Where have all the public services gone?


Where have all the services gone?
Gone to corporates every one.
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

A year or two back, where I live, the local water provider received approval to increase the price of water. It had been involved in major infrastructure spending to enhance the local water supply, so some increase in price seemed justified, but hidden in the details was a line that part of the price increase was to offset ‘losses’ incurred during the drought some years earlier. A water company makes ‘losses’ during a drought! — wtf!.

Obviously it sold less water during the drought: it had less water to sell and the government had imposed water restrictions to conserve what water we had. What is the alternative? — that it continues selling water as if there is no tomorrow to keep up its profit and we run out well before the drought ends. For the life of me, I can’t see the logic in that. The body I am talking about is still fully owned by the government and pays an annual dividend to government but like many public utilities these days it has been ‘corporatised’. (Corporatisation is often used as a prelude to full privatisation but the evidence suggests that many government-owned bodies that have been corporatised are just as efficient, and profit-making, as any private company and have a history of paying healthy dividends to their government.)

Unlike America, which has a history of privately owned services, Australia has a tradition of government provided public services including, not just health and education, but transport, utilities (energy and water), even financial services (the original Commonwealth Bank). In recent decades our governments have been backing away at a rate of knots from the provision of such services in the name of ‘the market’ but does it make sense?

In the case of the water provider, if it had still been a purely public utility (that is providing a public service) losses during a drought would be a non-issue because it is in the public interest to sell less water and preserve what is left as far as possible. Why should a water supply be put in the hands of a private (or commercially-oriented) supplier when it is an essential service for the community as a whole? No community will survive long without water but it is now a commodity on which to make a ‘profit’.

Transport services provide the classic difference between private and public provision.

A private provider will operate, or continue to operate, those services and routes that it deems profitable. Occasionally it will run less profitable services but only to maintain the goodwill of its customers.

By contrast, a publicly run transport service is there to do just that, provide a necessary public service whether or not it is profitable. Prices that contribute to meeting running costs are justified and a public provider is more likely to offset loss-making services by the surpluses reaped during peak hour services (cross subsidisation). One issue is which costs should be taken into account in fixing prices? I recall from the 1970s, in the days when complaints about the NSW rail network running at a loss were being made, that there was a small article buried on about page 12 of the Daily Telegraph that during that year the railways actually made a profit on ‘operating costs’ — the ‘loss’ arose from the fact that loans were still being repaid, some to British banks dating back to the 1800s when the NSW railways were being established.

In an effort to offset the ‘losses’ many rail services were cut and lines closed. Regional services in particular were hard hit. That didn’t mean there were no people in those areas who needed the rail service, just not enough to ‘justify’ its continued operation. People became more reliant on cars. Some farmers lost freight services and had to turn to heavy road transport companies (that relied on making a profit, not providing a service). Of course, this pushed higher costs onto local councils to maintain the regional road network, which no doubt meant an increase in rates. So the loss of a service does not come cheap!

In a modern society, electricity is almost as essential as water and is being made more so by the many services now being provided on-line. The ATO no longer routinely distributes printed tax return forms (you have specifically to request one) and is encouraging people to do their return on-line but without electricity that would be impossible. So we now need electricity not only for energy needs — heating, cooking, light — but to participate in our society and use government services.

Despite that, some electricity services are now privatised and the rest operating on a commercial basis. In other words, a profit is being made from goods and services which I have no choice but to use.

In my view, much of the privatisation of public services came about because governments had avoided long term planning for the assets. Water, transport, electricity, health and education services require major infrastructure. There is obviously a capital cost in establishing that infrastructure and also in its ongoing maintenance, but there comes a point in time when the infrastructure needs replacement or major upgrading.

The time when much privatisation took place seems to have been that point where governments faced the replacement or upgrading costs. Instead of having planned for it over the life of the infrastructure, governments had not put money aside, always expecting they could meet it out of general revenue at the time — until they realised they couldn’t. (Although, ironically, they often poured money into the enterprises to prepare them for privatisation.) Of course, they could borrow but they were already running up debt and in the face of the political pressure to reduce debt, felt constrained. Privatisation was supposedly a double win for governments to the extent that they made money from the sale and off-loaded the expense of upgrades and replacement. John Quiggin has shown, however, that, in most cases, there wasn’t a significant financial gain to the governments over the medium term as compared to keeping the service in government hands. Whatever the financial outcome, they reduced public services.

