Voting for change? Don't hold your breath.


If you’re getting all excited about the September 7 election – don’t.
That, in a nutshell, is the advice of the CDU’s Alice Springs based Professorial Research Fellow Rolf Gerritsen (pictured): “Nothing much will change” no matter who forms government in Canberra, nor who gets elected as the Member for Lingiari.
No votes, no money will remain the bottom line: “Neither would seal the east-west Outback Way.” That sort of money goes to the densely populated states.
The Intervention will continue “perhaps a bit more whole-heartedly” if the conservatives win, he says, and they would also be more likely to support the Northern Territory alcohol strategies.
Will these succeed? “I have not a clue and no-one else has either,” says Prof Gerritsen.
In education, “Abbott has signed up to Gonski lite” and won’t subscribe to The Full Gonski of Labor. On the ground that would mean that the Territory gets an additional $150m a year which would be added to the present budget. There would be no funding reduction for NT schools getting more than Gonski recommends.
“No redistribution would need to occur,” says Prof Gerritsen.
“Going ’round and ’round in circles” will remain the way health is being run, with today’s announcement by sitting Member Warren Snowdon of $20m for dealing with foetal alcohol syndrome a good example: those funds come from the same source as does the money that buys the alcohol.
“Short of abolishing welfare” any notion of large-scale agriculture in the bush making a dint into the unemployment catastrophe remains a pipe dream. Would stopping the dole for people refusing to accept work (as is the case around the nation) make a difference?
“The government would land in court in a twinkling over discrimination,” says Prof Gerritsen.
“This is a debate we’ll be having in 30 years time. The economics don’t stack up: why work 40 hours a week when you can do nothing for $150 less?” He says things will change when demand for material goods “goes beyond iPods and motor cars”.
In national politics “we don’t even rate. Some things are being done for Aborigines but usually that’s not for the blackfellas. It is for the voters in the leafy suburbs” of the coastal cities: “My guess is that their votes will reflect the national result because they will be less influenced by local issues.”
Lingiari is now a marginal seat, with a 4.5% margin.
In 2004, 2007 and 2010 Lingiari followed the national voting trends. If it does again Mr Snowdon’s margin will evaporate – unless Kevin Rudd can make further inroads interstate.
The usual pattern is that Alice Springs and Katherine vote conservative, Nhulunbuy and Tennant Creek Labor.
Of course in the bush things have changed for the worse for Mr Snowdon: black voters have deserted him in droves. Instead of having NT Parliamentarians supporting him, he has Alison Anderson, Bess Price and Larissa Lea actively hostile to him.
But there is a bigger question hanging over the poll: the up to 30% of people who did not vote here last time. Which way they are going to jump is anybody’s guess, says Prof Gerritsen.
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  1. I have some points of disagreement with Rolf, as some important things will change under an Abbott government.
    For starters, we would get much less effective action against carbon pollution, and increased release of carbon into the atmosphere.
    We would also get less equitable funding to needy schools in the final years of the Gonski strategy; less re-settlement in Australia of desperate refugees who are in the queue; less contribution to the government coffers from the mining industry; less action against the excesses of industries such as tobacco, alcohol and gambling; less regulation of big business interests in general; less protection of the natural environment; less respect in legislation and government administration for the principles of social equality, equity, and egalitarianism; and less access to fast broadband.

  2. Yes good point Rolf: ‘Some things are being done for Aborigines but usually that’s not for the blackfellas. It is for the voters in the leafy suburbs of the coastal cities’.
    And therein lies the problem for Warren Snowdon. He panders to the national sentiment to maintain his position as Minister for Indigenous, Rural and Regional Health but that makes him look woefully out of touch with Territory realities.
    His response to that dilemma has been to retreat behind an arrogance that does him and his party a disservice. He is not assisted by a small worshipful group of hangers on.

  3. @ Cameleer. Retreating behind a pseudonym could be considered lacking the courage of your convictions.

