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Why Queenslanders must demand new and fair state elections

Originally published: 8 Jan 10. Updated and revised: 12 Jan 10.

How Australian "democracy" imposes "elite as opposed to popular views"

In the March 2009 Queensland elections, called early and conveniently before the Auditor General's damning reports on Health and Transport, Labor clung to power by concealing the likely privatisation of publicly owned assets and promising to maintain the state fuel subsidy. Regaining office, the fuel subsidy went, charges for registration and public transport rocketed and a $15 billion public asset fire sale was announced - although opposed by 79% of the Queensland public.

The citizens of most other Australian states are treated little better. So, in early 2010, Australians are not in any meaningful sense ruled by "government of the people by the people for the people."

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke actually boasted about his similar failure to democratically consult during a speech at a Bureau of Immigration Research conference, when he claimed that he had enforced "elite as opposed to popular views on immigration."1


Over the last 3 decades at least, "elite as opposed to popular views" have been imposed in regard to many other important policy decisions. Examples of such unconsultative policies implemented include the removal of tariff barriers to prevent the export of Australian jobs to slave wage economies; the removal of barriers which prevented foreign companies from buying our mineral wealth; the removal of barriers to foreign investors being able to buy up Australian real estate; the deregulation of our finance sector; the privatisation of our retirement income on a model similar to the one enacted by the Chilean military junta in the 1970's,3 the privatisation of government-owned businesses including Telstra, QANTAS and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories; and the corporatisation or privatisation of vital resources: water and power utilities, and of infrastructure normally owned and paid for by taxpayers, such as roads and public transport.

There have also been numerous disposals of public parkland, such as 20 hectare Royal Park in Melbourne, and the massive rezoning to urban of "Green Wedges" (environmentally beneficial low-impact rural and publicly accessible bush and recreational land).4

We have also lost publicly owned state banks, insurance companies, and local, state and national services, including road-making, land-development, public housing construction, the prison system and monopolies on marketing agricultural product - such as in the privatisation of the wheat board.5 The public is the poorer.

We have also seen the imposition of the National Competition Policy on all levels of Government, the forcible amalgamation of local governments, the removal of the rights of local governments (and therefore of residents and citizens) to oppose local housing and other developments,6 the imposition of costly environmentally destructive projects against the wishes of the local communities, the destruction of farmland and bushland to allow the construction of mines, the threatened imposition of a Chinese-style Internet firewall, etc., etc.

Who can argue that these changes have not diminished our democracy?

An elective tyranny

Nicholas Aroney, one of the authors of "Restraining Elective Dictatorship: The upper house solution?" (2008) describes our system, as the title of his book implies, as elective dictatorship7 A more accurate term in 2009 would, perhaps, be elective tyranny.

Amongst the latest examples of the enforcement of "elite as opposed to popular views" is, as mentioned at the start of this article, the Queensland State Government's plan to sell off $15 billion of assets: coal railway lines and the newly built Abbot Point coal loader; ports, tollways and state forests. This fire sale is on top of the already considerable number of publicly owned assets that the ALP dominated Queensland parliament has already allowed to be sold off since first winning office in 1998. This latest "fire sale" has been opposed by between 79% and 84% of Queenslanders according to the Courier-Mail's Galaxy poll.8

The newsmedia still insist that this system that allows our Governments, as a matter of course, to thus "impose elite as opposed to popular views" is democracy.

Why?

Because every three or four years, voters are given a the right to vote out a Government that the majority has judged to have served them poorly and vote in another they hope will do a better job.

There are a number of problems with this.

  1. By the time voters remove a government, much irreversible harm may already have been done.

    Many policies, even if made against the will of the people, will have been locked-in by contracts that typically are difficult or impossible to cancel. For instance, while they were successively in opposition, the NSW Liberal and Labor parties both promised to cancel tollway-construction contracts that governments of the day entered from the late 1980s onwards. Upon winning office however, the new Liberal or Labor government would invariably announce that the financial penalties so-incurred would make breaking the contract impossible.

