Friday, March 30, 2012

Election Fatigue

I admit it. I have no interest in the upcoming Queensland Local Government elections. I don’t know if it’s election fatigue, the relative lack of excitement of local government in general, or the underwhelming nature of the candidates, but right now, I’d be hard pressed to rouse a skerrick of interest.

I suspect I’m not the only one. My partner asked me yesterday who the ALP candidate for Brisbane City Council Mayor is. I answered that it was Ray Smith, who’d been on Brisbane’s 612ABC’s breakfast show in the past few days. Funny thing is, I remember that he was on radio, not from actually noting anything that he said on air, but because I’d noticed it on Twitter.

Then last night, Mr Smith announced via Twitter (@RaySmith4Mayor) that he was campaigning with Kevin Rudd (@KRuddMP) at Garden City Shopping Centre, Mount Gravatt. That stuck in my mind because yesterday was the opening of the extension at Westfield Carindale, just ten minutes away, and every man and his dog (and cat and bird) were at Carindale. Perhaps Mr Smith is dodging Westfield Carindale because he opposes paid parking, which Westfield Carindale is about to introduce.

The thing is, I know that Ray Smith is running for Mayor, representing the ALP. I cannot tell you a single thing about the man, or his policies, or his party’s policies, other than that he opposes paid parking in shopping centres.

Off to Google I went, where I found his website .

There are four policies listed under the ambiguous title of Get Active, although there are more suggested in the media releases on his website. Four policies seems like a fairly thin platform, and “Get Active” sounds like a slogan for a gym, not a Mayoral candidate.

So I think can assume something else about Mr Smith. He’s getting bad campaign advice.

Mr Smith’s opposition is the incumbent Ray Quirk, who replaced Premier Campbell Newman about a year ago. Lord Mayor Quirk has worked hard to lift his profile above that of, well, undercoat. I guess the campaign worked, in so much as I now know his name. But ask me anything at all about the man, his achievements as a Councillor and Lord Mayor, his background, his policies…I simply don’t know. Or care. As Campbell Newman’s successor, Graham Quirk is an LNP councillor, but I don’t know what that means for a local councillor or Mayor.

His website [ ] trumpets a few achievements: roadworks is big, a new park is planned for the old Milton Tennis Centre site, and there’s a bikeway…in case you need somewhere to ride one of Former-Lord-Mayor-Campbell-Newman’s under-utilised yellow CityCycles. They make interesting urban sculptures when lined up in the racks. Honestly though, I can’t see anything there that is above and beyond what you’d expect of a Mayor of a decent sized city. If I was doing a Performance Review, I’d have to say he performed to expectations, but not beyond them. No performance-based bonus for you this year, Mr Quirk!

Closer to home, he’s opened the new Carindale Library. Forgive me if I don’t get excited; he had no choice, as the old library was located in the redeveloped Westfield Shopping Centre, and if I’m not mistaken, the old one was demolished to make way for more retail temptations. I’m pretty excited that the Library has been upgraded, and will be lending fully loaded iPads though!

Check out Mr Quirk’s website and you’ll find an online facility for requesting a Birthday e-card from the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. It’s one of the more naff ideas I’ve seen lately. Of more use is the online Fix-O-Gram, yet these online facilities would most likely be continued regardless of who the mayor is.

Does the Mayor not see a connection between his website and his campaign for re-election?

The whole Mayoral election doesn’t stop with just the two major parties. There are five candidates chasing the Mayor’s gig: Most high profile of all five Candidates is former Australian Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett, running for the Greens. His page on the Greens website  lists a masterful five policies, which are a little more innovative than those of the two major party candidates. It seems to be more about people and less about “stuff”.

Rory Killen appeared to be running as an independent, but he’s not. It looks as though he’s running for the Australian Sex Party, which is why his name is familiar; he ran for them in Victoria last year too. At just 27, he’s surprisingly experienced at campaigning – but what does the Sex Party have to offer a local council? If this guy is serious about forging a career in politics, he needs to get seriously away from the Sex Party. Rightly or wrongly, the party name alone robs candidates of credibility.

Chris Carson is running as an independent. He’s largely unknown, and seems determined to stay that way.

And then there’s my local council ward. Our current councillor is Adrian Schrinner, an up-and-coming LNP man. I didn’t know who was running against him, or even if he had an opponent. So again, I went Googling. There is an ALP candidate in Chandler – Liz Starr – but Liz isn’t listed on Ray Smith’s website as part of his team.

Is that an oversight, or is Ms Starr an ALP candidate who is not part of Mr Smith’s Team?

I know we’re still several weeks away from the election, and just past the State Election, but really. Looking at the five Mayoral candidates and the two candidates in my ward, I wonder if they’re any more engaged than the public is. The general level of interest is incredibly low, and the degree of knowledge is even lower.

The sheer intensity of last week’s state election campaigns is a hard act to follow. If these candidates don’t lift their respective efforts, we might as well do away with local government completely.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Little Town

My little home town isn’t a hole. It’s actually a collection of holes: potholes, as well as ridges, decaying shoulders, degrading surfaces, broken gutters, uneven footpaths and potholes. Did I mention the potholes? Lots of potholes.

Over a decade of inadequate maintenance followed by two major flood events in the past year or so has seen the roads in the Manning Valley approach the end of their usefulness. They are in an appalling state, and it doesn’t look like getting much better in the future.

Greater Taree City Council is responsible for maintaining about 1700km of local roads. GTCC needs to be honest with itself and with us: they don’t have the money or the resources to fix what needs fixing, and they don’t know when or where they’re going to find the money.

And the roads keep getting worse.

Meanwhile, the Greater Taree City Council – the same council that can’t afford to bring its roads up to an acceptable standard - is debating the merits of changing it’s name. It’s an emotional issue for locals, many of whom felt that they were left out when smaller councils amalgamated. 49% of residents within the GTCC area don’t live in Taree. They want a more inclusive name, and see this as their chance to correct an injustice. The consensus seems to be that “Manning Valley Council” would be a far more inclusive name.

But seriously, read any local paper or talk to the locals in the street, and you’ll find that with the real possibility of potholes swallowing their cars as they drive the kids to soccer training, they don’t care whether it’s Greater Taree City Council or the Hellmouth…and if you hit some of those potholes, it’s hard to tell the difference.

Changing the name of a local government area isn’t something you do over a weekend. In fact, the council wants to conduct a survey prior to deciding on the change. It’s a great idea to engage the community and consult with them, but the money isn’t there.

