As some of you may have been made aware, I really try and encourage participation on my blog – my posts are as much about me and my observations as they are about you and your observations. Just like my post on Islam after the attacks in Paris, I’m going to base this post off a message I recently got from a friend asking my advice about the New South Wales state election, which will be held on the 28th of March:
Yo JimJam [my uber-cool nickname]… Coz I couldn’t give two shits about politics these days, what’s your view on state elections? Non bias if possible. Apart from the angst of the lock out laws I haven’t heard too much negativity against liberal state govt.
Again, I said it was going to be difficult to sum up my response in 140 characters, and I would take it to the interwebz and my blog – so you can all see my response, and possibly comment and get involved *hint, hint*. I know a lot of my friends voted for the Liberals’ in the last federal election and (just like the rest of Australia) feel dismayed and confused as to how it all went so horribly wrong so quickly. Most people don’t want a repeat of an Abbott-style onslaught at both a federal and state level. So to start my answer to the question posed, I’m going to quote the famous playwright, Shakespeare:
‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.’
– Hamlet, (Marcellus to Horatio)
Shakespeare’s modern day version of his famous play would probably incorporate the Australian state of New South Wales, such is the stench of corruption in this state. Something truly rotten is happening with politics around here, but bizarrely it doesn’t seem to be affecting the current premier much at all, with the ABC stating that:
Bookmakers have him [Baird] easily winning the election with odds of 20 to 1, making a win for his rival, NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley, highly unlikely.
The current premier Mike Baird seems to have successfully disassociated himself (in the eyes of the public) from the toxicity of his Federal counterparts and Tony Abbott, plus the foul odour still emanating from the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) inquiries. Just to illustrate how impressive this is, the Abbott government’s continual lack of popularity has partly led to the surprise routing of both Liberal denominations in the states of Queensland and Victoria in the last couple of months – elections the Liberals’ were tipped to win.
With a nice haircut, a winning grin and a picture-perfect family it’s honestly hard not to like Baird, or at the very least be apathetic towards him. I think these factors (plus the fact he also stars in adverts for the Murdoch press) go a part of the way towards answering why you wouldn’t have heard too much ‘negativity’ about the fellow leading up to the election. But what do we really know about him? What is he going to be like if he wins the next election? Will he act differently as premier of the people as opposed to premier of the party room? First, I want to look at the actions of Baird thus far as leader of the Liberals’ and try to gauge where we might be heading if he wins on the 28th. Secondly, I want to look at his quest for privatisation of our electricity network, and assess whether it is in our best interests. Thirdly, I want to assess this mans’ religious beliefs and how that may affect his political ideology and policies once in power.
1. HOW DEEP DOES THE RABBIT HOLE GO?: In regards to ICAC, this thing started as an investigation into corruption, with a predominant focus ironically on Labor and the unions. But alas, what a tangled web these New South Welshmen politicians weave! The ICAC investigation (still on-going) kept pulling on the thread, and the cosy sweater of corruption kept unravelling. Their attention turned towards the Liberal party, dethroning a corrupt premier and the New South Wales Police Minister in the process. The mayor of the state’s second biggest city – Newcastle, plus approximately 10 Liberal state MP’s, also from Newcastle and as far away as Western Sydney (Londonderry) were also forced to resign from the party, or at the very least sit on the cross-bench. A whole host of other prominent businessmen, political heavyweights and power-brokers (predominantly with ties to the Liberals’ or the dominant right-faction of the Labor party), and even Federal representatives (including the Prime Minister) were felt-up by the ever-extending tentacles of the investigation. Who can forget the previous premier Barry O’Farrell being called as a witness and asked if he could recall being sent a $3,000 bottle of wine by the CEO of a company bidding for a state contract? Classic Barry, he said he had ‘no recollection’ – and the very next day the prosecutors showed him a soppy thank-you note he had addressed to the CEO… in his own fucking handwriting! Such a joker that O’Farrell was!
