All posts by Marie Rowland

Health Support and Outreach Programs

There is a growing drug problem on the Northern Beaches. Frontline medical workers and police are increasingly overstretched by the rise in drug arrests and drug related crime over the last few years.

Current preventative and treatment programs are demonstrably ineffective – a good example is the 80% relapse rate for people who attend drug rehabilitation programs. Apart from the personal tragedy that is involved with ruined lives and futures, the financial and social consequences of drug and alcohol addiction are enormous.

We need better support and community outreach programmes for the victims of drug and alcohol abuse, and we need to recognise that these victims include the users themselves. We can no longer afford to treat substance abuse as a purely criminal matter, and nor can we consider the need to help affected people as a burden on the state. We need to see addiction and abuse prevention and treatment as an investment in our future. Every person we fail to save represents the loss of a potentially productive member of our society, as well as a devastating loss to a single network of family and friends.

Australia should be a world leader in mental health care and it is lamentable that we are not. We must therefore look across the seas to Scandinavia, Canada and Portugal, where deeply compassionate, empathic, but most importantly, effective programmes have successfully re-integrated some of their most disaffected citizens back into the community.

There is also an urgent need to address the epidemic of suicide. I think we need a broader and more intelligent approach, looking not just at crisis intervention and prevention, but also developing an understanding of the myriad causes and factors involved. The cost in precious Australian lives is simply unacceptable from a moral, emotional and pragmatic point of view.

Former ACCC chairman and mental health advocate Allan Fels has stated that mental health is an “economic issue,” and that there is a direct relationship between the efficacy of mental health care and GDP. Mental health is one of those rare opportunities to simultaneously address needs that are moral, emotional and pragmatic – an opportunity that I believe we can do a better job of taking up.

The Environment & Sustainable Living

Maintaining and sustaining the beauty and richness found in nature on the Northern Beaches is very important to the people of Warringah. Similarly, looking at viable, environmentally sensitive and cost-effective ways of generating power is undeniably a priority.

We reject the positions of extremists on both sides of the political debate surrounding environmental protection and climate change. Whether or not people believe in anthropogenic climate change (and I do), there are no good reasons for resisting changes that give us cleaner air and water, that help to diversify and therefore secure our energy future and that protect our precious natural heritage from exploitation and destruction. I believe that the ideology on one side unnecessarily alarms and intimidates business and industry, and that the ideological position on the other side hamstrings efforts to safeguard our future.

It’s worth noting that a significant part of Warringah is coastal. This means that safeguarding our environment is vital in terms of protecting the coastal population, and also the infrastructure that connects parts of our community to the rest of Sydney, the nation and the world.

As for energy – once again it really doesn’t matter how people feel about fossil fuels, the fact of the matter is that they’re a finite resource and that their excessive use damages our environment. Regardless of innovations in extraction, there is no getting away from the fact that at some point we are going to run out of coal and oil. To stubbornly persist in an almost total dependence on these resources while simultaneously failing to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy strikes me as being questionably sane.

We believe in a common-sense, practical doctrine of sustainable use, balancing the need to live in and use our environment with our moral duty to pass on to our children a world that is not only fit for habitation, but at least as pleasant to live in as the one that exists now.

The Politics of Disruption

One of the big buzz words in business and innovation in the past few years has been ‘disruption’. In recent times, any and every invention, new business model or new technology has at some point attracted the disruption label, often without any real understanding of what the concept actually means.

That aside, the theory of disruption is a still a worthy one, and the thinking behind it has been vindicated again and again in recent times. There is one key element of disruption theory that I think is especially relevant to the current state of Australian politics, and it has to do with over specialisation.

Basically what happens is that a long running business follows what the theory calls a ‘sustaining arc’. What this means is that, over time, the business evolves to service its most influential, powerful or profitable consumers. A good case in point is the smart phone. Initially a disruptive innovation, smart phone providers have evolved to service the business and large enterprise market. Because of this, we now have a situation where it is normal for individual consumers to purchase a $1200, fully networked, multi-platform, multi-frequency communications device when what they really want is to make and take calls and post pictures of meals and cats to Instagram. In reality, the average requirements of an individual user can be achieved with a generic unit costing around $200.

In the case of politics, I believe that a similar ‘sustaining arc’ has been followed. The major political parties and the institution of government in general have evolved to primarily service the needs of its most influential, powerful and, unfortunately, profitable ‘consumers’. This means that a politician from a major party naturally has a list of priorities that goes something like this:

  1. The party executive
  2. Major donors
  3. Powerful lobbying or commercial interest groups
  4. The ordinary people of Australia

It would be both unhelpful and inaccurate to imply that any of this has anything to do with corruption. The simple fact is that this is a natural evolution brought about by the nature of the political system as it stands today. The fact that it’s natural and understandable, however, does not mean that it’s acceptable. It cannot be considered acceptable that the government of a democratic nation is pursued with little or no reference to the ordinary people who live in it.

Fortunately, the very fact that this is a democratic nation means that something can be done about it. I want to do that something. In theory, anybody can step up and have a say in how this country is run, and it is this proposition that I intend to test to its fullest limits. It must surely be possible for an ordinary citizen to stand up and do their part to re-write the narrative of Australian politics so that the people of Australia are once again a major character in it. It must surely be possible to disrupt the current sustaining arc of government and, at least in one electorate, create a model that prioritises the voters that, at the end of the day, are the primary source of any mandate to govern.

Lets find out, shall we?