With friends like NSW who needs enemies
The debate over the abolition of the states is a non-debate. Aside from a few single-issue crazies who want to turn back the rivers to create an inland sea, or as a moot debating point for constitutional law enthusiasts, there is no clamour whatsoever to pursue such a complex and challenging reform.
Perhaps the argument should be recast, with a proposal that if we aren’t prepared to abolish the states, we should at least abolish New South Wales.
Under the baton-passing stewardship of NSW Labor, with the top job having been hand-balled from Morris Iemma to Nathan Rees to Kristina Keneally in just over 12 months, NSW has cemented itself as a failed state, if not a rogue state, on the national stage.
Its economic performance has held back the rest of the country. Its woeful political management threatens to hurt Kevin Rudd with many voters waiting not just with baseball bats but Molotov cocktails, cream pies and Uzis to send anyone who’s vaguely involved with the Labor Party a pretty blunt demonstration of their disgust.
If you want an indication of how crook the place has become, look no further than the galling opportunism of the Keneally Government this week in trying to cash in on Victoria’s discomfort over the Indian student bashings.
One of the least savoury features of our federalism over the past decade or so has been the one-upmanship and carrot-dangling which state governments have employed to attract investment.
Their tactics have distorted the free market and thrown public money at private investors who often haven’t shown up anyway. The bidding war which erupted between the states over Virgin’s expansion into the Australian aviation market involved the profligate elimination of public funds which should rightly have been spent on nurses, cops and teachers. Poor old Richard Branson almost needed to take an AVO out against the then Queensland Premier Peter Beattie as he was fawned over and feted with buckets of public cash. The bungling of contracts such as the outsourcing of information technology by South Australia’s Brown Liberal Government to computer giant EDS was a case of public waste writ large.
But what the NSW Government did this week over the Indian student fiasco had a new dimension. It was tasteless.
Using the cover of the lofty-sounding Premier’s Council on International Education, the NSW Government basically embarked on a parasitic self-promotional exercise to lure Indian students here at the expense of Victoria.
Shorn of its community-minded pretence and its blatherings about inclusiveness and multiculturalism and diversity and harmony, it was a cheap nudge-nudge wink-wink exercise aimed at telling the lucrative Indian student market that they’re statistically less likely to get thumped in Sydney than they are in Melbourne.
Keneally announced that she would deploy one of her ministers to India to reassure education representatives that students would be provided with safe accommodation in NSW.
She said that some Indians were failing to differentiate between Sydney and Melbourne and that the NSW Government wanted to reassure them that up here in the Emerald City everything is just peachy.
“NSW is a welcoming place to live, work and study,” she said.
“We want to ensure that international students in NSW continue to receive a high quality education in a safe environment.”
Keneally also said that the Premier’s Council on International Education would be working more closely with the NSW Police to advise Indian students on how best to secure safe places to live.
This is a decisive response to a non-existent problem. No-one in India has been talking about attacks on Indian students in Sydney. All the coverage has involved Melbourne.
This play should be seen for what it is – a cheap, commercially-inspired, head-hunting exercise.
The statements from Ms Keneally were notable for one thing – they made no effort to explain the Victorian situation in its proper context. Instead, they harped about how good things are up here.
Rather than eliminating confusion on the subcontinent it is likely to create more. Our multi-layered constitutional arrangements are confusing enough at the domestic level, so it’s hard to fathom what an international audience will make of them.
It is conduct which runs contrary to the national interest, as befits a government which has irredeemably lost its way.
The problems in Victoria have stemmed from two things.
Firstly, as was argued in this column a month ago after Major General Peter Cosgrove’s straight-talking intervention, it’s been exacerbated by the failure of people in authority to act swiftly in identifying the role of racism in some of these attacks.
Secondly, and more damagingly, it’s been made worse by the recklessness of the Indian popular press in distorting and amplifying every incident as a racist incident. Especially when, in the past two weeks, we’ve learned that a self-styled “hate crime” victim who claimed to have been set alight had accidentally torched himself while trying to burn his car for insurance. Or that the three people charged over the murder of a young Indian are themselves also Indian.
It’s a really complicated and, at times, almost unmanageable issue. When the reality of what is happening is so often wilfully ignored by the most powerful media in India, it’s hard to know what John Brumby or indeed anyone can do to take the heat out of the situation.
The actions of the NSW Government in swanning into this confused scenario will do no-one any good. Unless of course you define good as slicing a bigger share of the Indian student market for NSW at the expense of the hapless Vics.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…