Western Australian Election 2005
- Name: Nic White
- Location: Perth, WA, Australia
Journalism student residing in Perth, Australia. Writes a bit but still has an active social life and doesnt study nearly as much as he should. Email email@example.com
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Thursday, February 24, 2005
WA Election 2005: All you need to know
Readers of my federal election article will notice a difference in this one. Because the choice of who to vote for is not so obvious, or important, I will not be making a case for either party, rather I will be attempting to be as bipartisan as possible – giving you the issues, an analysis of them, and my opinion of which party has the better policy and why. If it appears to be biased, it is not consciously so, in part I am writing this to decide for myself who I will vote for. The structure is also different – three sections, the first two reasonably short for lack of information because not as much has happened in four years as in the Howard government’s eight, and because Gallop’s policies were far less outrageous. The third is a detailed policy comparison of all the election issues. I have tried to make this as comprehensive as possible, but I will most likely miss things. Readers filling in the blanks for me would be much appreciated.
PART ONE: The Record
It’s all very well to promise the earth before the election, but delivering on those promises is extremely important for any government, as is how the government governs while in office. Let’s take a brief look at the government’s record from both sides. Figures from both parties’ websites unless otherwise stated.
Labor promised not to increase taxes and charges, however it increased taxes by a total of $250 million per year in its first term. However it also abolished five taxes and will abolish a sixth from July onwards, abolished stamp duty on workers compensation premiums for 60000 employers, payroll tax for small businesses with payrolls of less than $750000, stamp duty for 74% of first home buyers, land tax for over 50000 people and cut TAB turnover tax.
The Court government delivered five budget deficits in eight years of government and the ALP has delivered four balanced ones. However this may be quite similar to the federal situation, where the Howard government is claiming responsibility for our good economy at the moment when it was in fact it was largely due to the good foundations built by the Hawke and Keating governments. There is evidence to suggest that the Court government was in a similar situation, having to bail the state out of the hole dug by the Burke government and the recession, producing deficits but building good economic foundations that the Gallop government is now riding on, but none of this is anything other than a matter of opinion and debate. Gallop has produced four balanced budgets, but the state’s debt is climbing and the budget surpluses are shrinking. Upon election the surplus was $167 million but was reduced to $52.9 million then $33.1 million in the first two ALP budgets. This year it was up at $498 million but is predicted to fall to $101 million by 2008-09. The results are inconclusive, however the state’s debt is expected to increase to $7.9 billon; it’s highest since 1994. The state is expected to keep its AAA credit rating, but only just. However the government has done this without privatizing anything. Something the Court government did plenty of, even when it promised not to.
The government has also secured a number of key projects that have created jobs and revenue for the state. In the last four years it has created 80000 new jobs, had the lowest unemployment rate on record, increased business investment by 67% and fostered strong economic growth, but has failed to significantly reduce the amount of spending on admin as it promised to.
The ALP government presided over a large recruitment campaign to reverse the trend where one in nine nurses left the state system, it recruited 1210 nurses in it’s four year term, but however failed to achieve its target of an increase of 400 nurses and 90% of surveyed doctors in 2001 thought that the health system was degrading under Gallop. Upgraded emergency facilities at most of Perth’s hospitals but the Coalition claims that the rate of hospital bypasses (ambulances not being able to deliver patients to the nearest hospital due to there being no room) per month have increased by 138%
Labor pledged to increase capital works hospital funding (new equipment), but until this election campaign have failed to do so significantly, according to the opposition it was even cut by over $3 million in 2001-2002. They also claim that on 31st October, the recurrent budget for WA metropolitan hospitals was running approximately $43m over budget. Also, the 2002-2003 Mid-Year Financial Projections Statement showed that the Health budget has blown out by more than $150m – a month after then Health Minister Bob Kucera denied a blowout in Parliament. A huge amount of purchases in equipment were made by the ALP government, and this may have something to do with cuts in other areas and the running over budget, but these facilities were needed.
Labor’s health spending in this election, mostly in capital works, is long overdue but is finally being done. This may be able to balance out the under funding of various areas, mostly in hospital capital works, that are alleged by members of the health profession and the opposition. But throwing money at a problem doesn’t always make it go away.
Law and Order
Fewer recruits are entering the service, as you can see by the campaigns on TV to gather recruits. The opposition claims that in 2002 there was a 39% reduction in new recruits compared with 2001. Early in the Gallop term, aggravated robbery increased by 9.6 per cent and non-aggravated robbery by 23.7, and assaults increased by 2.9%, but by now home burglary dropped 16.5% and the overall crime rate by 8% This is likely a result of the new DNA technology – whether it has anything to do with police numbers in inconclusive. The government also did a good job in opening four new regional police stations, so much so that the opposition is silent on this matter.
Labor also tackled anti-social behaviour, getting tough on hoons and rioters. This has been a mixed bag. Gallop made the tough decision to enforce a curfew on Northbridge for children younger than 15 who really should not be in such and environment at night. This move was opposed by many but Gallop has been vindicated, with patrons and businesses reporting the area is safer. The resounding success of the program may lead to more curfews in other areas, which is not bad idea at all. However it has also introduced the excessive and unfair hoon laws, where if a police officer thinks the driver has been “hooning” or driving in a reckless fashion, the driver’s car is impounded for 48 hours, repeat offence 3 months and eventually forever. This gives far too much power to the individual judgement of police and results in ridiculously excessive punishments for minor crimes. The laws are also ambiguous and difficult to enforce uniformly. The courts have been flooded with appeals. The latest change to this law is that impounded cars may be sold by the government. This law is appalling and should never have been introduced. There is also a fair amount of sabre-rattling going on concerning curfews and passenger limits for P platers, but I’ll save that for when it’s next proposed – which is every time a P plater is killed on our roads. Also disappointing is the introduction of the unfair Parental Responsibility Orders.
