Friday, April 24, 2009

Michael Costa, the vision thingie, computers, broadband, NSW politics and a patched coat of many colors

(Above: Michael Costa being asked a trick question about where the NSW Labor party pollies and policies are buried).

This morning we have a fine and noble lecture from Michael Costa, instructing PM Rudd, on the importance of breaking election promises.

This will come as no surprise for those who've experienced politics in NSW, since the current Labor government - of which Costa once formed a part - is adept at promising policies, then breaking, ignoring, smashing or abusing them.

The usual pro forma is to make a bold, brave announcement of some sweeping and decisive solution to whatever ails the electorate, and then advise that due to unforeseen economic circumstances, the bold solution turned out to be impractical, nay impossible, and therefore, a half assed, half baked, patchwork of inept, compromised short term solutions would be implemented. Most importantly there's never to be any talk of the 'vision thing'.

It's therefore no surprise that the areas in Sydney experiencing the state's largest population growth are amongst the worst for public transport and employment infrastructure, with the likely result rising unemployment and increased social  problems. (See Growing suburbs running on empty).

The state Labor government has had a fine record of breaking promises to the western suburbs of Sydney. The report in today's SMH quotes the NSW president of the Planning Institute of Australia, Julie Bindon as saying:

Those areas are among the worst affected by the State Government's decision to shelve the north-west and south-west rail links, and the Parramatta to Epping line.

The government has of course sprung in to action to explain how buses will become a fine alternative solution, while employment hubs will help out, but then some pious academic comes along to claim the hubs would be ad hoc and badly lacking in supporting infrastructure. Ad hoc. State Labor? Ad hocery sounds coherent up against these doozies.

We could go on and on about the NSW Labor government, and Michael Costa's one time unseemly role in it, but let's revert to his column Some promises must be broken, to see what advice he has for Kevin Rudd.

Well of course, it's to break election promises. And not just a little bit. Break 'em hard and fast, with a baseball bat, or a cricket bat, or a piece of 4 by 2, NSW Labor party style.

How we can best characterise the Feds current failings?

This rigid adherence to outdated or inadequate policy for the sole reason that it was committed to it during the election campaign has characterised the Government from its beginning.

Stupid federal politicians, trying to deliver promises already well outdated by being in power for a year and a half. Actually thinking they made some kind of pact with the electorate to do the things they promised. They should come to NSW to see how that's managed.

So what to slag off? Well there's that vision thing of every school child having a computer for starters. This is just an ill-conceived policy, wisely advised against by all kinds of experienced and knowledgeable state education officials (could they be the same officials Costa regularly abuses for being hopeless? Who knows?). 

Yes, the notion that working class kids might be given a leg up into the digital world is foolhardy and confusing, still to this day, and deserves to be scrapped, especially as Susan Greenfield tells us all this screen culture stuff warps the plasticity of our brains and might leave our kids as brain dead zombies (though come to think of it, that might make it easier to get them to vote for state Labor).

While on the digital age thingie, what about that new NBN? That's surely a nonsense.

High-speed fibre to the node has been replaced with lower speed fibre to the home. The differences in detail won't stop the Government arguing that it has met in full its election commitments. In this case, as with the education revolution and an ETS, the policy outcome is a secondary consideration.

Say what? Lower speed fibre to the home? Eerh, actually, you might have a go at the NBN, but not for that reason. There'll still be high speed fibre to the node and then high speed fibre to the home. Lower speed fibre, compared to what? Copper? That be a fine form of crack you be using man.

The fibre to the home be just like what needy businesses currently deploy when they bring fibre up to their door (just ask businesses like CGI house Animal Logic about fibre to the door, and the way it can be upgraded, as opposed to the joys of copper wire).

But okay, what should we do instead? Well how about just filling up the gaps in the current network? Sure that'd work, and I know just the things for it - some string, some cabbage, and lots of sealing wax. Yes, we'd have that glorious half arsed NSW Labor make do Rube Goldberg ad hocery running full steam, instead of that dangerous  and extravagant and expensive 'vision thingie' 

Put it another way. Costa is a squawking parrot without a clue on the subject of broadband, not that the differences in detail will actually affect his desire or his ability to squawk loudly.

That's why Costa settles for recycling the broadband bashing of AAPT chief executive Paul Broad, without acknowledging the axe Broad has to grind, since they're now a negligible broadband player in this market, and likely to be even more marginalized down the track.

Then you get down to absurd waffle, of the classical kind favoured by NSW politicians:

The Government was right to abolish the much-criticised temporary protection visas approach to dealing with asylum seekers. But to argue that the changes have not influenced the business activities of people-smugglers defies credibility. Instead of acknowledging the change in circumstances since the election and the need for a new response, a completely defensible political response, the Government has become defensive and obstinate. To deal with the present problem it doesn't have to reintroduce temporary protection visas but it certainly has to change direction.

So the government was right, but it's wrong, and now it needs a new response, and a change in direction. And exactly what might that change of direction involve? Since we spend already way too much patrolling the northern and western sea borders, and not nearly enough on the main route  for illegal people movement - at airports. And since there seems to be no way of defeating the hysterics of a right wing commentariat traumatized by fifty boat people (or five hundred, let alone five thousand).

Costa's solution is to quote Barack Obama graciously accepting the advice of vice-president Dick Cheney.

The Prime Minister needs to follow Obama's lead and accept that campaign rhetoric is not the basis for good government.

Choke on my cornflakes. Did I just see Dick Cheney and good government linked in the same thought bubbles?

Ah actually Mr Costa, the Labor government went to the electorate with campaign policies that they promised to enact. It's not just rhetoric, it's a firm set of proposals. You're not just supposed to say what you like in the heat of an election battle, then once in power do whatever you like in the guise of 'hard political and economic realities and fundamentals'. 

Sure it's what you did in NSW, but that don't make it right. Sure circumstances change - GECs, GFCs, whatever - but people have a right to expect strategic reassessment of campaign policies, not just a highway littered with broken promises, abandoned the moment things got too tough, or a half-assed compromise could be wheeled out in the manner of a Stalinist show trial.

That's why the electorate might expect a cleverer and better solution to the environment issue than the current proposed ETS.

But I'm afraid for that they'll have to turn to better minds than a hack right wing Labor politician who has now turned into a hack extreme right wing commentariat columnist for The Australian, and who only seems capable of being a little sir echo for the talking points and memes of the assorted loons we already have in loon pond.

Now for any readers in NSW, why not join Dolly Parton in celebrating the NSW Labor ad hocery solution to everything, and remember to wear your coat of many colors when going out - that's if you can find any ferry, train or bus working reliably on the day as you go off to search for employment opportunities. And if you catch a tourist or even a Victorian laughing at you, never mind sweetie, you're very rich, on an internal level:

My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly
Although we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
So with patches on my britches
Holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school
Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
And oh I couldn't understand it
For I felt I was rich
And I told them of the love
My momma sewed in every stitch
And I told 'em all the story
Momma told me while she sewed
And how my coat of many colors
Was worth more than all their clothes
But they didn't understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me

Well a coat of many colors is so much more suitable for school than a computer. Kids, get your mom to knock you up one today. Better still, ask the Labor government for one. And why not make up your own abacus using string and beads? You'll learn by doing, not by warping your mind with screen culture.

(Below: borrowing a little more xkcd to illuminate a tedious set of thought bubbles involving Michael Costa).

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