Friday, April 17, 2009

Michael Costa, the G20, a circus of clowns, and the state of NSW

It's always fun when one of our favorite columnists goes back in time to examine the past, and turns on his own kind.

You might think that the G20 was well done and dusted, a talk fest which briefly provided a glimmer of hope - politicians were seen to be doing something, mainly talking - and then that was it, and the world moved on. 

Not for Michael Costa, as he files a couple of weeks late in G20 a circus for clowns, and yes, it's a fine and feathery and fowlish thing to see a first rate political clown dub a gathering of politicians as a circus for clowns.

Post-modernist irony knows no bounds.

We also like to trawl the past, as in this memo:

Terrorists: New South Wales offers itself up to you with welcoming arms.

First you will be greeted at Sydney airport, admittedly the worst and most expensive in the country, with a fine range of metal bollards conveniently displayed for you to select as weapons. We recommend catching a taxi to make your getaway, though bear in mind that even terrorists must pay a levy to Macquarie Bank, which of course as a friendly cutpurse corporate entity welcomes you but denies any liability or responsibility, but does of course have a former premier, Bob Carr, in house to take care of all your infrastructure needs, at a PPP price.

When in the CBD, can we recommend that you turn off the power to sow confusion and alarm amongst the citizenry. Second thoughts, don't worry, our wonderful suppliers can do that for you, at random intervals for random lengths of time. And don't worry about that alarm system, with its impressive array of loudspeakers. It's been arranged to be functionally useless by a government that has been functionally useless for some considerable time. 

While in Sydney feel free to get in touch with bikie gangs for any drugs, guns, home made bombs or vestal virgins you might require. They can also be employed for random drive by shootings, though you might find the citizenry now thinks of this as just another fireworks display. (Sydney-siders just love fireworks, so feel free to add your own free form inspiration. But please make sure you get your fireworks from Canberra, and fill out the required forms in triplicate, while also paying stamp duty).

You know,  it occured to me to check up on the date that the fearless new security system was installed, and of course it was for the September 2007 APEC summit, for which Sydney siders endured petty, simpled-minded anti-terrorist strategies that failed to stop a comedy team from bursting through the wire fences installed and personned by goons. Those were the days. 

It was of course a show case for gabbling political clowns, and the state politicians were beside themselves at the way Sydney would achieve record tourist numbers as a result of the circus showing off George Bush cruising the harbor.

They spared no expense, and of course you now vividly remember all the achievements accomplished by this gab fest, I'm sure, so no need to re-cap them.

Now pause a second, and let's rewind again. It seems Michael Costa was appointed Treasurer of NSW on the 17th February, 2006, and continued in that role, talking up economic progress while the state nose dived into economic gloom, until he was dumped on 5th September 2008. That's right, he was right there at the heart of the APEC circus of clowns showcase.

But strangely no one's stepped up to the plate to take credit for the profoundly bizarre cost cutting measure that determined that the CBD anti-terrorist system would have no battery or generator back up, but instead would be reliant on mains power, thereby turning out to be functionally useless in any decent crisis. 

But it was actually implemented during the time that Costa was holding the keys to the state's finances. I'd love to have the cabinet records of the time, and who spoke up and said what when cost cutting (or prudent cost regulation and maintenance regimes, call it what you will) ensured that the anti-terrorist system would fall at the first hurdle.

Come on down V, we need someone to hijack those loudspeakers and play loud classical music to the citizenry - how about the 1812 Overture in the ears of the hacks that call themselves a party? It's the only time the speakers'll do anything useful for the citizenry.

Now let's return to the present and see what Costa has to say about the G20. 

Most damagingly, leaders continued to perpetuate the myth that market failure, not the failure of government-mandated organisations, was the core contributing factor to present economic difficulties. Political expediency, not sound economics, was the beneficiary of the meeting.

That's right, couldn't organize a set of speakers for the streets of Sydney, and couldn't organize even a clownish insight into a circus for clowns. 

The myth of market failure? Oh you mean the government caused the failure of all those banks and financial institutions. It was all the fault of the Democrats and Jimmy Carter and Franklin D. Roosevelt you say?

Costa spends the rest of his column trashing Gordon Brown and trashing the G20 Communique and trashing the new Financial Stability Board and rabbiting on about trade barriers and protectionism.

He's particularly hard on the all talk, no action angle, muttering about spin and wording. And he's empirically certain it was all the fault of central banks and ad hoc government actions. Greed had nothing to do with it. As academics tell us incessantly, greed is good.

All fine and dandy and fair enough if you're a right wing loon just wanting to bowl a few underarm balls down the pitch to prove how hard it is to hit a six in these difficult times. How did Costa ever end up in the Labor party? The John Birch society is always on the look out for new members.

But then I remember again that New South Wales is a basket case, and it became a basket case during the time when Costa was treasurer of the state, and then I begin to wonder if he's right -if it was a myth about market failure - and I wonder whether the state of NSW should actually be blamed on government-mandated organizations and clowns like Michael Costa. Is it fair to blame a localized, parochial clown for what started in another circus? And then I wonder why I should listen to anything a certified clown has to say.

Those that can, do; those that can't teach, or become politicians; those that really can't do as politicians become newspaper columnists, railing and ranting from the sidelines, talking about important principles they studiously ignored when they had power. 

Sorry, that's just so wrong. It's being really unfair to teachers, who perform a useful educational function, as opposed to politicians who sometimes perform no discernible function at all. After all, if you're hired as a decision maker, and your decisions are worse than chance in terms of error, why not simply instal Monkey as our supreme decision maker?

Or a clown. In a circus of clowns. Whatever.

The strange fact is that the world goes on against all reasonable odds. A hundred years, and even unimaginable evil is just called history.
Monkey, Season 1, ep. 9

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