What States Can Do - Part IV: Promoting science

Governments, educationalists and business leaders around the world are keen to encourage young people to embrace science in school, at university and in their future careers. In Australia, a lack of interest in studying science in schools has been of real and growing concern.

Many of the best careers of the future will increasingly rely on scientific acumen. Even political leaders are now more frequently being forced to make decisions where weighing up scientific evidence is critically important for the best public policy outcomes. In recent times, for instance, congressional and parliamentary representatives have had to grapple with complex issues ranging from stem cell research and genetically modified crops to climate science and nuclear power.

In South Australia, the decline in students enrolling in science subjects had reached crisis point. So, we asked distinguished Oxford scientist Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield, then Director of Britain's centuries old science education hub, the Royal Institution to spend three months with us as a Thinker in Residence (www.thinkers.sa.gov.au).

Baroness Greenfield advised my government on how we could foster a greater 'scientific literacy' in our community and encourage kids to be excited by science. She came up with a series of proposals, including twinning scientists in labs with science teachers in schools.

As a result of Baroness Greenfield's residency, we established the Australian Science Media Centre (www.smc.org.au) in 2005 and opened the RiAus (www.riaus.org.au) in 2009. Backed by millions of dollars from State and Federal governments and business, we located both organisations in the refurbished Stock Exchange building in inner city Adelaide. It has been renamed the Science Exchange.

For years, forced by the scrambling pace of voracious 24/7 media coverage, journalists often go to those who shout loudest in covering scientific issues. On climate change, for instance, it's easier for media to seek sound bites from highly politicised lobby groups - from environmental NGOs to climate change deniers - rather than search for world class scientists with real expertise on the subject matter at hand.

The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) is an independent organisation overseen by a management board consisting of senior executives from rival media companies, universities, government and business. It is backed by an expert Science Advisory Panel which includes nearly 30 of Australia's most eminent scientists.

The Centre works with journalists to help them cover science stories and works with scientists to help them communicate more effectively with the media. The Centre has nearly 1,000 journalists, hundreds of newspapers, radio, television and online outlets, linked to over 3,000 scientists on its database. Universities, research institutes and academies and government science agencies are all actively co-operating with the service.

So, how does it work?

In March 2011, as we all remember, an earthquake triggered a tsunami off the coast of Japan causing devastation and massive loss of life. It also provoked a disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. There was worldwide concern about its implications including the likely impact of radiation release and what would happen if there was a 'nuclear meltdown'.

Journalists from around Australia and overseas contacted the AusSMC for expert opinion. The Centre ran media briefings involving nuclear scientists who gave journalists the background knowledge they needed. At a time when Japanese authorities were remaining silent, the Centre provided journalists with up to date expert commentary to help them decipher what was happening at the Fukushima plant. Interviews were arranged around the clock to help fit in with media needs and deadlines. Hundreds of journalists were linked to thirteen scientists who provided not only expert commentary, but also background and context. These experts were quoted in almost 4,000 news items internationally.

This is just one example. Since it opened, AusSMC has injected evidence based comment into more than 40,000 news reports worldwide. There is a real difference between journalism that relies on evidence based science rather than sensational claims.

While this not for profit service is often the first point of contact when a major science story 'breaks', the Centre is proactive as well as reactive. It provides regular media briefings including its Heads-up, an email service issued twice a week alerting the media about the most newsworthy science events, new research, and reports being published in scientific journals around the world.

The AusSMC proactively monitors the news for topical science issues and can quickly arrange briefings for journalists. These can involve panels of experts usually interviewed online. To enable journalists to get their heads around complex scientific issues (such as climate modelling or the current controversy in Australia over coal seam gas), detailed background briefings are also provided.

The AusSMC is also helping scientists become more media 'savvy' so that they better understand media pressures and can more effectively engage with journalists on and off air. The AusSMC has been spectacularly successful, applauded by journalists and scientists alike. It has certainly improved the quality of scientific content in media reporting.

Significantly, science media centres are now operating, not only in the UK and Australia, but in New Zealand, Canada and Japan, with others being considered for Denmark, China, Norway, Italy and Pakistan. I understand that a service, similar to Australia's, is now under consideration in the United States. It is hoped that a global network will be developed.

