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A Dying Breed: Young Voters and the LNP

The Liberal-National COALition has had, to put it lightly, a bad time in recent electoral contests. From the utter wipeout in Western Australia to the recent trouncings in both Victoria and nationwide, the conservative side of politics is not in a good way. Now, as one who thinks in terms of collective benefit rather than laser-focused self-interest and corporate cuckoldry, this is a good thing. But as one interested in the why, as well as the what, I think a deep-dive into this issue may be useful. As sources for this piece, I am using the extremely well-researched and resourced piece in The Monthly about the LNP’s troubles, among other pieces.

Dutton Misses the Mark: Style over (Lack of) Substance, Part One

During yet another attempt to use the media to rehabilitate his image, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton suggested that the LNP is suffering an ‘identity crisis’. Specifically, from The Monthly

He [Dutton] says the Liberal Party is suffering from an “identity crisis” because it has let itself be defined by its opponents including people like businessman Simon Holmes à Court and the teal candidates he backed at the election.

Identity crisis? The Party may not know what it is, but the people certainly formed their opinion. They saw exactly what the Coalition stood for and roundly rejected it. Also, given how much of the media the LNP has on its side, it takes a great deal of nerve to suggest that your opponents define you as a party. Perhaps it has something to do with the utterly vacuous, substance-free garbage that passes for your political actions. Policies that quite openly serve the wealthy: as a single example, consider the first homeowners’ grant, which did nothing but push up real estate prices, helping sellers, not buyers.

Dutton went on to say that

“We have to reassert who we are so that people see the value proposition and understand that.”

As previously stated, Sir, this will not help. People know who you and your party are. People already think you personally are a pr*ck who did little but stoke fear (African gangs, anyone?). This point is, like the previous one, also rendered hollow by the media serving as the propaganda arm of the LNP.

Pseudo-Socratic Method: Nine Media Weighs In

Another angle of Dutton’s proposed redefinition of the LNP was noted by Nine columnist Sean Kelly. Kelly, as some of you may know, is the author of the fascinating book The Game about Scott Morrison.

When discussing yet another profile published in The Age about Dutton, Kelly makes the following quite scathing comments

As the profile noted, the public perceptions are also the result of Dutton’s own actions.

When Morrison became leader, he was allowed to shrug off much of what he’d done before. It wasn’t, it seemed, really who he was. In the end, it turned out to be exactly who he was.

So it is important to ask: how many of Dutton’s previous actions does he now disavow? What actions has he taken – as opposed to interviews given and words spoken – to demonstrate he is different from who he’s always seemed to be? Or to put this another way: at a certain point, if you’ve seemed to be somebody for long enough, isn’t that who you really are?

The key point here is that actions speak louder than words. This explains the question about what Dutton has done (as opposed to repeated profiles in the media) to belie the idea that he is a callous bastard. The media has repeatedly attempted to humanise Dutton and say ‘there is more to him than what he did with power’. Precisely the opposite is true. You are what you do, particularly with power. If you have seemed to be a certain way, as Kelly notes, that is who you are. Unless, of course, you were playing a character, in which case how can we possibly trust you? Finally, on these profiles, the very fact that you have to keep doing them suggests that they are not breaking through. To put it crudely, stop trying to photograph the turd from the right angle to sell it.

What is the LNP’s Real Problem?

Peter Dutton would have us believe that the Liberal Party has an image problem. In fact, what the Liberal Party has is a reality problem. Voters, particularly younger voters, saw how the Liberals governed for the last ten years and they did not like it. Buck passing, brazen lying, media manipulation, bigotry and punishing anyone who had the nerve not to be rich. The rich will be the focus of the next section, but for the moment the real problem with the LNP is that people know exactly who and what they are, and no amount of media profiles (read propaganda pieces) is going to change their minds.

The Killing of The Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs

It used to be said that people became more conservative as they aged. This truism, as I have referenced elsewhere on this site, is not actually a function of age, at least not directly. The true basis for this ‘tory turn’ as we might call it, is that with age tends to come wealth. With wealth typically comes economic security and with that comes less need for change. I’m doing ok thank you very much, so nothing needs to change. In other words, to paraphrase Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992, it’s the wealth, stupid.

It is no small irony that, by obsessively servicing the big end of town (broadly defined as The Owners), the LNP coalition left behind future generations. LNP policies meant that those younger voters did not share in the prosperity, did not become financially secure and so, despite being in their late thirties to forties, still want change. They are not financially stable and so have not calcified into the typical tory voter.

This actually amuses me to no end: serves you right, you bastards. You were so determined to serve the wealthy that you could not see the forest for the trees. You were so obsessed with growing their (and your own) investment property portfolios that you could not see (or simply did not care) that you were creating what is now known as Generation Rent. It is no wonder these people will not vote for you: you utterly screwed them out of the so-called Australian Dream of owning your own home. Your policies around negative gearing, tax cuts for the wealthy, superannuation concessions and so on – these tongue-baths to the rich have created a generation (and beyond) of serfs with iPhones. That, Spud, is why they will not vote for you!

 

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Republicans Revive #Forcethevote

Background: Slim Majorities and Factional Power

One of the more interesting aspects of the recent midterm elections has come from the race for control of the House. Per the most recent results (which are constantly changing), it seems as though Republicans will take back control of the House. The wrinkle comes when we consider the majority they are likely to have: a single seat (+/- 4). When it comes to electing a Speaker, a majority is required. Current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is slated to become Speaker if the GOP takes over. Since the vote is likely to be partisan, a slim majority gives factions within the GOP majority great power. Where have we seen this before?

A Quick History of the Original #Forcethevote

You may recall a few years back that the Democrats had a slim majority in the House. This gave their factional groups, for instance the Squad, the chance to demand something for their vote. Specifically, activists for #medicareforall demanded that these Congresspeople withhold their vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker until she brought M4A to a vote on the floor. Whether due to pressure from colleagues, not wanting to rock the boat, or whatever BS reason they came up with, the Squad caved and Pelosi became Speaker. You had the chance to expose the corrupt duopoly for what it was and you blew it.

Not only did they not demand anything for their vote, but they also smeared those who then tried to hold them to account for their inaction (Jimmy Dore is a noted example). This showed their political ineptitude, yes, but I am more inclined to use the political science term Institutional Capture. This is where a new member of an institution starts out eager for reform, but is taken in and broken down by the institution. The Squad started out as quite ideological (AOC protested outside Nany Pelosi’s office) but the institution ultimately broke them down. If the recent example of the letter dealing with diplomacy in Ukraine is any example, the Squad has lost any political courage they ever had.

Old Band, New Members: The Freedom Caucus and #Forcethevote, Part One

A useful article from Fox News informs what follows. The article outlines the demands of the Freedom Caucus in this way

The Freedom Caucus is angling to include a provision within the House Rules package allowing for any member to offer at any time motion to vacate the speaker’s chair – a change it will push for assuming Republicans take control of the House.

A curious setup. Essentially, the Freedom Caucus is demanding that McCarthy, as the price for being made Speaker, ascent to a rule that could remove him from that position at any time. Talk about a crown of thorns. It is interesting that ‘any member’ [of the House] can originate such a motion. The question is how badly does McCarthy want to be Speaker? This brings to mind what happened during former Speaker John Boehner’s tenure: a similar group of hardliners held the Speaker’s position in their hands. They were ‘the power behind the throne’ and took full advantage. Boehner would eventually resign because he could not control his troops.

The Fox News article referenced above actually uses the magic phrase ‘force a vote’ in the next sentence

The parliamentary gambit would let hardline members force a vote on retaining the speaker

Interesting, is it not? The hardline members of the GOP potential majority are actually willing to force a vote on McCarthy as Speaker. Force a vote: where have I heard that before? Where have I heard the idea of withholding votes from a candidate for Speaker in exchange for policy/procedural concessions? I cannot place it.

Old Band, New Members; The Freedom Caucus and #Forcethevote, Part Two

There is a saying that power concedes nothing without a demand. These hardliners are likely to get what they want (at least in part), since career politicians obsessed with power will sell their souls to get it. The Freedom Caucus is many things, but politically unintelligent is not one of them. They know McCarthy values power over principles and are exploiting that. Why will the Squad not do the same?

Conclusion: The Lessons for The Squad

The concept that a subgroup of the GOP majority would essentially hold the would-be Speaker of the House hostage is hardly new. Hardline Republican Congresspeople have done this before. The Squad could learn a great deal from this: if you actually show the political spine to stick to your convictions, you can achieve great things. The so-called Progressives of the Democratic Party clearly lack the political spine to, as GOP Representative Andy Biggs called it ‘hold their own leadership accountable’.

In times of slim majorities, small subgroups within political parties can extract considerable concessions. The Freedom Caucus sees this. The so-called Progressives inside the Democratic Party are evidently too scared of getting offside with leadership (who already hold them in complete contempt anyway). Newsflash, you naive numpties: no amount of ‘playing ball’ is going to get you onside with the leadership. Giving them your vote does not earn you ‘brownie points’. They are, in their own minds, very much entitled to your vote. Your job, as far as they are concerned, is to fall in line and vote as Pelosi tells you. No independent thought, no protest, and certainly no colouring outside the lines. Get it through your thick skulls that they are never going to let you ‘in the club’.

Epilogue: Wearing the Inside Out

A question for the Squad: you are outsiders (indeed, you ran as outsiders) so why would you seek to get in the club? You were elected to be the brick through the establishment window, yet we find you doing little aside from useless showmanship (consider the recent letter around diplomacy in Ukraine). To be generous, I suppose it is not entirely your fault: Institutional Capture is a very real issue. But if the Republicans can, in Biggs’ words, hold their leadership to account (or at least threaten to do so – which is more than you did), I see no reason why you cannot do the same thing, Unless, of course, you are afraid.

This piece has probably come across as quite critical of the Squad, and there is some truth to this. The Republicans have set the example (here and in the past) of how to extract concessions from your leadership. The Progressives are either too politically cowardly, or they value their careers too much to rock the boat. It is fitting, I think, to end with a quote from AOC

The Republicans galvanize their base by inciting a lot of fear; they operate on a lot of mythmaking. So we have to have something compelling. We shouldn’t be afraid to be bold.

Indeed is all I have to say to that.

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Beyond the BS: What Political Terms Really Mean

I think it is time we defined what certain terms mean in our political discourse. I do not refer to the BS definitions, talking points and buzzwords politicians use. Rather, I refer to what these terms mean in practice. Some of this is going to come across as quite cynical, but observe enough human behaviour and this becomes difficult to avoid.

