Thursday, September 30, 2010

Note from Mykonos

As I write, the noise from the children playing at the nearby school fills the air. A din perhaps, but one I like.

I am not much into shopping. Partly lack of money, more that shopping is a female sport. Travelling with four women means that I spend a lot of time outside shops! I wile away the hours watching the passing parade.

I have written before about the differences between rules based and principle based approaches. Greece seems to be a principle based society, one where rules can be neglected. By contrast, modern Australia is increasingly a rules based society. I prefer the first. It is far more interesting, flexible, relaxed.

Of course, these things are never black or white. All societies have rules.

That said, rules based societies tend to be more efficient, Singapore is an example, until the social and economic costs of the rules outweigh any gains achieved. NSW rather falls in this second case. By contrast, principle based societies are more chaotic, less effective. Still, I do prefer them

Given my interest in tourism, I have been taking notes as to the lessons from Greece for tourism in the areas that I am interested in. I guess that I will bore you with this in due course!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Problems with electric jugs

One of the things that makes Australian travel civilised is the presence of tea and coffee making facilities in rooms. Europe generally does not have this.

In Europe last time we brought an electric kettle and then carried it with us, leaving it behind at the end. This time we decided not too, and it was a mistake.

It sounds such a little thing, making a cup of tea or coffee in the room in the early morning or at night after getting back. Yet it really adds to comfort.

It is also a lot cheaper than either buying though room service if that is available, or at a cafe. Those three Euros a pop really add up after a while!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Belshaw's Best 7: Judith Wright's "For a Pastoral Family" - and "Skins"

I write a fair bit about my own area of Australia because I am so attached to it. I know it well; it's landscape and people are sunk deep into my soul.

Judith Wright is one of New England's best known writers. Judith Wright's "For a Pastoral Family" - and "Skins" deals with two of her poems, trying to set them in a context.  

Saturday, September 25, 2010


The view from our balcony is really quite breathtaking. The room itself, while pretty, is very small; the balcony is pocket hankerchief in size, requiring me to sit sideways; however, the view makes up for it.

As I high on the cliff-top, the sea below is absolutely still. A handful of boats marks the only movement. The light has been muted to a pastel shade by a light cloud cover. Just in front of me are the islands of Thirassia, Nea Kameni and Palia Kameni. Looking up to my right, I can see Thira town crowded along the top of the cliff, running down a little towards the sea where the buildings, like our own hotel are built into the cliffs.

This is my first visit to Greece and I have been taking notes as I go along for stories to link to photos. Just as well; you know how quickly travel blurs impressions.

Most of my posts will have to wait until I get back. Insufficient time, and I cannot upload the photos at this point. Posting from internet cafes is also quite expensive. There are computers with wireless connections in the party, but for a number of reasons these are generally tied up by owner's wife and daughter. So I can't get the type of time required for posting.

Still, most of the stuff I want to write and post is not time sensitive, simply my personal reactions.

All for now.  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Belshaw's Best 6: the colours of New England

Some of my favourite posts are somewhat experimental posts where I have tried to capture some element of the texture of life in areas that interest me. The colours of New England is one such post, an attempt to combine the visual and the written to bring an area alive. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Morning Musings - time for a break

By the time you read this, I will be on my way to Greece and the Greek islands. No, I am not following those Australian writers who have gone there to write; it's just a break.

I haven't been to Greece before, so it's a chance to see a new place, one whose history I know. Now I will be able to match sight, sound and smell to previous knowledge.

I do not expect to be able to post while I am away. However, I don't want you to forget me! So I have a few posts coming up in my absence.

I do hope to be able to respond to comments. However, there may well be a few lags in responses.    

Friday, September 17, 2010

Problems with Pandora

For the benefit of readers who do not know what Pandora is, it is Australia's National Library archive of internet material, including blogs.

Some time ago, I emailed them several times suggesting that some of my blogs might be included, but without response. I accept that the things I write about are either not of national significance or, perhaps, not sufficiently representative to warrant inclusion. However, this did get me thinking.

As someone who monitors the blogosphere on a daily basis, it must be very hard for librarians and/or archivists sitting there in Canberra to form a view, to decide what to include, from a world that constantly shifts and is so ephemeral.

Some of the group blogs like Club Troppo make fairly logical candidates. Even then, there can be an issue as to how often to update. The practice seems to be to update on an annual basis.

Pandora does have guidelines as to what night be included. These state in part:
PANDORA is a selective archive. The National Library and its partners do not attempt to collect all Australian online publications and web sites, but select those that they consider are of significance and to have long-term research value.
The problem, as I see it, lies in determining what is significant, what has longer term research value. After all, this can only be determined later. If we look at the national Library's own selection criteria (other participating agencies have their own criteria), we find the following priority definitions:
Archiving will focus on the following categories:
(i) Commonwealth and ACT government publications (State government publications will be left to the State libraries)
(ii) Publications of tertiary education institutions
(iii) Conference proceedings
(iv) E-journals
(v) Items referred by indexing and abstracting agencies (which frequently are from the first three categories but also include items with print versions)
(vi) Topical sites:

(a) Sites in nominated subject areas (see Appendix 2) that would be collected on a rolling three year basis; and
(b) Sites documenting key issues of current social or political interest, such as election sites, Sydney Olympics, Bali bombing
More specific selection guidelines for each of these categories are detailed in Section 5.
3.6 This approach will not preclude us from collecting any site of a high standard and long-term research value, regardless of subject, format, or publication type. But we will give priority to the categories listed above and subjects detailed in Section 5. This means that some categories currently being collected will not be given priority but will be collected only as resources allow.

We also find the following exclusions:

The following categories will generally not be collected, though exceptions may be made.
  • Cams (web sites employing a web camera that uploads digital images for broadcast)
  • Datasets (5)
  • Discussion lists, chat rooms, bulletin boards and news groups
  • Drafts and works in progress, even if they otherwise meet the selection guidelines
  • Games
  • Individual articles and papers
  • News sites
  • Online daily newspapers for which print versions exist
  • Organisational records
  • Portals and other sites that serve the sole purpose of organising Internet information
  • Promotional sites and advertising
  • Sites that are compilations of information from other sources and are not original in content
  • Theses (the responsibility of universities and the Australian Digital Theses Project) .
Now I'm simply not sure of this categorisation. I'm not saying it's wrong, simply that I'm not sure.
Let me take an example. News sites are not included. Who, then, is responsible for archiving these? Increasingly, the on-line sites include comments sections that actually (and I am speaking wearing my historian's hat) provide a useful snapshot of views. You obviously don't get these in the archived print version.

A second example: how does one define long term research value?

Research interests vary. The things that I am interested in, for example, were quite popular forty years ago and may now even be coming back into partial vogue. In the meantime, few people were interested. I doubt that any of the Pandora crew would pick the things that I write about in their long term category.
So all this leads me to a question to my fellow bloggers. What do you think that Pandora should preserve?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Left vs right

I see that Legal Eagle has been wrestling with questions of left and right in Never the twain shall meet?. When I first became involved in politics, I struggled with the politically devout of all sides. I say all sides because I was Country Party. Having grown up on the stories of the early days of the Party, of the True Blues and the fights for country recognition, I didn't see politics in simple left-right terms; it was far more complicated than that. 

To my mind at the time, those on the left opposed the capitalist system, believed to greater or lesser extent in the primacy of the working class and in the class struggle, in socialism and considered capitalist imperialism to be the world's over-riding evil. Obviously there were many shadings of views, from the devout marxist who then still believed that the Soviet Union provided the light, through multiple shadings of socialist belief, to the sold Labor person who considered that trade unions and collective organisation by workers were necessary to protect workers and address social evils.