In the same heritage building, now rewired with state of the art media facilities, we have established the RiAus. It is independent but has a close relationship with its 'mother' organisation, the Royal Institution in London, established more than 200 years ago to bring science to the community and the community to science and producing a distinguished list of Nobel Prize winners along the way.

The RiAus aims to inspire and to educate a new generation of Australians about the importance of science to their health, the environment and to the Australian economy.

The RiAus has rapidly become a centre of dialogue and policy debate about science. Above all, it aims to make science more accessible, more valued and more relevant for Australians. It doesn't just preach to the converted and is by no means 'nerdy'.

The RiAus has a special charter to interact with those most disengaged from science, particularly young people. It works with schools and teachers to encourage career path choices in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It uses a range of technologies to do so, running programs online with a very active presence in social media, including Twitter, Facebook, E-newsletters and YouTube as well as staging live events, including plays, art/science exhibitions at festivals, 'Science in the Pub', producing films, sponsoring lectures by astronauts and Nobel Prize winners, even staging a sports science event in front of thousands during the halftime interval at a football stadium.

I am pleased that both the RiAus and AusSMC are now national institutions based in Adelaide.

Most governments invest in science. Successive state governments in South Australia have invested millions in establishing a specialist math and science high school; a bio science precinct and incubator, a functional genomics centre and plant accelerator and the world class Goyder Institute for water research. But unless we enthuse young people to look to science, as the Gemini and Apollo space programs did in the 1960s, we will be failing both our nations' futures.

This Blog was published on the Center for National Policy website.

Mike Rann is Fellow for Democracy and Development with the Center for National Policy, Washington, D.C.

From slouch hat to blue beret: Australia's bid for Security Council

A senior official of the Bush Administration once said to me: "The thing about you Aussies is that you are impossible to offend. With other nations I have to watch my 'ps and qs', be on guard about offending sensibilities. Not with you guys. You like straight talk and even when we try an odd insult Australians just laugh. And you are so irreverent!" I took this as a compliment. Our larrikin spirit is alive and well. Aussies don't stand on ceremony and like to puncture pomposity with humour.

Irreverent, yes. Irrelevant, no. Few nations have sailed, flown or marched further in a good cause. There is nothing more reverential to Australians than the enduring symbol of an Australian soldier's (we call them diggers) 'slouch hat'. It is part of our story, critical to our sense of identity and self esteem. But in far flung corners of our troubled planet the Australian digger so often wears the blue beret of the UN.

Australians have never been isolationists. We did not turn away from genocide in Cambodia, tsunamis in Asia, earthquakes in Japan, famine in Africa, partition in Cyprus, conflict in East Timor. We are known for standing by our mates but Australians also make the supreme sacrifice for suffering strangers who have never heard of our country. We are not neutral in the face of crisis, calamity, terrorism or oppression. Neutrality is not part of the Australian psyche.

Like our kith and kin in New Zealand we are good citizens of the UN. As former Kiwi Prime Minister, Mike Moore and now Ambassador to the US, said of both Australia and New Zealand in a speech in Washington recently: "We pay our dues and more and deploy our people in peacekeeping and peacemaking...This is the rent we pay for our way of life. It is the cost of civilization... a world without walls cannot be a world without rules, standards and values".

Back in 1947 Australia was the first nation to contribute UN peacekeepers, to oversee the ceasefire between the emerging Indonesian Republic and the Dutch colonial occupiers. According to new Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr 65,000 Australians have served in more than 50 UN and other multilateral peace operations since 1947. Carr revealed that Australia is now the twelfth largest contributor to the UN's peacekeeping budget.

In October the 193 members of the UN will vote in a secret ballot to fill two seats on the Security Council for a two year term. Australia is one of three candidates in the "Western Europe and Others" group. The other contenders are Finland and Luxembourg.

The last time Australia sat at this table the Cold War had not ended. For forty years after the Second World War the Security Council was too often paralysed by the veto powers of the Big Five. That has changed. Today the Security Council has never been more relevant or active. That's why Australia now wants to play its part. Since Australia last served 90 other countries have had their turn, many of them a number of times. Japan and Brazil have served five times during this period. But it is not about forming a queue. Australia, a founding member of the UN, has much to contribute.