Changing the name of a council area isn’t just about changing the name on the side of the council chambers. Firstly, the name and the new logo and branding need to be developed, and then, it needs to be rolled out. Let’s look at just some of the items that would need to be changed:

  • All council signage for roads, parks, Tourist Information Centre, tourist areas and other public areas
  • Signage on pools, parks, libraries, entertainment centre, art gallery, sporting fields and other facilities provided by council 
  • Letterhead, including pre-printed envelopes, comp slips and business cards 
  • Council Publications, Brochures and Maps 
  • Council’s website 
  • Staff Uniforms 
  • Logos on council sponsored events 
  • Some legal documents 
  • Signage on council vehicles and equipment

Now, think about what that is going to cost.

Then think about how many potholes could be filled for the same amount of money.

I support the idea of changing the name to Manning Valley Council, but this is entirely the wrong time to do it.

Simon & Garfunkel My little town Live 1975 by wild-strawberry

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Alternative Solutions for Alternative Medicine

Oh no! Alternative Medicine! It’s all OOGABOOGA! Witchcraft, I tell you! We can’t be teaching that in our universities, and particularly alongside genuine doctoring courses with science and stuff!

So says the Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM), in their call for Australian universities to abandon teaching alternative and complementary therapies.

Well boo hiss, is my response, and it should be the response of all health care consumers in Australia. It’s important to remember that that’s what we are: we are consumers of health care; we have the right to make our own, informed decisions about our health care options. If our natural therapists aren't sciencey enough, don't kick them out of university; help them to learn, to research, to assess and to develop.

I’m not anti-medicine or anti-science. In fact, I rely on modern “scientific” medicine to keep me sane. I’m also a consumer and past student of one of those alternative therapies. My life is proof that scientific “Western” medicine can and should co-exist with alternative therapies, and the argument that alternative therapies shouldn’t be taught in universities is bizarre.

Unfortunately for FSM and for the alternative therapists is that their argument here has become so twisted that it now appears to be fighting against the very thing it’s campaigning for.

FSM aren’t against natural and alternative therapies. The doctors don’t want to remove our access to alternative therapies. They are just against teaching some of them - the more alternative of the alternatives -  in universities.

But hang on – does it make a difference? If you’re at the end of your tether and have decided to try some kinesiology because your GP wasn’t able to help with your migraines, do you care whether your kinesiologist has a qualification from a university? No – you just want your migraines to stop.

Just what do these scientists know about alternate therapies? My guess is that they probably know less about natural therapies than they know about modern architecture, project management or drama teaching. The FSM seems to want to restrict access to education and research about something it doesn’t understand.

Isn’t the point of universities to educate and provide a framework for research?

Generally, lobbyists have an agenda. What is the objective of the FSM? What’s the end game? I went in search of an official FSM Mission Statement. Here’s what I found:

"to reverse the current trend which sees government-funded tertiary institutions offering courses in the health care sciences that are not underpinned by sound scientific evidence".

Are they trying to discredit therapies they don’t understand to protect their patients? If so – how would they know if a natural therapy would be helpful when they don’t know much about the therapy?

Perhaps they’re feeling threatened, and are simply making the first move in a turf war, in a medical Coles versus Woolworths.

We should consider pride as well. If other, “lesser” therapies are given greater status via a university qualification, does that somehow lessen the elite status of doctors? Or perhaps the FSM is trying to protect the reputation of the universities themselves.

Maybe it’s even more sinister, and this entire campaign is about protecting the financial interests of the multinational drug companies. We should ask Professor Clive J Palmer about that; he’s pretty good at conspiracy theories.

Another strike against the FSM is that this campaign against alternative therapies is rooted in an assumed lack of science. I’d argue that if science is lacking in these therapies, isn’t it the scientific community that carries responsibility to rectify that? You can’t ask an aromatherapist to conduct scientific research into aromatherapy if he doesn’t have qualifications in science. He does, however, have qualifications in aromatherapy, so perhaps the medico-scientific researchers could work with aromatherapists to develop appropriate research methods and assess results. Exposure to the rigid scientific structures within a university would surely encourage the less scientific modalities to become more scientific in their approach.

If the motivation of the FSM is the question of patient safety, I call foul. This has been trotted out for decades by the practitioners of Western medicine as a primary reason for rejecting the alternatives. They’re not safe, because they’re not tested and have no basis in science.

That argument assumes that science-based medicine isn’t harmful, and that complementary and alternative medicine isn’t effective. The arguments don’t hold up. Even the most esteemed medical scientist must concede that just because something has a scientific pedigree doesn’t make it perfect and doesn’t make it safe. Popular over-the-counter medications which have been studied for decades still have side effects. Commonly prescribed medications have been withdrawn from the market due to unacceptable risk of serious side effects. If you go into hospital for surgery, you are required to sign a form to confirm that you know what is happening to you, and what the outcomes may be, both good and bad. If you see your GP and he writes you a prescription, you’ll probably receive a Consumer Information pamphlet detailing basic information about the drug, including possible negative side effects. There are risks. Science-based medicine is imperfect.

The thing about science based medicine is that all practitioners are scientists. The same cannot be said for practitioners of alternative therapies, although in many courses, some science is incorporated.

We know that a large number of Australians choose to incorporate some form of alternative therapy into their lives. Reports vary, but range up to 75%. It’s not going away.

Rather than denigrate useful and developing modalities with terms like Voodoo Medicine and campaigns to have less scientific therapies banned from universities, why can’t universities embrace these different ideas, and use their expertise in genuine science to properly assess and develop more than one idea at a time.

What do you think? Ban them all, or work with them?
Fair enough, but why?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Clive Who Cried Wolf

The thing about Professor Clive J Palmer is that he is oftentimes so "colourful" that when he makes up fantastic stories about environmental groups and the foreign spy agencies, we believe it. And we did. 

It’s not that we’re gullible, it’s just that we’re used to Clive having a finger in every pie and a self-serving opinion on everything. As far as we know, he's never deliberately lied to us before. As far as we know...

As we learned yesterday, Clive doesn’t really believe that the CIA is funding environmental groups to destroy Australia’s coal export industry, thereby favouring our American competitors. He’s no fan of the environmental groups; he just wanted to provide a big distraction in the last week of the Queensland election campaign. I’ve no idea why he thought he needed a distraction; there was never a realistic chance that the ALP could win.

Clive cried wolf, and our outrage was unanimous. Mission Accomplished.

Crazy Clive’s Conspiracy theory needs a closer look though. Just because he’s donned the lyrca and cycled backwards doesn’t mean he didn’t call a press conference to announce to the world that the CIA was funding the Greens. He can't put the conspiracy back in the tube. That kind of pronouncement has consequences.

