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SydWalker.Info is a personal website. I live in tropical Australia near Cairns. I oppose war, plutocracy, injustice, sectarian supremacism and apartheid. I support urgent action to achieve genuine sustainability and a fair and prosperous society for all. I rely upon - and support - free speech as defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see below).

with the dawg

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers"

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Unless otherwise indicated, material on this website is written by Syd Walker.

Anyone is welcome to re-publish material sourced from this site, as long as the source is acknowledged with a hyperlink.

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Pine Gap and a dubious Cairns peace activist
Mar 29th, 2012 by Syd Walker

I wrote this article during the recent Queensland election campaign, intending it for publication on a local blog that covers local issues more fully. Then I decided not to run it at the time. The election camapign was acrimonious enough. To throw one more hot potato into the pot seemed excessive. I also dislike criticising members of my local community – especially people like Bryan Law with whom, in the past, I’ve had some engagement.

But the Pine Gap issue is a matter of more general public concern – especially at this time when the US military is seeking to expand its activities within Australia.

So here’s the article about Bryan Law & Pine Gap that I wrote in late February:

It’s election time, and Bryan Law is once again touting his political opinions to anyone who’ll listen in FNQ. Once again, this “alternative type” is advocating for the right-wing of politics.

Bryan Law, "peace activist"

Bryan Law, "peace activist"

In recent elections, he’s consistently supported the LNP and attacked Labor and The Greens. Back in 2004, he ran as a Mayoral candidate. He didn’t get much support, but helped split the progressive vote. The beneficiary was the reactionary Kevin Bryne, who was returned to office.

So Bryan’s support – sometimes indirect – for right-wing politics goes back a fair way. I’m not his biographer and I won’t try to delve further back into history. But it’s no flash in the pan.

Of course, Bryan is entitled to his opinions. Lots of people in FNQ support the LNP. Lots don’t. Who cares what any one person thinks – except those who think the commentator has something worthwhile to say?

Bryan’s main claim to fame is his status as a “peace activist”. I’ve never paid much attention to what he actually does in this area of his life and its political consequences. I find his self-promotion a turn-off and haven’t wanted to look too closely. Also, as someone deeply interested in peace myself, I didn’t want to be negative about what as I thought was Bryan’s main redeeming feature.

But yesterday I was browsing the Greens website and came across a few articles and media releases written by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam on the subject of Pine Gap. They’ve made me look again at Bryan’s peace antics in a new light. I’ve long been sceptical about what he actually achieves by his “non-violent”, theatrical protests at places like Pine Gap. Now I’m more than sceptical. I’m concerned.

As far as I can see, the one demonstrable consequence of the 2005 Pine Gap protest of which Bryan is so proud (leaving aside the addition to his “peace activism” résumé) was the eventual enactment of the Defence Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act (2009), under which the Rudd Government strengthened provisions defining Pine Gap as a “prohibited area” required for the defence of Australia. Since this new legislation was passed, unauthorised visitors who enter or photograph the site face imprisonment for up to seven years.

This is how a concerned Senator Ludlam explained the sequence of events:

Under the Defence Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, the Government has strengthened provisions defining Pine Pine Gap as a “prohibited area” required for the defence of Australia. Those who enter or photograph the site face imprisonment for up to seven years.

“The Howard Government tried unsuccessfully to prosecute Christian pacifists for entering Pine Gap. Now it seems Kevin Rudd is following his predecessor’s lead, finishing what Howard started by amending the law to further crack down on peaceful protest,” said Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.

“This is a grossly disproportionate response to peaceful citizen protest. The idea that someone could be thrown in jail for almost a decade, simply for demonstrating against the military role of this CIA-operated facility is appallingly anti-democratic.”

“It’s further evidence of the kind of clandestine approach to Pine Gap we’ve seen from both Liberal and Labor governments. We still don’t know who the facility spies on, or who is targeted. This facility was probably used to coordinate bombing raids during the illegal war on Iraq. The government is now threatening to lock up innocent civilians who seek to peacefully protest at the site.”