In the world in which I lived, my introduction to left wing views came not so much from the official Labor Party as from politically devout academics at the University of New England who both espoused a range of theoretical left wing views and also carried the Labor flag in a sometimes hostile local environment. Since this often drew them to oppose causes that I supported, I acquired a negative view.

A more positive view of the left came from history at school and from my own family on my father's side.

The first may sound odd, given that I went to a private school still run on English lines. Certainly, many local academics regarded the school as non-academic, a bastion of conservatism and the local class structure. Robert Barnard's crime novel Death of an Old Goat provides a very unsympathetic view of that school and indeed of Armidale at the time. Yet despite this, the English biased modern history that I did dealt with things such as the fight for suffrage and electoral reform, the rise of the union movement; the early fights for union recognition. I might have disagreed with Labor and the union movement on aspects, but I never doubted their legitimacy.

My father and his family provided an introduction to what we might think of as "soft-left" views. The Belshaws are working class English from Wigan. My grandfather was one of the first Labour councillors in England. At my father's funeral, his old friend marxist economic historian Professor Ron Nehl, described him as UNE's only truly working class professor.

There was some truth in that. However, my father and his siblings all broke out through education into the broader academic world. In doing so, they never forgot their working class roots, campaigning for things such as economic development and social justice, campaigning against prejudice. I heard these stories too.

I could never be a supporter of the left because I rejected so many of their views: I did not regard the capitalist system as evil in itself, although I thought that it had evil aspects; I thought arguments about class warfare were irrelevant to the Australian situation and indeed ethos; while I found some of the arguments about socialism incomprehensible.

On the other hand, this did not make me a supporter of the Liberal Party, nor of the right. In fact, I never used the word right. I thought that "right" meant fascist, extreme right.

It may sound hard to believe, but I was sixteen before I even met an avowed Liberal Party supporter outside a few Liberal Party parliamentarians. To me, the metro based Liberal Party in its various guises was the natural enemy. Politics dictated coalition, but I never forgot that politics also dictated that the Party was the real enemy when it came to expanding Country Party representation.

People often speak of tribalism and tribal dislikes in a Labor context. I grew up with a deep visceral distrust of the Liberal Party. Even today, I struggle to vote Liberal first preference. I can't help myself. I don't think that the Party represents the things that I stand for. I listen to Malcolm Turnbull or Tony Abbott espousing Liberal views, and I say that's not me. But then, neither is the ALP. I also struggle to vote Labor.

From time to time on this blog, I have tried to explain my political values and views set within a framework of what I have come to call New England populism. I have also tried to explain why New England populism is a distinct stream, neither left nor right.

Reading Legal Eagle's post which in some ways is set in a conventional left/right frame, I wondered how could I illustrate this. Let me try to explain with a story.

Grandfather Drummond became ward of the state at twelve: family conditions were very difficult, he was in some ways an uncontrollable child, and finally his step-mother had had enough. Despite this break, his brothers retained contact with him. Brother Will in particular used to send him books because, despite his limited formal education, the boy was an dedicated reader.

When I was a kid, my grandfather followed the same course with me. One day, he gave me a paper back. This, he said, shows the importance of cooperation and of cooperatives.

It was a good yarn. A benefactor purchased a tramp steamer and gave it to a cooperative to run. The book told the story of the steamer and its crew as it sailed round the world. It was partly the story of the voyages, partly the story of the success of the cooperative. My grandfather intended me to absorb the idea of cooperation and cooperatives as a vehicle, and indeed I did.

How does this fit in? Well, the idea of cooperatives and cooperation is neither left nor right. Both may try to claim it, but it actually has very little to do with the way the formal left-right constructs are presented. Indeed, and I accept that this a gross simplification, the story is antipathetical to both left and right.

To the left, the idea that social change can be brought about in ways other than Government action does not easily fit. I don't want to overstate this. Of course, the left accepts that individual and collective action outside state action can bring change, yet the focus is generally on the state.

To the right who believes (sometimes) that markets and individual action are central, I guess that that success of the cooperative simply sets up something for sale!  

I say sometimes, for one feature of the hard right is actually a collectivist ethos. Just look at what fascism actually means. The equation between the right, Hayek, markets and individualism is, what, less than sixty years old?

Time to stop here.


Reading this post later, I am still thinking through the arguments involved.

As LE suggested, we use labels to categorise people along the spectrum. On the conventional tests, I appear centre left, yet in terms of labels many of the things that I express support for would be categorised as right.

I have tried to explain in the post that the apparent mix in my views is linked to my very specific experience.

Interestingly, Paul Barratt who shared similar experiences to me displays the same apparent spectrum confusion. If you look at Paul's posts, you could conclude that he is left of centre, and indeed he is on some issues. Yet he also talks about issues from new states to the Country Party to the New England independents in the same way I do.

Hardly surprising, in fact. Like me, Paul grew up in Armidale. Like me, Paul was a townie whose father was an academic at UNE. We went to the same schools from the Misses Cooper kindergarten to the University of New England, if a little apart. We both worked in the Commonwealth Public Service for many years.

Our views on many issues are not the same, yet many of our core values are. They do not fit the Australian conventional left-right spectrum because our experiences dictated otherwise.

I am not saying that Paul and I are unique, although aspects of our shared history places us outside the some of the conventional matrices. Rather, I think that I would challenge the value of the very concept of left and right unless carefully defined. They are labels that tend to obscure rather than clarify.                

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Second Gillard ministry

This post is just for reference purposes. It shows the second Gillard ministry as sworn in taken from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and web site. 

image The administrative arrangements are to long to replicate here. However, they are also on the PM&C web site.

For the benefit of international readers, the administrative arrangements are a formal order signed by the Governor General setting out who is responsible for what. As such, they lie at the heart of administrative structures so far as the Commonwealth is concerned.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ministers for bits and pieces

Quite early on in the Rudd ministry I suggested that there was a danger of that government being New South Walesed. By this I meant simply a form of government in which process, style and box ticking overtook substance.

One feature of the NSW approach has been to have a minister for absolutely everything, or at least everything perceived as requiring a public tick. This leads to multi-barrel ministerial titles. 

In the first Full Gillard ministry list, no less than 72 overlapping subject areas were listed. This type of approach creates problems.

It makes it difficult to work out who is responsible for what.  Further, once you start listing so many things, the non-inclusion of others becomes far more important. Governments may argue that that this is not important, but practical experience suggests otherwise.

We have seen both problems at work here in the reactions and responses to the initial Gillard ministry. First. people had to try to work out what fitted where. Then, that done, objections arose to the non-inclusion of certain things. This forced the Government to add indigenous health to Warren Snowdon's title as well as adding tertiary education to Chris Evan's title. In addition, it appears that the term "Regional Queensland" has been added to Jan McLucas's parliamentary secretary's role.

You see what I mean when I say that it all gets very messy.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

A family event

Google has introduced a new comments management system. Apart from spam prevention, it allows all comments to be reviewed within the content management system.

I don't get a lot of comments as compared to, say, The Poll Bludger which can get more than 3,000 comments on a single story. In fact, on this blog I have fewer comments than this in total! Still, at 2,737 comments including my own responses I have quite a memory problem to remember what people said where and when. Pretty obviously, I can't.

The new comments management system overcomes this. Now I can look back. This is especially important with substantive comments, including any responses that I have promised.Clare, Becky

This photo shows youngest daughter (left) with friend Becky.

