Behind the blather

November 3, 2007

In the lead up to the federal election, your guide to what's really happening behind the spin of the official campaign.

Overcoming the division of powers

Australian Federal Police emails leaked last week showed that immigration minister Kevin Andrews developed a secret plan to detain Dr Mohamed Haneef in the case of the magistrate not granting him bail.

The emails show that Andrews and the Australian Federal Police conspired to detain Haneef, regardless of what the courts decided.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle commented: "The minister's claim that he followed the processes set out in the Migration Act is in tatters ... It shows the fundamental principle of the separation of powers is a 'dead letter' to the Howard government."

Value for the taxpayer 1

World oil prices are rising and "peak oil" may well be upon us, so how do the Coalition and Labor plan to mark this challenge? With an unprecedented road spending-spree! Since May, both parties have announced $18 billion in road projects.

With freeway construction costing $400 million per kilometre and encouraging an exponential increase in car and truck usage, how exactly will this road spending war affect both parties' still-to-be-announced short-term greenhouse gas reduction targets?

Value for the taxpayer 2

The Australian National Audit Office reported last week that the $2 billion project to upgrade the Navy's guided missile frigates is four-and-a-half years behind schedule, $39 million over budget and not one ship is available for operations.

Luckily no-one, not even the navy itself, can identify an enemy against whom these ships will ever be needed.

Value for the taxpayer 3

The Howard government hates the system of Technical and Further Education (TAFE) run by the states, basically because it is full of unionists who tend to impart union values to every new generation of students. That's one reason it has starved the states of education funding in the TAFE area over the years (to the tune of 50,000 places and $1 billion at least).

But then along came the "skills crisis". Starving TAFE of funding also meant throttling the flow of tradespeople and technicians to the employers of labour.

Solution, especially in the face of incessant Labor pressure about the skills crisis? Spend $2.1 billion on a parallel system of "Australian Technical Colleges" free of the dreaded TAFE culture (and have the staff on AWAs — individual contracts).

The problem, however, is that the 21 ATCs already operating have low enrolments, have cost $550 million to date and have yet to graduate one student!

That's because any student has to work to survive while doing their course. The low rate of ATC uptake can only be solved by paying students and trainees a living wage, and allowing them to focus on their study, something both the Coalition and Labor oppose.

The Socialist Alliance policy is to introduce such a wage and to boost funding to the existing TAFE system. It probably wouldn't cost much more than the government's exercise in creating union-free ATCs.

Priorities

As the Howard government moves to spend $24 billion on jet fighters, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia claims that in country Australia there is a shortfall of 13,000 health professionals, including 1000 doctors and 5400 nurses.

Issue