The Big Cahuna: ‘Democracy’

This gem, along with The Rule of Law, is the defining feature of the much-vaunted Western Civilisation, itself a meaningless phrase. We start with democracy. Originally meaning ‘people power’, this lifeless word has come to represent nothing but the established order. When political insiders say ‘we must protect our democracy’, they perhaps reveal more than they know. They think they mean everyone’s democracy, the voice of the people and all that crap. No. Rather, it refers to the entrenched interests who long ago bought government, police forces and courts.

The politicians naively think they are part of the club, but they are, as George Carlin said, put there to give voters the illusion they have a choice. The reality is, whether it is corporate interests or political parties, many choices have already been made by the people who matter long before a vote is cast. The holy vote is a mere rubber stamp on decisions already made by much more important people much further up the chain.

Democracy may be, as Churchill said, the worst form of government except for all the others, but it is, in fact, a sham. If you prefer Twain, he said if voting made a difference they would have outlawed it years ago. Amen.

The Second Pillar: ‘Rule of Law’

Now onto The Rule of Law, the other cornerstone of ‘civilisation’. This tends to mean that we are a society of laws, and not men. The idea being that everyone is held to the same standard. It is essentially an anti-tyranny mechanism. However, anyone who has observed the justice system anywhere in the ‘west’ over the decades knows this is a lie. The rich and powerful get away with their crimes while the peasants are punished severely. So little has changed in the last thousand years.

But I will go darker: in practice, the law is nothing but the tyranny of the majority, codified and backed by state force. If you do not believe me, slavery was once law, as was segregation and women as property. It is only when the entrenched interests can no longer withstand the pressure of those annoying underclass members agitating about whatever that the law changes. While it is true, as Roscoe Pound said, that the law must be stable but must never stand still, anyone wanting to be included in those groups that receive the protection of the law has to pressure the entrenched interests until their cries can no longer be ignored. This renders rights something that the established order yields to, rather than something which all people are granted.

This is not a call to abolish the legal system and institute anarchy. Rather, it is a request to remove The Rule of Law from its pedestal and remember what it really is: a set of rules humans made up to maintain [the established] order.

An Insidious Roadblock: ‘Viable’

Whenever an innovation or new idea comes along, one of the first questions asked is ‘is it viable?’. This term really means ‘profitable’, ie can some capitalist pig make money off this new idea. Now that is a civilised society: profitability as raison d’etre. Something can only be done if it generates profit. This was not always the case. Humans were not always so obsessed with profit. The 1980s have much to answer for here, specifically in the persons of Reagan and Thatcher. As Bill Maher said a few years ago, humans had always been greedy, but they never convinced themselves it was good.

There is a brazen hypocrisy from the capitalist class here too: they refuse to do something if it does not make money, yet government doing things is bad because reasons. They utterly ignore that the reason government exists is to be involved in those things that are not designed to make money. But that is a story for another day. The point for our purposes is that ‘viability’ – read profitability – is the ultimate roadblock to progress (along with political corruption).

Orwell Never Died: ‘Religious Freedom’

This issue made the rounds recently following the removal of bigot Andrew Thornburn from a role at the Essendon AFL club. Thornburn is a member of a proud (pardon the expression) anti-gay church (a member of the so-called ‘god hates f*gs’ crowd). Another example of this crap was the Israel Folou case. Religious freedom at face value means the right to practice your religion without interference.

Sounds good until you look at it in practice. What the phrase really means is the freedom of religious people to be bigoted, intolerant and hateful clowns with no consequences because religion. Somewhat ironic given their entire edifice is based on consequences for actions (which never happened, but they do not know that), but I digress. This is not to lump in your garden variety believers with the ‘politically religious’. It is actually a shame that these innocent people are tarred with the same brush as Thornburn and the rest of the Bigot Brigade.

Save the Best for Last: Woke

What would a cynic’s guide to political parlance be without an entry on the great cultural boondoggle of our time? This one is mostly a pejorative, and usually refers to a sort of cultural authoritarianism. Specifically, it tends to refer to a certain group who have decided, because they said so, that something is offensive. Conservative control of the media tends to skew this toward the ‘loony left’ being called ‘woke’. The so-called purple hair brigade of Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) being offended at the issue du jour. But the right is no angel here either: consider the recent debacle over Hancock Prospecting and sponsorship of the Australian Diamonds Netball team. You may recall the girls were labelled ‘entitled’ and ‘woke’ in the media for refusing the sponsorship deal.

The term ‘woke’ is actually, unlike so many other things in our society, non-partisan. A working definition might go something like this: using the idea of being offended to generate outrage and enact social and cultural control through fear of ostracism. Think of it as a sort of unspoken Social Credit System. This definition is intended to be as general as possible with limited partisan bent. This is an example of both sides actually doing it.

Conclusion: Dark Times Call for Dark Words

The ongoing propaganda we see daily from the media requires a scalpel to get through. Hopefully this piece has begun to sift through the endless foray of Newspeak that we see every day.

 

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Modernising The ‘Seven Deadly Sins’

The so-called Seven Deadly Sins are seven acts (or the associated emotions) that are said to bring about death. I hope to show here that, for all its medieval origins, the list still applies today, just with some refinement. The priesthood has also changed, from religion to monied interests (so not much really). I want to go through each of the ‘sins’ and touch briefly on how they are used to keep the lower orders in place. The modern version may not have the religious connotations the original did, but the purpose is very much the same: maintaining the status quo in money and power. So little has changed in the last thousand years.

The First Pair: Pride and Avarice

First, pride. This is usually understood as a heightened sense of self-importance, forgetting one’s limitations, or something similar. The Greek hubris is the basis for the term. It usually means disrespecting the gods and forgetting one’s place in the universe. Now apply this to people in medieval times and beyond. Pride in this sense means forgetting your place in the hierarchy of the universe. Getting ideas above your station. Defining the desire to be more than you are, to progress in life beyond your current station as a ‘sin’ is an excellent way to keep people in their place where they belong. Pick your age and the meaning is the same. I pass over in silence the sheer irony of the idea that it is the rich and powerful telling the lower orders about pride, greed, etc.

Turning now to avarice or greed, this is usually defined as wanting more than your fair share, often based on taking from someone else. Once again, we see the desire to protect the status quo and the fortunes of the wealthy. You want a share of the wealth of society? Greedy peasant. Your lord made many sacrifices for you in gaining his vast wealth so you could work his land. Know your place. Defining as a ‘sin’ the desire to improve your material conditions is nothing but a scam so people will accept low pay, poor conditions and the removal of the social contract. Religion is, as Marx said, the opiate of the masses. Again, this concept translates quite nicely into our ‘modern age’. Once again I pass over in silence the lack of self-awareness in the rich accusing others of greed.

The Second Pair: Lust and Anger

Third is lust or sexual desire. There is a joke among non-believers that religion’s prohibition on sex before marriage turns the marriage license into a sex license. It is an exaggeration, of course, but it conveys the point that by controlling sex (or at least restricting access to it except with your permission) you control the population. This is, once again, about keeping people in their place. Now, am I suggesting that, to borrow from an old mentor of mine, if you see a pretty girl you ‘monster her’ on the spot? Of course not.

But I do object to the idea that religion thinks it has the right to control people’s most basic drive based on the authority they gave themselves. Once again, these ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ can be boiled down to mechanisms of control. The translation of this to the modern age is less pronounced, I must admit, though you do still see it among the religious.

Fourth is anger. This is the desire to seek vengeance for wrongs done, real or perceived. Vengeance tends to come from pride (forgetting your place) and greed (wanting some of the material comforts the lord has). Think of pride and avarice as motivating anger. So not only are you not allowed to act on the perceived injustices, to even be aware of them is a ‘deadly sin’. This just adds fuel to the fire that the ‘seven deadly sins’ are nothing but mechanisms for controlling people. Keep both the action and the motivation behind it as taboos. Shameless.

The Third Pair: Gluttony and Envy

Fifth is gluttony, a narrowing of greed to apply to finite resources. Now in fairness, in a society with finite resources (and indeed scarcity) as medieval times were, this one has some validity. Someone eating more than their share could be the difference between starvation and survival, so there is something there. This is the only one of the seven so far that has any purpose beyond keeping peasants in line. This one is less prevalent these days, particularly in the west, but wanting more than your share being a sin generates explosive irony when looking at the monied interests in our society.

Next is envy, defined here as a form of jealousy: I want what he/she has. Think of this as an extension or variant of greed. Once again, we see the desire to keep people where they are. Oh you are upset at the fact that the lords control the land and you are a mere peasant renting from them (again, pick which age you think I am talking about). Well that is just envy.

You may recall a modern version of this ‘deadly sin’ when the LNP coined the clunker ‘the politics of envy’. This was essentially designed to delegitimise any calls for reform, including taxing the rich and corporations, the true owners of the ‘modern’ world. You’re just jealous is effectively what they said. Do not protest your lot in life: it is divinely mandated. It is pure coincidence that those making such arguments happen to be doing quite well, I am sure.

Last But Not Least: Sloth

Finally, we come to sloth. We usually understand this as laziness: not earning your keep. This one, too, has something going for it in medieval times. Life was on a knife edge, and someone not doing their share of the work could have disastrous consequences. In medieval times being the operative phrase. Lest you think this concept has not come into modern times, look at capital and its attitude to workers. The utter obsession with, and sacrifice of everything to, profit has led to dramatic changes in attitudes to hard-won worker benefits. They may not say this in so many words, but there is an undertone here. You dare to not work yourself to the bone for your betters? You demand time off? Weekends? Paid sick leave? Parental leave? Do you lazy serfs do any work? Back to the grindstone, cog.

Not Such a Medieval List: Seven ‘Deadly Sins’ in The ‘Modern World’

I referenced some examples above, but it is clear that, despite the church losing its power, the concept of the Seven ‘Deadly Sins’ is by no means dead. These actions, and the emotions behind them, are still taboos enforced by the modern priesthood of corporations, Tories and the media. Not all of the originals are still used: some refinement was necessary. But the concept of keeping the peasants in line remains on glaring display. We cannot tax super profits, reform negative gearing, or challenge the status quo in any way without being accused of one of the Seven. So little has changed in the last thousand years.

 

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The Queen is Dead: Long Live…The Republic?

For many years, indeed since the failure of the 1999 referendum on the idea of an Australian Republic, it was predicted that the death of the Queen would resurrect the idea. This may seem a little too soon (I can practically hear the cries of ‘the body’s not even cold yet’), but if not now, when? Queen Elizabeth was a wildly popular monarch; her successor, King Charles, is another matter. The death of the Queen is the precise time to re-examine the idea of an Australian Republic. This piece is not meant to be the final word on the topic, and opinions will likely vary. These are just some of the issues around the Republic that I think are ripe for discussion.