Clive has undoubtedly damaged his own reputation, particularly with the media. He lied to the media for political gain. Anything else he says, at least regarding politics, politicians and interest groups, will be treated with some degree of caution, and rightly so.

He’s also damaged the reputation of the man he accused of receiving CIA funds to disrupt Australia’s export coal industry. Drew Hutton now has the backing of grass-roots activist group GetUp, and they will be taking Clive to court. Whether Drew and GetUp can match Clive’s bottomless funding pit is yet to be seen, but you’d think that Drew would have a pretty good chance of winning.

Clive’s more recent attention-grabbers - the Hyatt Regency Coolum, the Gold Coast Soccer team, his CIA Conspiracy, his weight loss triumph - are conspicuously unrelated to his mining operations. He doesn't involve his primary money-makers in his media insanity, unless it's to slap the Treasurer around.

Closer to home, I marvel that Clive thinks its okay to lie to get what you want. Is that what he tells his preschool daughter? Is that how he runs his businesses? Is that how he views his marriage? 

Or does he save his deception for political gain?

Clive is a liar and a bully-boy, and that’s disappointing. He’s also a liar and a bully boy with money and influence. That makes him dangerous.  

We're onto him now, though. No amount of money can buy credibility.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Campbell Newman Must Learn from Gough Whitlam

On the surface, you’d think CanDo and Gough would have little in common. In fact, CanDo might find that he and Gough Whitlam have a bit and he should learn from Gough’s explosive two-term reign in the early seventies.

When Whitlam came to power in 1972, it broke a 23 year streak of Liberal – Country Party rule. Campbell Newman’s victory this weekend in Queensland broke stretch of ALP domination in Queensland that had lasted for 22 years (with the obvious exception of Rob Borbridge’s short Liberal rule.)

Both Whitlam and Newman based their campaign themes around it being time for change. Whitlam’s used the famous “It’s Time” jingle, but Campbell Newman adhered more closely to Bob Menzies’ 1949 campaign “It’s Time for a Change” slogan. It works.

Usually a government is officially sworn in a week or two after the election is held, to allow time for all votes to be counted, and for the leader to choose his ministry. Whitlam was in a hurry, and asked the Governor General to swear him and his deputy as soon as the result was definite. Between the two of them, they controlled all of the portfolios until the full cabinet was sworn in.

Campbell Newman has chosen the same approach. Less than 48 hours after the polls closed, Newman has already been sworn in, along with his deputy, Jeff Seeney, and his Treasurer Tim Nicholls. They have formed an interim government. A full cabinet will be announced and in due course. It’s not known why Mr Newman was so determined to assume the role of Premier so quickly, but it could be so that he can make changes at the highest levels of the Public Service.

When Whitlam came to power in 1972, he actioned everything he could get away with: foreign relations with China, Taiwan and South Africa, blanket exemptions from conscription, equal pay issues, major funding for the Arts, brought the last troops home from Vietnam and removed the sales tax from the conceptive pill, among other things.

The public reaction was overwhelming; things were getting done, without the burdensome processes of parliament. Many years later, Whitlam’s speechwriter commented that “We did too much too soon.”

Whitlam was also determined to hold power individually. Aside from the the caucus-selected Cabinet, Whitlam maintained full control of the cabinet agenda, and formed cabinet committees.

Campbell Newman, if you learn nothing else from Whitlam, remember not to run too fast, and remember to share your power. With no oversight from an Upper House and no Opposition, you and your team will be solely responsible for Queensland for the next three years. Take your time, and listen to smart people (particularly those who disagree with you).

We probably don’t need any more Jackson Pollack art for a while, either.

Labor - Whatever That Means

It’s 2012, and I’m struggling to define the ALP, or even recognise it. For over a century, the ALP has been Australia’s party of the left; an inclusive party of workers, for workers. I’m not sure it can claim that description any more, although it is still marginally to the left of the Nationals and the Liberal Party.

Just two days ago, Queensland voted to change governments, from the ALP to the LNP, in a victory from which Labor may not emerge. Vanquished Premier Anna Bligh has removed herself from the game, forcing a by-election in South Brisbane. Defeated ALP members are thick on the ground, yet they aren’t volunteering to lead the handful or so Labor members that survived Saturday’s massacre. Both Andrew Fraser – expected to be the next leader – and Grace Grace have confirmed that they won’t contest.

It’s not just Queensland. The entire eastern seaboard has rejected their long-serving ALP Governments and replaced them with Liberal/National Party Coalition Governments, or in the case of Queensland, the LNP.

On the federal level, Julia Gillard just scraped back into power with the assistance of the independents and Greens. She is phenomenally unpopular, and as was the case with Anna Bligh in 2009, snuck back into power in part due to an Opposition that was perceived to be worse than the Labor alternative. The Federal term has just passed the half-way mark. If Labor is to recover, it must start now.

Labor was never going to win these elections, and one has to assume that under Julia Gillard, the Federal ALP will fall too. The inevitable Labor soul-searching at all levels will be deep and it will hurt.

Can the ALP redefine itself, rebuild, and sell its new message before the next Federal Election is due in the second half of 2013?

The question was posed on Twitter yesterday:

“What did we (the ALP) do wrong?”

Contrary to Tony Abbott’s beliefs, the Queensland election was not a referendum on the Carbon Tax or the Mining Resources Rent Tax. Exit polling indicates that this election was fought on state issues, with Cost of Living topping the list.

The first of the two big issues for the Bligh Government was the attention span. The LNP campaign theme ignored all of the issues and emphasised the length of time Labor had been in power. Anything over ten years, and the electorate will start thinking about change. The Bligh Government should have been defeated in 2009, and would’ve been, had the Opposition been able to mount a coherent campaign with a charismatic leader.

The second issue is the Bligh Government’s perceived mismanagement of the Queensland Economy. A great deal was made of Queensland’s downgraded credit rating, and Premier Bligh’s decision to sell state assets, coupled with impressive increases in electricity charges and car registration costs. Even though it was back in 2009 that the asset sales were announced, that decision is still a talking point. Queenslanders have never forgiven Ms Bligh for that.

I’m one of the few who would back Ms Bligh’s decision to sell those assets. Why? Because the Queensland economy is reliant on mining and tourism, and both took an enormous hit during the depth of the GFC. Would anyone care to guess where our credit rating would be had we not realised the additional funds from those asset sales?

