Thank you for your interest.
Australia has a serious problem in. Over the last decade bus and train services across the country have degraded to a point that public transport services are no longer adequate in many areas outside of the cities. Rural transport services are often run by private entities, and even with extremely heavy subsidies from state governments they are all struggling to break even since the GFC hit.
Two years ago I was concerned that even though the Sorell region had significantly grown in population over the last ten years, it’s bus services had not only become less frequent but also vastly more expensive (more than 200% price increase over a period of 3 years). Why?
Setting out to answer this question I first decided to get myself familiar with the facts about transport and population in the area. First I visited the Australian Bureau of Statistics website to check on population in the region, growth and transport use. I also looked up figures on bus numbers and the age of bus fleets etc. Immediately I noticed some problems, first the lack of detailed data for specific regions (Tasmanian averages was all I got) regarding buses, second that populations were grouped by distance from a region and so some people who lived in the Sorell municipal area and might be affected by a bus service in the area were counted as being in the Brighton council region. The population distortion is very small however, but it is an interesting point to note. I did find a lot of interesting data on the problems with aging bus fleets in Australia and a definate decline in public transport services across Tasmania and Australia.
I then contacted the Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources – Transport Division and asked them to send me every bit of they had for the Sorell municipal region and southern Tasmania regarding public transport. I was informed that they had nothing specific at all for Sorell, not even anything ancient in their archives, and all they had for southern Tasmania was the Southern Integrated Transport Plan. Similarly all they had for the north was the Northern Integrated Transport Plan and absolutely no plan at all for linking the entire state and no statewide plan. As far as they see it there is no need to look at Transport outside of managing trucks and providing car and bike licenses.
I received the Tasmanian transport plans and started to go through them. The first thing I noticed was that there is less than two pages of actual data and statistics in each plan – and double checking them on the ABS website showed that they were mostly incorrect as well. Secondly I noticed that almost all of the rest of the information was based from a handful of very small focus groups that were polled in 2004. Almost ALL of the reports focused solely on school bus services. No train, tram or were looked at. No mention of Carbon impact, reduced road infrastructure costs from public transport, disability services or elderly services. The recommendation for fare structures appeared to have simply been made up and the costs similarly were not backed by any credible data as given in any of the reports and were not linked to actual affordability at all. I called again to double check that this was all they had. Yes, that is it. In more than 20 years this is all the data they had gathered to help inform their policies.
The more recent Tasmanian Review of Core Passenger Services is based almost entirely from the heavily flawed Integrated Transport Plans, does not look at non-bus public transport services in enough detail, focuses mostly on school buses, and cites only a little credible data sporadically. Ultimately making recommendations that mirror those in the outdated plans and spends most of it’s time simply redefining terms and the borders of communities.
Since then I have taken similar looks into New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia and found the same problem repeated in every state. Looking about the nation I found many public transport think-tank groups who have oodles of data just sitting there with no one looking at it. Even contacting the ABS revealed that they were able to put together very detailed and accurate population and public transport data, but as yet no state government has requested it and it would have cost me an arm and a leg to have it compiled.
Uninformed policy is dangerous and lends itself toward failure and potential disaster.
The Solution to these problems has become apparent to me after two years of talking to public servants and pouring over dozens of documents. The creation of an Australian National Transport Research Library. The goal of this organisation is to bring together multiple transport research groups, Universities and the ABS alongside the Federal Department of Infrastructure to create a body that focuses solely on gathering up-to-date (less than 1 year old) data on public transport services.
It’s roles would be:
- To advise State and Federal transport policies through review processes
- Maintain and up-to-date free and publicly accessible website that displays accurate data in small and specific regions or States and Territories as whole, including interactive maps and graphs, and downloadable pdf documents and spreadsheets.
- To conduct regular research and statics gathering in conjunction with the ABS and Australian Universities
- To link with international transport research bodies to develop world first plans for modern public transport systems
- To assist when requested to develop project and business plans for proposed or current transport projects
- To provide research grants and scholarships in Australian Universities to facilitate investigation in transport technology and theories
- To inform the public about the financial and environmental benefits of public transport and assist a change in Australian culture from excessive personal vehicle use to embracing quality public transport systems
Existing funds allocated to this research and similar activities in Federal, State and Territory departments could be partially reallocated to assist paying the cost of the project. Similarly funds could be made available as part of the Federal government’s attempt to reduce green house gas emissions and improve the standard of living in rural communities.
