The vultures are circling in Queensland

Saturday, September 4, 2010

In 2007, federal election candidates made much of the seven vultures that were feeding on the carcass of the Howard government as it flailed around shifting further and further to the right.

Those seven vultures were:

• the denial of climate change;
• touting of the war in Iraq;
• Work Choices;
• policy failure on education spending;
• poor vision of infrastructure;
• destruction of research and development; and
• persecution of refugees with the Pacific Solution.

Three years later, we still have seven similar vultures, but they are now feeding on the corpses of the Rudd government, and the Gillard government as it now too lurches further and further to the right.

The only difference this time is the seven vultures are:

• the homes insulation scheme;
• the permanently postponed energy scheme;
• the war in Afghanistan;
• the retention of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (the anti-construction worker secret police) and other aspects of WorkChoices;
• the mining industry deciding who will be Prime Minister;
• the school hall/library construction scheme; and
• persecution of refugees with the East Timor Solution.

For the Bligh government in Queensland, these vultures aren’t threatening because they are federal issues.

The Bligh government, however, has its own vultures that are feeding on its corpse as it too flails around looking for a way out of the appalling situation that is only of its own making.

It faces double the number of vultures:
• privatisation of taxpayer-owned assets;
• failure to pay proper compensation for Stolen Wages;
• failure to implement findings of the Black Deaths in Custody Royal Commission;
• failure to have alleged misconduct by police investigated by an independent authority;
• pay debacle for health staff;
• poor response to the Barrier Reef oil spill;
• large fuel price rises;
• huge rises in specific vehicle registration costs;
• privatisation of water infrastructure and huge rises in water prices;
• failure to remove medical abortion from the Crimes Act;
• corruption at ministerial level;
• failure to fund the Townsville cruise ship terminal at the correct level;
• failure to provide appropriate and sufficient mental health services; and
• contamination of water resources and environment due to failure to correctly control coal seam gas projects.

On August 30, the Queensland ALP parliamentary caucus met in Brisbane for a review of, among other items, the poor federal election results for the ALP in Queensland. The ALP lost seven of the 15 seats it held (out of a possible 30), including the prized seat of Brisbane which it had held for 20 years.

In the week leading up to this caucus meeting, there was much in the media about Bligh and NSW Premier Kristina Keneally blaming each other for the overall poor federal election result. But in Queensland, the premier appears to be in denial even in the face of the stark evidence of the election result.

The state issue that has had the greatest impact is the privatisation of the taxpayer-owned assets: ports, motorways, forests and of parts of Queensland Rail.

Of these, it is Queensland Rail that will have the broadest impact, as the rail workers who will suffer uncertainty and job losses are spread throughout the whole state. Rail privatisation will adversely affect communities across the whole of Queensland.

ALP caucus members who now want to appear to be speaking out for their constituents are in almost equal numbers from the three ALP factions: the Left; the Old Guard or Labor Unity; and the Australian Workers Union (AWU)/Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) or Labor Forum.

Those who are "speaking out" include backbenchers and disaffected former ministers such as Lindy Nelson-Carr from the Left, Judy Spence from the Old Guard and Dean Wells from the AWU.

Senior members and factional leaders such as Deputy Premier Paul Lucas (AWU), treasurer Andrew Fraser (Old Guard) are publicly supporting Bligh (Left) for now.

The AWU-aligned state ALP secretary Anthony Chisholm is now an invited guest to ALP caucus meetings and it remains to be seen what strategies the Queensland ALP will put into place to try to get out of its perilous position.

Chisholm has been to the US political skills school that has generated the idea that programs such as "I'll come to your region and govern for a week" or "I’ll spend a day in your shoes" can have wondrous effects in tricking the voters into thinking government cares about them.

From GLW issue 851