Friday, April 29, 2011

A Holey Charade

Until now I've resisted blogging about "Labor's Black hole" mostly because I find the whole thing pretty bloody boring.

Every election where there is a change of government, no matter which side has seized power, there is the discovery of a "MASSIVE BUDGET BLACK HOLE" a few weeks after the election.

It is predictable and more than a little silly.  

The reason for the "black hole" is of course to allow the incoming government to cut service to pay for election promises, but not cop any flack for the cuts.

it's painfully transparent, but, as the saying goes, they'll stop doing it when it stops working.

It has also been interesting to note the divergent coverage of the "scandal" - the Daily Telegraph described it as "ALP's Budget black hole deepens to $5.2 billion" .

The Sydney Morning Herald is saying that the "Audit gets Labor out of a hole," reporting, in short, that Labor had been exonerated by the comments contained in the audit.

I quite liked Alan Moir's cartoon today that neatly summed up the entire kerfuffle:

From the Sydney Morning Herald
The issue is profoundly boring because it is a charade played out for the gullible, or at least those with memories so short they can't remember that the last 14 governments all played the same cards.

The only interesting part is seeing what programs the Coalition government plans to use this "black hole" to cut.

The first item, according to the Telegraph, is to be the number of state funded cars.  Apparently the NSW fleet vastly exceeds Victoria's figures.

Clearly spending more than Victoria on a particular item is all the justification that is needed to start cuts

A further area of "waste" is the number of cheques issued, at a cost that apparently runs into the tens of millions.

The Coalition also promised during the campaign to ditch the Western Expressway as well as the Parramatta to Epping Rail link, which will apparently save $4 billion.

The most important announcement, however, is that the budget is going to be one of "tough decisions"

Clearly, the Coalition is softening up the ground for a budget that will upset some people.

It makes sense as a tactic - upset people now when they will love you no matter what, so that by 4 years from now they will forget about the cuts you made just after you were elected.

It's the reverse of the tactic used by Labor over the last few election cycles of announcing a "freeze" of public transport fares in the months before the election.

What really annoys me is the shameless posturing.  Everyone who follows politics with any enthusiasm knows that the black hole is a joke, but of course those in power know that it is not the people who pay attention that they need to woo.

It's a tedious period in the electoral cycle, but it's unsurprising that Robertson is not saying much - better to let things settle down and then start making noise again once people are willing to give Labor a second look.

Unfortunately, it looks like we might have a fair bit more drudgery in store before things really kick off.


An update on my blog about John Flowers. The SMH reported today that the government would be changing the relevant regulation to allow John Flowers to take his seat as the member for Rockdale.

It seems sensible enough - it's a bit ridiculous that a person cannot take their seat if on a pension, but also cannot elect to surrender said pension.

That said, it still reflects poorly that the issue was not resolved until the last minute.  Further, no one seems to have reported exactly what his disability is or how it is that he was too disabled to work as a teacher but well enough to run for and win a seat in the state parliament.  Odd.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Aping the Monk

While cruising the interwebs this afternoon and trying to avoid the temptation to blog about Jim Wallace (remembering, of course, Grog Gamut's third rule of blogging) I came across an interesting article on the Sky News website.

It appears that Mark Arbib was on Sky News yesterday and said the following: "Tony Abbott has provided a decent model for John Robertson to follow. Keep it simple."

There can be no doubt that Tony Abbott has been effective, at least so far as poll numbers are a barometer.

I've lifted the below graph from Wikipedia

From this article: Australian Federal Election 2010

Between the 2007 election and Abbott becoming Opposition Leader, the Coalition didn't make a great deal of progress in terms of their primary vote. Labor leaked some voters (as first term government almost inevitably do) but certainly very little had changed since July 2008, and certainly not enough to give the Coalition much hope of victory at the next election.  

At the point Abbott was anointed, the Coalition was a mess over the ETS, and Labor was looking pretty solid under Rudd.  Abbott's "Oppose EVERYTHING" strategy looked a little clownish, to say the least.

Since then, it's fair to say that Labor have played right into his hands.