The cost to Australia for this new organisation would be tiny. But it’s benefits would have the potential to completely reshape Australia and turn us into a world leader in public transport to potentially rival even Japan and the European nations.
Transport Think-Tank groups:
- Make room: transport survey (theage.com.au)
I have thought long and hard about my personal viewpoints and how they sit within the Secular Party of Australia.
At this point in time I feel that some of the positions held by the party as a whole, and some held by individuals
within the party, are not compatible enough with my own world views for me to remain within the party any longer.
Rather than risk placing myself and/or the party in an awkward position regarding our differences, I feel that it is best
if I leave the party and pursue my political ambitions as a Secular Independent instead.
I hold no ill feeling toward any of you, and it is not the actions of a single individual within the party that has caused
this decision. It is an issue that has been brewing in the back of my mind for some months now and was merely brought
to the fore during the recent dramatic debates over the party email and in multiple private discussions.
I wish the Secular Party of Australia all the best of luck, I will certainly be prepared to do a preference swap for the Senate
ticket in the 2013 Federal Election, and I will still uphold the issue of Secularism in Australia as one of great primary importance.
I would like to thank those who have worked hard within the party and worked hard on the topics of Secularism in Australia.
You are all wonderful and dedicated people. I will always value the time I have spent within the party.
Anyone who wishes to contact me can use any of the following contacts:
With the recent debates regarding boat people, asylum seeker and middle eastern immigrants, one topic has been pushed to the fore of Australian politics.
That is the discussion on Islam and its place within society.
I was going to have a discussion here today regarding only the more contentious
issues that Islam brings into our country. However I felt that I needed to discuss and address some of the facts of Islam in Australia first. I am going to do this by presenting you with figures taken from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and my opinion and interpretations of these figures.
Note that these figures exclude Israel as the discussion is about Islam. These figures are all 2006 statistics, only due to a lack of reliable data on the topic since.
In 2006 193,633 immigrants of middle eastern origin were residing within Australia which represented a total of 4.4% of the total migrant population of Australia. The majority of middle eastern immigrants arrived in the late 1970s and the mid 1980s and built their homes in the areas surrounding Sydney and Melbourne.
Only a tiny proportion of them chose to live outside of these two cities, which led to very large middle eastern ethnic communities, the largest being the Lebanese communities within Sydney. Numbers of middle eastern immigration have been declining sharply ever since, to the point that the immigration rate is almost a third of what it used to be.
The majority of middle eastern immigrants arrive through the Australian Humanitarian Program (in particular from Iraq and Iran) with the next largest group those that had been selected via the Migrant Skills Program.
Regardless of country of origin more males than females immigrated to Australia in all periods, both males and females from all immigration periods had very high (in some cases higher) average English literacy skills when compared to the general population.
With the exception of Turkish and Iranian immigrants (who do not even make up 20% of the total), the vast majority of all middle eastern immigrants are Christian.
To sum this up: Middle eastern immigrants are a tiny proportion of all migrants, are mostly male and are mostly Christian.
This is very different scenario than that presented to us via the media and some parliamentarians in recent times.
Why is this even a discussion then? A: Because of the density of these communities in high populous areas such as Sydney and Melbourne (which is where most of them settle).
The recent focus on the more conservative sections of Australia (re: Sydney) in political circles, has meant that this very local and minor topic has been turned into a national issue.
So let us look at one of the bigger specific issues being discussed of late: The wearing of the Burqa (and similar head gear).The entire pretense for the continuation of an Arabic tradition within Islam is based on a single section of the Qur’an:
30: Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty;
that will make for greater purity for them;
And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.
31: And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servant free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex;
and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah that ye may attain bliss.
I will not get into the interpretations of that passage, I am not a Muslim, I do not believe in Islam and I personally find the entire passage strange. Suffice to say though that, that is the passage often interpreted as requiring the woman to cover herself to the degree that the Burqa covers her.