The problem with much of this privatisation is that it is occurring in what the economists call ‘natural monopolies’, where it is more efficient to have a single supplier of a good or service to the many, rather than many providers each supplying to the few: for example, it is wasteful to have three different water companies each constructing pipelines past every house to provide ‘their’ water. The neo-liberal economists supporting privatisation have overcome this by ‘disaggregation’. Just see how they have split electricity and rail: electricity is split into generation, distribution and retail; and rail has been split into the rail networks (the tracks) and the actual services (trains). This allows them to privatise parts, if not all, of the system.

In relation to electricity, John Quiggin points out that this approach means economies of scale and economies of scope are lost. There is evidence that the so-called competitive electricity market, with many retailers now competing for customers, has led to a large increase in non-productive staff — involved in management, human resources, administration and marketing, not in electricity production or distribution. Whereas a single state-owned provider needed only one set of administrative staff (and no marketing staff), now each separate company needs a set. Previously the state-owned body operated the generation, distribution and sale of electricity (some even had their own coal mines). Electricity prices are extremely volatile, partly because electricity cannot be stored, and can vary from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars per megawatt/hour depending on the time of day. When a single entity handled the whole supply chain, that volatility was more easily absorbed. Now it is in the interests of the generators to keep supply as low as possible (that is, the minimum necessary to meet anticipated demand) so as to maintain the highest price but that becomes a cost to the retailers (and hence consumers).

The reason often quoted to support privatisation is that competition will ensure the lowest prices and more efficient and better services meeting customer needs. Consider, however, the privatisation of ports and airports that has taken place. There are not six port facilities to choose between in Brisbane or Port Kembla, or four or five airports, capable of handling commercial jet flights, to choose from in the capital cities, so there is no competition — they are monopolies. In such situations the government has to retain a regulatory responsibility just as it does for any monopoly that exists in the market: even economists acknowledge that regulatory responsibility exists in regard to monopolies so that the monopoly power is not used to set prices at what the market ‘will bear’, rather than the price being controlled by competition. If the government still needs to regulate, why privatise in the first place?

One argument, often put without question and without supporting evidence, is that private enterprises are more efficient than government enterprises. Economic theory apparently suggests that this should be so but factual evidence often suggests otherwise. Productivity in the electricity industry has not increased as fast as across the economy overall, partly a result of the increase in non-productive staff (discussed earlier). There are many examples of so-called efficiencies and productivity gains coming primarily through lower wages and lesser non-wage conditions. This is effectively a ‘gain’ to the private provider but a ‘loss’ to the worker — and, if we follow ‘middle out’ economics, a loss to the economy. Losses to the economy are magnified when the new private owner is an overseas company, as is often the case, and most of the profit leaves the country. These are ‘social costs’.

Other ‘costs’ occur when private operators incur debt, either to make the purchase in the first place or to provide infrastructure improvements after they own it. The cost occurs here because governments can raise money by issuing government bonds at a lower rate than companies can obtain finance through financial institutions or equity (shares). These higher costs are inevitably passed on to the consumer.

When efficiency is measured in dollar terms, we can end up with examples like this. In the USA in the 1980s and ‘90s, medical waste was disposed of by private companies. Normally this should be done by high temperature incineration but the private companies decided it was more efficient (cheaper) to dump it at sea. When dangerous material started washing up on California and New Jersey beaches, the public became aware of what was happening and, of course, there was an outcry, forcing the governments to intervene and legislate tighter controls.

In Europe the arguments for privatisation seem to have changed slightly. While ‘efficiency’ remains central, two new arguments have been added: ‘strengthening financial markets’ and ‘reduction of public debt’. Reduction of debt was always on the edge of this debate, at least so far as governments were concerned, but, following the GFC, it appears it is now becoming more central in economic arguments. And I think there is hypocrisy in economists suggesting governments should act to ‘strengthen financial markets’ — isn’t that interference in the market?

Basically, privatisation means the government has less ability to direct the provision of services for the public benefit, which essentially means, in the case of many of these type of services, ensuring reliability and quality. Under public ownership many electricity systems included built-in redundancies to ensure safety and reliability of supply. In market terms this is a ‘waste’ of resources but ‘redundancy’ is a critical issue for safety and reliability: almost every commercial aircraft in the world has duplication of many systems (redundancy) because safety is critical, even for commercial success. For areas where safety is less critical, the market will certainly see redundancies as pointless but, in services like water and electricity, it is reliability that is the critical issue and some redundancy may be necessary to ensure that. There is evidence that the privatisation and corporatisation of electricity supplies has led to less reliable supply. If the emphasis is on the efficient allocation of resources to achieve profits, then reliability may move down the list of priorities. Maintenance, also necessary for reliability, is one of the first aspects to be downgraded as it is ‘efficient’ to maintain only to the minimal level necessary to deliver the service. For example, in SA in 2001:

There were 500 outages in January 2001 alone. Unions claimed that the 900 workers employed to check and repair powerlines in 1991 had been reduced to about 300, whilst maintenance crews were reduced from 270 to 90.

