Friday, January 25, 2013

Tea Party For One

Bernard Gaynor will go down in history as having one of the shortest, stupidest political careers in Australia’s history, and history is where he should stay.

At 11:53am on Tuesday 22nd January, Bernard Gaynor announced via social media that he would be running for a seat in the Senate, as a member of Bob Katter’s Australia Party. Not long after, the deluge of bizarre tweets had begun:
2:42pm 22 Jan @BernardGaynor: As a KAP senator I’ll have the courage to close borders to those who do not accept Aussie values – burkas are not a sign of tolerance. #auspol
I’m quite certain that not accepting the women who wear burkas is a far stronger sign of intolerance, particularly from a man who has spent considerable slabs of his life in Iraq, and a flying visit to Afghanistan.

By 7:38pm, the Sunshine Coast Daily was reporting that Mr Gaynor has said that “Climate Change is crap”. Despite the overwhelming weight of science, in this country the debate on climate change continues, so Mr Gaynor’s position is not rare. It’s just dumb. Mr Gaynor is a proud climate science denier though, and tweeted a link to the story.

The tweeting continued, on topics as diverse as denial of climate change to defence of his Catholicism to the boganisation of Australia Day and the use of the Aussie flag in Australia Day celebrations. Controversial, conservative, and largely unsurprisingly.
Wednesday 23rd January was to be the retired army major’s own chapter of revelations.
8:11pm 23 Jan @BernardGaynor As a KAP senate nominee in Qld and former Party National General Secretary, I fully support Tess Corbett.
Tess Corbett is another now-former KAP candidate whose claim to infamy is her statement that she considers gays and lesbians to be in the same category as paedophiles. Its Ms Corbett’s dicey version of the slippery slope: if we accept homosexuality as normal, we’ll eventually accept paedophilia too. That’s a slippery slide that is usually occupied by Liberal Cory Bernardi, who thinks acceptance of homosexuality will lead to acceptance of polygamy and bestiality. Isn’t it just possible that acceptance of homosexuality will lead to a decrease in depression and suicide within the gay community?

But I digress.

Less than a minute after his tweet supporting Tess Corbett, he tweeted again.
8:11pm 23 Jan @BernardGaynor I wouldn’t let a gay person teach my children and I am not afraid to say it. #auspol
And there endeth a political career.
8:12pm 23 Jan @BernardGaynor If we value free speech and democracy then we would respect the right of Christians to hold their views about right and wrong.
Fair enough, too. I sincerely agree with this point, at least. What Mr Gaynor doesn’t mention is that in every state and territory in this country, it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of a lawful sexual preference.

Mr Gaynor was less than 36 hours into the role of candidate, so perhaps we should forgive him for being so naïve in the ways of Twitter:
8:47pm 23 Jan @BernardGaynor Woah! Just said prayers & put kids 2 bed. Came back to find many ppl tweeting against discretion over teachers. #goodluckwiththat
8:49pm 23 Jan @BernardGaynor Parents should have discretion over who teachers their children. #auspol
  Around about this time, one of two things happened: Either Bob Katter phoned Mr Gaynor and told him to get off Twitter before he does any more damage, or Bernard himself realised that he was facing a whole world of twitter-related pain, and decided to pray about it. Mr Gaynor’s increasingly popular twitter account went dark. There were no new tweets until the following day when he tweeted a link to a press release containing “clarifying comments”.

It’s always a concern when a politician needs to issue clarifying comments – surely politicians should be able to communicate at a professional level, with honesty and precision, and not need to elucidate their comments later. But no – serial clarifiers include Andrew Laming and Barnaby Joyce. Australians are lucky though – at least none of our politicians have tweeted their Anthony Weiners at us yet. I wonder what a clarifiying statement on that one would look like!

The shortlist (so far) of things Bernard Gaynor doesn't like
 Back to Mr Gaynor’s illustrative comments, which are available on his blog: his argument does not soften his stance against gay teachers, but it elaborates on his position that parents should be able to choose who teaches their children. He even makes a few assumptions about how he believes the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition would act as regards the rights of parents to choose who teaches their children. Hell, I support that right too, which is handy because it already exists. If you don’t like the value set at a certain school, you are most welcome to remove your child from that school and send it somewhere else.

