18/01/2016 - 05:40

Joe Pop calls time after 15 years

18/01/2016 - 05:40

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It’s the end of an era at Business News, with long-running columnist Joseph Poprzeczny calling time on his well-read column, State Scene.

Joseph Poprzeczny has decided to retire from our opinion pages after more than 15 years of almost unbroken service as a weekly opinion maker.

It’s the end of an era at Business News, with long-running columnist Joseph Poprzeczny calling time on his well-read column, State Scene.

This newspaper’s longest-running columnist, Joseph Poprzeczny, has decided to retire from our opinion pages after more than 15 years of almost unbroken service as a weekly opinion maker.

Prior to joining Business News, Joe Pop, as he is widely known, was a political staffer, journalist and researcher, best known to many Western Australians for his time as a reporter with News Corporation.

Poprzeczny was an ad hoc contributor to Business News during the 1990s and started his regular column, State Scene, in September 2000, when the newspaper shifted to become a weekly after seven years as a fortnightly publication.

His decision to leave Business News neatly bookends the newspaper’s return to a fortnightly cycle from this edition forward.

State Scene’s first column was a particularly prescient start. Headlined ‘Geoff can gallop to a win’, it was one of the first opinion pieces at the time to openly speculate about Labor taking power under Geoff Gallop at the (then) forthcoming state election.

“Can he do it?” asked Poprzeczny.

“The answer is obviously yes.

“After all, Victoria’s once popular and much praised Jeff Kennett became a feather duster when few thought it would happen.

“This year’s May-June Morgan Poll had Labor registering an enormous 15-percentage point lead; 57.5 per cent to just 42.5 per cent to the conservatives.

“Even if this was halved, to say just 7.5 per cent and the swing was uniform across the state, 15 Liberals could expect to go, four more than needed to form government.

“Ignoring the two special cases of Carine and Alfred Cove (which previously had disaffected ex-Liberals standing against sitting MPs), the crucial 11th Liberal seat on the WA Electoral Commission’s swing pendulum is Riverton, which is held by a narrow 6.7 per cent margin, so well below 8 per cent.

“The outcome of the coming election, whether in December, February or March, is, at this stage, wide open, despite the huge seat disparity facing Labor.”

For those who need to be reminded, Dr Gallop won the February 2001 election and was the state’s premier for five years, winning a second term before resigning suddenly to deal with mental health issues.

Oddly enough, public conjecture suggests that one of the biggest problems that may have exacerbated Dr Gallop’s symptoms was the influence of a clique of lobbyists, most notably Brian Burke and Julian Grill, over key ministers and senior bureaucrats in his government. Lobbying, specifically rules to make it transparent, was a major theme in Poprzeczny’s columns prior to Dr Gallop’s resignation.

His May 2002 column ‘Accountability worth lobbying for’ outlined the reasons and process for containing a problem that was escalating to a previously unseen level. He suggested regular full disclosure of lobbying activity.

“If we had it, then Julian Grill and Brian Burke and all that (subsequent) clandestine monitoring, which is unhealthy in my view, none of that would have happened,” Poprzeczny said regarding his views on disclosure.

And he derides the current lobbyists’ register as inadequate.

“The register is a free advertisement paid for by the taxpayer,” he told Business News this year.

Other themes featured regularly in State Scene included: greater democracy through Swiss-style citizen-initiated referendums; climate change politics; opposition to centralist policies; and the rising threat of a hegemonic China
State Scene should also be credited as the first to analyse claims that the Rudd federal Labor government’s proposed Resource Super Profits Tax was a form a nationalisation.

Writing in mid-May 2010, just weeks after the controversial tax was launched, Poprzeczny found a previous document by (then) Treasury secretary Ken Henry, which “ … explains that the government-proposed RSPT is the equivalent of a so-called Brown tax, or pure rent tax, in which ‘the government is, effectively, a silent partner’.”

While writing State Scene, Poprzeczny authored many other works, including a book published called Odilo Globocnik, Hitler’s Man in the East, a historical work documenting the black deeds of an Austrian who oversaw concentration camps and ethnic cleansing operations in Nazi-controlled eastern Europe.

He is currently writing a biography on James William Sullivan (1848-1938), who introduced the citizen-initiated referendum concept to the US, a system that Poprzeczny said operates in 25 US states and many of its municipalities.


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