    It is even harder to reverse privatisations, environmental destruction or population increases.

  2. Even at election times, Governments are rarely held to account by the newsmedia.

    The snap elections of Queensland in March 2009 were a glaring example. Between them, the Labor Party and the media9 literally cheated the Queensland people out of having any say about privatisation at those elections. Having feared this and prepared for it by presenting as a candidate myself, I provided abundant evidence, to the media and to the ABC in particular, that privatisation was a major issue in those elections. Despite my repeated efforts documenting this, the media in question persistently, refused to seriously question the Government on the issue. As a consequence, the Labor Government was returned to office without once having been required to state clearly what its intentions in regard to privatisation were or to justify them.

    The power for an incumbent Government to choose the time of the election can also help it to evade scrutiny. For instance, if the Queensland elections had been held after the publication of the Auditor General's damning reports on Queensland's health10 and transport systems11

    , the Labor Party probably could not have been re-elected.

  3. Alternative candidates not backed by corporate funding are unable to present their views to the public.

    Even though polls taken during the 2009 elections showed that 59% of electors opposed Labor and 59% opposed the Liberal National Party12, the newsmedia refused to give air-time to alternative candidates so that the public could learn of their existence before they got to the ballot box and decide ahead whether or not they deserved their vote.

    Consequently, most voters would have seen no choice except to vote for the lesser of two evils promoted by the media almost as the only two on offer, rather than candidates who, finding Tweedledee and Tweedledum wanting, stood for different policies.

So, even at elections, the rare occasion upon which the public has any opportunity to have any say over the direction of their country, in our mainstream media-captive elections, the mainstream media does not provide the public with a real opportunity to make a properly informed choice. It fails to make public, or to adequately promote, all the available choices.

You would be right to call the media 'anti-choice'.

Decisions between elections

Between elections, the situation becomes immeasurably worse as Governments assume the right to do anything that comes into their heads, which may benefit party investments or may be put to them by corporate lobbyists. Often they act behind closed doors, refusing to answer questions, claiming protection through "in confidence" agreements,

Yes, government decisions don't just fall out of the sky. They are discussed and agreed to behind closed doors by corporate elites and the political parties' negotiators, then they are conveyed to the parliamentary delegates to enact.

For instance, from former Labor Government member Cate Molloy, we know13 that the disastrous and unpopular local government amalgamations enacted in 2007 by Premier Beattie and the then Minister for local Government, Andrew Fraser, and forced upon the people of Queensland, were made at the behest of the Property Council of Australia (PCA). The PCA behaved as if it considered the popular Noosa Shire Council and Douglas Shire Councils, and probably others, as impediments to its plans.

The cost of losing democratic control is already measurable in our environment, quality of life and cost of living

In 2009, as a result of many years of what our anti-choice media continues to call 'democracy', the quality of life of Queenslanders has eroded enormously, whilst the cost of living in terms of housing, food, council rates, water charges, electricity charges, vehicle registration charges, public transport charges, traffic infringement fines, etc. has gone through the roof and is heading towards the stratosphere. Indeed we have no idea where, when, or if ever it will stop. For instance, the Courier Mail story "Monster power price hike" of Friday 18  Dec 09 reports:

The Queensland Competition Authority has just announced a draft decision that would see prices rise by 13.83 per cent between 2009-10 and 2010-11.

The decision would add an additional $276 to the average annual household bill of $2000.

It is the fourth successive jump in electricity costs since the State Government claimed deregulation of the industry would put downward pressure on prices.14

Thus in 2009, the heavy price already paid by Queenslanders for former Premier Peter Beattie's decision - similarly made without their consent - to privatise the retail arm of the state owned electricity utility, continues to climb.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Government seems barely constrained by the breaking of its explicit election-promise to retain the fuel subsidy or the failure to materialise of the 100,000 new jobs it promised at election-time to create.

