a partyroom meeting this morning.

Dr Nelson’s decision to call the leadership was designed to catch Mr Turnbull off balance after weeks of speculation and just days after the Member for Wentworth returned from Italy.

Julie Bishop remains as deputy leader.

Mr Turnbull lost the leadership ballot to Dr Nelson by just three votes on November 29 last year. 

But Dr Nelson polled poorly against Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and speculation had been continuing that either former treasurer Peter Costello would be drafted into the leadership or Mr Turnbull would make a move.

Mr Costello, who launches his memoirs today, effectively ruled himself out of leadership contention last week. (Source: The Australian

The West Australian reports:

Mr Turnbull, 54, said he was “honoured and humbled” to be elected as leader.

The Wentworth MHR said his job in power would be to allow the “dreams of Australians to be enabled”.

“We must, above all, have policies that reflect the values upon which our party is bound – freedom and fairness,” Mr Turnbull said.

“I didn’t get here from a life of privilege … I know what it’s like to be short of money,” said the millionaire and former merchant banker.

“We are a party of opportunity and … this is a land of opportunity.

“But we need to have confidence, we need to have leadership, we need above all to have the opportunities to do well.

“And that is the great difference between our side of politics and Labor, because we believe that government’s role is to enable each and every Australian to do their best, to exercise their freedom of choice to do their best.”

“Labor believes government knows best. We are not so vain as Mr Rudd.”

Ms Bishop refused to say who she supported in the party room vote, but said the party would be well served by Mr Turnbull’s “intellect and vision”.

Turnbull is obviously playing the little known “ironic card” of politics when he says “We are not so vain as Mr Rudd”.

Crikey‘s Bernard Keane says the outcome should faze the Government:

In ALP Caucus, Julia Gillard, filling in for an absent PM, declared that it didn’t matter who led the Liberal Party. Ah, but it will, Deputy Prime Minister, it will.

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

Forget the flat white, get yourself a good book

Posted by occidentprone on July 28, 2008

Yesterday I popped down to Cino to Go in Mt Lawley to get a feel for what Stephen Smith might have been thinking when he took the US Secretary of State there on Friday, and to just be where she had been.

This is by no means a plug for Cino because there are heaps of great coffee spots in Mt Lawley.  Though I found they’re sprinkling real chocolate on the top of the cappuccino so maybe that’s why our Foreign Affairs Minister finds it appealing.

But if he really wanted to make an impression he should have taken Dr Rice – chaperoned by his parents of course – to Planet Books. She has said she sends friends to do her clothes shopping but bookshop browsing is not something you can delegate. Even the endlessness of Amazon is no match for the smell, see, feel, hear assault you get by craning your neck through all the shelves and flicking through the ones that catch your eye.

Planet, along with the smaller Oxford Books in Leederville, are bastions for the slow browsers. I have easily spent an hour just looking – and not even buying in the end but still feeling as though it was an afternoon well spent.

I can see Condi, brow furrowed before the bank of political and current affairs books, pondering the anti-Bush and anti-US themes, and suddenly having a lightbulb moment – PING – Time for the US to get out of Iraq, time to use this international influence for good, to not just bide time by Bush’s side, to recognise America is no longer the prestigious hemisphere it once was, that its “brand” is tarnished.

Maybe Smith could point her towards a John Pilger rant or the Latham Diaries (any of those still around?) for a bit of perspective.

Or the talented pianist could just buy a biography on Brahms. Either way Rice could see there’s a lot going on outside Planet Bush.

Posted in Australian politics, Diversions, Foreign affairs, Perth, Politics | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

International relations amid the art deco of Mt Lawley

Posted by occidentprone on July 26, 2008

“And here’s one of little Stevie on the first day of school – yes he was potty trained, he was just nervous.” A proud mum tells her adult son’s new friend everything she needs to know for a fruitful relationship.

Here’s what it is: The most powerful woman in the world comes to Perth, home of Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister and he takes Condoleezza Rice to Cino To Go in Mt Lawley with his parents.

The Australian today has a pic of little Stevie with the very important Dr Rice and his mum and dad, in an ordinary Perth coffee shop.

For shame.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Cino To Go, hell I even like Smith. He’s been my federal member for some years and like his mum I’ve always believed in him and wanted him to do well. But this is an embarrassment and I’m not so sure he’s the man we need representing our sophisticated, modern face to the world.

