29 April 2009

Ministerial irresponsibility?

It first broke more than a week ago, but the story of former Minister for Road Safety yet still Minister for Correctional Services, Youth and Volunteers Tom Koutsantonis' progressive disclosure of his driving record still has legs, as the part-ex Minister continues to shoot himself in the foot and
the media eg the ABC , The Advertiser/Adelaide Now and today's Australian (print ed p7) to report.

South Australia's former road safety minister Tom Koutsantonis has conceded he has been off the road three times due to traffic offences.Mr Koutsantonis has told Parliament he has incurred a total of 59 traffic infringements over 14 years.He currently has nine demerit points.

He says his licence was disqualified for three months between March and June 1999 and that he has also been suspended from driving twice.

"I have twice been temporarily suspended from driving due to the late payment of traffic fines, I was suspended from 15 December 2004 to 4 February 2005 and from 26 March 2006 to 15 May 2006," he said.

"I did not drive during these periods. My licence was returned to me upon paying the outstanding fines.

"The two instances where my licence was temporarily suspended due to late payment of fines did not come to mind when I was relating my driving record to the Premier, because the suspensions were not imposed due to my driving behaviour, but for the non-payment of fines arising from my driving."

His full Ministerial statement is here .

Premier Rann has also been embarassed by the developing situation. After first standing by his man he had to backflip as further details became known.

The Advertiser/Adelaide Now recently asked all ministers and shadow ministers to disclose their traffic records. The responses make interesting reading, not least for some disingenuous statements, notably Transport, Energy and Infrastructure Minister Conlon's coyness about a drink driving conviction some years ago.

This particular virus seems to have spead interstate, if this is any guide.

Given the disclosures of the Ministers and shadow Ministers about their own road traffic lapses perhaps Minister Koutsantinos has been punished enough by being exposed to ridicule and being removed from one of his positions. I reckon this one could remain in the public mind for a long time.

Disclosure: In the last decade I have expiated three traffic light offences, and still have (I think) three demerit points which are due to expire in June.

[Photo above taken in Wakefield St Adelaide today]

Update 30 April

The Adelaide Now website now has a graphic poll online "You be the judge: What should happen to Kouts' car?"

Options range from start at pimp it and ascend through crush it ,green it, infect it, graffiti it, detonate it !

20 April 2009


In today's Age Anson Cameron predicts that loss, mainly from upstream drawing off, of Murray - Darling water wil leave Adelaide low and dry. His recommendation:

The only thing we can do is proclaim terra nullius over South Australia and evacuate the people of Adelaide to the north coast. Add her name to those of Mesopotamia, Pi-Ramesses, Atlantis, Pompeii, Troy, Carthage and Babylon and let her serve as a reminder to us of the many despoiled places from which man has withdrawn. And it must be done with kindness. Such a humble grid of sandstone chapels, there is no place like Adelaide to her people. So we must make a place like Adelaide for them; a dull, isolated town in which their solipsism can thrive.

Compensation must be paid to property owners in Adelaide by the Federal Government on the proviso it's spent buying land in a site chosen on the north coast of Australia, to be named ReAdelaide.

The people living in the best streets in Adelaide must be rehoused in the best streets in ReAdelaide, to make the relocation as painless as possible. Thus, in ReAdelaide citizen X will find citizen Y still living to his right and citizen W to his left. A neighbourhood reborn. Adelaide's familial zest will have been transported apiece, and the yap of X's poodles will discommode Y and W anew in the tropical gloaming.

Some will want to stay. Crones clinging to the graves of their men and the memories of Christmases past will declare Adelaide their sacred site and chain themselves to their Hills hoists and barricade themselves in their wine cellars. We must not winkle them out with the long arm of the law. More compassionate to let them expire at their own pace in their unlit dilapidation, surrounded by the ghosts of those they loved.

Adelaide must be maintained when her people are gone. Caretakers must be employed and guards placed at her entrances to ward off tomb raiders. She must be preserved so that, in centuries to come, the City of Churches will rank as an archaeological wonder to rival the Valley of the Kings, and tour buses will shuttle Sydney under-12s to the Adelaide Oval to pirouette in wonder at the blue sky through which Bradman once lofted sixes.

But that is her future. Maggie Beer is their queen and should have the honour of being last to leave. And just as Boabdil, the last Moorish king of Granada, looked down on that city from the Puerto del Suspiro del Moro and sighed as the Moors left Spain forever, Maggie might gaze down from the Adelaide Hills similarly bereft and exhale a foie-gras-scented sigh over the empty streets of that town and the future of her people.

06 April 2009

Overseas contingency operations

The Australian's Cut and Paste section has an interesting take on the US government's redefining of what has hitherto been called "the global war on terror" or "terrorism". The new term is "overseas contingency operations"

A couple of pastes:

New York Post on March 25:

THE Obama administration has ordered an end to use of the phrase "Global War on Terror," a label adopted by the Bush administration shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. In a memo sent this week from the Defence Department to staffers at the Pentagon, members were told, "this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' (GWOT). Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation'." A Pentagon spokesman said there was no memo or directive instructing officials to stop using the Global War on Terror phrase but acknowledged that the department has officially adopted Overseas Contingency Operation as the new term for the war.