As with the 2006 privatisation, Queenslanders are today being assured that the fire sale will be for the best. A significant number of respected economists dispute this, however. Among these dissenters are Professor John Quiggin and Professor Bob Walker. Both have written detailed studies which dispute the case for privatisation. Thus far, Andrew Fraser and the Queensland Government have not responded in any written detail to their suggestions.

But why should the people of Queensland have to wait over two more years to remove the Government from office? Why should they be expected to watch passively as a wave of privatisations sets in concrete along with other policies that will further degrade their quality of life and destroy their children's future?

How can citizens assert their right to self-government?

Governments that have betrayed the trust of the public as the Queensland Government has done do not deserve to remain in office. Citizens must somehow establish their constitutional right to force such governments to face new elections.

On 11 December 2009, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper set up online a petition15 which called for the establishment of such a constitutional right in NSW. The petition is:

We, the people, believe the State of NSW is being neglected. The State government has failed to adequately address the crisis in hospitals, public transport, education and housing supply. Continuing factional warfare has paralysed the government. We should not have to wait until March 2011 to exercise our democratic right. To stop this happening again we need a mechanism to call an early election. By supporting this petition, we are calling for a change to the constitution to enable this to happen. We demand a referendum on this at the next State election.

I support the right of the people of NSW to call an early election.

The reasoning in support of this petition seems somewhat flawed. Although the petition calls for a structural change which would improve democratic rights, its reasons are quite undemocratic, for example, the petition's complaint of "Continuing factional warfare has paralysed the government." The article in support of the petition further complains:

The failure to privatise the power industry - an attempt undermined by Labor's union allies - has kept the budget on the edge of crisis.

Taken together, these words essentially parrot the stance of the NSW corporate media including the SMH and the ABC in favour of the privatisation that the Iemma state Labor Government attempted to undemocratically impose, without any electoral mandate, against the wishes of between 79% and 86% of the NSW public and against those of the Labor Party itself.

Whilst the factions in the NSW Labor Party are generally little better than fiefdoms to serve the political aspirations of Labor politicians, Labor apparatchiks and Union officials, at the expense of ordinary Labor Party members, union members and the broader NSW public, there is actually nothing inherently wrong with factions. A faction can also be a vehicle for disaffected rank and file members to regain control of a corrupted organisation. At the least it may provide the means to assert the will of the rank and file on an issue such as privatisation. In the fight against privatisation in 2008, the dominant right wing faction of the Labor Party stood for democracy and the people of NSW against the dominant clique in the NSW Parliamentary Labor Party and the NSW corporate sector. Whatever can be rightly said against that faction, they deserve credit for having taken that stance and not to have been pilloried16 for that.

If there is anything worse than factional in-fighting, it would be the uncritical conformity and discipline that Premier Morris Iemma attempted somewhat unsuccessfully to inculcate in Labor MPs who were resolved to vote against privatisation in 2008.

Such an implicit condemnation in principle of a sometimes necessary vehicle in democracy should not be found within a petition calling for democratic reform.

It seems likely that media moguls think that they would be able to persuade the public to vote out governments which fail to do what the corporate sector and its media-mouthpiece demand.17 We should keep this in mind, whilst remembering that the media already run Australia's political show, so we still will gain by increasing our power through election referenda.

The petition therefore deserves the enthusiastic support of NSW residents despite its corporate baggage.

Your support for on-line petition, calling for resignation of Queensland Government and new elections, needed

In Queensland, I have set up a Queensland Parliamentary e-petition, on the e-petition page, sponsored by Independent Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Dorothy Pratt. This petition takes a more direct approach than the NSW one and simply calls for the government to resign and for new elections. It does not also address the constitutional question that the SMH petition addresses. This is partly due to the 250 word-limit rule on both petition and preamble. Future petitions might address the question of citizens' referenda separately.