  4. Gotta disagree on that Cameleer (Posted August 7, 2013 at 10:43 am). In recent years we have had an enormous expansion in Federal funding for Aboriginal health in the NT, and it is paying off in a major way, with dramatically falling infant mortality rates and lengthened life expectancy, amongst other benefits.
    We have also had major Federal investments in providing better services in bush communities (including many more police, teachers and nurses). The Federal government has concurrently funded many more Aboriginal jobs to help deliver these and other vital services (e.g. land care, Night Patrols, early childhood, preschool, school nutrition, Centrelink, youth, recreation and parenting programs, amongst many others), with a 10 year commitment by Macklin and Snowdon to maintaining funding for these programs.
    Now we see starting the RJCP (Remote Jobs and Communities Program), which is the best designed attempt to provide better training, real work, and less welfare entitlements, that we have ever had.
    A lot of commitment here, and all of it for the benefit of people in the remote communities. These things are not window dressing for the pleasure of people in leafy east coast suburbs.
    In fact, a lot of those people are outraged about these projects, because they have bought the propaganda of the anti-Intervention, anti-Stronger Futures brigade.

  5. Rolf Gerritsen’s ‘not much will change’ analysis is wrong on a couple of important points.
    Pricing carbon pollution will be abolished by the Coalition, a huge step backwards, and the NBN will be replaced by some third-rate fibre to a box somewhere at the end of the street. Not for me, thank you.
    As for ‘Cameleer’: I’m a great believer in Sybil Fawlty’s comment to Basil: “If you are going to grope a girl, have the gallantry to be in the same room as her” when you do it. If you want to slag off at Snowdon, feel free … but have the guts to put your name to it. Or get a new nom de plume. Can I suggest ‘Cowardly Custard’ or ‘Gutless Wonder’?

  6. Re Russell Guy and Ian Sharp: In the context of your comments it is worth mentioning that the Alice Springs News Online does not normally allow people to attack individuals from a vantage point of anonymity. With Mr Snowdon the issue is different.
    In the past couple of years he has not responded to about a dozen requests for comment from us. Now he is again a candidate and as such a legitimate subject for comment and obliged to account for his performance.
    I spoke to his Alice Springs based minder, fact to face, at the Show, expressed my disapproval of Mr Snowdon’s behaviour, and renenwed my requests for an interview with him. I have not heard from either Mr Snowdon nor the minder.
    If Mr Snowdon begins to conduct himself like an elected person is expected to, then we will give him the right of reply to any attack, concurrent with the publication of the attack, or publish responses from him in some other suitable way.
    We also have made these points: On the one hand, anonymous comments do not have the credibility of those whose authors disclose their identity. On the other, regrettably, some people fear they will be victimised if their views become known, and we feel they should still have the opportunity of their opinions being heard when a prominent politician is concerned.
    Of course, we moderate all comments applying standards of reasonableness and legality.
    Erwin Chlanda
    Editor, Alice Springs News Online.

  7. I ceased voting for Warren Snowdon when he made it clear that he preferred to defend apartheid and its policy of racial segregation of Australian families. Results from three decades of those policies upon the NT can be seen most days.

  8. Bob Yes in recent years we have had an enormous expansion in Federal funding for Aboriginal health etc in the NT, but I cannot agree it is paying off. Almost all the health improvements are restricted to areas where people do not have to change their liefstyles, for example vaccinating infants against disease, emergency interventions to keep them alive etc.
    I cannot believe that Aboriginal life expectancy is being improved sustainably, I’ve seen the weazel stats and they defy the everyday experience of increasing rates of diabetes, end stage kidney disease, almost universal obesity etc etc.
    Are we extending Aboriginal life spans by keeping more chronically ill people alive for a few more years?
    Turning to education, yes we have more teachers, more training etc but declining NAPLAN outcomes.
    Again we see the obstacle that no matter how many millions of dollars are poured in, no matter how good the teachers are, no matter how committed whitefellas are, unless Aboriginal people want (need) to learn, need to work and need to change we will never get anywhere.
    This is the fundamental difference of opinion between Snowdon and his Canberra ilk and many on the ground in the Territory.

