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                                                                                           13 July 2012  Vol 7, Issue 10
In This Issue
Coalition bits and pieces
Lobbyists Corner
Burnside broadside
At last a policy debate - maybe
Systems Thinking - Shifting the Burden/Addiction

"Bound" Volumes


All issues of Advocacy Update have now been bookmarked and aggregated into their calendar year volumes.


You may read or download them through the links below. They provide a quirky and personal record of federal politics over this tumultouous period.


Volume 1 2006

Coalition bits and pieces


I find it odd that the parties of free enterprise - LNP, federal Coalition - seem keener on either not doing, or undoing policies and initiatives introduced by their predecessors. 


The Newman Government in QLD is setting a cracking pace on both fronts with an estimated 20,000 plus public servants jobs to be terminated and every last cent to be personally scrutinised before approval. 

Tony Abbott will do the same thing in spades if he is ever elected Prime Minister.


In some ways it reminds me of the "Yes Minister" episode where a brand new hospital could only be operated efficiently if it had no patients!


Worse, seeing the reactions of Spain and Greece to their own austerity measures - which is what Abbott offers Australia, civil unrest and public riots may be something we will see here before too long.

We heard a lot about what Tony Abbott will do on his first day in office - indeed what he will do before taking office - almost like a Government-in-exile. 

In an interesting article in The Drum Chris Berg suggests Abbott should turn his attention to what he plans in his second day in office.

Being a news junky like many of you I imagine, two things really get on my wick each day. The first is the constant stream of ads imploring me to take out insurance on everything from my own burial arrangements to the dandruff being suffered by my budgerigar.


The second irritant is seeing Tony Abbott wearing a new hairnet or fluorescent jacket as he terrorises Australia's small business community. As we are in the midst of the Tour de France - I call Abbott's antics the Tour de Farce.


Last Issue I reported that I have a copy of the Coalition Speakers Notes across all portfolios. 


The Notes set out the Coalition's position as well as setting their views on the ALP and Greens comparable positions. 


They are designed to ensure unanimity and consistency across the party.


If you would like to download the Notes - click here.

I was disturbed watching Tony Abbott's performance on last Sunday's Insiders on ABCTV. I tweeted at the time that I thought he looked shifty, sneaky and very gaunt. He looked like he would prefer to be anywhere than sitting opposite Barrie Cassidy the show's Host.


Abbott looked out of sorts and out of his comfort zone. Someone else had the same reaction. In a very perceptive article by Michael Gawenda on 11 July in The Business Spectator "Resistance is Futile" the development of Abbott from a personable politician to one who now acts like an automaton is studied in detail.

Lobbyists Corner

There have been several articles on the dark art of lobbying since the last Issue of this august journal.


In an article in The Cable on 6 July by Josh Rogin (no, not Rogan Josh) entitled "Lobbying firm tried to help Syrian regime polish image as violence raged" we are given an insight into the attempts by a US firm to soften the image of the Assad regime.


In a case surely of the pot calling the kettle black, Coalition-linked lobbyist Mark Textor fires a number of shots across the bow of those who claim to be peddlers of influence. In a National Times article "Too many lobbyists offer an illusion of influence" Textor questions, rightly in my view, the expertise and credentials of those Orange Pass lobbyists who inhabit Parliament House. 

Taking aim at the other peddlers of influence - the PR set - Canberra Times Editor at large Jack Waterford in a National Times article "Law and PR in the spin dryer" dissects the undue influence the PR consultant may be having on the legal process.

Last week we had the internal dispute in the Liberal Party as to whether registered lobbyists like Alexander Downer should be able to hold elected positions within the Party.

Finally - those interested in checking out the Lobbyists Code of Conduct you can download a copy here from my website.

More Burnside - "Un-Christian?"


Tony Abbott says that boat-people are "un-Christian" for coming to Australia the way they do.  Specifically, he said:


"I don't think it's a very Christian thing to come in by the back door rather than the front door. ... I think the people we accept should be coming the right way and not the wrong way. ... If you pay a people-smuggler, if you jump the queue, if you take yourself and your family on a leaky boat, that's doing the wrong thing, not the right thing, and we shouldn't encourage it."


It is not surprising that Mr Abbott has a view about the moral dimension of refugee issues.  It is entirely appropriate that he should consider the matter from the perspective of Christian teaching, given that he trained for the priesthood.  I would go so far as to say that more politicians should pay attention to the moral implications of the policies they have to determine.


What is striking is that Mr Abbott could get the matter so spectacularly wrong, both as to the facts and as to the moral equation.


First: the facts.  Mr Abbott should know that there is no queue when you run for your life.  The recent execution of an Afghan woman by the Taliban (another example of a very well-established pattern) gives some idea of why people seek asylum.  A significant proportion of boat-people in the past 15 years have been Afghan Hazaras fleeing the Taliban. If an Afghan were to embrace Mr Abbott's scruples and look for a queue, the obvious place would be the Australian Embassy in Kabul.  