Last year our Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited the UN in New York to discuss our bid with Ban Ki-moon and addressed 50 representatives of African nations. She explained how helpful Australia could be to small and medium sized countries, pointing out that Australia was one of the top ten contributors to key UN programs such as the World Health Organisation, its children's fund UNICEF and the High Commissioner for Refugees. Since then lobbying has been intense and last month during a visit to Singapore by Julia Gillard, Prime Minister Lee said his country and Australia shared a commitment to strong global institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, Asia Pacific Economic Co-Operation and the International Monetary Fund and was happy to support Australia's bid.

As former Foreign Minister (and former PM) Kevin Rudd has argued, Australia brings formidable assets to the table and a different perspective to our European colleagues. We are a stable democracy, a medium sized power on a vast island continent, with the world's third largest maritime zone strategically located in the Asia Pacific. Our economy is in the top dozen in the world and the fourth largest in Asia. Our military spend is the fifth biggest in Asia.

Twenty two of Australia's twenty four closest neighbours are developing countries. Many are emerging democracies, like Timor Leste where in 1999 an Australian led intervention, sanctioned by the Security Council, helped bring peace, stability, independence and democracy to its ravaged people. This year we are pleased to celebrate with our East Timorese friends the tenth anniversary of their independence. In Bougainville, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands Australians have worked hard to restore peace.

If elected Australia would join the Security Council during a time when big issues will be on its plate...transition in Afghanistan, the ongoing UNSC engagement with North Korea, Iran, the Middle East, the continued fight against terrorism and closer to home the preparations for a referendum on the future of Bougainville.

In recent years Australia has been stepping up to the plate internationally through APEC, the G2O and other forums just as we did under Bob Hawke's leadership to work through the Commonwealth to bring an end to Apartheid in South Africa and through the UN to help sort out the mess that was Cambodia.

Nearly 70 years ago Australia helped draft the UN Charter. Australia is a shareholder which has made a big, long term investment in the UN. It's now time to join the board. A seat at the table will be good for Australia. It will be even better for the UN, our region and the world.

This Blog was published on the Center for National Policy website.

Mike Rann is Fellow for Democracy and Development with the Center for National Policy, Washington, D.C.

 

 

What States Can Do – Part I: Climate Change Policy

 

Most attention in public policy focuses on what happens at the national level. That’s inevitable but states are often test beds for reform. In this series of blogs, I will look at what states can do to set the policy agenda.

Nowhere has the leadership role of states been more apparent than with climate change policy. That was certainly true in Australia until recently, with former conservative Prime Minister John Howard aligning himself with President Bush in first denying the scientific evidence for global warming and then decrying action to address climate change as contrary to the national interest. It was up to the states to fill the policy void.

In the US, we saw strong leadership by states such as California in embracing renewable energy and tougher emissions standards. We also saw clusters of states working together to establish emissions trading schemes such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative involving Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. These states have not only capped but will reduce CO² emissions from their power stations 10% by 2018.

States also took the lead in Australia, one of the nations at greatest risk from global warming with the potential loss of high production farming land as well as serious threats to our precious water resources. Action by states makes sense given the majority of decisions affecting both the environment and our climate are made at the regional level.

While Premier of South Australia, I was also Minister for Sustainability and Climate Change, as well as Minister for Economic Development. I wanted to demonstrate that a reformist government could be pro jobs and pro growth while at the same time being a leader in environmental protection. Through my role with The Climate Group and its States and Regions Network, I have worked closely with state governments internationally, including a number of US states, to share and sometimes steal policy ideas that work.

When I was elected Premier in 2002 there was not one single operating wind turbine in South Australia. Today, 26% of electricity generated in my state comes from wind, edging out coal fired power for the first time. How did this happen? We streamlined our regulatory environment to make it easier for energy companies to gain quicker approvals to build wind farms in order to take advantage of Federal schemes and quotas. This didn’t happen in other states where the wind was strong but not the political will.