Meanwhile here are the words of the petition calling for the resignation of the Queensland government:

TO: The Honourable Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland

Queensland citizens draws to the attention of the House the Queensland public, the rightful owners of $15 billion worth of assets which are to be sold, were denied any say over this because of the failure of the Queensland government to reveal those plans during the course of the elections. We consider the stated intention of the government to proceed with the sale in the face of opinion polls, which show at least 80% public opposition, to be amongst the most serious breaches of public trust imaginable.

Your petitioners, therefore, request the House to call upon the Queensland Government to resign immediately to give the Queensland public a chance to elect a new Government which can gain its trust. Your petitioners also warn any private investors considering buying the assets, not to do so and call upon a future State government which does enjoy the trust and confidence of the Queensland people not to honour any such contracts for the sale of assets.

What can this petition hope to achieve?

Queenslanders were outraged at the announcement of the $15 billion fire sale and the breaking of an explicit promise to retain the state fuel subsidy. The government responded to this by claiming that it had sought and received a mandate to take whatever tough measures it deemed necessary to get Queensland through the Global Financial Crisis. As put by Treasurer Andrew Fraser to me during the course of an interview on Sunday 29 November, 2009:

Well, as I said really clearly during the election campaign ... there were going to be tough choices that we had to face, and we've had to face those.18

Andrew Fraser's apparent interpretation that, by voting the government back in, Queenslanders were giving it a blank cheque to flog off their assets came as a shock to many Queenslanders, 72% of whom in a Courier Mail Galaxy poll said they believed that the Labor Party had lied about its privatisation intentions.19

The simple fact is that the Queensland Government would not even be in office today if it had given to the Queensland public any hint that an asset fire sale was a possibility,20 or if it had not promised to retain the state fuel subsidy.21

As such, the people of Queensland are entitled to view the Government itself as illegitimate and should say so at every possible opportunity, such as the one which this petition provides.

If this petition were to be supported by large numbers of Queensland citizens it could be a powerful demonstration that of their rejection of Bligh's and Fraser's implied rationale for proceeding with the fire sale in defiance of their clear wishes. It would be a clear message that it is wrong for the Queensland government to pretend that they somehow know better what is good for Queenslanders than Queenslanders do. It would show that Queensland voters expect to be asked about hard decisions and to have a full range of options considered, contrary to the implication that, deep down a childlike public wants the Government to proceed in an authoritarian way.

If the many Queenslanders enraged by this Government's high handed arrogance become aware of this petition, there should be no reason why it would not attract at least as much support as any other petition thus far, at the bare minimum. Whilst it is difficult to be able to predict just how many will eventually sign, the order of at least 100,000 signatures should be achievable.

To make this happen, a lot of people will need to sign the petition themselves and to make efforts to contact other people who they know are likely to want to sign.

Those in a position to help make this happen include:

  • Independent members of the Queensland Legislative Assembly (MLA's)
  • Liberal National Party MLA's
  • Local Government Councillors
  • Trade Unionists
  • The Greens Party
  • Other political parties such as the New Australia Party, the Democratic Labor Party, Australia First, etc.
  • Environmental organisations
  • Grass roots community groups fighting environmentally destructive infrastructure or mining such as the Save the Mary River Coalition, the Stop the Hale Street Bridge Group, Friends of Felton.
  • Scientists and other public servants fighting to save their jobs from this Government's short sighted budgetary cutbacks.22

Of course even if every voter in Queensland, who is not a member of the State Parliamentary Labor caucus, were to sign this petition, no constitutional requirement exists as yet to make the Government carry out the petition's request.

History has shown, however, that it is difficult for any Government to continue to act in defiance of an effective grass-roots political movement such as that which could emerge from this campaign if backed by the weight of massive public opinion.

Why Labor Party members and trade unionists should sign the petition

Whilst Labor party members and trade unionists are as disgusted as the rest of Queensland with the fire sale, some are, nevertheless, unwilling to do anything that might entail the removal of the Bligh Government from office. They feel this way in spite of the large hoardings all over Queensland denouncing the Labor Government's betrayal of working people.