Of course, if you can’t afford a private school that reflects your values, you can enjoy the widely varied range of qualified teachers available in the public school system, and stop making sexual orientation an issue. Alternately, give up your day job and home-school the children.

Mr Gaynor has received a swag of hate-tweets and death-wishes since making his homophobic comments on twitter, and that makes both of us sad. It’s a shock when it happens. I’ve received twitter death-threats from a political candidate because I (politely) challenged his views. Twitter can be a trial because of a handful of people with strongly held extremist perspectives and no idea how to conduct themselves in public.

And that’s it. He has been suspended from Katter’s Australia Party, and which means he won’t be standing for the senate as a member of the KAP. That should have been the end of the shortest, saddest political career since Mal Meninga tried to run as an independent in the ACT. Big Mal lasted a mere 28 seconds; Bernard Gaynor still hasn’t accepted that his race with the Katter stable is over. He’s still tweeting.

25th Jan @BernardGaynor I agree with KAP candidate Jamie Cavanough. I don’t want to buy meat that has been faced towards Mecca and blessed.
The rationale provided by Mr Cavanough is that if he buys Halal meat, some of the money from his purchase might find its way to the Muslim Community. It’s nice to have his position on Muslims confirmed; it wasn’t quite clear after his comment about burkas.

Meanwhile, just after 2pm today, Mr Gaynor released a statement confirming that he would be fighting his suspension from the KAP. It’s worth reading.

And that’s one helluva hate list to have put out there in just a few tweets: Bernard Gaynor’s 35 tweets have indicated that he does not tolerate gays, Muslims, climate scientists, Bogans and even Bob Katter. It’s fortunate that he has his faith and his family; it appears that he doesn’t have much else right now.

BTW, there is no mention of Mr Gaynor on the official Katter's Australia Party website.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oi Oi Oi

January 26, 2013 is the 225th anniversary of the day the First Fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour and raised the Union Jack. It's our national day. Just twenty-five years ago, Rick Price was singing "Celebration of a Nation" for Australia's Bicentennial festivities. Aside from the Sydney Olympics, it was the biggest outpouring of nationalistic pride in our history.

1988 seems like another lifetime ago. Australia Day is officially our national day, yet it's gone from a day of ultimate Australian pride to a mish-mash of speeches, protests, parties and cringe factor. January 26 is the day when the best of Australia is on display, and the worst of Australia is right there beside it. It's a hard day to love.

For Aboriginal Australians, January 26 is observed as Invasion Day, a day of mourning, when their independence, culture and even their existence was threatened. Since 1992, it's become Survival Day, a day when a determined people remember the impact "White Australia" had on those who were here before.

Impact? Let's be honest. The "impact" was murder, rape, theft of land, destruction of sacred sites, introduction of white-fella diseases, booze, guns and the undermining of a culture that is thousands of years old ... Yeah, why would anyone -black, white or lime green - want to celebrate any of that?

And yet, we "celebrate" in a myriad of ways. There are just as many reasons to be proud of what started 225 years ago as there are to be ashamed. Australia has achieved much: formed a democracy, developed successful industries, built a stable first-world economy, supported science, the arts and sport and created a unique - though imperfect - society. Can we celebrate the achievements of a modern Australia on the same day as our Aboriginal citizens are mourning? Should we?

Then there's the way we choose to celebrate: the traditional Australian barbecue, divided down gender lines, with beer, backyard cricket and more beer. Lamingtons and a cup of tea; pavlova and bubbly. Muscle car owners have removed the Christmas reindeer antlers from their cars and replaced them with Aussie flags. In fact, the flag - the one our grandparents, parents, husbands and brothers fought under - appears on everything from beach towels and board shorts to disposable plates, bucket hats, beach balls, eskies and thongs. Classy or poor taste?