Grog recently posted a most amusing list of people who Labor are presently at war with.  Suffice to say, it is a long list.

Federal Labor have, to their credit, tried to DO STUFF.  The problem with DOING STUFF, especially where that stuff is divisive stuff, is that you're going to piss people off.

This is politics right in Tony Abbott's wheelhouse.  Federal Labor played to his game plan, and before anyone knew it, Abbott had almost everyone that Labor has upset under his wing, listening attentively to his tell them that he knew how they felt, and wouldn't it be better if they let him run the show.

Abbott has made a huge amount of ground, to the point where the 2PP is presently 54/46, a roughly 10% swing since Abbott took the reins.

The important point is that Abbot was only able to do so because of Labor's approach.  Labor gave Abbott a look-in by upsetting a LOT of people, and then (incredibly) changing horse mid-stream, meaning that Abbott (of ALL people) was made to look reliable.

What I'm wondering is whether the NSW Coalition going to give NSW Labor the same look-in.

Answer? I doubt it.

First up, Robertson comes with a similar reputation to Abbott.  He's tough, he's aggressive, he'll "take the fight to the Coalition".

But the NSW Coalition has come to power in very different circumstances to Federal Labor.

Federal Labor blew in in 2007 on the back of the incredible popularity of Kevin Rudd, the disaster that was WorkChoices and the electorate being generally pretty sick of John Howard. The win was decent in size (2PP 52.7 to 47.3, seats won 83 to 65) but by no means overwhelming.

The NSW Coalition comes to power on the back of one of the most comprehensive and humiliating victories in Australian history (2PP 64 to 36, seats won 69 to 20).

Put simply, the Coalition is going to have to do little more than avoid falling over its own feet to ensure a win in 2015.  Any improvement will be lauded, and just about any fault will, in some way, be sheeted back to Labor.

If they're smart, the Coalition will spend the next 4 years governing cautiously, avoiding upsetting any more people than are absolutely necessary, and generally just spending time getting the job done.

In 2015, they will look around and ask the electorate "So - which bunch do you want governing?  Us or them?" Their win will be smaller, but it will almost certainly be a win nonetheless.

The Coalition will most likely govern sensibly and sedately, meaning that Robertson will probably be as effective as most people (myself included) thought Abbott would be.

Everyone expected Abbott to flap around like an idiot, make a whole lot of noise and generally do little good.  Of course that is exactly what happened, but luckily for him he found an audience for that.

John Robertson is unlikely to be so lucky.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Super Situation

The Daily Telegraph revealed on Wednesday that new Liberal MP for Rockdale John Flowers may have to resign.

The story (incorrectly) stated that Mr Flowers "was elected while receiving a disability pension, in breach of the constitution." In fact, the section 13B of the NSW Constitution Act reads as follows:

(1) A person:
(a) holding an office of profit under the Crown, or
(b) having a pension from the Crown during pleasure or for a term of years,

shall not, if he is elected as a Member of either House of Parliament, be capable of sitting and voting as a Member of the House to which he is elected, and his seat as a Member shall become vacant, after the expiration of the period commencing with his election and ending on the expiration of 7 sitting days of that House after notice of his holding that office or having that pension has been given to that House in accordance with its Standing Rules and Orders, unless that House has previously passed a resolution indicating that it is satisfied that that person has ceased to hold that office or, as the case may be, that the right of that person to that pension has ceased or is suspended while he is a Member of that House.

So, you can be elected if you are in receipt of a pension.  However, upon being elected, if you do not give notice to the house that you are no longer in receipt of the pension before 7 sitting days have passed, your seat becomes vacant.

John Flowers is not in trouble yet.  But he will be soon.

The difficulty is this: he can't do the obvious thing and just give up the pension.

Mr Flowers is in receipt of a disability pension that he gained "when he was a teacher in 1997".

I'm not quite clear on what the disability was, or how it is that the disability prevents him from teaching but does not prevent him acting as a Rockdale councillor and mayor, or for that matter campaigning and being elected as a member of the Lower House, but there may well be a reasonable explanation.

