Thursday, 9 September 2010

Sydney or The Bush: Reframing the debate: Access, equity, a fair go: Sanderson - Federal renewal and unity in reconcilation

Seems that hell hath no fury like a major urban area scorned!

Now I could read all sorts of things into the musings I am about to draw your attention to,Networkers.  Perhaps, they are the Fairfax equivalent of News Limited braying for an early election? Perhaps, these are individuals who just don't like what the independents have been doing and how they have been negotiating with the Australian Labor Party?  But my money is on them being short-sighted, urban creatures who don't have a clue about the Australia that exists away from the urban fringes.  In short, I think they are overcome by their own ignorance.

First Shot -
Second Shot - 
Let's take a look at the First Shot, Clancy Yeates.

Tut-tut, Clancy.  Don't look too closely at who might be subsidising your urban lifestyle.  The West Australians think they are.  In fact, there have been recent comments on subsidies for Melbourne's arty, cultured lifestyle which continues though we are not manufacturing anything much anymore.  Sydney seems to think we are diverting their much needed funds.  The fact is that the really productive earners at the moment are in remote areas of Australia far from urban centres - and a lot of them are on the other side of the continent from the fringe-dwellers of the urbanised eastern and southern coasts.

And what is the problem with cross-subsidisation, Clancy?  Are you so imbued with Friedman and neo-con economics that you can't get your head around the tried and true economic concepts of equity and price-equalisation.  It was the way Telstra operated until recent times - and look where the concepts behind the changes to Telstra have landed the nation and Telstra shareholders!

Lastly, I would remind you that NBN has clearly built its business model on a system of equitable pricing.  Now business models can be built like Lego - anyway you darn well like to put the pieces together!  The two things necessary are, firstly, to be seen to give your market a good deal so they will purchase and keep purchasing your product; and, secondly, to turn a profit for those who have invested in the company.  How this is done is really a moot point.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  The pricing and the costings work - or they don't.  So, in this case, where a whole way of doing things is being built in a novel and innovative way from the ground up - so is the pricing mechanism.  

Now for the Second Shot, Anita Quigley

I don't take issue with the comments about Rob Oakeshott who, we might find, is the wily politician (or not so wily, as the case may be) that the headline asserts.

What I do take issue with are comments like these:

Imagine how western Sydney residents are feeling today - an area of the country growing rapidly in population and desperately needing infrastructure such as basic public transport to cope. Yet the bigger more pressing issue for the new federal government will be ensuring a far smaller population gets 24k gold-plated fibre optic cable for high speed broadband.
The fact those in the country will be able to have better internet services is sure to console commuters who have to drive 90 minutes each way to work while paying about $80 in tolls a week for the privilege.
I do have empathy for those living in the western suburbs not only of Sydney but of Melbourne too.  Melbourne complains about its public transport but, in my experience, it does not compare with Sydney's - and life is too short to spend any of it on Sydney's City Rail.  But Anita, let's spare a thought for the rural and regional areas of Australia.

Few areas of regional and rural Australia have a reliable public transport system.  Some don't have any public transport whatsoever.  A large regional centre like Townsville which Anna Bligh has mentioned as a "second capital city" for Queensland no longer has a functioning suburban rail system nor - when it would make good sense - an extra-urban system to places like Charters Towers, Bowen, Ingham and Cairns.  Further into the back blocks, and you will find some Aboriginal communities have no way out except by light aircraft.

As for infrastructure!  Some parts of Australia do not have reliable, clean drinking water. 

For all the talk of of getting Aboriginal people off welfare and into a functioning economy, please show me a human settlement in Australia with a strong functioning economy that does not have a bitumen road in and out of it.  

The majority of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory are serviced  by dirt roads which are impassable in The Wet.  This means there is difficulty accessing professional health, education, and business services all year round.  In The Wet, the only way in and out of many communities is by plane.  When you don't have a serviceable road at all, the discomforts and lack of service by City Rail and Metro pale into insignificance.

And take a look at health services.  No Westmead or Liverpool Hospital within striking distance.  In Victoria, which is so small that even its outback is suburban, hospitals - like the one in Echuca - have their problems and have difficulty getting funds out of the public purse.

And, I have to ask, how much knowledge is there in Western Sydney of the deprivations of those living in more sparsely populated Australia?  How much empathy is there in Western Sydney for those in remote areas who don't get the attention they deserve from their governments?  Very little of either, in my experience.  

But to all those who think that urban areas have been hardly done by just to favour a few bush politicians and get a party over the line to government, I am including below the best piece of writing I have seen in recent times on how tough people in remote areas are doing it.

On the Queen's Birthday weekend in June 2007, the annual oration of the Order of Australia Association was given by Lieutenant-Colonel John Sanderson, the former Governor West Australia.  It was titled Federal Renewal and Unity in Reconciliation: a return to government by the people.

Since getting hold of this document in June 2007, I have tried to circulate it as widely as possible to people who need to know its contents or whom I think would be interested in its contents.  I think, given the current political context, a reading of Sanderson's oration is more necessary than ever.

Lastly, let's take the opportunity to reframe the debate in this country: on politics, on economics, on population, on development.  Back in the Keating era some basic criteria were introduced into the bureaucratic implementation of public policy.  The criteria were access, equity, and a fair go.  If you have these three criteria operating, then there will be inclusion.  If inclusion is promoted, you will need to implement these three basic criteria.

I don't want to play off Sydney or The Bush.  I want everyone in Australia to be treated fairly according to their needs and their circumstances.  

Now this doesn't mean that everything can be done at once for everyone.  It doesn't mean that The Bush and The Push will get equal divvies of the Federal and State Budgets.  There are times when a substantial injection of funds and resources are needed to establish infrastructure projects.  

To overcome alienation of either The Bush or The Push, we need politicians and bureaucrats who understand modern community engagement; who can communicate and converse with Australians.  We need politicians and bureaucrats who can take Australians into their confidence, admits mistakes and difficulties, seek widespread and diverse input.  Conversely, The Bush and The Push need to act in a mature and reasonable fashion.  They need to get their collective heads around their respective issues and be able to articulate their needs and aspirations in a clear and particular fashion to governments.

We need to take seriously the need to reframe the debate across all our communities so that, as Oakeshott says, we are focussed more on agreement than division and more on constructive outcomes than self-serving politics.  When we are tempted to make partisan pronouncements, let's have a think first.   Let's state our case for our own needs and aspirations without diminishing other Australians or over-stating our own case to turn it into special pleading.  

Let's reframe the debate so that when we deal with our governments it is all about access, equity and a fair go.

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