There are indeed MANY reasons that Australians should be concerned about Pine Gap. Foremost among these reasons – as Senator Ludlam explains, is that the US-Australia Pine Gap Agreement is completely SECRET. Not only is the public denied access to its content – even Parliamentarians can’t view it! This is what Ludlam has to say in a must-read article he wrote in 2009 entitled Pine Gap, Democracy Gap (emphasis added):

“It most would certainly be good to take a look at this [Pine Gap] agreement, but citizens or parliamentarians are not allowed to see it. In 1999 the government refused to provide information about Pine Gap to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties – information that is made freely available to members of the US Congress. Nothing has changed since then. Although US Congress officials have visited Pine Gap and received classified briefings about its functions, elected representatives and Senators are entrusted with less information than can be found in a public library.”

Did Bryan go to any effort to publicise that OUTRAGEOUS aspect of the Pine Gap phenomenon? Maybe he did, but I didn’t notice it. Did anyone else?

All I recall from his articles was the heroics of the action. and the convoluted legal victory which resulted in acquittal at the protestors’ subsequent court case. These days we ALSO hear more and more via Bryan about Gavin King‘s attendance – as though it’s a sign of Mr King’s commitment to peace to cover a demonstration as part of his (former) job as a journalist!

Whether intentionally or not, it seems to me the Bryan Law / Gavin King 2005 Pine Gap spectacular actually helped PUT BACK the cause of opening the issue of Pine Gap to greater public scrutiny. The court case led directly to a rather predictable Parliamentary reaction and provided a pretext for “tightening up security” (read secrecy) surrounding Pine Gap. It’s exactly what I’d expect from the likes of Gavin King. But from Bryan Law I’d hope for a positive outcome that advances the cause of greater transparency. Instead, it appears we’ve had the reverse.

In my opinion, Bryan Law’s “peace activism” is at best the work of a naive “useful idiot”.

At worst? Who knows? But the question should be asked.

____________________________________

Watch the video below to see Bryan in action at Rockhamption last year.

Hero? I used to think so…

ABC Far North – A Retentive Memory Hole
Mar 29th, 2012 by Syd Walker

For years I have considered the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to be an unsavoury organisation.

My disillusion really set in when I realised the ABC had no intention of giving fair and balanced coverage to the story of the century:accumulating evidence that the official story about 9/11 – Founding Myth of the “War on Terror” – is baloney.

That was years ago. Soon I realised the ABC’s reporting about wars such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria is more like war propaganda than genuine impartial news coverage, that its narrative on Israel/Palestine is biased and deceptive – and that a strand of Judeophilia runs through the organisation that’s inappropriate for a national broadcaster in a multi-cultural society.

In short, the ABC exercises bias and practises deception. These are not good traits for a publicly funded organisation. The ABC’s Charter, remarkably, does not require the organisation to tell the truth. Staff – presumably with the Board’s connivance – take considerable advantage of this convenient omission. We, the public, pay for a service that practices systematic deception and exercises gross bias on what are arguably the most crucial issues of the day – matters pertaining to war and peace.

ABC's Breakfast News duo

ABC's Breakfast News duo - smug war sales every morning with coffee, toast & marmalade

Yet I’ve also acknowledged throughout that good people do work for the ABC and that some of its services are high quality – such as sports (although I don’t honestly know because I rarely watch it), arts (usually BBC re-runs, but even so…), gardening (definitely fine Australian programs!) and local news. I usually threw in the latter acknowledgement out of a sense that at least at a local/regional level, ABC news coverage is likely to be reasonably truthful.

Whether it’s true that the ABC’s local/regional coverage is truthful and balanced throughout the continent is debatable. I should be honest and admit I don’t listen enough to ABC Far North know. But it’s nice to be charitable.

Yet whether or not local my ABC does do a good job reporting, interviewing and storing information about our ongoing political process, one thing is apparent. It is NOT keen on giving the public easy access to this information.

ABC Far North

ABC Far North: It will decide on what's news and the circumstances under which is will be made available!

During the recent Queensland election campaign, I didn’t catch any of the interviews conducted by ABC Far North with the candidates on local radio, but assumed I’d be able to access them online after the election. At the very least, I thought, interviews with winning candidates would be downloadable from the website – ideally (but not necessarily) with an accompanying transcript..