The problem with the shift of many services to a commercial or profit-making basis is that public benefit is overlooked and government loses some control over its policies, just as in the example of making up for the ‘loss’ of water sales during a drought. Similarly, we were previously being encouraged to reduce our energy consumption in a bid to reduce greenhouse gases. If electricity consumption is reduced two things happen: some of the infrastructure may become redundant and a loss is incurred by the generators, meaning companies will increase the price of energy to make up for the loss both in consumption and from ‘wasted’ assets. But even in economic terms that is a ‘price signal’ that may counter the policy intent of reducing consumption because people may well say what is the point of reducing consumption if every time we use less, the company puts the price up to cover the ‘loss’. People may still reduce consumption based on the higher ‘price signal’ but no longer as much as they would if they felt there was a ‘moral obligation’ or a ‘community benefit’ (when they know everybody else is acting in the same way) in doing so. If these were public assets, governments should, in accord with both policy intent and public benefit, allow people to benefit (lower bills) from the effort they make to reduce consumption, which would send a positive ‘price signal’ that reducing consumption is good. When it is privatised there are conflicting messages: a government policy saying use less but the private provider saying consume more or, at the least, not rewarding people for using less.

A significant change that can occur was expressed in relation to health care in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 1999:

Our main objection to investor-owned health care is not that it wastes taxpayers’ money, nor even that it causes modest decrements in quality. The most serious problem with such care is that it embodies a new value system that severs the communal roots and Samaritan traditions of hospitals, makes doctors and nurses the instruments of investors, and views patients as commodities.

To my mind, that is the main danger of privatisation, not economic arguments but what it is doing to our society. The neo-liberal economists argue that the only responsibility of the CEO and board of a company is to maximise returns for shareholders. That may work providing consumer goods in the market, when people have a clear choice whether or not to buy, but when it comes to water, electricity, health and education, in which people have no real choice, surely there must be a public interest criterion. The neo-liberal economic approach says no.

Governments need to step back from this privatisation fiasco that places financial markets and shareholder interests above the public interest, particularly in relation to the ‘natural monopolies’. It was once seen that such natural monopolies were the ‘natural’ province of government but no longer. Governments have bowed to the market and the neo-liberal economists promoting it, to the detriment of society, not to its benefit.

It is not too late to turn back. Although in many cases it would mean governments having to buy back what they previously owned, that is what has happened in some countries as the failures of privatisation became apparent. The UK government had to re-take the rail track network when private owners were not maintaining it as well as they should (a brief history here). The NZ government also had to buy back its rail network. In NSW, an attempt at privatising the Port Macquarie Base Hospital was a disaster and the government had to bring it back under the public umbrella. They are but the tip of the iceberg.

You would think that with so many failures, and with the supposed benefits of privatisation not eventuating, that governments would have learned by now but the words of King and Pitchford in 1998 still apply today:

… governments at both the state and federal level in Australia appear to pay little attention to the reality of privatisation, preferring to follow their own rhetoric.

What do you think?



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TPS Team

19/10/2014Privatisation. Is it good, bad or indifferent? Are private enterprises really more efficient than public enterprises, or is that just a common myth? Today Ken Wolff explores these and other issues related to privatisation and the delivery of public services. Let us know what you think in comments below.

