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Archive for March, 2012

As Japan’s economy rebounds, Australia must strive for better relationship.

Posted by cegan on March 28, 2012

The recent Japanese economic data showed a dramatic increase in exports out of the country. Japan went from a record Trade Defecit to a Trade Surplus with signs that Japanese growth was led from stronger exports to the United States due to the increased buying of motor vehicles. It has been largely ignored by the Australian media, despite it being one of the largest customers of Australian Iron Ore.

A rebound in the Japanese economy, in the trade sector and more cars being produced for America would in the past create headline news, as Australian’s understood the value of this trade partnership. Not so today. The one dimensional economic outlook sees Chinese growth as the only guarantor of continued prosperity. Therefore lack of media attention on our former largest trading partner.

But should it? Not at all

The Financial Times wrote recently about the Japanese economy

“Improving sentiment will resonate beyond Japan. Though overshadowed in the eyes of many by its giant rising neighbour, China, it remains the world’s third-largest economy with a pivotal position in global trade”.

(March 26th 2012, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bcd939f4-7371-11e1-94ba-00144feab49a.html#axzz1qPxaniEL)

The world’s third largest economy, seeing boosts from various different sectors including the rebuilding effort should encourage some diversification of the outlook of the Australian media. The economic picture here does not all depend on Chinese growth and a pick up of Japanese growth would be, largely in our interest.

Some of the reasons are – Japan has slumped, with rhetoric such as ‘lost decade’, the Rudd’s snubbing of Japan when he first became Prime Minister and Chinese pressure to distance ourselves from the place the locals call Nippon. Unfortunately the Australian media has responded with a similar snubbing.

But a stronger Japan enforces stronger foreign relationships and greater economic ties. Something that is beneficial for a diverse network of nations in demand for our natural resources, rather than it just being a China Story.

This decade will see the rise and rise of several of our Asian neighbours, the stockmarket and media seem to concentrate on China, to the detriment of giving precise analysis of the future economic opportunities Australia finds itself in.

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The two speed economy, is it that unusual?

Posted by cegan on March 19, 2012

A lot of political commentary recently is on the view that Australia has a two or three speed economy, a discussion that implies that only Australia is experiencing this problem.

I have to admit that the research I’ve done for government extenuates the crowding out of the manufacturing base in Victoria and results in net loss of jobs due to the higher currency (though others could say the higher exchange rates is due to the Euro debt crisis).

But is this reality of differing growth rates between regions any different to what is happening in England or the United States?

Reading in the Guardian recently, the Government had launched ‘perspective’ payments for the public service. Those in the south east would be paid more than those in the north, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The argument was that living costs are cheaper and the public service is paying more than the Private sector. That is a two speed economy? What policy adjustments is the UK proposing to adjust the two speed economy?

None.

Let’s look at a few more case studies. The city of Seattle is booming, because of the growth of Amazon.com and other innovative companies within their educated workforce. Population is growing and the prospect of office vacancy rates in Seattle decreasing to below 10% and the impending construction of three massive buildings in Deny Square. With an unemployment rate of 6.6% their CBD has significantly less unemployment than Detroit which still has a 10+% unemployment rates.

Media dialogue of two speed economy? None

In the same country, North Dakota is experiencing a similar mining boom as Western Australia. There are reports of fast food restaurants only being able to open in the afternoon when kids are off school. That McDonalds is being forced to pay up to $20 an hour for those kids in these mining towns, such as Williston.

Unemployment is 3.5% and they are having all the dramatic skill shortages and lack of accomodation issues as Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The North Dakotan Government is accruing signficant budget surpluses, but are battling to provide services for the rapidly growing population.

But there is not a direct discussion in the national media environment of the two speed economy.

There are two ways to look at this if you are an Australian, on this national attention of rectifying with policy this two speed economy.

In a context the political powerbase in Australia is the south-east, it has the most votes and is being impacted by this shifting of economic growth. Government can’t be seen to ignore the economic malaise of regions that will be blaming them for current economic conditions.

The other way to look at it, is this general underlying theme running within Australia of egalatarianism. In America people would call you a socialist, in England the class system is still stringently entrenched. In Australia there must be a system where all states travel on an equilibrium path, our GST structure is formulated that way, the Mining Resources Tax was developed because of the increased revenue going to mining states (though it’s become a policy nightmare due to the mining lobby). The stimulus package had the biggest impact on the construction industry because of the ‘BER’ funding. Without it, it is likely that the industry would be in the doldrums an industry that provides significant employment. Something unacceptable to equilibrium Australia.

The national media lacks context, the world is full of two speed economies. It’s Australia choosing to use a policy mechanism to try and rectify it. Something that would just not happen if you didn’t have the above two themes running through the national character.