How wrong I was. When I checked, NO interviews with candidates were on the website. I phoned ABC Far North to ask if that could be rectified. My inquiries were treated like nuisance calls. When I finally spoke to the Station Manager she was abrasive from the outset and at one point remarked on poor rates of pay at the ABC as some kind of justification for not providing this material to the public via the ABC website. She referred me eventually to the “Cross Media Reporter”. With her assent, he reluctantly promised to send me one audio file of the interview with my own new local MP – Michael Trout – by email. It arrived in my email the next day, without any conditions set as far as I could see. I put the file online on the website of a local community group and notified him, with thanks.

Samuel Davis

Happy Sam Davis, Cross Media Reporter

The next morning Sam the Cross Media Reporter called. He was extremely cross and demanded prompt removal of the audio file from the web, as it breached the ABC’s copyright.

Of course I comply with legitimate copyright infringement notices (actually it’s the first I’ve ever had!) and agreed to remove it. But I also asked him to put the file up on the ABC website, so I could still link to it. What’s the harm in that – especially as his time had already been invested locating the file from ABC archives?

But no, Sam won’t put this material on the ABC website and is vehement it has no “news value” at all.

I’ve issued a formal complaint to the ABC and we’ll see whether it gets anywhere. Past experience has not been encouraging.

Here’s a challenge to Mark Scott, ABC Managing Director, who himself maintains a 100% track record of never replying to my many tweets.

Why not let the PUBLIC decide what’s got news value and what doesn’t?

If members of the PUBLIC express interest, doesn’t that indicate PUBLIC interest?

What are we expected to do? Organise a petition?

This is a small but not isolated case of ABC staff behaving like tin-pot dictators. Has the malevolent arrogance that so enrages informed people aghast at its one-sided coverage of certain overseas conflicts permeated the entire organisation?

I’ve always believed that funding a national – and local – public broadcaster is worth doing. But there must be truthfulness, diligence, accountability and responsiveness to the public.

If the local ABC can’t be bothered to keep a publicly accessible archive of its own unique material of the ongoing political debate in this region, it should lose its contract.

The public should not have to beg or pay twice for information about our own democratic process – just as we should not have to plead for truthfulness.

Mark Thompson, ABC Managing Director

Mark Scott, ABC Managing Director; such a lovely portrait it would be a shame if more people don't see it

______________________________

Please note: all images on this webpage are the copyright property of the publicly funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

If the ABC hierarchy wishes them deleted a phone call will suffice and I’ll strip the webpage bare of offending material, with a humble apology for inconvenience caused. The local station has my number.

Of course, it would be discriminatory if only my website alone is required to do this, so I presume any such instruction would be extended to all websites bearing any images sourced from the ABC website.

Before embarking on this course, ABC management may reflect on whether they wish to attract howls of derision from thousands of webmasters and web-mistresses – all for behaving as though it has an impediment at the read end of the alimentary canal.

You may be able to shrug me off  Mr Scott – but beware the wrath of the blogosphere en bloc.

Queensland: How Labor could have won
Mar 22nd, 2012 by Syd Walker

The Australian Labor Party’s leader in Queensland, Premier Anna Bligh, is an excellent communicator and a very personable politician. She is the first female State Premier in Australia to win an election. Just over a year ago, Bligh’s leadership during the flooding crisis was exemplary and her personal popularity went sky-high. During this years election campaign she’s been a dynamo once again, working tirelessly against the tide to sell her Party’s message.

Yet if the opinion polls are correct, Labor is about to cop a disastrous hiding at the polls. Why?

I’ve observed Queensland politics from within the State, with growing concern at the prospect of an avalanche win by the Liberal National Party – a party that doesn’t seem to me worthy of government by any standard.

My theory is that while Labor has a better team than the LNP and a better case to sell, it’s picked the wrong election themes. I don’t know why. As party leader Bligh will take the blame – but I suspect she’s had bad advice. Here’s what I’d have said had I been her political adviser. I’d have begun saying it about a year ago; nothing I’ve seen since has led me to change my mind.

