Thursday, November 26, 2009

What is wrong with a violation and a strip search?

The rags over the past few days have been screaming about the turmoil in the Liberal Party, and why not? It's a damned good yarn, with all the shock revelations of a lame version of the Jerry Springer show. First Turnbull decided to take a decisive party room vote on an amended ETS when the Nationals were out of the room and unilaterally declared victory for himself and the concessionists. Then came the leadership showdown, with Turnbull barely surviving a leadership vote and three of the his front bench up and quitting on him.

Meanwhile, the environment's taking another one for the team.

Not surprisingly, the Greens Party are overwhelmingly against what the Labour Party calls a 'good deal for the environment', which has been watered down to the point that the most polluting industries are being given the largest concessions by the government.


It seems to the sane rational person that the point of an ETS is to try and reduce the environmental impact of heavily polluting industires by forcing a cap-and-trade system, thus giving the whip to said industries to curb their CO2 output. Of course, the fundamental mechanics of the thing become a bit skewed when you substitute the whip for a gentle nudge. The time when industry surrenders to a gentle nudge is the day I eat my own shoes, followed by my shoes and then most humiliatingly, my words.

It's all part of trying to reduce the economic impact of this type of system upon industry and subsequently, on the economy. You see, we happen to rely quite a bit on the export of coal (and not that 'clean' coal the kids have been banging on about either), and with a rising aussie dollar and perhaps even a greener aproach from major trading partners, our exports could take quite a hit if we're forced to pass on the costs of an ETS to customers.

So instead of our trading partners having to pay a bit extra for our coal, the Rudd government has seen fit to use our taxpayer dollars to pay off major polluters toward a bill which has a lessened economic impact, but barely adresses the problem of climate change in our hot and dry country.

It also signals to investor in new sources of energy that we are not ready to be weened off the coal-tit quite yet. Imagine sinking millions into geothermal technology when the government is giving money to heavy polluters. Almost wants to make you change your investment plan, don't it?

Ladies and gentlemen, this move by one of the economically well-off countries in the world in the shadow of Copenhagen should not be taken as a sign that we are indeed taking a green future seriously, but instead are paying token respect for our generation's largest problem and worshiping the almighty dollar.

I love capitalism as much as the next guy who doesn't know how to make his own shoes, but I'd like to take my kid down to the creek one day instead of showing them a nature doco on my ridiculously expensive TV.

Meanwhile closer to the mighty state of WA, police are getting new powers to stop people and frisk them for no particular reason. Good to see my tax going toward molesting both the environment and potentially molesting random people.

To be fair, they're only getting the powers in crime hotspots but giving any arm of society extra power without a counter-balance makes me feel uneasy. Makes a heck of a lot of other people uneasy as well, such as civil libertarians and almost everybody connected with the CCC being concerened they're about to be inundated with complaints. Then there's old chestnut about people being concerened that police officers could just target anyone who looked at 'em funny, like minorities (who are kind of wary around police for some reason).

Personally, I'd like to see the police force become sancrosant. I think when somebody attacks a police officer they should go straight to jail and not collect 200 dollars. Unchecked power though, is a dangerous thing, so what I would put in place are harder punishments for police officers hauled up on corruption and misconduct causes.

Just a thought to mull over in the old brainbox the next time you're frisked in public.

'Till next time

Monday, November 16, 2009

What is wrong with an Indonesian solution?

Over the last month in the oh-so tolerant land of Australia, talking about asylum seekers has been all the rage. More than that, chins have been furiously wagging about our fearless PM's response to the 'boat people' who have been holed up in the Oceanic Viking off the Indonesian coast.

The Oceanic Viking has been a blight on the PM's seeming cruise to the next election while providing much needed respite for an opposition under the harsh light of the ETS issue (which isn't getting hotter according to certain factions in the Liberal Party). Whereas our previous PM, John Howard, had a consistent line on the dealing of asylum seekers (wrong or otherwise), the issue has made Kevin Rudd look like a man with his pants down.

During the three week stand-off which ensued, his government has tried to broker deals with several pacific nations including New Zealand to try and find a home for those aboard the ship. But, oddly enough, nobody wants to handle the political hot potato which has fallen into Rudd's lap. While 22 asylum seekers accepted an initial offer for what the government calls 'rapid resettlement', 50-odd seekers still remained on the boat, wary of what the government is was peddling (rumour has it with good reason too).

It was a month of high drama off the Indonesian coast and we still have 70-odd people in an Indonesian asylum detention centre uncertain of their future. For all the politics, all the testing of international protocol we're still NO CLOSER to finding a solution to what is already a humanitarian crisis.

The million dollar question is though: what's the solution?

Of course, all of the politicians know the answer to the question but afraid of the time and effort that it would take to implement. It's 'simply' about improving conditions in the countries from which the people are seeking asylum from. This goes for our European friends as well dealing with an influx of immigration from Northern Africa. While governments around the world spend billions 'protecting' our borders from the 'immigrants/boat people' (like they're invading, wtf?) foreign aid has not increased in any significant manner since the mid-90's, and meanwhile Bob Geldoff keeps on yelling at the top of his lungs.

It seems to me, that if you were trying to stop the supply of something you'd try and stop it at the source. That is to say, if asylum seekers had little reason to leave their country and risk a dangerous journey across open water to a country on the other side of the world, they probably wouldn't. If that's a simple matter of logic, then why has their been increased funding for border protection but no significant amount of money going to the UN to help speed up the resettlement of political refugees?

Perhaps it's time we stared ourselves in the mirror and asked that question.