So with a party decimated by corruption and a woeful Federal government hanging around your neck like a dead albatross, you’d be stumped if the man who was parachuted into the position of premier was the most popular leader in the country wouldn’t you? But that is exactly the position Mike Baird can currently claim as his own, less than one month out from a state election that he is tipped to easily win. Does it not seem a bit miraculous that the man who was Treasurer (i.e the guy in charge of the money) was blissfully unaware that the other major players in the state Liberal party were deep in the dirty? Did he know and didn’t do anything about it? Or was he completely unaware of the money changing hands, the wheeling-and-dealing and the large number of odd contracts lined up for ‘friends’ of the Liberal party? Looking at this objectively you can only come to three different conclusions:
a) That he either knew something was happening and didn’t do anything to stop it;
b) He was an accessory to the fact and managed to slip through the cracks due to a lack of evidence;
c) He was completely and blissfully unaware of the deals and money changing hands in the upper echelons of his own party.
Whichever way you look at the matter, it makes you question whether he’s fit for office – let alone fit to be the premier of Australia’s most economically vital state. If you do think the man is innocent, and it’s therefore unfair of me to smother him in the same brush as the rest of those caught up in ICAC, let us turn our sights to his party’s actions in the place where the stench of corruption reeked worst – Newcastle. To those who aren’t quite aware what’s happening to our Novocastrians’ up north, I’ll fill you in. A train-line (and the only train-line) linking New South Wales largest city to its’ second largest city was stopped on Boxing Day 2014 (they know if you do these kind of things in the holidays and you get less resistance from locals – sneaky, sneaky!) to be ripped up and discarded later this year. It’s going to create a whole heap of space, right in the centre of Newcastle – and that space has coincidentally been sold to the exact same developers who were caught handing paper bags full of money to Liberal politicians. So in an era of peak car, climate change and a marked increase in patronage on NSW trains, the government thought it would be a great idea to get rid of the train-line, station and all the rest of it – to make way for developers. In it’s place will be a light-rail (an inefficient mode of transport compared to what is already there) which will be paid for by us, the taxpayers. But it gets even worse – the route the government is pushing for is the one the developers want, but will cost $100 million more and be twice as shit as the original proposal. You would think once they lost all their MPs in the Newcastle/Maitland area for their corrupt dealings relating to the destruction of the train-line into Newcastle that they would stop their quest to provide a developers wet-dream on a platter, for fear it might not go down too well after the whole ICAC fiasco. But instead they’ve gone the other way, with The Sydney Morning Herald noting that:
The NSW government rejected official advice about the best route for light rail into Newcastle in favour of a plan that may cost up to $100 million more, delivers a slower service and provides greater opportunities for property developers.
Confidential internal reports said it was a fucking terrible idea. Now, from a rational perspective, why in god’s name would you choose the more costly and inefficient option (considering Liberals can do no better than harp on about ‘cutting costs’ and ‘increasing efficiency’), unless the might of corrupt developers was influencing your position? I’ve also written extensively in a separate post how us Sydney-siders are also being played for suckers with the current mess that is WestConnex. As I detailed, an independent report was similarly scathing of that whole project, noting many serious and concerning flaws. It’s hard not to see these two cases and honestly come to any other conclusion than there are more powerful forces than the common good (and plain ol’ common sense) that are ultimately dominating the implementation of these two costly projects.
On to another point of objection close to my heart – the lockout laws in Sydney. To those who don’t know Sydney, this is how it went down. On the 31st December 2013, a young man was punched in the head by a stranger in Kings Cross (Sydney’s seedy, clubby district) and died. The last straw for what some considered a violent streak in this part of the city, the Liberal government put in place lock-out laws in the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct, with no entry after 1.30am and last drinks at 3am. This was despite the fact that similar initiatives in Melbourne failed, and other major world cities like London and New York went the other way and extended trading hours – thus avoiding a glut of drunk people hitting the streets all at the same time. There’s evidence to suggest that it has worked, but this can be predominantly attributed to the fact that people are completely avoiding the ‘CBD Entertainment Precinct’ for fear of being subject to these draconian laws. A number of bars, pubs and clubs have shut down – including my personal favourite The Spice Cellar, just off Martin Place. You’ll find something unusual about the boundaries as to where the lock-out laws apply though – the area the Liberals’ mapped out as an exclusion zone covers the whole CBD – except for the Casino – the Casino has a boundary that conveniently ends on its’ doorstep. You literally have nowhere else to go after 1.30am… except for the Star Casino. And guess what, the owners of the Casino just happen to have been one of NSW Liberals’ biggest donors!
