Monday, February 25, 2013

Nursing Some Trouble

Given I had heard nothing about it until I saw the above tweet, I have to say that I agree.

This is what happened:
Full story here

This what the mother says happened:
Now, of course, I don't know exactly what happened here. The nurses may have been busy on some huge emergency and simply failed to communicate that well. The baby's arrival may indeed have been entirely (and reasonably) unexpected. Heck, for all we know, the mother lied to the nursing staff about her symptoms.

On the other hand, maybe the nurses were goofing off, or negligent, or improperly trained. These are precisely the issues that the hospital will be investigating, and I expect that the result will be published in due course.

Witnesses should be spoken to, records should be kept, and to the extent that a person or a system if to blame, action should be taken to remedy it. That's how the matter should be dealt with.

This is exactly how it should NOT be dealt with:
Full story here
Unfortunately I cannot bring you a screenshot of the original tweet because it has subsequently been deleted.

Now, Mr Sage has a pretty anonymous twitter account:
I have no idea how the tweet was brought to the journalist's attention, but either way it's something that bears reporting. I don't agree with stories about the personal lives of politician's family ("MP's Son Failing Year 10", for example) but this is a family member putting out a pretty derogatory opinion. And he's doing it in a very public forum - it's hardly a carelessly whispered word at a bar somewhere.

It's especially important in that it reflects the kind of attitude that many people believe (rightly or wrongly) that  many Liberal members hold. That's particularly interesting when, as occurred above, the member in question refused to criticise her husband (although, in fairness, we don't know for sure why she didn't return the calls).

True it is that Roza Sage is not the relevant local member (map of her electorate is available here), is not the health minister, and as far as I know had absolutely nothing to do with the events at the hospital. She had the opportunity to say "My husbands an idiot, even I barely listen to him, and he doesn't speak for me" but she didn't take it. On one level, her failure to speak out and disavow the comments is more revealing that the fact her husband made them.

Having said all that, this isn't something that anyone is going to remember too well, I don't think. Politicians (and, for that matter, celebrities generally) have been getting into trouble for what they have been saying on twitter for almost as long as we have had twitter accounts. As you can see, there has hardly been an upswing in interest in Mr Sage's account.

What will be revealing will be if we start seeing more of this kind of story, especially in the lead-up to this year's federal election.

In fairness to him, here is Mr Sage's response to the article, directed at the journo who wrote it, Barclay Crawford:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A State of Play

In light of the weeping and gnashing of teeth we've seen in the last 36 hours, I thought it would be interesting to glance at the NSW figures in this week's Nielsen poll.

This is the relevant part of the tables (as ever, leaked by @ghostwhovotes):
The Full Table can be seen here
This is to be compared with the results from December last year:
Full Table here
Now, there are countless problems with assuming anything as a result of a swing between one poll and another. The weaknesses in the entire polling model are well documented and a discussion for another time.

Suffice to say that the sample size for this entire poll was 1400. Focussing on NSW, and assuming that they selected respondents in proportion to the relative population of that state, this means that the NSW numbers are drawn from a sample of approximately 400 people. The SA/NT numbers are probably half that.

What I did want to think about briefly, however, are the NSW numbers, to the extent that we can be pretty sure they are just generally awful. Is there anything that NSW Labor can do to help? Moreover, would they be interested in doing so?

It has been my observation over the years that state leaders often appear ill-at-ease when purporting to support their Federal counter-parts. Either the State party is strong and therefore disinclined to support a weaker Federal campaign, or the Federal party is strong and disinclined to accept a weak state party's endorsement.

This translates to a lot of awkward photo-shoots as "worlds collide", where no one is really sure how to act and journalists unclear on how to frame the event.

My point, of course, it that Federal Labor probably doesn't really want John Robertson's help. He has no particular popularity (or even, let's be honest, profile) to draw on. His alternative government is monumentally unpopular. His presence, especially in light of the constant reminder's in the media of Labor's corruption, would almost surely do more harm than good.

As for Barry O'Farrell, what on earth does he have to gain? More importantly, he runs a major risk in being photographed with (on a personal level) the incredibly unpopular Tony Abbott. I think we can expect him to stick to voicing his support on twitter, and not a great deal more.

It's plain wrong to say that the election will be won or lost in western Sydney, except to the extent that any seats lost there will of course need to be made up somewhere else. Of course, that applies to every single seat that Labor holds, so I'm not sure it shows any great insight.

It's a pretty formidable challenge for Labor. I just hope that Gillard is not expecting any help from John Robertson, because I'm not sure he will be able to provide it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I don't think that anyone would be surprised to hear that Fred Nile is anti-abortion.

After all, he heads a Christian political party, and such parties are nothing if not right wing, As the refrain goes, right wing parties are big on liberty except where it comes to sexual liberty or medical issues.

This trend has become endemic in the United States, where ones position on (in particular) abortion can define whether you are elected or whether you are made a judge.

On one hand, that makes some sense. If you believe that abortion is always, always, ALWAYS murder, then I suppose someone who even countenances allowing abortion must be stopped.

Of course, that ignores the fact that no one can say definitively that abortion is murder, or that is not. Pro-choice campaigners can use terms like "a bunch of cells" and pro-life campaigners can use terms like "an unborn human" all they like, but no one is going to win the argument.

Not that that stops people trying to force their views on each other. But I digress.

In the US, where Roe v Wade rules the roost, many Republican states have enacted measures that quite are transparently designed to make abortion as difficult and as unpleasant as possible for women.