Background: The Failure of the 1999 Referendum

In 1999, a Referendum took place in Australia on the question of the nation leaving the British Empire and becoming a Republic. The problem was the model. The idea seemed to be that the people would elect the parliament, and the parliament would choose/appoint the President. In essence, this was quite a conservative model, since the people would have no say in who the President was. For this and other reasons, the people rejected the idea. Like many unsuccessful referenda, the defeat effectively killed the issue, and there has been no serious discussion since. However, it is this void that opens up the opportunity for a new discussion.

A New Hope: An Idea for a Republic

This section title is not to conflate the British with the The Empire from Star Wars (although the various conquered peoples may disagree). Rather, I seek to portray the following discussion around the Republic as a dies nova – a new day. Acknowledging the failure of the previous model, we need to either fix the problems inherent in that model or toss it aside entirely and begin from scratch. As a reformer, I want to start with the previous model.

The President (Or Head of State), Part One: Position and Powers

The major point of the previous model was that Australia should have its own head of state, rather than a representative of a foreign power. Under the previous model, the Parliament would have chosen the President. This was, in effect, the same as the monarchy (at least in practice), where the Parliament, more specifically the ruling party, chose the Governor General. So all that was being changed here was the labels. Yes, I know that the President would have been chosen with the consent of both parties, but it was still chosen by the Parliament.

It was also not clear what the powers of the President were to be. If they were similar to the Governor General’s now (signs the laws, Commander in Chief of the armed forces etc), once again we see little more than a label change. As one with a background in abstract Mathematics, you can change labels all you like; if the structure is identical, it is the same object. Undefined powers, along with a reliance on convention, can lead to all sorts of shenanigans, as contemporary readers need no reminding. If the President were to be largely ceremonial, this was no real change. However, if the President were to be a powerful office, could they overrule the Parliament and establish some sort of autocracy?

The President (Or Head of State), Part Two: Candidates, Terms and Elections

Also left unanswered in the old model were the questions of who would be allowed to be President, whether they would be elected or appointed and for how long they would serve. No mention was made of impeachment or removal and the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister. I want to deal with each in turn.

First, the idea of who could be President. I would suggest any natural-born citizen has the potential to be President. When we think of an Australian Head of State, we think perhaps of people like John Hewson, or Gillian Triggs or someone similar. A statesman (statesperson is cringey). Someone who would act in the best interest of the nation. Academics whose decisions are grounded in evidence rather than who pays them. Now of course the office would ultimately become political, but we should start high.

Moving on to term limits and the nature of the position. One of the flaws in the previous model was the parliament choosing the President. The alternative would be to have Presidential elections similar to those in America. One way to get around this might be to extend parliamentary terms to four years and have Presidential elections say every three years. If the President is to be more than a ceremonial figure, they should be elected rather than appointed. As for term limits, perhaps no more than two consecutive terms of three years, for a maximum of nine years. Obviously they would have no say over their successor. Like any elected official (this should extend to the Prime Minister as well), the President should be able to be impeached and removed from office. Perhaps a 2/3 majority in both houses could achieve this.

The United States of Australia?

I sympathise with the claim that my description of an Australian Republic sounds quite American. This is the model with which I am most familiar. But if we want to really change the nature of our governance, a new coat of paint on an old car is just that: an old car with a new coat of paint. The old model was just a monarchy with a few new labels and was rightly defeated.

As for how my proposed model would work, every four years the people would elect the parliament as we do now, with the majority in the House forming a government. The Senate would serve a similar purpose to what it does now. The real change would be the President. The details of this position would need to be carefully worked out, with lawyers wrangling over details, interpretations and all that fun stuff. Is the President to be a figurehead or a real political force? I mentioned above the relationship between the Prime Minister and the President: this too would need to be made clear. The paradox here is poignant: if the President can overrule the Prime Minister, the risk for chaos is high. But if the President has little power, they are a figurehead and nothing has changed.

Conclusion: Carpe Diem

The passing of Queen Elizabeth and the accession of King Charles is the ideal time for the Republic debate to rise again. The practicalities may prove difficult, however. Mr Albanese already has one referendum he wishes to pose: that of the Voice to Parliament. A second referendum in one term may stretch the friendship a little. If he were to receive a second term (and the state of the opposition makes this likely) perhaps he can do it then. But at the very least, the issue should be raised again and discussed. Ignore the bellyaching from the monarchists (including that remarkable letter from Victorian Liberal Tim Smith to Charles) and focus on what is best for Australia. We can still remain a member of the Commonwealth (as, for instance, Canada (eh?) has done) and clean up at the Commonwealth Games, we would just not be shackled to a foreign, unelected, ceremonial institution anymore.

 

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What’s The Saying About a Pro Se Defendant? Morrison Defends Himself

In a long and rambling statement posted to Facebook, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his actions in seizing control of five ministries simultaneously. In a similar fashion to my response to John Howard’s character reference for George Pell (which I think is also available on this site), I want to analyse and deconstruct Mr. Morrison’s defence. This will be a long one, folks.

The Statement, Part One: Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Morrison opens up his statement with the following:

The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession required an unprecedented policy response from our Government.

These were extraordinary times and they required extraordinary measures to respond. Our Government’s overriding objective was to save lives and livelihoods, which we achieved. To achieve this we needed to ensure continuity of government and robust administrative arrangements to deal with the unexpected in what was a period of constant uncertainty during the nation’s biggest crisis outside of wartime.

The situation required an unprecedented policy response from the government. Hanged by your own words. The government was required to put forth an unprecedented policy response. Not you as an individual. You were a member of a team. Second, how can you simultaneously claim that there was a recession and that you saved livelihoods? Finally for this section, continuity of government and establishing ‘robust administrative arrangements’ means putting in place deputy ministers, acting ministers or assistant ministers. These are people who can fulfil the role of the minister in the event of their incapacitation. The response is not to engage in a personal power grab. Extraordinary times required extraordinary measures, yes, but not to serve your own selfish ends.

The Statement, Part Two: Red Herrings

Ever a master of distraction, Morrison’s statement contains multiple red herrings, as the next section demonstrates:

Information and advice changed daily and even hourly. Meetings with Ministers, officials and advisers were constant, as was liaison with industry and other stakeholders as we were dealing with everything from supply chain shocks to business closures, the overwhelming of the social security and hospital system and the sourcing of critical medical supplies and workforce.

The prospect of civil disruption, extensive fatalities and economic collapse was real, especially in the early stages, which was occurring in other parts of the world.

The risk of Ministers becoming incapacitated, sick, hospitalised, incapable of doing their work at a critical hour or even fatality was very real. The Home Affairs Minister was struck down with COVID-19 early in the pandemic and the UK Prime Minister was on a ventilator and facing the very real prospect of dying of COVID-19

If the situation were as chaotic as he makes out (which, in fairness, it was) and the information was changing as rapidly as he says, should he not have had more hands rather than concentrating power in fewer? His own rationalisation does not work: a chaotic situation requires more people involved, not less. Next.

The red herrings continue when he discusses ministers in both his and the UK government coming down with the virus. As referenced above, this is what assistant, deputy and acting ministers are for. Also, any ministers in Johnson’s government suffering from COVID are irrelevant to discussions of your power grab in Australia. The other major flaw in his reasoning is what if he himself had contracted the virus? If he truly was the indispensable minister because of the risk to others from the plague, how utterly stuffed would the government have been if he had COVID? Once again, his rationalisation does not work.

The Statement, Part Three: The Garbage Continues

Morrison continues with this:

The Parliament was suspended from sitting for a time and Cabinet and others meetings were unable to be held face to face, as occurred with businesses and the public more generally.

As Prime Minister I considered it necessary to put in place safeguards, redundancies and contingencies to ensure the continuity and effective operation of Government during this crisis period, which extended for the full period of my term.

To ensure oversight, the Government, with the support of the Opposition, established a concurrent public Senate Inquiry into the management of COVID that effectively ran for the duration of my term as Prime Minister.

Even if the meetings were unable to be held face to face, this is why video conferencing apps such as Zoom were invented. As I said in the last piece, you adapt convention and the law to circumstances rather than simply destroy them. Blaming the plague for your inability to do your job only goes so far. Further, you speak of safeguards and redundancies. Even if I buy the idea that such contingencies were necessary (ministers fall sick for various reasons all the time; such would be worse in a pandemic), this does not extend to vastly increasing your own personal power.

Finally, this oversight committee that you set up evidently was not effective since it somehow missed you swearing yourself into various ministries. Oh and nice attempt to blame the opposition there, too, but I see through it. You don’t get to blame the opposition here, Scotty, this is all on you.

The Statement, Part Four: Res Gestae Scotti Marketi (The Achievements of Scotty from Marketing)

The former Prime Minister continues:

In addition I took the precaution of being given authority to administer various departments of state should the need arise due to incapacity of a Minister or in the national interest. This was done in relation to departments where Ministers were vested with specific powers under their legislation that were not subject to oversight by Cabinet, including significant financial authorities.

Given the significant nature of many of these powers I considered this to be a prudent and responsible action as Prime Minister.

It is not uncommon for multiple Ministers to be sworn to administer the same Department. However, given that such additional Ministers were in a more junior position in the relevant Departments, and would not be familiar with all the details of the pandemic response, I considered it appropriate that the redundancy be put in place at a higher level within the Government and not at a more junior level.

Augustus would have been proud of that first sentence. You took the precaution of being given authority? This was forced on you? Oh get that garbage outta here!

The first sentence here is fascinating for another reason: did you see the subtle shift? The inclusion of ‘or in the national interest’ essentially generalises the extraordinary powers Morrison granted himself beyond the pandemic. The rationale here is seemingly contradictory. He seized control of these portfolios (purely as a precaution) because ‘Ministers were vested with specific powers…that were not subject to oversight by Cabinet’. Seriously? So because there was no Cabinet oversight of Ministerial action, you seized their portfolios? The mind reels!

He mentions the existence of additional ministers (deputies, assistants etc) but notes their junior status and consequent lack of familiarity with the details. The obvious follow-up here is why not bring them into the briefings? Why not bring the most senior active representative of a department into the briefings so they can become familiar with the details? It is not as though political convention was sacred to you.

The Statement, Part Five: Scotty on The Details

Mr Morrison finally gets to the point of what happened: his many ministries:

The major Department for which this was considered was the Health Department, given the extensive powers afforded to the Minister by the Biosecurity Act. This was put in place on March 14, 2020. The Department of Finance was added on March 30, 2020.

As an added administrative precaution, as a ‘belts and braces’ approach, the Departments of Treasury and Home Affairs were added some time after in May 2021. I did not consider it was likely that it would be necessary to exercise powers in these areas, but the future was very difficult to predict during the pandemic.

As events demonstrated with the resurgence of COVID-19 in the second half of 2021, we could never take certainty for granted. In hindsight these arrangements were unnecessary and until seeking advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet today, I had not recollected these arrangements having been put in place. There was a lot going on at the time.

