A Family First of their own

Today's Crikey carries a letter that reminds us that Family First, currently causing problems for the ALP in the Senate, are a creation of... the ALP.

Andrew Burke writes: Every time Stephen Fielding casts his vote to defeat a government Bill, as he has with the luxury car tax, let's remember who's responsible for his election -- the Victorian ALP. If their preferences in 2004 had gone to the Greens rather than Fielding then there would have been one more Green vote and the Bill would have passed, with the Greens' sensible amendment to exempt efficient cars. Over the next couple of years it may prove to be a very painful mistake indeed.

Factional map of the ALP

Droopy Iemma

For those wanting to follow Australian politics, it's critical to understand the factional structure of the Australian Labor Party and the influence this has on events. For example, the Left has traditionally been given the Deputy Premiership of NSW, while the Premier has always (until this afternoon) been from the Right.

The problem for outsiders like me, trying to understand the internal machinations of the ALP, is to know which MP is aligned to which faction, never mind all the myriad sub-factions. Factions inside the ALP often hate each other more than they even hate members of other parties, and political bastardry is common within the ALP.

So what I'd like to know is this: is there a resource somewhere that lists all the ALP's MPs and the factions to which they're aligned? Is this perhaps something that should be attached to WikiProject Australian politics or similar? A category attached to each MP's Wikipedia page would be a good place to start.

Oh, and bye Morris, bye Costa. You won't be missed.

Senate recommends ignorance on unit pricing

One of the government's laudable policies was a plan to introduce unit pricing into supermarkets. As seems to be common with this government, even this straightforward aim has been put on the inquiry treadmill which is really just a delaying tactic slowing down any real action. Instead of concrete action we have a preliminary action plan in response to the ACCC inquiry, recommending further consideration and no doubt further invitation to those wanting to avoid regulation.

I don't really support right-wing Xtian nutters, but I applaud Steve Fielding for introducing a bill to bring unit pricing in already. The Senate Inquiry report into his bill has been tabled and gives credence to the ridiculous claims of the supermarket chain.

The supermarkets bleat on about it all being too hard, it having some obscure impact on farmers and costing millions and millions. Let's be clear what's being demanded here: that supermarkets list the cost per kilogram or cost per litre alongside the price. Not rocket science now is it?

The Labor and Coalition committee recommends canning Fielding's bill, giving weight to the supermarkets' spurious claims. What a cop out!

Despite coming from someone who believes in fairies, Fielding's dissenting report is worth a read. It's suprisingly lucid.

Next time I'm in Woolies I'll be sure to take my camera. I want to demonstrate the need for unit pricing with their home brand cans of tomatoes. The 400g cans cost less than the 800g cans by unit. So you pay more if you buy bigger sizes. Ridiculous!

The Obama Blend

I just bought some coffee beans at the phenomenally-busy Campos Coffee on Missenden Road. I had to write down the description to share with you.

The Obama Blend

Great deptch of character, strong and eloquent. This very appealing blend unites coffees from Africa and the Americas to produce a cup which has gotten us excited. Formidable middle palate flavours, syrupy with an uplifting finish. Excellent choice for going forward and ideal for those interested in change.

I didn't try the McCain blend. Don't think I'd like the thin, weak, old-fashioned bitter flavour.

Police riot in Genoa goes unpunished

Police riot in Genoa

Nick Davies gives an update on the police attack on 93 unarmed demonstrators at the Diaz Pertini school building at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. It seems despite clear evidence that the police indiscriminately bashed the crap out of people, none of them will be going to jail.

This kind of injustice, with violence meted out by jackbooted fascist thugs of the state, isn't uncommon. I've seen police start riots a number of times at otherwise peaceful demonstrations. They get off on it.

I wouldn't be surprised if the injustice here provokes some to take action themselves, given the state has been unable to deliver justice.

World (Catholic) Youth Weirdos

Spotted this morning walking through Sydney Uni, some Catholic pilgrims (the lanyard and pass is a giveaway) taking a photo of... the wall of HK Ward gymnasium. Weird. Maybe they saw Mary?

I'm trying to work out which annoying t-shirt to wear handing out condoms on Saturday, now that we're allowed annoy Catholics.

The options are:
Jesus
Had A Mullet

And

Christianity: The belief that some cosmic Jewish Zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

Makes perfect sense.

The former has the advantage that I already own it. The latter I could make pretty easily.

Petrol prices are going up: Yay!

I watched SBS's Insight on Tuesday this week. It's a discussion programme and this week's episode was about petrol prices. You couldn't find a more shameless group of rent seekers than the majority of the people commenting during the programme. They all want to be given government help to cope with petrol price rises.

The independent owner-operator truckies were loudly whinging about prices, calling for petrol excise to be removed. This is the group that enthusiastically embraced casualisation of the workforce, accepting risk in return for a slight improvement in profits. I have one suggestion for you: your costs have gone up, raise your prices! It doesn't take an economic genius to work it out now, does it? If you don't want to take on the risk of being an owner-operator, become and employee and form a union.

The student who travels hours each day to drive from her farm to university and work, spending $120 a week on petrol, I have a suggestion. $120 a week would get you a room in a half-decent flat share in any city in Australia. It might not be in the salubrious suburbs of Sydney but a flat in, say, Strathfield, would be fine. Petrol prices aren't going down, so you need to consider it. If you managed to get rid of the car completely, add another $5,000 to your annual housing and transport budget.

The price signal clearly isn't working. SUV sales up to May were up and I haven't noticed any decrease in the number of giant vehicles on the road. It seems to finally be kicking in though. Perhaps if the CSIRO's prediction of $8/litre happens, people will finally work it out.

The calls for reduction or removal of petrol excise are from the same kinds of people who would scream if other taxes were increased to pay for it. Here's the problem: petrol excise and vehicle registration pays for a small fraction of the full cost of road transport in Australia. If we had a true user-pays system, the excise would be going up, not down.

Removing excise and putting the burden on all Australians would penalise those of us who made sensible decisions about housing and transport, paying more to live closer to our workplaces and using public or petrol-free transport. I'm sick of subsidising you lot, so quit the moaning.

And, of course, we're all subsidising the road freight industry. They pay a tiny fraction of the costs they incur on our road infrastructure, to say nothing of the pollution. When Carlton United Breweries relocated their brewing from Sydney to Brisbane, how do you think all the (high volume, high weight, low value) beer gets to Sydney? That's the kind of behaviour we need the price signal to prevent!

Roll on $8/litre.

Planning Alerts

The amazing people in and around the mySociety have a new project in test. PlanningAlerts.com allows you to enter an email address, a UK postcode and a region that you want to watch. Any planning applications in that area will end up being emailed to you, as they're updated. When I lived in the Borough of Lambeth, they had a similar service, which also gave community events and the like. The issue with a council-run service is if you live near the boundary of the council, you might miss something across the border.

With most councils not really playing ball, they've taken the approach of screen scraping the data off council web sites. This way they can give a genuinely geographic alert, once they have all the councils covered.

One problem with this is that there's no real qualification of the types of development being planned and alerted. For example, I'd want to know if my neighbour plans to chop down one of the trees in their garden, but I'm not particularly interested in someone chopping down trees a few blocks away. But if someone was planning a huge shopping centre anywhere in my suburb, I'd want to know about it. I can only hope the clever clogs behind this find a way.

Now we need an Australian version. I've long been planning to scrape the Marrickville Council list of development applications and geocode them. Now I think I'll have a go, and the PlanningAlerts.com guys have supplied a reasonable output format, though in Australia we don't have the advantage of such a detailed postcode system.