Thursday, March 29, 2007

Guantanamo Bay Debacle

DAVID HICKS will be behind bars in Australia until after this year's election, but his stint in an Adelaide prison will be relatively short, under a plea bargain being hammered out between prosecutors and his defence counsel. Hicks faces about a year in Australian jail

I've been a bit reluctant to get into this issue while Hick's and his team do what they must do to get him out of the atrocity of Guantanamo Bay. I still don't find him a particularly sympathetic character, but there are bigger issues in play.

The fact is both the US administration and the Howard government in Australia want to get rid of the problems posed by Hick's incarceration with the least possible damage. It ain't gonna happen! Hick's guilty plea is a crock agreed to only to get out of Guantanamo Bay.

The US, I expect, have forced a guilty plea, on a created charge, to head off future litigation by Hick's. The fact is, back in Australia, Hick's can appeal the whole process. He can even ignore any ‘confidentiality' riders involved in the process.

He can do that because the laws created after the fact in the US are not recognized outside US jurisdiction. The story is not going away easily, and presents yet another stumbling block for Howard's re-election hopes.

The Book

Local news is currently going ape over a suggested $1 million fee for Hick's to write a book on the whole episode. I'm not clear on where the story comes from, or whether it has any basis in fact.

Australian law bars anyone making profit from crime, including publishing profits. But of course Hick's supposed crime is not recognized under Australian law. The whole process is going to be fascinating.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Independent thoughts

The effective results of the NSW state election were in by around 9 pm, just hours after the polls closed. It quickly became clear that the Labor Party would retain government. An early comment on my own electorate was "they don't count votes in Port Macquarie, they weigh them!"

Independent incumbent, Robert Oakeshott, was the first non-aligned candidate proclaimed. The interim results tell the story:

Port Macquarie NSW

Candidate party percent primary vote

Hayes ALP 9% 3,070

Williams National Party 20% 6,718

Reid AAFI (Australians against further immigration) 1% 504

Russell Greens 3% 898

Oakeshott Independent 67% 23,109

It looks like there will be ten independents in the new parliament, a trend that is worrying the major parties. I would have thought the woeful performances coming out of the majors would be a bigger issue for them.

The big fear is that if the majors fail to gain outright majorities the system is destabilised. Poor dears, they would actually have to debate legislation on the floor of the house.

The scary monster sold to voters is that independents would have disproportionate power. That claim fails to recognise the broad spectrum of politics represented by these non party members; from left through bland beige to the right.

But given a bit of analysis, Labor's win really comes down to the electorates repudiation of Howard's federal industrial relations laws (the US model). It does not bode well for Howard's Liberal's in the upcoming federal election. Labor is already well ahead in the polls and this weekend's result is a sign of things to come.

Even a badly performing state government seems to look good against the socially destructive Liberal's.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Back on line, at last – sort of… I am now in Port Macquarie, New South Wales ( - Wikipedia) on a newly configured, communal computer.

So today I’ve just been off to vote in the state election. I had done a bit of campaign work for the sitting member, independent Rob Oakeshott - Independent Member for Port Macquarie.

My role was a mix of media work and policy development. The second bit might (should) sound strange for an independent, but Oakeshott wanted a more comprehensive policy document than those of the major parties.

Oakeshott is angling for more than a slot as an independent MP, he’s looking to become a minister in any new government. The current dynamic is that the governing Labor party is unlikely to hold their majority, and the opposition Liberal’s (conservative) are a country mile from a majority.

In between the major parties are around nine independents. Just one more, which looks likely, and Oakeshott is in the front row to gain a ministry in the process of creating a majority, probably for Labor.

The other side of the voting process was the NSW Upper House, a bloody table cloth sized ballot paper. The Upper House is elected under proportional representation (PR), and the whole state is one electorate.

What really annoys me is that the parties select the candidates but refuse to give any information about them. What they want is for voters to simply tick their ‘above the line’ box, ergo their choices.

I can tell you I voted for Oakeshott, but on the table cloth I wrote in that there was simply not enough information to make a reasonable choice. I love PR, but there are many different ways of setting it up, this one, like the Australian Senate, are not the right approach.

So that is that, for now. I hope to be back during the week.