Unused Meme 1

Unused Meme 1A

It’s about a year since the leader of the Brisbane City Council, Campbell Newman, resigned that position and was nominated leader of the LNP’s State Parliamentary Party even though he didn’t have a seat in Parliament. Since then, the Queensland LNP has actually had two leaders: Campbell Newman the “leader-in-waiting” who hasn’t been in Parliament – and Jeff Seeney who has served as his deputy and Parliamentary leader.

It’s an unprecedented arrangement. I’ve followed a lot of elections under the Westminster system in many countries. I’ve never heard of this before. I have heard of parties drafting in leaders from outside parliament – but always by first finding that person a seat to win via by-election first. Once in Parliament, ‘star’ politicians may be promoted fast. But what the LNP have done here is unique as far as I can determine. They’ve nominated a leader who has no Parliamentary seat.

When the LNP did that, I thought it likely they’d already lost the next election. How could the electorate take this kind of arrangement as anything more than a joke? I imagined Labor would ridicule it persistently until the penny finally dropped for the electorate: if a political party can’t even find ONE competent leader within its parliamentary ranks, why should anyone imagine it’s ready to govern?

Yet as far as I can tell, Labor hasn’t hammered this point at all.

Labor has been attacking Campbell Newman’s credibility - especially his business dealings and unusual campaign funding arrangements while Brisbane Mayor. That’s fine – but although it seemed to come close, Labor couldn’t land a knock-out punch. Since last weekend when the Crimes and Misconduct Commission announced it wouldn’t investigate Mr Newman further, the LNP has been able to claim it’s been victim of a negative campaign all along.

That’s ironic in the extreme. The LNP’s own campaign has been unremittingly negative, relying mainly on the “It’s Time” factor and a persistently repeated claim that “Labor has Failed!” (without troubling much to explain why).

Unused Meme 2

Unused Meme 1B

A year ago or more it was entirely predictable that the LNP’s campaign would use those negative memes. It had used them before. A political strategist’s job was to work out how to counter them. When Campbell Newman was appointed LNP leader while outside Parliament, ALP strategists were handed a gift-horse. But they didn’t seem to recognize it. Now it’s rather late…

A spin-master’s answer to “It’s time” is surely “No it’s not!”, which could be further finessed to “Not yet anyhow!”

The answer to “Labor Has failed” has two parts. The first is “No it hasn’t” (defend the record). The second is “Even if you don’t like Labor, be even more afraid of our opponents!”. At the last election in 2009, when the same two negative memes were also used, those defenses worked to some extent. They kept Labor in power, albeit with a reduced majority.

Winning this election was always going to be even harder for Labor. The “It’s Time” factor never gets better for a party in government, by definition. Additionally, having lost some seats in 2009, Labor now defends a slimmer majority.

Enter the gift-horse… By the unprecedented measure of nominating an extra-Parliamentary leader, the LNP signalled, in effect, that NONE of its Parliamentary front-bench are really up to the job. What does that say about the Party as a whole? The extreme measure of drafting in Campbell Newman was really another way of saying “we need to put EXCEPTIONAL lipstick on this pig!” From that day on, Labor should have focused on that point relentlessly. Had it done so, I think it might now be in a winnable position once again.

What kind of political party, operating within the Westminster system, is so thin in leadership talent that it needs to draft in an outsider? Only the LNP in the 2012 Queensland election, as far as I’m aware. Labor let it get away with this admission of extreme weakness. That’s bad politics.

Rather than focusing on what will happen if Newman doesn’t win his seat in Ashgrove – a dominant theme of the 2012 election campaign – Labor would have been better off with different spin.  Even if Newman gets into Parliament, what kind of government will it be with no other obvious leadership talent? How can a party be a serious contender for government if it’s so reliant on one person? What happens if – God forbid – Mr Newman walks under a bus? Will the LNP draft in ANOTHER new leader from outside? Who might that be? How about a mining magnate such as Clive Palmer? The mind boggles…

Labor has tried to defeat the LNP by claiming (1) Newman is bodgy and (2) he might not win his seat anyway. Let’s call that STRATEGY A.

