Monday, December 3, 2007

My list of demands

Hello. I'm one of the many people who voted to put you in office. Guess what? That makes me one of your many employers.

Normally when you are put in a new job in the PS, you'll get a copy of your JD, and 3-6 months probation. Given your circumstances, you already know what your JD is, and 6 months probation? Try 3 years, at which point we (the Australian people) will reassess.

Now I know you'll have many people pulling you this way and that, wanting things because of your position, but really, we all know that the PM only has as much power as parliament is willing to give him. But having said that, that doesn't mean you can't try - your influence is one bargaining chip you do have. And let's face it, the ALP is hardly going to oust you from your position in a leadership scuffle now that you've helped win back government from the racist, misogynist, power hungry Liberal Party.

But I do have a list of demands. Really, I know that they won't all be met in your first term in office, but damn, you can always try - lay the groundwork at the very least. In no particular order (because as far as I'm concerned, they're all very important), here are some of the ones that come to mind at this moment.

Get our troops out of Iraq. I noticed on Friday that you have stated this will happen by mid-2008. Good job. Now actually follow through please.

Reinstate accountability in the Senate. You know what I mean - committees keep the Senate in line, and the Howard government made damn sure three years ago that they would not be held accountable for their behaviour.

People are going to hate me for this but - no tax cuts. Not during your first term. Don't introduce them in the 2008 budget. The only time you could do so would be in the 2009 budget, but that will be dependent on many factors. If you do it in 2010 and you've not done it in previous years, it will be seen as an election grab, no matter how you justify it.

Reduce spending. For the love of god, reduce spending. The Howard government loved to throw money around as though it grows on trees and they have paid the price - interest rate rises, even when they were warned to slow down. Don't make the same mistake. Yes, interest rates are virtually guaranteed to go up in the next 12 months, and a recession appears to be looming, but that doesn't mean you should just sit around and wait for it to hit.

Now this next one may seem contrary to my previous demand, but increase funding for public schools and hospitals. I know education is one of your big priorities, and that's great, but you may just have to increase state funding. Mental health. Address it. ASAP. Don't just concentrate on the elderly or young people - there are millions of people who don't fall into that category and a portion of them have mental health issues that are inadequately addressed. This definitely needs to be addressed in conjunction (but not solely) with the criminal justice system.

Workchoices. Duh. Now, don't completely abolish AWAs - in some circumstances they are good. But for the rank and file - not good. People want their penalty rates, their overtime, their weekends. They want to be guaranteed a minimum level of rights. Do I need to say that reintroducing unfair dismissal laws would be a good idea? Oh, speaking of - release the statistics that the Howard government refused to release that would back up their claims that removing the laws was great for workers. I don't expect the laws to be reintroduced in their old form, but get the unions together with business, see if something can't be worked out that is good for all. Remember that the ALP was first and foremost for the worker - people like my dad left the party years ago because of the gradual shift to the right. Don't allow yourselves to move any further in that direction. After all, I think we can safely say it is because of an intense dislike for workchoices that you got elected.

Repeal the Marriage Amendment Bill of 2004. (pdf) You know the one. The one that says you can only get married if you and your partner are of different genders. You supported it, remember? Marriage is about love and commitment, not about who has a penis and who has a vagina. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it - not everyone in a committed relationship wants to get married, whether they are straight or gay. The fact that people want to be legally recognised as a couple shouldn't be contingent on whether or not the person they love is of the same sex as them. Gay marriage will not destroy life as we know it. As a first step, you can make sure that homosexual de facto couples get exactly the same rights as heterosexual de facto couples. This also includes access to IVF and adoption.

Kyoto. I know you've already said you'll ratify. Good. Just a reminder.

Detention centers and "queue jumpers". Introduce a maximum time that people will be left in detention centers when seeking asylum (I suggest 6 months - no more). Do not put children in there full stop. While I'd like the detention centers to be completely abolished, I know you aren't going to do that, so this is my compromise. Also - repeal the "Pacific Solution". It is bullshit.

Be honest with Australia about the terrorism threat. There is no doubt in my mind that Howard & Co exaggerated the level of threat for political gain. Their encouragement of xenophobia and racism is ruining Australia's international reputation. You need to make sure that people know that this kind of bigotry will not be tolerated (or encouraged) like it has been in the past 11 years. Multiculturalism is not just a pretty idea, it is essential for harmony.

Fixed terms. You yourself know what it feels like to be held hostage to the whims of the government in announcing when the election will be held. People like to be able to plan. People like to be able to know that the government of the day isn't going to try to shove some more legislation through before they announce an election. People like to know when they are planning to get rid of the government, that there is a clearly defined end in sight. Three or four years - up to you. I'd prefer three, but that is a personal preference. You actually said during the campaign that you would introduce them - please don't let that be a non-core promise.

This is all I can think of at the moment. I know there are plenty more. You do have your work cut out for you - 11 years of the Howard government has resulted in a lot of rubbish to wade through. So you'll probably hear from me again.

In the tradition of employers everywhere, I also reserve the right to add to or amend any of these issues. It's part of the fun.

Good luck, we will be watching.