Craig W. Duehring, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower, also used the term last week. "Key battlefield monetary incentives has allowed the Air Force to meet the demands of overseas contingency operations even as requirements continue to grow," he said in congressional testimony.

Wall Street Journal editorial on Saturday:

THE 9/11 Commission counselled clarity, the new administration is emitting a haze of obfuscation. The Pentagon's preferred term is "overseas contingency operations", a bit of military jargon of which "overseas" is the only part recognisable in plain English, and which obscures the key point that the war -- sorry, the "operations" -- began in earnest only after terrorists attacked American cities. Yet Mr Obama's policies so far have been much more hawkish than his rhetoric as a candidate. He has abandoned his pledge to withdraw immediately from Iraq and has merely reiterated his promise to close Guantanamo. In court, he has hewed closely enough to Mr Bush's positions on secrecy, surveillance and detention to prompt an agonised New York Times editorial. The one foreign policy promise Mr Obama has kept is the one the far Left finds hardest to swallow: a troop surge in Afghanistan. Maybe, then, the President's hope is that the MoveOn types will settle for words in the absence of real change. If so, we suppose the rhetorical smoke is a small price to pay, even if the euphemisms for war and terrorism sound ridiculous.

Criticism of tender continues

The discussion (mostly critical) continues.

ABC TV's Insiders showed some clips of Minister for Employment Participation O'Connor (a title which is looking more Orwellian by the day) stumbling over some answers to questions about the tender outcomes.

Elsewhere on the ABC website Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has a succinct and IMO incisive analysis of the situation. Worth reading it all, but here's a longish extract:

The previous government privatised the Commonwealth Employment Service to create the Job Network - by outsourcing its services to a mixture of community based non-for-profit organisations, Australian based for-profit companies and one or two international for-profit companies. In 2002 a Productivity Commission into the manner in which Job Network services were being outsourced concluded that this was not an efficient way to run a tender process.

The Rudd Government has continued the outsourcing of these services this week - now re-badged as Employment Services Australia - but the process now seems to have gone totally off the rails. The decisions on these contracts announced in the last couple of days show neither rhyme nor reason. It is fair enough to change providers if a quality service is not being provided but this does not seem to have been the basis for the decision making of the Government. Some of the highest rated providers (4 and 5 stars) have been overlooked, and in some cases have seen their services handed over to other providers from different regions whose services have rated poorly (1 or 2 stars). We have also seen a couple of large overseas commercial providers brought in - including A4e from the UK.

The community sector is understandably upset by the inequity and lack of logic of the outcomes - but the thing that has rankled more has been the manner in which the process has been run. Having had to submit complex and time consuming submissions, there appears to have been little cross-checking of claims and evaluation of the capacity to deliver a particular service in a particular location, and service quality.

Over the last two weeks, organisations have struggled to get any useful information from the department - they have not been contacted and informed about the status of their applications and have been given the run around when seeking information. Many are still struggling to get an understanding of exactly what the on the ground impacts of these decisions will be. This makes things particularly difficult when they are bound to give staff advance notification of whether or not their jobs will soon be terminated.

The whole process has undermined the relationship between the Government and the community sector right at the time when this relationship is crucial to their ability to tackle the impacts of the financial crisis on those most at risk. It has undermined their trust and is likely to have derailed the discussions of a 'compact' with the sector ... and left their much vaunted 'social inclusion' policy in tatters.

This is the kind of ignorance that can only creep into government departments which have spent over a decade managing contracts rather than actually delivering services. It is clear that DEEWR hasn't engaged in or simply doesn't get the 'whole-of-government' approach to 'joined-up-policy' and 'wrap around services'.

The results of the tender process demonstrates that the values underpinning the tender focused much more heavily on the false God of the market rather than the values of equity, sustainability and community, despite Mr Rudd's recent comments.

How else could you decide to redirect your funds away from your best performing employment services at a time when the nation is sliding into recession and unemployment rates are expected to go through the roof?

As unemployment rises dramatically, these services will be at the front line. Local community based providers are best placed to develop the innovative programs that will be needed with high unemployment and few new jobs.

Well put!

Elsewhere The Australian and Indaily report the opposition's call for a senate inquiry.

03 April 2009

2,500 jobs lost in network revamp

The results of the Job Services Australia tender have been announced. They should be available online here though at the moment the official website is down just as, The Australian reports, it was yesterday at a crucial time:

Hundreds of employment service providers across Australia have lost their government contracts under a $4 billion overhaul of the Job Network, forcing up to 2500 staff to join dole queues with their clients.

But an embarrassing crash on the website of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, which was to list the successful tenderers for new employment services, angered the providers, with some still unsure of where they stood last night.