I think it would have been better with a different focus which I’ll designate as STRATEGY B: (1) The LNP is so bodgy it had to do something utterly unprecedented and pick an outsider as leader and (2) Even if Campbell Newman gets into Parliament, his team is obviously so wafer-thin on talent it’s not ready for government.

STRATEGY A might have worked if Labor had enough evidence of corruption to make a case stick – and if the polls showed Newman losing in Ashgrove. But it clearly never that crucial evidence – and couldn’t count on the polls showing a loss for Newman, despite very spirited campaigning by the sitting Labor MP Kate Jones.

STRATEGY A was a high risk strategy. Additionally, Labor’s mauling of Campbell Newman hasn’t really hurt the LNP as a whole.

STRATEGY B had none of those downsides. It couldn’t be falsified and rested on some fairly unarguable principles.  It focused on the exceptional way the LNP sought to resolve it’s own crisis – a crisis of lack-lustre leadership. Labor failed to take advantage of what was clearly a sign of desperation on the part of the LNP.

If the LNP does win this election an extraordinary precedent has been set.

Should parliamentary parties ever get used to nominating leaders from outside their team, where will it end? How long before we have plutocrats parachuted into leadership of political parties without bothering to get elected at all?

Those are questions Labor might have got us all thinking about. They might have planted the seeds of doubt on sufficiently fertile ground to keep the LNP out of power one more time.

Regrettably, they haven’t.

Queensland: A King Tide of Negativity
Mar 21st, 2012 by Syd Walker

In Queensland we pride ourselves on being different.

Australian States

The Australian States

Compared with Queensland’s southern sisters, this huge state that makes up the entire north-east of the Australian continent has a reputation for extremes.

It’s partly deserved. Queensland’s weather is wilder, our red-necks have redder necks, our greenery is more lush and verdant, beer-guts seem to bulge out further – and the stench of political corruption, when encountered, has a richer, more tropical odour.

Yet Queensland has actually shown remarkable political stability over long periods of time, with only a few big mood swings in the political landscape since Federation. For decades around the middle of the 20th Century Labor ruled the roost. Then power shifted to the right, especially the National Party. By the 1980s it seemed the era of populist National Party leader Bjelke-Petersen would never end. But end it did – and in 1989 Queenslanders were ready to vote the Australian Labor Party back into power with a big majority. With only a brief hiccup in the mid-1990s, Labor has held government ever since.

The right-wing of Queensland politics has always been a multi-party phenomenon and disunity among the ALP’s conservative opponents has been a factor that’s helped Labor retain government. On the left, only two significant parties vied for votes since the 1990s: the ALP and The Greens. The latter have yet to make a breakthrough and win a seat in Parliament, while Labor has often benefited from Greens preferences under the State’s “optional preferential system”. At the last election, which was fairly close, Green preferences were crucial to the re-election of Anna Bligh’s Labor Government.

Now – less than three days before the State election on March 24th, – it seems Queensland is about to undergo one of its rare seismic mood swings. Unless all the polls are way off, there’s about to be a change of Government. The Liberal National Party – a relatively new amalgam, so far limited to Queensland, formed by the merger of what were previously separate Liberal and National parties, is set to win in a landslide. On some polls, Labor’s team in Parliament may be reduced to fewer than football team size. Queenslanders, it seems, have had enough of the ALP.

Anna Bligh during the Flood Crisis

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh; her leadership during the 2011 Flood Crisis was widely recognized as outstanding

Interestingly, while Labor’s vote base has hit rock bottom, polls indicate the Greens share of the vote is also down. What’s happening is more dramatic than a loss of faith in one party and its leader. If the polls are correct, there’s a broader loss of electoral support for what may loosely be called the “progressive” side of politics.

Does this reflect real attitudinal changes among the mass of voters?

I rather doubt that. I think the values of Queenslanders – taken as one huge, diverse whole – have changed much less than the dramatic poll shift would suggest. That’s social research I’d like to see done. Perhaps when the electoral dust has settled, someone may try to assess any deeper changes in underlying values.