But brace yourself, because the Ugly Australian is here too. He's the one wearing the xenophobic T-shirts that screech “go back to where you came from”, and "If you don't like it, leave!". She’s the one who stumbles out of the nightclub at sun-up, holding her sparkly stilettos in one hand and her hair in the other as she vomits a stream of chunky Midori cocktails and four letter works into the gutter. He’s the wag you changed a portable sign outside a Queensland regional airport to read “Fuck Off We’re Full”. [sic]

Last year, the Prime Minister tripped and the media went hog-wild. This year, we have the next step in offensive slogans: "Australia, Est 1788" and the political controversy over the Prime Minister’s pre-selection of Nova Peris-Kneebone for the Northern Territory senate seat.

Of course none of that is the official version of Australia Day, with its formal events, Honours Lists, Citizenship Ceremonies and now Affirmation Ceremonies. There’s also the usual round of editorials and debates about what it means to be Australian, the challenges and benefits of multiculturalism, the customary hat-tip to the original owners of the land and questions about whether it’s appropriate to celebrate the beginning of almost two centuries of genocide.

The answer is – I don’t know. I am 100% Aussie, although my father was born overseas. I don’t need an Affirmation Certificate to prove my allegiance. I feel uncomfortable with Australia Day because no amount of integrating the Aboriginal experience into the events of the day can erase this country’s past, and it’s not something we can all celebrate together.

Other options have been discussed and dismissed – the common response is moving our national day to Anzac Day. I’m even less in favour of that. Our veterans deserve their day, and Anzac Day is it. For many Australians, it’s a day with far more significance than Australia Day. Let’s not dilute the authority of Anzac Day by changing the meaning. The first day of Federation is unsuitable too, as its January 1st – it’s already New Years’ Day. We could consider Sorry Day – February 13, the anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s apology – but that is as divisive as Australia Day, and our national day should be about more than history.

…Which leaves May 9 as our national day, the anniversary of the opening of the first Australian Parliament in Melbourne in 1901. It has historical context and meaning, and as far as I know, doesn’t offend anyone. It’s also pretty dull, unless you’re a history or politics wonk.

I think we need a new day, a new reason to celebrate together as one nation. It’s time to reconsider becoming a republic, and re-examine our national flag. My preference is to be a republic, yet retain our role within the Commonwealth, and to find a new flag, yet retain the Southern Cross. I’d like Australia Day to be a day when we remember where we’ve come from, celebrate what’s great about where we are, and look forward with confidence and unity.

But I’m a sentimental idealist.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Because Logan rhymes with ...

If you're sick of hearing about Andrew Laming, join the club. The Sydney Morning Herald is calling his tweet a "Twitter gaffe" - not what you'd expect from the Member of Parliament whose own Liberal Party website biography describes him as being "Australia’s most innovative user of social media in politics".

It’s the kind of tweet you should never see from an elected official.

I first became aware of Mr Laming’s “innovative” use of social media a couple of years ago when I saw that he was using Twitter to promote a competition he was running on Facebook. The concept was that he would use Twitter to attract followers, and tweet links to his Facebook page. If you followed the link, and then “Liked” his Facebook page, you’d go into the draw to win a weekend away on the Sunshine Coast.

Of course, once you’d clicked the Like button, you would then see everything that he posted to his Facebook page – Liberal Party statements and conservative comments, punctuated with pithy backhanders and sledges aimed at the ALP.

I heard on Monday night via Twitter that Andrew Laming was trending, and wondered what he had done this time. You see, this is not the first time that Andrew Laming has tweeted something controversial. It's fair to say that the majority of Mr Laming's tweets are controversial at best, ill-considered most of the time, and occasionally, downright offensive. In fairness, he's not alone is being a serial mistweeter; his colleagues Joe Hockey, Andrew Robb, Nick Sowden and Barnaby Joyce have all learned the hard way that sometimes, a mere 140 characters is plenty of space in which to make a complete twat of yourself. Mr Laming has been doing it for years.

In fact, I take an interest in what Mr Laming tweets - not because I'm a fan, but because I'm incredulous at some of the things he shares on social media. Yes, I used to mock him for his more foolish tweets, and his response was to block me so that I could no longer see his tweets.

Twitter isn’t that simple. I asked for a copy of yesterday’s “clarification” tweet, and nine different tweeters sent it to me. The only way to ensure that tweetable thoughts remain private is not to tweet them in the first place – which given Mr Laming’s history with social media, might be a good thing for the Liberal Party.

