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A simpler time

Recently the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, visited Sydney for meetings with the Australian Government. Ardern is the leader of the NZ Labour Party who managed a ‘come from behind’ victory in their 2017 national election. While Ardern was here she commented that she would ‘struggle if she was operating in the Australian political environment’.

The comment was made the same week as Senator Michaela Cash made a threat in Senate Estimates to name and shame female staff in Opposition Leader Shorten’s office. This was in retaliation for questioning in Senate Estimates over Cash’s staff ‘tipping off’ the media a few hours prior to some Union offices being raided by the Australian Federal Police last year.

Cash’s spray (and that’s probably a nicer description than it deserves) can be seen on a number of news sites and at the time of writing was available from this ABC News story. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must have been really impressed. He was just getting on top of the fallout around the demise of former National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce, which might have given him a chance to actually focus discussions in the media on his agenda, rather than the failures of his Ministers.

Joyce’s demise was due entirely to his own actions. Publicly he was speaking in support of the ‘sanctity’ of traditional marriage while conducting an affair with a media adviser who at one point worked for him. There has also been a (leaked) claim of inappropriate behaviour towards a female party member in Western Australia. Given Joyce’s current partner’s professional work experience, they should have had an inkling that at some point the whole affair would become public knowledge and some estimate made of the media storm that would erupt. However Joyce’s wife and daughters didn’t (and still don’t) deserve the publicity their errant husband and father ensured they would endure. To add insult to the injury are the payment of wages from National Party funds while Joyce was campaigning for re-election, claims of spending nights in Canberra when Parliament was not sitting for no obvious reason and the free accommodation ‘deal’ Joyce and ‘his mate’ organised in Armidale for his changed domestic circumstances.

Like Joyce, Cash demonstrated her belief in the ends (mounting a vindictive attack on her political rivals) justifying the means. Cash’s recent outburst in Senate Estimates impugned the reputation of a number of people who don’t have the ability to respond to the accusations. Shorten’s staff are not all required to undergo public scrutiny as part of their job description and nor should they be. So Cash, who was the Minister for Women in one version of the Abbott/Turnbull Cabinet, seems to be seeking retribution for some real or imagined past political insult. To do so using generalised claims about the female members of staff of a political rival is beneath contempt. Traipsing the corridors of Parliament House the next day behind a whiteboard on wheels may have demonstrated her shame but more probably was an attempt to remove the ability of reporters to ask questions.

You know you’ve lost respect when stridently non-political organisations such as the Country Women’s Association call for more respect to female political staff. And for the record, Senator Carr’s description of Senator Paterson as being a member of the ‘Hitler Youth’ the same day was no better that Senator Cash’s outburst, albeit without involving third parties who cannot defend themselves.

It seems our politicians have no hesitation in playing the (wo)man rather than the ball. Politics is supposed to be a debate of ideas for the benefit of the society at large, not dragging your opponents down to the grubby depths where you have clearly placed yourself and beating them with experience.

Surely we don’t need more soap operas on television. You would like to think that programs like 7.30 and 60 Minutes can report current affairs without using the word ‘affair’ literally: as in who is alleged to be sleeping with whom or who is namedropping presumably innocent third parties to seek retribution on a political enemy. Seriously, that sort of ‘reporting’ belongs on My Kitchen Rules, Married at First Sight, The Batchelor or any one of the number of other ‘reality’ television shows that networks inflict on the Australian population.

Even New Zealand PM Ardern has been the subject of the Australian political/media system that prefers to report on tattle rather than issues and policy. A reporter from the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes, Charles Woolley, asked her fairly intimate questions about her current pregnancy, including speculating on the time of conception in an interview broadcast the week of her visit to Sydney.

Let’s face it, Ardern is not the first woman in a position of power to announce a pregnancy. In typical Australian political style, Woolley didn’t discuss Ardern’s policies or achievements, rather

his first question to the prime minister was asking of her thoughts about whether her baby will boost her approval ratings.

“Wooley is so incredibly and relentlessly creepy,” NZ Herald columnist Steve Braunias wrote in response to the interview.

“It ought to come with an R18 certificate. It ought to come with a sickbag too. Only those of strong constitution will be able stop themselves throwing up a stream of vomit that could travel the entire ditch between here and Australia,” he wrote in an opinion piece on Monday.

