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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rural Blogging

I have been reading Jim Belshaw's blogs for quite a while now and only recently got to meet and talk to him face to face at the first New State Movement meeting in Hamilton.

One that initially caught my interest was his Regional Living Australia - Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia.

I have also recently been reading the American blog The Art of the Rural - considering rural arts and culture in the twenty-first century - which I find to be a fascinating look at a multitude of rural and regional cultural topics. The story that got me in was Remembering the High Lonesome - which led me to the wonderful short film itself - well worth a watch to music lovers. I'll also add The Rural Blog to this.

Spinning off from a recent regional radio story also on that site, I found a American blog called Legal Ruralism - a little (legal) realism about the rural - which happens to have four Australian stories.

In the current "Three Amigos" or "Country Independents" era of political theatre, being someone passionate about rural Australia doing my best to publish about my corner of the world, I have been looking around for other Australian blogs, not particularly about a region, but about regional and rural issues.

Three I have found of interest (in no particular order) are:

ABC Rural Blog (a bit obvious I guess)
Rural Australia
Biting the Dust - A view of pharmacy and health from a very remote pharmacist

Apart from the ABC Rural one I haven't spent a lot of time reading these, but look forward to them now popping up in my reading list, inspiring me to do more along these lines as Rural Australia continues to be better connected. The Art of the Rural is a real inspiration to me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kelly Club Meetings - Cessnock Planning and Communication Failures

According to The Advertiser - a weekly paper, the Planning Minister Tony Kelly's Cessnock Council Planning Panel meetings commence tomorrow afternoon.

In the article, it states:
Planning panel meetings will be open to the public and meetings and applications will be advertised and appear on council’s website.
and
The pane’s [sic] first meeting will be held tomorrow (Thursday) at 4pm in the upstairs ante room, followed by another on September 23 at 3.30pm.
Yet the two meetings mentioned don't appear anywhere I can see on Council's website.

In fact, I can't find any mention of the Planning Panel on the Council website at all. One would think that it would at least make the News Section!

Get it together Council! No wonder people complain.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Rat in the Hat

One down... As predicted, Bob Katter has split ranks for whatever reason, his own ego and to underline his sense of independence presumably.

Don't get me wrong... I love him. He's so passionate about his causes and yet so on the edge that it becomes addictive to watch him.

I can't understand his love of mining in Queensland when agriculture in the Darling Downs is being decimated by coal mining, underground coal gassification and coal seam methane. I guess it doesn't matter in Southern Queensland...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Political Climate Change

Climate change really did affect the outcome of the 2010 Australian Federal Election, not on the lack of environmental action by either side, but a change in the Political Climate and the perception of Government representation by the Australian People.

There have been polls that suggest that some percentage of people (around 10% from memory) would change their vote if we went to another election. How disingenuous! The ONLY people that should be changing their vote are those that accidentally voted informal, by numbering only one candidate on the green ballot or similar technical errors.

Update 6 Sept: In a survey of 1000 people, asked if they'd prefer a hung parliament or go back to the polls, 54% said they'd go back to the polls. I'm sick of hearing that the Government is being held to ransom by the three Independents. Frankly this is the most pleasant the Government has been in many many years. The Coalition continues to whinge... boo hoo, it's not fair, we didn't win :( Time to take a good hard look at the candidates. If I'd voted for the Coalition, I'd probably want a second vote too, to put them out of a job.

It wasn't really a surprise that a Hung Parliament was in the wind. Don Burke predicted it in May and Kevin Rudd was questioning Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter on their likely direction in a hung situation the evening before and the night he was knifed.

We need to put Optional Preferential Voting into the Federal ballot. Here in the Hunter, voters were forced to preference either Joel Fitzgibbon (ALP) or Michael Johnsen (Nats) because the other three candidates were never really in the running for a win. This is of course the same in about 140 other electorates.