We also campaigned aggressively to convince renewable energy companies we were hungry for their business and would make them welcome. We introduced payroll tax rebates for the construction of large-scale renewable energy projects. Now, with only 7.2% of Australia’s population, we have 54% of the nation’s installed wind power and about 90% of Australia’s geothermal hot rocks development. South Australia reached the Federal Government’s target of 20% of electricity coming from renewables by 2020, nine years ahead of schedule. We also had a 15% drop in emissions during the past five years despite strong economic and employment growth.

Inspired by matching Governor Schwarzenegger’s ambitious target, we are now on track to reach 33% of our power coming from renewables by 2020. With the help of Stanford Climatologist, the late Stephen Schneider, we passed Australia’s first climate change legislation which, in addition to setting targets, provided a framework for voluntary agreements with industry sectors to reduce their emissions. Groups as diverse as the cement industry, the Anglican Church, local government and even regions became partners. First to sign up was our wine industry which was keen to demonstrate to customers in the US and Europe that it could not only produce world class wines but be environmentally conscious doing so.

South Australia also passed Australia’s first solar feed-in legislation, which established a scheme that paid householders a premium rate for power generated from their roof top installations. This was successful in encouraging a more rapid take up of solar power than in other states. We also followed California and Washington state by changing emissions standards to effectively preclude the building of future coal fired power stations; again followed California in setting tougher efficiency standards for air conditioners that cause massive spikes in electricity usage on the hottest days, and following my visit to New York, we are looking at ‘cool roofs’ to deliver significant reductions in peak energy demand.

By sharing ideas, sub-national governments in the US, Australia and elsewhere have proven to the public and to federal policy makers that leadership and progress is possible. This has produced dividends in Australia with the national government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard embracing a new carbon pricing era designed to cut CO² pollution, drive investment in clean energy and make our nation’s biggest polluters pay for the greenhouse gas emissions they create.

This Blog was published on the Center for National Policy website.

Mike Rann is Fellow for Democracy and Development with the Center for National Policy, Washington, D.C.

What States Can Do – Part III: Improving Our Schools

There is nothing more important for a nation's future, for its long term security and for opportunities for its citizens, than the health of its schools and the quality of education they offer.

Visiting New York in 2010, I was deeply impressed with the work of John Schnur and his team at the New Leaders for New Schools initiative. John is one of America's leading thinkers on improving school outcomes. He was a key adviser on education to Barack Obama both before and after his election as President. John led the development of the $4 billion Race to the Top program where Federal funds are used as a carrot to reward states that positively reform their education systems to get better outcomes from schools.

As in most worthwhile endeavours, success in schools is in most part due to leadership. We all know personally that individual teachers can have a profound impact on learning for students. But to keep doing better year after year, Schnur argues that effective principal leadership is by far the most important component of success, particularly for schools with low test scores and high poverty rates. He cites many examples of how previously poor performing schools had been ‘turned around’ quite quickly following a change to a better principal. I was told, for instance, about an elementary school in Baltimore where only 45% of its students met the basic standards of proficiency in math. Within two years, a high performing principal had boosted that result to 88% and is working on plans to ensure that 100% of her students make the grade.

New Leaders runs seminars that focus on diagnosis, data, instructional improvement, personal leadership, teams and school culture. Courses are taught by leading experts and ‘master principals’. There is also hands on training through one year paid, full time internships in an urban school, enabling teachers to work alongside outstanding principals who have turned around schools in disadvantaged areas. When these new leaders become principals they are given ongoing mentoring and support to help them get the best possible results. Research has shown that New Leader schools are twice as likely to have significantly improved student test scores compared with other schools, and with a lower drop out rate.

In South Australia, one area of real concern for us as a new government in 2002 was that there had been a serious drop in the school retention rate during the 1990s compared with the previous decade. We were concerned that by not completing their schooling, young people weren't just dropping out of school but dropping out of any real chance of securing meaningful careers. There is also a massive social as well as personal cost with declining retention rates linked to crime, drug and alcohol abuse as well as higher unemployment rates.