  9. Two of the points I find most curious about the coming election are:-
    1) Can Abbott really be as bad as he has been painted? Many in the ALP comment loudly and often about the personal and viscous nature of the attacks on Gillard when she was PM, but were they any worse (or less sexually oriented) than the constant portrayal of Abbott as a hairy-legged Neanderthal man?
    And 2) Of the two contenders for PM, which one quietly goes about his practice of spending a couple of weeks a year on a remote Aboriginal community helping with unpaid and unheralded labour?
    Warren has had his chances. A change there would do us all a world of good.
    And thank you Cameleer for your valid comments, nom de plume and all.

  10. The big difference between Labor and Libs is clear. Labor are socialist. Big government whilst the libs is about private enterprise.
    Business and small government. I hear all the time about the broadband and it is clear to all those who know what they are talking about and the NBN will still not deliver the speeds enjoyed for others in the world.
    Our speed is a 1/3 of the speed in America. WHY!!! And we are spending billions on this poor service.
    Carbon tax ETS no matter what tag it is all about the stock market. The same stock market that was responsible for the GFC.
    So many titles, labels and all with real information lacking all spread through the media and millions spent on advertising. By federal government selling the ideas but who really understands the content. Truth no one.
    But there are all those who are so gullible they believe the propaganda and never seek the truth. Ask questions research information. Ask questions. The impact of solar on power stations and those who have not connected is massive. Power stations have to operate at a certain level this cost has increased due to the carbon tax and yet the reduction of users to pay this cost has reduced dramatically. That leaves those who are not connected to solar to pay.
    But if everyone was connected to solar the power station would still have a cost to operate and wow that would mean that we pay as we cannot run on solar 24/7.
    We may as well not gone solar until we have permanent storage units. Something we do not currently have. More and more running and do this it is good and government promotes pays and then the reality hits and low and behold there was never real thought about outcomes.

  11. It’s not so much a matter of ‘throwing money’ at these issues.
    It boils down to a fundamental change in attitude that is the only thing that will essentially alter the social landscape.
    ‘If you want to change your world, my friends, you must change your thinking … reason is your greatest tool’ (Lord Laurence Olivier).

  12. Wake up and smell the citrus, Cameleer (Posted August 7, 2013 at 3:18 pm)!
    More kids getting vaccinated, having better nutrition and better hygiene means more robust kidneys and hearts and other vital organs that will last the distance, with less impacts from chronic diseases in their final years. It’s not all doom and gloom.
    The paradoxes of the education experiment include firstly the phenomenon of a much larger proportion of older enrolled children missing school.
    This apparent fall in attendance is simply explained: a lot more of these older kids (many of whom have had only sporadic school attendance during their primary school-age years) are now being enrolled in their post-primary age years, despite both the continuing scarcity of secondary-readiness amongst many of these students, and also the relative lack of trained secondary teachers and suitable facilities to cope with the challenges they provide; thus their continued failure to attend regularly or know what to do during NAPLAN tests.
    Therefore we are faced with the irony of greater absolute numbers of average attendance in many schools, whilst the higher enrolments contain a lower proportion of older enrolled students attending regularly.
    Secondly, we have more younger kids with less regular previous attendance and coming from less educated, less functional families being enrolled and attending primary school (at least some of the time), and thus helping to drag down the lower primary NAPLAN results.
    These problems need urgent attention and ironing out, principally by providing better conditions, such as housing and career paths, to attract more experienced trained secondary teachers, and hold them longer in the schools.

  13. Returning to some points made in this interview with Prof. Gerritsen, the comment “Nothing much will change” no matter who forms government in Canberra, nor who gets elected as the Member for Lingiari, seems to accord the political process of more voters, more money with the decisive factor.
    That says a lot about how far democratic society has come since the Enlightenment.
    Grimm’s history of the Christian Reformation notes that “the ultimate consequences of giving to the secularised state complete control of society have not yet been made clear,” but the moral relativism of a pluralist democracy has rendered the Enlightenment values of tolerance, reason and common sense insensible.
    Some of the major changes between the parties in this forthcoming election may well be in the area of social values, rather than what money can buy. Australia is destined to discover what kind of a mess it has made of things by voting according to material wealth and in this, I suspect, Prof Gerritsen’s thirty year prophecy is fairly accurate.