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Imagining an Australian Presidential Primary System

Posted by cegan on March 13, 2012

One of the most interesting primaries of recent years is the GOP race, not because of the quality of debates or ideas. But the contest and demographics in play. Every candidate represents a significant support base behind their respective ideals.

Gingrich – only I understand the south, we don’t want someone from the northeast representing us. ( noting the tradition that most Republican Presidents have come from the south). Romney – I try to represent everyone including those who do and don’t want to go back to the 1900s. Santorum (I represent opus dei values and want to effectively see the binding of church and state into national politics)

One of the central differences about election coverages between the states is how diverse states are within the same party. The divisions I’ve heard in the south incorporate ‘boom towns’ ‘evangelical Christians’ amongst these mini ideological factors impacting the GOP vote. Drastically different to the less ideological pathways we pre-select in Australia.

Indeed, I am fairly jealous of this primary process in some ways as if we had it in Australia, Malcolm Turnbull and not the further right Tony Abbott would be our Liberal leader. However, I think division between Australians would increase to the partisan style of the united states if we did have primaries.

If we had a primary between the liberals and labor, I could not see Abbott ever in power. He’d flip flop more than Romney, and he would never be able to promise everything. Back flipping would increase and we’d have the 20-30 different mini elections going on in the USA.

We’d always  have a social progressive in power, those who vote on the centre to far right in this country could not agree on anything. The Greens and Labor  would be easier partners in crime, because largely the left in Australia have gotten rid of the protectionist ideals that still dominate much of the Democrat Party . The Greens would lose a lot of the Labor party protest vote.  They wouldn’t have to appease the sandgropers as they would still believe the Labor Party is Anti-West Australian.

Can you imagine merging capitalists, protectionists, atheist, religious fundamentalists, bigots and classic liberals in the midst of a Western Australia that would demand special attention for being the ‘engine room’ of the country?

Imagining a Primary system in Australia is interesting, but far less able to bind the right together as religion plays such a small part in voting habits. Indeed when it comes to the crux of the matter. Religion binds the GOP. Nothing would bind the right in Australia through the strong differences and reasons why they vote for the Liberal Party. Atheists would presently vote for the Liberal Party, in America I could not see how any Atheist would vote for anyone other than the Democrats.

The Primary model would lead to a dictatorship from the left. Thus a compromised democracy…

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Is Awareness better than nothing?

Posted by cegan on March 9, 2012

I think one of the leading academic debates coming out Kony2012 is the view on whether awareness is positive regardless of the facts involved or whether awareness if it’s not factually credible is actually worse than nothing at all.

It makes the concept of do we see awareness as essential to solving the world’s problems. I am pretty much in this camp, but do see the merit of those who say attention has to be well researched and not hinder the operations on the ground and make the problems worse. Many previously well pathways have come unstuck due to good intentions.

But the world is now an activist world, the agenda needs to be set. It needs to captivate the apathy of the internet generation. In my country Kony hype went so far that it incorporated it onto mainstream television. But awareness is good, without awareness and interest we have apathy, something that is endemic within Australia, particularly many of the youth of today.

Awareness and interest is what we all want. Let’s not be too critical of Invisible Children and lets continue the debate. Its sparked a worldwide debate on African geo-politics and what the west can do for East Africa. We have seen much criticism of the solution of Kony2012 in solving the issues, but it has allowed those educated in the region to express the path forward.

However as an awareness caimpaign, support it in that framework, rather than making real difference on the ground. The more aware a society is the stronger the political outcomes achieved.

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New Foreign Minister Bob Carr reshapes Aus/NZ Foreign Policy

Posted by cegan on March 8, 2012

The rush to visit New Zealand…woah

We are seeing some pretty spectacular Foreign Policy changes, one of them is the increased understanding of the New Zealand sphere of influence within the Pacific and wider regions and to integrate at a far greater level. In a press release announcing it today, Murray McCully NZ Foreign Minister said that the 2 day visit was for New Zealand to explain the current policy positions it has for the Pacific region .

“I look forward to sharing New Zealand’s perspective on developments in our Pacific neighbourhood, as well as challenges and opportunities emerging across the Asia-Pacific region and around the globe.”

The Herald Sun in Melbourne reported that even New Zealand was surprised about the visit, with Bob Carr making the visit unannounced. Indeed this seems to deliver some interesting policy changes under the Gillard leadership, reshaping the foreign affairs outcome.

Carr stated the reasons upon visiting New Zealand

“Even while I’m foreign minister-designate I’d like to shoot across there to pay them the courtesy of some consultation, given their expert feel for the politics of the South Pacific”

This is a really interesting development, the words ‘courtesy of some consultation’ is quite significant in the history of Australian/New Zealand foreign relationships (an area of study I have followed quite closely). In the French Nuclear Weapon strikes in the Pacific Atolls, there was significant diversion in view, in Pacific Island policy there has been a different framework of implementation and diplomacy.

