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Archive for June, 2012

Ideological inflexibility of the Tasmanian Greens impacting Federal governance

Posted by cegan on June 27, 2012

Milne’s leadership of the Greens Party is typical of the Tasmanian Greens ideological warfare and stringent policy oppositions that I have previously mentioned in my blog in their battle against the Labor and Liberal Party. A Party ideologically opposed to negotiations in a stringently ideological parliament that Milne learnt her political craft in.

But this is particular of the Tasmanian branch of the Greens, not so other Greens. 

I look at the alliance of the Greens and Labor Party in Western Australia, with ideological divisions not preventing negotiations and passage of much of the Gallop reform process. Gallop put through legislation decriminalising marijuana which was passed through the upper house, there was greater protections of fishing zones and of course the big political issue, the ending of the deforestation of Old Growth Forrests. 

In all ways there was a determination to work together on the balance of Power issues, the ideological divide between Gallop and Watson would not be as strong as in the conservatism of Tasmanian Parliament. Because of this, Milne and Brown come from an antagonistic, ideological and inflexible parliament as my previous blog on the Tasmanian Parliament mentioned. 

So now with Asylum Seekers and Carbon Tax before us, the Greens push forward their antagonistic memories to not budge from their set policy objectives. These experiences inspire Milne to continue on the Us v Them, Good v Evil style politics. Rather than negotiating to pass through better policies and get an outcome, it will deliver stand over tactics. 

Indeed when CHOGM was on, the WA Greens were looking at Social Welfare issues in Rwanda and Sri Lanka. It has branched itself into looking globally, rather than just the forests of Tasmania. Despite their international concerns not being of self interest, they wanted to advance discussion on these issues. Rather than deliver blockage and a prevention of pathways forwards and the blame game, they took on issues that are of particular concern to many Liberals in general across the political divide, who are in essence a large part of their support base in Western Australia. 

Scott Ludlam pursues many transport orientated lobbying at a state level, despite being a Senator in Federal Parliament. The flexible nature of WA Greens is due to their history of knowing its place and working with Labor and Liberal Parties to alter policies. It’s supporters in Western Australia are far less anti-Labor and Liberal or as ideological as those in Tasmania. 

As we see the Greens machining itself for no political budging, it would be advisable if Milne looked across to Western Australia to see the power deals it made with Gallop. Rather than blockading, realise that you have gained with Labor pacifying and implementing policies that hold dear to you at the same time as you pass through policies that may not be your ideologically supported view.

Giz Watson and the WA Greens were able to implement these policies after the 2001 Election, due to the balance of power.  But she used it carefully, not to blockade the upper house.

If Milne could get beyond her own history in the Tasmanian Parliament, she would realise that Politics is more than just the Us v Them game that is so entrenched within Tasmanian Politics. 

Labor is willing to work with you on the mainland, even if they want to exterminate you on the Apple Isle and will do so at any cost! 


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North Dakota leading the way in Affordable Housing policy

Posted by cegan on June 22, 2012

As many of my regular readers are aware, I have strong interest in what is happening in North Dakota as their policy dilemmas are similar to those in my own state Western Australia. The North Dakotan Housing Finance Agency is one of the best programs I have seen to combat the issues of Affordable Housing. 

The NDHFA is run from the top, with the Governor, Attorney General and Agricultural Minister overseeing the agency with advice from a six member citizens advisory board.

The purpose? To deliver affordable housing to ensure that the oil industry does not crowd out the essential workers that also live in these communities. 

As Michael Anderson Executive Director of NDHFA sprukes

” Right now, the development of affordable housing in North Dakota is behind the curve and that delay is a function of the market and the economic realities of the situation. Private development of affordable housing is minimal due to the lure of profitable market rate rents and home prices. Two-by-fours, concrete and plumbing fixtures cost the same for an affordable home as they do for a market rate one. Add in high land and labor costs that accompany economic booms and the challenges are exacerbated.” (NDHFA, http://www.ndhfa.org/Default.asp?nMenu=02432

North Dakota is going through a substantial economic boom due to technological advances in fracking (invented in the USA) which has led to a massive explosion in refining oil within the state. North Dakota now pumps more oil out of its western section of the state than Alaska and is the 2nd largest producer of Oil in the United States. 

Not dissimilar to what is happening within Western Australia and parts of Queensland. Affordable housing becomes impossible and private enterprise has to increase wages and many small businesses are priced out of the community with severe labour shortages due to the cost of living. 

Well the NDHFA has been set up to deal with this problem and is a way that private enterprise can alleviate the concerns that have been set up. As the brochure explains

“The HIF is capitalized by contributions from North Dakota income and financial institution taxpayers. Contributors receive a dollarfor-dollar state tax credit that may be claimed in the same year as the contribution against their state tax liability. In the event tax liability is less than the contribution, the taxpayer has up to 10 tax years to completely exhaust their credits” http://www.ndhfa.org

Now the financial situations are different in states of America with Royalties from mining companies being much less, but it involves a holisitic presence, taxpayers can personally choose to reduce their tax liability and the burden and cost of state government to provide the housing. While we pay most of our income tax as private citizens to the Federal Government, there is ways that we could adopt some of this policy for the large mining and oil and gas companies such as BHP, Rio Tinto and Woodside. 