Furthermore, that prick of a gambling-oligarch James Packer is building another casino (with the Liberals’ backing) to rival the current one (waiving away the exclusivity clause on one casino in the state) right across the bay from the existing one – on publicly owned land. As The Global Mail reported:
The casino will not be subject to a tender process, nor will community consultation be required, despite the fact that Barangaroo is public land and the only significant harbourside site that has not yet been developed.
The Sydney Morning Herald also reported that the chief executive of James Packer’s Crown Casino re-wrote a press release announcing the Liberal governments’ initial backing of the new casino, and just in case they wanted to look a little more corrupt they refused to publish a report the Liberals’ themselves commissioned to assess the economic benefits of the casino. They even gave him a tax cut on the whole thang.
But wait, there’s more! In the City of Sydney Council, Mike Baird actively sought to force businesses to vote in the council’s elections and… and gave businesses two votes. What does this mean? Well, according to Baird, the vote of a corporation is worth twice as much as your vote. He’s such a big fan of a corporatocracy that he’s hoping to extend this measure over the rest of the state. The Conversation, in an article aptly titled ‘Sydney Risks Becoming a Dumb, Disposable City for the Rich’, further notes the fire-sale to developers and the like for quick cash to line their coffers:
…the Powerhouse Museum site in Ultimo, other harbour-front sites, Bridge Street’s magnificent array of sandstone heritage buildings, public housing at Miller’s Point. Such sales are peddled on the thinnest of short-term economic analyses, discounting the broader values of such assets over longer time frames.
So on that note, we’ve explored how deep the rabbit hole goes (really fucking deep)… let’s now explore Baird’s fascination with privatisation, shall we?
2. WHAT’S THE GO WITH PRIVATISATION?: There’s a new buzz word amongst Liberals’ these days – and it’s ‘lease’. Sounds harmless doesn’t it? The government says it will lease the publicly owned (and profitable) ‘poles and wires’ of our electricity sector to fund ‘much needed’ infrastructure. What they don’t tend to dwell on much is that it’s a lease for 99 years, and it’s a locked-in contract – I’m sorry but if it’s gone for that period of time, that’s practically the same as a sale. They’re so keen to sell our stuff (that’s yours, the taxpayer) that they’ve even been caught out lying about the true value and profitability of the sector, so that this whole privatisation-thang can be sold with more ease to the voting public (polling suggests we really don’t like privatising state assets). It seems odd that you would try to devalue the very thing you’re selling, but the Chinese government (the most likely purchasers) know the true value of this states’ electricity network, and would love to get a hold of it. Privatisation of the electricity network in Victoria and South Australia led to massive price increases and outages – in South Australia, Adelaide Now reported the foreign corporation that now owns their network makes a ridiculous amount of profit off our brothers down south. It went on to say, “SA Power Networks makes after-tax profits of $420 a year from each customer, while UK Power Networks makes $92”. In Berlin, the government privatised the power network – prices spiked, services dropped and the people got pissed-off. Now the people of Berlin are actually reversing the privatisation of the electricity and setting it up as a Co-Op, to boost renewable energy and return profits to the people. It’s actually a super risky move to privatise the electricity sector, as evidenced:
A primary argument for privatisation is the issue of moral hazard under public ownership. While this is certainly true, history has shown something rather interesting: privatisation instead enhances moral hazard. Firms will leverage their market dominance to often blackmail the government with bankruptcy and blackouts if regulators do not raise prices, thereby risking the wider economy.