It was Andrew Laming who tweeted three days before Christmas:

“Gutless Gillard nowhere to be seen when ‘balancing the budget’ goes up in smoke”

A flock of tweeps leapt to the Prime Minister’s defence. Perhaps Mr Laming had forgotten that this would be the Gillard family’s first Christmas without their patriarch?

But back to Mr Laming’s tweet this week: the main question on social media has been around whether or not the initial tweet was racist.

I’d say yes, it is a mildly racist comment…although that’s not the most obvious source of offense in his tweet. Logan – which all too conveniently rhymes with Bogan – is one of the most multicultural areas in Australia, with about one in four residents being born overseas, and since the tweet was sent on Monday night, we’ve learned that the feud which lead to the violence is actually between two families who happen to be from two ethnic groups which often clash: Aborigines and Samoans.

That wasn’t what Mr Laming was getting at, though; his tweet was a direct insult to the people of Logan, challenging the sophistication of the population. We all know that in Logan, the demographic is a little different, and that expedient rhyme just makes it easier for people to associate Logan with poorer, less educated, less employable, less mannered people. Aside from the immigrant population, Logan has a 7.2% unemployment rate, which is high. Similarly, the median total personal income is up to $300 per week less than in Brisbane.

So why did Andrew Laming tweet about Logan anyway? By Monday night, it was common knowledge that the violence was occurring in Woodridge, a suburb of Logan. Despite Twitter limiting tweets to 140 characters, there were plenty left, so Mr Laming could have said Woodridge but chose not to. He chose to use the name Logan to ensure that we all understood that he was referring to a set of anti-social behaviours which are associated with Logan.

And if by chance he didn’t think of the connection and the whole thing was an accident, it’s still unacceptable. Mr Laming is an elected representative and should display far more care and maturity and less innovation when using social media.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Newmania: Ticked Off

Last week, after the last of the turkey had been curried and the News Years hangovers had subsided, King Campbell’s Deputy the Honourable Jeff Squeemey and the media team released a statement trumpeting a successful six months during which the Newman Government had ticked off every item in their Six Month Action Plan. In the statement, the Honourable Mr Sqeemey said

“We promised Queenslanders that we would be a Government that acted on its commitments,” Mr Seeney said.

“We said we’d grow a four pillar economy, lower the cost of living for families, deliver better infrastructure and revitalise front-line services.

“Now the proof is there for Queenslanders to see that this is a government that actually does what it says it will do."

The media statement claims that there were 149 actions included in the original Six Month Action Plan, yet lists less than twenty of them, plus special mentions for the Bruce Highway upgrade – which has its own Action Plan – and the construction of 1 William Street, a gleaming new CBD high rise office tower also known as King Campbell’s Folly Mk III. (For interstate readers, his first two follies were the shunned Clem7 Tunnel and the mock-worthy City Cycle scheme, two of the visible scars of King Campbell’s years as Lord Mayor of Brisbane.)

Now King Campbell and his majority might be satisfied with a list of items ticked off a list. I’m not, so let’s take a look at a few of the items on the list in more detail.

Delivering a once-in-a-generation budget to set Queensland’s finances back on track

The Newmania Budget 2012 appeared to satisfy the Government’s need to get the state “back on track” but will ultimately fail due to a shortfall in revenue and a lot of crazy talk about a $100 billion dollar debt which doesn’t exist. Furthermore, the budget will be forever associated with the termination of 14,000 jobs from the Queensland Public Service, leaving many people and many departments bleeding. We can only hope that this was a once-in-a-generation budget; a repeat in 2013-14 would not be tolerated.

Attracting new aviation business and routes into Queensland from overseas

Supporting the Tourism industry is part of the infamous Four Pillar Economy, and in this area, the Government has been successful. Hawaiian Airlines are flying direct into Brisbane from Honolulu*, China Southern are flying into Brisbane ex-Guangzhou, and Etihad has increased the frequency of its flights from Brisbane to Abu Dhabi.

