Sex Party stands out in lacklustre field
WHILE gossip and other personal distractions have marred this federal election campaign, none of the three main parties has put forward a convincing policy regarding significant national infrastructure projects.
Kevin Rudd’s failure to deliver on a national emissions scheme and the failed insulation scheme seem to have given both sides of politics performance anxiety.
With our roads increasingly clogging up with semitrailers, a new national rail scheme should have been proposed at this election. Australia’s rail system is little better than that of many Third World countries, and while state governments are to blame for a lot of this, the lack of a clear federal approach is the biggest problem.
A train ride from Canberra to Sydney still takes four hours and travellers can’t even charge their laptop computers on the journey. In Japan this trip would take an hour and people could work all the way. It’s a national disgrace.
Remarkably, the only relatively significant rail funding announcement so far is Julia Gillard’s pledge to help the much-promised construction of a rail link between Parramatta and Epping in electorally crucial western Sydney and in marginal Bennelong, held by Maxine McKew.
Our rivers are polluted, badly dammed or diverted — and sucked dry by inconsistent state demands. A national approach is lacking but would be predicated to a degree on an effective and affordable emissions trading scheme. As Tony Abbott said at the Coalition launch last Sunday, water is our most urgent environmental problem. He’s right. And if the states cannot agree on supporting this notion, there needs to be a way of forcing them to it.
Housing is still way overpriced for many people, or sadly non-existent as the lines of homeless people grow longer every day. This is tightly linked to the failure of the Howard and Rudd-Gillard governments to understand that Australia’s inland regional centres are dying and if we do not attract people to these areas, we are going to be stuffed, like sardines, into the coastal metropolitan areas.
A beautiful three-bedroom federation house on 2000 sq m of land in Booroowa in country NSW was listed last week for $200,000 and didn’t sell. In Sydney or Melbourne this same house and land could sell for more than $3 million. The benefits of living in a house such as this in a rural area, as opposed to a metropolitan one, are easily articulated by a competent PR person with the resources of a federal government program behind them. Why haven’t we heard a proposal for dealing with this during the election campaign?
The number of people aged 85 and over will quadruple within the next 40 years and up to one-third of today’s workforce may have retired. Think about the number of very elderly people walking down the main street of your local shopping centre now and then multiply that by four and think about it again. Yet we are not seeing any promotion of the problems associated with these important infrastructure issues.
In the main, the Greens have followed the tightly scripted and stage-managed campaigns of Labor and the Coalition. Their insistence on holding out against Rudd’s lesser emissions trading scheme, in deference to the one they had in mind, alienated the Greens from some of their traditional voters. Their all-or-nothing approach on this is not indicative of a party that wants to negotiate good and effective outcomes.
This electoral campaign is arguably the most lacklustre in recent history, with the three main parties vying with each other to be seen as the least likely to make a mistake. The adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained” could come back to haunt them all. More than ever we need bold leadership and visionary schemes. This may well come from the “just right of centre” politics in Australia in that, in the next few days, Abbott may well deliver a surprise package in terms of infrastructure, water and population planning.
Following her statement that she was praying for Rudd, Gillard’s pitch to the Christian lobby earlier this week to increase the size of the school chaplaincy program to $222 million was bizarre. Coming from a committed atheist, it simply confirmed, on the one hand, that Gillard seems capable of saying anything, and, on the other, that her recent statement about “taking control” may have been scripted by the backroom apparatchiks from Labor’s Right faction in NSW and South Australia.
Much of the Labor government’s credibility has been undermined by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s draconian internet filter and his plan to harvest people’s emails in the name of national security. Labor’s national broadband network would have attracted a lot more support if these issues had not sullied the water. Conroy’s failure to discuss other options, such as mobile broadband rather than a fixed line system, also showed a lack of political savvy.
He had no idea how to sell the benefits of a fibre network and has relied largely on support from disgruntled Telstra customers rather than long-term thinkers who understand that a viable NBN may help solve the nation’s traffic and population problems. Not surprisingly, Conroy remains almost as invisible in this campaign as the accident-prone Environment Minister Peter Garrett.
There is great discontent among Australian voters. Don’t be surprised if next week’s election witnesses a big informal vote and a sizeable protest vote against machine politics and a lack of vision.
One minor party that has been prepared to go out on a limb is the Australian Sex Party, whose leader Fiona Patten has proposed an overhaul of Australia’s censorship laws and called for fixed-term state and federal governments as a means of saving the nation many millions of dollars.
Earlier this week, Queensland-based criminologist Paul Wilson endorsed the Sex Party’s radical new policy to decriminalise personal drug use. Relying on data from Portugal’s four-year-old program of decriminalising all drugs for personal use, and the work of Ken Crispin QC in his new book, The Quest for Justice, this policy could empty our jails by 70 per cent and save us billions of dollars.
For anyone who has been robbed by desperate junkies hungry for drugs that are illegal and thus extremely expensive, this will also strike a chord.
With such a seemingly intractable drug problem, at the very least Australians should be thinking outside the square.
The Weekend Australian, August 14-15, 2010