Coming up with an effective way of reversing increased dropout rates was an early reference to the State Government’s Social Inclusion Initiative. It was clear that a 'one size fits all' approach was deemed useless. So we looked at more targeted ways of re-engaging with those young people most at risk of dropping out of school or who had already done so. The method that was adopted is now being hailed in Australia and internationally as a 'best practice' social innovation which puts the local community at the centre of decision making.

Our program is formally known as the "Innovative Community Action Networks" but is more commonly know as ICAN. An ICAN is a local partnership that is given both the power and the resources to help tackle issues that contribute to young people dropping out of their education. Each local ICAN is quite different in its approach and in its membership, which in addition to the State funded ICAN Manager can also include parents, local police, Aboriginal youth workers, teachers, student councillors, NGOs and youth advisers. The key to ICANs success is recognising the complexity of needs each young person is facing and addressing those needs through an individualised case management approach. It involves community action that is flexible and innovative in helping young people at risk to re-engage with learning. Successful strategies draw upon the interests, strengths and aspirations of the young people themselves. They are given a voice and asked what they want and need to help them achieve their goals. It’s about a ‘tailor made’ curriculum which, at the same time, embraces a broader view of learning with pathways forward to further education and real jobs.

So, how does it work?

One ICAN developed a specific program for young, teenage mothers who had dropped out of school and were living isolated and often impoverished lives, with part time or casual employment such as working in a take-away or as a cleaner. This ICAN purchased a bus to pick up the young mums and take them to school where on-site child care was available to allow the students to be close to their children, who were often babies. An ICAN Case Manager helps each student with an individual learning plan focussed on their goals. Apart from accredited classes to assist them to complete their schooling these young mothers also received tailored lessons around parenting skills, such as budget management, nutrition and resume writing. Importantly, case managers assist their students to stay on course with their education, helping them to deal with challenges so that they are not distracted from their studies.

It is important to stress that each ICAN can differ so that it can be a better fit for local and individual needs, cultures and circumstances. However, personal case management sits at the heart of the ICAN approach. Outcomes are closely monitored and program evaluation occurs regularly.

So what are the outcomes? Between 2004 and 2010 more than 9,000 teenage students were involved in ICAN, with the program achieving more than a 70% success rate. This means that more than 6,000 students, who would have otherwise left school, are learning and earning. By 2010, South Australia recorded a school retention rate of 84.2% - an increase from a low of 67.2% in 1999.

Another policy initiative that has proven very effective is the Premier’s Reading Challenge, which borrowed ideas from similar literacy initiatives around Australia and from the United States. In South Australia, our Reading Challenge has been embraced by more than 95% of our public, private and religious schools. I am told it has the highest participation of any reading initiative in the world. The Challenge involves students from the age of five until 14 reading a minimum of 12 books (but often many more) upon which they are tested for comprehension. If they successfully complete the program each student receives a signed certificate from the Premier in the first year, a bronze medal in the second year, then silver, then gold followed by "Legend" and "Hall of Fame" etc. Top sports stars, celebrities and children's authors go out to schools as Premier's Reading Challenge Ambassadors to promote the program and read to the students.

There is no doubt that the medals presented in end of year ceremonies in the schools plus the Ambassadors have played a major role in the success and extraordinary popularity of the Reading Challenge. At first the younger children love the idea of the medals but then they fall in love with the books! Because of our concerns about childhood obesity we established a similar program, the Premier's Be Active Challenge, to encourage fitness and have banned junk food from school canteens.

This Blog was published on the Center for National Policy website.

Mike Rann is Fellow for Democracy and Development with the Center for National Policy, Washington, D.C.

What States Can Do – Part II: Social Innovation - Reducing homelessness

 

10 years ago, as a brand new government, we wanted to take a fresh look at how we could better tackle our most difficult social problems such as a mental health crisis; low retention rates in too many schools and gang related youth crime. We were concerned traditional ways of dealing with these problems weren't working as well as they should. We were frustrated that government agencies tended to operate in silos and too often dealt with complex, inter-related social issues separately; treating the symptoms not the causes. Our first priority was to tackle homelessness. Homelessness is not just a problem about a lack of affordable housing. It is much more about alcoholism, drug dependency; mental illness; unemployment, a lack of skills and self esteem and sometimes criminal behaviour. So, Monsignor David Cappo (www.david-cappo.com), a renowned social justice advocate, was appointed to head our pioneering Social Inclusion Initiative.