Ad astra

19/10/2014Ken Your fascinating article is a suitable sequel to 2353’s last piece. I want to pick up on an aspect of privatization with which I am familiar, privatization in medicine. When Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) came about, first in the US, the orientation of health workers changed from preoccupation with the health needs of the patient (who then became a ‘client’), towards a conflicting orientation, the financial welfare of the organization, the owners and the ‘shareholders’. Suddenly medicine was beset with the very same conflict that has bedevilled business for eons, a conflict between the rights and needs of the customer and the financial needs of the owners and shareholders. I remember what happened with the introduction of the original government universal health insurance scheme in 1975, Medibank. Whereas prior to Medibank, family doctors included many services within the consultation fee as part of the consultation, services such as urine and blood testing and electrocardiography, even X-rays in rural areas, once Medibank made provision for the doctor to be paid for these services, some doctors saw this as an opportunity to enhance their income, and gradually morphed from people doctors into money doctors. Being paid for these extra services was not the problem; in a sense that was just. What Medibank did though was to establish the temptation to embark upon these services when they were not really clinically necessary, in order to enhance income. This is the temptation that doctors confront in HMOs. Because the proprietors invest very large sums in lab and imaging equipment, they seek to recoup these investments as soon as they can. Thus they encourage the use of these services – the more imaging and lab equipment is used, the better the returns. Doctors working in those establishments are urged, even rewarded whenever they use these facilities; at times ‘scolded’ for not using them enough. The doctor is thereby placed in a conflict situation: patient needs and welfare versus the needs of the establishment. The doctor therefore may over-service the patient to placate the proprietor. This is just one example of the dangers of privatization. Our Government is enamoured of privatization, believing that private enterprise always does it better. They seem unaware of, or indifferent to the conflicts that privatization so often create. Thank you Ken for another thought-provoking piece.

Catching up

19/10/2014Another good article. Yes we should be concerned. This government is going further. What it cannot sell for profit, it is closing down. Has anyone compiled a list of the services that no longer exist since this government has come to office. Included was a unit that was involved in research, into Obelo.

2353

20/10/2014The root cause of the problem is the theory that Government is a business. It isn't. Government exists to provide society with a level of service that the society can afford. Where there is a natural monopoly, Government should be operating the service for the betterment of all, rather than the farcical sell/lease the service to a company who will decrease prices due to competition (after paying out considerable sums to purchase the service asset). As [i]TPS[/i] has been recently exploring, there are alternate economic views that suggest that Government should be running in debt all the time as it really doesn't matter - they control the money supply. The US and UK have been 'printing money for nothing' for a number of years as a response to the GFC- it's called 'quantitive easing'. In Australia's case - the Government even fails the 'run it like a business' test - as there is under 30% debt. Shareholder groups (that's us) should be baying for blood as they are running a 'lazy' balance sheet - those that run the super funds that invest our money certainly would be.

Catching up

20/10/2014Government is not a business. Businesses have one aim. That is to make money. Government budget is not like that of business or your personal budget. Government is there to serve the needs of the people. Abbott is wrong when he believes that providing a strong economy meets the needs of the people. His role is to ensure that all share in the fruits of a strong economy. Do we work to live. Do we live to work. What is true, the economy needs both skilled workers and industry. It takes both labour and capital to create wealth. debt in itself is neither a negative or a positive in all types of budgets. In fact business and most personal budgets cannot survive without debt. What counts is ones ability to service debt. I am sick of the persistency in saying Labor has left massive debt and spending. Truth is, both are lower than for decades. In fact when Labor left office, the trend was still downwards. We have Joyce out today, with plans for numerous dams. Not sure where the money is coming from. IU do know that many say this is a stupid idea.

Ken

20/10/2014Ad Thank you. The health system is an important one in terms of privatisation and, as you say, it leads to a change in mindset to the detriment of genine health care for the patient (sorry, should that be client or customer? ... yes, that's the problem when we're not even certain what a 'patient' should be called.) Catching up Yes, it would be interesting to see a full list of what has been privatised or is scheduled for privatisation under Abbott. I know 'Hearing Australia' is on the list - that's the group that provides free hearing aids for those who are eligible. Why an organisation like that should be privatised, I have no idea! 2353 It is all part of turning society into one big 'market' as the neo-liberal economists see it. Governments have succumbed to the propaganda and think that it is more 'efficient' to operate like a business. But when they do, they forget the real reason they are there - they are there to govern in the best interests of their society, in the public interest, not just to endorse individual self-interest and allow the market to do whatever it likes. Catching up (again) You are so right when you say that the government's role is to ensure that all share in the wealth created by a strong economy and that a strong economy is not an end in itself.

Catching up

20/10/2014 [quote] work life balance 15 Oct 2014 Are We Working To Live, Or Living To Work? Time Should Be on Our Side By Marty Wieczorek What has the economy ever done for us? Apart from making us work longer hours and increased our stress levels! Marty Wieczorek ponders. The Australian economy has been growing for 22 uninterrupted years. This means that the average Australian today produces 60 per cent more economic output in a year, than they did in 1993 in real terms (World Bank). But what do we have to show for this massive increase in output? If we look at the ways in which we are spending our time, it would seem, that we are becoming less free in many ways. Australians are Retiring Later The need to gradually raise the pension age is now accepted as an economic imperative across the political spectrum, due to the aging population and increases in life expectancy. But if average life expectancy increased by just over 4 percent during the last 22 years of economic growth, why isn’t our 60 per cent real increase in economic output per person covering the 4 per cent growth in life expectancy? It seems that in spite of all of our economic success, Australians will need to work until they are older. [/quote] https://newmatilda.com/2014/10/15/are-we-working-live-or-living-work-time-should-be-our-side Does one get the feeling, we are being conned. Conned for what. is the question.