Labor has abolished 6-month jail terms and instead replaced them with community service orders, a much better and more practical solution. The Coalition complains of Labor saying it will not to decriminalise cannabis and, as we now know, it is a policy for the election. This is a backflip, but a good one – and why should it be a bad thing for the party to change it’s mind after considering its position more extensively? Labor did however cost the taxpayer thousands of dollars by changing their contract with Smith Weston for one with Glock.
The opposition contradicts itself here. First it complains that Labor introduced a voluntary parent contributions policy for state schools, and that this has left some schools in financial difficulty, but also complains about the ALP re-introducing much needed compulsory student unionism. The Liberals contest that students are being forced to pay fees to the guild, which will just misuse them and not all students use the facilities anyway. This argument is flawed in that student guilds need that kind of money to survive and represent and serve those students that make use of it. Besides, at Curtin University, the one I attend, the guild offers discounts for members at ALL campus food outlets, and does not automatically make you a member, but allows you to easily sign up on O-week. You pay a $100 fee regardless of if you join or not – if you don’t, that money goes direct to the university’s coffers instead of to the guild. Alex White, long time student hack, has a couple of pieces on student unionism.
Labor has listened to the community by protecting school leavers, ensuring that they stay in education, training or work until they are at least 17, and providing the funding for infrastructure to do so. The ALP has opened 23 new schools, spent almost $200 million improving school IT (I certainly have noticed a dramatic improvement in equipment) and increased the number of traineeship and apprenticeships by 40%
The public transport system has had major improvements under the Gallop government; this is one area in which they have unquestioningly excelled. Stations are cleaner and better maintained, new trains are coming into service, transit guard presence has improved, making the trains safer, and there is a new plan underway for the new metro rail. The Joondalup line has already been expanded to Clarkson and the new Greenwood station has been added to it. Work will soon begin on the new Mandurah line. Labor changed the path of this line from the one proposed by the Court government, but this one is much more sensible as is goes down the freeway and close to Murdoch university. It may cost more and cause delays on the roads, but it will be worth it. Robert Corr has a full article on the record of both governments concerning rail developments.
However, as this article in The Australian points out, although the rail system is going strong, our roads are more clogged than ever, with the freeways turning into car parks at peak hour. The Graham Farmer Freeway has made transport in some areas better, but not for the majority of Perth. They have also done a crassly stupid thing in abandoning Roe Highway stage 8 and the Fremantle Eastern Bypass; this has been universally opposed by residents and community groups, especially the Melville City Council. Gallop’s election promise to ban trucks from Leach Highway instead will do nothing to ease the problem, but more on that in part 3.
PART TWO: The Players
Though on a less overt level, the state campaign has played out in a strikingly similar fashion to the federal race. September and October saw John Howard stand tall, emphasizing the key issues and pushing reasonably standard Liberal Party policy lines with nothing really outrageous, with some last-minute vote buying. Mark Latham on the other hand sought to draw attention to himself and his party’s policies by putting his own face in the public eye, using catchy slogans and presenting himself as a fresh new face with visionary policies full of innovation. Gallop and Barnett have followed this to the letter. Gallop has been sticking to the bread and butter issues – health, education, police – in a controlled fashion containing lots of repeated rhetoric. His policies could be described as boring, but they give the impression that the ALP is being careful, measured and balanced. Then at the last minute he did some shameless vote buying with the education gimmicks and banning trucks from Leach highway – but still managed to look responsible. Barnett on the other hand has behaved in a very Latham-like fashion. His outrageous canal policy was his flagship and designed to capture the imagination of the electorate. They were to look upon him as a visionary leader who was using innovative and creative solutions to problems faced by Western Australians. The canal is his Medicare Gold. It is argued that this lost Latham the election, but it could have won it for him. Barnett faces the same conundrum.
There are also similarities in the way the two lead their armies, particularly with Barnett. Like Latham, Barnett is personally leading the troops into battle all by himself. Many of his policies are made to look like his own ideas that he and he alone devised, particularly the canal and prison closures. Howard and to a much lesser extent Gallop, prefer to give greater freedom to their cabinet members, allowing them to push policies in their own area rather than do all the camera work himself. He will then come to the aid of anyone who needs it. He is more like a field marshal. I did an entire blog post about this fascinating juxtaposition that has repeated itself. It gives more detail on the points raised in this and the above paragraph.
Another point on Barnett’s leadership potential is the infamous episode that followed the Coalition’s defeat in 2001. After the election ex-Premier Richard Court retired from parliament and instead of handing the reigns to his faithful sidekick Barnett, he attempted to parachute in federal MP Julie Bishop and make her the new leader. Court’s justification was that the party needed a fresh start and he was looking for the best possible alternative to himself. In short, he didn’t think Barnett was the right man for the job. The plan failed and Julie Bishop is now the minister for ageing. If Court didn’t think Barnett was up to it, do we? He does seem to be hurting the party’s chances – every time I talk to someone concerning the state election and they ask who I’m voting for I say I’m not entirely sure and will see what they put out. The response is always “just don’t vote for Barnett”, not “don’t vote for the Liberal Party”. It seems he’s hurting the Liberal faithful too. Gallop on the other hand has had an uncontested run and seems to be secure in the party, but this may only be because he is the best of a bad mob.
