Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Policy Wonkette - Julie Bishop and the new Columbo Plan

Over the weekend I attended a function that was hosted by the Inverell branch of the National Party. Driven by their deep desire to defeat Tony Windsor and reclaim the seat of New England at the next federal election, the Nationals had invited the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Julie Bishop up for a Breakfast lecture and tour throughout the northern area of the electorate. While ordinarily such appearances are just an opportunity to beat the ideological drum and promote the electoral prospects of local members, the Deputy Leader came out with all guns blazing and released new information on Coalition policy as well.
Senator John Williams (Nationals Senator for NSW) and The Hon Julie Bishop (Deputy Leader of the Opposition)

Now those of you who follow my content regularly would know that while I hate politics, I absolutely adore policy as if it were a finely aged red wine. While politics is a nitty-gritty, ideological knife-party that we've got to deal with whether we like it or not, policy dictates what a party thinks, what their goals are and how they think they are going to be able to achieve it. Consequently it's a more clear-cut field to examine and report on, if you've got a broad understanding of history, science and economics.

(More after the jump, plus audio)

Take for example the Coalition's desire to reinvigorate and increase the funding of the Columbo Plan. While Julie Bishop dropped some well-placed barbs on Tony Windsor, the Greens, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard throughout her lecture, the vast majority of her comments kept on returning to the original educational ideals that have been a part of that particular treaty and organisation for the past 72 years.

Audio Recordings

When you factor in that key areas of that organisation's mandate were referenced frequently throughout the lecture, it's not hard to see what Julie Bishop's signature foreign policy as Shadow Foreign Minister will be in the lead-up to the next election. Migration, education, regional security, infrastructure and economics are all key areas of global development that the Columbo Plan has successfully addressed in the past throughout South-East Asia.

While Julie Bishop may have recognised the value of reviewing and expanding the Columbo Plan from an educational perspective however, it is evident that she hasn't realised the potential of the plan from developmental and humanitarian standpoint, given the answer that she provided during the press conference. Throughout it's mandate the Columbo Plan has not only given developing nations training on how to manage airports, factories, dams, railways and other infrastructure, but it has also given key assistance to build said infrastructure in the first place.

By developing an updated Columbo Plan, it is possible that the long-term causes of regional insecurity, economic instability and social inequality could be dealt with in a detailed and sustainable manner. While turning back asylum seekers to Indonesia, Pacific Solutions, Malaysian Solutions and On-shore processing maybe politically advantageous band-aid options for all members of Parliament, reinvigorating this organisation would make it more attractive for people to stay in their home countries. Not only would that be beneficial from a humanitarian perspective, but it would also be great for economic and trade reasons as well.

Later during the press conference, I also had the chance to ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition a couple of questions in regards to the Coalition's policies on the NBN and investigating the broader impacts of child abuse within the wider community. After being informed by Senator Barnaby Joyce in an interview earlier this year that the Coalition's broadband policy will continue to focus heavily on wireless, I decided to see if I could provoke a detailed policy response out of Julie Bishop by referencing physics.

As more and more people connect to a wireless network such as 3G, the local network will progressively slow down due to the traffic that's being placed on it until it becomes near impossible to upload or download anything from the internet. Since getting around this would mean that the laws of physics would have to be broken, I decided to phrase my question in that particular manner.

In between testing my mettle with a playful death stare, Julie Bishop stated that the Coalition's proper policy was to use a mixture of technologies where suitable, rather than the blanket wireless coverage that Senator Joyce had been pushing for. This in turn suggests that while the Coalition has been making a lot of noise about the cost of the NBN, that they are supportive of the way that NBNco's project planners have been designing and rolling out the NBN as a whole. While costs should always be a primary focus of attention, this discrete admission essentially gives the Coalition's seal of approval to the NBN's currently planned capabilities.

Julie Bishop also raised a very interesting point in regards to pedophilia and child abuse, after I dropped a question on her about whether or not the Coalition would support a Royal Commission into that particular area. Given that service clubs, schools, police and even ABC staff have been caught up in child abuse and pornography cases over recent years, it was worthwhile seeing if they'd support a broad investigation that didn't focus solely on the church.

In response to this question Julie Bishop stated that reports and investigations of such nature should be compiled by the states, rather than at a federal level. When you factor in that she acknowledged that the primary arguments behind the Northern Territory Intervention were based on state-authorised reports, this shows that the states can have a major influence on the Federal Government when it comes to child protection policy.

Since the vast majority of these reports are primarily the result of Parliamentary Enquiries rather than the official outcomes of investigations done by trained and experienced investigators, serious questions have got to be asked about the accuracy and practicality of such reports. Given that Julie Bishop and other politicians from across the entire political spectrum have stated that children deserve the right to be safe from harm, this is an issue that needs to be looked at deeper than it currently is at federal and state levels alike.

If there's one other thing that I learned from interviewing Julie Bishop, it's that a lot of members of the Canberra Press Gallery need to improve their analytical, time management and interviewing skills. Rather than serving up innuendo and speculation as if they were on a menu at some café, we need to be fearless champions of the facts, honesty and accuracy so that the electorate can make informed decisions about the choices placed in front of them.

Sadly over the past couple of decades, the art of asking tough, yet fair and honest questions has been largely lost by a lot of journalists.  While ordinarily politicians like Julie Bishop shy away from tough questions, they aren't afraid to answer them if they can see that there's a genuine level of professionalism present within the question at hand.

By having journalists ask tough questions on policy and politics with accuracy and integrity, we can give the public what they want while increasing the viability of both old and new media across the market as a whole. As product quality has become more important than consumer loyalty, the media industry as a whole needs to listen to the public if it is going to remain relevant in the digital age.  While financial salvation awaits media organisations that are nimble enough to realise this, revenue losses and eventual oblivion await those who don't.

No comments:

Post a Comment