I asked him to look around the world for ‘ideas that work' and some of his best came from the United States.

We wanted him to confront the hardest end of homelessness, those ‘sleeping rough' in city parks, under bridges or dependent upon shelters for support. We found that government agencies and charities, while working hard to support homeless people, were too often operating in isolation. I am not diminishing their valuable work in providing food, shelter and care. But we wanted to take the next step by helping homeless people find a home and also move into a productive and fulfilling life.

Cappo proposed a series of programs including our Street to Home initiative, based on the successful New York model. It actively seeks out homeless people and connects them with the range of services they need to achieve a sustainable housing outcome. While finding a home is the main goal, addressing issues such as physical and mental health, substance abuse and other barriers to housing are equally important.

Street to Home workers engage with homeless people wherever they are – such as in a park or on the streets. Once contact is made, the person is assessed across different areas of their life. A Street to Home ‘key worker' will then work with them on a one-to-one basis for the duration of their support. They will work assertively with the person and not let go of them until sustainable housing is achieved. A comprehensive plan based on the person's goals is developed – in their own words. Street to Home makes finding housing the foremost priority so that services and supports can be delivered to the person in the one place.

Street to Home advocates on behalf of the client and coordinates with other services and resources. This way, everyone is on the same page and the person doesn't have to keep repeating their story to different agencies. Priority is also given to developing the person's capacities, such as financial management and domestic skills, to help ensure their housing is given the greatest chance of being long-term. Once housed, Street to Home maintains regular contact to assist with matters as they arise.

Now adopted around Australia, Street to Home is playing a significant role in Social Inclusion's efforts to reduce homelessness by 50% in the Adelaide CBD.

New York was also the inspiration for Common Ground with inner city apartments especially designed for homeless people who now live in a small ‘community' with other low income people including artists. They are supported by a range of specialist services on site to assist them to re-integrate into society. Common Ground was an initiative that followed the work in New York, of social entrepreneur Rosanne Haggerty. Like Street to Home, Common Ground has proven so successful that it has ‘gone national' attracting support from business and governments. The concept is to bring together a mix of people on low incomes into high quality residential complexes comprising well furnished, self contained apartments, communal areas plus office space for a range of support services and workshops. Common Ground's embrace of life skills to foster greater independence; the arts to build confidence; further education and training as a pathway to employment, has contributed to its success.

Last year I met a young woman, a long term resident of Common Ground, whose life from the age of 13 had been damaged by alcohol, drugs, couch surfing, homelessness, years of domestic violence and serious drug addiction. She nearly died of an accidental overdose in 2003. She is now clean of drugs, has completed a behavioural science degree and a second degree in biochemistry with a 1st class place, winning the Dean's commendation and the University Medal for academic excellence. She now has a scholarship and is completing a PhD with plans to do a medical degree as well. She wants to help others.

"I'm just one success story at Common Ground – there are many others. We have gifted musicians, artists and writers; People studying and working in all types of areas; People rebuilding their families. People with chronic health problems who are now getting the help they need. Some came to Common Ground very broken and mentally unwell. They found a safe, stable place to rebuild themselves, to heal.

Common Ground is more than just a roof over our heads – it's about believing that each person has something unique to offer if they are given the chance to stop just surviving and start growing. It's a place where people are not judged by their past, but supported into their future. Common Ground allows people to realise their potential, then pass their story, their success…onto others – like I am here today."

Hospitals are also playing a role in tackling homelessness.

For years homeless people, when they became ill, were taken to emergency departments. They were treated and discharged, usually back into homelessness. They would then get sick or injured again, treated and then discharged once more back on to the streets. This approach perpetuated the problem at high cost to the individual and taxpayers alike. So in 2004, we set up the Community Liaison Team (CLT) aimed at ‘joining up' health services with housing, mental health, drug and alcohol services. This approach is now embedded in the operations of the emergency departments of two of Adelaide's biggest public hospitals.

