Graham Matthews

We’re told that Australia is an egalitarian country. Our prime minister is a working-class migrant girl made good, while her predecessor was raised in regional Queensland by a single mother after the early death of his father. Anything is possible; our origins need not hold us back. A new report, linking health outcomes with social status, casts doubt on this. It concludes that those born poor are more likely to live in poor health during adulthood, and to die younger.
Voters’ stunning rejection of both major parties has left neither likely to form a government in its own right. Whichever party governs, it will have to rely on the support of at least three and probably four independents, with Andrew Wilkie's chance of taking Denison from Labor firming.
Lesser evilism — whereby one votes for a party defensively, because at least they are not as bad as the alternative — is a three-card trick that the Labor Party is very skilled at using. In this election campaign, the very real threat of a Tony Abbott Coalition government is allowing Labor to establish the framework of a very harsh second term while scaring voters with the warning that the alternative would be even worse.
The Parramatta Climate Action Network (ParraCAN) staged a series of rolling protests outside New South Wales state government ministers offices calling for no new coal The NSW state government is planning to construct two new coal-fired power stations, which will increase the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15%. ParraCAN is circulating a petition calling for the prohibition of the construction of new coal-fired power stations; the development of a phase-out plan for coal; and that the state government support job creation in renewable industries.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s catch phrase for this election is "sustainable". No longer, according to Gillard, should we look to a big Australia, but a "sustainable" population. In a speech in western Sydney on July 21, Gillard emphasised the squeeze on health services, transport, roads and infrastructure. She hinted her "sustainable population" mantra would ease the squeeze. Apart from rhetoric largely designed to pander to irrational fears of immigrants and prejudices against asylum seekers, Labor has failed to explain what it means by "sustainable".
Mortgage rates, we are told, are at historical lows. And yet, according to The experience of Mortgage Distress in Western Sydney report released in June by the University of Western Sydney, some mortgage holders are finding it so hard to pay, they are reduced to eating nothing but rice. The study sought to investigate the impact of mortgage distress as experienced by individual households. The accepted definition of mortgage stress centres on the borrower being in payment arrears of 90 days or more. The UWS study argues that this definition is not broad enough.
In one of her first policy changes after replacing Kevin Rudd as leader of the Labor Party, Prime Minister Julia Gillard dumped Rudd’s idea of a “big Australia”. On June 26, Gillard said “Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population”. Instead, she called for a “sustainable population”. Almost four weeks on, however, Labor’s policy has no details — just lots of rhetoric designed to pander to fears that immigration (particularly asylum seekers) is causing a raft of social problems.
In her speech to the National Press Club on July 15, Prime Minister Julia Gillard threw down the gauntlet to the labour movement. In a speech outlining the plans for a second-term Labor government, Gillard promised to run a regime of “reforms” that would entrench greater competition and privatisation. There should remain little doubt about Gillard’s intentions. Her speech was aimed directly at the wallets of big business.
The New South Wales government welcomed figures released by the state transport department on June 28 showing a slight increase in the proportion of trips taken by public transport in NSW over the 2008/09 year. “In 2008/09 travel by train increased by 3.1 per cent and travel by bus grew by 2.4 per cent whilst car trips fell by 0.8 per cent”, the government website said.
Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan’s third budget, delivered on May 11, continued the neoliberal austerity agenda of the previous Howard government. Delivered in the shadow of the Henry tax review, released by the government on May 2, Labor’s budget continues to grind away at social and environmental spending in the name of fiscal conservatism.

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