Thursday, July 18, 2013

it snucked up outa nowhere

Qu’est ce que c’est, this local government referendum? Apart from doomed? [I hope]

There have been many times I’ve disengaged from the world and its politics – including once not even knowing I was supposed to vote and had a chance to give Jeff the proverbial pencilled finger – but I thought I’d been living in the real world most of the time recently until I heard this referendum was on the agenda.

Perhaps “reffo” would be a better name than “referendum”, given how much these proposals have been appreciated over the years.

By now I guess my regular visitors can predict how I feel about this – you know, blah blah, the constitution is rubbish, this would just make it worse, we need clarity about who is responsible for what so we can have some accountability. Just who “runs” this country – I hear you ask – the feds or the states? Is this proposal to recognise local government just another way for the feds to divide and conquer and blackmail states when making tied budget allocations? Is there some other point to it? Is there any point at all?

Which brings me to a related point, which is the point of accountability. Apart from the possibility of losing votes, just how accountable are politicians to voters? SFA, if you ask me.

A vote is not something a politician “buys” or is rewarded with because what they are selling has merit. If I don’t want to buy a TV from Harv, I can hang on to my money and go without. I don’t have to have a tele if I don’t want one. Too bad if I don’t want to buy a politician, though. The free market analogy just doesn’t apply.

Let’s start with this whole ‘private enterprise is more efficient’ porky. No, it’s not “the dog’s bollocks” as Grace would put it, it’s just bollocks. I’m sure I read somewhere, at least once, that a privately owned business went broke. It can happen.

Do we have to even ask “more efficient than what”? No, agree or disagree, most will infer that the “what” is the “public service”.

Having never been able to keep a job seen the workings of many organisations – both private and public – from the inside over the years, I can assure you that neither sector has a monopoly on waste or stupidity. The story of CY O’Connor has everything in it we need to know about public service, private enterprise, and the non-accountability [i.e. self-interest] of politicians.

Every time the public service shrinks or the functions of a department are sold off to a “preferred” operator, we lose good people along with the bad. We lose the experience and insight and skills of people who have often lived through several changes of management policies, and have a jolly good idea of which policy worked best.

I would not dream of suggesting everything is being privatised because favours are being swapped like some kind of Clayton’s bribes.

My second gripe point is that things are being privatised because politicians find this yet another useful way of distancing themselves further and further from accountability.
Privatisation has two components, not just one. Yes, first there’s Mr Moneybags, or Ms Greed is Good, and everyone benefits if I want to make a profit. 
Secondly, we must have an independent authority/ watchdog/ ombudsman/ commissioner to protect our good citizens if Mr Moneybags or Ms Greed is Good try to make a profit unfairly. To these independent watchdogs our governments delegate authority to make laws, by-laws, rules, regulations and value judgments as they see fit.
The independent authority is the public service you get when you don't have a public service.

One might be tempted to think that recipients of government money [rather than public servants] make laws just to justify their existence.

These authorities might, in some cases, protect our good citizens as well as politicians, and privatisation might even save money – but not until the authority is established.

There will, of course, be a head-hunting fee to pay when we choose an overpriced expert to head the authority – preferably someone from overseas who would be happy to get a 457 visa and work for $2 an hour. The authority will then lease a couple of floors in a nice privately owned corporate tower; it has to be nice or no one will take the authority seriously. The leased space must then be furnished [seriously] before the fun begins … chewing up the whole of the authority’s budget hiring people to run it and create policies and procedures… only to have the whole lot dismantled 12 months later when there is a change of government. [Or, worse than that, it doesn’t get dismantled and we are told we are well protected and it was the other party’s fault anyway.]
This expensive process of getting ready to begin starting when commencement is appropriate could not possibly be worse than a traditional public service. Could it?

Politicians are no longer accountable for the laws they pass because they even pass the buck on passing laws. This is democracy with six degrees of separation.
Two faced. They gets you coming and gets you going.
A contemporary rendition of the god - oddly enough -
known to the Romans as Janus

Personally, I think cyclists who zoom in and out of crowded pedestrian spaces with no thought that they might bump into an elderly or frail person or just scare them to death ought to be locked up and fed sweated-lycra omelets for life.

If pressed, I could probably think up a few more things that shit me and punishments that might be appropriate. But if I had to choose, to live in a nanny state or to not live in a nanny state, I would prefer the second option. Would this make me an anarchist? [Does the split infinitive in this paragraph make me an anarchist?] Should I be handed an on the spot fine [guilty with no presumption of innocence] every time I so much as risk offending someone?