It seems on the other side of the Tasman that the policy, ideas and achievements of politicians are more important than the cheap ‘gotcha’ or collection of irrelevant personal detail that seems to be the norm in Australia.

It would be easy to assume that Ardern’s observations on the ‘Australian political environment’ reflects some concern over the vindictive, vicious and deeply personal style of politics played in Canberra and to a lesser extent the states and some local authorities around Australia.

It’s not like there is nothing in the way of policy to discuss.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has taken a proposal for $65 billion of tax cuts for companies to the Senate. It failed to pass as the ALP and most of the cross-bench Senators voted against it. The Coalition’s argument is that business tax cuts will enable business to fund wage rises for staff, who will in turn spend more money and help prop up the retail economy — AKA trickle-down economics.

There have been millions of litres of printing ink and just as many electrons expended to point out the pros and cons of trickle-down economics. Different groups of business leaders also have differing opinions on the ‘need’ or ‘economic benefit’ of tax cuts for business so the ‘science’ is far from settled.

There has been little discussion from the Coalition Government in rebutting the case that trickle-down economics might have worked at one point in history — in the days before the leaders of companies were rated and paid on the basis of returns to shareholders — but not now. And rolling Alan Joyce from Qantas out to spruik the benefit from a lower tax rate was certainly not helpful when it was revealed that Qantas (legally) has not paid corporate tax for almost a decade.

In the first Abbott Cabinet, Turnbull was the Communications Minister and responsible for the Coalition’s version of the NBN. The ALP version of the NBN was to have connected the majority of Australians to a digital fibre communications system that would have been world class. Abbott and Turnbull campaigned that the cost of installing the fibre-optic cable into pretty well every house in Australia was too much (again opinions vary) and changed the program in mid-stream to a ‘multi-technology mix’ (or MTM) where depending on where you live you would get fibre optic cable, repurposed 1990’s era cable TV infrastructure known as hybrid fibre coax (HFC) or connected to a node with around 500 of your closest friends and neighbours by potentially even older copper cable.

In a lot of cases, the copper cable was failing prior to the NBN and the decision was taken by the infrastructure owner, Telstra, that as the fibre optic NBN was coming, it wasn’t justified economically to replace the copper. Now, after being required to purchase the two cable TV network infrastructure systems (previously owned by Telstra and Optus), NBN has determined that the ex-Optus cable is unusable and has halted the rollout of the ex-Telstra HFC network while technical issues are addressed.

Alternately, how about we discuss the need for mitigation of climate change through programs that financially disadvantage the polluters, promote alternative energy and transport options and funding renewable energy proposals. All the Coalition Government can do is to suggest that a new coal fired power station is a requirement for ‘energy security’ rather than better communication and coordination. We had a good look at the claims and counter claims on the future of energy in Australia a few months ago here.

Or we could discuss the morality of keeping refugees in mouldy tents on Nauru for years, the reduction (in real terms) of Medicare funding, the real need for Dutton’s ‘Home Affairs’ super department which was subject to a number of unfavourable comments by moderate fellow LNP member and recently retired Senator Brandis. There are plenty of other real issues that deserve discussion and policy development if those don’t rock your boat. Leave us a comment below the line if you like.

Makes you yearn for the simpler times of Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke (and apparently in 21st Century New Zealand) doesn’t it? There is a big difference between what would be a typical current era Minister’s comment to the media ‘Mr Jones is a fool because he believes in re-writing the tax law’ and the Fraser and Hawke era ‘Mr Jones policy to rewrite the tax law Is foolish because it won’t address the current problem’.

Hawke and Fraser certainly were not perfect people and depending on your point of view they were right or wrong on many issues, but they were less remote from society. They seemed to attempt in their own ways to connect with the society they lived in and most of the time, they discussed policy differences rather than personalising the differences. Regardless, they did their jobs without the intense hatred displayed to anyone with a divergent opinion by an increasing number of hardheads and graduates inhabiting the halls of power today who have never had a job outside politics.

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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22 comments

  1. Jaquix

    Jacinda Ardern probably went back to NZ shaking her head at the Australian political scene. Smart cookie, she got it straight away. Big difference is NZ has never had the Murdoch malignancy to contend with. As for Australia, well, what a disgrace this govt is. Batman byelection not edifying, the Greens in particular behaving badly IMO. Libs must be laughing, if theyre bothering to look.
    Good news that NSW state is 50-50 so Labor gaining ground there. And SA polls say Jan Weatherill will be returned. Tassie voters dudded big time.

