Directly elected mayors: the English experiment

Most English mayors are elected in a similar fashion to most mayors in Australia: by ward councillors. But in May of this year 11 English cities participated in referenda to determine whether citizens should directly elect their mayors.

Asked would they like to change from the status quo and introduce direct mayoral elections, participants from the various cities answered as follows.

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Public submissions against the introduction of a directly elected mayor in Geelong

In March 2011 the Victorian Government Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) released a discussion paper on the form that direct mayoral elections could take in Geelong. The paper identified procedural and administrative issues that remained to be decided and asked for submissions from the public on those issues. DPCD received sixty-five written submissions in total. Below is a summary of the public submissions opposed to the introduction of a directly elected mayor in Geelong.

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Electing the next Geelong mayor

Nominations have closed. Nine candidates will vie for the crown of Geelong’s first directly-elected mayor. The race is on. Here’s a brief form guide.

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It’s good to see Judith Sloan moving into comedy

Judith Sloan

Judith Sloan

It’s good to see Judith Sloan (Productivity Commission and Australian Fair Pay Commission Commissioner, Director of the Westfield Group and Board member of the Lowy Institute) moving into comedy.

In the Weekend Australian (Nov. 26-7), she writes,

…in a perfect world, the ideal arrangement is for employers and employees to reach agreement about wages and conditions by mutual and private consent.
(p. 22)


In the real world, there are more employees to choose from than there are employers. In the real world, employers hire trained negotiators to carry out their end of the bargaining.

In the real world, employers wield more power than employees.

So in the real world, employees increase their power by acting collectively.

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VECCI and Bolt on Baiada

Andrew Bolt

Andrew Bolt

As part of strike action against Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd, from Wednesday 9 November Baiada workers and their supporters set up a picket line to block access to Baiada’s Pipe Rd processing plant in Laverton. On Thursday 17 November the Supreme Court of Victoria issued an interim injunction against the ‘National Union of Workers [NUW] & Others’, the result of which listed parties were required not to block access to the Laverton plant. NUW employees and the listed ‘others’ left the picket line or were removed by police while Baiada workers and their allies who were not listed in the injunction continued to picket. Yesterday, Tuesday 22 November, the picket ended as management and workers reached an agreement on pay and conditions.

In defence of those who continued to hold the picket line, the NUW made the following argument.

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A publicly funded healthcare system could eliminate the US deficit


Noam Chomsky (pictured right) has recently claimed, repeatedly, that moving to a publicly funded healthcare system would provide sufficient savings to eliminate the deficit from the US budget. In what follows I show why his claim is plausible.

Here’s Chomsky’s claim in black and white. In response to current discussion about measures for dealing with the US deficit, Chomsky notes that it is

Not even discussed … that the deficit would be eliminated if, as economist Dean Baker has shown, the dysfunctional privatized health care system in the U.S. were replaced by one similar to other industrial societies’, which have half the per capita costs and health outcomes that are comparable or better.
(Chomsky 2011b)

Here’s a relevant excerpt from Baker’s blog:

The problem with Medicare is that our healthcare system is broken; we pay far more than other wealthy countries for our care and get worse outcomes. We don’t need to fix Medicare; we need to fix our healthcare system, and this is something we should have started yesterday.

The remedies are actually easy; the problem is that the political will does not exist to challenge powerful vested interests such as the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the doctors lobbies. Close to 20% (about $500 billion a year) of our healthcare spending is wasted on financing the insurance industry and the paperwork requirements that it imposes on providers.

We pay almost twice as much for prescription drugs as other countries. If we could get our costs in line, it would save us close to $100 billion a year. If drugs were sold in a competitive market without patent protection, we would save more than $200 billion a year. If we paid our doctors the same salaries as those in other wealthy countries, we’d save another $80 billion a year.
(Baker 2009)

That’s a potential total saving, on the most generous interpretation, of $880 billion. That’s exciting. The normative claim that people should have access to publicly funded healthcare would be all-the-more convincing if it could be shown to save the US a bucketload of money. But notice that Baker’s talking about total healthcare spending, public and private, not simply healthcare spending from the US budget. You cannot claim savings in the private sector as savings to the US budget. If a public healthcare system reduces private healthcare spending, those savings cannot be claimed as budget savings because the expenditure was never counted in the budget. Therefore, for Chomsky’s claim to be true, a public healthcare system would have to provide sufficient savings in the US budget alone to eliminate the deficit—no easy task for a country that has a largely private healthcare system and a massive budget deficit.

So let’s crunch the numbers.

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