It is true that then Health Minister Greg Hunt did have issues with his health, but once again, deputies and other junior associates exist. It was not necessary to concentrate his power in yourself. Finance and Treasury both had representatives inside your administration, at least one of whom (minister Cormann) did not know that you had seized his portfolio. In addition, is Home Affairs not separate from the pandemic? Your statement that you did not consider that these powers would need to be used renders curious your decision to take on these portfolios in the first place.

Finally, for this section, we have the classic ‘I do not recall’, which is political speak for ‘this happened but I don’t want to admit it’. Parasite. You do not recall being in charge control of five ministries simultaneously!? Just about the only true thing in this entire statement is the statement ‘these arrangements were unnecessary’. For once, Mr. Morrison, we agree, but for different reasons.

The Statement, Part Six: An Irrational Rationale

This rambling and incoherent justification continues with this:

Thankfully it was not necessary for me to trigger use of any of these powers. In the event that I would have to use such powers I would have done so disclosing the authority by which I was making such decisions. The authority was pre approved to ensure there would be no delay in being able to make decisions or take actions should the need arise.

The crisis was a highly dynamic environment and it was important to plan ahead and take what precautions could lawfully be put in place to ensure I could act, as Prime Minister, if needed.

It is important to note that throughout this time Ministers in all Departments, where I was provided with authority to act, exercised full control of their Departments and portfolios without intervention. Ministerial briefs were not copied to me as Prime Minister in a co-Minister capacity, as this was not the nature of the arrangement. These arrangements were there as a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ safeguard.

I also did not wish Ministers to be second guessing themselves or for there to be the appearance of a right of appeal or any diminishing of their authority to exercise their responsibilities, as this was not the intention of putting these arrangements in place. I simply wanted them to get on with their job, which they did admirably and I am grateful for their service.

The former Prime Minister is an eel. He did not have to use the powers, but if he did he would have disclosed the authority by which he acted. In other words, he was totally justified in keeping this power-grab secret because he never had to use the powers. He says again that the situation was dynamic and that safeguards needed to be in place, and my response is the same: assistants, deputies etc.

The second paragraph of this section is fascinating. Morrison says Ministers exercised their full authority without intervention. Fine, but he then admits that he himself did not receive copies of ministerial briefings. Earlier in his statement, he claimed that more junior members of the government would not be across the details and so it was necessary to put the fail-safes in higher levels of government. But then he admits he was not briefed. So how could he be across the details if he ever needed to exercise the power of a given ministry? If it truly was a ‘break glass in case of emergency situation, having someone not across the details of a situation as the fail-safe is at best useless, and at worst could cause the situation to deteriorate. This rationale is garbage.

The Statement, Part Seven: Jumping in the [Keith] Pitt

In reference to taking over the Resources and Energy Portfolio, Mr Morrison said that:

The decision in relation to the Department of Industry, Energy and Resources was undertaken in April 2021 for separate reasons. This was the consequence of my decision to consider the issues of the PEP11 license directly. Under the legislation the decision is not taken by Cabinet, but unilaterally by a Minister with authority to administer that Department.

I sought and was provided with the authority to administer matters in relation to this Department and considered this issue observing all the necessary advice and issues pertaining to the matter before making a decision, without prejudice, which I announced publicly.

Once having been given the authority to consider this matter I advised the Minister of my intention to do so and proceeded to consider the matter. I retained full confidence in Minister Pitt who I was pleased to have serve in my Ministry. I believe I made the right decision in the national interest. This was the only matter I involved myself directly with in this or any other Department.

The first sentence here says much: this decision was utterly separate from the pandemic and the associated crisis. Mr. Morrison just wanted a particular outcome and, since he could not direct the minister explicitly, he took the decision himself. Perhaps he should have tried to persuade Mr Pitt instead of grabbing power for himself. Also, why was it necessary to state that he made his decision ‘without prejudice’? Every decision Scott Morrison makes is (in my opinion) motivated by some external force (typically money). Finally, it is curious indeed that the only time he actually used his powers had nothing to do with the pandemic. Shock Doctrine, anyone?

The Statement, Part Eight: Conclusion

Morrison ends his rantings with the following

The use of the powers by a Prime Minister to exercise authority to administer Departments has clearly caused concern. I regret this, but acted in good faith in a crisis.

I used such powers on one occasion only. I did not seek to interfere with Ministers in the conduct of their portfolio as there were no circumstances that warranted their use, except in the case of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources which I have explained.

The pandemic has been a difficult time for Australia, although we have performed better than almost any other developed country in the world. There is no guide book in these circumstances and there is much commentary that will be offered in hindsight from the comfort of relatively calmer conditions. It is not surprising that some of this commentary will have a partisan or other motive, but that’s politics. In a democracy it is a positive thing for these issues to be discussed and for experience to inform future decisions and I hope my statement will help inform that process.

I have endeavoured to set out the context and reasoning for the decisions I took as Prime Minister in a highly unusual time. I did so in good faith, seeking to exercise my responsibilities as Prime Minister which exceeded those of any other member of the Government, or Parliament. For any offence to my colleagues I apologise. I led an outstanding team who did an excellent job and provided me great service and loyalty as Ministers.

The concern is not the use of Prime Ministerial power to administer various departments, but how you achieved this. You swore yourself into these various roles. I know you say you ‘sought authority’, but the sheer volume of lies you have told in the past makes any claim you make difficult to believe. Further, to claim that you acted in good faith is laughable. Alternatives to a vast expansion of Prime Ministerial power were available. To suggest that your intentions were pure is ludicrous.

You say that Australia has performed ‘better than almost any country in the world’. By what metric? In what way? That statement was almost Trumpian in its vagueness. Further, to claim that commentary and analysis have a partisan motive is an attempt to poison the well, delegitimising any criticism of your plainly unconstitutional actions as mere partisan hackery. It is entirely possible to be critical of you (as some of your colleagues, including former Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, have been) without being partisan. Kindly cease conflating the two.

The final insult to the electorate within this barrage of nonsense is the phrase ‘for any offence to my colleagues, I apologise’. So you apologise to your fellow Liberals, but not to the nation as a whole? It is truly remarkable that you can make a statement like that and accuse your critics of partisanship. Get that garbage outta here! Finally, you did not lead ‘an outstanding team’. You led what was possibly the most incompetent, corrupt (in my opinion), cruel and destructive government in the history of the country.

Conclusion: The End of Scott Morrison

The former Prime Minister may spin this any way he likes, it does not look good. Swearing one’s self into several ministries (while not being briefed) in a blatant usurpation of Executive Authority vested in the Governor General renders both your and his positions untenable. It falls to you, Scott Morrison, to emulate that last iota of patriotism that Richard Nixon displayed on August 9th, 1974:

Resign.

 

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Shadow Government: Morrison’s Ministries

Two journalists, Simon Benson and Geoff Chambers, are soon to publish a book entitled Plagued, dealing with the Morrison Government’s response to COVID-19. The part of the book making headlines currently is the claim that Mr Morrison swore himself into various government ministries, without his colleagues’ knowledge. I want to look at a few articles dealing with this issue and offer some analysis.

The Allegations

The following is taken from a Sydney Morning Herald piece, and outlines what Mr. Morrison is alleged to have done

Morrison secretly swore himself into the health and finance portfolios…News.com.au has subsequently reported Morrison was also sworn in as second resources minister

So, three additional portfolios. One wonders if he was compensated according to the salaries for those portfolios, but that is an issue for another time. More to the point is the suggestion that he ‘swore himself in’. Our Constitution is quite clear: it is Their Excellency the Governor General who swears ministers in. Mr. Morrison’s high opinion of himself is well known, but this is ridiculous. If he truly did swear himself into these additional portfolios, he usurped the authority of the Governor General.

The Law Responds, Part One: The Office of The Governor General

In response to these frankly explosive allegations, the office of the Governor General issued a statement, which says, in part,

The Governor-General, following normal process and acting on the advice of the government of the day, appointed former prime minister Morrison to administer portfolios other than the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The appointments were made consistently with section 64 of the Constitution

There is an interesting element of buck-passing there: Hurley acted on the advice of the government of the day. This essentially places the blame on Mr Morrison and his government. As if any further evidence were needed that the Governor General is a ceremonial figurehead. More to the point though, let us consider Section 64 of The Consitution Act of 1901. I am no constitutional scholar, and we will go to Professor Anne Twomey in a moment, but I want to look at this for myself.

Section 64 reads, in full

The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish.

Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.

It is somewhat archaic, but the point seems to be that the Governor General appoints officers of state (ministers) to their portfolios. Further, since those ministers serve at the pleasure of the Governor General, they may dismiss them at any time. The demarcation of authority is clear: the Prime Minister does not have the authority to swear himself into any position.

The Law Responds, Part Two: Professor Anne Twomey

The ABC, specifically Radio National, interviewed renowned Constitutional Law expert Professor Anne Twomey recently. I want to deal first with a remarkable example of bias from a clip of an interview with current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The clip runs as follows

Interviewer: Have you been briefed about how many other portfolios the Prime Minister swore himself into?

Did you catch it? Australian Prime Ministers are not, as much as Mr Morrison thinks they are, like US Presidents. They are not referred to as Prime Minister after they leave office. No talks about Prime Minister John Howard, or Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Mr Albanese and his troops have been in office for months now. Kindly acknowledge the result of the election and show a little respect.

Now to Professor Twomey. She notes that since the Governor General acts on the advice of the Prime Minister, unless the Prime Minister told him to do something that was unlawful, he cannot be blamed. An interesting take: should the Governor General not be aware of his responsibilities and duties and any restrictions on his actions? Regardless of that, she notes that there is a lack of clarity in legislation around which minister administers which part of which law. Further, finding these details requires an inception-level investigation. This seemingly makes something like what Morrison is alleged to have done possible, if not easier to pull off.

Dissent in The Ranks: The Opposition Piles on Morrison

Members of the Liberal Party have responded variously to these accusations. Naturally, current Opposition Leader Peter Dutton defended his master and said that Mr Morrison ‘had his reasons’. Others were not so forgiving.

Current Nationals Leader David Littleproud gave this response to the allegations, noting that he did not know about Mr Morrison’s alleged actions

That’s pretty ordinary, as far as I’m concerned. If you have a cabinet government, you trust your cabinet. You create that environment in the cabinet room to have those discussions. If you don’t think a minister’s suitable to do that, that’s a discussion with the minister [and you] probably ask him or her to remove themselves

Mr Little proud advocates, rightly, for a consultative process. This seems to fit a cabinet-based model of government. Essentially, Mr Littleproud castigated Morrison as an autocrat, concentrating power in himself. Littleproud also seems annoyed with not being kept in the loop, and understandably so.