More on the Coalition party relations, Barnett is not getting along with his deputy, National Party leader Max Trenorden, and the two parties don’t seem to be communicating very well. First there was the “position statements” issue. Essentially the Coalition put up a list of policies that looked like promises, but were actually non-binding position statements. But for some reason the next day Colin Barnett declared that all of them were binding policies. Then things got very confusing with what seemed to be a lack of communication between the two parties. Robert Corr did a good job covering the chain of events. It’s bewildering, but since then things seem to have been reasonably stable, except between Barnett and Trenorden. Around the time the election was called, Barnett said that he would be raising the age of consent for homosexuals from 16 to 18. Trenorden outright rejected this move saying, “Not while I’m Deputy Premier, it won’t happen”. This may be the reason Barnett has not said much about the policy since, angering the CDP. Trenorden also disagrees with Barnett over the canal. Will this disunity be a problem if the Coalition is elected?
Finally, both candidates have been remarkably unimpressive during the entire campaign, especially the way they relate to the public. The campaign has been filled with a never-ending stream of rhetoric. Neither candidate has put much effort into justifying their stances, or really doing much more than dazzling the voters with cash. This is partly the result of a flaw in our electoral system, where because citizens have to vote, they will vote ignorantly, mostly based on how much money they will get, and how much money they see being thrown around. This leads to pork-barreling and little interest in proving solid evidence to support any of their claims. It also leads to the appearance of a lack of respect for the public. This was evident in the debate where neither candidate really said much, and most obviously in their responses to the questions collated by The Sunday Times SMS question appeal. All their responses were superficial, rhetoric-laden, and showed their inability to take the question or the public seriously. I was most disappointed by this. Both candidates get negative points in this area.
PART THREE: The Issues
Alright, let’s get this one over with first. I’m sure you have all heard something about Colin Barnett’s 3700km canal plan, which is his way of dealing with Perth’s current water crisis, which is leaving us with two day a week watering times, and staring down the barrel of total sprinkler bans in coming summers. There is no denying that Perth is in desperate need of relief from the grave water shortages caused by the great reduction in rainfall – which is predicted to worsen. Something major must be done. The Canal is the Coalition’s answer; the Gallop government prefers a desalination plant. This issue has been by far the most discussed of the entire campaign but I will try to summarize it as much as I can. There are also other areas in the water policies, but we will get to that after the canal.
Barnett initially announced the canal plan at the leader’s debate (no transcript available). It involves building a 3700km canal – a polymer-lined trench with a polymer cover – that will bring 200 gigalitres of water each year from the Fitzroy River in the Kimberly, all the way to Perth. The water will not just be used by Perth however, it will be used by people all along the coast, stimulating regional development – much like the continental train line across America did. The Coalition has enlisted the logistics company Tenix to build and manage the canal, Tenix says it can build the canal for $2 billion and the Coalition has been sticking by this figure. This is “Colin’s Wet Dream”, as The West Australian readers called it. In reality it is a foolhardy pipedream that is being recklessly approved without any comprehensive economic or environmental study. As such, the $2 billion figure could easily top $10 billion according to some estimates.
Robert Corr took just one night to come to the conclusion that this cannot be sanctioned without rigorous testing, in this post he also points out the lack of communication within the party concerning the canal. The day after it’s proposal it was condemned by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and water expert Peter Cullen, and then by the Institute of Public Affairs. Next was Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, who refused to back it without a detailed analysis, which Barnett has not done, it was the same story with John Howard. Treasury then came out saying it had serious doubts about the $2 billion price tag. This was a worth doubt as it was soon revealed by Tenix that and extra 30c per kilolitre would be required on top of the existing $1/kL in order to make the water drinkable, Tenix also wants a $220 million fee and said Labor’s desalination plant would be needed while the canal was being constructed. The cost speculations continued to climb and then probably the Australian blogosphere’s most respected economist, University of Queensland Professor John Quiggin did and economic analysis of the canal project and said a figure of $6.50/kl “sounded about right”. Later he did an article for the Financial Review that I highly suggest you read. In addition to the costs of the canal is the power usage, which is a vital factor in WA where blackouts are a problem, Quiggin examined this and found that the power cost could easily increase the cost to $10kL – ten times higher than the original figure. Barnett refused to allow the canal to be costed with the rest of his promises and appears not to care about the costs, “I’m not going to bail out”, and as I finish writing this article, a collegue of John Quiggin, Steve Pannell, has released this assessment of the canal, completely burying it – a must read. Aboriginal elders are also not happy with the idea either, saying the Barnett will have a native title right on his hands. Everything looks bad for the canal.
I must make the point that the actual idea of a canal is not such a bad thing. For Perth’s long term water needs, it may well be necessary. Labor is considering the idea along with many other options for post-2009 water solutions. The idea definitely has merit, but Barnett's refusal not to forge on with the project without a full assesment and disclosure of costs and other viability considerations is utter folly. If it’s viable, people need to sit down and look at every angle and every possible consideration, and then determine if it can be done. Barnett hasn’t done this, and has committed to doing it anyway. That is not how you run a state. I have compiled a list of all canal related blog posts that you can use for further reading; they are all studded with links to news sources.