A great analogy to Mike Baird’s attempt to privatise the electricity network would be this: “The whole plan is like you or me taking our superannuation as a lump sum, blowing the money on an expensive car and going on a long trip, only to return home with nothing left to pay the bills.” That explains why they’ve already sold off over $2 billion worth of state assets since Baird came to power – including heritage-listed sandstone buildings, city office blocks and even islands. Privatisation is essentially a sugar-hit, the good time isn’t going to last long, and once we sell our collective assets they are extremely difficult to get back. Keep in mind that everything Baird has promised hinges on the privatisation programme – as he himself admits, “there is no plan B“. They’re also trying to privatise rail (and divide up the lines so they can sell them off easier) and the TAFE system, to symbolically go hand-in-hand with Abbott’s attempt to deregulate the university system in this country – something else I’ve written extensively on. His attempts to privatise TAFE led to an embarrassing situation recently where the state Liberal education minister was spruiking the cuts on live radio – only to have student after student call in and start sobbing when faced with the reality they could no longer afford to finish their own education. The governments’ response? Get a loan. Doesn’t sound very Christ-like, does it? Which leads to my next question that I think you need to ask yourself…
3. WWJD (WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?): Baird went to the same university as Abbott (as do I… we have so much in common!) and as demonstrated, has the same loving admiration for privatisation that Abbott has. Also, just like Abbott he is a devout Christian who thinks he is doing ‘God’s work’ in politics. You should always be wary when politicians say they’re doing God’s work, as it usually means their actions couldn’t be further from the teachings of the bible if they possibly tried. Baird’s belief in the almighty creator has led to him voting against embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. To illustrate the idiocy of opposing the exciting potential of stem-cell research, I’m going to quote the neuroscientist Sam Harris:
A three-day-old human embryo is a collection of 150 cells called a blastocyst. There are, for the sake of comparison, more than 100,000 cells in the brain of a fly. The human embryos that are destroyed in stem-cell research do not have brains, or even neurons. Consequently, there is no reason to believe they can suffer their destruction in any way at all. It is worth remembered, in this context, that when a person’s brain has died, we currently deem it acceptable to harvest his organs (provided he has donated them for this purpose) and bury him in the ground. If it is acceptable to treat a person whose brain has died as something less than a human being, it should be acceptable to treat a blastocyst as such. If you are concerned about suffering in this universe, killing a fly should present you with greater moral difficulties than killing a human blastocyst.
Perhaps you think that the crucial difference between a fly and a human blastocyst is to be found in the latter’s potential to become a fully developed human being. But almost every cell in your body is a potential human being, given our recent advances in genetic engineering. Every time you scratch your nose, you have committed a Holocaust of potential human beings.
So just to clarify for you – Baird is anti-science, rebukes the belief that two people who love each other should be able to marry, and also believes that a dog has more of a right to a humane death than an actual human. Good to know…
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that both Baird and his Chief-of-Staff pray before making ‘wise’ choices and his Chief-of-Staff actively tells people that “‘the Lord of the universe who put stars in the sky, who created the world, who created every single part of what we live in, who created each and every one of us” is really the one that is calling the shots. The Herald goes on to say that “the Baird/Stoner government is shaping as the most devout in living memory.” We need to ask ourselves if we want a bunch of people who believe in a talking snake and the tower of Babel to also be running the largest economy in Australia? To quote the fantastic Sam Harris again,
The [former] president of the United States [George W Bush] has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.
Anti-science politicians are bad for the country, bad for a secular state and bad for the implementation of good policy. You have to question the intelligence of a man who’s ultimate allegiance is to something that is nothing more than a societal-construct drifting around in his own head-space.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen: the three questions I think you ultimately need to ask yourself before voting for Mike Baird on March 28. What I’ve written isn’t an admission that the other parties are without sin, they’re not. This also isn’t supposed to be a ‘shit-sheet’ on Baird, if it was I would’ve further focused on their relationship with the CSG (coal seam gas) and coal companies setting up shop in NSW too, plus their funding cuts to women’s refuges and homeless shelters across the state. But I truly feel New South Wales is at a cross-roads, and voting for Mr Baird is a pretty big gamble. The ideology of Baird and his conservative clan needs to be properly scrutinised before a number ‘1’ is placed next to the Liberals’ this coming election. We’re better than the drivel served up to us by the political elite, we just need to challenge ourselves to think outside the box and pay attention to what’s happening in our very own state. To quote from Hamlet once more,
‘There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy’
Again, Shakespeare could’ve easily been writing about the state of politics in New South Wales.