Of all the hopes and aspirations political commentators and international affairs observers had for Rice’s visit – an insight into US foreign policy, a hint on future moves in Afghanistan and the Middle East – and Smith takes the US Secretary of State to his daughter’s school and his local cafe.

A few days ago commenter Skink said he too was represented by Smith and maybe the good minister could take Condi to Charcoal Chicken for a feed. I thought Skink was taking the piss but he must have had a peek in Smith’s diary. Maybe the chook shop was shut. Maybe Condi was over chicken after ASEAN. Maybe he’s trying to help Labor’s Karen Brown win the state seat of Mt Lawley. Maybe this is all a bad dream.

Here’s what The West had to say about the visit:

On lighter matters, Dr Rice revealed she and Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith had spent time explaining the rules of cricket and American football to one another.

She said she had enjoyed meeting Mr Smith’s family, and now loves “flat whites” after tasting one at a Perth coffee shop earlier today.

On an overcast day, Dr Rice’s luck held out with the rain starting to fall shortly after she left the park to head to the airport to fly on to New Zealand.

Dr Rice praised Perth as a beautiful city and a special part of Australia and said its openness and optimism reminded her of western America, which is her heart’s home.

Speaking of flat whites, maybe Smith had to cram the cringe-worthy family meetings into Rice’s itinerary (she also met his daughter and son) because he’s aware this gig is short-lived.

And if he wants the open and optimistic relationship with the States to continue Smith should start professing his love for long blacks.

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

Give the Liberals a bullet

Posted by occidentprone on July 23, 2008

The Liberals are a mess. From the backbench an old blue-blood threatens the leader, says he’ll quit and jeopardises stability. Today’s leader fears for his tenure, made all the worse by bad press and poor polls. Meanwhile, the Labor government has a blank cheque to do whatever it wants because voters can’t stomach the alternative.

WA Libs or the federal party? Well, both.

In the west, Troy Buswell had a meeting with former leader Colin Barnett “as speculation grew of a change in the Liberal leadership before the looming State election”, according to The West.

With Mr Barnett declaring that the “door was still ajar” for him to return to the leadership, Mr Buswell refused to reveal what was discussed at the hour-long meeting in Mr Barnett’s Stirling Highway office.

On a day when senior Liberals split over who should lead the party to the election in the wake of a damning Westpoll that put Mr Buswell’s standing as preferred premier at just 12 per cent, the Opposition Leader was adamant he would not stand aside for Mr Barnett.

After the meeting, which Mr Buswell said was organised on Monday and before columnist Paul Murray called in The West Australian for the Vasse MP to step aside, Mr Buswell said it was still “his understanding” that Mr Barnett intended to retire at the coming election.

“As far as I’m concerned, it was a private conversation and I don’t feel compelled to discuss it with The West Australian,” Mr Buswell said. “It was a wide-ranging conversation.”

Earlier, Mr Barnett accepted that he had not fully closed the door on a return to the leadership despite announcing his retirement and the party endorsing former Chamber of Commerce and Industry lawyer Deidre Willmott for his seat of Cottesloe.

It’s a spooky parallel of what’s happening in Canberra. Brendan Nelson scoffs at any suggestion he’s ready to stand aside as leader for Peter Costello, says The Australian.

Couldabeen Costello would be on the frontbench “with a bullet”, Nelson says. Curious choice of words from Nelson. As a doctor and ex defence minister he is surely across the damage bullets can do.

With some Costello supporters fanning suggestions in recent days that he would stay on and seek the Liberal Party leadership, Dr Nelson told The Australian he intended to lead the Opposition to the next federal election, due in 2010.

He said Mr Costello was entitled to announce his future in his own time.

“He and his family have earned the right to make a decision which is in their best interest and that of the people of(his electorate of) Higgins,” Dr Nelson said.

“Peter will announce his decision in due course. I will be very happy if Peter chooses to stay, but I will respect his decision if he chooses to go.

Nelson says all this while whistling “I’m not scared, what a beautiful day”.

What is it with the Libs letting the party haemorrhage in the polls while dithering over leadership? A good leader is worth gold but if you haven’t got that, go for stability, loyalty, unity. Voters love these things too.

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

Condoleezza Rice goes bush

Posted by occidentprone on July 21, 2008

Condoleezza Rice is coming to Perth on Thursday and Friday. The first and last time a US secretary of state visited Perth was 1985.

