Two Ministers and a Shadow

Let me ask you a question.

Which is worse:

A minister who oversees an infrastructure programme that relies upon State standards bodies to police the work (building codes being State responsibilities). Under this programme there have been a number of deaths (3) and faulty installations (houses burning down) due to participants not working to minimum standards.

A minister who meets with the head of one of the very large and wealthy companies directly affected by his ministry (whilst on holidays, so not part of his official duties). Soon after this meeting, said minister announces between $250 and $500 million dollars in rebates for the industry (depending on how well said industry performs gross revenue wise).

To be honest I'm not sure which one is worse.

Peter Garrett has been copping a shelacking this week over the three deaths and numerous house fires that have occured as a result of the shoddy work practices of some of those taking part in the Home Insulation Programme (yes it is HIP to be square). Tony Abbott went so far as to accuse Garrett of "industrial manslaughter", a charge normally brought against company directors who knowingly encourage work practices that lead to death in the workplace.

However what no one seems to have been doing is asking the State bodies responsible for policing building and construction practices. It is their direct responsibility to ensure that their rules and regulations are followed, not the federal governments. So while Garrett can legitimately be hauled over the coals for not including regular and random checks and audits (which should have been considered over and above the State requirements), ultimately the responsibility for these tragic events lie with the businesses and State regulatory bodies.

If you really want to have a go at Garrett then the green loans (with no checks to see if the money is being spent on green anything) would be a much better place to look.

Let's move on to Senator Conroy shall we. Last week he announced that he would be giving the Television networks in Australia a cut in their license fees of 33% for 2010 and 50% in 2011. Given that license fees are calculated at 9% of Gross Revenue, this could mean anything between $250 million and $500 million will be gouged out of the budget for the next two years. The justification given at the time was to help preserve Australian Content, however there isn't any such condition in the rebate and Australian TV Networks are already obliged under law to carry 55% Australian content (which is why we're seeing a huge explosion in "Real TV" type programming).

Now it turns out that Conroy and Channel 7 head Kerry Stokes ran into each other a month before the announcement was made. On a skiing trip in Colorado no less. Both Stokes and Conroy are refusing to say what was discussed at this meeting. For all we know they were discussing the latest in Apre Ski fashions, or possibly their chances in that nights Chalet karaoke night competition. However as both a Minister and a seasoned political operator (I don't like the man but he's managed to stay around this long), Conroy should have known better than to meet with the head of one of the major players affected by his portfolio like that. 

Oh and we can't leave this week in politics without a word about everyones favourite National Party member. Barnaby has been in fine form this week, going from confusing his millyuns with his billyuns (and for those who are trying to cover for him, he's CPA, he should know the difference), to trying to spook the market by declaring that Australia is on the brink of defaulting on its foreign debt. Well done Mr Joyce. Oh and if you want to have a look at what a country that is staring default in the face looks like? Have a look at Greece.

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