Given that unfair scenario, I chose to preference Michael Johnsen simply because I want to lower the margin that Labor has for the next election, meaning that Joel may have to come out and actually campaign for something and offer some real policies to the people of the Hunter, and so that some of the financial benefits that Patterson got, happen across the Hunter which is in great need of reform.

The ONLY thing that the sitting member did was turn the sod on the F3 extension, curiously timed during the election campaign, but nowhere near being an election issue. What about health? Especially health issues due to mining and coal seam gas. The Labor Party (I don't care what branch) closed Gulgong Hospital during the election campaign!

The bottom line on voting (though you'd hardly know if from the last election or the 10 previous) is that you vote for the best candidate in your electorate. That's what the people in the "Country Independents" electorates did and look where it has got them now.

You DO NOT vote for a Government or a Prime Minister.

Every one of the 150 people elected to the House have to be accountable to ALL the people and do their best personally to represent the views of their local constituents. ALL votes on the floor of the house should not be encumbered by party room directions and the Cabinet should be made up of the best people in the House, not the best they can manage in the majority party.

I'm not saying that Adam Bandt should be a minister, I don't know that he's qualified in any field to be the best, but in a Labor Government, Malcolm Turnbull is far better at a number of portfolios than most of the Labor cabinet. Kevin Rudd should certainly also play a part, but Joe Hockey, Chris Pyne and Tony Abbott are done - they simply don't play well with others. To the back bench gentlemen.

Bob Brown should however, replace Peter Garrett and maybe Adam Bandt comes in as Parliamentary Secretary and can be Bob's voice in the House.

The real question is who will be the Speaker? "The Independents" have made it clear that this person must be independent (or have independence) of the parties, but if the parliament is split 76/74 as I predict, Labor isn't going to give up such a slim majority by dedicating (as much as I love him as Speaker) Harry Jenkins to the speakership making the floor balance on a 1 seat lead, especially when the three Rural Independents, Wilkie and Bandt have all said that they'll guarantee supply and confidence but won't neccessarily support them in voting.

Making either Rob Oakeshott or Tony Windsor Speaker would be a waste of a good mind and part of the essential power balance, same with Bandt, and Bob Katter is too much of a loose cannon. Wilke?

I doubt that the Coalition will want to let go of a possible voting majority either.

This is the most exciting time in politics that I have ever seen, the hung Parliament is the beginning of getting back to a real democracy, and we need to take advantage of the next three years to reform campaign funding, parliamentary behaviour, throw out the dominance of the Two Party Preferred system and make voting across the country one simple system.

Allowing people to exhaust their vote after their preferred candidate (if they don't win) is fundamental to a democratic vote. Why should I have to choose between whether I hate One Nation more than the Fred Nile Group. The racists against the porn kings!

Had I had a choice, my vote would have been 1 Green and nothing else with neither Michael or Joel getting the use of my vote after Chris was eliminated. Still counted as a Primary vote with no flow-on.

The outcome of this election would have been vastly different, and my guess (based on reports from scrutineers who saw the informal ballots) is that half of the informal votes would have counted and both the Greens and Labor would have had a higher Primary vote. That's about 3% more across the Hunter.

And change doesn't have to end with the federal system. NSW needs serious reform as well. I seriously hope that the same situation occurs in NSW though it virtually impossible that Labor will get anywhere near it. The Coalition will be almost as bad if they dominate in Macquarie Street as Labor have been. We need a wide range of independents and smaller parties to carry a large balance to keep the system clean.

It's not going to work. Even though the bush is in the spotlight at the moment, the Sydney Government will always side on where they can make big money, be it Poker Machines or Mining Royalties, and they will always spend the vast majority of that money in Sydney and I mean in a non-proportionate way. Of course more people live in urban areas than do in the rural and regional areas - two thirds, but do they really need to waste millions of dollars on a V8 Super Car race at Homebush over decent roads in one of the states major tourist regions?