This reluctance is partly understandable for a number of reasons. The memory of the Federal Howard Government, the record of some extremely reactionary Liberal National coalition governments in other states holds them back. They may also not be altogether convinced that the LNP, in Government, would reverse privatisation.

They should still ask themselves: What possible good can come from the perpetuation of the misrule of the Bligh Government? They need to ask: When only two Labor Parliamentarians voted against privatisation inside Parliamentary caucus, where they are entitled to freely express their views and vote whichever way they choose, in early June, what possible good can come out of such a caucus? Yes, only two Labor caucus members voted against privatisation23 even though the Government had no electoral mandate whatsoever for privatisation, 84% of Queenslanders opposed it, and it was against the Labor Party's own platform.

Again I ask, what good is such a caucus?

If the government manages somehow to scrape back into power in 2012, it will almost certainly claim to have been vindicated and feel emboldened to do even worse. What then will be safe in Queensland?

If the government is thrown out, despite continuing Labor Party member and trade union support, those supporters are likely to be seriously scapegoated (through savage industrial legislation and discriminatory electorate funding) just as the incoming Howard Government was able to scapegoat and victimise much of Labor's constituency upon winning office in 1996. This is likely to happen because they will be seen to have supported a rotten and unpopular government, through blind obedience or a pathetic desire to retain eroding positions of government influence.24

Because of the cowardice of the majority of delegates at the Queen's Birthday weekend Labor Party conference, who voted to support privatisation,25 formal Labor Party avenues to rectify the situation have now been closed off. Other practical alternatives need now to be found.

What are the risks?

If the elections to be held were fair, unlike those of March 2009, in which the ABC and the corporate media deliberately censored news of alternatives to the major candidates, there is every chance that the new Parliament would contain a large number of Independents, Greens and representatives from other minor parties, who would be able to wield considerable influence.

An outcome which also seems possible is a Parliament in which the Liberal National Party might comprise an outright majority.

It can't be be known for certain whether such a government would not turn out to be in the mould of an extreme, "Shock Doctrine" style government similar, for example, to that of Jeff Kennett's, which ruled Victoria from 1992 until 1999, rather than one merely governing in the public interest within the constraints of its electoral mandate.

How can the risks be mitigated?

Even if the worst fears were realised, the precedent established by the removal of the Labor Government would be every bit as applicable to an LNP Government, the moment it was seen to have exceeded its electoral mandate.

Whatever the outcome, the known risks for Queenslanders in meekly acquiescing to the dictatorial misrule of the Bligh Government are greater than the risks of the unknown, as I have argued above.

In all likelihood, removal of the despised Government of Premier Anna Bligh would be the first step on the road to politicians becoming, once again, the servants of ordinary people, instead of the other way around.

Further steps along that road, would include making a change to the constitution to formally incorporate the right of citizens to recall unsatisfactory elected representatives, as is now being sought in NSW (see above) and the enactment of laws that enshrined the right of ordinary citizens, upon demonstrating a threshold of support in the community for a proposal for a legislative change, to initiate a binding referendum. These measures would comprise strong safeguards against politicians ever being able to abuse their office in the way that the Queensland Government is doing today.

A grass-roots political movement (perhaps not altogether dissimilar to that which let to the formation of the original Australian Labor Party in the 1890's, before it become so thoroughly corrupted by the influence the wealthy corporate benefactors and, more recently, private party investments26) could help propel that process forward.

What you can do

  • If you are Queensland citizen, please sign this petition yourself without delay. The sooner you sign it, the more others will feel encouraged also to sign. It will be active until 2 March 2010.

  • If you are a New South Wales citizen, please sign this petition. It is important that you do so, without delay as the close-of day has not been specified. It appears to have been set up on or before 11 Dec 09. When signing, please be mindful of the unfortunate anti-democratic baggage contained in it, as discussed above.

  • Tell others about the petition and urge them to sign. Please send e-mails containing this article or links to this article and a link to the petitions.

