Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Big Ideas, My Shiny Metal Arse

I found some hastily scribbled notes the other day dating from the time of the Prime Minister's '2020 summit' (or, as I like to call it, 'Keating! The Musical'.)

Take on the AMA?

Take responsibility for the whole nuclear fuel cycle?

Nationalise insurance companies?

Show our integration with Asia by making an ambit claim for the Spratly and Paracel islands?

We could stop government funding to private schools.

We could drop out of the UN and approach our NATO partners in Afghanistan, Israel and Micronesia about forming a United Non-Evil Nations.

I think these are all things that a Labor government with a high approval rating might be able to pull off that are sort of kind of in the spirit of the historical Labor movement.

A Labor government should be able to take on the most powerful and disruptive union/cartel in the country, the Australian Medical Association. We do not have enough medical doctors. There are artificial constraints on the supply of medical doctors. Those constraints should be removed. There are other problems with our health system that are also amenable to imaginative legislative fixes- for instance, litigation costs us an enormous amount both through the huge insurance costs doctors pay and by encouraging them to carry out unnecessary tests. There are legislative ways to fix this, surely.

There is no real reason why the party of the workers should oppose something that could make us all richer than Croesus. Nuclear power is not going to disappear if we close our eyes and hope it goes away. We are already involved in the nuclear fuel cycle, so we are not standing to one side setting a pure and righteous example. I'm sure no rational person really thinks it is better for high level nuclear waste derived from Australian uranium to be stored in more densely populated countries that are geologically and politically less stable than we are.

Some things should be in the public sector; some things should be in the private sector. I think the evils engendered by insurance- which is haram, anyhow- would be minimised if securing individuals and companies from misfortune was made a responsibility of the collective.

Of course, issuing stamps showing the Shellberight Islands as part of Australia would only be a joke. But it would be funny.

I don't know why the government gives money to private schools. I don't know why private schools don't reject it on the basis that the one who pays the piper calls the tune. With all my exposure to the education system, primary, secondary, and tertiary, I think the sector as a whole is highly infected with selfish meme material: it exists largely to perpetuate its own existence, rather than carry out its ostensible function. Yes, the world has moved on from needing semi-literate manual labourers to work in factories and read the yellow press: there are better ways of educating people. (NB: better here does not mean 'cheaper', its invariable meaning in the education industry). One day I expect I shall have to write a 'Jerry Macguire'-style screed about all the things we are doing wrong and the better ways we could be doing them.

The last thing about ditching the United Nations is of course an old fantasy from the right wing of the blogosphere. But, if you really want to pursue the multilateralist strategy and punch above your weight diplomatically, is there any better way than to get in on the ground floor of the new, improved, United Nations 2.0? Lu Kewen could be the Billy Hughes of the 21st century.

Hey- it has been almost a year of the new order. How is the government working out for all of you who were so pleased when it came in? (Not trying to pick a fight here, mostly just interested in what sort of changes have trickled down to the Commonwealth public service, to those of you selflessly slaving away there.)


Dave said...

Hrm, some quick thoughts because I should be working instead of thinking:

- I don't disagree with anything on your list except the odd imperialist fantasy and the odder UN secessionism.

- Le Kuwen did try to create the Grand Aseatic Alliance of Buddies back before the Olympics. haven't heard anything come of that lately, but, you know, small steps.

- I think private schools could stand a little less public funding, for sure. But I've no doubt that Labor are a bit touchy on that point since they bungled their last shot at what ought to have been a slam dunk policy and it cost them the 2004 election. Sure, Mark Latham turning into a slavering werewolf on camera didn't help, but dropping the ball on private school funding was one of the big coffin nails.

- How are they going? Well, they haven't been as adventurous as I would have preferred, to be sure. There's a bit of a whiff of the overly consultative about the Government that is pretty typical of first term nerves. The Opposition have done bugger-all to push them, either (Turnbull's backstab timing could have been better, too - since the economic crisis all K'07 has had to do is take expert advice and put measures in place to ensure there's a steady hand at the tiller and he's basically untouchable, no matter what Big Mal does to demand attention).

- In terms of working for the government, it's also been a case of hurry up and wait. Nothing unusual about that, in particular though. New Ministers often take most of the first term to really get across their portfolio, unless they are girly swots who studied up before they were even elected and then happened to get the job they wanted.

- On the whole I have had nothing much to complain about, although much of this year has been more holding pattern than forward progress. I might well have wished for more, but it would be unusual for a new government to go flat out.

(Oh, here's a complaint - I am suspicious, without yet being angry, about the slow going on dismantling Work Choices. What *is* going on with that?)

Dr. Clam said...

I am surprised- perhaps not surprised, but confirmed in my cynical expectations that it would be pretty much business as usual- that nothing has been done about Voluntary Student Unionism, bitterly contested and pushed through in the dying moments of the old regime. Labor always said it was a bad, bad, bad idea. The infrastructure is still here. My impression is that much the same workforce is still here, in privatised and casualised positions hanging on by their fingernails. The universities will be glad of another period of disruption if it helps their bottom line. Which I'm told it would. It wouldn't have been that hard, I wouldn't think, to start rolling VSU back last November. But nobody in government seems to have mentioned it at all.

(NB: You may recall that I was an enthusiastic VSU proponent as an undergraduate. But by my postgraduate days I had come around to the realisation that the evils of the system arose from the ease with which the apparatus could be hijacked by a small cadre of extremist students, and that *compulsory student voting* was the most equitable way to fix them.)

Marco said...

Oh, here's a complaint - I am suspicious, without yet being angry, about the slow going on dismantling Work Choices.

Oh! I know. He's giving all those mining companies time to sack all their workers on work choice contracts while they still can, *before* he makes it illegal. He wants to get the absolute most impact when he does make the changes so that us small business types will have a wider choice of qualified unemployed individuals begging for a job.

Bring on the World recession, I say.

Dave said...

Here's one:

The Government wants to be your net nanny.

It's all kinds of stupid.