Category: NSW Labor

O’Farrell Bypasses Scientific Advice to Approve Coal Seam Gas Licenses

 The O’Farrell Government’s draft strategic land use policy gives Ministers the power to bypass independent scientific panels and approve Coal Seam Gas extraction licenses in secret at the cabinet table, the NSW Labor Opposition said today.

“The O’Farrell Government’s draft strategic land use policy gives politicians the power to green light Coal Seam Gas extraction licenses, regardless of how close they are to homes and prime agricultural land,” Opposition Leader, John Robertson said today.

“Cabinet may declare a project to be an exceptional circumstance project if the subject resource is of exceptional value to the state. For an exceptional circumstance project, the requirement for a gateway certificate would not apply.”

(p86, New England North West and Upper Hunter Draft Strategic Regional Land Use Plan)

“Under this new policy, Ministers would be given the power to bypass independent approval requirements if the Coal Seam Gas project had ‘exceptional value’,” Mr Robertson said.

“This strategy is not what the people of NSW were led to believe would occur prior to the election.

“This sneaky addition on page 86 flies in the face of the O’Farrell Government’s commitment to having independent panels scrutinising Coal Seam Gas license approvals.

“The O’Farrell Government is politicising the Coal Seam Gas industry approvals process and offering no protection to areas with ‘high value’ projects nearby.

“Even the Government’s own aquifer interference policy will allow Coal Seam Gas pilot or test wells to operate for years before an aquifer license would be required.

“While elements of this policy are positive, the fact restrictions would only occur in the extraction process and not the lengthy exploration period beforehand would still allow significant damage to potentially occur.

“The O’Farrell Government needs to adopt Labor’s policy to suspend all current Coal Seam Gas exploration licenses and cease issuing new extraction licenses to protect the State’s aquifers and water resources.

“Until a water-tight regulatory framework is in place based on independent scientific research and conclusive evidence, we should not be allowing Coal Seam Gas mining to proceed unabated.

“Instead of sneakily giving itself the power to approve major Coal Seam Gas projects under the cover of darkness, the O’Farrell Government needs to act now to protect our precious ground water resources.”

The Carr that skittled Kevin

by Richard Laidlaw

Appointing Bob Carr as foreign minister-designate – ahead of the New South Wales parliament formally electing him to the vacancy caused by the unexpected departure of no longer faceless man Mark Arbib – may be just what Prime Minister Julia Gillard needed as a circuit-breaker.

There are certainly signs the Liberal opposition thinks so (along with such parts of the National Party as are able to think further than the brims of their hats); its confected incandescence over the Rudd non-coup and Labor brawling show that very clearly.

Two things emerge immediately from the Carr appointment. The first is that Gillard has finally (albeit messily as usual) stamped her authority as leader on something of moment. Many commentators have already noted this. The second is that Carr neutralises – though neuters may be the better term – Rudd as an alternative foreign affairs voice, again something that other commentators have noted. Both these outcomes are beneficial for Gillard and Labor. It remains to be seen whether benefit then flows on to governance or indeed to Australia’s foreign representation.

It is in the chaotic workings of the law of unintended consequences, however, that longer-term questions arise over the events of the past week. Tony Abbott’s charge for The Lodge 2013 has not yet been officially dented – we’ll have to see several sequential opinion polls for any real assessment there – but there’s no denying that a working Labor government would claw things back to a very contestable margin at the next election.

Gillard’s image is tarnished. The manner of her 2010 coup against Rudd, his devious behaviour and disloyalty since, and the marginal outcome of the 2011 election, would have taken the shine off any prime minister. The fact that until now Gillard has looked like a leader only by power-dressing – overcooked events at the Lobby restaurant in Canberra on Australia Day aside – hasn’t helped.

Rudd has now been very effectively sidelined. Well, no: actually he sidelined himself, the victim of his own unbridled hubris and self-image. He won’t be back in the medium term, if ever. The drubbing he got last week speaks volumes. If there’s a future challenger this term, it’s unlikely to be him. He may remain the member for Griffith. But as that old scoundrel Graham Richardson said during the week on Sky TV – who cares what Rudd thinks; and he might usefully have added, or does.

If Gillard does get her act together the focus will rightly turn onto Abbott and his credentials as alternative Australian prime minister. Other than for agenda-setters on The Australian newspaper and some of the tabloid TV channels, this is where it should be.

It is not true to say – as Labor trolls in the all-pervasive social media continuously assert – that Abbott is unfit to govern. He does have policies (some of them are execrable but that’s another issue, especially for traditional small-l Liberals) and he does have a working team. It would be folly to assume an incoming Liberal-National government would be train-wreckers in disguise. That’s just what people on opposite sides in politics say about each other.

Labor hasn’t been a wrecker in office since 2007 (well Rudd was, but he is now his own problem) and no one able to see out of the political prism would suggest it has. It hasn’t been very good at governing, but – again – that was a situation wrought upon Labor by the 2010 election. Bob Brown’s a pleasant fellow, but he’s never easy to work with and he has his own politics to consider – continuing to grow the Green vote. The independents are relevant only on the numbers in the present parliament. A fresh election, in all the new circumstances, might well sort them out.

Abbott articulates an argument that is specifically designed for opposition. He does it very well, although he’s had a lot of stumble-footed help from the government to push along his argument that Labor’s a dog. That’s essentially his job, until an election comes along and he has to say what he’ll do instead of just what the other side should do. It’s worked for him as leader, in the opinion polls. But effectively they don’t count, other than as material likely to cause euphoria on one side and indigestion on the other. The reality is that on Election Day – in the only poll that really counts – the margins are likely to be far tighter than public opinion sampling has previously indicated. Abbott knows this as well as anyone.