  • Publish this article on your web site, or post links to this article and to the online petitions.

  • Post links to the article and the online petitions to mailing lists and to online forums.

  • Write letters to the paper in support of this petition.

  • Phone radio talkback shows to announce this petition.

  • Post your own thoughts about these petitions, whether wholly supportive or critical.

See also: Murdoch media contradicts itself on immigration of 18 Feb 09

Footnotes

1. Cited in Overloading Australia (2009) by Mark O'Connor and William Lines, p186. Cited earlier in This Tired Brown Land (1998), p179. From "This Tired Brown Land":

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke boasted at the Bureau of Immigration Research's National Outlook Conference in Brisbane in 1993 that his government had enforced "elite as opposed to popular views on immigration." By "elite" he did not mean "expert", for, as explained in a previous chapter, he had ignored advice not only from the Australian Academy of Science and CSIRO, but also from the government's two main sources of economic advice, Treasury and EPAC. By 'elite' he was referring to the bipartisan political support for high-immigration that existed in Australia throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s, supported by large sections of the media -- especially by most of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation -- and by most of the public service and the most tertiary teachers.

2. ↑ See, for instance: "Review of ABC 7.30 Report on Australia's steeply rising population" of 13 Oct 09, "Bernard Salt on the Population 'debate'" of 10 Oct 09, "Concerns about the Age, the Australian and the ABC censoring population debate" of 14 Dec 09, "Growing population calls for big picture focus" - Democracy, immigration and the politics of the Age Newspaper" of 12 Feb 09.

3. In "Australia's neoliberal path" (p3) in Dissent Magazine number 23 of Autumn/Winter 2007, Kenneth Davidson writes:

A major 'reform' imposed on Chile on the advice of the 'Chicago Boys' was the privatisation of public pensions, which was replaced by privatised superannuation (adopted in Australia in 1986, proposed by President George W. Bush in 2004 and rejected by a Republican-controlled Congress).

4. See articles grouped by the tag "Protectors of Public Lands" at http://candobetter.org/taxonomy/term/1231 .

5. See "Why privatisation is wrong" of 10 May 08.

6. See "Bligh Government tramples on community rights to impose over-development" of 11 Jun 08.

7. See transcript of The National Interest story "Upper houses: relics or champions of democracy?" of 20 Mar 09.

8. At least three polls of public opinion have been taken by the Courier-Mail's Galaxy Poll. The first two both showed 84% opposition. The first poll was reported in the Courier-Mail story "Voters believe Bligh lied before election" of 19 Jun 09. A subsequent poll reported in "Queensland anger over Anna Bligh's asset sale on the wane" of 3 Dec 09 showed that this opposition had dropped by 5% top a still overwhelming 79%. I wrote of this in my article "Courier Mail spins news of 79% opposition to fire sale to reveal its privatisation colours" of 11 Dec 09.

9. The LNP's record was also questionable as I reported in my articles "Independent candidate seeks categorical assurance against privatisation" of 11 Mar 09 and "Media release: Lawrence Springborg out of step with the public on privatisation" of 20 Mar 09.

However, since the elections, the LNP under its new leader John-Paul Langbroek have consistently argued against privatisation. However, the fact that one of their stated reasons for opposing the fire sale is that they don't think that assets should be sold when the market is depressed could leave the door open for that policy to be changed in future. Conversely, the fact that a Courier-Mail article in December or November by Paul Williams exhorted John-Paul Langbroek to abandon his naive 'idealism' is a clue that it is by no means assured that the LNP will reverse its current stance against privatisation. Moreover they appear to be vastly more responsive to the will of their constituencies, who are opposed to privatisation, than are the Labor Party MLA's. On at least one occasion that was barely reported in the media, John Paul-Langbroek called upon the Government to put the question of privatisation to the people of Queensland.