There were other issues, of course: the ongoing issues with the Queensland Health payroll system made the department – and hence the government - look incompetent. Jayent Patel’s trial during this parliamentary term just added to the perception of a key department in crisis. The Gordon Nuttal trial and sentencing was another blow.

Finally, there was the intense negative campaigning from the ALP, direct at Campbell Newman and his family’s financial affairs. There were, and still are, some questions I’d like to see answered; those questions were both relevant and timely. But they were also personal, they were aggressive, they were negative, and Australians don’t like that style of campaigning.

It doesn’t matter how much time the ALP organisation spends contemplating its belly button, knowing what went wrong with the Queensland elections won’t help it win the Federal Election next year.

The first hurdle in rebuilding Labor is for Labor – by which I mean it’s members – to decide what it wants to be. Are the values that Labor built on a century ago still relevant? Should Labor reconnect with it’s Union roots, or is there a new vision? Given how far the ALP of the 21st Century is from its unionist / socialist roots, should it try to regain it’s base, or try to build a new one?

There’s an impressive gap between the ALP and the Greens, the two parties which are perceived as being left in today’s environment. Check out the Political Compass. In 2010, the ALP was considered to be Centre-Right, and the greens slightly left of centre. There’s an opportunity there, pretty close to the centre of the political map, and I suspect that if we were to examine the values of “old Labor”, it would fill that gap quite well.

The three major parties are now crowded together with little to differentiate between them. It’s worth considering that if the major parties could demonstrate genuine ideological and policy differences, they would be better placed to campaign without the personal mudslinging and negativity.

But for now, there’s no party to represent those of us who favour a conservative approach to economics, but a more progressive social agenda. The balance of power is tilting ever so slightly away from the Capitalist/Christian paradigm that defined the 20th century. Role models from Ghandi to the Dalai Lama to Nelson Mandela would be unrepresented in Canberra. That must be a consideration for anyone developing an ideology in this, the”Asian Century”.

If there is one ray of hope to come from Labor’s ensanguined result in Queensland, it’s this: their destiny is within their control. They must take this opportunity to become meaningful again.

Whatever that means.

The answers only take us half way.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes Part 2

Holy Flaming Shitballs, Queensland! The LNP has won the most astounding victory most of us can remember. In a house of 89 seats, it's looking like 76 seats will belong to the LNP, with a couple more from their conservative cousins in Katter's Australian Party. It doesn't get much better than this-just ask Clive Palmer, the LNP Godfather. He couldn't contain his excitement, referring to the humbled ALP as "gutless wonders".

It can't be all plain sailing for the LNP though. They have some mountains to climb, and with a mandate like this, the expectation will be enormous. That said, their emotional journey will be vastly different to that of the ALP. It's more akin to the situation that Kevin Rudd's team faced in 2007. We all know what happened there.

Since claiming victory last night, Campbell Newman has repeatedly pledged that his government will act with humility, grace and dignity. Sixteen or so hours in, he has kept that pledge, Clive Palmer notwithstanding.

Newman is wasting no time; he's already held a meeting with his key people, or at least those who were in Brisbane this morning. With the long months of campaigning, and polling solidly in the LNP's favour, they would have had a transition team in place, handling all those details.

Now, take a breath, close your eyes, and imagine the biggest success you can imagine. You and all the people you work with and all your friends get to walk out of your offices and into the executive offices. It's yours. 

It's a crazy, heady thing. Those people who to work up there are vacating their offices in grief and shock. The ground is moving under them. Human decency demands that the LNP allow a little space for the old team to packing their bits and bobs into archive boxes and leave the building. Time is impossible when you're pulsing with triumph, adrenaline, and a mandate for drastic change.

The next few weeks will be a series of balancing acts for the new team: the LNP is forming its first government. Who gets the key ministries? (Mr Newman is announcing a few of those as I write this.) Almost 80 people will form the parliamentary team, along with their assistants, staff, egos and agendas. Newman's military experience should come in handy; those guys know how to form functional teams.

And what about the Public Service? Some will go with the Government Restructure - John Bradley, Director General of the Premiers Department, has already been punted. I can't imagine Greg Withers, Assistant Director General of the Department of Climate Change, and Anna Bligh's husband, would be likely to hold onto his job.

And what are the priorities? What can wait? Now versus later. Regional versus state. Liberal versus Nationals. Surety versus doubt. Confidence versus inexperience. Just working out where to start is an overwhelming task. The Government may be new, but the state isn't. Countless projects are underway, and some of those aren't on the LNP's To-Do Lst. Plough on, or abandon projects half-finished?

And what should the new government do about the status of the outgoing team, given the likelihood that the ALP won't win enough seats to be a legitimate Opposition under the Queensland Constitution? Frankly, the idea of such an incredible majority, no Opposition and no Upper House doesn't seem to be in the spirit of democracy. 

As an Organisational Change specialist, I can only hope that the new LNP Government gets this right. As we saw last night, Queenslanders can be unforgiving.

But firstly and above all else, on behalf of the newbie-MPs, someone needs to find the loos.

Update: Outgoing Queensland Premier has announced her resignation from public life, forcing a by-election in her seat of South Brisbane. Campbell Newman has confirmed that the LNP will field a candidate in this by-election.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes Part 1

To the surprise of many in and around the Queensland ALP, the sun came up this morning. It must have felt like the end of the world last night as seat after seat fell to the LNP. Commentators recalculated and made new predictions and recalculated again, lowering the number of seats the ALP would retain, until the mind-numbing truth: they wouldn't crack double figures.

I hate to be the one to break it to them: for the few who scraped by and retained their seats, the worst is yet to come. 

The Survivors

Close your eyes. Imagine your office or your school or your newsroom.Think for a moment about the people you work with. Good people, mostly; friendly, competent, familiar. You share most of the same values and priorities and sense of purpose. You've worked with these people for years.
Uhoh! Instant restructure and a major round of redundancies. When you go into your workplace tomorrow, more than 40 of the fifty-odd people in your team are gone. Think of the four people you work most closely with. Whoosh. You're the only one left. The others are literally redundant, as of last night.

Some of your former colleagues saw it coming, but many didn't. You knew something was up, but you're staggered by the magnitude of the devastation.

There's worse to come. You were in the department that made all the decisions. You were the where the action is. Presto-changeo! You and your remaining colleagues have been moved to the other side of the building, to the smaller offices. Your job description has changed. You're not making the decisions any more.

And now, the most galling of all: your former colleagues are being replaced by a group of mainly new recruits. They don't know the business. They don't even know where the toilets are...but they know better than you, and they'll be making the decisions. They'll be sitting in the good seats where you used to sit, looking at you, blaming you for everything that's gone wrong, even when it's not your fault. They'll criticise the achievements you're most proud of, and you'll sit by as they soak up the praise for the work your team started but was unable to finish.