The alternative has been kept much quieter as it is less outrageous. It’s a $350 million desalination plant on the Cockburn sound. The Coalition has attacked the plan in their water policy saying it will “generate 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and 65 million tonnes of hypersaline discharge, which will be dumped into Cockburn Sound every year, potentially threatening the fragile ecosystem of the Sound”. This is yet to have been proven or disproved anywhere because all the attention has been focused on the canal. At my request John Quiggin did an economic analysis of the desalination plan and concluded it would be much cheaper. One hour ago News Ltd. released a detailed article comparing the viability of both the plant and the canal, make sure you read this. Gallop has taken on the water ministry personally and will ensure that all possible precautions are taken to ensure the plant is constructed properly.
These two plans are just the flagships for the respective party’s water policy, their full policies involve various plans to increase the supply of water to Perth and the greater south west. First to the Coalition’s policy.
Catchment thinning – this refers to removing undergrowth from catchment areas from dams so more water can easily run into the dams. This would first be trailed at Wungong and is expected to yield 6 gigalitres, followed by 40 gigalitre operations at South Dandalup, North Dandalup and Serpentine.
Recycling – Also know as “grey water”. This involves recycling wastewater and using it in areas such as irrigation and agriculture. The Coalition aims to recycle 20% of the 98 gigalitres of wastewater disposed of each year.
Water trading – “Water trading allows licensed water holders to trade part of their water entitlement to another water user. For example, the Water Corporation has temporary water trade agreement with Harvey Water, a private irrigators’ cooperative that delivers water to irrigators. Harvey Water trades 3 gigalitres of high grade water from its Samson Dam in return for the use of infrastructure.” This was started by the Gallop government and the Liberals will continue to support it. It is hoped that it will yield 50 gigalitres in years to come.
Groundwater – The Liberals do not want to take an extra 45 gigalitres from the Yarragadee site, as they think it has reached its sustainable limits. Instead they plan to gather ground water from other sites for a total of 32gL per year.
Signing the National Water Initiative – Gallop refused to sign this agreement and I fail to see why. It is a sound program that we should be embracing.
Desalination plant at Esperance – Building a smaller scale and more environmentally friendly desalination plant at Esperance and then pumping that water to Kalgoorlie, leaving more water available for Perth. This is hoped to provide 10gL per year.
Labor’s policy goes along similar lines:
Keeping sprinkler restrictions at 2 days a week – 45gL per year.
Same groundwater plan as the Coalition.
New dams at Wokalup and Samson Brook – 23gL
Waterwise Rebate Scheme to save water at a household level. Basically encouraging the public to use water-wise products with a rebate – 2.5gL
Same plan with Harvey as Coalition.
Various studies and research – see the policy link for details.
Desalination plant – 45gL.
Increased trading with Harvey – 17gL.
Continuing with Waterwise Rebate Scheme – 3gL.
Water recycling – 6gL.
In the long term they are exploring a number of ideas, including a canal similar to Barnett’s. Follow the policy link to see a breakdown of them on pages 8-9.
As you can see, the two parties have very similar policies apart from the canal vs desalination plant issue. So the question really is on this issue, which one do you want?
Labor has pledged to spend $1 billion on education (full policy), however only $119 million of this is actually new funding, the rest is from the last budget and would be spent in the areas it was allocated to no matter who wins government. However there are only cost breakdowns available for the entire $1 billion. 39 new schools will be built (28 primary, 11 secondary) at a cost of $400 million, improvements to 42 existing schools at a cost of $300 million, and a record $300 million on maintenance, $65 million of which is to erase the maintenance backlog. Included in the upgrades is a detailed revamping of Perth Modern. This upgrade will cost a total of $20 million, $17 million on repairing and expanding the old historic school buildings and restoring it to its former glory. $3 million will be spent on extra staff and resources. In addition there will be an $8 million residential college build for Perth Modern students. I’m not sure this is necessary and the $28 million could be spent better elsewhere in the school system. It seems like another election gimmick to win votes from the upper class who want to send their kids to a posh school – one like the new Perth Modern. $70k will also be spent on programs and services for gifted students, this one is a good move, as these students are currently not being challenged enough. $9 million will also be spent on upgraded science equipment in 9 public schools ($1 million each)
The ALP will also provide $65 million to help certain schools better deal with behavioural and discipline problems, this also involves recruiting 60 new teachers. A few other obscure policies are also explored in that document. This $65 million is in part instead of abolishing school fees as the Coalition plans to do. Currently there is a system where payment is voluntary for parents. This system is flawed in that some parents who can afford to will not pay, while battlers will feel obligated to. However as Mr Carpenter points out on ABC radio, under the current arrangement schools will get more under his plan where parents instead receive $200 for students in school during years 11-12 and $400 if the child is in training. By abolishing school fees, and paying the school $40 per student in primary and $235 in secondary, from the government, some schools would get less, he says. Neither policy works. Really we should be reverting to compulsory fees with a rebate from the government similar to what parents get now. In short, voluntary payment is unfair and having no fees is unworkable.
Now comes the blatant vote buying. The government will give the top 40 school leavers $3000 each to study in WA, and the Dux of each school $1000. There is no practical purpose for this other than to buy votes from parents who want academic mavericks to be rewarded with cash, a superficial solution if there ever was one.