A second National, Kevin Hogan, said this to the echo-chamber of choice, Sky so-called News

The pandemic meant some conventions were thrown out the window but I look forward to the rationale for those being explained

Conventions? The Governor General appointing and swearing in ministers is a convention? It is the damned law of the land! Even accounting for the pandemic, rather than throwing the law out the window as Morrison is alleged to have done, you adapt. Have the Governor General swear in would-be ministers over Zoom or something similar. It is difficult to conclude that this situation is not the culmination of Mr Morrison’s career: self-appointed supreme power. But what does the alleged autocrat of the hour have to say for himself?

The Would-Be King Speaks: Morrison Responds

It should come as a surprise to precisely no-one that Mr Morrison defended his actions. This section is based on an article from MSN.

Going on one of the other echo-chambers of choice, radio 2GB, Mr Morrison said, in regard to specifically taking over the Social Services portfolio

I don’t recall that … I don’t dispute that and my answer for all that is the same, we were dealing with an incredible amount of discretion and money being paid.

They were unprecedented times and as a result they were very unconventional times.

Fortunately, none of these [appointments] in the case of the finance and the health portfolio were ever required to be used

As usual with Mr Morrison, there is much to unpack. The phrase ‘I don’t recall’ immediately makes a politician look suspicious, regardless of what actually happened. But he does not deny that he assumed control of the social services portfolio, even if he does not recall doing it. He is actually going through multiple stages of crisis management in one go: I do not know if I did it, but if I did it I was justified. Many birds, one stone; you get the idea. Unprecedented times, he says. Perhaps, but as I argued above, adapting the law to circumstances, rather than jettisoning it entirely in an authoritarian personal power grab, is, to put it mildly, strongly preferred.

Finally, the fact that none of the appointments actually needed to be used is a red herring. You still did it. You still blatantly subverted the very system under which the nation is governed.

Please note that this is not me doing the whole ‘civilitah, good Sir’ norm-humping that so many seem to do these days. Such is not my purpose. Scott John Morrison is alleged to have subverted not only the Constitution, but the very Westminster system purely for personal gain. Any claim of pragmatism is rendered nonsense by the fact that the powers were not used.

Beyond the Pandemic: Morrison’s New Powers

Following on from the previous paragraph about pragmatism, Morrison’s own actions belie that claim too. The previously referenced MSN piece says that Morrison also took over the Resources portfolio from the aptly named Keith Pitt. The issue is a petroleum license on the NSW coast

Specifically

“That was a very different issue … it was one I sought to be the decision-maker on that issue because of the importance of that issue,” Mr Morrison said.

“This is a power a minister has that is not overseen by cabinet … the minister makes their own decision and the prime minister can’t direct the minister.”

“I always respected Keith’s role as the decision-maker, and if I wanted to be the decision-maker, I had to take the steps that I took.”

This took place in 2021, and had, in Morrison’s own words, nothing to do with the. pandemic. He just wanted to make the decision because it was an important issue. Since he was not able to directly instruct the minister on how to act, he simply seized control of the portfolio. Finally, to claim to have respected Pitt’s role as the decision maker is clearly crap, since you robbed him of that power. Morrison is full of crap once again.

Conclusion: What is to be Done?

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is being briefed regularly on these issues. If ever there was a situation custom-built for a federal investigative body such as ICAC, this is it. So blatant a personal power grab violates not only meaningless norms, but also the very rule of law itself. To whom was Morrison accountable? If he could simply swear himself into positions sua sponte, he was effectively a king.

To end on a lighter note, if a empire is ruled by an Emperor, and a kingdom is ruled by a King, Australia was a country ruled by Scott Morrison…

 

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The Voice to Parliament: Why the ‘Detail’ Argument is Bunk

Speaking at a festival recently, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese proposed a referendum to create an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Specifically, the proposal is that the following three sentences be added to the Australian Consitution Act of 1901

1. There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

2. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to parliament and the executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

3. The parliament shall, subject to this constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

One of the ‘arguments’ that are brandied about concerning the Voice is ‘lack of detail’. The government is not being precise in its definitions of what these changes would mean in practice. This claim can be laid to rest if one reads the report that serves as the basis for the Voice. In this piece I want to provide some of the ‘missing detail’ by quoting from and analysing the report. Since the media will seemingly not do its job, somebody has to.

The Details, Part One: What the National Voice Actually Is

The National Voice would serve as a body representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to both the parliament and the government. It would comprise ‘a small body’ of members. The National Voice is an extension of (and chosen from) Regional and Local Voices. In this way, Regional and Local Voices function like local, state, and federal governments. Each represents an increasingly larger territory. This should belie any claim that the National Voice is some kind of ‘fifth column’ in Australian democracy. The Voice is based on the same model, with its members chosen locally.

Specifically

Members of the Local & Regional Voices within each
state and territory would collectively determine
National Voice members from their respective
jurisdictions

This answers any questions about how members would be chosen. It is an entirely local process decided upon by ATSI citizens.

The Details, Part Two: Accountability and Member Removal

Another question I must confess I had before reading the relevant section of the report was about accountability and the potential removal of Voice members. The report addresses these issues as follows

[The process for removal should include these steps]

  1. Alerting the member to the issue that may
    lead to the removal;
  2. Alerting the member to their risk of removal
    and the process that will now be followed;
  3. Consideration of the issue and a decision
    made on whether to remove;
  4. Opportunity for the member to address
    the issue;
  5. Steps put in place to mitigate the issue if
    required or remove a member; and
  6. Review processes that would give an
    opportunity for the member to seek review of
    the decision, in line with protocols agreed for
    the region

A detailed process indeed. An interesting procedural countermeasure to the outrage mob that has brought about the resignation of certain parliamentary members. Of particular note is point number four, the opportunity for the member to address the issue (and presumably maintain their spot if the issue were an honest mistake). Sam Dastyari and Peter Slipper may have benefitted from something like this, but I digress.

The Details, Part Three: Term limits

The issue of term limits for members is addressed in this way

No set length of terms is being proposed for
members of Local & Regional Voices; rather, this
is to be left open for community consideration
as part of the design of the structure

It is truly amazing how much detail the media has overlooked. In their defense, the report is dense but this is the life you chose. Your responsibility is to inform the people, and obscuring details does not serve this end. One could be forgiven for thinking that the media has an agenda here: scuttle the idea of the National Voice since that is the position of their overlords and political allies. The respective motivations are different, of course: political conservatives despise social change/progress and the media makes money off social division, but the result is the same. This is perhaps a little cynical, but in this day and age, one can never be too careful.

Hell of a Hill to Die On: The Opposition

The ‘detail’ argument forms a considerable part of the opposition to the National Voice. Indeed, the very nature of the opposition says a great deal about the more – regressive – parts of our society.

Consider this extract from the report

Only a tiny minority of people said there should
not be a National Voice. This opposition was mainly
expressed through submissions from a campaign of
considerably similar submissions, as well as other
individual submissions, such as the submission from
the Institute of Public Affairs rather than many
divergent opposing views

The report makes clear that the ‘tiny minority’ of detractors is about 2% of responders. In terms of the description in the report, the phrasing is a little clunky, but the point is clear. Considerably similar submissions made up the opposition ‘input’ to the discussion. In other words, the opposition was an astroturf campaign consisting of reading the talking points rather than actual opposition. Speculation? Maybe, but the Institute of Public Affairs, a far-right ideological ‘think tank’, is not known for its reasonable takes. It is almost as if the opposition submissions were copied and pasted. Thank you for your input. Please do not call us. We will call you.

Conclusion: Devils Obsessed With Detail

The details of this report, which inform the available details around the National Voice, are plentiful. Contrary to what the opposition is saying, this project is not vague and does not lack detail. I encourage anyone who is interested to read the report linked above. In spite of how I have criticised the media here, the burden still falls on proponents of this fine idea to sell it. The details that the detractors are looking for are present in the report. Not that I believe they would actually listen to and accept those details (since that was never the point), but at least you can say you tried.

Forward, Mr. Prime Minister.

 

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Biden’s Response to Roe: An Analysis

As many are no doubt aware, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the 1973 decision Roe v Wade. Given how big of an issue this is for Democrats (they have run on it for decades), one would think they would have a response ready. Sadly no. The response, if one may call it that, has been anemic, to say the least. Extra damning is the fact that a draft of the opinion was leaked to the public. They knew this was coming and have done precisely nothing in response. Today I want to take a look at a recent Executive Order from President Joe Biden issued in response to the Dobbs ruling overturning Roe. I also want to use this to look at Mr Biden’s political philosophy more generally.

They’re Called The Classics for a Reason: Joe as Gaslighter in Chief

As part of his reading of the Executive Order, the President dragged out this classic from the hymn book

We need two more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice House to codify Roe as federal law. Your vote can make that a reality

The President would do well to remember that he currently has 51 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House. This gives the Democrats complete control of the Legislative and Executive Branches. The suggestion seems to be that not enough of the Democratic Senators are pro-choice. So the voters have to vote not just for Democrats, but for the right type of Democrats. The situation is never quite good enough to justify action, is it, Joe? There’s always a problem, for which the voters can be blamed, that gets in the way? Democrats have had super-majorities in the past and still not codified Roe.

Now you might be wondering: if this is such an issue for Democrats, why have they not codified Roe? The answer is in the question: the issue of abortion is just about the last issue the Democrats have left. If they actually solve the issue, then it is resolved. They can no longer run on the issue if it is dead. The big bad Republicans coming for your abortion rights (which was true – they were) was designed to get the Democratic base out to vote. The Democrats running on codifying Roe was only useful as long as it was not done. You codify into federal law the protections contained in Roe and the goose that laid the golden egg is depleted. This is why the Democrats, despite many opportunities, did not codify Roe. For this, eternal and unmitigated shame on them.

The Meat: What the Executive Order Does

Krystal Ball of Breaking Points provides a useful summary of what the Executive Order says

[The Order] largely finalises what has already been announced by the Administration. [This includes] instructions to the Justice Department to ensure women can travel out of state for abortion care. [The Order] addresses the elevated risk for patients, providers and clinics, which includes efforts to protect mobile clinics that have been deployed to state borders [for purposes of allowing women to go interstate for termination care]

It goes on, but you get the basic idea. Noteworthy here is that these actions are largely in response not to the Dobbs decision, but to state action taken in response. Many states had what were called trigger laws in place. These were laws that, once Roe was overturned, would move to severely restrict (or outright ban) abortion. The President is responding more to those actions than to the Court’s ruling. He side-stepped actually codifying Roe by blaming the voters for not giving him the political tools to do so. Cute, Mr President, but I for one see through it. You have options, but you are not willing to take any political risks to use them. Allow me to explain.