10. See "Auditor questions hospitals' patient flow system" by Petrina Berry in the Brisbane Times of 29 Jul 09. Download report (PDF, 647K) and executive summary (PDF 310K) from http://www.qao.qld.gov.au/pages/publications/pub_ag.html.

11. See "South-East Queensland transport planning in disarray" by Daniel Hurst and Tony Moore in the Brisbane Times of 23 Jun 09. Download report (PDF, 534K) and executive summary (PDF 285K) from http://www.qao.qld.gov.au/pages/publications/pub_ag.html.

12. The first Galaxy poll was reported very early in the campaign, whilst the second was reported on the 20th March, the day before, the election from my recollection.

13. "Cate Molloy : Forced council amalgamations planned by Property Council of Australia" of 7 Sep 07.

14. "Monster power price hike" in the Courier-Mail of Friday 18 Dec 09.

15. The petition is at http://polls.smh.com.au/index.php?sid=36127&lang=en. The article in support of the petition is "It's time the people of NSW were heard" in the SMH of 11 Dec 09.

16. The Four Corners program "Off the Rails", whilst providing a useful account of the mismanagement of the public transport system by the NSW Labor Government, inexplicably and falsely blamed that on its decision not to privatise the publicly owned electricity generating assets. This is explicitly stated in the promotion for that program:

When talking with Labor insiders, Wendy discovers that this latest project is simply the end game in a bitter battle waged over the past ten years between Labor's MPs and the union dominated party machine.

In that decade two Premiers, who wanted to sell public assets to provide decent public transport, have been sacrificed so that union leaders could protect their members' jobs and their own political power. Meanwhile, major tracts of Sydney's west go without adequate public transport.

Another example of the ABC parroting the corporate media view on privatisation is described in the story "ABC gives free kick to Iemma, NSW electricity privatisation" of 21 Jul 08.

17. One famous attempt to use recall provisions to oust Governments which are genuinely acting in the interests of the people and not corporations is the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to recall Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez. One successful recall attempt which appeared to have been inspired by corporate interests, in this case Enron, was the Californian recall election of 2003, which removed sitting Governor Gray Davis and allowed Arnold Schwarzenegger to come to office. In spite of these examples, the right to recall still seems far more likely to strengthen the hands of ordinary citizens against corporations that the reverse.

18. "Anti-privatisation candidate confronts Queensland Treasurer" (updated) of 2 Jan 09.

19. "Voters believe Bligh lied before election" in the Courier-Mail of 19 Jun 09. I initially wrote 66%. This is the figure I used in the interview with Andrew Fraser, referred to in (18). The Courier-Mail article, which refers to the Galaxy Poll, says 72%.

20. As mentioned above, it was not clear during the course of the election campaign that the LNP was opposed to privatisation. However, in the unlikely event that the LNP as well as Labor explicitly endorsed privatisation, voters would have flocked to the Greens and Independents. On top of that there would have been a huge outcry against privatisation from much of the LNP's own rural base of support, who are at least as much opposed to privatisation as ordinary Labor supporters. The very best that Labor could have hoped for in these circumstances would have been to able to form a minority Government dependent upon the votes of a large number of Greens and Independent MPs. Had the LNP opposed privatisation there would have been a landslide against Labor.

21. In fact, in the light of looming petroleum depletion, a case can be made for abolishing fuel subsidies, in order to encourage business and private individuals to limit the rate at which they consume petroleum in their day to day activities. The Queensland Government has not made this case, however. Instead it has committed public funding to costly, impractical and unsustainable infrastructure that will increase both population and car dependency. However, whatever the reasons for the scrapping of the subsidy were, they should have been put during the course of the elections.

22. An example is the 40 workers at the Leslie Research Centre whose jobs were axed in December. After years of running down its once world-leading agricultural research facilities, the Government of the "Smart State" decided just before Christmas to close down the Leslie Research Centre in Toowoomba, together with irreplaceable staff with many years training and experience. Stories about this include: "Primary industries staff won't be sacked: minister" in the Brisbane Times of 21 Dec 09, "Aussie ag 'losing edge'" by Peter Hunter in the the Weekly Times Now of 30 Dec 09, "Foundation cries foul over sale" in the Toowoomba Chronicle of 1 Oct 09.