Did I mention that you might be paid less than you were, and have to learn new areas of expertise...all while worrying about your former colleagues and trying to ignore the nagging survivor guilt, and that inappropriate little voice that wishes you'd been booted out like 85% of your mates.

Welcome to ALP Survivor Hell

The Vanquished

There are surely a lot of hangovers around Queensland this morning. A few well-known ALP MPs - now former MPs - have logged into Twitter to thank their supporters and remove the "MP" from their Twitter handles. 

Fifty-one people have been judged, and for a whole range of reasons, more than 40 have been replaced. 

Some, like Paul Lucas, knew this day was coming, and took the opportunity to retire. Others thought they'd survive this triennial performance review. Sadly, some excellent members of parliament were just in the wrong seat at the wrong time and were discarded, such was the appetite for change.

Some have plans, many don't. 

But today they sleep, start to scrub away the emotional grime left after a long campaign, and be with their families and friends. 

Yesterday was a catastrophic loss for the ALP in Queensland. Survivors and victims of the Blue Tide will grieve, mourn and find people to blame.

Denial...Anger...Bargaining...Depression...Acceptance. Coming soon to an ALP Branch Near You.

In case no-one else remembers, I'd like to thank these people for their service.

Thoughts on the LNP later.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Election Morning Through The Eyes of Twitter

The Queensland Election has been a trending topic on and off all morning. Here are a few tweets that caught my eye.

The feeling in the air these last days of campaigning suggests that the ALP has all but given up. Almost. Politics is like sport: you don't give up until...well, you don't give up. Ask Karen Struthers. 
@KarenStruthers Anna's Labor want a future Qld that is strong &fair - dont risk an all too powerful LNP #dontvotenewman Support your local MP?

CanDoCampbell, the fake Twitter account and star of the extended campaign on Twitter, had an unexpectedly zen moment! Que Sera Sera? 
@Can_Do_Campbell My thought for today. What ever happens &who ever wins, it's democracy in action, &on Monday life goes on. Just be grateful we get to vote

Unbelievable. The nasty has started early in the day. There's no need for this. In fact, there's never an excuse for this, and it may even be illegal. 
@4CThinking Imbecile #LNP nutter ripping #ALP election banners off fence at Yeronga SS - way of the future for this mob with massive majority? #qldvotes

What is it about Kevin Rudd & hope? I see his name...and I feel hopeful. That's how it was in 2007, and for some of us, it still is. 
@KRuddMP Kate Jones has done a great job for her community, now she needs their support. That's why I'm working to help #KeepKate  KRudd
Against all reason, I felt a tiny surge of hope, that if Kevin is there, helping, maybe Kate will get her miracle. 

Kevin isn't the only federal Pollie from the Government who is lending support via Twitter. I haven't seen any from the Liberal side (and I do follow both sides). Is that LNP confidence, complacency, or disinterest?In the meantime, some support for the ALP:
@JuliaGillard Ashgrove, Keep Kate today. @KateJonesMP is a local who has fought for your community for a long time. #QldVotes JG
@MikeKellyMP Find it funny that Campbell Newman can't even vote for himself in today's election. #auspol

I spoke too soon. Tony Abbott has tweeted. Twice. I can't decide if his tone is so different because his team has this election locked, or if it's just his personality. Even in victory, he sounds less than engaged:
@TonyAbbottMHR @Campbell_Newman has run a great campaign. He will get Queensland back on track #qldvotes
@TonyAbbottMHR Every vote in every seat in Qld matters. The only way to end Labor's 20 years of neglect is to vote for your local LNP candidate #qldvotes

And one of my favourite Tweeps has some words of wisdom.
@SuperTriviaGuy When you go to vote please remember this is not a war. You don't win by being rude to people handing out How To Vote info. Be polite.

It's not all about the voting though. A lot of it is about the sausage sizzles and lamington stalls. Perhaps the food incentives should be compulsory.
@totalquailure: Ooh, cake stalls. I mean, DEMOCRACY Dammit #qldvotes
@its_Mella @couriermail there's cupcakes?! I'd rather cupcakes then snags. Gimme sweets any day!

And when you get crowds of people forced together, stuff happens.
@Couriermail LNP candidate David Chrisafulli's wife, Tegan, fainted after seeing an elderly voter, known as “Joy”, trip and fall, cutting her knee open.
But really, it's all about the voters. 
@MurrayWattMP Nice couple just told me they normally vote LNP but are with me because of what I've done locally. Now that's #electiondayfun!

A final note of TwitWisdom:
@scottspark Avalanche of angst over #qldvotes outcome on Twitter - guys, dolls, remember - politics does not rule your life unchecked. Breathe.

What Kind Of Day Has It Been?

It's after midnight on Friday night - Saturday morning, really - and I think it's time now to admit that tomorrow will be one of those rare days when a state officially flips ends of the political divide. Tomorrow, the ALP Government that has steered Queensland through most of the post-Joh years will take a monumental beating, if the polls are to be believed. 

Unfortunately for the ALP true believers, the polls tend to be in agreement with each other. They aren't close either; the LNP is going to win tomorrow, and win big. 

Since the 2009 election, the ALholds held government with 51 seats. By this time tomorrow, that number could be approaching single digits. Thirty or forty good people will lose their jobs tomorrow.

Those people will be replaced by new members of parliament from the LNP, and possibly a couple from Katter's Australian Party. There might even be a Green.

These are big changes, and while commentators will be talking policies, and punters will be celebrating - or not - an infinite number of smaller changes will be taking place in the lives of so many people. 

Outgoing Premier Anna Bligh will probably sleep in on Sunday. Another thirty or forty outgoing members will probably do the same. There'll be wounds to heal, hangovers to endure and lives to re-arrange. 

It doesn't stop there; electorate office staff may change. Campaign staff will move on to the next challenge, some within the new LNP Government. Media will change focus from the campaign to the formation of a new state government. The campaign buses will need new paint jobs and new missions. Public Service Executives will be nervous.

It will be easier on the outgoing ALP members, although the emotional impact will be cruel. Most of them will be allowed to disappear quietly into their lives. The higher profile ministers won't be as lucky. They'll be watched, at least for a while. I hope they'll all keep doing great things. Anything less is a cop out.

Anna Bligh will probably retain her seat, but will she continue to lead the ALP in Opposition, or will she remove herself to the back bench? Will there be a back bench, or will the ALP have so few seats that every member will have to step up?