The theory seems to be based on the presumption that if you make abortion more unpleasant for women, then they will desist. This would work, of course, only if women regarded abortion as being no more than a minor inconvenience  This sits thoroughly at odds with the innumerable accounts given by women about the sheer agony of the choice they are making.

I felt lucky to be over 10 000 km away from this foolishness - that was, until this appeared in my vision:
Full story in the SMH
Look, let's set aside whatever it is that you, dear reader, think about abortion.  It is legal in NSW (as long as you meet a few very broad criteria).

What exactly is this proposed bill meant to accomplish? In short, it is quite obviously designed to make the entire abortion process as unpleasant, distressing and traumatising as possible for the woman. It does so in the face of a law that makes abortion, in the aforementioned specific circumstances, legal.

It is, put simply, a cruel and vindictive bill. If there was any evidence that it actually reduced the rate of abortion, then it at least would make sense, given that I feel safe in assuming that Fred Nile views abortion as murder.

If that was the case, however, then Fred Nile and the Christian Democrats should introduce a bill banning abortion. If it is defeated (as I feel safe in assuming it would) then the CDP should leave the issue alone.

I just hope that the Coalition has the sense to recognize this bill for the vile piece of legislation it is, and dismiss it forthwith.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Adult in the Room

Sometimes we really need a Premier to be the adult in the room. The Craig Thomson debacle was a good opportunity for O'Farrell to show that this was who he is able to be.

I'm not going to repeat the background of Thomson - anyone with a pulse in Australia must know who he is and what he is alleged to have done. In any event, his lawyer has been extremely active in the media over the last fortnight, talking about the legal process, the public manner in which he has been arrested, not to mention many of other complaints.

One of the complaints that (unsurprisingly) resonated with the media was the suggestion that he had been strip-searched by NSW Police, a claim apparently denied by police:
It eventually transpired that it was in fact Corrective Services who had searched Thomson, not police:
Full story here
Anyway, this is what Barry O'Farrell has to say about the issue:
Full story here
It's just unhelpful. O'Farrell needed to either explain why what was done was standard procedure for all persons going into custody, or he needed to explain why Thomson was singled out.

That joke was made in full knowledge that it would be the line that the journalists ran, and it's more than just a cheap shot. If Thomson was in fact singled out, then it is a serious matter. If he was not singled out, the Corrective Services deserve to be backed up by their premier.

I know it may sound like I'm being a little precious, but I just think that O'Farrell needed to be the one acting like an adult in the face of the frantic arm waving from Thomson's lawyer. Instead, he delivered a cheap joke.

Not really good enough.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Bit on the Side

There are two main arguments as to why politicians should not have outside sources of income.

The first is corruption - certainly a touchy topic in NSW politics at the moment. If a politicians stands to benefit financially by a decision he or she is making, then there is, at the very least, an apprehension of bias.

In a time where cynicism of politicians is probably as great as it has ever been, this should not be tolerated. This is notwithstanding the fact that political parties almost uniformly vote as a bloc, meaning that anyone who stood to gain personally would have to get their entire party on board.

Many politicians start in politics with significant wealth from their pre-politics careers, and nothing is wrong with that in and of itself. And I don't think that anyone is suggesting that politicians should have to take a vow of poverty before they are allowed to sit in parliament.

But their investment portfolios should be placed into blind trusts, to ensure that there cannot be even the suggestion that their decisions are being influenced by the prospect of personal gain. We can't take away their money, but we can ensure that their votes and/or the decisions they make are in no way coloured by the potential of financial gain.

This is something that, I suspect, few could complain about.

There is, however, a more complicated argument against outside income. And it's one that we've already had to deal with in NSW.

This argument relates the politicians who are effectively "part-time" - they have outside sources of income that are not returns on capital but rather returns on labour.

Clover Moore was an obvious example. She was both the Lord Mayor of Sydney and the Local Member for the State electorate of Sydney. In 2012 there were changes made meaning that she was no longer permitted to serve as both a Mayor and a state member, and she (and a large number of other member who were still serving on local councils) had to give it up.
I wrote about the changes here
In fairness to Clover, she donated her mayoral salary to the Lord Mayor Salary Trust, so there could not be any suggestion that she had both jobs for financial gain.

That change in law was, the government claimed, about ensuring that members did not land themselves in a conflict of interest, where their duties as a councillor conflicted with their duties as a local member or member of the Legislative Council.

That's good and well, but my view at the time (and still today) is that if the voters don't care (and clearly they didn't) it was unnecessary to make it law. There was of course also the fact that the change was a fairly transparent attack on Clover.

It's also a more sensitive topic that someone who has quite literally kept their old job after being elected, like Adam Searle:
From the State Chambers website
From the NSW Parliament website
Personally I think it ridiculous that the parties think that it is appropriate for a member to have a significant job outside their parliamentary duties. Regardless of whether the voters don't care, the parties should require a higher standard from those they put forward for election.

It's also more than a little concerning that the Shadow Minster for Industrial Affairs thinks it is appropriate that he keeps accepting briefs when he is a barrister working in Industrial Law.

This is why Robertson is going about this the right way:
From the SMH
I'm not so sure it's fair to change the rules on Searle now - he should never have been allowed to keep practicing and be a MLC in the first place. But of course that's not the point.

People who are elected to the MLC should not have significant paid employment on the side. That shouldn't be law - the parties should have standards about who they put forward for election. Robertson should be forcing people to chose between their old life and their new one, because anything else suggests that being a MLA or MLC is an easy gig you can do on the side.

There is no doubt, however, those who benefit from the present arrangements are going to make this very difficult for him. And, if Robertson pursues this, his sway with the Labor caucus is going to be sorely tested.