I'm no superannuation expert, but I think that the relevant part of the Superannuation Act 1916 is section 52E.  It seems to suggest (at subsection (4)(b)), that a person can have the pension awarded for life. Presumably, this is the situation John Flowers is in.

The relevant provision contained in that section regarding removal of the pension is under subsection (6) which indicates that, if the SAS Trustee Corporation is of the view that the person has ceased to be "physically or mentally incapable of performing the duties of any employment that… would be reasonable for the person to undertake," then the pension should cease.

What has apparently happened is that Flowers has sought permission from the State Superannuation Board to have his pension frozen.

Exactly what power they may have to do this is not something I know anything about, but I suppose they can do these things.

Now, the Government has an advice on this from Crown Solicitors, no doubt written by someone who knows far more about all this stuff than me.  

But, to me, surely the obvious solution is for Flowers to point out to the SAS Trustee Corporation that he is no longer "physically or mentally incapable of performing the duties of any employment that… would be reasonable for the person to undertake."

The difficulty may be that this may mean that he loses this pension for life - and it would seem that he is likely to struggle to hold this seat in 4 years, and would therefore be loathe to risk being left with no income 4 years from now.

The surprising thing is that, as Luke Foley put it, "It beggars belief the Liberal Party would not have known about Mr Flowers' circumstances." So why was nothing done about it until now?

Surely a plan would not have been too much to ask for?  The whole thing could have been hosed down by someone from the Coalition being able to say "It's OK!  We have it under control!"

Instead we have the Daily Telegraph running with the byline "The O'Farrell Government is hoping that a State Superannuation Board ruling next week will avoid a by-election just one month into its term," which is an entirely fair assessment.

This must have come up when he was vetted.  If this becomes a "thing" - the Coalition has no one to blame for it but themselves.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Delivery on track?

The delivery of the Waratah trains is long, long overdue.

A Waratah Train.  Photo from Wikipedia
John Watkins, then transport minister, said in 2006 that they would be on the tracks by 2008.

This delivery was important and urgent not only because these carriages are an essential upgrade of the rolling stock.  They will result in more carriages on the tracks, but also will allow the retirement of older models.

According to Wikipedia, the train design is based on the Millenium trains. Given the extraordinary difficulties encountered with the Millenium trains shortly after their launch, perhaps we should have expected some drama.

Millenium Train.  Photo from Wikipedia
The CityRail website says that there will be 626 waratah carriages delivered, which is "equivalent to 50% of the current suburban fleet".  What this allows CityRail to do is retire the entire L, R and S sets, which entered service between 1972 and 1980, and are not air conditioned.

One of the old carriages.  Photo from Wikipedia
These non-air conditioned carriages are hated by everyone for at least 6 months of the year, and getting rid of them will no doubt drastically increase passenger comfort.  

Additionally, there are only 498 carriages in the L, R and S sets, meaning that the number of active carriages will be increased by 128.

Whether this will lead to an increase of the number of services does not appear to be clear, as of course there will be staffing and other cost implications.

The concern is that the process has been so fraught with delay and drama it has become a "I'll believe it when I see it" kind of project (like so, so many under the Labor Government).

The Herald reported today that the trains may be entering service within two months, but that Downer EDI (the manufacturer) has released the trains to RailCorp before all the work on them is completed.

If RailCorp is not satisfied with the trains or if significant operational issues become apparent, then all hell could break loose.

Downer has apparently already anticipated a $440 million loss on the whole project.

The project was another of those public private partnerships that have been such a disaster over the last decade (the Cross City Tunnel and Airport Link spring to mind).  Perhaps counter-intuitively, the private stakeholder having awful financial results is not a good thing.

If companies can't make a financial success of these partnerships, then they will quickly lose interest in being involved, meaning the government is going to have to not only manage the project (something governments at all levels don't have a great record with) but also absorb all the financial risk.

The question is, of course, WHY have these projects been a disaster?  Is it the government simply picking the lowest bid - a bid that they know the company cannot possibly hope to meet and make a profit?  