Right now, the only story in town is polls, polls, polls – all of them shocking for Labor state-wide – along with a general sentiment that “Labor has Failed” which merges seamlessly with the “Time for a Change” meme.

The result is akin to an infectious itch for voting Labor out. Nothing seems to alleviate the itch. On Saturday, Queenslanders go to the polls where they can have a good scratch.

_________________________

I’m utterly out of sympathy with The Big Scratch.

On Saturday, I shall vote Green 1 (swallowing my contempt for the national Green Party’s pro-imperialist foreign policies). Then I shall vote Labor 2.

For the first time in many elections – I won’t assist at electron stations by handing out Greens “How to Vote” cards, because I cannot bring myself on this occasion to hand out HTVs that don’t recommend a second preference vote to Labor.

Now I’m someone who’s been needling for “change” for years, dissatisfied with state government policies that seem to me grossly unsustainable in the long-term. Yet I’m not keen at all about this massive wave for “Change”. Why not?

For one thing, I appreciate the social, health and educational services provided by the State. I’d like them expanded, not reduced. Labor has done a reasonable job in these basic areas of government service. I think we live in a fairly civilised State in which help is given to the poor, the needy and the unwell. I like it that way. Other levels of government are involved too – especially the Commonwealth – but Queensland has, I think, been run with attention to social justice.

Campbell Newman in Cairns with Jeff Seeney

A unique double act visiting Cairns: LNP Leader-in-waiting Campbell Newman (right) with "Interim" Parliamentary Leader Jeff Seeney

Yet even in those policy areas the electorate is in negative mood. There are the usual complaints – too few hospital beds, hospital waiting lists that annoy. What’s missing, it seems to me, is a positive accounting for the real achievements. These are many and usually go unrecorded and un-trumpeted.

I have a personal tale to tell. A few years ago, I contracted an unusual tropical disease and got very sick indeed. I relied on the public health system. It wasn’t perfect; diagnosis was a little slow and I ended up in hospital under intensive care. From that moment I have nothing but the highest praise for the treatment I received, the wonderful multi-ethnic staff who cared for me – and for the governance that made it all possible so I could walk out of hospital soon after, healthy again and without incurring a massive debt for the first class treatment I’d received.

My survival made no news headlines. It was a headline in my life – but if the newspapers, TV channels and radio shock jocks were talking about health-care at all at the time, they were grizzling about alleged malpractice in a handful of hospitals, waiting lists or other negative stories.

To some extent this is simply the media doing its job. One person’s good news isn’t “newsworthy”; rorts and shortcomings do need exposure. But there’s probably a deeper impact on public consciousness. The populace is encouraged to think negatively about the services it does get from government – services that are often of high quality despite budget constraints. This negativity makes it easier for such benefits to be taken away. That, I fear, may be coming soon…

_________________________

As an environmentalist, the current Queensland government (along with its predecessors) has disappointed me in a number of policy areas. I could list them. It would be quite a long list.

Yet recent Labor governments have shown real concern for environmental protection. Legislation to protect the State’s remaining Wild Rivers has been a superb initiative – vilified by the mining lobby and its allies and probably about to be undone by an LNP government – but nonetheless a great effort to help save some of what’s left that makes Queensland unique. The National Parks estate has been expanded. Broad-scale native forest logging – an issue that still divides Australians in other states – has been phased out.

Environmentalists’ biggest beef with the Labor Government has been in energy production, notably Coal Seam Gas and most crucial of all to those concerned about climate change, the massive coal export projects that the government has been approving up and down the east coast.

Queensland coal exports

Queensland coal exports: the modern opium trade - making the whole planet sick?

These projects are turning Queensland into something akin to the Saudi Arabia of Coal – at a time when scientists concerned about global warming say we must wind down our use of fossil fuels. It makes the pretence of a climate-wise “smart state” farcical.

Yet this “mining boom” has been what’s pumped much of the recent prosperity into the State. Labor supports it and so do all the parties of the right. The Greens stands alone in their opposition to Big Coal. Most people are persuaded that the mining boom is, on the whole, a good thing. Aster all, it helps pay for the services they like and the infrastructure they want built. No other feasible and better alternative has been sold to the public, so public support isn’t surprising.