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith says Condi’s visit will focus on energy security and minerals wealth. His statement, published pretty much the same on Fairfax, West, and Murdoch websites, is filled with vacuous platitudes about “alliance relationship” and “significant economic and social contribution” and “responsive to climate change difficulties” and other bureacracy-speak blah-blah. (He must have swallowed the same public service jargon manual as Rudd for all emotion and excitement to be stripped out of every event.)

Just as the Rudd Government is extricating itself from Howard’s tagalong with Bush’s wars, and Rice is coming to the end of her tenure, she is taking time to use all her travel chits:

“She describes it as a home town visit, she’s never been to Perth before and she wants to see the delights of Perth and we will do our best to accommodate that,” Mr Smith said.
“So there’ll be serious business to attend to but she also wants to see some of the beauty of Perth and that’s as it should be.”

Her complicity with Bush’s foreign affairs catastrophes aside, Dr Rice’s trip to Perth is a coup for the city and for Smith. Get your phone cameras ready for Condiwatch.

See Stephen Smith’s transcript of his meeting with Dr Rice in January here.

Posted in Australian politics, Foreign affairs, Perth, Politics | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Kevin drops the F-bomb

Posted by occidentprone on July 12, 2008

Our Prime Minister has a bad temper and drops the F-bomb in the workplace, reports PerthNow.
Good heavens! The site said these “explosive” revelations about Kevin Rudd were contained in a new book by political analyst Peter van Onselen.

Dr van Onselen said there was a lot more to Mr Rudd than the church-going politician who was elected as Prime Minister last year.

He said that, in his office, Mr Rudd was as foul mouthed as any other politician he had studied.

“The book reveals Mr Rudd to be somewhat of a potty mouth behind closed doors,” Dr van Onselen said.

“During his Opposition leadership, our research reveals Kevin Rudd’s foul language and temper in his office and use of the F word.

“There are two Kevin Rudds. There is the Kevin Rudd that his staff gets to see and there is the Kevin Rudd that the Australian public voted for — and they are very different.

“He prefers not to swear in front of women, but does in front of men.

Dr van Onselen said the PM was accused of being a hypocrite for using bad language but kicking union boss Dean Mighell out of the Labor party for swearing. So here are Mr Rudd’s alleged crimes:

  1. He swears.
  2. He has a different face for workmates than for more formal occasions.
  3. He’s a politician but he’s two-faced and hypocritical.

Maybe in the genteel Edith Cowan University where Dr van Onselen is associate professor, no one curses. The uni name has a floral, Victorian ring to it and in that prim and upstanding vein van Onselen even says Rudd has a “potty mouth”. (We are not knocking early WA social campaigner and MP Edith Cowan or her namesake institution, just making the point that maybe Bond or Murdoch uni academics mightn’t have such an issue with rude words.)

I think Dr van Onselen has missed the hook on this one. Swearing is not so remarkable but an Aussie bloke who prefers not to swear in front of women and holds back – well that’s just weird. What is he, a poofter?

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

Troy who?

Posted by occidentprone on July 9, 2008

Liberal heavyweights were in Perth last night as ex PM John Howard gave the gracious farewell speech we’ve all been waiting for.

Howard’s craw aside, WA’s most senior Liberal Troy Buswell – remember him, leader of the opposition – was either snubbed or dismissed as an unknown on the federal Lib radar, depending on the media you read.

The West Australian‘s paper edition (but not on its website) said Alexander Downer passed comment that he didn’t know Buswell and The Australian said he was ignored altogether:

Although a state election is looming, the party’s scandal-plagued West Australian leader Troy Buswell was all but ignored. Seated several tables away from Mr Howard, he did not rate a comment from any of the Liberal stalwarts who took the stage, including deputy federal Liberal leader Julie Bishop and retiring former foreign minister Alexander Downer.

Is the national tier of the party deliberately distancing itself from Buswell because they don’t want to be tainted by his poor behaviour?

Or do they think he’ll not last long enough to be a real player (that is, in government)?

Or is the rarefied Canberra air such that the state parties don’t rate?

Or have Howard and Downer forgotten about politics already and are looking to other enriching experiences (even though Downer is still an MP)?

If I were Buswell I would be taking this very personally.

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