It’s not all good news in Brisbane’s aviation news though: Virgin Australia is considering relocating its headquarters away from Brisbane. Why? Because Virgin Australia has been locked out of tendering for Queensland regional air routes by the Newman Government who has supported renewing existing QantasLink contracts. This single decision may force a business employing thousands of Queenslanders to move interstate; at worse, it’s stopped the business from being able to grow here in its home state.

Amending the Racing Act to restructure Queensland’s racing industry

By mid-June 2012, two directors of Racing Queensland Limited had announced their resignation as a result of changes being proposed by the new Government. As with all restructures, some senior positions are being replaced with other positions with more buzzwords in their names. In the end, the work still needs to be done.

Planning has started on a $35.4 million dollar upgrade of the Gold Coast Turf Club, accounting for around one third of the Government’s $110 million dollar budget to upgrade racing across the state. This is not new money for the racing industry: former Premier Anna Bligh made the commitment on January 11 last year.

Expanding the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme from 1 January 2013

King Campbell and Lawrence of Springborgia doubled of the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme (PTSS) for to assist Queensland patients who are living in rural and remote areas and need to travel for medical treatment. As well as an accommodation subsidy, the mileage subsidy has also been increased from 15 cents per kilometre to 30 cents per kilometre.

By the way, the standard mileage allowance for government employees last year was between 66 and 71 cents per kilometre.

Encouraging construction growth by amending the Sustainable Planning Act

What used to be the IPA (Integrated Planning Act) became the SPA (Sustainable Planning Act) in 2007 to bring consistent sustainable planning practices throughout Queensland. King Campbell’s amendment, passed in November 2012, is to remove the minimum dollar value from the process, making it easier and more attractive for the construction industry to operate in Queensland. Construction is another one of King Campbell’s four pillars

Construction is doing well in Queensland, but despite the Marine Industrial Estate in Maryborough, the Sarina Barracks, Masters Everton Park and Costco at Northlakes, it is the tower at 1 William Street that keeps drawing focus. It’s big, it’s seen as frivolous, and it’s costing over $650 million dollars – an amount of money which seems impossible to justify when so many necessary programmes are being cut.

Delivering a 10 year strategy to upgrade the Bruce Highway

A strategy is important. Without one of those you don’t know where you’re going. In all fairness, it’s just a strategy and the Bligh Government released a comprehensive 20 Year Masterplan for the Bruce Highway in July 2011.

King Campbell did however commit almost $400 million to fast-track works on some of the worst areas of the Bruce Highway. The Federal Government met that funding commitment with another $400 million to enable work to commence.

Transferring responsibility for South Bank and Roma St Parklands to Brisbane City Council

I can’t help but wonder if, as Brisbane Lord Mayor, King Campbell was always a bit peeved that the South Bank precinct and the Roma Street Parklands weren’t his playgrounds to control. In any case, he’s transferring responsibility to his then 2IC Lord Mayor Quirk, along with millions of dollars to cover the additional costs to Brisbane City Council. King Campbell and his team believe that “local councils are best placed to determine what is right for their local communities.” King Campbell has promised to have the same close working relationship with each of the other 72 local councils in Queensland. He'll be busy.

A note to those other councils: be careful. Never forget the Clem7. Always remember those City Cycles.

Reforming the Local Government Act to empower local councils

In 2008, when the previous Beattie Labor Government forced through its plans to amalgamate close to 70% of local councils, you’d think the world was ending. Playing on lingering bitterness over the amalgamations, King Campbell and Jeff Squeemey promised to de-amalgamate communities that wanted their old councils and old identities back. It’s a long, complex process of recommendations and hearings and consultations and polls, but ultimately, local residents will make the decision.

Of the 73 existing councils, only four will vote on whether to de-amalgamate. Congratulations to King Campbell for re-opening the door on this issue; Congratulations also to former Premiers Beattie and Bligh and their teams for forming such a stable local government structure.

But King Campbell’s Local Government Legislative Reforms are far wider reaching than the single question of de-amalgamation, and covers a range of subjects from Rates, Charges and Fees to Council Transparency and Accountability to major new powers granted to the Local Government Minister and to the State Government. How is it possible that I didn’t know about any of these changes before now?