I’m on the Greens side in that debate. But I understand why most people are not. Those of us who want a different, greener future for the State have yet to develop an alternative economic program which could deliver prosperity without these vast resource projects. The Greens’ answer to increasing government revenue is largely to increase the imposts on the mining industry. I think that’s a good idea too – the mining industry should pay a lot more of its windfall profits to the community. But this is not a policy for avoiding the big projects Greens find so offensive.

At this election, Green Party anger is being expressed most tangibly in a decision not to recommend a second preference to Labor in all but one of the seats. Individual voters are encouraged to make up their own minds on preferences. It’s a rap over the knuckles for the ALP; in earlier elections there was typically more effort to help Labor get across the line. But most Greens think Labor is about to get thrashed anyway.

My fear is that significant gains environmentalists have won in Queensland in recent decades are about to be wiped out – while there will be no change or things will get worse in those policy areas where environmentalists were already at odds with the Government.

In short, I fear Queensland is about to jump from the environmental frying pan into the fire.

_________________________________

The State-wide wave of negativity, directed against the government, has been combined with an almost complete failure to scrutinise the LNP team. We know very little about most of the LNP candidates. Mostly they’ve been keeping their heads down and trying to stay out of trouble.

Yes, there has been scrutiny of leader Campbell Newman’s business dealings. Last week he came under a lot of pressure from the media and seemed to be fumbling. But when the Crimes and Misconduct Commission announced it wouldn’t investigate Campbell Newman further at the end of last week, the LNP declared victory. Since then it’s been successful in spinning an impression that Labor ran a dirty campaign throughout, peddling utterly baseless smears. That’s cited as one of the reasons given for Labor’s lack of success in the polls.

To me, whether or not Campbell Newman is corrupt is in some ways a lesser issue than what we already know to be true.

We know the LNP is still withholding its costings three days out from the election (they’ve finally been promised for Thursday – less than 48 hours before polling day!).

We know the LNP has been debate-shy. That seems to be a pattern throughout Queensland and it’s not surprising, either. On the rare occasions the two leaders have squared off, Anna Bligh dominated. She’s a much more substantial politician and a more competent debater. It shows. I suspect the same if often true at local level; it is in my own area.

CanDo Queensland

CanDo Queensland

Brandishing its corny “CanDo” slogan, the LNP has indicated a recklessness about due process that’s deeply alarming. Asked about environmental impact assessment in relation to his proposal to dredge Trinity Inlet in Cairns, Campbell Newman breezily responded “where there is a will, there is a way!” That’s very true, Mr Newman. But what about the Great Barrier Reef? Mr Newman made similar remarks about another proposal to dredge Broadwater on the Gold Coast, so it’s not an aberration.

A lot of LNP candidates fail to impress after a modicum of scrutiny. Mark Boothman is a classic example. Campbell Newman’s defense of Boothman – while he continues to court religious conservatives – is rank opportunism.

There’s no break on a Party with a Parliamentary majority in Queensland – except for the courts and the Federal Government in well-defined policy areas where it has leverage. There’s no Queensland Upper Chamber. If a Government with a solid majority wants to make big changes, there’s not much to stop it.

If these wretched polls are right, evidence-based policy is about to take a back seat to Crash-Through populism.

I, for one, would much prefer this doesn’t happen.

Not in my back yard…

______________________________

No article about this election from Far North Queensland would be complete without at least a mention of the LNP’s delightful candidate for Cairns, the ex-NewsCorp personality-hack Gavin King.

Some of Gavin’s more choice remarks have already made national news, but the pithy video displayed below, complied by the local ALP, is worth a look.

It turns out Gavin has a bad word to say about almost everyone. In that sense, he’s perfectly in tune with the current mood of the electorate. No matter Gavin King pours scorn on them too – and even on his own new Party. He’s a petulant man – the man of the moment!

Very high tides have a way of bringing up a range of unusual life-forms and dumping them at high water mark. If Labor loses Cairns for the first time in a century, we’ll know it really is a King Tide.

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