The President’s Options, Part One: The Senate

The Democrats have a majority in the Senate. They also control the House. This means they should be able to get their agenda through. The House is what we may call a tyranny of the majority. Basically, if you are in the majority, whatever you say goes: the minority has no power. This is not the case in the Senate. There is a piece of…parliamentary procedure in the Senate called the Filibuster. This is where the minority can require a sixty-vote super-majority to pass a bill.

Previously, this used to be the so-called ‘talky filibuster’. This required standing and talking for as long as possible without a break. This is no longer the case. Now all that is required is for a Senator to say ‘I filibuster’. No talking is needed and sixty votes are now required. To pass any legislation, you either require a super-majority or members from the other side to vote with the majority. How often does that happen these days?

What is left out of the discussion around the Senate is that so many of its rules are convention. All that would be required to carve out an exception to the filibuster is a majority vote. But the Democrats are reluctant to do this because they want to maintain the power of the minority for when they inevitably are back there. But this too is crap: an exception does not do away with the filibuster entirely.

Finally, for those who cite Manchin’s conservatism as an obstacle, there is a solution here too. Manchin’s daughter is a criminal. There are emails of her conspiring to price gouge epi-pen users. Threaten him with the AG or the DOJ going after her unless he changes his vote. This is called playing hardball politics.

The President’s Options, Part Two: Divide and Conquer the Opposition

Even if the Democrats could not get a full codification passed, you can still propose individual bills codifying parts of Roe. Examples here include well-known exceptions to abortion bans such as rape and incest. If the Republicans wish to vote against or filibuster these, let them do so at their own political peril. Democrats hold the majority position here. I believe I saw a poll that said abortion not being legal under any circumstances is supported by roughly 15% of the population. The Democrats then paint themselves as on the side of the people and the Republicans as the extremists that they are.

Now, of course, there are ‘pro-life’ members of the Democratic caucus, and this may explain why they do not take this path. The very exposure of the extreme Republicans I mentioned above would also expose any extreme Democrats. Evidently, the Democrats are unwilling to expose extremists in their own ranks: they value power more. So to hell with addressing this issue they have run on since Roe was decided in 1973. Power, with which Democrats do precisely nothing, is more valuable.

The President’s Options, Part Three: Abortion Clinics on Federal Land

Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez proposed building abortion clinics on federal land inside states where the procedure is severely restricted or banned. The central idea seems to be that state governments have no power on federal land, and so clinics could be built there if the federal government desired. Any state law restricting termination procedures would be null and void on federal land. It is noteworthy too that the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion, also does not provide a problem here. Since it would be the provider paying the government to lease the land, no federal money would go towards termination procedures. It is a clever workaround.

The President’s Options, Part Four: Court Reform

The final option that the President has that was notably absent from the statement, the Order itself, or general discussion, is Court packing. Since three seats were arguably stolen from the Democrats (Gorsuch, Coney-Barret and Kavanaugh), many have floated the idea of expanding the Court. This idea, if the Administration were ever considering it at all, has been, if you will pardon the expression, aborted. The Supreme Court has gone full rogue authoritarian and the Executive and Legislative Branches, nominally meant to be a check on the Court, are doing nothing.

Former President FDR similarly faced a rogue Court. All he had to do was threaten to reform/pack the Court and they saw the error of their ways. Joe Biden does not have the conviction to do that. He is, at his core, an institutionalist and a conservative. Rocking the boat is not in his nature, even if it is taken over by pirates.

Conclusion: Institutionalism as Death Knell

I hinted above at Mr Biden being an institutionalist. I should define what this means. It refers to someone who defers to established norms and conventions, seemingly for their own sake. The actual usefulness of the institution in practical terms is irrelevant. In Mr Biden’s mind, the Court ruled this way and so the best he can do is tweaks around the edges. This exposes the fundamental conservatism of Mr Biden’s approach to politics. He is unwilling to do anything that would be considered ‘uncivil’ or ‘lacking decorum, Good Sir’.

Mr President, asking people to depart in an orderly fashion and wait their turn while the theatre is on fire helps no-one. Institutions, like anything else, are ripe for reform if they no longer serve the interests of the people. The Republic is crumbling around you, Sir. Your unwillingness to do anything may be concisely summed up as an argumentum ad morem fallacy. This is the argument from tradition. In other words, something is correct not because of the substance of the argument, but because it comes from tradition. Basically, traditional equals correct. If this is your guiding principle, Sir, America should be very different than it is now. Slavery should still exist, along with prohibition and the infamous ‘three-fifths clause’. This is not an effective argument, Mr President.

Like any body-politic that hopes to survive, America must be adaptive. She cannot afford to become calcified. At this point, the incumbent President is not the man for the moment, and should be primaried.

 

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Blinded by The Right: Albo Overseas

The media and the opposition have made much of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s gall in travelling overseas. Cries of hypocrisy are flying thick and fast around criticism of Scott Morrison travelling overseas during a natural disaster when Mr Albanese is doing the same thing. This piece is intended as a follow-up/piggy-back on a great article on this site called Airbus Albo, which I encourage you all to check out.

Context is Everything; What the Opposition Left Out, Part One: Travel

Attacks from opposition politicians are usually devoid of context. They are designed to score cheap political points. The target audience of these attacks is ‘headline readers’, consumers of media who do not know the context. The specific attack being used right now is a false equivalence. The two points of comparison are Mr Albanese going overseas during the NSW floods and Scott Morrison doing the same thing during the 2019 bushfires. Left out, of course, is the vital context that Mr Albanese is on official business, whereas Scott Morrison, to use friendlyjordies’ phrase, f*cked off to Hawaii on holiday.

The idea that these two things are even remotely comparable is laughable. One is a new Prime Minister who needs to show his face to our allies early in his first term. He is also repairing Australia’s disastrous relations with foreign countries, specifically France. The other was a lazy cosplayer prime minister who went on regular holidays, seemingly ignoring his duties. The nerve it takes for the LNP opposition to complain about Mr Albanese spending time overseas cleaning up their foreign relations mess is gargantuan. Both the politicians making the claims and their media stenographers ignore all context around Albanese and Morrison’s overseas trips.

As a final parting comment for this section, it would behoove the opposition to be silent on issues of overseas travel.

Context is Everything; What the Opposition Left Out, Part Two: Ukraine and Flood Relief

As part of his trip to Europe, Mr. Albanese visited war-ravaged Ukraine. Opposition member Angus Taylor criticised the fact that we had not heard from him for forty-eight hours. Once again, Taylor ignores vital context: when travelling in a warzone, leaders observe radio silence for security reasons. Mr Albanese was not on some secret personal sojourn (unlike a certain trip to Cornwall I could mention) but was observing protocol. But this does not fit the narrative and so Taylor left it out. Slimeball.

Finally, we come to flood relief for NSW. As many are aware, a recent deluge has left many parts of the state in disarray. Authorities have declared a state of emergency. The NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet, was at a press-conference the other day and even he had to correct as ‘untrue’ suggestions that the federal government was not helping. Indeed, Mr Perrotet said that Mr Albanese had called him and said ‘what do you need’. Disaster payments went out in a matter of days. The response was efficient and cooperative. When even a Liberal Premier has to correct the media narrative around Mr Albanese and the flood response, there is a serious problem.

So, we have a number of problems with this attack on Mr Albanese. First, he was on official business while Scott Morrison was on holiday during a disaster: not the same thing. Second, there was communication between the Premier and Prime Minister (so Albo out of action was a lie). Third, disaster payments went out as needed rather than on a partisan basis. How quickly the LNP thinks people forget. The electorate has a long memory.

The opposition has a perpetual case of foot-in-mouth disease.

The Obvious Follow-up: Is it Deliberate?

In this piece, I have criticised the media for being opposition stenographers. They simply report what their partisan allies in the LNP say. The question above, is it deliberate, refers to whether the media is unaware of the context I outlined, or they know about it and choose to ignore it. Neither resounds to their benefit. If they are unaware of the context outlined above, they are terrible at their job. If, however, they are aware of it but choose to ignore it, that is much worse.

To his credit, Angus Taylor’s interviewer did bring up the issue of radio silence, but the framing was telling. They asked Taylor whether he accepted the idea that radio silence was necessary for security reasons. Whether or not he accepts the facts of reality is not important. The great thing about facts, as de Grasse Tyson said, is that they are true whether you believe them or not. So even when the media tries to hold the opposition to account, there are constraints. Like giving a dog medication in food, it has to be as palatable as possible.

Returning to the point, telling the full story regardless of the partisan outcome is the media’s job. Their role is to give all facts, all context and all details. This naturally clashes with the media’s narrative of ‘Labor bad’. Giving full context to events often exposes cheap political criticisms as just that. It is often difficult to discern intent, but journalists who cover politics should know better. So either way, they are terrible at their jobs.

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Dutton Dressed as Lamb: Dissecting The Image

You may have noticed over the last week or so that Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has received quite the image makeover from the propaganda rags in the media. He is trying to present a kinder, gentler image of himself, as well he might. The problem, however, is that his record in government is both recent and extensive. I want to look at an extensive press conference he gave, and specifically at the transcript presented in the Financial Review.

The Press Conference: The Apology, Part One

When asked why he walked out of the Apology to the Stolen Generations, Mr. Dutton offered this in response

I made a mistake in relation to the apology, and largely that was because of my own background and experience.

Many of you have lived out in regional areas and many of you haven’t.

I worked in Townsville. I remember going to many domestic violence instances, particularly involving Indigenous communities, and for me at the time I believed that the apology should be given when the problems were resolved, and the problems are not resolved.

Is he seriously suggesting that he ignored the apology because Indigenous communities still experience problems? The idea that you do not apologise until the problem is fixed is absurd. Indeed, an apology is the first step in solving a problem since it acknowledges that there is one. Also, if your experience and background compels you to walk out on an Apology to generations of mistreated people, you need help.

The Press Conference: The Apology, Part Two

This might cost me a friend or two, but Dutton actually gets close to a point when he says

Going to a meeting here in Canberra and giving 10 acknowledgments to country, that’s fine, and I don’t say that in a disparaging way.

I want to know how it is we’re going to support those kids and how it is we’re going to get higher health outcomes and mortality rates, more kids through university, just to finish primary school and secondary school to start with. That’s the perspective that I bring to it.

He is surprisingly close to the mark when he says that doing Acknowledgements of Country without actually having practical solutions to the problems that exist is hollow. Now of course he had three terms in government to implement those practical solutions, so his criticism itself rings somewhat hollow. But I see his point: Welcome to Country while leaving the underlying problems unaddressed is tokenism. This still does not excuse him from walking out on what was a national acknowledgement of a problem. Shame.