Ken

20/10/2014Catching up Thank you for the link to the New Matilda article - most interesting. It reminds me of teevee shows in the late '60s that were predicting that by 2000 we would need to work only ten hours, or less, per week. Perhaps that would be so, if we had the same standard of living as in those days. It is perhaps because we measure our standard of living in terms of consumer goods that we are working longer. Logically, it could be argued that the production of more and more new consumer goods is, therefore, making us work longer than we need to. Of course, it raises the whole philosophic question of 'what is required to achieve happiness'. We are being conned into believing it is consumer goods.

Bacchus

20/10/2014Ken, It could also be related to where the results of increasing productivity end up - growing inequality anyone?

Ken

20/10/2014Bacchus Not just inequality but even if there are improvements overall from higher productivity, all the evidence (in most OECD countries) is that, as a proportion of GDP, profits have been increasing and wages decreasing in the past decade or two. So even if workers are better off (higher wages in dollar terms than a decade ago) they are getting a lesser proportion of the output of their labour. And to relate it back to this article, that is exacerbated by the decrease in government services as the worker now has to 'buy' more services from the market. But have taxes gone down to match that loss of services????

Ross

20/10/2014Here's a novel idea. The NSW ICAC has shown that Australian politicians are relatively cheap. Why don't a few of us chuck a few bob into the kity and then we can purchase the policies/outcomes we, the poor suffering public want/need. A sort of bottom up lobbying.

Ken

20/10/2014Ross Love the idea.

Catching up

20/10/2014Labour has increased productivity over recent time. It is capital that is falling behind. What has also occurred, is that the slice of the pie going to capital has been growing at the expense of Labor. Some say, slow growth in wages is a bad thing. Do not have to be that bright too work that one out. If the majority is left with the minority of the pie, how can they buy the goods they produced. Somewhere along the line, Capital has to sell what it5 produces. This government is saying many things. Most in MHO will lead to a massive financial crisis. Has to. They want to cut wages. They want us to work more. They want to cut taxes for business. They want to cut regulation. Yes, make the pie much smaller for labour. Not the party, but the workers. We definitely have not shared the fruits of the technology and automation we seen coming in the 1960s. The opposite has occurred. The more they cut, the more they will find they will have to cut further. They say they believe in making the pie bigger. Good. Trouble is, that has occurred and we, on the bottom are worse off. These are the issues that Labor has to dwell on. I am not technically economic literate. I like to believe I have what some call good horsed sense. I can also add up. I do know a little, and I have problems establishing where their economic theories and beliefs are coming from. Could not be a simple, belief in the market, a unrestrained one at that. One where the hidden hand keeps the balance. One where all are looked after by the trickle down effect. Not even they could be so simple.

Catching up

20/10/2014As a young person, I was lead to believe the great depression was caused by over production. Something I could not understand. Over production when so many lived with so little. When so many went hungry. My father had another definition. They stopped the mone3y from going around. A man with little education, but5 with the nous to know, while money keeps going around, things are OK. Yes, every times it completes it's circle, it should create new wealth on the way. Simplistic I know. I think the cause was , capital getting control of more than it's share of the money available, leaving the majority, that is labour without the means to buy.

Catching up

20/10/2014Howard was a great one for user pay. This government has once again picked up that cudgel. Yes, when one goes down this path, transferring cost of education and health among many other things to the individual, they are increasing their debt. Once again there will be a increase in private debt. Still ranting on about Labor debt in question time again.