But the biggest emphasis is the symbolic aspect of this change. The fact Australia will work closer with New Zealand on foreign policy, signifies significant savings for the budget and widely, delivers the best outcome for the Australian/New Zealand region. It binds the countries into mutual foreign policy positions within our policy conversations.

While we will have a tighter relationship with the USA, I suspect we will co-operate on issues that had previously been less talked about and some sort of political diversion. With Fiji, we had Australia’s ambassador leave after the Kiwi’s had withdrawn theres. Not a huge issue, but this divergence meant the message to Fiji was diluted about the opposition to the coup.

The other issue is that Rudd and Keys did not deliver a mutual press conference at the time condemning the coup and the Fijian Government. Which would have created significantly more heat on the Fijian Government and may have pushed it towards democracy before the recent changes that have been announced, with an apparent election coming up in the coming years.

Indeed Australia and New Zealand have a tight relationship, but it needs a government that is not arrogant (on Australia’s behalf) and wishes to consult for the best outcomes possible.

As someone who follows New Zealand politics and its history, this is great news and significant sign of a changed foreign policy which delivers new emphasis on the Asia Pacific region.

The words ‘courtesy’ and ‘expertise’ has not often been stated by an Australian Government when it comes to foreign affairs co-operation between both countries. A guy who is not even officially a foreign minister has already jetted across the Tasman.

Australia and New Zealand’s Pacific Policy may become unilateral under the Carr Foreign Ministership. He seems to know exactly the concerns of New Zealand in its foreign relationship with Australia.

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The Kony revolution

Posted by cegan on March 8, 2012

My friends have been posting all the negativity about the social activism resulting from the Kony issue. While I didn’t personally know about Kony, I was not shocked by the documentary done by the Invisible Children group. Africa is littered with ruthlessness and also a society that has had continued instability throughout its history.

The funniest aspect was last night becoming aware of the issue not through facebook, but people bitching about it through facebook. Negative publicity is good publicity!

Some of the criticisms I have heard is that the issue is not as bad as it was previously, they are earning $90,000 a year, The issue in Uganda is not even there anymore. Well, I will just respond to three issues that my friends have raised with me.

1. LRA – May be small, but as the clip shows this is the first of many that they want to put pressure on the globe to do something about. It raises awareness of a cult that would previously have been forgotten.

2. The CEO of the company would earn far less than most other CEO’s of other companies throughout the world. At $94,000 a year, it really is a pittance and I suspect other aid agencies have a CEO that is paid more money.

3.In terms of marketing in a social sphere, saying “Central Democratic Republic” is harder to say than Uganda, to spread awareness of the issue. Its a liberal use of the truth, but the realities in Africa is that nation borders, with endemic poverty, corruption and unstable and ineffective governments, the issue is not really one. The use of the word Uganda to be the global area of concern should not be seen in the context of ‘well it’s not really an issue here’ and more of the case of well it was using Social Media techniques to get the media out there.

While I would personally donate to a charity that provides more direct income, I have no issue of invisible children making a stand on such a policy. The interactiveness and social awareness does make a difference. If the population of Perth demands change in government policy as what the clip showed what happened in America, the issue can result in government intervention and change.

Another friend said it won’t make a difference if we say like or do anything here.

“Saying like on facebook, putting posters up on St Georges Terrace won’t make a difference”.

I have to say it does and it will if enough people do it. We have the power to change the political culture, as shown by the facebook event that requested late night trains for the people of Perth.

There are more positions I could defend, but after watching the clip tonight on the Project (Yes Channel 10 gave it prime time viewing tonight around the country) and the resulting analysis, I have come to the conclusion that these invisible children aren’t as bad as what they sound. Not perfect, but not bad people.

One of the aspects I like is the amount of people they are employing in Africa to help with the project. They are working in Central Democratic Republic, and in other regions. The insecurity would last for a long time, regardless of whether or not the numbers have increased or decreased.

Hopefully political activism that it has sparked in my own country continues. Making people globally aware is the central issue behind why I support Krony…

Even if all the City of Perth worried about was posters being stuck up around the city when the Mayor was interviewed…

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The West Aussie Perspective on the US Elections – Where is the Santorum Love coming from?

Posted by cegan on March 8, 2012

The first of the much delayed coverage of my US election blogs, I make no apologies for not being a Santorum fan. He may have the backing of Bill O’Reilly, but some of the coverage the American media is reporting, is that he is a cleanskin politician, but is anyone in America reading about him?

