06 September 2010

Country independents didn’t invent pork

In his opinion piece in today’s Australian Financial Review, under the headline More pork than reform, Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor Greg Craven has this to say:

How is it consistent with the precepts of good government that the citizens of half a dozen electorates should be showered with gold, simply because their members hold a couple of desperately needed cards, while the other 144 electorates get all the attention of a dead muttonbird.

Give us a break. How does Professor Craven think the ALP and the Coalition acquired the 72 seats that each of them already holds? The answer is, by steadfastly ignoring all safe seats, whether held by them or their opponents, and spreading liberal quantities of pork, or the promise thereof, in the seats they regarded as winnable. They just made a wrong call on which seats they could afford to ignore, that is all. Tough.

Professor Craven seems to have failed to have noticed that Julia Gillard flitted around the country sprinkling bits and pieces of pork hither and yon, and Tony Abbott was not far behind. Just down the road from Melbourne we had bipartisan agreement that the Federal taxpayer should contribute megabucks to the redevelopment of Geelong’s footy stadium. What national interest was served by that?

Julia Gillard promised money (ours, not hers) to her beloved Western Bulldogs, and Simon Crean promised funds to his footy team of choice. Again, how was the national interest served?

Professor Craven seems also to have failed to notice that electorate-specific funding is conspicuously, and refreshingly, absent from the agenda of the three country independents. Tonight they have announced, flanked by the managers of Government and Opposition business in the House of Representatives, a series of hard-won reforms designed to improve the operation of our Commonwealth Parliament, for the benefit of all elected representatives.

I do not know whether the reforms these three have achieved will succeed in elevating the standards and restoring the influence of our degraded Parliament, but I think that Australians of every political hue should be throwing their hats in the air that someone is prepared to spend precious political capital in the attempt, rather than railing about pork and how undemocratic it all is.

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