Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

The Liberal’s compulsion to turn public assets into private wealth – and get the public to help fund the process

The LNP in Queensland have been softening up the public for a privatisation binge pretty much from the day they got elected in 2012. In recent times, they’ve kindly made the public pay millions for a prolonged wide-ranging advertising campaign – badly disguised as a pretend consultation process called Strong Choices. Naturally, any input from the public that didn’t back privatisation was ignored and the recent ...

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Downsides of the mining boom

I'm MC at a free public forum in Brisbane tomorrow (Tuesday) evening on the topic of Can Queensland Afford the Mining Boom? The forum is organised by The Australia Institute, whose Executive Director, Dr Richard Denniss will be speaking. It will explore the economic and social downsides of the mining boom. (I imagine some of the environmental downsides will get a mention too).  I did a brief interview ...

More interest in the economy than the election

I mentioned in a recent post about election forums I’ve helped organise with various migrant communities in Brisbane, Logan and Toowoomba. I’ve enjoyed being a (mostly) disinterested observer, seeing the different styles and angles the various candidates have taken at each event. I’ve been going to all of them as part of one of the jobs I am doing at the moment. For the same reasons, I went along ...

What COAG meant for Indigenous Australians

The headlines after COAG focused on health and education and the overall size of the money handed out (with the usual uncertainty about how much was ‘new’ money and how much had already been promised or committed).  Jon Altman from ANU has written a good rundown on the various COAG agreements which relate to Indigenous Australians (or at least those in discrete remote communities, who seem to have ...

Will Indigenous communities see any of the infrastructure spending boost?

Everyone knows that billions of dollars are needed to address the third world conditions many Indigenous Australians live in, including horrendously overcrowded housing, poor road access and other infrastructure problems.  But I haven’t seen any mention so far of spending money to address these problems in the flurry of bidding that has started following the federal government’s announcement they are looking at spending $20 billion on infrastructure to ...

Greens do deal on luxury car tax – but change still blocked in Senate

While it won’t be enough to get the measure through the Senate, it’s good to see the Greens negotiate a reasonable agreement with the federal government regarding the planned tax increase on higher priced cars. (UPDATE 4/9 - The legislation was voted down in the Senate this morning without any opporutnity for amendments to be moved, when the Family First Senator voted with the Coalition). Under the Greens' agreement, ...

‘Liberals’ planning to adopt anti-migration position?

It is disappointing, but sadly not surprising, to see this report in the Canberra Times suggesting the Coalition is planning to adopt a more explicitly anti-migrant position. Despite all the evidence about the demographic inevitability of a shrinking labour force, growing international mobility (including record emigration from Australia) and the latest research showing the significant net economic benefit migrants create for Australia, the political temptation for the ‘Liberals’ is ...

Pacific Island worker scheme a welcome move

I am pleased to see the federal government has formally announced a trial allowing up to 2500 people from neighbouring countries of Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea to do seasonal work in Australia. In doing so, they have shown up the failure of courage and policy integrity of the previous government. The Opposition’s complaint that this proposal is “rushed” is simply false.  The idea has been debated ...

Super tax breaks for women?

Very interesting suggestion reportedly made yesterday by federal Superannuation Minister, Nick Sherry – floating the removal of the 15 per cent super contributions tax for women as one way of bringing their retirement savings into line with men. “Women spend significant more time out of the workforce than men and super splitting is not a solution, it's just playing around the edges,” he said.   Senator Sherry was referring to a ...

Social Enterprises in Brisbane

This morning I attended the launch of the Brisbane Social Enterprise Hubs’ accelerator program.  Social enterprises build economically sustainable businesses specifically aimed at providing employment, income and business experience to people from more disadvantaged backgrounds. The focus is on building social capital alongside the financial returns, rather than being driven by wealth creation and (maybe) using that to address social issues. Cheryl Kernot worked in the area of social business ...

My actual final speech

Due to the way the government wanted to order Senate business in the final week, the formal Valedictory speeches of departing Senators were not actually the last speech for many of us. Below is the text of what was my actual final speech (and the final words spoken by a Democrat in the Senate).  I took the chance to make one more (probably futile) call for some accuracy ...

Budget views

There is heaps of commentary on the Budget on a myriad of different websites - a couple I found of interest are here, here and here. Rather than write my views about it in detail here, I'll just reproduce a speech I made in the Senate today during a debate (of sorts) about the Budget. I won't add more to it now, beyond saying that I think that a ...

