Man the life rafts

It is probably an urban myth that the dance band on the Titanic were playing Nearer my God to Thee as they went to a watery death with the ship. The Titanic was ‘unsinkable’ and somehow it was deemed the ship didn’t need enough life saving devices on board to accommodate all the passengers and crew should an unfortunate event occur. Stories from the sinking of the Titanic suggest that once some did find something that floated and potentially allowed for their rescue, they actively ensured that no one else was given the opportunity to utilise the same floatation device. It’s like politics really, each election some MPs are pushed off the life raft comprising a cushy seat in the halls of power, staff, perks and respect.

Given some recent media outings by some MP’s, you have to ask if they are being pushed off the figurative life raft by accident or design.

Kelly O’Dwyer’s train wreck of an interview with Barrie Cassidy on ABCTV’s Insiders program late in April is a good example.

At the end of a week where the Royal Commission heard evidence from a couple of banks demonstrating that their systems and processes and practices weren’t ethical (or maybe even legal), O’Dwyer wouldn’t admit that the frequent calls for a Royal Commission from the ‘other’ side of politics were, in retrospect, a good call. Rather than answering the initial ‘were you wrong’ question with an affirmative response and a quick apology for getting it wrong, O’Dwyer’s attempt to defend the indefensible continued for almost another week before she admitted it. The most generous interpretation of the media train wreck is that O’Dwyer sincerely believed what she was saying. If that is the case, maintaining the argument in the face of the evidence that was produced in the week prior to the interview that an independent investigation was solely a political stunt by the ‘other’ side demonstrates how out of touch she is with reality. There is a greater likelihood that the views expressed by O’Dwyer to Barrie Cassidy were ‘written and authorised’ by others within the Abbott/Turnbull Government and were only recanted after the lampooning of the interview continued for days.

O’Dwyer isn’t the only one. As Madonna King observed in The Brisbane Times
Andrew Laming is a dill, and his latest denunciation of teachers is more likely a symptom of attention-seeking behaviour than anything else.

Teachers should work more. Teachers should holiday less. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming said teachers should work more hours and get fewer holidays.

He does this every now again – like last year when he launched a similar tirade on social media:
“Are teachers back at work this week, or are they ‘lesson planning’ from home?’’

For the record, one-quarter of teachers work more than 55 hours a week. The base graduate rate of pay sits at about $66,000.

And how does that compare to Andrew and his house full of politicians? Last year, the House of Representatives sat for 64 days – 64 days! And the base rate of pay for a politician was about THREE TIMES that of teachers.
Without getting into the recent discussion on improving the quality of education by respecting the work of teachers rather than inventing more pointless ranking tables, teachers usually don’t get to work about five minutes before the students and leave five minutes after the last lesson is given. While they might have lesson plans (admittedly they may have been written some time ago but still invariably outside school hours), they continually have to tweak the plans to ensure the current group of students have the knowledge they need at the end of the learning period through formal assessment and continual observation. All of this takes time outside the requirement to stand in front of a classroom of young people and communicate for periods of up to 90 minutes at a time, while keeping the discussion relevant, the listeners engaged in the process, on topic and managing those who would rather be anywhere else. As King suggests, Laming has previous form in this area, perhaps we should ask him to justify only being at his seat in Parliament for 64 days, or maybe Laming is just out of touch.

Then we get to Melbourne based Coalition MP Julia Banks. Banks claimed that she could “live on 40 bucks a day knowing that the government is supporting me with Newstart looking for employment” . Banks is probably correct that for one day she could live on under $40, it would be quite easy to commute to your office by public transport, taking lunch from home, not visiting the local coffee shop for a day, going straight home and preparing a home cooked meal followed by a night where the highlight is watching TV. People do that all the time. The problems start occurring when the stored value public transport card needs topping up the same week as you need to buy some more food for the house, you need to see the doctor (with the inevitable visit to the Chemist soon after) and your rent is due.

It’s also true to suggest that if you are a parent on Newstart, you are also eligible for other payments such as Family Tax Benefit (if you have Children) — if you can work through the bureaucratic process you might be able to get an extra $237.86 per fortnight for each child in your care, plus another $155.54 per fortnight if you are a single parent or have a single income.

Banks, who according to her interests register owns five properties, including three investment homes, did not say where she would live in Melbourne, if she only had $40 a day to spend. As a MP, Banks receives $285 a night in travel allowance when she comes to Canberra, more than a Newstart recipient receives in a week.
She probably doesn’t have clue on how people who have to live on $40 a day for extended periods do so. The Business Council’s Jennifer Westacott apparently does, and along with a number of charities and the Greens have been calling for an increase to the Newstart payment for a number of years According to The Guardian
Westacott said the peak business lobby group had long supported an increase to the unemployment allowance, as part of a broader package of measures to increase productivity.

“I said in 2011 you can not live on $35 a day – well, we really have to get our head around this but not just in terms of tinkering around with the allowance.

“We have to make sure that allowance is adequate but we also have to do other things, like this effective rate, the marginal tax rate, perhaps when people go from unemployed to working.