And that’s his real dilemma. If Gillard’s a dud – his continual assertion – and remains so, Labor will ultimately fix its own problem. It won’t do so by drafting Rudd: he’s killed his own chances. If on the other hand Gillard does now actually get it – if she can lead without internal distractions and with the real support of all her colleagues – and public opinion (as gauged) begins to swing Labor’s way, Abbott’s in trouble.

He’s a combative character (he’s an engaging one too, in private) with views that he articulates well but which are not necessarily those of a swinging voter, or even of many small-l Liberals. It’s not just that his frequent macho war-cry is tedious to most people, or that he and his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison shamelessly beat the jingoistic drum on illegal boat arrivals.

His problem seems to be that from time to time he’s confused as to whether he’s leading Opus Dei or the Australian opposition.

It’s possible to be an abortion sceptic, if you remember to couch that scepticism in line with the fact that half the people you want to vote for you are women whose views on pregnancy termination are rather more important than those of men. And that they are largely the opposite of yours.

It is permissible to be out of step with the global scientific community on global warming, but it’s not wise to then let the view grow, among those whose urban votes you wish to attract, that therefore no one need worry overmuch about cleaning up the atmosphere.

It is conceivable that many Australians support the philosophic concept of cutting back on welfare. But that, in the smugly self-indulged society that is today’s Australia, would be a very brave call indeed.

It is possible to believe that wages – real or relative – should be cut to fuel productivity improvements, but that may be rather more of a Luddite position than most 21st century Australian voters accept is feasible or proper.

Abbott is unchallenged. But he is not unchallengeable, especially if the polls start flowing Labor’s way. That may be the ultimate result if Gillard now gets down to the real work.

Richard Laidlaw is a former Queensland journalist and political adviser who now mostly lives in Indonesia. He blogs at www.8degreesoflatitude.wordpress.com and can be contacted by email at richardlaidlaw1944@gmail.com.

First published in On Line Opinion.

 

Top 10 actions showing the O’Farrell Government cannot be trusted

This month will be 12 months since the election of the O’Farrell government.

These are the top 10 actions that have demonstrated to me why the O’Farrell government cares little for the most vulnerable and cannot be trusted:

  1. Cuts to allowances for foster carers who adopt kids in their care and the ridiculous and uncaring proposal to make foster kids pay rent to their foster carers once they turn 16;
  2. Cuts to vision care so that 26,000 pensioners will not be able to access free glasses;
  3. Clawing back $618 per year from pensioners in public housing by taking the income from the federal Labor government’s pension rise;
  4. An ongoing attack on workers via changes to industrial relations laws, capping wage increases below inflation, changes to police death and disability cover, watering down of OH&S legislation, changing electoral laws to shut down the voice of workers and other not for profit organisations and signs that there is more to come;
  5. The negligence shown by the Education Minister that left hundred of kids with disabilities and their families stranded at the side of the road when the Department of Education failed to organise transport for them;
  6. Opening up NSW to uranium exploration;
  7. Breaking their election promise to replace unflued gas heaters in schools around the state – even though the government knows these are dangerous for students;
  8. Joining forces with Fred Nile to have an inquiry into school ethics classes after promising that they would be retained;
  9. Raising public transport fares above inflation at the same time lying about the impact of carbon pricing on public transport; and
  10. Introducing fees for public preschools.

We don’t have a day to lose: Julia Gillard

I’m sure you’ll have closely followed the leadership election.

I share the frustration of many Labor Party members when you see the Party turning inwards.

Well yesterday we put that behind us. I received the overwhelming support of my colleagues to continue as Labor’s Leader and as Prime Minister.  I thank them for their faith in me and my capacity to lead the nation.

Members of the ALP are passionate people – it’s because we have a great cause. And that is the welfare and the well-being of our great country.

Our determination to build a stronger and fairer Australia could not be greater – and ultimately, that outweighs everything else.

For the record, I would like to acknowledge the many achievements of Kevin Rudd as a former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

We must honour without reservation Kevin’s leadership during the global financial crisis, his proud achievements for reconciliation, his strong advocacy for his nation on the world stage and so much more.

As we face the future, I accept there are things I need to do better.

The fact is that while good policy stands on its own, the job of governments is to strongly advocate for that policy, to strongly advocate for change.  And we need to do that better – to make the case, to explain it fully, to connect each of our reforms to our vision for Australia. 

I don’t have a defeatist bone in my body and I know that if we unite and work hard we will win in 2013 and entrench our reforms.

I know there’s a lot of work to do to convince the Australian people that we’re on track.

And we all understand that we don’t have a day to lose.

My commitment to you as ALP members is to continue to be guided by what is right for the country – not newspaper polls; to govern for working people first; to ensure they’re the biggest beneficiaries of our strong economy – and not just the fortunate few.

Above all, to keep on getting things done in the interests of working Australians.

Words are important, but action is even more so. I’m proud of what my government has delivered, but I’m not satisfied.

Because there’s so much more to do.

This year we will be moving on with our agenda.  Rolling out the National Broadband Network.  Putting a price on carbon and building a clean energy economy.  Introducing new ideas for schools. Helping workers who need new skills.  And taking the next steps in introducing a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I look forward to your ongoing support and involvement as we continue with our great objective.

Julia Gillard
Prime Minister

 

Case Studies of Reform

by Bob Carr

 

Speaking toCanberra public servants this week I discussed three case studies of reform from 1995-2005 in NSW state government. They were: turning the NSW police force from a poorly performing, corruption-prone police force into a professionally-performing, corruption-resistant police force; wiping out the rorts of plaintiff lawyers in tort law to increase payments to the injured; and restructuring forestry to secure jobs in a reformed timber industry but also declare 350 new National Parks.

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Progressing the Social Democratic Agenda