The Press Conference, Part Three: The Teals and The New Government

Asked if the LNP would abandon any of the seats that the Independents won, Dutton gave this amazing response

I’m not giving up on any seat, but I do want to send a very clear message to those in the suburbs, particularly those in seats where there has been a swing against the Labor Party on their primary vote, in many parts of the country.

Dutton is delusional. He does not mention the broader trouncing his party took. Nor does he mention the six LNP seats the Teals won. He has to shift to the Labor party’s decreased primary vote. Your own primary vote also dropped to record lows, but you do not mention that, do you? Hack.

When asked about the new government, the new Opposition Leader said this

There is huge hesitation around Anthony Albanese and whether he is up to the job. People will give him a go, rightly – they voted for him and there will be a honeymoon period, the media will give him that…but people had big doubt about whether they would vote for him and in some cases…the[ir] primary vote went down.

This hesitation around Mr Albanese of which you speak; where did that come from? I cannot put my finger on it. Could it be from you jokers and your media enablers? Talk about manufacturing your own success. You smear your opponent, the media picks it up and then you claim that what was reported in the media is true.

Second, the idea of a ‘honeymoon period’, specifically with the media, is crap. Have you seen the coverage of the new government? Finally, you keep harping on about the ALP’s primary vote dropping. This is not unique to the ALP. Drop this point, Sir, you will lose it!

The Press Conference, Part Four: China and His Own Credentials

Dutton’s response to a question on China was as arrogant as one might expect

I will support policies which help to defend our country, decisions made by the new government in relation to rolling out AUKUS, which was an incredible achievement of the Morrison government, and other policies which will help keep us safe.

So you will support the new government as long as they continue your policies? That is essentially what he said. The phrase ‘policies which help keep us safe’ is best translated as ‘Liberal policies’. While I am not asking him to abandon his party’s policies (as much as I despise them), it is the height of hubris to say ‘we expect the new government to implement our policies despite the people voting against them’. Garbage. You also cannot stop stoking fear, can you? Australia is quite safe, thank you.

The tone-deafness continues when he cites John Howard’s endorsement (from Dutton’s first term) as some sort of credential. That man campaigned for his party in many seats that the party wound up losing. His opinion is not held in high regard. This press conference is a trainwreck so far.

The Press Conference, Part Five: Big Business and Superannuation

When asked about the LNP’s relationship with big business, Dutton came out with this howler

We will have a cordial relationship with big business, and we will work on that, but I think, frankly, a lot of CEOs now are closer to the other parties than the Liberal Party, that is the modern reality.

Priceless. You have a symbiotic and sycophantic relationship with big business you mean. Delusional. But he saved the best for last: CEOs are closer to the other parties than the Liberal Party!? It is actually impressive that he was able to say that with a straight face. You are not the party of the little guy, Spud. You service the big end of town. The gall to claim that CEOs are more aligned with the party of the workers or the more openly redistributive party is gargantuan. Get that garbage outta here!

On using superannuation to buy property, which would sabotage many people’s retirement and bring about a reverse-mortgage policy, Dutton said this

I think on home ownership, if we’d allowed people to access their super five years ago or 15 years ago, 25 years ago – when you see what property prices have done in our country – they’d be sitting on a fortune.

A pathetic post-hoc rationalisation. No more need be said

The Press Conference, Part Six: The Integrity Commission

The deflection and just total crap continues when Mr Dutton was asked about the integrity commission

I believe very much in the transparency. The reason I think it’s more important than ever is that under this Labour government, under the Albanese government, we are going to have a continuation of this unholy alliance with the CFMEU, the ETU, the MUA and the Labor Party.

Mr Dutton does not seem to realise that the federal integrity commission is a non-partisan body. Its purpose is not, like its state counterpart in NSW was originally, to be an LNP dirt unit on the Labor Party. Rather than simply yell at him to ‘SHUT UP’ as I did when I first read that ridiculous statement, focus instead on the utter lack of self-awareness.

You know it used to be said that the LNP was not built for opposition. I disagree completely. The ability to spin a federal body that will, if done correctly, decimate your own party, into something about the government is actually impressive. He is delusional once again, of course, but the mental gymnastics on display here would make professional gymnasts blush.

The Press Conference, Part Seven: The Biloela Family

Asked about calling the Biloela family ‘anchor babies’, a phrase ripped directly from US right-wing immigration rhetoric, Dutton responded with this

There are hundreds of cases where I acted on grounds of compassion in relation to migration policies. The minister of immigration is one of the most difficult jobs in the government…

So, I wish the family well, I have no gripe against the family, and as I said I acted compassionately in hundreds of cases which were not in the media.

A total and complete red-herring. You were not asked about cases where you ‘acted on grounds of compassion’. You were asked specifically about calling those children ‘anchor babies’. But you did not want to answer that question, did you?

On your complaint about Immigration Minister being a tough job, I have two questions. First, if it was so tough, why did you take it on? You could easily have told your leader ‘I do not want this job’ or refused it in some other way. Second, why does ‘strength’ have to manifest as cruelty? Why does being ‘strong’ have to result in just being a d*ck? You do not know what the word compassion means, and you now expect to be taken seriously when you speak about it? Be quiet.

Finally, you acted compassionately in hundreds of cases that were not in the media? So it is the media’s fault that people view you as an anti-immigrant sociopath. Good to know. But there is hypocrisy here that is noteworthy. Does the phrase ‘white South African farmers’ ring a bell? You wanted expedited visas for those people because they experienced violence and persecution. While this is a good idea, it was not applied consistently, and race played a part in why. Get that garbage outta here!

Conclusion: Dutton Dressed as Lamb

I hope that this article has shone some light on the sheer crap that is the media’s attempt to rehabilitate The Dark Lord. As I said in the opening paragraph, his record in government is too recent and too well documented for this to work, but I thought I would add my voice to the chorus of detractors. No matter how much the media tries to create and run with this new Dutton, the people know who he really is. His recent (and central) role in a government so thoroughly rejected in the polls should be too much to overcome, but with our press, one can never be sure.

 

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I’ve Seen This Movie Before: A Warning for the Albanese Government

Having lived through the last Labor government where the Greens were involved, I am cautious about how the Greens, with their increased influence, will behave under the Albanese government. Leader Adam Bandt spoke of a ‘green-slide’ on election night, despite the party holding roughly 3% of the seats in the House. The popular conception of the Greens is as a ‘non-governing party’. A minor party in the true sense of the word. I say this not to disparage the Greens, merely to acknowledge the reality of their very small numbers in the House.

I want to look today at a piece in the SMH dealing with the rise of the Greens in the recent election.

Background: The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – Unreasonable?

The Labor Government elected in 2007 was keen to introduce a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), later demonised as the ‘carbon tax’. The statement was not accurate of course, but when did that ever stop the LNP? But back to the Greens. The Guardian outlined the timeline of events surrounding the fall of the scheme, and the role of the Greens in that process. Even under threat of a double-dissolution, the Senate still rejected the scheme a second time, seemingly because it was not up to the standards of the Greens.

While there is an argument of ‘if you plan to do it, do it right’, the Greens did not seem to acknowledge that compromise is the essence of practical politics. One may ask for much more than one wants in a negotiation, but there is a limit. It is for this reason that the Greens earned the ire of certain political observers. Their policies are rarely costed since it is known that they will likely never be implemented.

The Election Result: Ideology and The Structure of The House of Representatives

All seats in the House of Representatives (the House) have now been called. Labor will govern with a majority of 77 seats. The LNP have 58 and the remaining 18 are shared between the Greens, the Teal Independents and the Others. The Greens have four seats out of 151. Hardly the ‘green-slide’ that Mr Bandt declared.

The SMH article asks this question of all the parties

when it comes to ideology, how much is enough?

The Greens seemed to be the most ideological at the election, with Labor a close second. The Lliberals, as normal for Morrison, stood for precisely nothing. Given the Greens’ increased share of the vote (roughly one in eight), something more ideologically stringent (whatever one thinks of their policies) was the order of the day.

I want to turn briefly to the Liberals and ideology at the recent election. The piece referenced above makes an interesting observation on Morrison and his rise in the LNP

Morrison’s philosophical and ideological vacuity was not an accident. He was chosen out of panic after the Liberals had worked through Abbott, whose most successful setting was negative, and Turnbull…

Faced in 2018 with the prospect of Peter Dutton taking over, the party room gave the nod to Morrison, renowned by his colleagues for having zero ideological attachments beyond his existence as a Liberal.

That last clause is decisive: the decision to place Morrison in leadership was based on his being an empty vessel. He believed nothing beyond being a Liberal. If one may assign a core belief to Scott Morrison, it was in power. As Sean Kelly made clear in his (highly recommended) book The Game, Morrison saw politics as a match between two teams, where winning, rather than good policy, was the goal. This, however, is not an ideology.

Ideology on Steroids: The New Greens

The piece goes on to state

To hear him [Bandt] and his new MPs advocating for the immediate introduction of their climate change stance, you’d think the entire nation had voted Green, not one-in-eight voters.

It is correct to chastise Bandt and his troops for what is, by any other name, entitlement around the implementation of their policy. The party has four seats in the House. This is hardly a mandate. Their slightly increased share of the vote looks to be going to their heads. We have seen this movie before under a previous Labor government. The Greens, who have some good ideas, forget their place as a tiny minority in the grand scheme of things. The Senate is another matter, however. The Greens have at least twelve senators, so on that front they should be taken more seriously. However, the role of the Senate is different to that of the House.

The Prime Minister Responds: Albanese and The New Greens

In another SMH piece, Mr Albanese ruled out negotiating with what he called ‘fringe groups’, including the Greens. The context here was the event of a hung parliament. Interestingly, this did not change after the election. Mr Albanese said that he had confidence and supply secured, and did not need to negotiate with the Greens. The assurance of confidence and supply was presumably a reference to some of the Teal Independents. If this is the case, this lends more credence to the idea that at least some of the Teals are not just Liberals in cheaper suits.

I suspect that The Prime Minister has seen this movie before as well. He is trying to avoid being beholden to the Greens, and it is easy to see why. Having witnessed the destruction of the original CPRS by a Senate where the Greens held much sway. He does not wish to be in a place where he can be dragged too far in one direction or another. With majority government (including, if he desires, a Speaker) now secure, being beholden to the Greens (in the House at least) is now a dead letter.

Conclusion: Learn from History or Repeat It

The newly minted Prime Minister and his government seem to have learned the lesson from ten years ago. They are not willing to be beholden to the Greens because they know how that plays out. This is not to say that the Greens should be utterly shut out. Some of their policy ideas are positive (expanding Medicare to include mental health and dental care for one). But they should not be allowed to demand their policies be implemented when they received a tiny percentage of the vote. Who do they think they are, the Nationals?