An Inquiry into Public Private Partnerships was conducted by the Public Accounts Committee in 2005 and 2006.  The report noted that "the Government’s aim is not to maximise risk transferred to the private sector" but rather to "optimise the allocation of risks to the public and private sectors according to which party is best able to manage these risks."

That's all good and well, but it seems clear that this goal has not been achieved to date.

The position that the Coalition government finds itself in is that the trains are now arriving on their watch.  The trains will be an improvement, and should be recognized as such, although we can all expect to hear a great deal about how long ago they were promised.

That said, the government is going to have to have a close look at how we manage major contracts like this, whether for infrastructure, vehicles or the like,

There are probably very few people who think that private companies should not be involved at all.  Government should stick to government where possible, and (where appropriate) use private companies to produce and build.

But these arrangements need to be mutually beneficial.  If NSW is seen as a place where the lowest bidder wins and then inevitably makes a crushing loss on the project, we will lose the top bidders, to everyone's detriment.

It remains to be seen whether the Coalition government is any better at dealing with business to get things built.  If so, it could be the starkest distinction between this government and the one before it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Another Late Train

Public transport remains one of the biggest issues for the O'Farrell government.

There are a number of problema that they, as the incoming government, have been lumped with.

Decades of under-investment (predating the Labor government) have left public transport networks that lag behind the road system that we now have.

The transportation system has been described as shambolic, abysmal and even (with disturbing frequency) "third world" which is surely proof that the writer in question has never actually been to any third world country.

Of course there is massive room for improvement - but the base we have is not a poor one.

The obvious missing feature, however, is integrated ticketing.

Sydney's "T-card" was meant to be in use by the Olympics. The Olympics! The year 2000! That was the year we got the GST; the year we learnt the Y2K bug was a fizzer; and the year that the Airport Link opened.

THAT'S how long ago it was.

Since then, it has been delay after delay.

Nothing typifies the problem better than these little beauties (picture from this website).

I don't know how many stations have had these "things" erected, but anecdotally it appears to be a very large number.

A couple of years ago they appeared almost overnight.

For a while there was confusion as to their intended purpose. Eventually it was revealed that they were to be used to mount the machines that would read the T-cards and record the commuter's travel.

I have no idea what they cost to install, but given it was a government contract, and given the materials involved, it certainly would not have been a small amount.

These things have never been used. They still sit at stations unadorned - a constant reminder of the governments failure to actually accomplish anything.

Unsurprisingly, the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has announced today that Labor's timeline for imlementation of the T-card is wholly unrealistic, and that testing is unlikely to begin by 2014.

No doubt this is at least in part an exercise in lowering expectations so that any progress whatsoever can be a brilliant example of just how wonderful it is to have a Coaltion government, and another reason to give them 4 more years.

But, unavoidably, it means further delays and excuses.

The strangest thing is that the excuse that has been repeatedly proferred for the delays is that the pricing structure is the issue.

This seems plainly ridiculous, as pricing is probably the easiest thing of all for the government to amend. Just change the price. How hard is that?

The MyMulti system is an obvious example of how easy it is.

I have a ticket that gives me unlimited travel on any bus, train or ferry across the network. At train stations and ferry wharves I put it through the machines. On busses I flash it at the driver, not that they seem particularly fussed anyway.

I happen to know that CityRail records every use that multiple use tickets get (as long as, of course, the ticket is used in a machine).

So why is integrated ticketing such a massive step? How can it have taken so long?

A few responses spring to mind: constant inter-departmental bickering and buck-passing. A lack of political will. A tightfisted government only willing to spend money on things that will improve that sacred statistic, "on-time running".

Barry O'Farrell has declared his intention to be the man that "fixed" NSW public transport. That is why he has put one of his "most trusted" colleagues in charge of this vital area.

It will cost money, and will require recources, and political will. But if it is done, and done well, he can take a big first step to making an efficient and expanded public transportation system a part of his legacy.

It seems like there could not be a better place to start.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Council of War

A council's job is rates, rubbish and roads. As soon as a council loses sight of this, things start to go wrong.