However the question still remains: Should this practice be allowed within Australia?
There are three primary reasons that have been given to me to say “no this should not be allowed”:
#1: “The Burqa is often forced onto women and is an oppressive practice that removes their rights as human beings.“
I agree with the sentiment. However upon investigating the Islamic community in Australia I discovered just how few women wear the Burqa upon arriving in Australia.
Even more interesting is that just about all of those who do wear it chose to do so. Sure from the perspective of some they may have been brainwashed to do so. But whatever the reason for the choice, it is still a choice.
#:Forcing any human being to perform any practice against their wishes, in particular one that demeans them, is appalling.
#:The ability of any individual to self determination, the right to make whatever choices they feel they should make, so long as those choices do not remove or erode the
rights of another, is in itself a basic human right.
So what this argument comes down to is not really about the Burqa. Any woman anywhere being forced to do anything is wrong. Any woman anywhere who makes a choice to do something such as this to herself, is in itself her right to do.
It is not the practice itself but the forcing of the woman to wear it which is wrong. To ban the Burqa based on this argument alone would be a breach of the rights of those individuals who chose to wear the Burqa.
To those who would say “Is it really a choice if they are brainwashed into thinking they need to do it?” I would answer: “Is it any different from western women who
have been brainwashed into thinking that they need makeup and fancy anti-aging creams in order to be beautiful?”.
We should simply work toward educating people on how to think things through, breaking the brainwashing without force and without removing the rights of the individual.
#2: “The Burqa, and anything that covers and hides the face, is offensive within the Australian culture.”
This is often quite correct. Many people simply do find the covering of the face both offensive and quite fearsome when confronted with it.
However does this mean that we should all tip-toe around one another avoiding being offensive to each other? If someone finds my long hair offensive or even fearsome,
should I be forced to cut it? What about rap music? Many find that offensive. Should we ban all things that are deemed “offensive”? Who’s measure of “offensive” do
we take? Yours? Mine? The local church?
To ban the Burqa under this pretense is purely censorship. Not matter how well intended.
Just because something is offensive to you, even to the majority, it does not give you the right to ban or restrict it. I would ask that if you find the Burqa offensive and/or fearsome, then perhaps you need to re-evaluate yourself.
#3: “The Burqa obscures the ability to identify an individual and is a security risk.”
Again I agree with this. This is a very valid response also, though it is also a hyped risk.
So few women wear the Burqa and out of the tiny amount who do they are unlikely to commit any crimes (statistically).
It is quite reasonable however to require that the Burqa be removed in areas of high security or upon the request of a police officer or security guard.
Though a degree of respect must be adhered to.
However is this a good enough reason to ban the Burqa? Again no, we can manage this tiny tiny issue with such a simple solution, that banning the Burqa would be an
overdone knee-jerk reaction to an issue that barely even exists.
So there, the three reasons given for banning. They are all good reasons, but ultimately in the discussion of the topic to ban the Burqa they are all invalid.
There is another good reason for a ban on the Burqa to not be pursued as well.
To ban a religious practice is a huge step that cannot be taken lightly. We need very serious and concrete reasons why the practice is a danger to people within our society.
We cannot ban it because “some women may sometimes be oppressed” or “because I find it slightly offensive”, or even “because I feel that there is a small security risk”.
Not only can we not ban it, we must uphold their right to maintain such a tradition should they chose to do so.
If we go down the road of interference in religious practices where then do we end? There are plenty of dubious practices in most religions.
Do we censor all of them? Do we ban circumcision or the baptism of babies?
Islam is not a threat to Australia. Islam is tiny and always will be. Middle eastern people still only account for 1.5% of all migrants each year. Of that tiny number more than half of them are Christian.
We should be wary about enforcing our ideas on others, lest we become no better than the religious extremists that we criticise.
I support the right to chose your own religion. I support the right to self determination. I support the Freedom of Religion as much as the Freedom from Religion. I support the rights and freedoms of the individual regardless of age, sex, race or religion.
I support a truly Free and Equal Secular Australia.