In a comment on  The importance of community activism, Jacqui wrote:

How do we get our youth to become more involved though? Because this is the generation we need to inspire to lobby for personal and social rights.

In responding, I said that I wasn't too worried about this when I looked at my daughters and their friends.

Youngest has just turned 21. For her party, she wanted a gathering of her friends around a musical show theme. Elements of the planning went on for months via Facebook centred on which musical should be allocated to which person.

Those involved had a lot of fun, for the key was to select a musical/character that fitted with perceived personality. This opened lots of possibilities.

Having had some experience, I wondered how many of those accepting would come (this is actually a problem with the modern Australian young: they are more casual about invitations). I also wondered whether people would actually dress to fit their character.

I need not have worried. There were some drop-outs, but most came, while nearly all if not all did dress to fit their allocated part.

Reflecting youngest's personality and range of interests, it was a very mixed group. Old school friends, friends from the Macquarie University Ancient History Society or the University of of NSW Circus Society and others all mixed. There was no trouble, nobody got drunk, people had a good time.Clare's 21st I thought what a nice crowd they were.

The next photo shows the four of us. Youngest, wife, eldest, me.

In allocating roles, youngest took pity on me and allocated me Henry Higgins. This made it very easy. I could get away with a tux!

Friend Catherine  put together the usual slide show based on selected photos showing youngest over time. I found this quite nostalgic and distracting.

The speeches, there were a number, drew out elements of youngest's character: her sense of adventure and lack of fear, leading to frequent visits to hospital emergency departments; her generosity; the way she organised things; and sometimes her sheer eccentricity. As I listened to the speeches and watched the slides, I thought of the way that she had taken a group of girls at school that did not quite fit into conventional groups, that might otherwise have become misfits, and helped turn them into a group that held its own eccentric place, that was a force to be reckoned with.

Both my daughters are strong women who also happen to get on well with each other. Both are involved in a variety of things. This is why I responded to Jacqui's comment in the way that I did.

At some point, I will do a more detailed analysis showing the patterns of engagement and involvement among the young as I know them. For the moment, I am just pleased that my wife and I seem to have done some things right! Really, though, the girls did it themselves.       

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday snippets - another blog round up

Almost a month has passed since the last time I went round the blogging traps.

On, Tia Peterson has carried out hew own regular blog round-up in 27 Posts That Will Save Your (Blogging) Life. Tia has spotted some interesting material; worth a browse.

Have you ever heard of prosopography? I had not until I read the Resident Judge of Port Philip's ‘Professors of the Law: Barristers and English Legal Culture in the Eighteenth Century. I had to look it up. According to Wikipedia:

In historical studies, prosopography is an investigation of the common characteristics of a historical group, whose individual biographies may be largely untraceable, by means of a collective study of their lives, in multiple career-line analysis. Prosopographical research has the aim of learning about patterns of relationships and activities through the study of collective biography, and proceeds by collecting and analysing statistically relevant quantities of biographical data about a well-defined group of individuals. This makes it a valuable technique for studying many pre-modern societies. Prosopography is an increasingly important approach within historical research. The term is a popular one, and the concept is easily inflated.

I guess not knowing the name shows that I remain out-of-touch with academic history, probably inevitable working alone with still limited contact with academe. Still, if I don't know the name, I certainly know the approach and it can be very useful.

Most Australians, for example, know that Chinese people came to Australia with the gold rushes, fewer know that the Chinese were here before that. I looked at this in a limited way in The Chinese in New England 1848-1853.

We have very little information on individuals. However, in Indentured Chinese Labourers and Employers Identified New South Wales 1828-1856, Maxine Darnell from the School of Economic at the University of New England presented in tabular form basic information she discovered from the historical records. With this, it is possible to look at patterns that can then be extended from other material.

In Gathering Images of #Urban zones in #Sydney for a #DERNSW Project, Maximos62 talks about copyright and his DER Leading Learners research project on Urban Growth and Decline in Sydney. The post includes some photos of Sydney showing different architectural styles.

Earlier in a very interesting post, #Indonesia and #Australia: perceptions of border security from the land that’s girt by sea, Maximos 62 looked at Australia's perceptions of borders. I don't think that I have commented on it before, but it bears upon some of the things that I have been thinking about in a historical context.

This year, the end of Ramadan, 9/11 and that very silly plan by the US pastor to burn the Koran all seemed somehow jammed together. In Condemns the Koran burning plan, Tikno added his own condemnation,  concluding: "Along with this post I want to say Happy Eid Ul Fitr 1431H to all Muslims. Please forgive any of my physical and emotional wrongdoings."

Similar wishes came from Niar and Harry Nizam.

Free Range International continues to provide an on-ground perspective of the Afghanistan war. I suppose that there is a kind of gruesome fascination with some of the war material, but I actually find that the combination of stories and photos gives me a far better feeling for the nature of the war than I get from the main stream media.

Staying with the depressing, Paul Barratt had two interesting posts on Iran and Israel:

Like me, Paul has his own biases. Accepting that, his knowledge and analytical skills have often informed me: I can adjust for his particular positions. Reading the posts added to a concern already fuelled by other things, a growing feeling that response and counter response may actually spiral into another war. Political dynamics create their own momentum. Still, that's just too depressing for a reasonably bright Sunday morning.

Winton Bates also had two interesting if less depressing posts:  Is reasonable regulation compatible with democracy? and Do global problems require domestic solutions?

Like Paul, Winton and I have many common experiences, but different perspectives. For example, in Is a hung parliament a good election outcome? he bemoaned the prospect of a hung parliament whereas I thought that it was likely to be a bloody good thing! Mind you, I wouldn't necessarily want a hung parliament as the norm, but I thought that in this case it might be helpful in breaking, or at least reducing, rigidities that had crept into the Australian system.

While we do have different perspectives, we also both struggle from time to time looking at the way that Governmental systems do or might work.

Dear me. Look at the time. I will have to finish here, but will pick up Winton's issues in a later post.     

Full Gillard ministry list

Yesterday I said that I would post the full Gillard ministry once I had it. This follows.  


    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    Australia's new Gillard ministry

    At his point the full ministry list has yet to go on-line. Further, we won't know the final detail of break-ups until the new Administrative Orders are released. Subject to these qualifications, we have:

    • PM Julia Gillard
    • Deputy PM, Teasurer Wayne Swan. He will be supported by Bill Shorten as Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Superannuation and Financial Services
    • Minister for Finance, Penny Wong
    • Mister for Trade, Craig Emerson, supported by Justine Elliot has Parliamentary Secretary for Trade
    • Minister for a Sustainable Australia, Communities, Environment and Water, Tony Bourke
    • Special Minister of State, Gary Gray
    • Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd
    • Defence, Stephen Smith. He will be supported by Jason Clare as Minister for Defence Procurement, Warren Snowdon as Minister Defence Science
    • Minister for Regional Affairs, Local Government and the Arts, Simon Crean
    • Minister for Ageing and Mental Health, Mark Butler
    • Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet
    • Minister for Schools, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett
    • Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen
    • Minister for Employments, Skills and Workplace Relations, Chris Evans
    • Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare, Kate Ellis
    • Minister for Indigenous Employment, Social Housing, Homelessness and Sport, Mark Arbib
    • Minister for Community and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin
    • Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon
    • Minister for Veterans Affairs and Defence Science, Warren Snowdon
    • Minister for Industry, Kim Carr
    • Minister for Indigenous Employment and Development, Social housing and Sport, Mark Arbib
    • Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Martin Ferguson
    • Minister for Agriculture, Joe Ludwig
    • Minister for Human Services and Social Inclusion, Tanya Plibersek
    • Minister for Small Business, Nick Sherry.