I've refrained from commenting on the Marrickville Council boycott until now because it wasn't really a state issue, even though it sort-of became during the election.

Now that Barry O'Farrell has sent a letter to the council, I think the issue is fair-game.

O'Farrell wrote to the council recently saying that if the boycott was not dropped within 28 days, he would use his power under the Local Government Act to sack the Council.

News quoted O'Farrell on radio saying "We're happy to take whatever action is required to get Marrickville Council back focused on the needs of its ratepayers, not trying to engage in foreign affairs." 

Fiona Byrne (Mayor and Greens candidate for the state seat of Marrickville) appeared to back away from the boycott today after it was revealed that a full boycott would cost some $3.7 million.

Most of this cost would be in replacing the council Hewlett Packard computers, which are apparently used at Isreali military checkpoints.

Lee Rhiannon, Greens Federak Senator-elect, came out in support of the policy today but went on to say that "'s not something we're taking to the federal parliament. There are clear priorities."

This last quote is the dumbest part of the whole thing, as it is only the Federal Government that has any prospect of making a tangible difference to Middle East.

Marrickville Council is a small council in a country that, on the global scale, is not exactly a power-house.  For anyone to think that a boycott makes a jot of difference to anything - well, frankly, it is silly and immature.

I was never involved in student politics back when I was uni, but I understand that many such bodies spend hour after hour agonising over their position on the situation in the middle east.  

The student bodies, like Marrickville Council, appear to fundamentally misunderstand their position in the global political climate.

No one cares what position the University X Student Council takes on Isreal except, I warrant, the people sitting on said council.  And no one would care what position Marrickville Council takes, except that their decision will affect the residents financially.

If the boycott costs the council money, I think the residents are entitled to be upset about this.

Symbols do serve a purpose, and yes, sometimes boycotts can be a good thing.  I think the long standing boycott many groups had on Nestle products because of their promotion of forumla over breat milk in developing countries is a great thing.  It hits Nestle where is hurts (their bottom line) and, if enough groups get involved, potentially makes a difference.

This boycott against companies that do business with Israel by one council some 15 000 km away - it's just silly.  And a waste of everyone's time and money.

The fact that someone was asked to calculate what it would cost to dissasociate the council from any company that has a relationship with Israel means that the council was at least considering making tangible financial decisions based thereupon.

It wasn't even companies based in Israel, or companies in which the Israeli government has a financial interest - ANYONE who has a business relationship with Israel was a target.

Now, in fairness, Fiona Byrne has apparently pulled back from that above position, but the whole thing is still ridiculous.

The worst thing is that the situation is the Middle East is not a binary issue.  it's hardly like that Council's other major boycott (Burma) - the situation in the Middle East is murky, to say the least.  it's picking sides in an issue that is complex beyond belief.

Rates, rubbish and roads.  it's not that hard, is it?

**Before you flame me in the comments - I have no fixed position on the Middle East.  Both sides have been wronged, both sides have done the wrong thing, and neither side has my support.  There is no good guy and there is no bad guy. OK?**

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

All Hans On Deck?

A lot was written in the lead-up to the final distribution of Legislative Council Preferences about the fate of Pauline Hanson. There was also a lot of finger-pointing about who would be to blame if she was elected (which I have written about here).

The count has now been released by the NSW Electoral Commission, and it's an interesting read (if you're into that kind of thing).

I'm not going to explain how preference voting works here - if you want to know more, read the many excellent articles Anthony Green has written on the topic.

The first thing I noticed as I looked through the "First Preference by Group and Candidate"  is this. Pauline received 20 004 first preference votes. That is more than ANY OTHER candidate.

Now that is kind of an unfair statement, because as usual most people voted above the line. For example, the Coalition received 1 923 914 votes above the line.

That said, the number 1 spot on the Liberal ticket (Mike Gallagher) only received 12 582 votes.

Let's put it another way. Of all the people who were bothered to vote below the line, Pauline was the OVERWHELMING leader on first preferences.

