A number of things have happened over the past couple of weeks which I did not comment on mainly because I felt the comments would be somewhat redundant and thus not deserving of individual posts on their own, so here is a round-up.
Police State? Surely not!
First, we have the Premiers and Prime Minister agreeing on tough new laws where entire suburbs could be sealed off and terrorism suspects put under house arrest without trial for up to a year. Also, police could secretly arrest somebody for two weeks. The Prime Minister said that these laws would not lead to a police state.
The Macquarie dictionary defines "Police State" as:
a country in which the police, especially the secret police, are employed to detect and suppress any form of opposition to power.
Well these proposed laws could certainly be used to do that, after all they allow long term detention based on mere suspicion, and arrest in secret for a period of two weeks - massively increasing the period a person can currently be held by police without being brought before a court. So presumably the Prime Minister must be claiming that we can trust our elected officials, as well as all of our cops, not to abuse these powers.
In order to prove that we can trust them and that these laws will not give us a police state, the Government arrested Scott Parkin, an American activist who promotes purely peaceful methods of protest, accused him of being a security risk while refusing to tell him or anybody else why, threw him in detention for 3 days, deported him, and gave him a bill for all their expenses in doing this. Whew, that makes us all feel much better.
Of course if the risk has gone up, surely we should be given a measure of how far. If the risk of a terrorist attack on Australian soil was 7% per year in 2000, and it has only gone up to 7.5% per year now, then is that difference high enough to warrant any changes to police powers, let alone extreme ones such as those proposed? And while the Prime Minister claims the new laws reduce the risk, he does not say how far. Give us numbers, rather than unmeasurable rhetoric.
NRMA takes on the world
The NRMA spent some time complaining about the price of petrol and convening a conference to do something about it. On this one I have to go with the Prime Minister - the current high prices are being caused by forces outside of our domestic control. The Hurricanes in the US added a fairly negligible effect. The real causes are increased demand for petrol, especially from China and India. Expect prices to continue to rise as the economies of these two giants continue their industrialisation processes. This is basic economics - if more people want the petrol the price will go up so that supply matches demand at the new price.
Our cup runneth over
A surplus of $13billion - what should we do with it? Tax cuts, yell the usual suspects. Now I am not one to knock back a cut in my marginal tax rate to 35% as some are suggesting, but it seems we can probably afford to spend some of this on health and education. Much of the increased revenue is a result of increased earnings from primary industries - coal, steel, anything we can dig out of the ground and sell overseas. And who are the biggest contributors to the increased demand? China and India, of course. Unless they both stumble, our mining industries should be in good shape for a while yet. We may have the chance to spend on health and still get tax cuts down the track. Say, in time for the 2007 election. Cynical? Who, me?
Surprise! The mudslinger slings mud!
Everybody was shocked in the past few weeks to see The Latham Diaries being released and to see Latham sling mud at all and sundry. Surely nobody could have predicted that the person with a long reputation for mudslinging, who then toned it back so he could lead his party, would return to his old habits when he was no longer leader.
Terrorism exaggerated, says Gareth
Former Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, described the threat of terrorism on Australian soil as a moderate one. "But we live in more dangerous times", assures the Prime Minister. "There was the WTC attack", he tells us. I find myself wondering how long "the times" are - that was the last attack on American soil, and is now four years past. It was also the last significant hijacking event. Of course there have been no attacks on Australian soil since then. "But we live in more dangerous times", says the Prime Minister. "Dangerous times" is a handy excuse for grabbing more power, but have we even had a claim from any of the intelligence services that changes to the law have led to the prevention of a terrorist attack here? We have barely even had the whisper of a suggestion that a terrorist attack here has been planned.
Bogden quits politics
This was to be expected. It is not just a matter of asking whether he remained electable after his suicide attempt - it was a matter of whether he was able to bear the emotional burden of the job. Clearly he was not. While I tend to agree with Brogden's policy views on most things and would prefer from that perspective that he was still leader of the NSW libs, it was not in his interests to remain in politics.
Joyce suggests remote voting for Parliamentarians, gets slammed for Canberra put-down
Senator Joyce suggested parliamentarians should be able to vote remotely so as the be able to remain closer to their community without getting caught up in "Canberra culture". This was immediately ridiculed by other politicians, on top of which Kate Lundy claimed his ridicule of "Canberra Culture" was a put-down to all those living in Canberra. Senator Lundy was just being silly, of course, since Senator Joyce was referring to the culture dominating politicians in Parliament House, not to community culture in Canberra.
While politicians do need to visit Canberra regularly to conduct meetings in person, I agree that in modern times it ought to be possible to introduce an element of remote attendance at Parliament. Our federal parliamentarians can already listen to the debate live on the Internet, so adding remote voting is a small addition provided the integrity of the system could be maintained.
We should not be insisting that to represent their community, parliamentarians should be forced to leave their families and community for twenty weeks of the year. Senator Joyce's proposal would reduce the amount of time parliamentarians should be forced to spend away from their families and community. For the same reason I never agreed with those who said that Howard should live in Canberra because his residence in Sydney costs too much or amounts to a slight on the capital - nobody should be forced to choose between family responsibilities and political service of any kind where such a dilemma can be avoided.