Major church providers of social services have called for an independent review of the process for allocating the contracts, following the release of the Jobs Services Australia deals.

"Today's decision challenges the nature of the relationship between the Government and the non-profit sector, which increasingly provides outsourced social services," said Frank Quinlan, director of Catholic Social Services Australia.

More than a quarter of the job agencies -- up to 100 businesses -- missed out on contracts.

The biggest losers were the Wesley Mission, the Salvation Army, Sarina Russo Job Access and Mission Australia, which between them will slash several hundred jobs.

The Government's claims that two new British providers would take only 2 per cent of the market were blown away after it emerged that a US job agency in the system, MAX Employment, increased its business share.

The Age and the ABC have also reported the decision(s). Misha Schubert in The Age comments

Staff at two top-rated agencies in the electorates of those driving Labor's shake-up of services to help the jobless find work are heading for unemployment themselves.

Shock waves were felt across the industry yesterday as hundreds of workers, including those at the Salvation Army and Wesley Mission, were told their agencies had lost contracts in the shift to the new system devised by the federal Government.

But Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard insisted that staff whose agencies would fold would be in great demand by other firms that had won contracts to train and find work for the jobless in their local areas.


Djerriwarrh employment and education services acting chief executive Trish Heffernan was also stunned after telling 36 workers — 26 of them permanent — that they would have to look for jobs.

"The staff are incredibly disappointed and concerned about their futures," she said.

Lisa Fowkes, chief executive of Job Futures, a network of community-based groups in the sector, said many agencies with strong track records that had not been awarded contracts in a "flawed process" that relied too heavily on paperwork and not enough on results.

"I can only imagine that what has happened is that the reliance has been on words on a page rather than the reality of service delivery in the community," she said. "I think that in future, it will be really important to test the claims of tenderers in terms of whether they have those local connections, grassroots knowledge and connections to make the services work."

Asked if she was comfortable about any job losses, Ms Gillard sought to reassure staff.

"Of course there will be some change, but for people who work in a service now and that service hasn't succeeded, there will obviously be new opportunities in their locality for the services that have succeeded in the tender round," she told ABC2.

But Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull was scathing about the process, which he deemed a "colossal bungle".

"What a shambles that is," he said. "Hundreds of people being thrown out of work, instability in the whole employment services area precisely at the time where you need continuity and commitment. Again, one bungle after another."

I know a bit about Djerriwarrh, a lean, not-for-profit organisation with a considerable track record of serving job seekers and other disadvantaged people in outer western Melbourne. I'd like to know on what criteria they failed to measure up to the other applicants. Probably having a strong connection to the local community was not one of them.

01 April 2009

The fourth month begins

Guardian has a piece acknowledging the significance of the first day of this month.

No quotes, just click on the link.

GG under scrutiny again

In The Australian Malcolm Colless reports that some eyebrows have been raised by the Governor-General's recent activities .

Kevin Rudd may feel comfortable with an interventionist governor-general but this view is by no means unanimous within his ministry.

In fact a number of ministers are known to be not just concerned but angered by Governor-General Quentin Bryce's involvement in the affairs of government. The fact that no one has apparently conveyed this to the Prime Minister is more a reflection of the autocratic way Rudd runs his ministry than the level of concern about politicising the role of Australia's head of state. "Voicing disapproval of the Prime Minister's judgment on this issue, even in private, would be tantamount to committing political suicide. But it is nevertheless outrageous," one senior minister told The Australian.

Reluctance to buy into this may have also been influenced by persistent rumours in Canberra that Rudd is likely to reshuffle his ministry after thebudget.

Attention is at present focused on Bryce's 10-nation, 19-day lobbying tour through Africa to drum up support for Rudd's push to gain a non-permanent seat for Australia on the UN Security Council. But ministers are still bristling over the unprecedented private briefing she ordered in February from the heads of the departments of Foreign Affairs and Treasury and the head of the defence forces, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston.

Presumably the relevant ministers signed off on these security briefings and received the Prime Minister's blessing before they took place.

But after media reports about the meetings at least one other senior minister issued a blunt instruction that any request from Yarralumla for departmental briefings should be unambiguously declined.

Whether this justifies calling Ms Bryce an "interventionist" G-G is questionable.

Regarding Ms Bryce's trip to Africa, the program on her website isn't detailed enough to draw many firm conclusions from.

An itinerary including fuller details of all meetings etc would have helped.

Many of her appearances, eg laying a wreath at a war memorial in Dar es Salaam, receiving Botswana's Senior Female Minister and Minister for Local Government (one and the same person) and attending a morning tea with "prominent Kenyan women", seem to be the sort of things you'd expect the Queen to do. Therefore it should be appropriate for our G-G, as the Queen's rep here, to do the same.

But of course it raises other questions such as why the representative of our "real" according to the Constitution) head of state rather than the head of state herself should be making such a tour. A (minor?) anomaly in our current constitutional arrangements.