TalkTurkey

21/10/2014Ken, Thank you for this limpid essay. How well your New England Journal of Medicine quote encapsulates the whole dehumanisation by corporatisation in every realm: [i]The most serious problem with [investor-owned health care] is that it embodies a new value system that severs the communal roots and Samaritan traditions of hospitals, makes doctors and nurses the instruments of investors, and views patients as commodities. [/i] And how poignant is the personal observation by Ad astra, ultimate-voice-of-experience in matters medico-political! [i]...Whereas prior to Medibank, family doctors included many services within the consultation fee as part of the consultation, services such as urine and blood testing and electrocardiography, even X-rays in rural areas, once Medibank made provision for the doctor to be paid for these services, some doctors saw this as an opportunity to enhance their income, and gradually morphed from people doctors into money doctors.[/i] One cannot help but feel wistful at the mild-eyed public relinquishment to privatisation by "economic rationalists" of every public asset and service ... Working conditions which have taken efforts by workers ever since the Industrial Revolution to win ... Gone ... Bloody tragic, and pathetic, in both senses of the word. Australians are Lotos-Eaters, since the 50's never had to fight hard for anything, easy-come-easy-go, you don't value what comes too easily. So many of our citizens braying about Eternal Vigilance, without ever understanding at all that their own attitudes embody the true nature of the threat to Freedom in this country. Catching Up you are fine and staunch writer. Thank you for your persistent and consistent efforts on behalf of Labor and Labour principles. Keeping the campfire bright, like Little Red Wing. (Do go and check out this clip Folks, it's priceless!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irIpecROTrg 2353 Quite right. Government, Govern-ment, it's there to control the way things roll. Ordinarily people bitch about the directions it takes and predilections it holds, but the alternative, by definition, is anarchy - by which is not necessarily chaos, but I can't imagine it being any other way! Ross, If this is your first visit to The Political Sword, Welcome, and may you find some friendship here.

Casablanca

21/10/2014[b]The great man has gone. His legacy is huge. He transformed Australia for the better. Vale Gough. 1916-2014[/b]

Ad astra

21/10/2014Casablanca Agree. Gough Whitlam is the greatest of the reforming Prime Ministers.

TalkTurkey

21/10/2014Vale Comrade Gough Sorrow that you are gone is acute, but joy that you have been is forever.

Casablanca

21/10/2014Julia Gillard on Gough Whitlam: a giant of his era, he will live on in our nation [b]A man of the highest political courage, our former prime minister transformed Australia and we are in his debt[/b] Julia Gillard I honour Gough as a man of the highest political courage. A giant of his era. He was truly prepared to “commit and see what happens”. He transformed Australia and we are in his debt. I reflect on someone who was a great leader and a great person. Gone, grieved for, but never to be forgotten. A legacy to be celebrated. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/21/julia-gillard-on-gough-whitlam-a-giant-of-his-era-he-will-live-on-in-our-nation

Casablanca

21/10/2014Gough Whitlam dead at age 98: blog Posted about an hour agoTue 21 Oct 2014, 8:32am Map: Australia Former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam has died. "Our father, Gough Whitlam, has died this morning at the age of 98," his family said in a statement. "A loving and generous father, he was a source of inspiration to us and our families and for millions of Australians. "There will be a private cremation and a public memorial service." http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-21/gough-whitlam-dead/5828840

Ken

21/10/2014It had to come but at a gut level it is difficult to comprehend that such a great man has to die. Although at the time I was much further left than Gough, his reforms have shaped modern Australia. Even the issue that helped bring down his government was visionary - the Khemlani affair. Connor was trying to 'buy back the farm', specifically our resources and he was chasing petro-dollars - even that was ahead of its time as the western world did become reliant on petro-dollars in the subsequent years. Perhaps because it was a new approach, and it wasn't yet part of the mainstream financial system, Connor ended up dealing with Khemlani. How different the country would have been if we had managed to control our resources. We have gone backwards on many levels since. The Liberals have never stopped trying to undermine Medicare. The 'free market' has come to dominate political thinking. The great shame of his death is that we still need him - or at least someone like him. I fear that Labor has lost its visionary amd its vision. Perhaps his death may stir those in the party to revive the grand vision and speak to the people, as Gough did, that there is a different and better future for Australia than that offered by the Liberals.

2353`

21/10/2014Men & women of Australia. Please join me in wishing E.G. Whitlam's family comfort at this time. R.I.P. Gough. You'll be missed.

TalkTurkey

21/10/2014My brother Gordon was on Gough's personal staff as Liaison Officer to the Foreign Affairs Department while Gough was FM as well as PM (in the first Whitlam administration.) Dr. Peter Wilenski, long-time University friend of Gordon (Gordon was Union President at Adelaide U, while Peter was Union President in Sydney U). Both were around 5'6". Gough, nearly a foot taller, used to complain bitterly (tongue in cheek of course) about being "surrounded by midgets". But Gordon and Peter were only midgets in physical stature. Were Gough to describe most of today's politicians and apparatchiks as midgets, he would be very much in earnest.