Even worse is the government’s compulsory community service plan. I did a full blog post on the ridiculous affront to the choices of students, and all for a theory that just does not have any evidence to support it. This sparked some blogosphere debate. Read the posts for yourself. The Coalition’s policy is much better – they will instead pursue the infinitely better alternative of “developing volunteer groups such as Cadets WA as well as providing extra resources to help foster emotional and moral growth.” Much more sensible.
Note: All unsourced figures are from the WA Liberals website, which crashes IE when I open it. I am getting this information from pdfs sent to me from the site by other people and thus cannot link to them. Look on the site and you should be able to find the policies.
The Coalition figures for education are incredibly hard to track down, as there have been no media reports of what they are actually spending on what. All there are is a few reasonably vague policy documents, mostly just rhetoric on what the government plans to do, but lets have a look at some of the coherent points:
Firstly (full policy) they will provide $1.5 million for teacher professional development and make all fees by teachers to the College of Teaching are used to fund PD programs. They will also set up an $800k program to pay for teachers’ university fees if they undertake further studies – this is a great idea, as teacher’s wages aren’t particularly high and they often cannot afford to do any further studies, so the students miss out. Removing the cap on level 3 teachers – allowing teachers to break through the glass ceiling and have higher pay rates – and investigate boosting salaries for good teachers, good plans as merit-based solutions are always good.
To increase standard in government schools the Liberals will allocate $2 million per year to establish an “external review unit” to work with schools to identify problems with individual schools operation and help them improve, and to learn from schools that are doing well. Another panel will be set up to hear and assess complaints about under performing teachers and recommend improvements, both will also apply to private schools. Provided these boards are comprised of good people, it could be a great asset to the education system, even better that they are working with school and teachers rather than just removing teachers that are performing badly – looking after them rather than adopting Social Darwinism.
Capital works are also promised, but not quite as extensive as the government’s plan. At least four new primary schools will be constructed each year and secondary schools constructed to keep pace with the population growth. $100 million will be provided for a program to modernise older schools,$1 million per year to upgrade residential colleges throughout the state and build a government high school in Ellenbrook. The Coalition will also spend $65 million to eliminate the maintenance backlog, as Labor has promised to do. They also have a new strategy for region education where they will put secondary schools, TAFEs and Universities on the same campus and bring in more specialist educators.
The Coalition also has a short policy to make schools safer. Click here for details.
The two parties other than controversial plans such as compulsory community service and abolishing school fees have very similar policies. Citizens votes in this area will probably depend highly on these points of contention.
Both parties are planning major new capital works for the state’s hospitals. Labor has promised to build a new hospital in Murdoch (full policy), over the road from St John of God, that will have 600 beds – this is to be completed by 2010 and upgraded to 1000 beds by 2020. $420 million has been allocated for the project. They also plan to upgrade the Rockingham District Hospital increasing it’s beds from 67 to 300, costing $67 million, and $35 million to upgrade Fremantle Hospital. In the north they promise to upgrade Joondalup Hospital (full policy) from 235 to 325 beds and then to 700 by 2010 – expected to cost $34.7 million and upgrade its emergency facilities at a cost of $9 million plus $15 million for infrastructure to support that. Included in this package is the doubling of it’s operating theatres from six to 12. A new private 150 bed hospital costing $40 million will be built but is to be funded by businesses not the government.
The ALP will also provide an extra $4 million for dental health and spend $40 million over four years decreasing waiting lists (something they failed to do in their first term). There is also a detailed plan to promote better health in the state, including a $15 million campaign, drug education in schools, an extra $10 million to combat child obesity, ban smoking in enclosed public places, $10k fines for people who sell cigarettes to people under 18 and restrictions on retail tobacco advertising. Cancer is also on the government’s hit list, including $16 million for care and prevention strategies (details and fund allocation in document), $1.2 on skin cancer protection programs and $2.8 million to enable colorectal screening program.
Nurses is the final area of the ALP policy that I’m going to cover. The Gallop government didn’t do a smashing job achieving this last time, but did manage to stop the massive exodus of nurses from the public system early in their term. My guess is that they are planning to build on that by recruiting extra nurses this term. There have been threats of nurses strikes in the election campaign, but this was sabre-rattling from nurses union leader Mark Olson, presumably upset after his attempt to get the union to back the Coalition backfired – Robert Corr has the whole saga. The ALP has promised (full nurses policy) to spend $97.4 million to recruit 800 additional nurses over four years, improve childcare for nurse’s children, $400k on more family friendly workplaces, $2 million to make workplaces safer and "$6 million to double the number of scholarships for nurses and midwives and establish new scholarships and clinical courses for mental health nurses". Labor appears to have covered all the bases on this issue, the test will be to see if they can deliver what they promise, unlike in the minimal success of their first term.
Note: All unsourced figures are from the WA Liberals website, which crashes IE when I open it. I am getting this information from pdfs sent to me from the site by other people and thus cannot link to them. Look on the site and you should be able to find the policies.
The Coalition’s nurses policy includes a $162 million package to deliver a 14% pay rise for nurses, the ANF has accepted this after Olson rejected the higher ALP offer in an attempt to get more from the Coalition, he failed and cost nurses money. The Coalition will also use $50 million to improve conditions for nurses, and work with the ANF to resolve issues with conditions, plus establish a ministerial advisory group on nursing comprising of experts within the profession to ensure nurses’ needs are looked after. A great idea of the Liberals is to extend practical nurses training from the current six weeks at WA universities. This is a great idea that I hope the ALP will pick up on in the future too. The argument for more practical training is a strong one, with obvious benefits to the nurses and the wider community. They have also pledged to improve opportunities for country nurses.
The Coalition also scores huge points with its pledge to ensure that all pensioners have free ambulance travel and anyone over 65 has a 50% cost reduction. This will cost $12.25 million per year and create 66000 free and discounted ambulance services. In country health it will build a replacement for Denmark Hospital costing $6 million and upgrade the Esperance Hospital for $4.5 million. Also promised is a $40 million new hospital for Albany, a plan that has come under fire as unnecessary. First it was questioned by Labor candidate Peter Watson, then today Nationals candidate Beverley Ford admits she is embarrassed and that she “now says a new hospital is unnecessary and the money could be better spent elsewhere” – another example of the lack of communication in the Coalition. When your own members don’t support a policy, what are the chances of it being a success?
Capital works in Perth are also promised, including providing 727 new beds in total (raising the total to 4334 from 3607). Upgrade Joondalup Hospital to 350 beds at $50 million (this is similar to the Labor plan), Swan Districts to 300 beds – a much needed expansion, I remember waiting for over two hours to get the finger I had almost cut off in a door seen to, I had to make do with a handkerchief – at a cost of $68 million, expand to 300 beds at Osborne Park for $20 million, expand Rockingham for $33 million (similar to Labor plan), 100 new beds for Peel and Murray Hospitals at $40 million, and build a $10 replacement for PMH. They will also emulate the Labor plan for a hospital in Murdoch. A $90 million commitment has also been made to improve mental health.
Law and Order
Other than the canal, this is probably the issue the Coalition focused on the most during the campaign. They are planning some pretty tough policies to crack down on crime (full policy).
Firstly they have their crosshairs aimed at anti-social behaviour such as riots and mobs at celebrations such as Australia Day and New Years Eve. The Liberals will spend $5 million on security upgrades in consultation with areas particularly affected by anti-social behaviour, including closed-circuit security cameras, and build a PCYC in the central Perth/Northbridge area to address youth behaviour at a grass-roots level. They will also give police and courts more power to deal with anti-social behaviour by introducing ASBOs. Similar to laws in the UK, this involves banning offenders from visiting certain areas or associating with certain people. It looks to have advantages, but I think it is quite heavy-handed and, as an article in the Australian points out, prone to inaccuracies – much like the hoon laws – “The civil orders could be granted on the basis of hearsay evidence, allowing people to dobb in offenders.” They are very similar to the hoon laws in this fashion and therefore should not be implemented, or at least severely limited and only given out by the courts, not police or local governments. Breaching the order would be a criminal offence resulting in fines or imprisonment. Police would be given light body armour for riots and even a $350k water cannon. The cannon has been widely criticised as being a waste of money and completely useless to riot police, the police have even said they don’t want it. Barnett’s response was “too bad”.
Colin Barnett has also shown himself to hold an outdated attitude of “make ‘em pay” when it comes to prisons. Rather than rehabilitate them, he wishes to get tough and make prisons as bad as possible to inflict vengeance on offenders. This was demonstrated clearly when he vowed to close the Boronia women's prison. He said “prisons should be about inflicting punishment”. I discussed this disgraceful and outdated attitude in a post on my blog.
Another heavy-handed policy that illustrates the above point is the Coalition’s mandatory sentencing laws. Barnett quite rightly wants to impose heavy penalties on those who commit serious crimes against elderly and children, but his plan is to implement mandatory sentences of at least 3-5 years for such crimes. I am apprehensive about mandatory sentences as a concept, the Law Council outright condemns it, saying mandatory minimums had "proven a failure in Western Australia and the Northern Territory." Also planned is changing the parole system to give the victims a say in parole decisions. This is simply a terrible idea. I agree with the Law Council when it says "sentencing and parole [are the] jobs for experts, not victims of crime who placed undue emphasis on retribution and deterrence." Barnett says he is doing this because "it's the right thing". The Coalition are completely wrong on this issue and if elected will bring in an unfair and unworkable sentencing regime.
The final piece of the Liberal law and order plan concerns the police, and there is better news here. In keeping with it's "tough on crime" rhetoric, the Liberals plan to crack down on bail jumpers. At last they are starting to make sense on the issue, at least in practicality. One third of all offenders breach bail conditions and 3000 have missed court appearances. To combat this problem the Libs will create an "Identified Offenders Unit", consisting of 25 police officers and 15 civilian workers, to track them down and bring them to court. The idea definitely has merit. Bail jumping is by no means the most critical issue facing the police force, but a small, specialists unit is a reasonable way to deal with it. Whether it would work is mostly dependent on how it operates - which will be up to the police, hence Barnett has not released anything specific. Yesterday Michelle Roberts of course attacked the plan, saying it will take officers away from front line positions (all 25 of them), and noted that the Coalition has not promised any extra police. She was forced to eat her words today when Barnett promised 410 police officers and 160 civilian workers, 50 officers higher than the ALP's commitment.
Labor has a much less outrageous method of combating crime in WA. Firstly they will increase police numbers by 350 and 160 civilian workers, at a cost of $145 million and purchase two mobile lockups for use at special events. Capital works are also highly featured, $212 worth of them including seven new police stations and completions to 16 already under construction. Click the policy link to see the breakdown. New technology is also a big issue for the ALP. They will employ additional staff forensic staff at a cost of $3.76 million and invest in new technology including expanded DNA technology including extraction robots, start a program to implement a $46.5 million state-of-the-art radio network for the police service, trial shoe imprint extractors in conjunction with a nation shoeprint database and spend $183 million on upgrading police IT systems. Labor will also distribute to police a type of stun-gun that immobilises offenders with a jolt of electricity. These have caused several deaths and injuries in use overseas – any implementation would have to be done very, very carefully. Lastly the government will introduce Parental Responsibility Orders. “The orders compel parents to make sure their children attend school or face a $3000 penalty.”
As we saw in Part One, the Gallop Government has greatly improved the Perth rail system and will continue to do so with the new Mandurah line that has been moved to a much better route to the one proposed by the Court government. They have also promised a brilliant solution for parents who have to send their kids to schools on public transport. During certain times of the day – the time when student travel to and from school – it will cost them 50c no matter how far they are travelling. Currently for one zone the concession is 80c and increases by around 40c for each extra zone. This will dramatically reduce costs for parents. Robert Corr has broken down the issue, including the government’s record on rail transport. Here’s the bottom line:
For a family with 3 children, all using multiriders:
Current cost: $29.25 per week
Under Barnett: $49.50 per week
Under Gallop: $11.25 per week.
I think the winner on this issue is quite clear here.
By contrast, the Gallop government has not been doing so well with the roads. It has abandoned Roe Highway stage 8 and the Fremantle Eastern Bypass; this has been universally opposed by residents and community groups, especially the Melville City Council. This is a foolish policy, these developments have been planned for over 30 years and the ALP wants to stop them now, what a disgraceful notion. The Coalition will continue these vital works and not resort to blatant and counter-productive vote buying, as Gallop has done with the seat of Riverton. He plans to ban trucks from Leach Highway to appease the Riverton electorate, when all it will really do is create problems elsewhere – look at the map, its obvious how bad the idea is. By contrast the Coalition has an $80 million promise to build the bypass.
Labor wins on Public transport, but loses badly on roads. Which is the lesser of two evils? You decide.
In a progressive move, Labor has moved to decriminalise cannabis – a policy that has been in existence in South Australia for a number of years. All the media information has succumbed to linkrot and there doesn’t appear to be anything on the Labor site about it, but Liberal candidate for Alfred Cove Graham Kierath has taken a look at the policies of both parties on his blog.
The Liberal's reforms will:
- Apply to first time possession offences only
- Apply to possession of up to 10g of cannabis only
- Not apply the to cultivation
- Ensure offenders to face court on all cultivation and second and subsequent possession charges
- Require a mandatory education lesson
- Reverse decriminalisation of cannabis possession and cultivation
While Labor's law:
- Applies to infinite number of possession and cultivation offences
- Applies to possession of up to 30g of cannabis
- Applies to cultivation of up to two non-hydroponic plants
- No requirement for offenders to face court for infinite number of possession or cultivation offences
- Education lesson only mandatory after three offences in two years
- Decriminalises possession and cultivation of cannabis
According to Graham “Labor has decriminalised the cultivation (of two non-hydroponic plants) and possession of cannabis (up to 30g) and brought in the issuance of Cannabis Infringement Notices (CIN) as a penalty.” A $100-200 fine will apply to each offence.
The problem with the Labor law is the open-ended decriminalisation, menaing that there is no limit to the number of time someone can reoffend before they are given harsher penalties. Graham posints out “[two plants] yield up to 2.6kg of cannabis, worth $65,000 on the street, and 30g, once divided and sold, is worth up to $750”. So they can just keep taking the fines and education sessions and still make a profit, thus it is no deterrent. Clearly this is not a good situation. I believe we need to come down hard on drug dealers while instead of punishing users and giving them a criminal record, educate them about the dangers of the drug. How do we tell who is who? There needs to be a greater intelligence in the law enforcement to identify dealers and take them down. No decriminalisation there, instead nail them with criminal charges.
The Liberal plan is actually much, much better, something I did not notice at first glance. It is far from perfect, but is a better alternative. There needs to be a higher limit to possession offences before the offender faces court, and fines need to increase for each offence also, mandatory education programs instead of for just repeat offenders is obviously a sound idea.
Help the users, nail the dealers. That’s what I think the philosophy needs to be.
Federal Labor leader Kim Beazley recently gave in-principle support for a uranium mining deal with China, reigniting the uranium mining debate in WA. Gallop is sticking to a “not on my watch” policy, flatly refusing any uranium mining in WA. The Greens want this set in law but Gallop has not actually said anything about putting a law in place. Barnett however says he would support uranium mining in WA. Gallop is now standing more and more alone on this issue, with Bob Hawke saying he supports uranium mining. It’s becoming a bit like Gallop’s own canal.
Bottom Line: Labor against, Coalition for.
Other policies of note include:
Gay age of consent
Colin Barnett appears to be quite anti-homosexuals. He is promising to increase the gay age of consent from 16 to 18. This is an affront to civil rights and equality. There is no conceivable reason for this move to be put ahead other than bigotry and prejudice. It takes so long for progressive policies on gay rights to be passed that to reverse them would be a great step backwards – this policy should be outright rejected by every citizen of WA. As we saw in Part One, even Barnett’s deputy opposes the policy.
As if the hoon laws discussed in Part One weren’t ridiculous and open to abuse enough, Labor has proposed even tighter amendments. Under the new laws police can collect witness statements or photographic and video evidence of hoons. If it wasn’t bad enough that police had too much power with their subjective judgement, they now have second hand information, making an inaccurate process even worse. This line of illogic continues with a system that allows the public to email complaints to the police. Then, as I mentioned before, the impounded cars can be sold.