    There are, I think, some parliamentary secretary positions. I will post the complete list and portfolio structures when I have them.


    Miss Eagle has a fuller list than mine. I have now posted the full list - Full Gillard ministry list.  

    Saturday Morning Musings - managing population decline

    A tweet by Mathew Ingram drew my attention to a fascinating statistic from the Boston Globe: eight of the 10 largest cities in the United States in 1950, including Boston, have since lost at least 20 percent of their population. In the case of Detroit, more than half the city's population has gone ovRelics, detroiter the last fifty years, leaving vacant city buildings and entire boarded up blocks.

    The photo shows Detroit's main train station, opened in 1913 but not used since 1988.

    We live in a world in which part is experiencing, rapid population growth, part facing actual population decline. In Belarus for example, the total population has fallen from 10,045,000 in 1999 to 9,500,000 in 2009. This decline is likely to continue. Not only is the population aging, but there is also a growing gender imbalance - there are now 1150 women for every 1,000 men, an imbalance part linked to population aging.

    Belarus is not alone. A number of other countries are already experiencing or will soon face population decline.

    We live in an urbanised world. Countries like Australia have been urban for many years, other countries like China are urbanising now at a very rapid rate.Detroit United Artists Theatre

    The next photo shows Detroit's spectacular Spanish Gothic United Artists Theater. This was built in 1928, closed in the 1970s

    Those of us from regional Australia have experienced population decline at first hand. Schools, stores, banks, civic facilities all close.

    Small scale decline can be ignored,especially when the rest of the country is growing. But what do you do when major urban centres, metropolitan cities, go into population decline?

    As populations fall, so do rate bases, civic services and urban developments. Vast patches of desolation emerge. It becomes harder to maintain things, not just because costs have to to be spread over smaller populations, but also because large slabs of infrastructure designed for specific populations have to be maintained to meet diminishing needs.

    You see, the pattern of decline is not uniform. Some areas Detroit Wilbur Wright Schoolsuffer more than others. So some areas are still okay, other's bear costs that cannot be related to population. People fight to maintain areas and services, but ultimately they go. 

    The photo shows Detroit's Wilbur Wright public school closed in 2005.

    Now all this may seem a long way from Australia. After all, we are presently worried about the size of the population increase, not issues associated with population decline. Yet we do need to think about it.

    For the present, our problems lie not in the overall size of the population, but in its structure and distribution. This, by the way, is not an argument for more decentralisation, although that may be important. Rather, I am trying to tease out a few broader issues.

    We have an aging population. This means that we have to invest more in aged care. We have a population in which the number of households is rising faster than the population, reflecting both changing social patterns and underlying demographic trends. So we need to build more housing of one type or another to match this faster growth.

    The Australian population is not uniformly distributed. A self-evident statement I know, but I am thinking not just in raw numbers, but of the varying structure of of the population across space. Retirement areas, for example, have very different population structures from outer metropolitan areas. Then there is internal migration, the progressive shifts of population across space and time.

    We have already seen examples of the impact of this type of shift. In Canberra, for example, the city's rapid growth required shops and schools in certain areas to meet rapid population growth. Just thirty years later, maturation meant declining needs for those shops and schools. This created significant adjustment problems.

    When I look at Australia just at present, I see the Canberra example writ large. If you just crunch numbers for some areas popular with retirees or simply aging because the young are leaving but ignoring future internal migration, the numbers show fast population declines within a not so distant time horizon. In this event, it's not just the aged care facilities that will become redundant, but large slabs of the commercial and civic infrastructure as well.

    Just at present, we tend to respond to this type of challenge in two ways. Either, we say the market will work it out or, alternatively, we go all prescriptive. I am not sure that either is very sensible.

    When I read the Boston Globe analysis, I think that the think that interested me most was the differential nature of the responses. As part of this, the idea of using contraction as a device to improve overall life style and livability attracted me. I don't know that I have very clear or sensible ideas here. I just found it interesting as an alternative way of thinking.  

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    The importance of sherry

    My wife has been away. Wednesday evening, she sent me an sms to say that she was drinking a nice fino. Dear that took me back.

    Growing up, my parents used to have a nice dry sherry before dinner every night with a few biscuits. Later, I was allowed to join them. It became a tradition.

    I very rarely drink sherry now, and found myself wondering why because I am still very fond of it. When did it happen?

    Thinking about it, sherry went into decline in the eighties. It wasn't the only tipple to do so. Gin and tonic, another drink that I am very fond of, went into decline at the same time. Eldest works part time in a pub. Now nobody there orders it. Indeed, most pubs don't seem to serve it at all. 

    Part of the reason for the decline lies in the rise of other drinks. Wine, for example, is now drunk before dinner as well as at dinner. There is a far wider variety of wines and of mixed drinks, including the pre-mixed. In fact, more spirits are drunk now and in a wider variety of forms. However, I think that it is a little more than this.

    The type of alcohol drunk was directly related to perceived social status; both dry sherry and gin and tonic were drinks of the "genteel" middle classes; wine, too, was a middle class drink; by contrast, while the ubiquitous beer spanned classes, it was especially a working class drink.

    I suspect that the changing drink patterns can be directly linked to the blurring of previous social distinctions, the collapse of previous social structures. The form of alcohol drunk has become a less reliable indicator of social group.

    Thursday, September 09, 2010

    The independents' quid pro quo

    My responses to Ramana's question as to what the quid pro quo was in the deal between the two country independents and the ALP left him unsatisfied. So I thought that I should try to answer it more fully.

    Both members are taking an electoral risk in supporting the ALP as compared to the coalition. While they have huge majorities in their seats (New England and Lyne), many in their electorates wanted them to go with the coalition. This includes a large number of traditionally coalition voters who have been voting independent, some of whom may now shift back. There has been quite a savage on the ground reaction to the decision among some of this group. Both men are going to be judged on the results of the arrangement as seen through the eyes of their electors.

    There are two main components to the deal between the two country independents and the ALP, parliamentary reform plus regional development.

    The effect of the parliamentary reform component is to somewhat strengthen the power of parliament relative to the executive. This is especially important to independents. All the Northern NSW independents at state and federal level (New England is the heart of the independents' movement) constantly battle the charge that an independent vote is a wasted vote because independents have no power. As the independents did in NSW earlier when they held the balance of power there, the aim is to entrench changes that enhance the power of all parliamentarians. All benefit, but the independents benefit most.

    In this context, it is important to recognise that while the New England independents are not a party (the very concept of independence precludes this), they are effectively a movement that draws from the same type of traditions that I often write about. It is not a coincidence that Northern NSW is independent heartland just as it was Country Party (now National) before this. If, as is widely expected, Tony Windsor stands down at either the next election or the one after, then Richard Torbay, state independent member for the Northern Tablelands, is expected to run for the New England seat. Mr Torbay is the independent speaker of the NSW Parliament and also Chancellor of the University of New England.

    Parliamentary reform was agreed with both ALP and coalition. With an equal quid pro quo, the deal then came down to what both sides offered regional voters in general, with flow-ons to their electorates. Here, I suspect, important strategic and tactical considerations came in that link back to the electoral position in Northern NSW,

    Both Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott emphasised stability in government. Both wanted time to bed changes down, to get best use of their balancing position. I think that there was a concern that if they supported Mr Abbott, he was was more likely to do a run for the polls regardless of any agreement if he saw public opinion favouring his Government. In that event, the usual on-ground National vs independents contest would simply resume.