The Department of Foreign Affairs website informs us:

"The Australian Embassy in Kabul operates from a number of locations that are not

publicly disclosed due to security reasons. The Australian Embassy in Kabul has no visa function."


So where is the queue?


Leave aside that the location of the Australian Embassy is a secret, the larger point is that refugee flows are always untidy.  The idea that desperate people will conduct themselves as if waiting for a bus to take them to the shops is not only ludicrous, it reveals a complete lack of empathy, or even understanding, of why refugees flee for safety in the first place.


As it happens, more than 90% of boat-people who have arrived in Australia in the past 15 years have been accepted, eventually, as genuine refugees.  Mr Abbott should understand this: it means that they are people to whom we owe a duty of protection according to our own laws, and according to the obligations we voluntarily undertook when we signed the Refugees Convention.


Second: the moral question.  Mr Abbott should know, better than most politicians, that the Christian doctrine he claims to understand and espouse emphasises the message of welcoming and protecting the stranger.  The parable of the Good Samaritan is just one example.  Nowhere in Christian teaching (and nowhere in any moral code) is the message of kindness to strangers qualified by reference to their method of arrival.


From time immemorial, victims of persecution have fled for safety.  It is usually untidy.  The flight of Jews from Europe in the 1930s is an obvious example, and one which should focus our minds on the need for a response which is informed by moral learning rather than by political opportunism.


And how is it that it is "the wrong thing" to do whatever you can to try and save yourself and your family?  What bizarre twist of reasoning makes it wrong to do whatever is necessary to save your family?  Perhaps Mr Abbott needs to watch The Sound of Music again: the von Trapp family were refugees; the nuns were people smugglers; they did what they could to help the von Trapps through the back door.  (or the Trapp door?? Note by David Kindon)


Third: the dog whistle component.  Many politicians here and overseas have found it easy and expedient to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment in recent years, just as it was easy, in earlier times, to stir up anti-Jewish sentiment.


(Reprinted with the Author's permission).


At last a policy debate - maybe

In an interesting initiative, Lobby Firm Hawker britten have produced a checklist containing detrails of a number of Government initiatives taking effect from 1 July 2012. The measures include:

  • Climate change and energy efficiency
    • The Carbon Price
    • The Australian Renewable Energy Agency
  • Heath and Ageing
    • Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records
  • Aged Care Reforms
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme
  • Taxation and Superannuation
    • Loss Carry Back for Businesses
    • Witholding Tax for managed Investment Trusts
    • Small Business Assets right-off
    • Resource Rents Tax
    • Personal Superannuation changes
    • Personal Income Tax Cuts
    • Schoolkids Bonus
    • Living Away from Home Allowance
    • Private Health Insurance Rebate and Medicare Levy Surcharge
  • Government Procurement Changes
  • Shipping Reforms

The Hawker Britten document may be accessed here.


Maybe as the year progresses, we might be confronted with evidence - positive or negative - rather than the verballing we have seen in the first half of the year.


Systems Thinking - Shifting the Burden/Addiction


This particular systems archetype is extremely relevant to the Mal Brough Top End initiative during the Howard years. It looks at whether there is commitment only to symptomatic solutions or whether there is also a commitment to fundamental solutions. The implication is that dealing with the symptoms may have poor side effects and do little to solve the overall fundamental problem being faced.


Of course it is also highly relevant to the Coalition's plans to turn back the boats and shift the burden onto Indonesia.  

Shifting the Burden
Shifting the Burden
The model postulates that the symptomatic solution (eg grog, leading to violence leading to other forms of abuse) will result in a very quick diminution of these problems. However, they may also divert attention away from several negative effects. One of these is that the viability of the symptomatic solution will deteriorate over time as public memory and political will fades.


This has been seen on many occasions in Africa where the problems of famine are so overwhelming that people actually prefer to forget about them. But the added negative effect is that as the symptomatic solution fades, it is accompanied by a rapid failing of any need for fundamental solutions to the problem.


Another element of the NT burden is that the burden might actually shift from the aboriginal camps into the larger population centres and create equally bad problems there.



A further aspect of the "shifting the burden" model is that the burden may be shifted onto the 


intervener, in this case the Federal Government, until over time the Federal Government becomes an essential part of the system.







Guidelines on dealing with this archetype are:









  1. Identify the original problem symptoms
  2. Map all "quick fixes" that appear to be keeping the problems under control
  3. Identify the impact on others of proposed solutions
  4. Identify fundamental solutions - look at the issue from all sides
  5. Map any side effects of the quick fixes that may undermine the effects of a fundamental solution
  6. Find connections/links between the interaction effects that may work against the fundamental solution
  7. Identify high leverage actions and implement them.


Well - there's never a shortage of news to pad out the columns of this little newsletter. I hope my articles make you think - even challenge your assumptions.

As always - feedback is most welcome. 

Cheers for now
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