Graham Gorrel's Friday On My Mind | OPINION, October 14, 2016

IF THE daily media lashings of tripe from the US presidential election paints a true reflection of politics there, the situation is not much better on the home front.

During a month-long tour of two states almost without exception public perception of politics Australian-style, has reached rock bottom. From parliamentary performance, leadership and daily bashing of a political opponent in the media to the abject failure of MPs to recognise that they work, firstly, for us their performance has reached a low base not evident previously in my 50-odd years reporting about it.

One reader put it this way: "MPs seem a bit too focused on themselves".

Another wrote: "MPs can't, or won't, make decisions any more. They want a royal commission, an inquiry, a plebiscite or an investigation, all at huge expense; then they cry poor and want to raise taxes". Anything but make a decision themselves.

Indeed, one inquiry by a retired judge spread over 13 months cost NSW taxpayers' $4.2 million and brought us the travesty that was the government's ban on the greyhound industry and led, inevitably, this week to "the mother of all back-flips".

It does not start or finish with the greyhound industry in NSW. Each day on our trip listening to ABC regional news bulletins, a commercial television newscast or reading a local newspaper, two major issues consistently emerged - health and education.

For example, The Queensland Times at Ipswich, reported under a heading "Sick society blows budget", demand for health services had blown the regional health budget by more than $8 million with the prospect that high levels of chronic disease would further stretch costs.

It was reported that, in Ipswich, where the population is expanding by about 7000 people a year and is now not only the second biggest inland city after Canberra but one of the nation's chronic disease hot spots with an average 50 residents losing a limb to diabetes each year.

News Limited's Sunday Mail reported: "Australia's health care system is crumbling; Medicare is in mayhem".

Fairfax's The SMH reported last week that some of Australia's wealthiest private schools were running multi-million dollar surpluses with the help of excess taxpayer funding. Melbourne Grammar topped the list with $8.3 million.

Former PM Julia Gillard's 2013 statement that no school would be worse off by the Gonski reforms was wrong; some public schools are now at the "needy" stage thanks to the "greedy".

Sir Henry Parkes, who made certain that every child in NSW would have access to free public school education in NSW, would be turning in his grave at the public education situation today.  

At a stop in Tenterfield, where co-incidentally Parkes on October 24, 1899, (just 10 days shy today of 117 years ago) made The Tenterfield Oration,which led, 12 years later, to the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia, a NSW MP, Adam Marshall, in Tamworth's The Northern Daily Leader, said local councils should run their own elections rather than let the NSW Electoral Commission do so.

It would be cheaper and faster, he said. Sounds like a good idea and brought back pre-newspaper memories as a clerk with the SRCC, when WWCC town clerk, Frank Burns, seconded a few of us to help count votes. By Tuesday 5pm after the Saturday election the job was done.

No tickets or above-the-line voting in those days; just 12 crosses were required. 



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