    If we now look at the broad structure of the offerings, and accepting that I don't know the details of the coalition offerings, I think that the ALP plan offered certain advantages that can be summarised this way.

    Broadband. Both the two New England independents have emphasised this one. Mr Windsor sees it as critical to the over-coming of some of the relative disadvantages faced by regional versus metro areas. The agreement for an Australia wide wholesale price, together with a re-prioritisation of roll-out to favour regional Australia, effectively levels the playing field.

    If we now look at the purely local level, Armidale (the second largest centre in Mr Windsor's electorate) is one of the initial pilot sites for the National Broad Band network. The pilot area includes the University of New England, with plans recently announced to expand the coverage of the Armidale trial. As I understand it, a second contract development contract was due to be let, but was effectively on hold pending the election. Had the coalition won and cancelled the NBN, then these developments may have either gone or been put on hold for an extended period.

    Health. Regional Australia faces major problems in health services, including attraction of doctors. This affects both member's electorates. Even in Tamworth, the biggest centre in Mr Windsor's electorate, local GPs have effectively had to close their books because there just aren't enough of them. This has been a hot issue in Tamworth.

    Both Mr Windor and Mr Oakeshott have been campaigning for upgrades to Tamworth and Port Macquarie hospitals, the biggest base hospitals in their electorates. The on-again, off-again nature of development plans over a number of years especially for Tamworth base hospital has been another hot issue.

    Both the Government and opposition have emphasised increased training of health professionals in regional Australia as a part solution to the supply problem. The Universities of Newcastle and New England have introduced a joint medical training program specifically targeting rural GP needs. This includes a new medical school at UNE.

    One of the bottlenecks here is the availability of the appropriate clinical training in terms of both facilities and distance between facilities. Hospital upgrades in combination with broadband not only improve immediate service delivery, but also strengthen the longer term supply of health professionals.

    I haven't been able to do a comparison between the ALP and coalition offers. My feeling is that the agreement with the ALP offers a better integrated longer term approach.

    Education. Like health, education has been a significant issue in regional Australia in general and in both electorates in particular.

    Mr Oakeshott has been campaigning for improved educational facilities in Port Macquarie. The Southern Cross campus that had provided some local tertiary options closed. In it's place, I understand that Mr Oakeshott has been campaigning for a new integrated facility that combines school, TAFE and university to achieve viability.

    Lyne is a very poor electorate. I think that one of Mr Oakeshott's objectives is to create an improved base that might attract more jobs to the electorate.

    Education is big business in the New England electorate and especially in Armidale. It is also a business that at tertiary level has been under challenge as a consequence of broader re-structuring of the sector.

    The stagnation in the inland population, another of Mr Windsor's concerns, has created further problems for the University of New England because it reduces the size of its immediate catchment area. Beyond these issues, the electorate would have lost three trade training centres had the coalition formed government.

    So one of the quid pro quos that I think likely to come from the agreement is action to develop and protect the region's educational base.

    In Country independents, regional development and spin, I expressed some concern about elements of the regional development package, partly on wording, mainly on my own lack of understanding. I still haven't done a full analysis, but I hope that this will give Ramana a better feel for quid pro quo issues.

    Of course, as the new parliament evolves, other things will come up, including the interactions between the major parties, the Greens and all the independents. I really don't know how this will break. There is sure to be a fair bit of horse-trading. However, so far as the two New England independents are concerned, we can be reasonably sure that they are likely to stay pretty focused. Having taken the pain, they have to justify their decision not just in immediate electoral terms, but more broadly.   

    Wednesday, September 08, 2010

    Country independents, regional development and spin

    One of the reasons why I so hate spin is that the desire to present things in the best light leads to distortion.

    I say this because Ramana asked in a comment what the quid pro quo was in the deal between the two country independents and the ALP. For that reason, I put up  Agreement between the Australian Labor Party and the Independent Members. The way I did it makes it a bit cluncky to load. The Australian has a PDF version that may be easier to read.

    The headline treatment of the deal generally reads something like independents gain $10 billion for the bush. I have yet to analyse the document in detail, but the reality appears to be nothing like this. Regional Australia would have got some of this money anyway. What the deal does do, it seems to me, is to add some spending at the margin plus shift the timing of spend between metro and regional areas. The real content lies in these areas; the $10 billion number should be ignored.

    I must say that my heart sank when I read some of the wording obviously supplied by the ALP side. It's full of that type of language so beloved by current governments. Everything is expressed in positive terms, great weight is placed on the things done, it's all packaged. This means that each sentence has to be critiqued for real meaning.

    This doesn't mean that package won't bring real benefits to regional Australia, I think that it will, simply that it cannot be taken at face value and has to be analysed properly.

    I will try my hand at this over the next day or so, looking generally at the package on this blog, at the specific New England implications on New England Australia

    Agreement between the Australian Labor Party and the Independent Members


































    Tuesday, September 07, 2010

    A sense of relief as the independents decide

    As I listened to the two independents I felt a sense of relief. Partly, this was due to the fact that a decision had been made. Partly, too, to the decision itself.

    When I write professionally on this blog, I try to be objective. However, those who read the things that I write on will know that I feel that current structures mean that some of the things I think to be important have just been ignored. it's nice to have them forced back onto the national agenda.

    But why a sense of relief at the support for Labor? Well, as Mr Oakeshott said, this is a bit of a judgement call. In my case, I have been very critical of the Rudd/Gillard approach to public policy. However, at the end of the day, the things that swung me in a personal sense were:

    1. Boat people. I became increasingly concerned with what I saw as the Howard Government's increasing inhumanity and breach of process in its treatment of refugees. I saw Mr Abbott going down the same path.
    2. Broadband. There may well be significant problems in the NBN proposal. However, I became concerned that the opposition's proposals were going to disadvantage the areas that I was especially interested in.
    3. Climate change. While I have mixed views on the climate change debate, I think that action does need to be taken. I thought that Labor was most likely to do this.
    4. New ideas. I didn't think that the opposition had had sufficient time to develop really new thoughts.

    Note that I wasn't influenced by policies towards regional Australia. Neither Labor or the coalition started  with any really new ideas here. We haven't seen the offers from both sides, but I expect that they are in fact much of a muchness. The real debate is still to come here.

    Now that a decision seems to have been made, I can go back to analysing policy as it emerges.


    Like the rest of Australia, I am poised waiting for the country independents to come to a decision. Meantime, I am trying to catch up on my backlog work.

    In comments on Tea parties, corruption and climate change, KVD and I have been chatting about various issues associated with climate change. In my last response, I mentioned that my studies of prehistory gave me a good base for a disaster scenario.

    Actually, that might be rather fun. Something different at a time when,  as I said yesterday in Just a moan, I feel that the world is crowding in around me. What do you think? 

    Monday, September 06, 2010

    Tea parties, corruption and climate change

    At end August in Musings on the changing world of blogging, I talked about changes in our little blogging community. Thomas responded in Rebuilding the village. Since then he has had a very interesting series of posts on the US elections, with a special focus on the Tea Party Movement.

    Thomas writes from a particular perspective, but he certainly educates me.

    In Life with remorseless forceps beckoning, Marcellous deals with absent-mindedness, something that I am prone to too. In Corruption, Marcellous looks at at a small but intriguing case of apparent corruption within the NSW system; the problem appears to be not so much the action as the apparent denial of the action.