  2. Terry2

    On corporate tax cuts, the government seem to have decided that it is just too hard to make a viable argument to convince the electorate that these cuts make sense. Here are some of the observations made about these cuts by other informed sources :

    The proposed cuts have to be paid for and right now it appears that they will be funded not by jobs and growth but by bracket creep and spending cuts;

    modelling indicates the cuts will increase employment by 0.1%, wages growth by 0.1%, GDP growth by 0.05% all in 20 years time ;

    economists and tax experts indicate doubts as to the size and timing of any wage gains; doubt about any long term positive impacts for the domestic economy, given our system of franking credits; trying to compare our tax system, particularly when focusing only on the headline company tax rate, is like trying to compare apples with oranges;

    It is noticeable that all this talk about creating jobs fails to mention that the states currently collect payroll taxes which have to be the most regressive tax in the system : so why not have the federal government give monetary incentives to the states to axe their payroll taxes. Surely that’s a better way to create pathways to new employment ?

    It’s an economic fact that, if you want to stimulate growth in the economy, you need people spending money on goods and services : so, give the tax cuts to wage and salary earners !

    15 of the largest businesses, which stand to receive around one-third of the benefit of the tax cut, operate within oligopolies which are less inclined to invest in expanding job opportunities and market expansion and more likely to invest in maintaining barriers to entry and market power;

    on measures such as average and effective tax rates and when aspects such as dividend imputation and differing allowances are taken into account, international comparisons show Australia tends to sit in the middle of the pack or at the lower end (more competitive) of company tax regimes;

    more than 700 of the largest companies in Australia paid absolutely no company tax last year, around half that number haven’t paid company tax for several years, and some haven’t paid company tax for over 10 years;

    increasing corporate profits [via company tax cuts] will not lead to an increase in investment or employment or wages if aggregate demand continues to remain weak; and

    the proposed tax cut will essentially give a “windfall” gain to foreign investors and a corresponding “windfall” loss to domestic investors.

    This policy really needs an awful lot of discussion and scrutiny but for some reason the government want to ram it through the senate without making the case for the cuts.

  3. Roswell

    Is it just me, or do you think she’d make a better PM than Turnbull?

  4. Freethinker

    Roswell, Eva, my Golden Retriever will do a better job than Malcolm, in any case I like more her barking than many in the parliament.

  5. Roswell

    Freethinker, she has my vote. Eva for PM. 😀

  6. Joseph Carli

    I was starting to wonder on who wrote this non-committal piece as it started to develop that mild scent of carbolic soap about it…a kind of disinfectant opinion where there is hardly an opinion at all..Then I saw the give away ending.. : “What do you think?” ..that Pontius Pilate soft-soap washing of the hands to remove any stain of one’s personal emotional bias.

    I am not so un-biased!

    I think we are moving into an era where all things grey are fast becoming black or white..you choose…and there is not going to be a sit-on-the-fence-whittling moment…you will have to choose.. The extreme behaviour grumbled about above by the right-wing political players is just a warming up of where they will have to go to next…For I believe and I am prompted to this by their actions to believe that they will have no choice but to become more reactionary in the next year or so..perhaps before.

    Dutton’s delinquency with the now politicised policing arm of Border Force, Turnbull’s continual inept fumbling of management, there being really NO Foreign Affairs desk nor minister worth mentioning and the relevant ministers for Treasury, Defence procurement, Workplace Relations, Communications, Agriculture and a host of other major and minor departments demonstrate all the symptoms of leaderless amateurs fumbling around in the dark..coupled with an obvious stench of corruption and laissez faire attitude that is being totally covered up by the also corrupt MSM. and we have a recipe for disaster that can only be averted by some dramatic domestic event..and I’m buggered if I know what that will be, but by jayses!…it’ll have to be a big one!

    But thankfully, judging on this govt’s past performance, they’ll bugger that one up too!

  7. Matters Not

    Seems like that anything approaching a Socratic discussion is not for everyone.

  8. Joseph Carli

    Wasn’t that fond of Socrates…Must one be?

  9. Freethinker

    I think Joe that he was spot on with this: “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature” .

  10. Christopher

    I am a curious man and that is why I am here, trying to make sense of the world and trying to influence change for the better, albeit I have a very small voice.