And Kate Jones? This week's polling suggests that she won't defeat Campbell Newman. Kate's young - 33 - with a high profile and a degree in journalism. Kate can do anything she wants to.
Meanwhile, Campbell Newman will be thinking about formalising all those ideas he's been tossing around. He'll need to get in a room with Bruce McIver and the LNP chiefs to form a functional government from a group of politicians high on adrenaline and unused to governing. It's heady stuff.

Newman has the experience as team leader, but no experience at state level. He'll have help though; a winning LNP team would include a rich vein of former leaders, although their experience will be in opposition. 

It's a huge change in perspective, from a position of negativity and powerlessness to a position where your decisions will be enacted. Please be careful; these aren't just concepts or ideals now.

I hope both sides have learned from recent history. I hope that whatever remains of the Queensland ALP on Sunday takes note of the Federal Opposition and chooses a different approach. The role of the Opposition in Queensland is so much more important than most Oppositions as Queensland has no Upper House. The ALP will need to do more than oppose; they'll need to oversee the Government from a position of political impotence. With numbers as insignificant as maybe 15% of the seats, they need to be the other half of Queensland's democracy.

And the LNP Government? What are their challenges? Firstly, they'll need to stop campaigning and actually govern. Secondly, they'll need to accept that things will look different from the grown up seats. Some of their policies and promises might not survive the reality test; they need to make decisions that are right for Queensland, not decisions that will get them re-elected. 

Finally, they need to remember who they're governing for, and that's all Queenslanders. The LNP won't win because Queenslanders love them and believe in them. The LNP will win because they aren't the Labor Party and because it's time for a change. Somewhere around half of us will be voting for someone else.

In all likelihood,Queensland will elect an LNP Government tomorrow. It'll be up to them to earn our respect.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Clivening: Part 2

Really, the idea of Clive Palmer backpedalling scares me, if only because the image of Clive Palmer on a bicycle scares me. But it was a small and basically ineffective backpedal. He must have known the reaction his words yesterday, linking the CIA to Austalian Green groups would generate. That's why he said his piece in front of a bank of microphones, rather than simply issuing a release. He wanted this reaction.

Meanwhile, the CIA is denying all knowledge. Greenpeace and the Greens are appalled and amused in equal measure and the LNP has made like a submarine and gone quiet. The Twitterverse is convulsing with laughter and the media is bemused.

Trust Professor Palmer to make a splash.

The question remains, why would someone in Clive's position announce an obviously whacky conspiracy theory? What could he possibly have to gain?

So, looks like Clive's motivation is money. Gosh. *insert shocked expression here*

But what about his undying devotion to the Liberal Party, and now, Queensland's LNP. Could it be ideological? Is he a true believer?

In simple terms, he's looking after the Libs in the hopes that they'll look after him. No-one is being disappointed. Aside from the occasional brain-snap, it's a happy, co-dependent relationship.

So I guess Clive really does have it all...with the possible exception of his sanity. He has his relationship with the LNP to sustain him, and he has his mines to...well...sustain him. Clive Palmer's Hierarchy of Needs is being met in full.

Congratulations Clive.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Conspiracy! The Clivening

Clive Palmer. What can I say? This afternoon, he went bat-shit crazy in front of the national media, at a media conference he called.

This wasn't an ambush, a leak to be denied or rumour to be confirmed. This was Clive Palmer deliberately standing up to demonstrate a theory that the CIA is funding the Australian Greens. Why? To ensure the continued success of the American coal industry by sabotaging the Australian export coal industry. 

It's not April Fools Day, so he must believe this stuff.

It's certainly not the first time that Clive's called a press conference and surprised a few journalists: his pronouncements can range from his new soccer league to weight loss to his reaction to Wayne Swan's provocations last month. He is unpredictable and emotionally engaged. 
And more than a little unhinged.

It's lucky for the LNP that they are so confident of winning on Saturday, because a brain splodey like that from the LNP's biggest donor could give some nervous LNP voters the screaming

God only knows what LNP President Bruce McIver thinks...and Bruce is pretty close to God. He's pretty close to Professor Palmer too. Palmer is McIver's boss.

Yes, the state president of the LNP works for a billionaire mining magnate who (a) delivered a bizarre international conspiracy theory on national tellie, and (b) is the largest donor to his employee's political party.

What is Tony Abbott's response to Clive's statement?

What is Campbell Newman's response to Clive's statement?

What is Bruce McIver's response to Clive's statement?

None of these politicians has made any comment about Clive's conspiracy theory, although it is obviously something they need to take time with. Surely they must recognise the insanity of today's presser...but are they willing to distance themselves from their largest donor? 

If the do, they risk losing his financial support as well as any potential backlash from other mining interests who are supporting Clive...if anyone is... I haven't seen a single word of support for him. Yet. 

If they don't repudiate his craziness, the LNP will be seen by everyone as supporting his theories. Many already believe the relationship between mining companies and both major political parties is too close. No politician can risk being associated this theory, surely?

At least Clive's spectacular pronouncement is keeping Hajnal Black off the front page.

The Great Language Divide

We were flicking around the channels last night, and I saw a piece on Fox News (don’t shoot me; it pays to know what the other “half” thinks). The story was about an education initiative in California, just north of San Diego, where kids would be taught in a bilingual environment. By that I mean that school, for kids from the age of five, would be conducted as normal, with the addition of ‘deep language immersion’. Every class would be delivered in both Spanish and English.

What a great idea, particularly in an area like this where two ethnic groups with two languages are living side by side. This can only be a very good thing.

Apparently not for everyone! Fox was interviewing a woman who was vehemently against it, and was willing to send her children ‘across town’ to another school district where lessons were taught only in English, while other parents were literally camping outside a school to get their little ones enrolled where the bilingual programmes were underway.

Coincidentally, the New York Times ran a piece this weekend on the cognitive benefits of bilingualism. Studies are showing that people who are bilingual have greater situational awareness as they consciously and subconsciously monitor their environment for cues.

And then of course there are the social and societal benefits: if people can understand and communicate more easily, they can relate more easily, do business, form relationships and most of all, have respect and empathy. Two ethnic groups in one area become a single community.

From here, it looks like all win, although I concede that in reality, it’s not easy to achieve that kind of blended society, and shared bilingualism alone won’t do it. Still, I don’t see a downside to children being taught a second, socially relevant language.

Republican Rick Santorum must see a downside. In fact, he told voters in Puerto Rico that if it was to gain full statehood, it would need to embrace English as its primary language. He even quoted a (non-existent) law about English being the first language in the USA.