‘Root and branch’ tax review – minus some branches

Two years ago I did a series of posts on possible options for tax reform. There was quite a deal of debate around the country in the lead up to the 2006 Budget about ways we could improve the fairness and efficiency of our tax system – all of which basically went nowhere. The major parties instead shrunk the issue down into the usual pre-election tax cut auction. It ...

Redirect, Defer or Deliver: the income tax cut dilemma

There seems to be a very widespread view amongst economic and other commentators that it will be a bad thing for the economy, and particularly for efforts to contain further growth in inflation, if the government goes ahead with its election promise to implement a further 31 billion dollars in income tax cuts.  It should be remembered that this is on top of another 26 billion dollars in ...

Taxing denial

Most of the major party focus in the last week has been on interest rates and economic management. The battle for bragging rights about which party is supposedly the best economic manager is faintly ludicrous, given that both sides at various times have made a point of emphasising how similar their basic tax and economic policies are to the other – with the partial exception of workplace relations. ...

Coalition tax policy

It seems a long time ago now, but in the months leading up to the 2006 Budget, there was a whole lot of people, including many members of the Coalition, engaging in debate about possible tax reforms. I did a series of blog posts on it at the time. When Budget time came, the Treasurer squibbed it as usual and went with vote buying instead. The momentum behind the ...

Unemployment figures

The latest official unemployment figures show a national total of 4.2 per cent, which is reportedly the lowest level since 1974. Reports on unemployment figures inevitably bring questions about just how accurate they are, and how much underemployment is ignored. There have certainly been comments left on this blog a number of times to that effect. For anyone who wonders about such things, I recommend reading this short ...

Affordable Housing crisis III

As noted in this comment from a reader, I had another go at pushing the issue of housing affordability in the Senate last week. This time I put up the following motion in what is known as a matter of urgency debate: The need for a national affordable housing strategy to be developed, involving all levels of government and all political parties, to address the serious and ongoing crisis ...

Harmony in Maryborough & Hervey Bay

Yesterday I attended a Harmony Day function at the Brolga Theatre in the town of Maryborough. It was great to get away, even briefly, from the Senate and all its Santo shenanigans, and get back out into the real world – particularly a part of it lovely as Maryborough. If you've never been there, I'd recommend a visit, even if only to stroll around a ...

David Jones does a McLibel?

A few months ago I wrote a piece on a discussion paper put out by The Australia Institue which raised the issue of the sexualising of children in advertising and marketing - a concern which I believe definitely merits debate. The major Australian retailer David Jones was named as one of those who engaged in this practice. It has now been reported that David Jones is now suing ...

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Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

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  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good. The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one.

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  • A final comment on Labor's leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there. Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition. But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

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  • A long time between hits

    In amongst all the politics and policy stuff, I try to make time to do some things that are completely disconnected from that*.  One thing I’ve found myself doing recently is doing a bit of practicing with a band, which has led to me doing a live performance for the first time in a long time.  Readers of this blog with a very long memory for minor matters may recall that I played keyboards in a couple of mini-performances with a band as part of promoting the Rock Against Howard compilation CD prior to the 2004 election.  However, drumming is what I’m better at – although I’m still a long way short of being able to say I’m good at it – which is what I am doing in the band I’m currently doing stuff with.  They’re doing their first full live Brisbane show tonight – which I think will be the first time since 1988 I’ve played drums in a live show.  It’s all nice and low-key, and for peoples’ enjoyment rather with an eye to making money out of it, so will make a nice change. *Actually, I don’t think anything is completely disconnected from politics. By coincidence, today also happens to be National SLAM Day – Save Live Australian Music.  As their website shows,

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  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs - interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it. It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same. You can listen to the interview at this link.

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  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.

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  • Stuff from my 4ZZZ shift this week

    Every Monday morning I do a shift on radio 4ZzZ FM102.1 – Brisbane’s longest serving community radio station (36 years old this year). And almost every week I talk with social media expert and lawyer Peter Black about some current political and other issues. You can listen to our talk this week by clicking on this link (it goes for over 30 minutes and has the occasional sweary word, so probably best just for dedicated fans). You can see the songlist I played this week – as usual featuring a sizable number of local artists – at this link, which in most cases also contains further links to other videos, information or photos of the artists.

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