    Like Joe, I think something big needs to happen before people are garnered into action. I just hope its not WWIII – none of us will survive that.

    And while we debate this and that, our world is about to die while we watch on, helpless. We make predictions about population and other stuff to 2050 and 2100. I don’t think many of us will be around in 10 years. That is how dire things are from what I read.

  11. diannaart

    Well said Matters Not.

    I do believe “my way or the highway” method of ‘discussion’ has had its day – if it ever really achieved anything apart from reinforcing the status quo.

    As well as the thoughtful and considered article from 2353NM, Terry2 makes an excellent point in the closing sentence:

    This policy (tax cuts for corporates) really needs an awful lot of discussion and scrutiny but for some reason the government want to ram it through the senate without making the case for the cuts.

    For far too long policy is either “rammed through” or passed under stealth. Seems actual talking about issues, based on facts rather than rhetoric is an endangered species, from federal politics through to grass-roots level discourse.

  12. Joseph Carli

    The middle-class notion of idle discussion on a existing topic or problem is a kind of false democracy..ie; it is creating the false belief that “open discussion” will be the way to a solution, where, in truth, the solution is governed by the already created problem..Like the treatment of an injury..the problem is created, the solution is pretty obvious..be it a burn, cut or break…sure..you can talk it over, but in reality the solution is inevitable..as it is with political problems..many mistakes are made through deliberate obfuscation and / or misleading information being put out in the public arena so that the middle-class can talk the situation into oblivion and the already decided “solution” is implemented by that vested-interested party.

    As against the already pre-determined solution by those of more “pushy” or “certain” of their choices..I remember being told by this Greek migrant who lived through the civil wars there, that in the remote village he lived, you could see a group of armed men coming up the trail toward the village and you had to ascertain VERY QUICKLY if they were communist rebels or armed militias of “The Colonels” because a wrong “salute” could cost you and your family their lives…

    Thankfully, here, we have the luxury . . .not to mention the protagonists..

  13. Matters Not

    Re:

    Wasn’t that fond of Socrates…Must one be?

    Re Must one be ?. That a discussion **discussion is now invited exposes the irony of it all.

  14. Joseph Carli

    Rhetoric Q’, MN…not maieutics…just rhetorical..

  15. Glenn Barry

    Can we have Jacinda as PM and Eva as deputy because although I’m a sucker for a pupper doggo the average Golden Retriever is just too much of a fun time proposition for a full time position of responsibility

  16. johno

    Chris.. who says we won’t survive. I’m just putting the finishing touches on our brand new ACME DIY underground bunker. It even comes with the home sweet home platitude and the optional welcome mat. All a mere $99,999.99.

  17. helvityni

    …. sorry Jacinda and Eva, the International Women’s Day has been celebrated, we have had our discussions, our talking about women and their lot…what’s the next the INTERNATIONL DAY going to be about…?

    Immigration? Most likely Dutton is going to fix the problem without too much talking…

  18. diannaart

    The adversarial system of politics we have here, in Britain and the USA tends to replace one authoritarian system with another, some more authoritarian than others but still the same old same old.

    We need to get off this roller coaster.

    We need intelligent, mature and consultative approaches to governance – I do believe the authors of the Uluru Statement would agree with me.

    Calling people “middle class” for wanting equitable discussion is deliberately and wantonly divisive and so very wrong.

  19. New England Cocky

    Michaelia Cash does a wonderful impersonation of a brothel madam …

  20. diannaart

    NEC

    Have asked you this before, how do you know what a brothel madam sounds like? The ones I know are charming, warm and astute saleswomen – none of which applies to Michaela Cash.

  21. Matters Not

    diannaart – same with me. Lots of brothel madams in Asia who are fronts for male owners but they would charm the pants of each and every punter – given half a chance. That’s what makes them successful. They deal in dreams. Ms Cash would be most unwelcome in any role – neither as a worker nor as a boss.

  22. Christopher

    Thank you Johno. Hope the sales go well.

    We’ve just had the biblical rain up my way and some of the supermarkets were cleared out in 24 hours.

    I often say to people how long do you reckon you’d last if the power went off, the water stopped flowing and the trucks stopped coming with the food? Two weeks tops for most of the people I know. Not sayin I’m prepared either, but thinking about making some plans to get off the grid and become more self sufficent…

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