Pauline was the number 1 spot holder for Group J (that being a ragtag bunch of independents), and that group received 77 926 first preferences, which was no doubt propelled in part by Pauline's presence at the top.

That's a solid 6th place amongst the groups, behind the Coalition, Labor, the Greens, the Shooters and Fishers, and the Christian Democrats. That's ahead of Family First and the Democrats.

Of course, first preference doesn't count for much when you're scrabbling for a seat. A quota is 185 274 votes, so even with that good start (97 930 first preference votes) Pauline still had a long way to go.

As you will know, candidates are eliminated one at a time and their votes distributed to the candidates left in the count.

The Electoral Commission has provided the full count and distribution on its website

After 300 counts, the remaining candidates (and their votes, including allocated preferences) are in the table below.

Robert Brown (Shooters and Fishers) 151 878
Paul Green (Christian Democrats) 127 682
Pauline Hanson (Independent) 99 172
Sarah Johnson (Coalition) 90 215
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) 84 996
Gordon Moyes (Family First) 60 729
Bob Smith (The Fishing Party) 55 228
John Hatton (Independent) 53 415
Charles Matthews (No Parking Meters) 50 544
Andrew Ferguson (Labor) 41 444
Arther Chesterfield-Evans (Democrats) 35 140
David Leyonhjelm (Outdoor Recreation) 31 818

At this stage, there were 17 candidates already elected:

Coalition 10
Labor 5
Greens 2

This meant that there were 4 spots left to fill. Of the remaining candidates, Pauline is in 3rd place, or in 20th overall (counting those already elected).

On Count 301, David Leyonhjelm (Outdoor Recreation) was excluded. The new table was as follows:

Robert Brown (Shooters and Fishers) 153,106 (+1,228)
Paul Green (Christian Democrats) 127,953 (+271)
Pauline Hanson (Independent) 99,290 (+118)
Sarah Johnson (Coalition) 91,213 (+998)
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) 85,648 (+652)
Gordon Moyes (Family First) 61,227 (+498)
Bob Smith (The Fishing Party) 56,374 (+1,146)
John Hatton (Independent) 53,631 (+216)
Charles Matthews (No Parking Meters) 51,931 (+1,387)
Andrew Ferguson (Labor) 41,926 (+482)
Arther Chesterfield-Evans (Democrats) 35,271 (+131)

You'll notice that Pauline was distributed 118 votes, which is the least of any of the remaining candidates. Nonetheless, she remains in 3rd (20th) place.

On Count 302, Arther Chesterfield-Evans (Democrats) was excluded and his preferences distributed. The new table was as follows:

Robert Brown (Shooters and Fishers) 153,355 (+249)
Paul Green (Christian Democrats) 128,234 (+281)
Pauline Hanson (Independent) 99,528 (+238)
Sarah Johnson (Coalition) 92,542 (+1,329)
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) 88,960 (+3,312)
Gordon Moyes (Family First) 61,521 (+294)
Bob Smith (The Fishing Party) 56,723 (+349)
John Hatton (Independent) 54,165 (+534)
Charles Matthews (No Parking Meters) 52,234 (+303)
Andrew Ferguson (Labor) 43,358 (+1,432)

Pauline again receives the least preferences of any candidate, but remained in 3rd (20th) place.

On count 303, Andrew Ferguson (Labor) was excluded. The new table was as follows:

Robert Brown (Shooters and Fishers) 153,576 (+221)
Paul Green (Christian Democrats) 128,482 (+248)
Pauline Hanson (Independent) 99,686 (+158)
Sarah Johnson (Coalition) 93,374 (+832)
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) 92,698 (+3,738)
Gordon Moyes (Family First) 61,924 (+403)
Bob Smith (The Fishing Party) 56,968 (+245)
John Hatton (Independent) 54,428 (+263)
Charles Matthews (No Parking Meters) 52,602 (+368)

Pauline again receives the least preferences, and with Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) receiving a big chunk of the preferences from the Labor candidate, the gap to the 22nd (and, therefore, first losing) candidate is narrowing.