Catching up

21/10/2014A great man has gone. Yes, history is doing him justice. Heard the last part of Abbott's speech. For once, a worthwhile effort. So much change3d from his two years and ten months rule. I wonder if young women today klno3w how much they owe this man.

Rob Simpson

21/10/2014[b]NOTE[/b]: While the [i]TPS[/i] Team cannot vouch for this play, we are happy to support regional arts. ARE there [i]TPS[/i] readers from the NSW North Coast area who would like to let us know about this play? Maybe a brief review? [b]The [i]TPS[/i] Team[/b] New Play Raises Important Questions A new musical being developed in Bellingen raises some fundamental questions about the way politics are conducted in Australia and who ultimately controls the political process. The events surrounding the rise and fall of Julia Gillard form the backdrop for “Power Play”, which uses satire and parody to examine the reality behind the façade of big party politics and electoral populism. This hard-hitting comedy pulls no punches as it explores the influence of mass media, big business and the party machines on the way the electoral process is manipulated to serve the interests of a few. An embittered Tony Abbott vows vengeance for his narrow defeat at the hands of the Independents; in a leafy moonlit garden two mining tycoons sing in praise of their mutual love; an ousted Julia Gillard reflects sombrely on the fruits of her experience. And through it all, Harlequin cavorts and whirls, reminding us of the unpredictability of destiny and the predictability of history. Devised by a small ensemble of local musicians, artists and performers, “Power Play” asks the audience to consider some pertinent questions: How do our leaders stack up in terms of qualities such as integrity, compassion and honesty, how much are they guided by a genuine interest in the welfare of the people and the country. The play is designed to stimulate public debate, and whether you agree or disagree with its conclusions, you won’t walk away from the performance without something to think about. The play opens at the Memorial Hall, Bellingen on Friday 14th November, with evening performances scheduled over the weekends of 14th/15th and 21st/22nd November. Tickets are available online at www.trybooking.com/106106 or from the Alternatives Bookshop, 105 Hyde St, Bellingen for $20 ($15 concession).

TalkTurkey

22/10/2014This is the haunting last scene from the end of the movie TROY starring Brad Pitt as Achilles. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC1I9seEAQM We too have walked with a giant, in spirit as in stature. Edward Gough Whitlam 1916-2014 [i]Simply Our Greatest.[/i]

TalkTurkey

22/10/2014In 1983 when my brother Gordon held a public meeting to announce his candidacy for the SA federal seat of Kingston, Gough came to Adelaide to introduce him. Gordon recounted what is my favourite Gough anecdote. 1972 - There they all were at the airport, new PM Gough's entire diplomatic party, Margaret included, about to leave for China, for [i]the most important diplomatic initiative contact of the post-WWII world ...[/i](First Western nation to normalise relations with Beijing ..! ... and its influence has been of great benefit to Australia and the World ever since.) The nasty Yellow Press, already hateful towards him and the new Government, taking the line of implying that this was just a junket, demanded to know why Margaret was included in the party. (Notwithstanding the fact that her omission would have been seen by the politically-nuanced Chinese.) Quoth Gough ponderously - (and I wish I could project Gordon's quothation of Gough quothing it!) - [b][i]Well! Where we are going, Western technology has barely penetrated, and in case of emergency, I don't know another woman who could kick-start a 727! [/i][/b] Beautiful man. Imagine if he had never been.

Ken

22/10/2014I was out at a lunch today with some people I used to work with and we stood and toasted 'Comrade Gough' (a few other tables seemed not quite to get what was going on!). I clearly recall the day of the dismissal. I was a young graduate clerk and had been in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs not quite six months. As someone with a non-working wife, two very young children, and rent to pay, I had been becoming concerned in the weeks of the crisis as to what would happen after 30 November when supply ran out. If I didn't get paid I would be in serious trouble. But on the day, we were in the office and another bloke's wife rang him with the news. It rapdidly spread around the office. The most common reaction was disbelief -- did the bloke's wife have the story right. Then radios were turned on and the news was confirmed. Some immediately left work and headed to parliament house. As a graduate clerk, on probation, I didn't think it was safe for me to do so but I supported them in spirit. Even for those who remained at work, there was no work done for the rest of the day, just continual talk about the dismissal and what it may mean. Would Australia finally have its revolution? Was it effectively a coup d'etat? And as the day wore on and some more information flowed through, why did Labor just accept it? Why didn't they fight it in the HoR, or in the Senate? It was a day of bewilderment and questions. After the hand over at Wave Hill of land to the Gurindji, it was also a blow for Aboriginal people. (To Fraser's credit, he did continue with the NT Land Rights Act). Just an explanation of 'supply'. In those days the budget was handed down in August and applied from 1 December. The previous year's budget would have included any new funding and the 'supply period'for the next year, from 1 July to 30 November' in which every department was allocated five-twelfths of its annual budget until the new budget came into effect. So when the Senate refused to vote on the budget, the government still had the funds for the 'supply period' until 30 November. That date was critical and was why Kerr acted when he did - there was only another couple of weeks before the government would have no money. Even Gough's advice for a half-Senate election would have caused problems unless the Parliament approved interim funding for the election period. Fraser had created a genuine crisis. If Kerr hadn't acted the way he did, it may have been tested in the High Court and the constitutional role of the Senate may have been clarified - but that may not have worked either because Barwick was still the Chief Justice (and allegedly gave Kerr unofficial legal advice). Sorry just going over old ground but it was a tumultuous day even for a graduate clerk in Canberra.