    In a reasoned piece on Skepticslawyer, Climate change, scepticism and elitism Legal Eagle discussed her views on climate change in the context of a forthcoming SBS Insight program in which she participated. Marcellous responded in $50 a month. My own position can be summarised this way:

    1. Like LE, I have been concerned at the way in which a polarised debate blocks out alternative views.
    2. On the balance of probabilities, my feeling is that climate change is a real issue that needs to be dealt with now, although I have expressed frustration at the way (at least as I perceive it) polarisation limits discussion on possible responses.
    3. It is clear that any form of action has costs whose impact will be differential; different people will be affected in different ways. The analysis of costs is essentially a factual one. Here, again, I would argue that the current debate is superficial. Crudely, one side wants to present costs as minimal, the other to present maximised costs.
    4. My feeling has been that the cost issue has actually been the real elephant in the room. Look at the NSW electricity price discussion as an example. To many households, the proposed cost increases linked to climate change action were quite worrying. In combination, the potential rise in costs is far more than an average of $50 per month per household.
    5. Once the pattern of cost increases associated with particular responses or combination of responses has been analysed, then and only then can social equity issues be properly analysed.

    This post is meant to be a blog round-up, so my apologies for inserting my own views. However, I simply couldn't resist on this issue.

    Turning to other matters, Neil Whitfield (Ninglun) has been much involved with his move from inner city Sydney down to the Illawarra.  We can see the influence already. His latest post, Bravo, Richard Harrison, quotes the Illawarra Mercury, not a paper referred to before!

    In a comment on Thomas's blog, I described Neil as the godfather of our internet village. This led to a series of related comments. I think that Neil was worried that he might find a horse's head in his bed! Still, that was actually the godfather's response, so I don't think that the rest of us need to be worried!

    My real point about Neil, though, lay in the way he interlinked a variety of bloggers and thus helped from the village.

    Well, I am into working hours and have a lot to do. More later. 

    Sunday, September 05, 2010

    Sunday Snippets - NZ earthquakes, Tomorrow when the War began, wild weather

    My father was born in New Zealand's Christchurch and I have visited the city many times. The news of the major earthquake there therefore had particular resonance.

    In visiting NZ I have always been conscious of the earthquake risk. In 1931, my aunt was teaching at a small one teacher school. She was away for the weekend when an earthquake dumped tons of rubble on the farm house where she had been staying; everyone inside was killed.

    Reading the reports, my main feeling was one of relief that, despite the damage, no-one was killed.

    Corrie and Ellie Thursday night to celebrate eldest's birthday we all went to see Tomorrow when the War began, based on the first of Australian writer's John Marsden's Tomorrow series of very popular teenage books (over 2.5 million copies sold) that follow the story of a group of teenagers responding to an invasion of Australia.

    The first still shows  Corrie and Wllie planning the camping trip that begins the film.

    John Marsden's books often have a country and small town background, reflecting his own interests.  In many ways, this runs against current trends in Australia. However, unlike the film Australia, this is modern Australia. His teens are teens, with many of the same types of interests as their more urban counterparts. Further, the country tow/rural setting is central to the plot down from access to farm bikes and equipment to the locale for guerrilla warfare. 

    The film has been compared to US film Red Dawn. I hadn't heard of Red Dawn, but don't think that that's an accurate comparison. These are teen books. While adults will enjoy the movie, this is still a young person's film.    Playing in the creek     

    The next still shows the group on the camp.

    As you might expect, the film does capture some of the visual beauty and variety of the Australian country. Because I have some knowledge of the country involved, there were a couple of spots where I had to suspend disbelief.  

    One of the difficulties with the film for many commentators is that any invasion of Australia necessarily involves one or more Asian countries. The books blur over this a little, but the visual nature of film makes it harder. To manage this, the invading enemy is an unspecified coalition.

    Both my girls really loved the books, and I enjoyed them too, although I was sometimes conscious of problems in the back story that I had to put aside to just enjoy the books as books. To add to the connection, youngest also went to a writing camp put on by John Marsden on his farm.

    Wirrawee's main street destroyed The next shot shows Wirrawee's main street destroyed.  

    One of the difficulties the film faced is that John Marsden's readers were potentially very critical, fearful that the film would let down the first book.

    Although the film has some weaknesses, we all enjoyed it. At points, the largely young audience broke into roars of laughter at particular side antics during the earlier part of the film.

    The suspense is remarkably well done, the cinematography very good.

    The next shot shows Ellie, Corrie and Fi fleeing at one point.   

    Again, if you stand back and look at it objectively, you can pick holes. However, I wasn't really conscious of these while watching the Ellie Corrie and Fifilm.

    So far, the film is deservedly scoring very well at the Australian and New Zealand box office. In Australia, it took $A765,830 on its first day. The audience at the cinema we went to was actually a little less than I had expected. I suspect some fans were holding back to see if it would be good.

    I do not know the international release dates for the film. It will be interesting to see international takings.

    For those who are interested, the stills used in this post come from the film's Facebook page.

    Finally in the way of Australia, the latest wild weather across south eastern Australia continues the slow ending of the long drought that has gripped this part of the country. Large areas of Victoria are under water after the state's heaviest single day of rainfall in 15 years. Mind you, under water is a relative concept. We are not talking Pakistan style under water!

    In the meantime, purchases of Australian water rights by overseas investors are raising concerns. At $A3 billion, two thirds in NSW, Australia is claimed to have the largest water rights market in the world. That was actually news to me. According to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, August rainfall across the Basin was very much above average to the highest on record for August. August inflows were in fact higher than those for whole 2006-2007 water year.

    Much of the ground is now damp, so that more of the rainfall enters the rivers. It will be interesting to see what happens now. All those water rights purchases may have less value than the buyers had hoped.    

    Saturday, September 04, 2010

    No post today

    There will be no post today. I have to go to Newcastle.

    Friday, September 03, 2010

    Politics, policies and principles

    I haven't attempted to analyse all the evolving changes in the drama still gripping Australian politics. There is little point in analysing what it all means until we know the outcomes. The ALP-Green Deal sets out a copy of the agreement between those two parties. Now we have the agreement between the ALP and Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie; copy here. Once the country independents make up their minds, we can look at what it all means.

    In the meantime, I cannot help being a bit bemused at the way that some columnists have really spat the dummy. Luke Walladge's piece on the ABC's The Drum is an example.

    Given that I have a weekly column in the Armidale Express, the second largest newspaper in Mr Windsor's electorate, it was inevitable that I would add my own tuppence worth to all the advice he is receiving. I did so on Wednesday; the columns aren't on line, but I bring them up with a lag on the New England Australia blog. I will publish this one once I have seen the print copy.

    Mr Windsor is an experienced politician facing a difficult situation. You either trust him or you don't to make the best judgment he can. I do. So in the first part of the column I argued that Mr Windsor represented the New England constitutional  tradition: he had articulated a set of principles and was attempting to comply with them regardless of immediate partisan positions. To illustrate, I took an example from 1961 when one of his predecessors took action in the House that could have threatened the survival of the then Menzies Government.

    I tried to write very carefully here. Really, I was trying to give Mr Windsor a little oxygen, not add to the pressures on him. I know his electorate pretty well after all these years, and there is no doubt that the process has had a polarising effect.

    In terms of specifics actions, and based on discussions on my blogs and elsewhere, I began by noting that even including the population growth along the coast, the broader New England had been in structural decline for many decades. No one had addressed this.