Introducing a trial for self-directed funding for people with a disability

“Your Life Your Choice” is a great slogan. It’s King Campbell’s choice for his trial of “self-directed funding for people with a disability. Basically it means that people who have a disability will be able to choose the disability services they prefer and pay for them. Just keep in mind that this is a trial only, participation is voluntary, and it’s only one component of the Federal Government’s National Disability Support Scheme.

Queensland spends less per head of population on providing support to people with disabilities than any other state in Australia, and King Campbell's reluctance to commit to the NDIS is both wrong and embarrassing.

Completing the Skills and Training Taskforce and delivering the Government response

The Skills and Training Taskforce was established by King Campbell as a way of using vocational education and skills training to support the Four Pillar Economy. The Government has responded to the Taskforce’s Report, accepting 35 of 40 recommendations, many of which referred to fixing the TAFE system and bring their buildings and equipment up to date. That sounds sensible. It’s important to note that this is just a response to findings – it’s not an action plan, a commitment of funds or a strategy. Important things like details, costings and timing will be released some time during the first half of this year.

The same day as the Government Response was released, it was announced that 13 TAFE campuses will be closed, and another 12 campuses will become part of the merged Central Queensland University/Central Queensland Institute of TAFE.

Furthermore, months before the Taskforce presented its recommendations, King Campbell de-funded the Skilling Queenslanders for Work Initiative, which was an programme of grants-based projects for local community groups, councils and others to deliver training tailored to the needs of job-seekers in their area. Much of this work was with long-term unemployed, and people from groups that traditionally find it hard to gain work: older workers, people from non-English speaking backgrounds and ATSI jobseekers.

Amending the Weapons Act to introduce tougher sentencing for illegal firearms offences

This move is overdue, and possibly still too soft. In response to a wave of shootings in the South East corner of Queensland, King Campbell proposed tougher penalties and sentencing without any impact on the rights of firearm owners who abide by the law.

Finalising the recruitment of 300 new police officers

“Finalising” something tends to suggest that it’s not finished. It’s not done yet. As part of King Campbell’s commitment to bolster frontline services, 300 shiny new inexperienced police officers sounds like a good call – until you remember last week’s revelations from the new Police Commissioner Ian Stewart. An internal review has recommended axing 143 senior police officers (ranked Inspector or better) while balancing that with 300 new recruits. In addition, the current regional structure of eight policing areas will be redrawn and reduced to five areas. It will cut administrative staff requirements, but will it get more police into the community? Time will tell.

Amending the Proceeds of Crime Act to crack down on unexplained wealth

The Criminal Proceeds Confiscation (Unexplained Wealth and Serious Drug Offender Confiscation Order) Amendment Bill 2012 is a no-brainer is respect to criminal activity and an imposition when applied to lawful behaviours, but if it means that drug dealing scum doesn’t get to spend their lives floating up and down the Queensland coast on the squillion dollar yacht that they bought with the money they made from ruining lives, I can live with that.

Engaging service providers for boot camps to commence in 2013

Boot camp? Is Newmania raising an army to repel the cashed-up pale-skinned southerners from Schoolies’ Week? No? Then it must be King Campbell’s scheme to run early intervention programmes to work with young people and hopefully, reduce the incidence of youth crime in Queensland. It’s an idea that has been stolen from America, and it’s worth trialling, to see if it can be effective in Queensland. It’s a shame about all the other programmes for kids that this government has axed, from defunding the Queensland Youth Orchestra to axing the Volunteer Cadets programme that fed young volunteers into the SES, QFRS and QAS.

Commencing operation of hospital and health boards across the State

Restructuring Queensland Health and handing responsibility for health services to regional health boards comes under King Campbell’s drive to restore accountability in state government. It’s not so much restoring accountability as it is moving accountability. It’s as much as obfuscation as it is about transparency. There are seventeen Hospital and Health Service areas (HHSs) reporting into one central office which will co-ordinate the ‘shared services’ aspects of the department.

I’m not convinced that this structure is the right structure in terms of health service delivery, or managing costs. In fact, it looks needlessly complex. Having said that, after the parade of disasters befalling the Queensland Health Department over the last decade, from Jayant Patel to the Payroll fiasco, perhaps the best solution is to be seen to be making radical changes.