Mitt Romney was responsible for helping get rid of bilingual education in Massachusetts and bringing the English-immersion movement to the state when he was governor – the exact opposite of what is happening near San Diego. He actively discouraged the learning of foreign languages in school.

It’s almost a cliché these days for politicians to talk about the things that unite us being greater than those which divide us, but what about when those things are as basic as language? Is it better to mandate a single language as a unifying force, or promote multiple languages in areas where two or more cultures co-exist?
 And here in Australia, we’re having a similar debate; we just don’t know it. The Coalition talk about dollars, and measure debit. The progressives talk about values and measure achievement. The Coalition uses the word ‘values’ to refer to traditional Christian values; the progressives use the word ‘values’ to talk about human rights and environment.

When we’re all speaking different languages, how do we find consensus?

Our two sides of politics are different cultures who have to work together but who speak different languages. We need to find a common language and a set of values we agree on before we can hope to make progress.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Conduct Unbecoming

What was it with the Liberal leaders over the weekend? Tony Abbott took a long run up and shoved his foot in his mouth, and Campbell Newman refused to accept a handshake.

Neither of these gaffes had anything to do with policy, with governing, or with campaigning. They were both just bloody-minded (and pretty pointless) attempts at point-scoring.

Both misfired with the public because frankly, the public has better manners and knows what is appropriate and what isn’t.

When Abbott made his official condolence remarks on the death of Margaret Whitlam, he included criticism of the Whitlam government, which was both inappropriate and unsurprising.

He described Mrs Whitlam as ''woman of style and substance'' and ''a marvellous consort to a very significant Labor leader and an epochal Australian prime minister.”

But Abbott’s mouth was coasting, and he couldn’t help himself from adding, “There was a lot wrong with the Whitlam government but nevertheless, it was a very significant episode in our history and Margaret Whitlam was a very significant element in the political success of Gough Whitlam,''

It’s simply not the done thing. When you are offering your condolences, offer your condolences, and leave it at that. It’s just poor form that Mr Abbott saw it as an opportunity to snark a government that dates back over a generation. It was a pointless and ill-considered gesture that only served to damage his own reputation.

And then, Campbell Newman took it up a notch. Yesterday afternoon there was a forum in Ashgrove, featuring the five candidates and an audience of "locals".

The event was feisty, particularly as the audience was partly comprised of loud, conservative voters who may or may not be Ashgrovians. They were certainly a rowdy lot, applauding generously for their candidates. In contrast I hear the response to the ALP & Greens candidates ranged from mocking silence to audible booing.

All in all, it was the kind of political event more often seen in the USA than in suburban Brisbane. Journalists tweeted after the event how personally tough and emotionally exhausting it had been on the candidates.

It wasn't until later that the real disgrace of the afternoon was known.

Footage confirms that Campbell Newman, the man who in less than a week is likely to be Queensland's Premier-Elect, refused to shake the hand of his opponent, ALP sitting member Kate Jones.

I was disgusted. The Twitterverse was disgusted.

Is there any excuse for such blatant rudeness?

Newman suggested later that he was waiting for Ms Jones to apologise to Mrs Newman regarding some comments the ALP had made. “The ALP” has made a lot of comments about Mr Newman, his wife and his wife’s family, but I’m not sure that he can hold Kate Jones responsible for that.

His refusal to accept a handshake from his opponent was churlish. As a former army graduate of RMC who retired with the rank of Major, he should know better. His conduct in refusing that handshake was ‘conduct unbecoming.’

These tweets from last night illustrated the mood:
@ellymac: What a stupid move from Newman. The media will talk about nothing but the refused handshake.
@Jess_Rudd Newman refused to shake Kate Jones' hand. An MP, a former minister, a candidate, but most importantly a human being. Disgraceful.

@greenat15 You are a shameful creature Campbell Newman...Refusing to shake Kate Jones's hand at the #AshgroveForum. #QLDvotes #qldpol

@Billmcdonald1 @jess_rudd @armac152 no excuse for not accepting a handshake.

@owenwareham Campbell Newman refuses to shake Kate Jones hand. What an outstanding role model for young Queenslanders. Grub.

@Dobboinaus @Jess_Rudd @armac152 I concur, he should be very very ashamed, but sadly it shows the real deal.

I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.

In any case, they both need to go back to charm school before they embarrass themselves – and us – any further.

Update: Perhaps the public reaction to Newman’s handshake horror has changed his tune, because today, after the one and only official debate during this campaign, Newman did shake the hand of the Premier.
@Jess_Rudd Good grief. Mr Newman, if you won't shake your opponent's hand after a debate, you aren't fit to be premier. #poorform #Ashgroveforum

Friday, March 16, 2012

God Help Us: Dan Watson is an Arseclown

Just a month ago, we spent the weekend in Sydney. We'd each lived there before, in other lifetimes, but we found our home together in Brisbane. It's not perfect. Nowhere is.

Our Sydney weekend blurred past: images altered little from my memory, smells as familiar as yesterday. I love the sharp smokey smell of Sydney trains, and the pungent mulchiness in the air up around Epping.

I'm not as enthusiastic about the pigeons in the Mall at Bondi Junction, or the clientele at the Coogee Bay Hotel. I've lived in Coogee - but I've lived in Wenty too. I speak Bogan.

Wynyard still smells like stale piss, but the hooker outside our five-star CBD hotel added a brittle veneer of Pretty Woman-esque class to our 10pm stroll.

And then there's Manly. Some of the best views anywhere in any city's suburbia are right there. I sat for a while. Grandmas and toddlers everywhere that Sunday morning. A little girl, only just walking - why wouldn't she wear her damned shoes? And a boy, four or five, jumping down the stairs. Of course he fell, screamed, cried, settled and jumped again.

An older couple strolled by in their traditional Indian garb. It was one of those hot summer days that Sydney does so well. The Indian matron had chosen a sari in coffee coloured silk with gold and bronze embellishment. The choli was cropped below her breasts. Exposed brown flesh was abundant and wobbly, no more embarrassed than the toddler who hated shoes.

So short was our time in Sydney that we didn't get to see the other Sydney, although we were constantly aware of its nearness. From the airport to George Street to Manly and back, everything we saw shined for us, except the people, although some of them tried.

But we're not that stupid. I lived in Wenty. Rob lived in Hornsby. Show me the difference between Westfield Eastgardens and Westfield Carindale. Once inside those soul-less places, you could be in any city. K-Mart is K-Mart. Frisbees are frisbees and men congregate at the barbecues. We're Australians, not the bridge crew of the Starship Enterprise.