On count 304, Charles Matthews (No Parking Meters) was excluded. The new table was as follows:

Robert Brown (Shooters and Fishers) 154,886 (+1,310)
Paul Green (Christian Democrats) 128,997 (+515)
Pauline Hanson (Independent) 99,916 (+230)
Sarah Johnson (Coalition) 96,570 (+3,196)
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) 95,188 (+2,490)
Gordon Moyes (Family First) 63,458 (+1,534)
Bob Smith (The Fishing Party) 58,751 (+1,783)
John Hatton (Independent) 55,276 (+848)

Pauline again gets the least preferences, and more than 10 times less than 21st and 22nd.

On count 305, John Hatton (Independent) was excluded. The new table was as follows:

Robert Brown (Shooters and Fishers) 155,309 (+423)
Paul Green (Christian Democrats) 130,322 (+1,325)
Pauline Hanson (Independent) 102,199 (+2,283)
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) 101,454 (+6,266)
Sarah Johnson (Coalition) 99,838 (+3,268)
Gordon Moyes (Family First) 64,267 (+809)
Bob Smith (The Fishing Party) 59,150 (+399)

On this distribution, Pauline did not receive the least - in fact, she was the 3rd most of the remaining 7 candidates. The gap to 22nd is still smaller yet - only about 2000 votes.

On count 306, Bob Smith (The Fishing Party) drops out, and the preferences are distributed. The new table was as follows:

Robert Brown (Shooters and Fishers) 164,719 (+9,410)
Paul Green (Christian Democrats) 130,483 (+161)
Pauline Hanson (Independent) 102,466 (+267)
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) 102,276 (+822)
Sarah Johnson (Coalition) 101,183 (+1,345)
Gordon Moyes (Family First) 64,738 (+471)

This time Pauline received the 2nd least preferences. The gap to 22nd is now a touch over 1000 votes.

On count 307, Gordon Moyes (Family First) was eliminated. The new table was as follows:

Robert Brown (Shooters and Fishers) 166,112 (+1,393)
Paul Green (Christian Democrats) 134,804 (+4,321)
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) 105,472 (+3,196)
Sarah Johnson (Coalition) 104,341 (+3,158)
Pauline Hanson (Independent) 103,035 (+569)

And with that, Pauline drops to 5th (22nd place), having again received the least preferences, and by some margin. Upon her being eliminated, there are only 4 candidates remaining. As there are only 4 seats left to fill (21 seats available, and 17 candidates already elected) the remaining 4 are immediately elected.

In other words, leading up to the last count, Pauline was 2 spots clear of missing out. On the VERY LAST distribution, she dropped 2 spots and missed out.

So, if you're wondering how close it was, the answer is very. Very, very, very close.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jumping at Shadows

In the lead-up the election there was a great deal of joking about the number of seats that Labor would win.  

When polls came out that suggested Labor's total seat count being in the low teens, many people wondered aloud whether Labor would even have a backbench once their shadow ministry was announced.

On Friday Robertson announced his new shadow cabinet that, we were assured, boasted "a mix of new faces and experience."

Almost every shadow cabinet member has more than one posting, although that is not unusual.  Unsurprisingly, the shadow minister for Education and Training (Tebbutt) and the shadow minister for Transport (Sharpe) are the only two with only one shadow ministry - clearly, these roles are more than enough for any one person to handle.

The full list can be seen here

The list is for the most part unremarkable.  Rees has made a comeback to the front bench in the not insubstantial role of police and emergency services as well as the arts.  Burney was, as expected, confirmed as deputy leader.

Robertson's statement that there is a mix of new and old is evident when their experience in the Lower or upper house s reviewed:

Robertson - LA, 2 years
Burney - LA, 8 years
Daley - LA, 6 years
Kelly - LC, 14 years
Tebbutt - LA, 6 years
McDonald - LA, 4 years
Sharpe - LC, 6 years
Lynch - LA, 16 years
Rees - LA, 4 years 
Foley - LC, 1 year
Perry - LA, 10 years
Furolo - LA, 3 years
Veitch - LC, 4 years
Cotsis - LC, 1 year

That said, none of the new appointees are taking their seats for the very first time.

