I bumped into a journalist I knew in the coffee queue at Parliament House, and he asked what I was up to these days. I told him I was looking at the environment law reforms. “Oh yeah, those,” he said confidently, then thought about it for a while before asking: “So, what’s the deal with that?”
Indeed. Most of us know something is happening with our national environment laws, but not exactly what, and if or how it will affect us. It’s quite complex, and I could talk about it for days.
But I don’t have days, I have a flat white coming in three So for all of you in the virtual coffee queue out there, here’s my three-minute, coffee-queue guide to the environment law reforms. They’re a niche interest. They only matter to you if you care about The Great Barrier Reef, native forests, The Tarkine, The Kimberley or any environmentally significant place in Australia, koalas, tassie devils or any species facing extinction, the multi-billion dollar eco-tourism industry or long-term, sustainable jobs, clean air, water or food.
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If New South Wales fails to win tonight’s pivotal State of Origin match, let me tell you what the collective state mood will be tomorrow. It’ll be exactly the same. No one will be depressed, no one will feel less significant and by about 10 am, no one will even remember the result.
We New South Wales folk aren’t insecure or small-minded enough to pin our self-worth on the fortunes of a mere football team. We are the least chest-beating, biceps-flexing, horn-honking state in Australia for the very good reason that we know our state is clearly superior to all others.
Well, it is.
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NSW has the Snowies, Queensland’s got the Reef. We’ve got Byron Bay, they’ve got Noosa. Sydney has the Sydney Opera House, Queensland has, um, the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach. NSW has the tiny border town of Jennings, pop. 130, Queensland’s got the neighbouring town of Wallangarra, pop. 385.
Wallangwhere? Wallangarra, thank you very much, the town which is the symbolic home of the one Queensland commodity which NSW can never seem to match. Passion.
Wallangarra is where Qld State of Origin legend Billy Moore grew up. Actually, he was born in Tenterfield NSW, because the base hospital is closer than the one in Stanthorpe, on the Qld side of the border. But as Moore told The Punch this morning, “my Mum assures me I was rushed over the border before the oxygen had time to affect my lungs.”
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Given we don’t have an official national dance, I would like to nominate one. Let’s call it ‘the Election Day Waltz’. It has a few tricky steps, then a big finale that always ends up the same way.
New NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell was doing the dance this week. First the light steps through the campaign: ‘there will be no public sector job cuts, there will be no cuts to services’, up there on his tippy toes all grace and poise.
Then he lands with a thud. The day after the election he ‘discovers’ a ‘budget black hole’ and he starts stomping around on the very workers and services he was reassuring just days ago.
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Kevin Rudd’s claim that the re-vamped COAG hospitals agreement constitutes ‘major national health reform’ is dubious at best.
In fact, the ‘in principle’ COAG agreement abandons most of the central reform features of the Rudd blueprint.
A crucial plank of the Rudd reforms was to give the Commonwealth a controlling share in hospital funding and thus majority funding responsibility for the entire health sector.
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It is highly possible that the deal signed by Kristina Keneally with Kevin Rudd will provide NSW with more money in the short term and less money in the long term.
We should not forget this Government which has rushed to sign an agreement with the Federal Government has not got a fine record for looking at the fine print.
It is the same Government that signed the Cross City Tunnel contract which is now before the Courts, the Lotteries contract which is being studied by the Auditor General, and the Metro contracts which to date have costed over $500 million.
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