More seriously, the lesson of allowing small minority parties to have large influence over policy is not a lesson that Anthony Albanese has forgotten. Long may this strategic competence continue.

 

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Dutton Blasts Albanese: ‘How Dare You Do What You Said You Would Do!’

SATIRE

Incoming Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has blasted Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for doing what he said he would do, as well as going back on an LNP policy.

‘How dare you do what you said you would do? That’s not what a government does’ he said.

‘That’s not what a government does’ he said.

‘He also reversed our policy, a very galling decision on his part. Mr Albanese is very entitled, isn’t he? He seems to think being ‘in government’ allows him and his fellow lefties to ‘make decisions’. The man is ‘delusional’.

 

 

 

 

 

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Election Reaction: The Media’s Tantrum

Elections always bring about diverse reactions. One side is typically overjoyed at victory, while the other is disappointed in defeat. In a two-sided contest, such disparate reactions are the order of the day. In a healthy system, transitions of power are peaceful.

Looking at recent history, however, this trend is fading. Consider 2016 and the famous Women’s March. Consider the so-called ‘resistance Liberals’ who objected to Trump’s ‘tone’ and lack of ‘civility’. In addition, consider the 2020 reaction with the great lie that is the ‘stolen election’.

To prove that Australia is not immune from this frankly hysterical reaction to electoral defeat, I want to look at the media’s reaction to the ALP’s recent victory. The reaction can be described as nothing short of a tantrum. There is a clear and unsubtle subtext of ‘Listen, you peasants, no one said you could vote Labor’.

The Usual Suspects, Part One: Sky News

In a response that shocked precisely no one, Sky so-called News responded to a democratic loss with a few gems. Keep in mind, these are the ‘hard truth’ people who ‘tell it like it is’. Not those overly emotional leftie cucks who yell about their feelings and cry when things do not go their way. After Dark host Paul Murray came out with this absolute pearler in response to the result:

 

 

Ok, in order. Resistance against what? The will of the majority of the voters, who rejected your increasingly hard-right party and their cruel politics? You never get to talk about democracy again, you flaming hypocrite. Oh, you love sacred democracy, as long as it generates the correct result. Also, the mad left? Really, the mad left. So anyone who dares to vote for anyone other than the LNP is a ‘mad leftie’ from whom the country must be taken back. Seems legitimate. Finally, that phrase at the bottom of the screen does not mean what you think it means. You think it means resistance to the mad left. But at face value, that sentence reads that a resistance of the mad left begins now. To paraphrase George Carlin, learn the language we have all agreed upon, you clown.

The Usual Suspects, Part Two: The ABC

There are many voices from the right on the ‘left-leaning’ ABC, a statement the election coverage utterly blew out of the water. One of the most prominent is renowned right-wing hack Andrew Probyn, who had this to say concerning Anthony Albanese:

Does the contempt for voters and the elitism not simply ooze off that statement? In other words, ‘Albo appeals mostly to stupid peasants who do not know their place’. Remember too that these clowns hate elitists, otherwise known as people who can read. But you live in a democracy, remember. You can vote any way you like as long as ‘the right people’ get into power. But sacred democracy is the most important thing, remember. Garbage. Total, utter and complete garbage. As I have long suspected, for Tories, the word ‘democracy’ is a mere buzzword for ‘the status quo which benefits us and our corporate masters’. Get that garbage outta here!

The Usual Suspects, Part Three: Lord (Lady?) Downer

I wanted to end the institutional tantrum that is the reaction to a Labor Party election victory by looking at a statement from former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. He said

I don’t always think the voters are right and in Kooyong I think they were profoundly wrong in voting out Josh Frydenberg. I think it is a huge national mistake.

Once again we see the contempt for the peasants, a group best understood as anyone who dares to not vote for the LNP. Nothing brings voters onside quite like saying they are profoundly wrong. But the most amusing part is the idea that the ousting of Josh Frydenberg, a single member in one electorate, was a ‘national mistake’. It was an entirely local decision. So not only was it not national, it was not a ‘mistake’ either. This is not merely because I wanted to see the back of old Joshy, but a result in an election cannot, by definition, be a mistake. It was the will of the voters. To borrow from Paul Keating, how you going over there Curly? You old darling? Clod

Conclusion: An Institutional Tantrum

The Labor Party won the 2022 election by some considerable margin. Based on the reactions of various parts of the media, this was not planned. Whether it is Sky, the ABC or any other media figure in the mainstream, the reaction to this democratic election going a certain way may be accurately characterised as a tantrum. Both the Liberal Party and their media allies are nothing but brats in suits. Power is their toy and they should never have to share it. Mummy and Daddy (the electorate in this analogy) made them share it here, and so they are stamping their feet and screaming and crying like the pampered brats they are.

This response, as pathetic as it is, does provide useful insight into the institutional bias in this country. A party with repugnant ideas, which should have gone by the wayside years ago, is propped up by the media, now including the National Broadcaster. For the Labor Party to win government, it has to combat the media as well as the Liberal Party. The fact that the party which represents the workers has been in power roughly 30% of the time in the last seventy years says much about the institutional bias in favour of the LNP.

But back to the plot. The media has shown itself utterly incapable of doing its job. Indeed, the incompetence of the Fourth Estate has given rise to what Giordano of The Juice Media called The Fifth Estate. People like us here at The AIMN, Independent Australia, Alan Austin, Friendlyjordies, The Echidna and others. Just ordinary citizens doing actual critical reporting of government and media. We may never replace the Fourth Estate, but we are far closer to the people than those elitists will ever be. Soldier on, my friends.

 

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A New Start: The 2022 Election

Prologue: The Result

It is done. The former regime under which we have lived for the last nine years is no longer in power. Despite the corporate cheerleading, despite the blatant bias and propaganda from the media, the Australian Labor Party will form the next government. All the king’s monkeys and all the king’s propagandists could not reinstall (off a floppy disk) the LNP. The rise of the Independents and Others (Greens etc) means that a minority Labor government is likely. That says much, does it not? The two times in the last generation that the party of the workers has been allowed to form a government they were in a minority? Granted this is not settled yet, but it does look likely.

The ALP and Political Courage

Prior to getting into the policies I hope the new government will implement, it is necessary to consider how they will govern. You may recall that very early in the Abbott government’s term, they established an institutionalised witch hunt into ‘union corruption’, which discovered precisely nothing. The Royal Commission, which had a political appointee (Heydon) overseeing it, was very much designed to find dirt on Bill Shorten. The political courage (read balls) it took to use a public institution for such brazen political purposes was remarkable. The sheer level of ‘try and stop me’ arrogance and pigheadedness underlying that Royal Commission was amazing. The LNP simply did not give a sh*t: they were going to do this so get used to it.

The ALP, in its new government, needs that same attitude. Mr. Albanese and his troops need to take that ‘No. This is the right thing to do, and we are going to do it. Try and stop us’ attitude. The difference will be where they apply it: to what ends. If you combine conservative self-assuredness (arrogance) with ALP policies, you have a potentially quite effective combination. The ALP also needs to learn how to play politics with issues, but I want to look at this in the context of specific policies. The point, for now, is that Labor cannot be timid in how it governs. The media and the LNP will both be gunning for them. The ALP cannot show weakness or timidity.

The Most Important New Government Policy: The Integrity Commission

The most important policy, one that should be put in place when political capital is greatest, is the Integrity Commission. Since corruption molds government opinion, and government opinion informs policy, this is the first issue to address. The fish stinks, as Senator Fierravanti-Wells said, from the head down. If you do not first address corruption, any and all policy is compromised. To use an analogy, purify the water before distributing it to the villagers.

In a previous paragraph I mentioned playing politics with issues. On the issue of integrity, the backlash against this is likely to be severe. But you cannot show weakness, Mr Prime Minister-elect. If the LNP and the media dismiss this Commission as a partisan witch hunt you must be ready to fight. The way you fight is simple. You ask ‘Why would the Leader of The Opposition oppose an anti-corruption Commission? As the former Prime Minister Mr Morrison used to say, if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide’. Yes, play it like that. No party with a clean record would oppose such a Commission. Is this dirty? Possibly, but it is for the right reasons.

A brief comment on the nature of this Commission: it must be retrospective, it must have teeth (including subpoena power) and its funding must be in ten year blocks chained to inflation. Any and all former MPs, Senators, consultants, lobbyists, or donors of any party are not eligible to become Commissioners. The Commission would appoint fresh Commissioners for each investigation, with an overarching Chief Commissioner appointed for two years. The time has come to clean up Australian politics. If that makes the corrupt politicians screech and cry, so be it. Having a non-corrupt government and opposition matters more than some politician’s feelings and especially their bottom line.

A Looming Threat: The Media and Operation Restore Legitimate Government

The hostility of the media toward Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party was clear throughout the campaign. But the new government cannot ignore the media. In a previous post, I suggested that if Labor won the election, the media would start Operation Restore Legitimate Government the next day. The media (read Murdoch) gets to decide who governs the country, don’t you know? Oh the peasants might technically ‘elect’ the government, but we tell those peasants what to think. But they did not follow our instructions. They had the nerve to elect the other party. Well, we cannot have that. We need to get the party of legitimate government back into power.

You cannot ignore this, Mr Prime Minister-elect. The media will be gunning for you, particularly the partisan monkeys in the papers and on commercial television. The ABC may change its tune though (hear me out). The ABC is, always remember, government funded. For the last nine years, that government was the LNP, and so the ABC was little more than LNP propaganda. However, the ABC knows where its bread is buttered, and so its tune may well change. Let us be clear: I would be mortified if the ABC did the same as they did under the LNP but with a different partisan slant. But you might find that, now that it is a different government giving the ABC its funding, a slight tune change may occur. But back to Operation Restore Legitimate Government.

The peasants cheated the media. So, they will just have to try harder. If you thought the media was hostile to Labor during the campaign, just wait.They are bitter and angry that their preferred party is no longer in power. They want revenge. How do you deal with this? Continue the strategy of not taking the media’s crap that you used in the last two weeks of the campaign.

Conclusion: A New Start

The new government, under the leadership of Anthony Albanese, has a grand opportunity to reform Australia. Restoring Medicare, NDIS, public school funding, cleaning up corruption, action on climate and so much more. The floor, and the parliament, is yours, Mr Prime Minister-elect. If you cannot form a majority in your own right, I encourage you, Sir, work with the Independents and Others. I am not of the cynical Sam brigade which suggests that the Independents are merely Liberals in cheaper suits. You may find that some are, but go in with an open mind and seek common ground. As one of the Independents said in 2010, negotiating is in Labor’s DNA. Use this to your advantage, Sir, and form a strong, cohesive working majority if this is how government is to be formed.

Good luck, Mr Prime Minister-elect.

 

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