“We have to make sure the programs are there, the literacy programs, the numeracy programs, that the job services networks are doing their jobs properly.

“A lot of these people are shockingly disadvantaged.”
Demonstrating how out of touch Banks really is, Anglicare surveys rental accommodation to determine affordability on an annual basis
This year we surveyed over 67,000 rental listings across Australia and found that there is a chronic shortage of affordable rentals across Australia:
  • 485 rentals were affordable for a single person on the Disability Support Pension
  • 180 rentals were affordable for a single parent with one child on Newstart
  • 3 rentals were affordable for a single person on Newstart
  • 2 rentals were affordable for a single person in a property or share house on Youth Allowance
  • There were no affordable rentals for a single person on Newstart or Youth Allowance in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin or Perth.
The full report is available from the link above. To live on $40 a day – you need somewhere to live.

Banks is the MP for the seat of Chisholm in Victoria and holds the seat with a margin of 3.4% according to the ABC Elections draft ‘pendulum’. She was also implicated in the Section 44 hoo-ha last year. Is she being pushed off the life raft by the Liberal Party hierarchy or is she just, to borrow Madonna King’s description, a dill? While both Laming (7.1% in Bowman) and O’Dwyer (10.2% in Higgins) are in safer seats, are they also being lined up for drowning to save others?

It’s a pretty good bet that the political parties involved will never answer the question. Luckily we have a way to assist the Coalition in reducing the number of dills that can’t work out how to stay on a life raft. It’s called the ballot box. When next we are ‘invited’ to go into the local hall and mark the ballot paper, think about it rather than just going through the motions.

Telling people how to vote is a crime; telling people what they should think about isn’t, and political parties are past masters of attempting to alter your opinion to ensure their ‘guy’ or ‘gal’ gets up over the other side. However you want to think about it, either Turnbull (unless jettisoned between now and election day) or Shorten will be gaining the Prime Ministership.

Rather than following the card a party worker will attempt to hand to you as you walk into the hall, work it out for yourself. The vote for the Prime Minister is managed by the ballot for the House of Representatives. You are ‘requested’ to number every square on the form. Have a look at your local candidates — if they are mindless minions parroting the party line in your opinion, give them a higher number than those who you feel will actually represent your needs and desires. If you prefer Shorten as Prime Minister, ensure the ALP Candidate is numbered lower than the Coalition (the two highest numbers on the ballot paper is perfectly ok). Usually, the candidates representing anyone other than the two major parties will not gain enough votes to be elected, so as they are eliminated during the process, your vote will normally end up supporting the ALP or Coalition, which ever one of the major parties that you ‘preferenced’ before the other.

Any candidate at an election has a right to observe the votes being counted. The major parties do traditionally avail themselves of the opportunity and the observers are instructed to pay particular attention to how the voters indicated their preferences as displayed on the ballot papers. If there is larger number of people giving higher preferences to smaller parties and independents before the major parties, it will be reported back to the central office. If the same feedback is being reported from the 151 seats across Australia both major parties will put some effort into determining why their expensive marketing campaigns weren’t successful.

Yes, there is a chance that some independents or members of smaller political parties will be elected to Parliament. Again, think about it — as it’s not a bad outcome. If a Government led by Shorten or Turnbull need to consider the views of those in other life rafts to gain a majority of votes in Parliament, typically it leads to better decision making which benefits all of us. Examples include a lot of the legislation passed during the term of Gillard’s Prime Ministership, the refusal of the Senate to pass some of the more ideologically hard-line measures of the 2014 budget and the recent example of the Senate to deny the large corporate entities tax cuts in an environment where the less well-off are struggling, welfare payments are significantly under the amount required to live in our society and even business groups have identified there is a need to redistribute income towards the less well off.

So, when the election is called, use your vote wisely and don’t follow the mindless minions. Who knows it might help the major parties discover people bright enough to stay on the life rafts by actually representing their communities, not the party interests.

What do you think?

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Your piece is of particular relevance as we see Coalition parliamentarians being pushed off the life raft in preselection battles.

It seems that being male is a huge advantage. Ann Sudmalis in Gilmore is being challenged by a local businessman, and Jane Prentice in Ryan by Julian Simmonds. Both women are threatened with being pushed into the water to allow males to scramble onto the life raft. As the old saying goes: “Every man for himself”.

Moreover, crossbencher-turned-Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi is in danger of being relegated to the unwinnable fourth Senate ticket spot for South Australia, and there are reports that Victorian senator Jane Hume will also lose her spot.

Of the three byelections the Liberals are contesting, just one woman, Georgina Downer, has been selected. The old maxim for filling life rafts: “Women and children first” has been abandoned shamelessly by Coalition preselection committees.

To use Abbott's aphorism, chivalry among Liberals is dead, buried and cremated! 

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The new Featured Video tells the sorry tale of a Liberal woman, Jane Prentice, being shoved off the life raft by a young gun.

How many Rabbits do I have if I have 3 Oranges?