Royalties that are paid at present, could be reduced by ‘royalty credits’. These companies are making massive profits but are crowding out other industries. While Government funding has been too release more building blocks, pump more funding into communities and to provide crown land for free, this doesn’t really provide or keep the service workers in these communities. 

A central government agency such as the Department of Housing could run the program as a new branch. While labour costs will be significantly higher in Western Australia than North Dakota, the long-term nature of the resource boom in the north-west will mean that Private Enterprise will want the service workers to stay within their communities and not to be priced out of their towns. 

This policy does this in that it says those who are looking to invest huge sums of money in one industry can ensure that services for its workers are kept as rental accomodation is built for what many would say are the ‘working poor’. Large Mining Companies need to ensure there are pubs, shopping centres, hotel workers, staff in the local McDonalds to keep their expansion running. So it is in their interest to invest, particularly in a low unemployment environment. 

Micheal Anderson again sprouts the need for communities to invest in Affordable Housing

“There is sometimes the thought that the need for affordable housing is somehow a failure of the community and its economy. That is just not true. In reality, the need for affordable housing follows prosperity and, in fact, is necessary for economic growth. Communities will always be diverse with people of differing ages and incomes. There should always be traditional residents and young families for communities to thrive. They consume its health care services; contribute to its commerce on Main Street; keep its schools relevant; and provide a source of its future leadership.” http://www.ndhfa.org 

North Dakota is experiencing all the issues that mining communities in Australia are experiencing, Government should partner with the Private sector to become a solution to the program. With Royalties for Regions harnessing more money into their portfolio than what they spend each year, Western Australia can and should adapt some of the policy initiatives that this program entails. 

Indeed there have been many Affordable Housing Strategies that Troy Buswell has implemented, from 30% Government contributions to housing loans, to large grants for essential workers in the CBD, but this is much more realistic way of keeping those who work in the services sector in areas going through significant economic stimulus due to the resource boom. 

While North Dakota with a very regional outlook to its politics, noted by its very low housing density and agricultural base is looking to address the situation due to its destabilising impacts on their culture, Perth centric Western Australia should look across the pacific to ensure that these mining regions keep their service industry.

Their present solutions to affordable housing are all based on the issues faced within the Perth metropolitan region, not to the issues faced in the booming Pilbara. 



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Syria’s end game will have to come from Turkey…

Posted by cegan on June 17, 2012

Syria’s end game is unknown, unpredictable and currently going through the ravages of a significant civil war. The analysis that has been lacking is Turkey’s relationship with its volatile neighbour. In my view the end game comes from Turkey who will seek to end the suffering of Syria, for self interest – The refugees and violence are on their doorstep, but also more importantly the disputed Kurdistan seperatist region. 

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quotes on the 23rd March.

“Turkey now blames Syria for using the PKK as an additional arm, allowing members of the organization to roam freely in its territory with weapons and permitting them to carry out terror acts in Turkish territory. Should Turkey decide that the operations of PKK members threaten its national security, it may decide to invade Syria under the justification of preventing terror, rather than aiding the rebels against Assad’s crackdown. Such a decision could become the turning point the Syrian rebels are hoping for – a foreign military intervention in their country.” http://www.haaretz.com (March 23rd) 

This is where we see the war expanding and the complexity of the Geo-Political climate that is the Syrian nation. Syria has a complex interweb of foreign policy, sparked by having an independent foreign policy that is not as one dimensional as the west looks to see it. It’s not all about Russia, Iran or Lebanon. The one that will invade for self interest is Turkey, because it will be gradually drawn into the conflict and has the significant military power to engage in battle. 

However the Egyptian Gazette says despite this, Turkish people are against any foreign interference. 

“Fifty-seven percent said they were against Turkey intervening in Syria, while 11.7 percent said they were for a military confronation with the Damascus regime, according to the poll sponsored by an Istanbul-based think-tank, the Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM).” (Egyptian Gazette, June 15th)

4thmedia.org claims that Turkey would be a strategic location to attack Syrian military targets and that it could begin a NATO led incursion into Syria.

“Turkey is well-placed as a command central for coordinating personnel and aircraft needed for preemptive strikes on the regime’s air-defense systems. In late November, 2011, the Turkish government first publicly announced the possibility of a military intervention in Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the measure as ‘forced but quite real’. The US State Secretary Hillary Clinton confirmed the likelihood of the intervention as she attended a meeting of the Friends of Syria Group in Paris on April 19. Any provocation staged by the US or Ankara could be used as a pretext for a NATO-led invasion in Syria.” http://www.4thmedia.org 15th June

As the western media focus on Russia and China holding back intervention, look for Independent Turkey to play an important end game to the continued violence within Syria. The Geopolitical makeup of the world will then thus be in for another dramatic changeover, just as it has been with the countless uprisings of the Arab Spring.

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