Time for a change, for self-determination and for a split for the North of the state. Agitation for a New State is not a new thing, and the agitation is more than a distant rumble, both in Northern NSW and Northern Queensland. The constitution very clearly affords the people to decide, and while it may be slightly sad for the sake of the history of the state on NSW, it will be a defining moment in the written history for hundreds of years to come.

Bring it on!

I said it last week and I remain convinced that Katter will vote alone for the Coalition and Oakeshott and Windsor will go with Labor. A dream outcome for democracy.

Peter Firminger

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tony Kelly makes up his own reasons to help Labor Contributors

NSW Planning Minister Tony Kelly's reasons for appointing an Independent Planning Panel are simply ludicrous, apportioning blame to the Council for delays in referrals instead of the NSW Government Departments that hold up DA Processing.

When referring to LEP hold ups , he separates issues as separate LEPs when the (Draft) Comprehensive LEP (2010) is a SINGLE PROCESS that has been modified over time (in the right direction) with a lot of hard work and lobbying from the ratepayers, particularly those in and around Wollombi Valley, at least 20 of which helped at their own considerable expense.

He says "The panel will not, however, take on the role of preparing Cessnock’s new council-wide LEP. This responsibility will remain with the Council, although the Minister has asked the Department of Planning to closely monitor the progress of this important plan."

The best example of Kelly's total incompetence in this is:

DA referrals
  • Cessnock Council has one of the highest rates of DA referrals to State Government agencies, with 52% of applications requiring referral in 2008/09 (up from 43% in 07/08), compared to an average of 16% for similar councils and a State-wide average of just 11%.
  • Moreover, the average referral time for Cessnock Council in 2008/09 was 70 days (up from 55 days in 07/08), compared to 42 days for similar councils and a State-wide average of 54 days.
  • Despite referrals having a significant impact on its gross DA processing times, Council’s response did not seek to explain why there are so many referrals or why it takes longer to resolve referrals than the rest of the State.
  • Similarly, Council’s response does not provide any information on what, if anything, it is doing about the referral process which is clearly causing such delays in its DA processing.

Greens spokesperson on Planning and Local Government, Sylvia Hale says:

"Minister Kelly's failure to revoke a Part 5.5 Direction issued to Cessnock Council until 18 June 2010 has effectively tied the Council's hands in dealing with Cessnock's Draft LEP.

"The direction required the Council not to prepare any planning document that was inconsistent with an agreement between the Minister for Planning and Hardie Holdings in December 2006.

"But the Land and Environment Court in August 2009 considered the agreement amounted to a 'land bribe'. Council has been between a rock and a hard place. If it complied with the Minister's direction, it would be acting illegally. But not complying has resulted in the Minister removing the Council's planning powers."

See also Kitchener land zoning revisited after stuff up another embarrassing blunder by State Labor that they used (and are STILL using) as an excuse for stripping the powers from the 13 people we elected to our Council.

This is a NSW Government failure, not a Cessnock Council failure. How can Cessnock Council comment on why the incompetent Sydney Government can't process issues referred to them without simply saying that the departments, including Kelly's are incompetent. The people will decide on March 26.

Most of the complaints he refers to occurred in the previous Labor-dominant elected council, not the current one which have strived to clean up the filthy Labor legacy in Cessnock Council.

This is clearly a political decision from Sussex Street to control a council that Labor have lost to Independants, Greens and Liberals and to make sure their party contributors Hardie Holdings get some value from their purchased Government, in the Government's remaining 7 months in power.

Cessnock City Council have my full support in this regard. This Government has to go, especially Kerry "Of course I lied" Hickey.

It is also a perfect example of why the Hunter and New England need to form a new Northern State and separate from Sydney interests.

Sylvia Hale: Cessnock Council must resist Labor Government's imposition of Planning Panel

Cessnock Council must resist Labor Government's imposition of Planning Panel - Wollombi Valley Online News