Catching up

22/10/2014"Sorry just going over old ground but it: Valuable exercise going over old ground. Reminds one of all the dirty actions of the Opposition and Queensland Premier that bought that day about. Many conventions and rules where broken as they have been for the last two or three years. Today we witnessed Dutton in the house taking much of what Whitlam said, out of conte4xt, giving it meanings he knows to be false. Would love to recall any of the battles of the time. The role of Hayden getting Medibank through, even though the Opposition blocked the funding for it, for once. Dutton has created a new myth for bulk billing, claiming it was only for those who could not afford to pay. No, it was to create a universal and cheaper system to run, Doctors where given extra to bulk bill. Meant cheaper running cost of practice. It was doctors that fought bulk billing all the way. It was never claimed that Medibank was free health. Never claimed that levy paid for it all. The latest today, being put about, is that Whitlam was a one term leader. DD election conveniently forgotten. Ken, your comments are indeed worthwhile.

Ken

22/10/2014I think this is one of the most fitting and heartfelt tributes to the great man, kulum Whitlam. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-22/duguragu-wave-hill-traditional-owners-farewell-gough-whitlam/5834272

Patriciawa

25/10/2014Quite right Ken. The ABC pointed out a few other fitting sites too. RELATED: Gough Whitlam dead at 98 RELATED: Gough Whitlam’s most famous moments RELATED: The Whitlam era versus the Abbott era

TalkTurkey

26/10/2014Greetings Comrades ALL ! James Carleton is collecting anecdotes involving Gough Whitlam for a BOOK. If you have any stories you may send them to him at GoughRIP@gmail.com. I sent him the one I posted here during the week, where Gough said he knew of no other woman who could kick-start a 727 ... And today I sent him another, so I'll post my letter to him here now. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ James, Another story with Gough and my brother Gordon: [During the first Whitlam Government Gordon was Gough's Liaison Officer to the Foreign Affairs Department, a close friend and important adviser. Well-read, widely experienced abroad, and notoriously witty, he was a fine foil to the Great Man.] At Gordon's house in Canberra, a tree had grown inconveniently large. Chainsaw in hand, he climbed the tree and set about lopping some limbs. As a tree-lopper he made a splendid diplomat! In short - A big branch took him down with it, and, chainsaw still running, he fell some considerable distance and got knocked cold on the wall below. He was in a coma for several days. [I don't know how many, but many people would be able to tell you if you asked around.] Gough Himself came to see him while he was in La-La Land. Contrary to expectations, His Presence failed to rouse Gordon. So Gough left a billet doux for him, when (and if ) he should return to consciousness: a little verse by Hilaire Belloc. Such depth of sympathy! ;-)* Lord Finchley - Lord Finchley tried to mend the electric light Himself. It struck him dead. And serve him right. It is the business of the wealthy man To give employment to the artisan. * Yes, feigning un-sympathy, yet there he was in person, showing his real depth of feeling. Gordon was very moved, and treasured the note and the story of course. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The story is told somewhere (and probably better), by Gordon himself, and Alan Ramsay (who adored him) refers to it too. If you are particularly interested I'll find the references. Or you could. A third story involving Gough, Gordon - and RUDD, as a high-school student! - is recounted in that same article by Alan Ramsay I think. It's sort of hilarious and amazing. As I finish this, the delightful Tony Burke is on Insiders telling of Gough's joke about only wanting the cathedral crypt for 3 days. And someone saying, Everyone has a story about Gough. (Except the Mincing Poodle, it seems.) So you have a HUGE book ahead of you! Good hunting.
I have two politicians and add 2 more; how many are there?