Remember those People's Forums before the 2010 election? Rooty Hill RSL, people. Sydney's unstoppable suburban sprawl. Drive-by shootings, K-Marts with late night trading every night of the week, offerring unwise retail entertainment for the unshiny people to enjoy after their Today Tonight fix and terrorist halal pizza. Let's get some glittery nail polish to match the frock we bought for $19 last night.

There's despair in the housing commission estate just down the hill from McMansion Heights. Down there, the tyres squeal as loudly as the babies do, but you can't hear them. Double glazing and Aussie Crawl's Sirocco on CD make sure of that. No hipster vinyl irony here. Just booze.

In Sydney, as anywhere, your perception of time is governed by you, not by your location.

I love Sydney because of what I know about it. In spite of what i know about it. The sparkle and the turd.

I'm still learning Brisbane. It reminds me of Sydney, particularly out in the burbs.

I've always wondered why so many Queenslanders treat southerners with such suspicion. Contempt. Hatred.

Dan Watson has answered that question.
This is my response to Dan Watson's elegantly offensive op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald.

It's In His Kiss

Bob's Kattastrophe

Try to remember your response to the announcement that outspoken independent Bob Katter was starting his own political party. I can recall having at least three responses simultaneously: cautious optimism, mocking laughter and a barely suppressed groan. All at once - quite a feat! I'm guessing I wasn't alone. A brand new political party had been announced, and it was being founded and headed by a "colourful" independent from outback Queensland.  

Originally he wanted his new party to be called The Australian Party, but was denied the right to register that name. So he added his own surname, recruited a Queensland independent from state politics, and announced to the waiting world that Australian politics now had a legitimate third banana.

With a bizarre mix of policies ranging from Tea Party-esque right wing religious conservatism through to agrarian socialism, Katter boasted of his plan to run a candidate in each of the 89 electorates in the upcoming Queensland election, and to shake up the latte belt socialists with his down to earth policies and fearless campaigning.

Now, with just a week left to run before the election, Katter’s Queensland campaign isn’t living up to the hype. Rather than being a third force, Katter’s Australian Party is polling in most electorates with the also-rans, the “others”. Perhaps those who laughed and mocked were right.

Remember that while this formidable force in Queensland and Australian politics was forming his new party, he was still a member of the Australian parliament too. That suggests the kind of determined effort that would floor men half his age.

Katter’s first challenge was with candidates. He failed to find suitable candidates to contest all 89 seats in Queensland’s parliament. High profile state independent Rob Messenger considered joining the party, but backed away when the party’s views on Sharia Law different from his own. On the other hand, Shane Knuth, the sitting member for Dalrymple, jumped ship to KAP after becoming disillusioned with the LNP.

Everything seemed to be running fairly well to plan, although quieter than I'd anticipated, until we saw the appalling television advertisement that ran under his party’s name last weekend.

It wasn’t news that Katter disapproved of same sex civil unions. Last year, he dumped a candidate who was in favour of conscience votes for members, on values issues issues like gay marriage. So that would be a 'no' then: everyone in the Katter party is expected to honour the party line, regardless of their personal beliefs. This was not a loose grouping of independents, leveraging each other's reach and buying in bulk. This was a values-based political party.

That’s not that unusual in political parties. Look at poor Campbell Newman: if elected, he’ll be leading the push to rescind the existing civil partnerships laws, despite having close friends who are lesbians and who want to be married, and despite his support of gay marriage, a stance emphasised in Katter’s advertisement. Why? Because that's the policy of the party to which he belongs and which he expects to lead.

Speaking of Newman, the ad was clearly designed to highlight Newman’s personal views and differentiate the KAP as the only truly morally conservative party. It's been almost universally criticised. In fact, it’s awfulness was the only point of agreement between Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman at last night’s Queensland Forum. Despite the condemnation from across the country, he won’t back down.

He also doesn’t admit that the ad that carries his name is homophobic.

Homophobic by intent or not is barely relevant any more. It was perceived as homophobic…in the cities, at least. Out in Katter Kountry, it was probably received with far more equanimity.

Will it win any votes though? In the city, very few; it's more likely to lose votes. In the bush, it may, although as a policy, opposition to gay marriage can’t be taken in isolation as a vote winner, particularly as the LNP shares that policy. It’s not a point of difference, and unless you are directly impacted by gay rights, it's probably of little interest.

Look at Coal Seam Gas mining activities though, and there’s more votes in it. Questions around the issue of Coal Seam Gas Exploration were asked of both leaders last night; both leaders were openly in favour of continued CSG and mining activities, because without the revenue from the industry, Queensland could be in financial difficulty.

One of the KAP’s key policy planks is a one year moratorium on CSR Mining activities to allow time to reassess and study the industry. That will play well with farmers whose properties are in the sites of the mining companies. More importantly, it’s in opposition to the LNP’s support for CSG. That’s the point of difference so many conservatives are looking for. In this instance, Katter has given conservative voters a choice.
 So amongst all the side issues, the mud-slinging, the distractions and the hoopla, and the policy-talk about cost of living and Queensland Health waiting lists and roads and schools, two issues have emerged as the ones we're all talking about: Civil Unions and Coal Seam Gas. Here's how they break down.

Katter’s Australia Party may do better than expected this election. There’s a good chance that the KAP will hold the two seats they already have: Beaudesert and Dalrymple. They have a better than average shot in Nanango, which has been held by conservative independent Dolly Pratt for over a decade. Dolly’s retiring, and the KAP’s candidate in Kingaroy is Carl Rackemann, former Aussie faster bowler. Combine name-recognition with the conservative bias of the seat, and it’s doable. Meanwhile, up in Katter Kountry, Bob’s son Robbie Katter will be running for the seat of Mount Isa. They love Bob up there. It’s another possibility. I’m even willing to concede that they might pick up a couple of random seats that no-one is really talking about.

At best, that would give the KAP 6 seats in the new Parliament. It's unlikely that the KAP will take votes from the ALP, but the conservative votes are in play. Six seats to Katter's mob is six less seats the LNP can win.

What about the rest? My best guess is three independents…so that’s nine candidates from outside the two major parties, leaving just 80 seats for the ALP and LNP to fight over.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned the Greens at all? Know why? Because they’ve been so low profile this election it’s almost like they aren’t here at all.

I think both Bobs (Katter and Brown) will be disappointed with this election campaign.

Question: Earlier this week, while federal parliament was in session in Canberra, Bob Katter wasn’t there. Does anyone know where Bob was, or why he wasn’t in Canberra, representing the people who elected him?