Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Murray – Darling Basin

This Authority overlaps at least four states which is odd from a political point of view. Too many governments are involved while the environmentalists have their oar in too. The farmers are deeply worried. It is said there has been far too much water allocated to irrigation. Particularly excruciating to food growers must be the extensive allocation to cotton farmers on the Darling, with big properties, but above all they are irrigating with huge arrays of water sprays. Surely evaporation must result in huge water waste in that warmer climate— and as they say on the Murray—cotton ain’t food.
The basin authority reminds one of the Tennessee Valley Authority in America which also extends over several states through the catchment area of the Tennessee River.
It was ‘created by congressional charter in May 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected by the Great Depression.’. A comprehensive development tool, ‘TVA was envisioned not only as a provider, but also as a regional economic development agency that would use federal experts and electricity to rapidly modernize the region's economy and society.’ ( Valley Authority) .
But for the Murray - Darling Basin the driving force is environmental—the water-starved condition of the river system itself. The question is: does the authority have the same comprehensive development agenda as the TVA. It seems not—hence the substantial worry for farmers’ and their business infrastructure communities.
Authoritarian control is likely to lead to serious financial loss and community discouragement throughout the basin.
All residents in the catchment area have a real stake in the decisions to be made and need to have a voice, to allay their fears of unjust outcomes. The answer, to give coherent policies and stakeholder confidence would be for the basin to have its own democratic regional government possibly one hundred electorates, overlapping the several states involved, with independent representation throughout.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Afghanistan confusion

Here in Australia the parliamentary debate on Afghanistan is very welcome, not least because it opens the door to a future pattern of government openness in matters of 'defence'. The fact that differences of opinion have appeared there is equally welcome for the same reason, for which we have the Independents to thank, especially Rob Oakshott and Tony Windsor. A conscience vote would seem to have been eminently appropriate as well- short of a secret ballot.

The ‘view of the PM that we will need to be involved militarily for a further two to four years, beyond the nine already spent, illustrates the very vagueness of an expected outcome, as outlined by the two years, or possibly four, and maybe up to ten years of unspecified involvement! That would indeed be a record of incompetent interference in the affairs of other nations!

Talks with the Taliban, already under way, underline NATO’s uncertainty, with echoes of the Russian failure there, American failure in both Vietnam, and Iraq now closer to Iran then ever. We haven’t won any of the changing objectives after nine years, so our exit strategy is dead, and the only remaining option is to negotiate with the Taliban.

But that won’t answer our fears for the mistreatment of women under that regime.
We are slow to realise that the day for interference in sovereign nations to impose other values by force is gone.

We must turn our attention to international moral influence through the UN to see human rights improved everywhere. The UN has the role, and its power and authority, savaged by the US over Iraq, must be enhanced by the loyal endorsement and support of all nations. The UN needs every one of them. That must be our hope - politically.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Respect for retiring politicians ?

Mary Delahunty (Age 12/10/10) asks why the public is so ungenerous that we can’t say thanks to retiring politicians (of either party—as she adds John Howard and Peter Costello to the present retirement of Peter Batchelor and Bob Cameron).

In her excellent article she ponders why we are ‘weary’ of the contest, when it is the politicians who do the hard work (trying to please everyone), and so ‘grumpy’ and ‘surly about politics’ ‘or in a sort of civic amnesia‘.

Why do we hate politicians? With Multiple portfolios to watch (and inspire?) are they really deserving of the near contempt that we accord them, relishing every public attack, by a ferocious media—‘a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits’ (quoting a remark of Tony Blair).

Why the near contempt, particularly for the member of the unsupported party?
There are good reasons. Some give politicians a bad name because they are ambitious with their self interest sticking out, and obnoxious to their opponents, though often just for public consumption. But the odour is bad.

Elections choose governments (rarely representatives). We need objective, cooperative, parliamentary government, alert and fiercely attacking the problems, not each other. But parliaments do not rule, they can’t, being more about providing a Colosseum for the entertainment of a jaded electorate. And with this we come to the bad reasons for having a ‘down’ on politicians.

Do we realise the depth and breadth of the responsibilities they have to undertake? Ministers often wear several hats, looking after several portfolios. There is an immense amount involved in government (apart even from the nonsense and waste of time of party politics), including in state governments. But we often see a light-hearted comment about abandoning state governments! Do we then simply add all those responsibilities to our central government—and then, predictably, whinge about centralism.

We are supposed, as a democracy, to be a self governing people, whatever that might mean, but in fact we would not really want to spend any of our precious private time being involved (although a few could and would). We’d be scared stiff to have all that responsibility. So it always devolves to the few who will.

But there is light ahead. Recent events in our Federal parliament give some hope, with independents coming out of the dark, but the real solution is in a working relationship in every electorate between people and their representative conditioned by ‘ballots in parliament’ to be an independent. Not all could or would be involved, but the door to a monthly meeting for their participation would always be open.

And as previously noted, parliament itself would then govern with a direct line of communication and responsibility from the grass roots to parliament—actual democracy. Many changes—all good— would follow, including a well-deserved respect for politicians, even, if only, because their re-election would be entirely in our hands.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The enemy of life - Self Absorption!

Jim white, a Telegraph columnist, in his article 'Misery of impending doom strikes early for midlife males'(Age 5/10), with his key phrase ‘what’s-the-point- self absorption’, aptly identifies the vulnerability of the midlife crisis, now coming earlier according to relational analyst ‘Relate’, because of ‘job insecurity, emotional uncertainty and the grim assumption that things aren’t going to get any better’. A downward spiraling of the hopes of many human lives is the depressing outcome of the 'self-absorption’ syndrome.
Contrast that scenario with the words of the Lord, Jesus Christ: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” . And that is the experience of all who can believe, and receive, the promised Spirit – the Holy Spirit. Why, you might impatiently exclaim? Because it is only natural to want a serious answer to the all-important question, which lies at the very heart of our life on earth—not to mention the hereafter (the eternal mystery).
The answer lies, very clearly, in the life and death of Jesus our Lord—a life marked by a sacrifice and humility beyond any human experience, as He lived and died for us all, that we might all know the secret life of God, who created us in His own image. Yes, it’s our created nature to love our fellow human beings, with the humility of self-forgetfulness—the exact opposite of the self-absorption, which is so destructive of life. Various religions have shown a search for this answer right down through history, with the Greek discovery of the principle of democracy also reflecting this search for the real meaning of life.
As a professing democracy we should not fall for the lure of power and the self interest that lies behind it, but we do. Our politics is so confused by selfish loyalties we cannot attain to the unity, and the harmony of government based on the morality of a real democracy—e.g. the equality expressed in the Golden Rule, ‘Do unto others, as you would have them to do unto you’. Self-absorption is the endemic factor at the root of all human conflict.
Religious people, call it sIn the centrality of the 'ego', the self absorption which ruins the good life we, and others around us might have. That’s why Jesus came, why He died—to show us how. He simply said: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."Matt. 11:28. To understand calls us to believe, to choose, and to follow—to participate in the blessings of a new kind of life, which God intended and which never ends.