The CLT's first task is to identify homeless people -or those at risk of homelessness-who are admitted to hospital. If the person is assessed as needing accommodation upon their discharge, CLT staff will work closely with them to develop a case plan. This involves finding accommodation but also addresses physical and mental issues, substance misuse, family support and the person's financial and legal situation.

In devising and executing the plan the CLT joins up with other services and advocates on behalf of the client to achieve a smoother transition into accommodation. The CLT also provides outreach services. This may include attending appointments with the client, assisting their search for accommodation and following up with the client once they are in their new home. The team helps develop coping skills, including budgeting, meal planning and preparation, and relocation from temporary accommodation such as a 'transition bed' in a boarding house, to their new home. CLT engagement with a client is usually short term (a maximum of three months) during which a lead agency responsible for ongoing case management is then identified.

Between 2004 and June 2010, 1,132 people entering emergency departments were assisted into accommodation. A further 724 people at risk were assisted to prevent them falling into homelessness. Many of the people helped would have otherwise been discharged back into rough sleeping where their health and well being would have further deteriorated. This means that not only has the CLT helped to significantly reduce homelessness but it has also reduced the amount of repeat emergency department admissions by individuals who use the service.

This Blog was published on the Center for National Policy website.

Mike Rann is Fellow for Democracy and Development with the Center for National Policy, Washington, D.C.

 

Hard Labor

Winning elections is hard labour. I know what it’s like to go through an election knowing that a massive defeat was almost predetermined. In December 1993, following the State Bank disaster, the SA Labor Government suffered the most crushing defeat with only 10 members left in a 47 member House of Assembly. We were known as the Kombi van Opposition. The commentators predicted we'd be out of office for a generation. When I became Labor Leader the following year, the commentariat claimed I'd be only an interim leader with one saying the next SA Premier was probably not even in parliament, and maybe hadn't been born yet! By the time of the next election, in 1997, Dean Brown was gone and the Liberal Government suffered a 9.4% swing; Labor more than doubled its numbers and John Olsen was left to lead a fractious minority government. Within another 4 years he was gone and Labor was back in power and then re-elected twice.

Anna Bligh was a good Premier. She was a forceful advocate for Queensland and her leadership during last year’s floods won national admiration. Anna was at first an ‘appointed Premier’ like John Brumby in Victoria and Alan Carpenter in WA. All three followed long and successful runs by Premiers who led Labor from Opposition into Government. But unlike John Brumby and Alan Carpenter (and others before like Barry Unsworth, Joan Kirner and Carmen Lawrence) Anna Bligh won re-election, in her case for an extraordinary fifth term for Queensland Labor. She also became Australia’s first elected female Premier. It amazed me on Sunday that a TV panel show featuring political reporters didn’t once mention that Queensland Labor was seeking an astonishing sixth term in office. Such was the jowel-shaking profundity of their analysis. With Labor dominating State and Territory politics for so long, it is inevitably now proving more difficult, but certainly not impossible to win elections. Since 2008, we have seen Labor lose in WA; forced into minority government in the Northern Territory and ACT; a 2009 win in Queensland; minority status both for the Feds and Tasmania in 2010; a surprise loss in Victoria later that year; a big loss in NSW in 2011 and a now a catastrophic defeat in Queensland. However, against this backdrop, South Australian Labor in 2010 won a third term with the net loss of only 2 seats from a record 2006 landslide victory. It was also a record majority for a third term Labor government in SA history. I am therefore bemused by commentary drawing analogies between what happened in Queensland on Saturday and the political situation here.

Whilst it is important for political parties to study and learn from every election win and defeat (as I have done, and this year is the 40th anniversary of my working on campaigns). Isobel Redmond would be unwise to count her chickens. What happens in one state in a particular election is seldom, if ever, directly transferable to another. SA Labor is not dead in the water now nor has it been, as polls have shown since mid-2011. It also doesn’t make sense to suggest that Labor here faced a Queensland like defeat in 2014 under my leadership when my Ministerial colleagues and the party’s factional bosses knew I was going to step aside in March 2012 to give my successor two clear years to win a fourth term for Labor in 2014, which I am confident will occur.

Mike Rann is Professorial Fellow in Social and Policy Studies at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

This Blog was published in the Flinders University blog on the Indaily website.