I would like to think that if we had less rules, people would start taking responsibility for their actions just cause they should. Instead of saying “they [i.e. the gov’nmint] should do something about it” people might start considering each other instead of just focusing on whether selfishness is legal or not in this or that case.

Local governments – like state governments, federal governments, independent authorities and electrical goods retailers – are all about “whatever works, whatever the cost” and demonstrating by their words and actions just what they think of the citizenry.

One thing we can be sure of - these laws and by-laws are the worst form of bullying. The big guys are free to build entire suburbs without providing any infrastructure at all... but by golly if you are just a teeny, vulnerable little pleb, don't do anything the tiniest bit "wrong".

Hundreds of councils around the country provide [admittedly exacting] guidelines for the installation of artificial turf on kerbs, but not where these good citizens live. They had the good sense to "plant" some artificial turf on their nature strip but the council declared it was a tripping hazard and gave them the "threat, threat, threat" treatment.

Wot, me vote to provide constitutional recognition of even more dickheadedness? They should save the money this reffo on local governments will cost and give it to someone who would kill for a nice, comfortable piece of artificial turf to sleep on.


  1. Hear Hear dear Fruity. None of us disagrees.
    A vote, any vote, is, as you say,'a vote for dickheadedness'. I despair. That 'Constitution' we have, does not give us the right of free speech by the way. I intend to put aside all other factors about him/JA, and vote WikiLeaks Party in our Senate, just to inform by numbers The Rudd and Tony Show how many of us support some honesty and information. They don't want us to even think about Pine Gap and we cannot go within SEVEN miles of it. The hypocrites.

    I hope you feel better now. Your post goes under the category of 'I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in'.
    X X

    1. I do feel much more betterer now, TY.

      What, I wonder, is the greater sign of electorate disenchantment... informal votes, or the number of candidates?

      I resent the horse-trading of preferences facilitated by above the line voting, and I resent the disenfranchisement of those who get lost trying to number each of 5 million below the line boxes in the preferred sequence without making a mistake. Why in heavens name the numbers 1 to 10 will not suffice for fed elections is beyond me.

      Naturally, fluctuations in the level of informal votes is always blamed on voter confusion. Any alternative interpretation would require acceptance of responsibility.

  2. Sadly, holding a referendum; changing definitions (that by default change statistics); setting up an enquiry; hiring consultants; and telling people what you're doing at such tedious length there's no time left to actually do anything is what passes for 'action' these days. Actually doing something is a lost art ...

    1. I hope the name Red is only coincidentally associated with the rags one waves to provoke a furious response! I could soooooo go on about statistics.
      As for the telling people what you're doing part, yep, there is definitely a reason the expression "quiet achiever" is taken to be a compliment. [Now that we have forgotten the despicable corp. that used it as an advertising slogan.]

      You've now triggered a chain of thoughts... the quiet achievers are those like yourself and Pilchard, getting on with life in spite of those self-aggrandizing knobs. At least you are doing something, so all is not lost.
      Which leads me to recall a comment heard years ago that the only reason Italy developed at all after 1945 was that governments were so short-lived the country was able to go about its business without interference.

  3. I've seen the best and worst of both and there is no inherent reason why a publically owned authority cannot deliver efficiently. Pure and simple profit drives private companies, which may work on a simple level but as you say, then you need a rules and regs authority to oversee them and in extreme cases, an authority to oversee them. How many departments were responsible for overseeing the police behaviour? And the police are public, not private.

    It is only going to get worse, you know.

    1. Of course it will get worse... and 2,000 years from now historians will blame the demise of western civilisation on homeo-sexuals, in the same way some keep banging on today about the downfall of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago.
      It's hard to argue with logic like that.

      The police? It would be funny if they did not have the power to fine me on the spot for the pettiest offence. At least they don't have access to phone books any more.

  4. Three tiers of government is too many. Get rid of the State Govts and give more power to the councils. Local people know local needs better than any far removed shiny pants.

    1. LOL far removed shiny pants:)

      Diane, I don't think many of us would disagree about three tiers of government being loo-dicrous. I've often wondered which lot we ought to get rid of [if not the lot], and your comment about local people knowing local needs is a good one. Perhaps if councils had to be taken seriously, we might take them a little more seriously. It might be easier, too, to hold someone accountable for their decisions if they were local.