“Citizens for Ethics” gave an interesting summary of how he was tied to special interests group and would utilise his power for personal gain.

Santorum, was initially forced to remove his Children from the “cyber-schooling” that was costing local Pennsylvanian taxpayers $72,000 to fund Santorum’s kids in Virginia.

Citizens for Ethics in 2006 claimed that in August 2005 the school district board changed its cyber school policy, which Santorum had been in breach of. It allowed federal elected officials, military personnel, humanitarian and emergency workers to be eligible for the expensive cyber schooling if they were temporarily not in the state.

He has prevented Tobacco farmers being bought out by the Federal Government due to lobbyist money.

The bill he wanted passed in 2005 – National Weather Services Duties Act would require additional bureaucracy that would sustain a business owned by his Brother. Requiring the National Weather Centre to pass through all its information to a private business he owned. In other Public Health issues, he introduced legislation to reduce the cost of large federal brewers have to pay in tax from $18 to $9 per barrel. So much for a conservative attitude to family values.

There are also susceptible lobbying that created his legislation documentation in terms of an energy plant in Pennsylvania and the  Puerto Rico Medicare Rebate.

But let’s look at the perspective that the American media has portrayed Santorum in. They have portrayed him as someone that gets it with the American public, is more normal of the ‘working class voter’, is a conservative family man who wants less government. Why would he seek $72,000 of Pennsylvania taxpayer money while living in Virginia? Entitlement rather than showing everyday values to the working class communities. Why would he want to increase bureaucratic measures of an agency that is actually working well?

Yet he is someone that has extracted government funding he was not eligible for, not entitled too and morally should not have sought. He has exhumed his conservative values in his support of lowering alcohol tax rates, particularly as you could see the impact of alcohol on ‘religious morality’ so sought by Santorum this caimpaign.

As Roemer said in his election caimpaign, money has corrupted power. So before you feel sorry for Santorum being outspent in Ohio and Michigan, understand that his history is littered with money based politics.

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View from the West – The issues in play for the 2013 election

Posted by cegan on March 6, 2012

It’s bizzare!

In a boomtown state, with the power of the mining industry as a lobby group, we have public political debate more concentrated on left based issues than anything else. Rather than neo-liberalism running public policy issues, it will be an election based on living costs, the most unfortunate in the state and how the boom will be spread across the state. What are they going to do in terms of public transport infrastructure?

These are the major themes of the next state election in Western Australia.

Indeed the political polarisation is altering our ideology. Once a state that’s voting public demanded constraint, is now demanding services and at a cheap rate. We see our Premier as ‘callous’ for making a neo-liberal idea of user pays system in the electricity system that has lost its government subsidy to electricity consumers.

Indeed the popularity of Barnett is because he is the most middle ground and big spending Premier we have had in recent times. There is no stopping the economic growth at the moment, which is being propped up by huge state government expenditure which other states would just love to have.

GST and Local Content is the other big issues that will be demanded. As I have mentioned before in my blog, there is an expectation that state government should fix the problems relating to competitiveness of WA manufacturing in its services to the mining industry. That’s right there is increasing pressure on the state government to deliver roles that further erode federal power and its role in government.

Indeed this political debate is not looking at federal costs of sustaining present GST policy on the ability for it to lead in their portfolio. State/Federal relationship is strained and their has been a lack of understanding of the risk of validity they hold in the voting public.

Gillard and Swan look at it in an economic policy framework, not in a social policy and nation building policy framework. It looks at policy in a perspective that drives the West Australian seperatist movement, not reduces it.

Looking at the case for McGowan the new Labor leader,  is that he has managed to gain power without rejecting the Left factions policy of no uranium mining in Western Australia, something that caused the failure of the Wyatt candidacy. The first opposition leader in Australia that was an Indigenous Australian would be lost based on mining uranium, a reality of how Indigenous Australian’s are so split on the mining industry and its impact on Australian communities.

He will be expected to attack the Federal Money grab though and the increased expectations for the state to challenge the status quo and the increased irrelevency of the Federal Government will do nothing for WA Labor’s relationship with Federal Labor. Indeed McGowan will have to try and attack Federal Labor during the election caimpaign, because Barnett will use it as a Political tactic as he has done for the last several years.

So as Rinehart, Twiggy Forrest shape Federal Politics, the reality on the ground is that the leading themes are all based on a socialist agenda, living costs, work and green/moral issues such as Uranium Mining…

All of these issues should be in the Labor Party’s favour to win the next election. These are Labour issues.

But will they? I would not be surprised, particularly as WA Labor is opposed to the MRRT.

WA’s political environment is increasingly based on a more socialist agenda…how things have changed since Richard Court.

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