    My position here won't come as a surprise to anybody who reads my material; I have been hammering this drum for some years.

    I then put forward three suggestions based on the discussions that have been taking place among the growing number of new state supporters.

    First, we would like him to support the holding of a new constitutional convention to look at the distribution of state and commonwealth powers, as well as ways of facilitating subdivision within the existing Federation. Again, this won't come as a surprise. I have expressed my growing concerns about constitutional problems within the Federation many times.

    One of the practical difficulties here is that there is no real consensus: people agree that there are problems, but then go off in totally different directions. A second difficulty is that there is very little discussion on constitutional principles. Rather, there is a series of gut reactions. For example, the Green/ALP agreement provides for the holding of a referendum that wouls, among other things, give local and regional government some formal recognition in the constitution. No-one knows what that really means.

    Secondly, we would like him to support the holding of another new state plebiscite within Northern New South Wales. As I wrote, we new staters want this. However, it would also force a focus on New England issues that has been missing since the New State Movement collapsed in the infighting after the 1967 plebiscite loss.

    This is a state issue outside Mr Windsor's direct control. However, support from him would help create momentum.

    Finally, I suggested that we would like both Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott to apply a key test to any specific policy initiatives that might be considered: will the proposal have any real longer term impact on New England development, or is it just a band-aid? We have seen too many of the second, too few of the first.

    In asking this question, we would also like both MPs consider broader New England needs.

    There are many shared problems across the North that would benefit from being addressed in an integrated way, instead of the fragmented and itsy approach that has applied. Again, this is something that I have written about a fair bit, about the way that current structures and approaches fragment, preventing coordinated action.

    In writing, I did not attempt to discuss the Parliamentary process issues that all the country independents have focused on. My own views are unclear here. I would prefer to wait and see. Nor did I put forward any specific spending suggestions, although some of the newspapers in the electorate have,

    The regional development policies put forward by both sides in the run-up to the Federal election were quite featherweight. As a specifically New England (Northern NSW) level, they were likely to have very little longer term impact. Further, the generalised policies put forward were likely to have quite differential but hard to determine on-ground impacts.

    Given this, it seems best to suggest general tests that Messrs Windsor and Oakeshott should apply.

    This is not to imply, however, that these tests should be the only ones applied.

    Part of the New England constitutional tradition is effective representation by the MP for his or her electorate. Country voters expect things from their MPs in a way that city folk do not. They are ours regardless of party, and we expect them to remember that.

    Part of the tradition, too, is that once elected, MPs become members of Parliament and are expected observe the traditions and values of Parliament. This may have been much tarnished by party politics, but it remains true. Parliament is our first protection against oppression by the executive, whether that oppression is expressed via the divine right of kings or the modern equivalent, the “national interest” as defined by the ruling party.

    This means that in their roles as Parliamentarians, MPs must take broader issues into account. They cannot be bound just be the interests of their electorates. This is not easy; conflicts can arise.

    If you look at the views expressed by Mr Walladge referred to earlier, you can see one of the difficulties. I quote:

    Oh, aren't they charming, these "Independents"? Aren't they just your local, neighbourhood, friendly chaps? With their homespun wisdom and folksy ways, their big hats and suntans and malapropisms. The hicks from central casting. Mr Smith goes to Canberra, indeed, and all them big-city folk are shown up for the treacherous, lecherous, greedy sods they are. Politics is changing, the paradigm is shifting. Demands, demands, demands.

    Charming? Friendly? Refreshing? Tell 'em to get stuffed.

    Another quote:

    This is politics though, after all, and a little bit of intellectual and moral flexibility should surprise none of us. But the flexibility that allows our major parties to bend over backwards to accommodate the views of bigots and lunatics and the politically fraudulent goes far too far.

    I am sure that Mr Walladge is writing for effect, to stir. However, his bile does not help sensible discussion. Instead, he has become part of the background static that makes sensible discussion about choices and principles hard to achieve.   

    Thursday, September 02, 2010

    Memories: Brian Birchall, George Crosslé

    There were two stories in recent weeks linked to people from my past.

    The Sydney Morning Herald carried the obituary of Brian Birchall (1941-2010). Born in Newcastle, Brian worked first as a PMG technician before studying at Newcastle University College and then going to Sydney University to complete his PhD, the first awarded in Philosophy. In 1971, he accepted a position as lecturer in Philosophy at the University of New England; he was to spend the rest of his life in Armidale.

    Brian was something of an eccentric who, as the obituary notes, became "a vibrant figure in the UNE landscape. Rather than being aloof, he cultivated friendships with students and contributed both an intellectual vigour and an informed sense of mischief to the university." I think that's pretty right from my own experience. 

    In 1981 I went back to UNE to work full time on my PhD. With fond, somewhat nostalgic, memories of student life, I found a much shrunken campus. Somehow during the growth and social change of the 1970s, the dynamism had been lost. Looking around, I found that the Philosophy Society was one of the few remaining student societies, so started attending meetings. This brought me into contact with Brian. Like me, he felt that student life had contracted compared to that he found in 1971. I think that he consciously used his personality and reputation for eccentricity as a tool to try to stimulate thought and activism among students.

    In Alex Buzo on George Crosslé, Paul Barratt reprints Alex Buzo's 2000 obituary of Robert (George) Crosslé. I am glad that he did, for George was a remarkable figure. Proudly Irish, he was also an anglophile and a political conservative who wrote regular letters to the Armidale Express in support of causes including the Country Party and New England New State Movement. Yet, when it came to teaching, he was remarkably balanced, concerned to present various views and encourage discussion.

    Part of George's impact came from his physical presence. Blind in one eye, he varied a glass eye with an eye patch, something that was fascinating to the young. Part of George's impact also came from his enthusiasm. Concerned, for example, about poor general knowledge in the school, he handed out a voluntary general knowledge quiz requiring a fair bit of work to answer, offering prizes for the best results.

    I absorbed my love of history from George, but it was more than that. He also taught me to look at alternative viewpoints. One that stands out in my mind, one that I have mentioned before, is when he set an essay topic on the White Australia policy. I suppose I wrote a fairly safe and conventional response. I still remember George praising one class member who had taken a strong stand against the then policy for his ability to take an alternative view. I learned, then, that it was okay to challenge. 