Something I hadn't seen reported that I was interested to find out was who had missed out on appointment, so I've spent a little time trawling the internet trying to work out who is left.

I came up with the following list, which I think is interesting:

Tania Mihailuk - LA, newbie, member for Bankstown.
Nick Lalich - LA, 3 years, member for Cabramatta.  
Clayton Barr - LA, newbie, member for Cessnock
Gaetano Zangari - LA, newbie, member for Fairfield
Keneally - LA, former premier, 8 years, member for Heffron
Ryan Park - LA, newbie, member for Keira
Richard Amery - LA, 18 years, 8 years as a minister (but not since 2003), member for Mount Druitt
Anna Watson - LA, newbie, member for Shellharbour
Sonia Hornery - LA, 4 years, member for Wallsend
Greg Donnelly - LC, 6 years
Amanda Fazio - LC, 11 years
Luke Foley - LC, 1 year
John Hatzistergos - LC but just announced retirement, 12 years, multiple previous ministries
Shaoquett Moselmane, LC, 1 year
Eddie Obeid - LC, 10 years, 4 years as a minister (but not since 2003)
Peter Primrose - LC, 15 years, multiple previous ministries
Eric Roozendaal - LC, 7 years, multiple previous ministries
Lynda Voltz - LC, 4 years
Helen Westwood - LC, 4 years

First of all, all the brand new LA members didn't get a ministry, which was expected given that Labor managed enough seats to be a little bit picky.

There are, by my count, 8 LA members who don't have a ministry. Contrary to the jokes doing the rounds, Keneally will have plenty company.

Keneally announces when she resigned that she wished to serve from the backbench, and that is the job she will have.

The names Obeid and Roozendaal are poison for Labor, so no surprise that they missed out.  Hatzistergos is going so was never a factor.

Amanda Fazio has served as President of the LC for the last year and a half, and will most likely have a leadership role of sorts there.

As for the rest - well, I suppose some people had to miss out.  Amery and Primrose have been around for so long it may be that they are not figured to be a factor for long.

The rest have 3 to 6 years experience each, and may well be disappointed to see people with far less experience getting a guernsey.

It will be fascinating to see Robertson try to keep this group, unaccustomed as they will be to opposition, focussed on the difficult task they have ahead.

PS I've probably made an error or two in the above summary, what with being human and all.  Plus, I'm writing this after midnight on a saturday night.  Cut me some slack?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Flying into Trouble

Sydney's second airport will surely never be built.

For over 60 years governments have been talking on and off about building it, but it seems clearer now than ever before that it is just never going to happen.

Too many governments have made plans, identified sites, spent millions on studies and surveys, and then shelved the plans as soon as it was politically convenient to do so.

Barry O'Farrell has shown himself to be no exception.

Rather than float a site, and then "respond to community feedback" by shelving it, he has hopped straight on the high-speed rail line bandwagon.  

This also seems like a nice idea that will almost certainly never be realised.  The investment required would be enormous, and would require not only cooperation but also funding from a diverse number of government bodies.

That's before we even begin the discussion about where it will cut through Sydney and where it will tip out its passengers.  There's certainly no space at the CBD stations, and what good would it be to abandon the passages at an outer suburbs station like Campbelltown or Penrith?

It seems like Sydney has missed the boat on this one entirely (if you'll forgive the pun) - with Western Sydney seats being so crucial to any state election, no government is going to risk building an airport out west - that is, unless 16 years in opposition sounds like a good deal.

So, the result?  Sydney airport will get more crowded.  The government will be forced to choose between relaxing the curfew or accepting that the number of passengers moving through the airport will have to be capped.

The restrictions will be relaxed, but probably not before an "independent, non-partisan committee" decrees that to be the solution, to minimise the political fall-out.

If only the government had had the foresight and courage to make the call all those years ago, so we could have a functional and eminently useful airport like Melbourne have in Avalon.

This "high-speed rail" - well, i'll believe it when someone explains to me where it will go and how it will be paid for.  Not holding my breath on that one.