  14. Bob, I can smell the citrus, but not the roses. Yes more kids are getting vaccinated, medical interventions are good because they don’t require a lifestyle change.
    Better nutrition? The one healthy meal a day (if kids bother attending school) is swamped by a massive intake of sugar laden drinks and high salt chips despite the availability of healthy food at community stores.
    A common problem these days is babies being given bottles of strong cordial, that’s why so many lose their first teeth to decay.
    Better hygiene would require a change at home and it hasn’t happened. People still live with dog packs, basic washing / disinfecting including in the new or renovated homes is non existent.
    Boils, streptococcal throat and skin infections remain rampant. Other risk factors including smoking and alcohol abuse are on the rise.
    Meanwhile, the intergenerational effects of poor health are leading to low birth rates and kidneys with reduced nephron development. Many Aboriginal babies are now starting life with 20% reduced kidney capacity.
    I’m afraid that the billion dollar Closing the Gap plans will not fundamentally change the situation. All we can do is provide health information and readily available alternatives. Then it’s up to them.

  15. Cameleer (Posted August 8, 2013 at 7:40 am), not great to see such commitment to gloom and doom on the part of an experienced operator; but you are simply way out of date with your info.
    You are not aware of the wide range of programs operating in many remote communities, working with young parents to help them improve their parenting skills, their infants’ nutrition at home, and their general health, emotional and motor skills development, hygienic environment, and early childhood education.
    These programs have started to bite, and the improvements in child health, wellbeing and education are not simply the results of “medical interventions”.
    The future is looking much brighter for many of these kids.

  16. Janet Brown takes issue with solar energy among the many other evils brought to us by the socialists. You may be interested to read an article from Clean Technica reporting on a New Zealand power company that is actually funding consumers to generate and store their own power.
    Yes, if you and many others take this path we will end up with a very expensive power plant that we don’t need. Such is life – the greenies might say, “we told you so”.

  17. @ Richard. I do not take issue as you suggest. I stated the facts like the pink batts like the schools spending on buildings. The set top boxes. Rorting by a big number of con men.
    Who delight when this labor government throws around massive monies. I feel for the low income high rent payers. The welfare recipients in the Territory. Housing renters. All stuck with the high electricity bills. Clearly no concern for the most vulnerable in our community. I watch on the news the amount of house fires in Australia – all due to people having their power turned off because they cannot pay the bills. People burnt to death because they use candles for lights. Carbon tax. ETS as I said prior this is all stoke market hand out nothing to do with the environment the same market that caused the GFC. Solar I love solar it is a given to us in areas of big sunshine. It is a socialist govt that implements these schemes that costs lives, harms the most vulnerable and then turns their backs on the suffering. Accountability. Proper planning and risk management. The conservatives care about people, they implement programs to assist the vulnerable by growing the economy. Building businesses large and small. And making small government spending.

  18. Take issue with ticket clippers promoting solar energy in format which during mains power failure turns off all power to “solar houses”.
    Solar power needs charge batteries, so when mains power fails our lights and media work at least another day.

  19. Janet, sorry love, I have to disagree with you here. Conservative Governments do nothing for the people our nation or our future. What benefits can a government who operate in a restrictive practice mind set offer the people of our nation? In case you are not aware a government that delivers a surplus as large as this conservative government are offering, with being a do nothing government, as they’ll have to cut back every vital service to meet their commitment of a surplus.
    I certainly support the Labor government if it wasn’t for them. I hate to think where are education, health and disability care would be.
    If you feel that the electricity cost are too high, I would recommend that you talk to your Conservative Territory Government after all they are the ones that raised it.

  20. @ Lou. Whilst at JCU in cairns I did an assignment in social policy class for which I received a HD result. It was on our hospitals. The research found that the move to privatise hospitals was all Labor design. The reality is Labor implemented policies to remove the health protection for Australians. The liberals reversed that program. Sorry to disappoint you. The education and disability schemes you refer to are Labor seeking re election. These election campaigning propaganda stories are full of talk and no substance. As I said Labor is about big government. And please keep your fairy dust in your eyes. I would hate to be the one to bring reality back to life for you.


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