Beginning to address the health payroll disaster left by the previous Government

Ahhh yes, the Health Payroll Fiasco. In the land of Project Management, there are certain things that must be done, and done to death, particularly when working with new technology solutions. At the top of that list is something known as UAT: User Acceptance Testing. When the IT wizards have built and installed the new gizmo – a new version of Windows, a new control panel in the on-air control room, a new point-of-sale system, a new payroll system, an upgrade to a website – you call in a group of people who are subject matter experts, and you get them to test the system. In the case of Queensland Health and their new SAP Payroll system, the people who actually process payroll should have tested every single scenario they could think of and compared the results to what they expected to see. When any errors appear, these are sent back to the IT wizards to fix and that process continues until there are no more scenarios and no more errors. Then, and only then, does the business accept the finished product.

From what I understand, Queensland Health did not test the payroll system, or did not test it well enough, and the results are costing the state billions.

If after 9 months in Government this fiasco is just starting to be addressed now, I ask what took them so long. My approach would be to find an LNP member – and there’s no shortage of them – and make her Special Minister for Queensland Health Payroll Solutions. She’ll need four teams, including the UAT group.

1. A team to document what is really required by Q-Health on a day to day basis

2. A team of forensic payroll experts to calculate and document who’s been paid what, and the variances

3. A team of forensic IT gurus to unravel the SAP mess that currently exists

4. An IT development team to build the new system

Whoever is to blame for the decision to deploy the system without adequate testing and sign-off is already irrelevant. The priority should be in getting it fixed, and the fact that it’s taken nine months to even start on that is as unacceptable as the fiasco itself.

King Campbell must be aware that not all of these items deserve the tick he’s given them – and that’s just the sixteen items listed in his press release. Don’t you wonder why the communications team picked these sixteen achievements to highlight? Why are they more media-friendly than the other 130-plus points of the Six Month Action Plan?

Like Tony Abbott, King Campbell needs a new message for his people, because while he’s busy ticking off his six month miracle, the rest of us are just ticked off.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Laws and Sausages

Remember back to late 2011, when Peta Credlin's name started to leak through the barrier that separates what the Canberra insiders know, from what the rest of us know? Peta Credlin is Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Opposition, a position not usually profiled in major national publications or Sunday papers. Then again, most political chiefs of staff aren't six foot tall "Glamazons", married to a Liberal equivalent of a “faceless man”.

Peta Credlin is interesting. She's the female gatekeeper to a man who faces a seemingly unbreakable perception problem with female voters. Ms Credlin, who also staffed former Opposition Leaders Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull, inhabits her position with personal determination, and with the support of her well-placed husband Brian Loughnane, Federal Director of the Liberal Party.

While Mr Loughnane has remained relatively invisible outside the dome that separates us from them, Ms Credlin has emerged, crossing from behind the scenes to front page news and minor celebrity. In November 2011, News Limited's weekend colour supplement ran a feature on Ms Credlin. She refused to be interviewed for the story, but let it be known with the Liberal Party that the story was "on". Prominent members of the opposition phoned the journalist Kate Legge to supply exceptional personal references no-one had asked for. Ms Legge concluded that:

"If Abbott stumbles, Credlin will suffer some collateral damage. While his numbers are sweet, she's rock solid. If he goes on to win, her name is on the chief of staff's door. If not, she may pursue political dreams of her own. She once sought the counsel of senior Liberals on a Senate spot. They think she'd be stunning."

Twelve months later, Abbott has stumbled and it may well be due to Ms Credlin’s campaign strategy; his relentless campaign of fear around the carbon tax has failed. His consistent negativity and absence of genuine policy have become noticeable, and his team seem to think that his best chance of reversing the trend is to appeal to women voters.
Yesterday’s News Limited papers feature a new, very personal interview with Ms Credlin conducted by respected political journo Samantha Maiden. Ms Credlin was interviewed at some length on Tony Abbott's supportive response to her attempts to fall pregnant using IVF. The story goes beyond hinting at a gentle, compassionate Tony Abbott.