    Wednesday, September 01, 2010

    The ALP-Green Deal

    The Australian Greens & The Australian Labor Party (ʹThe Partiesʹ) – Agreement
    The Hon Julia Gillard MP Prime Minister, MP Lalor, Leader of the Australian Labor Party
    The Hon Wayne Swan MP
    Deputy Prime Minister, MP Lilley, Deputy Leader of the Australian
    Labor Party
    Senator Bob Brown
    Senator Christine Milne
    Senator for Tasmania, Leader of the Australian Greens
    Senator for Tasmania, Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens
    Adam Bandt MP ‐elect MP Melbourne, Australian Greens representative in the House
    1. Purpose
    1.1 This agreement establishes a basis for stable and effective government.
    1.2 The Greens will vote with the ALP government to ensure supply.
    1.3 The Greens will oppose any motion of no confidence in the government from any non‐Greens
    2. Principles
    The Parties agree to work together to pursue the following principles:
    a) transparent and accountable government;
    b) improved process and integrity of parliament;
    c) policies which promote the national interest; and
    d) policies which address climate change.
    3. Goals
    The Parties will work together and with other parliamentarians to:
    a) Establish a Leaders’ Debate Commission
    b) Seek immediate reform of funding of political parties and election campaigns by
    legislating to lower the donation disclosure threshold from an indexed $11,500 to $1,000;
    to prevent donation splitting between different branches of political parties; to ban
    foreign donations; to ban anonymous donations over $50; to increase timeliness and
    frequency of donation disclosure; to tie public funding to genuine campaign expenditure
    and to create a ‘truth in advertising’ offence in the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
    c) Seek further reform of funding of political parties and election campaigns by having a
    truly representative committee of the Parliament conduct a national inquiry into a range
    of options with the final report to be received no later than 1 October 2011, enabling any
    legislative reform to be dealt with in 2012.
    i. The Parties note that the Greens are predisposed to a system of full public
    funding for elections as in Canada.
    d) The Parties note that Senator Bob Brown will reintroduce as a Private Members Bill the
    Commonwealth Electoral (Above‐the‐Line Voting) Amendment Bill 2008. The ALP will
    consider the Bill and work with the Greens to reach reforms satisfactory to the Parties.
    e) Refer issues of public interest disclosure, where the Senate or House votes on the floor
    against the decision of a Minister, to the Information Commissioner, who will arbitrate on
    the release of relevant documents and report to both Houses.
    f) Hold referenda during the 43rd Parliament or at the next election on Indigenous
    constitutional recognition and recognition of local government in the Constitution.
    g) Agree that this Parliament should serve its full term and further agree to investigate
    legislative proposals, which are within the terms of the Constitution and give greater
    certainty to the Australian people about the Parliament serving full three year terms.
    4. Improved processes and integrity of parliament
    4.1 The Parties agree to work together and with other parliamentarians to implement
    parliamentary reforms.
    4.2 The immediate reforms include:
    a) Improving Question Time in the House of Representatives by setting fixed time limits
    for questions and answers with supplementary questions given at the discretion of
    the Speaker.
    b) A fixed and fair allocation of questions for independent and minor party members
    with the first question no later than the 6th question in each Question Time.
    c) At least 2.5 hours dedicated for debating and voting on private membersʹ bills
    including a fixed and fair allocation of time for independents and minor party
    members in every full sitting week in both houses.
    d) In addition to clause 4.2(c), dedicated time for voting on motions from independents
    and minor party members in every full sitting week in the House of Representatives.
    e) The House of Representatives will debate and vote, during Government Business
    time, private senatorsʹ bills as passed by the Senate within 6 sitting days of the
    message being received by the House.
    f) Amending the Standing Orders of both Houses so that there can be a recommittal of
    any vote within one sitting day where a member was absent from that vote due to
    g) Agreeing that in the House of Representatives, ʹpairsʹ may be made by private
    arrangement during votes, similar to the arrangements which currently occur
    between Whips in the Senate or that another arrangement to facilitate Members who
    cannot attend due to ill health, family circumstances or performing Government or
    electorate business be agreed.
    4.3 Further reforms include:
    a) Establishing within 12 months a Parliamentary Budget Office within the
    Parliamentary Library with the structure, resourcing and protocols being the subject
    of decision by a special committee of the Parliament which is truly representative of
    the Parliament.
    b) Establishing within 12 months a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner, supervised
    by the Privileges Committees from both houses to:
    i. provide advice, administration and reporting on parliamentary entitlements
    to report to the Parliament;
    ii. to investigate and make recommendations to the Privileges Committees on
    individual investigations, to provide advice to parliamentarians on ethical
    issues; and
    iii. to uphold the Parliamentary Code of Conduct and to control and maintain
    the Government’s lobbyists register.
    5. Working relationships
    5.1 The following arrangements will govern the working relationship between the Greens
    and the ALP for the duration of the 43rd Parliament. These arrangements may be altered
    by mutual agreement.
    a) When Parliament is in session, the Prime Minister will meet with Senator Brown and
    Mr Bandt each sitting week, principally to discuss and negotiate any planned
    b) When Parliament is not in session, the Prime Minister, or her delegate, will meet with
    Senator Brown and Mr Bandt, or their delegate, at least once each fortnight,
    principally to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda.
    c) The Government will endeavour to give at least six working days notice of the
    introduction of legislation to the House.
    d) If the Greens Party Room has not considered legislation, the vote of Mr Bandt on
    legislation to facilitate its promulgation should not be interpreted as reflecting or
    determining the final position of the Greens in the Senate.
    e) The Parties will ensure that the ALP’s budget is subject to an exchange of information
    and views between the Parties as follows:
    i. The Greens Treasury spokesperson and Mr Bandt receiving economic and
    financial briefings from the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance and the
    Secretaries of the Departments of Treasury and Finance and Deregulation at
    regularly agreed times.
    ii. The Greens Treasury spokesperson and Mr Bandt having regular discussions
    with the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance on economic circumstances, fiscal
    strategy and budget preparation.
    f) Should Senator Brown, Mr Bandt and other Greens Senators with portfolios, wish to
    propose new policies, these proposals may be formally submitted to the Office of the
    Prime Minister and forwarded to the appropriate Department and Minister for
    analysis. Where the proposal is likely to involve costs, it may also be sent to the
    Department of Treasury, and the Treasurer, and the Department of Finance and
    Deregulation, and the Minister for Finance, for costing.
    i. The number of proposals that may be considered in this way is not limited in
    number but the Parties will ensure that the workload arising is reasonable
    ii. Every endeavour will be made to provide required advice within ten business
    iii. The Parties acknowledge that during the six week period leading up to the
    Federal Budget, the turnaround time may be greater than ten business days.
    g) The Parties acknowledge that the above mechanism can be used to have any of the
    Greensʹ policies for the 2010 election considered.
    h) The ALP notes the Senate resolution on appropriations bills which contain matters
    which should have been the subject of separate legislation. To prevent this occurring,
    the ALP agrees to work with Greens to resolve the matter prior to the introduction of
    the bill.
    i) Senior staff members of the Prime Minister’s Office and Senator Brownʹs Office will
    liaise to ensure that Senator Brown, Mr Bandt and other Greens Senators with
    portfolios have access to Ministers, key public servants and the Prime Minister, as
    outlined above.
    j) The Greens will ensure best possible access for Ministers to be informed about
    Greens‘ legislation and will endeavour to give at least six working days notice before
    bills are introduced.
    6. Policy
    6.1 The Parties agree on the following policy issues:
    a) That Australia must tackle climate change and that reducing carbon pollution by 2020
    will require a price on carbon. Therefore the Parties agree to form a well resourced
    Climate Change Committee which encompasses experts and representative ALP, Greens,
    independent and Coalition parliamentarians who are committed to tackling climate
    change and who acknowledge that reducing carbon pollution by 2020 will require a
    carbon price. The Committee will be resourced like a Cabinet Committee. The Parties
    will, by the end of September 2010, finalise the structure, membership and work plan of
    the Committee.
    b) That Australia needs urgent further action on dental care and that proposals for
    improving the nation’s investments in dental care should be considered in the context of
    the 2011 Budget.
    c) That an implementation study for High Speed Rail should be completed by July 2011.
    d) That there is a full parliamentary debate on the war in the Afghanistan.
    7. Administration
    7.1 This agreement will come into effect on the day Government is established.
    Signed on this 1st day of September 2010.
    The Hon Julia Gillard MP The Hon Wayne Swan MP
    Prime Minister Deputy Prime Minister
    Leader of the ALP Deputy Leader of the ALP
    Senator Bob Brown Adam Bandt MP ‐ elect
    Leader of the Australian Greens Australian Greens Representative in the House
    Senator Christine Milne
    Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens