The Blog (archived)

Category: Politics

Miracles Do Happen In Politics, Apparently

Friday, January 18, 2008

A week is a long time in politics, as the saying goes, and this week it has been illustrated by a dramatic transformation of personal character which is nothing short of miraculous.

It involves Troy Buswell, who last week was deputy leader of the Western Australian Liberal Party, currently serving a term in opposition. Along with speculation about his leadership ambitions, there were news stories about his unprofessional conduct. This included things like being drunk in parliament, undoing the bra strap of a female colleague, and making sexist and inappropriate comments to another female colleague.

His dramatic transformation is summed up as follows:

Jan 11th
Troy Buswell tells media he will not be challenging for the Liberal Party leadership, as he is not ready to lead the party due to lack of maturity and experience.

Jan 17th
Troy Buswell challenges for the Liberal Party leadership, and is elected as leader by its members who think he is worthy of becoming premier of Western Australia.

This means that in just six days, Mr Buswell has somehow gained all the previously-lacking maturity and experience needed to lead his party - which could see him leading the state of Western Australian if the Liberal Party wins the next election, due within a year. To become so mature and experienced almost overnight is a truly remarkable achievement, something which would take the rest of us mere mortals many years. After all, years of experience normally takes … years!

It’s laughable, but in a way it’s also sad. In a society where the miracles of the bible are ridiculed in the media, we are expected to believe the miraculous transformation of a politician as reported in the news. Sorry, Saint Troy of the Bra Strap, I don’t know if we voters have enough faith in a politician.

News stories:
Why Troy Buswell’s leadership dream is in tatters (Jan 12)
Buswell new WA Liberal leader (Jan 17)


A Better Ballot Paper

Thursday, November 8, 2007

ballot-alt2.jpgI’m sorry, I couldn’t help it. My postal voting forms arrived today, and I just had to do some scanning and make a digital “enhancement” to one of the ballot papers. The result appears here.

The ballot paper is for the impending Australian federal election. Aussies have become very cynical and weary of our politicians, and I suspect many voters would love to see the last box on a ballot paper labelled “None of the above”, as my modified version does. This would provide a legitimate way of expressing dissatisfaction with the candidates on offer; better than writing rude words and thereby invalidating the vote, as some do.

If a ballot paper like this were to be real, the last box could even get the most votes. Perhaps someday we’ll see a candidate change their legal name to “None of the above” and appear last on the list, preferably without being linked to any political party. If not victory, it would at least guarantee a head start.

Frivolity aside, being able to vote in democratic elections is a privilege denied to many, and not to be despised. Even if many politicians deserve our cynicism, they could be a lot worse (as they are in some countries). I’ll be making my vote count … even if it might be a little tempting to add another choice to the ballot paper.


A Tale of Two Burkes

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The world is full of coincidences, and I found this one interesting. Two men, on opposite sides of the world, both former politicians turned lobbyists, both convicted of crimes relating to their times in politics … and both named Brian Burke.

Brian Burke One, who has his own Wikipedia article, was the Premier of Western Australia from 1983 to 1988. During that time he conducted what were to become known as some shady deals, and allegations of improper conduct led to a royal commission. In 1994 he was charged with various offences including travel expense rorts, and served seven months of a two-year prison sentence. In 1997 he was imprisoned for stealing campaign donations, but this conviction was later quashed.

Brian Burke Two, a former state senator in Wisconsin, US, was convicted of misconduct in 2005. He was sentenced to six months in prison for using taxpayer funds to pay aides to solicit cash for his state attorney general campaign, and for altering records. The gory details are in this article.

burke.jpgFurther similarities are revealed in the image on the right (from the WisOpinion website). The text on it reads “How Brian Burke’s reckless ambition and a political system where breaking the rules became commonplace conspired to end his brilliant career”. This was written about the Wisconsin Brian Burke, but could be applied just as well to the West Australian Brian Burke. Even the expression on Burke Two’s face - that innocently pleading “Who, me? I never done it!” look - has a lot in common with pictures I’ve seen of Burke One.

Speaking of which, photos of the West Australian Burke are suspiciously absent when doing a Google image search. I wanted to include one which showed the similarities in their expressions, but I couldn’t find one, which is remarkable considering how often his face has been gracing our TV and newspapers recently. I suppose that’s one thing the Burkes don’t have in common.

My sympathy goes out to all the other Brian Burkes of this world who really haven’t done anything wrong!


Democracy in Western Australia?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Western Australia is a democracy in which elected representatives carry out the will of the majority … or is it? The issue of daylight saving raises questions about whose will the politicians are carrying out.

1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives
2. Government by the people; especially: rule of the majority

Normally, Western Australia doesn’t have daylight saving. However, some people - particularly politicians - have always been eager to see it introduced here. Following a trial of daylight saving in the summer of 1974/1975, a referendum was held and THE PEOPLE SAID NO to daylight saving.

In the 80s, supporters of daylight saving argued that public sentiment had changed, and that people too young to vote in the previous referendum wanted it, and deserved to have their voice heard. Another trial was held in 1983/1984, followed by another referendum, and once again THE PEOPLE SAID NO. Not content with the wishes of the majority, politicians and others used the same arguments to force another trial period in 1991/1992, followed by yet another referendum, and once again THE PEOPLE SAID NO.

If a majority consistently vote NO to something, three times over three decades, shouldn’t that be the end of the matter? Our elected representatives don’t think so, at least not when they won’t accept NO as the answer. Despite public opposition, and using the same tired arguments that didn’t hold before, our politicians have decided amongst themselves to impose yet another trial of daylight saving upon us, starting next week. The previous one-year trials didn’t get the result they wanted, so this time we’re getting a three-year trial, in the hope that we’ll just get used to it. The referendum to follow in 2009 will take place in the dark winter months when the summer heat is a memory - presumably to maximise the yes vote.

A letter I read in a newspaper compared it with rape … like a man wanting to have his way with a woman, getting three refusals, then going ahead anyway in the hope that she will eventually get to like it. Western Australian politicians may not be rapists, or fit the definition of dictators, but their imposition of daylight saving against the proven will of those they represent doesn’t fit the definition of democracy either.

In case you’re wondering - our reluctance to embrace daylight saving is largely due to the excessive heat that accompanies daylight in our summers. Of Australia’s eight states and territories, the five coolest have daylight saving, and the three hottest don’t, and this is no coincidence. Most countries near the equator do not have daylight saving; in fact it is observed in only 70 of the world’s approximately 200 countries (and only in parts of some of those), by only 1/6 of the world’s population (details here).