Australian voters looked up from their Sunday brunches, took another sip of coffee and blinked away the dissonance. Surely this paragon of fairness and approachability that Ms Credlin describes, this generous supporter of Secret Female Stuff, is not the same man who parades his wife and daughters across News Limited's front pages to prove that he and The Women get on just fine?

Yes, it is Tony Abbott all right, Mad Monk and Life Member of the Boys' Club, who has cleared the Shandy Premix out of his personal bar fridge to make way for his Chief of Staff's hormones. It's a generous and discreet gesture in a series of generous, discreet gestures from Tony Abbott.

But no – don’t stop reading, at least, don’t stop reading without taking a few more moments to ponder why in the name of everything holy Ms Credlin would reveal these details. Why would any woman trumpet the whole thing across the national tabloids if not to enhance Tony Abbott's reputation with The Women?

Mr Abbott’s personal approval numbers have fallen below Julia Gillard's, and while the Coalition has plenty of fat left in their 2PP lead, the tumbling trend must be of concern to the Liberal Party, it’s leader Brian Loughnane, and Mr Abbott’s staff, led by Ms Credlin.

Regardless of how high the stakes might be, how many people of either gender would agree to reveal their personal reproductive details to the media to support their boss?

And how much personal discomfort is there now for Ms Credlin - and Mr Loughnane - versus how much 'upside' for the Abbott campaign for the Lodge? Babies are lovely, yet reproduction, particularly assisted reproduction, is private. If Ms Credlin had wanted to discuss her experience as a female executive undergoing IVF, she could have done that in any number of newspapers, magazines and blogs. That Samantha Maiden – a specialist political journalist – wrote the piece is an indication of its purpose.

Just for laughs, let’s remove the personalities and the political context and see what happened: A senior executive with a high profile offered some support to a trusted advisor who confided that she had some special, discreet needs due to a medical situation. He treated her situation with respect and sensitivity…just as my boss would do, and has done. I'd like to think that most bosses at that level would do the same.

Now, let’s remove the emotion: By assisting Ms Credlin to undergo her IVF treatments in private, Mr Abbott ensured that he would not lose her services. Her other option was to take leave during the IVF process, which often lasts for months. Mr Abbott chose the option that best suited his needs as well as hers.

And who thought this story would be a good idea? Which communications professional thought that this story would soften Mr Abbott's image? It has very little relevance to Mr Abbott's unpopularity with women. IVF, pregnancy and babies are not exclusively "women's issues". Mr Abbott himself has referred to it as being about families, and it is, although in 2005, while he was Health Minister in the Howard Government, he advocated cutting government funding for IVF treatment:

TONY ABBOTT: Well, first, I'm not going to comment on pre-Budget speculation but I just do make the point that in any one year, 90 per cent of the women who are accessing IVF have three or fewer cycles.

The other point I make is that IVF treatment is not – it's very important obviously – but it's not life saving treatment. There is a sense in which it is an elective procedure and there has to some limit, speaking hypothetically, on what the Government is prepared to spend on things which are non-essential.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Why does there have to be some limit?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, because if non-essential treatment is funded endlessly, medical costs blow out endlessly and responsible governments have to try to ensure that we give good value to tax payers as well as good value to patients.
  So, what have we learned about Tony Abbott as a result of Ms Credlin's IVF story? He can be a caring boss who knows what's good for him. That's probably not going to impact the hundreds of thousands of women who are still concerned about Mr Abbott’s views on abortion, his reputation for misogynistic behaviour or his links with WorkChoices.

Whether the Samantha Maiden interview was Ms Credlin’s idea, or came from elsewhere, the decision itself should be examined by the Liberal Party. This interview is no more likely to improve Mr Abbott’s standing with The Women than the countless more photos with Margie and the girls would. If the Liberals are serious about addressing the problem with women, they should stop trying to appeal to women, and release some policies that appeal to voters.

Meanwhile, I wonder who is feeling like the bigger sellout after this interview went to print: Samantha Maiden, for disguising a genuine human interest story to write pro-Abbott propaganda, or Peta Credlin, for exposing her private struggles with IVF in a misguided attempt to promote her boss’s sensitive side.