Valerie Yules Letters

August 25, 2010

What does your government do for you?

Filed under: Political reforms — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 4:42 am

What do politicians do all day?

What does your government do for you?

In Australia, this would make a good ABC TV slot at, say, weekly half hour at 8 pm with a radio transcript. The idea is that every Minister of the Crown takes a turn at explaining all the work being done by her/his portfolio to the public.

And at the end of it the Leader of the Opposition has his say summing up what is wrong what is right and what the opposition would do differently.

The advantages:

  1. The people would have a chance to realise the work of government, ad what is being done in their names. This might prevent the high incidence of informal voting.
  2. The government would have a chance of presenting what it is doing and defending it.
  3. At the next elections a wider range of policies would be open for the public to demand to see from both government and opposition, instead of the few that were presented.
  4. The people would see the members of government apart from the Leader
  5. A cheap program to produce.
  6. There are too many niche programs eg radio music, and this would be a program for everybody’
  7. It puts what is done on record.
  8. It is a far fuller account than would be given by government advertising on screen or by junk-mail.  It is the government’s own account, not translated by journalists or opposing parties.

Few people could list all the government departments in their country.  Here are the Federal Australian ministries, with Cabinet Ministers listed in bold, and Parliamentary Secretaries in italics.  It does not include the State ministries, whch are almost as many.

Prime Minister

Cabinet Secretary



Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water

Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs

Minister for Defence

Minister for Defence Materiel and Science

Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth

Minister for Education

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Minister for Employment Participation

Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts

Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Minister for Finance and Deregulation (What about a Minister for Regulation?)

Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Minister for Health and Ageing

Minister for Housing

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Minister for Sport

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government

Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research

Minister for Resources and Energy

Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy

Minister for Social Inclusion

Minister for Sustainable Population

Minister for the Status of Women

Minister for Tourism

Minister for Trade

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services

Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance

Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services

Parliamentary Secretary for the Voluntary Sector

Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction

Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia

Special Minister of State

Disadvantages of this idea?


August 14, 2010

Mudslides and deserts

Filed under: conservation — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 9:34 am

Mudslides and deserts caused by increasing population

Many poor people in countries like China, Nepal and sub-Saharan Africa are caught in a dilemma. They need fuel for cooking, timber for building. Some cut the trees and scrub in the hills above; some in the semi-deserts around them. The population is growing in numbers, and so they need to build where the trees have been.

Mudslides have many causes, but the most common feature today is human interference with the stability of hills, especially removal of trees for fuel and building. Illegal logging companies, stimulated by population growth among other things, also remove trees and need the terrain graded for transport. All these disturb the natural stability of slopes. Heavy rains, droughts, earthquakes, bushfires or volcanic eruption trigger the mudslides, which overwhelm the people’s villages, their cattle and their crops.

There may be efforts to reafforest.  In pre-war Korea I saw the efforts to replant on the bare hills. Afterwards I saw the poor people following after, taking the new saplings for fuel. It took a strong government post-war to manage to get trees back on the hills, and employ poor people as foresters, to avoid them stripping the hills in their poverty.

But what can the people do?  They need the fuel and the wood now, at the price of safety in the future.

We see many touching pictures of African semi-desert and desert, in which elephants move across the stony plain, where once they luxuriated in jungle. The elephants too, pick the only surviving trees. The pictures shown in charities’ leaflets show women walking ever further afield across the stony plain to bring home the bundle of twigs which mean that next time she must walk farther. We are torn with pity for her seven children, who mean the problems are greater still when they are grown up, if they have seven children each themselves.

So many of the climatic troubles we bring on ourselves – by our Western way of easygoing life, and by the stressful lives of the poor people.

Towards solutions by humane population reduction

The West has had compassion that has brought the poor medicine,so that more children survive than ever before – but has failed in the compassion that would ensure they had a fair chance in life.  We need to help other countries achieve social welfare to ensure families survived without having to invest in as many children as possible, and for families to have sources of fuels and structural materials so that the hills and the stony fields were not made dangerous ecologically.

The solar stoves are more important than the games for children, when it has to be a choice. And contraception is more important than the advice for abstinence to people who have few of the other pleasures that we have.

These must be our aid responses to the mudslides, and to all the soil blown away that leaves desert.

The design of the Australian Radio National

Filed under: Pleasures — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:50 am

Improving access to thoughtful radio programs

“To reach as many people as you can.” ABC  aim. Mark Scott, Managing Director.

Who is responsible for the changes in design of Radio National?  The radio engineers, the presenters, the administrators, or the listeners’ desires?

Over the years, its program has changed to exclude more listeners – the children and teenagers went first, and now everyone with a hearing disability, including the old, that makes music much louder than voices.

We have more music programs, which people can avoid if they want to, but there do seem rather a lot.  And more programs that defy reason and are all ambience, with strange titles about Planets and the like.

In program that broke topics up with stings of a few bars, the stings have got longer and longer. Talk programs are broken with the latest discs, and listeners are not told how long they will be, to turn them off.

Advertising of future programs takes up valuable time – everybody has access to what future programs are about anyway, including at the end of programs to say what the next will be.  It is particularly awful when these long advertisements interrupt other programs.  Concentration and continuity are interrupted.

Does the ABC have any means of knowing what readers think, apart from the mavericks like me who write in?

I have lots of ideas about what I’d like to hear on Radio National – but the avenues to send ideas to are not interested.

So Reader Appeal has two aspects – retaining the listeners you now have, and what you think may interest the listeners you do not have.

The presenters in their isolated boxes may like the appeal of having music, but the listeners may hate it as an interruption, especially as tastes differ.  I hate it when a presenter says ‘Isn’t it lovely!’ about what to me is a cacophony of factory-noises with one repeated vocal phrase.

Let’s have a competition for the design of a radio remote control, as with TV.

August 4, 2010

Segregation in education

Filed under: Education, social problems — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 2:56 am

August 2010

More freedom is needed, to safeguard freedom

Most measures to guard our freedoms against terrorists are also restricting freedoms. The list increases yearly.  We feel we must be intolerant of intolerance. But how?

More freedom is needed – the freedom to know. Segregated schools can probably not be prevented – indeed, the trend is to multiply them, and some governments fund them. However, schooling itself must not be segregated. All young people – and adults – must have open access to how other people live and what other people think.

Instead of the move to allow public examinations in one’s own religion and ethnic culture, the studies examinable must be about other religions and cultures, and about the laws with their history of the country of residence.  Day exchanges of pupils and teachers with other types of schools; visits to other forms of religious services; knowledge of the origins of the benefits of the society they live in, and the constant challenges to reduce its disadvantages; knowledge of history as the struggle for peace and fairness against disorder, destruction and greed.

The media are liable to nurture the more unpleasant aspects of consumer society, which fuel the indignation of terrorists. We could also develop a taste in our entertainment for civilisation, good humour and constructive ingenuity, so that alienated observers can be won over rather than fuelled in puritanical violence.  Activists and idealists can be enlisted for social justice at home and abroad. Reforms have prevented revolutions in the past; they can help dissipate recruitment to destroying today.

Blog at