23. "Only two Labor MPs -- Jo-Ann Miller and Evan Moorhead -- are believed to have voted against the plan,..." from "Premier defies angry backlash over assets sale" in the Courier-Mail of 2 Jun 09.

24. A lot of letters and online comments against privatisation, in fact, proffer the solution of savagely cutting back on employment in the public service. A number have expressed disgust at the refusal of Trade Unions claiming opposition to privatisation yet failing to seriously oppose the Bligh Government on this matter.

25. "Delegates give green light to push ahead with $15b sale" in the Courier-Mail of 7 Jun 09, "ALP conference gives Bligh an ovation" in the Age of 7 Jun 09, "Electricians split from Labor left over asset sell-off" in the Brisbane Times of 10 Jun 09, "Documents are real eye-openers" in the Gladstone Observer of 21 Jul 09.

At the conference 44 delegates from unions claiming to be opposed to privatisation abstained from the critical vote. If those 44 votes had been added to the 156 votes against privatisation, the vote would still have been 207 to 200 in favour of privatisation. However, the abovementioned story in the Gladstone Observer reports that three delegates from the Gladstone branch, which was opposed to privatisation, voted for privatisation on the floor of the conference. If they had voted against privatisation, the majority would only have been 204 to 203.

How many other votes that made up the pro-privatisation majority would have similarly been cast by delegates against the wishes of branch members?

In any case, if the vote had truly represented the views of unionists and rank and file Labor Party members supposedly represented by the delegates, the vote would have been overwhelmingly against. As an example, it seems inconceivable that a majority of members of the Australian Workers Union, which voted as a bloc for privatisation, would have been in favour of privatisation.

26. See "John-Paul Langbroek and why the Liberal National Party won't survive unless Labor Governments reform" of 4 Dec 09.

Comments

Queensland's economy is fifth against other states and territories. CommSec's State of the States report, released 11 January, ranked Australia's best performing economies according to eight key indicators. It awarded a joint first place to the ACT, then WA, SA and then Queensland.

The company's latest state and territory economic rankings show New South Wales continues to be the poorest performer. Its unemployment rate of 5.9 per cent sitting almost 9 per cent above the decade-average of 5.4 per cent.
The survey found economic growth has slowed in Queensland in the last 12 months, due to companies mothballing new projects. Interesting, consider Queensland's growth in population!

Three months ago, Tasmania was judged the best performing economy in Australia, from South Australia and Western Australia. In Tasmania annual population growth stands at 1.0 per cent, the fastest in four years. Tasmania and SA have been called "stagnant" in the past due to slower population growth.

The smaller states and territories are the major winners in the job stakes.
Mining-related construction and investments have driven Western Australia up to the top ranking in CommSec's quarterly report.

Population growth is fastest in Western Australia (3.0 per cent) followed by Queensland (2.6 per cent). But both states have been consistently leading the rest of the nation, especially over the past three years.

According to the report: The ACT and Tasmania have been insulated from the US financial crisis, but momentum has returned to Western Australia in response to the strong recovery of the Chinese economy.

See article in SMH:
"Reality check on growth" by Bob Birrell.
Projections of 35 million people by 2050 deflate under closer analysis.
My opinion is that it will be damaging on both fronts. (quality of life and environmental damage). A more interesting question is: where does the 35 million projection come from and why is there such widespread acceptance within government and business circles that it is inevitable?

As a result, some 85 per cent of the projected growth from 22 million today to 35 million will derive from net overseas migration (including children born to migrants once in Australia).

The top ten nations in the world for GDP, with the exception of the USA, all have smaller populations than Australia.

Why the drive for population growth when economic statistics, environmental implications and costs, and public opinion, don't support it?