Paul Howes speaking out on refugee policy

October 29, 2009

Good on Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, for speaking out (reported in the SMH) against the considered wisdom in the federal ALP and Liberal/National Parties to take a “tough line” on refugees.

The current policies, on both sides, are low-rent ones that “hard heads” must have decided are the only electorally possible ones. The hard heads should reconsider this view.

Fewer councils in Sydney? Report by the Association of Consulting Engineers Australia

October 23, 2009

A few days ago I blogged on the idea that less-than-optimal planning in Sydney may have resulted from multiple (as opposed to a single) councils covering Sydney.

There was a related story in the SMH today (Abolish councils, make drivers pay), on a report Sydney Towards Tomorrow by the Association of Consulting Engineers Australia, which amongst other things advocated merging Sydney’s 42 local councils into 11, to reduce administrative costs in the light of the Sydney population growing towards 10 million.

Here is the link to the Sydney Towards Tomorrow, which can also be downloaded from the Association’s webpage.

One issue that should be remembered is that, if there were very large councils covering large parts of Sydney, or even a single council covering all of Sydney, it would still be possible for people in local areas to have coverage of particular policy areas. Locals could still have a say on local issues rather than everything being decided through large central councils.

The Intelligence Squared debate “That democracy is not for everyone”

October 20, 2009

While I only saw the last three speakers on the BBC on the Intellgence Squared debate “That democracy is not for everyone”, I enjoyed those speakers and was really surprised by some of the comments from the audience.

More than half the audience agreed with the debate proposition before the debate, and about a third still agreed with it after the debate. Audience members’ comments at the end of the debate mostly agreed with the proposition on the basis that democracy doesn’t work or is pretty awful in how it functions.

However, as Dr Michael Wesley of the Lowy Institute (a speaker against the proposition) responded, the key point is that democracy allows a population to sack a government, not that democracy functions optimally. This is the old trap of not taking the good to be the opposite of the perfect, which many audience members appeared to take. It wasn’t clear which country, region or people audience members thought that democracy was not suitable for – none was ever specified.

Improving the way democracies work is a different and entirely legitimate point – but shouldn’t be confused with democracy itself.

One City Council for Sydney?

October 12, 2009

When travelling, something I often notice is how many cities are governed by a single city council, or at least that the central urban core, comprising a million or more people, is governed by a single council. London has a Greater London Council covering a number of london-wide issues in the greater london area while having many small borough councils.

Sydney appears to have suffered from Sydney-wide issues (e.g. transport) not being properly focussed on – those issues have to be dealt with by the state government as there are many small Councils each covering a small part of sydney.

Has the apparent lack of focus on Sydney-wide issues been a result of the non-existence of an elected single entity covering the wider Sydney area?