One vote, one value
Labor is seeking to implement a one vote one value system in an electoral reform, thereby giving country and city votes the same value. Currently "a country vote is worth up to four times a city vote." The coalition prefers to "legislate to amend the constitution so that the only way the current system of representation can be changed is via the will of the people in a referendum". The Poll Vault points out that voting in remote areas is considerably harder than voting in the city. However I don't believe this to be sufficient justification for extra weight to be placed on country votes. Robert Corr does an indepth analysis – make sure you read this.
The Master Builders Association like the Coalition's promise to spend $8 million to improve training opportunities to fix the skills shortage around the state, including $1000 a year for accomadation expenses. Labor have pledged $3 million the address the skills shortage among mature age workers.
Labor scored a big point with its pledge to ban all high rise buildings over five stories near Perth's beaches and to abolish parking meters for beach patrons (full policy). This is a brilliant move that, along with Gallop's pledge to spend $2 million on better public transport to the beaches, and give councils the funds to maintain beach ecosystems, will make it much easier for us to enjoy some of the best beaches in the country. Liberals appear to concur but Barnett says it is too simplistic to cap building heights. He has a point when he says "What really matters is coastal design, setbacks from the high-water mark, the type of architecture, public open space, view-ways between buildings, corridors and the type of public facilities that are available". I would like to see a policy on this though. However it is revealed that Colin Barnett wants to ban beach highrise developments in his own electorate of Cotteslo, where he presumebly swims himself, but not everywhere else – not such a good idea, and damaging to his credibility.
The Coalition wants to move the proposed new performing arts center from Northbridge to Perth as part of the concert hall redevelopment. With its lovely river views and proximity to other cultural landmarks it would be a much better location than Northbridge. Barnett is right when he says "...[Northbridge] is an entertainment, club, restaurant area. It is not the area where you locate the state's premier performance art centre." Northbridge has a different target audience to Perth and it makes sense to play to that, not take the cheaper option ($42 million to $75 million). Labor hasn't really thought everything through this time, just looking at costs isn't enough.
Science and Research
Gallop has announced a $87 million research package that he will implement if he is re-elected. Planned under this policy is a new $21 million marine science institute and "10 new centres of excellence for research", an $8 million expansion to Bently's Technology park - creating 2500 new jobs, and continue to push for the Square Kilometre Array, a "$1.28 billion project to build the world's most powerful telescope" and the NASA Deep Space Tracking Project, to both be built in WA. "We have to invest in ideas and innovation, the lifeblood of any successful economy," he said. This is a brilliant attitude, and one that should be upheld by governments worldwide. Theres no use just sticking with party lines and keeping things as they are, but rather to think outside the box. This is something governments should encourage constantly.
After reading these policy comparisons, along with Parts One and Two, you should be able to determine whom to vote for. I’m not going to tell you how to vote this time; I’ve just given you the information you need to know to make your own decision.
If you can’t decide who to vote for after reading all this, just flip a coin.
PART 4: Frequently asked questions.
Q: I don’t trust either of the major parties and don’t think they are worth my vote, so how does this article apply to me?
A: You may not want to vote your first preference for a major party, but you still have to direct your preferences to someone because in most seats its very unlikely a minor party will be elected. So ultimately you still have to decide between the two major parties, which is what this article was designed for.
Q: I’m in a very safe seat, what’s the point of me voting for a different party?
A: Just because its safe doesn’t mean there’s no point. If enough people vote that there’s a swing away from the sitting member, it lets the party know that this electorate is not happy with the way the party has been behaving, and sends a clear message to the party, it may also cause the sitting member to lose status within the party. And safe seats have been lost before; it’s not an entirely lost cause.
Q: What happens if Colin Barnett loses his seat but the Liberals still win? Or if the same happens with Gallop?
A: If this were to happen then a shuffle would take place in the party to accommodate him, most of the time anyway.
Q: Come, the last article was blatantly pro-Labor from the start.
A: This time it’s bipartisan because, as I said, there is no clear choice this time, I only made up my mind after writing this. I view federal and state parties as entirely different entities and make up my mind who to vote for entirely on the merits of the relevant party. Everything here is based on information gathered from a variety of sources including mostly unbiased news sites, blog posts and the websites of both parties. If you find any inconsistencies that I may have missed, please point them out to me. I encourage you to seek out the information yourself and form your own opinion, this article is just informing you of the facts and my opinion of them..
Q: Your religious views seem to clash with your political ones.
A: I’m a firm believer in the separation of church and state, and in not forcing your religious view on anyone else, especially a secular government legislating on behalf of a religious group – that’s simply not on. As a result my political views may be more liberal than your average Christian.
Q: I actually thought this article was alright. Where can I read anything else written by you?
A: You can try my blog or stay tuned to Plasma Rag for any articles written by me.
Thanks to Robert Corr, John Quiggin, The Flute, Sam Ward, The Poll Vault and Graham Kierath for their coverage of the election campaign and for debating several issues with me. To CDPWA President Gerard Goiran for his continued openness concerning his parties polices and being candid about his own views – good luck. Thanks to Ali and Andrew for getting the Liberal Party policies for me when I couldn't access the site. Finally a special thanks to anyone who has read and commented on my blog throughout the election campaign.