A Very Weird Week

Have you ever felt there are times when you seem to have passed over from a world of logic and reason into a parallel universe, in which a totally new and unexpected reality resides.  One based on a totally new approach to solving issues, where fear, circumstance and short term expediency share centre stage.  A surreal experience to be sure. Last week was one of those times. 

Take last week for example:

Education            A meeting of State School Parents and Friends provided a warm reception to Minister McKim.  It would appear that little attention was paid to the fact that Tasmania’s school retention rates, and its levels of numeracy and literacy, have fallen way behind the national average.  It is easy for the Minister to call for the leaving age to be raised to 18.  One would have thought that a priority would be to have the more basic 3R’s firmly established. 

Health                        Medical staff in our public hospitals were complaining they are not been given sufficient attention by management.  Management, they say, is preventing medical staff from contributing effectively to the day-to-day running of clinical programs.I would have thought that the job of managers was to manage, and not abrogate responsibility to the staff.

The trawler            The fishing trawler coming to our shores is to catch a quota no different to what the company is already catching.   Management is amenable to a range of operational constraints to ensure overfishing does not occur.  The science supports the level of quota.  Yet the science is debunked.  Politicians are scrambling to find ways to “express their concern”, when the science is what should give them comfort.  After all, if they find comfort in the science of climate change, then this one should be a doddle.

Forestry            After 2 years of closed negotiations, where vested interests have sat around the table drawing lines on maps, supported by Ministers bearing late night pizza, we have had the spectacle of an Interim Agreement, in which nothing but platitudes have been agreed, apart from an agreement that they might agree to something sometime in the future. Meanwhile, there is a recommendation that negotiations continue, all at taxpayers’ expense.  As well, there has been a suggestion that more scientific endeavour and advice  be scrambled in a possible remake of Forestry Tasmania

Electricity            Criticism has been leveled at our electricity utilities making money.  How dare they?  Yet at the same time criticism is leveled at FT for not making money.  How dare they?  Added to this conundrum has come the fanciful suggestion that a trading room operating in Hydro Tasmania be divided into three parts, separated by a Chinese wall.  These trading desks will compete with each other, assuring competition in the wholesale market.  Even the most cursory of examinations would conclude that these desks would be competing against each other – a gain at one desk would be at the expense of another.  Benefit to the taxpayer.  Zip.  Benefit to the consumer, negative, since there would be more administration involved in a carrying out the same function.


The extraordinary thing about the electricity announcement from the Greens is that the government already has a policy, having accepted much of the review panel’s findings and appointed a panel to consider implementation measures.  Now a part of government, led by a Minister of the government, is suggesting a different set of issues.  The remainder of the government then said they would give consideration to these new concerns.  I again sense the tail wagging the dog, with the Greens being in Cabinet when they feel like it, and not being in it when it doesn’t suit. 

Waterfront development

The Parliament Square development, whose application is once more before the Supreme Court for a decision on a minor legal aspect of the project, continues to await a decision.  Its not really news, that nothing has happened.  The previous week it was the same.  Nothing happened.  So far, they have been waiting 6 months for this particular decision, and nothing has happened.  So what is another week.

Such peculiar behavior was not confined to Tasmania.  There would appear to be a similar affliction nationally.

Carbon Pricing            The government has determined it will set a price on carbon use, which will cause much grief for many manufacturing enterprises, so they now compensate manufacturers so that they will not be penalized.  No reason for any change of behavior here. 

At the same time, the government which has imposed this tax, thereby causing electricity producers to hike their prices have now complained that electricity prices are on the increase, and have threatened the electricity producers with punitive action.

Asylum seekers            After determining that asylum seekers will be processed offshore, we now discover that the facilities required to house these people on faraway islands have fallen into a state of utter disrepair, and will cost millions of dollars to bring them back to habitable standard.  Meanwhile, centres like Pontville, on which significant sums of money has already been spent,  remain empty and idle.

Coal sales            The government is imposing a carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions and encourage the use of renewable energy sources, while at the same time encouraging the sale of greater amounts of coal to feed offshore furnaces so that others may pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. No benefit to the atmosphere whatsoever.  And at the same time that we argue for a greater use of carbon-free renewable energy, we oppose biofuels as a renewable energy source.  The same argument goes for uranium sales.  Happy to sell it offshore, yet fearful of using it domestically.  A strange sense of values, to be concerned about pollution while encouraging others to pollute.  The word hypocritical come to mind.

Meanwhile, internationally, the euro staggers from one crisis to another, the Syrians are blowing themselves apart while the world watches, hopelessly, and the Republicans in the United States want to punish people for being poor, while letting looting bankers off scot free.

That was some of the action that occurred last week.  The politics of pandering to vested interests and short term expediency has become a regular feature of public policy.  Complex issues are reduced to the 30 second media grab, glib phrases suggesting dire outcomes have overtaken proper analysis, and the squeaky wheel gets the oil. 

Maybe I am not in a parallel universe after all, and this is the way things are really done.  Either that, or it’s all just a bad dream.