Puzzled and grumpy old man…

22 Aug

Why don’t I rejoice as I am supposed to at the size of the government’s surpluses? Yesterday on Journalspace I posted Look, I know I’m dumb… in which I contrasted two stories from yesterday’s Herald, one about the oddities of accounting in spending on Indigenous programs, the other on the amazing billions in the federal piggy bank. I am dumb when it comes to economics, I admit it. But why do I feel there is something distinctly odd about eleven years of quite savage cuts in all manner of things and fire sales of this or that…

For example, just taken from a quick Google around:

  1. [Victoria’s] Housing Minister Candy Broad today said she was appalled by the Federal Government’s decision to slash funding to emergency support agencies for homeless people and women and children escaping domestic violence. Ms Broad said the proposed funding for the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) from the Federal Government was heartless. SAAP is a joint Commonwealth – State funded program, designed to provide assistance to people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or escaping domestic violence. More than 30,000 Victorians received assistance from emergency support agencies – such as the Salvation Army, Hanover, Melbourne City Mission and Uniting Care – under SAAP funded services last year. “The heartless Howard Government has cut funds to emergency support agencies in Victoria by almost $6 million next year, or $30 million over five years,” Ms Broad said. Ms Broad said Victoria had already made up for a lack of Commonwealth funds in recent years, including an extra $17 million not matched by the Commonwealth this year alone. — 2004
  2. The breathtaking hypocrisy of the Federal Government continues apace. In the lead up to the 2004 federal election, we had the unedifying spectacle of the then Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, eschewing any Federal Government responsibility for public schools. The Federal Government, according to Brendan Nelson, was responsible for private schools. Never mind the constitutional position, the history or the morality. The truth is that the Federal Government policy decisions are aimed at accelerating the flow of students from public to private schools. The “no responsibility for public schools” line apparently applies to funding policies but not to regressive reporting policies. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a 3.9 percentage point increase in enrolment share to private schools over the decade 1995 to 2005. During that time federal government direct recurrent funding to private schools grew exponentially. Between 2005 and 2008, the Howard Government will hand over 73.7 per cent of direct federal recurrent funding to private schools which enrol 32 per cent of students. The Howard decade is no cause for celebration. His government underfunds English language programs for non English speaking background migrant and refugee children by $23 million per annum in NSW alone. All structures for indigenous self-determination as they relate to education have been demolished. Since 1997 the Howard Government has cut TAFE funding by 26 per cent in real terms. — 2007
  3. The Howard Government abolished the dental plan and bulk billing rates have declined by more than 12 percentage points since the Coalition took office in 1996. — 2004
  4. “I can guarantee we’re not going to have $100,000 university degree courses.” — John Howard, interview with Neil Mitchell on Radio 3AW, 15 October 1999. REACHING a ton is usually cause for celebration, but today The Age reports on one such milestone that is quite the reverse. From next year, more than 100 full-fee university degrees in Australia will cost more than $100,000. — 14 August 2007.

And so on…

Grumpy about SBS too

There is still a lot that is good about SBS but the rot that set in January 2007 has seen me watching the channel much less than I used to. And now Mary Kostakidis has had enough. Or so the story goes, although a spokeswoman for SBS denied Kostakidis had left the network.

Supporters are now urging her to sue SBS for breach of contract, since they allege SBS has denigrated that contract, and the charter of the network, with a drop in standards.

They say the new one-hour bulletin has merely resulted in the old half-hour of news being stretched over 60 minutes, with plenty of time for commercial breaks.

There has been speculation over the direction of SBS since the arrival of former New Zealand TV boss Shaun Brown at SBS in 2003 and his subsequent promotion to the network’s top job as head of television.

He was joined by his old TVNZ colleague Paul Cutler – who worked with Grant at CNN – to head SBS news and current affairs.

Brown was accused in New Zealand by Prime Minister Helen Clark of being shamelessly ratings driven, and critics believe a battle is now being fought at the broadcaster between its values as a public service broadcaster and revenue and ratings.

In New Zealand, when Brown was in charge, a popular news presenter was brought in to replace a veteran newsreader and, after an outcry from the public and falling ratings, the veteran was reinstated and the newcomer dismissed and paid $NZ6 million in compensation.

“It’s exactly the same situation here,” said the Kostakidis supporter.

Whatever the truth about Mary, the thumbnail sketch above rings true, sadly.

Grumpy about APEC and about activists

This will make me very unpopular, but I really wish those planning demos when some American lame-duck president or other turns up here in a week or two’s time would just stay home, or exercise extreme cunning and lateral thinking if they must do their thing… Their greatest achievement will be to supply media images that John Howard will be able to use to his advantage, thank you very much… *

    * Perhaps this Ghost Dance is sufficiently lateral…

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    3 responses to “Puzzled and grumpy old man…

    1. Jim Belshaw

      August 22, 2007 at 6:09 pm

      Neil, why in this case I think that you have a right to be both puzzled and grumpy! Depending on how time goes today, I might put up a brief post.

    2. Daniel

      August 23, 2007 at 10:28 am

      Now look, Neil, all this self-deprecation is not good for one’s health! A nice lunch and a bottle of good red wine is recommended. Your grumpiness will be soothed away and puzzlement will recede into the far distance.

      Omar was right you know!

    3. ninglun

      August 23, 2007 at 10:37 am

      Myself when young did eagerly frequent
      Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
      About it and about; but evermore
      Came out by the same Door as in I went.

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