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Jumping the Shark with Robbie

‘Beware the great union comeback’ is the actual name of an actual article. On the front page of the Australian this headline was coupled with a dire warning that ‘Unions are using their ALP influence to make a comeback and it won’t take long for the public to understand the ramifications.’

It all seems to hint at a looming communistic overthrow of our local shopping centres and industrial parks, any moment now. Apparently, for writers and readers of the Australian, the word ‘Unions’ now stands in for all the corruption, thuggery, oppression of the masses, and failed business ventures, that have ever occurred, all across recorded history.

Right from the outset our intrepid journalist Mr Robert Gottliebsen so obviously wants you to shiver and be scared. The Unions are once again coming to kill off any possibility you might become stinking rich! The Unions are coming to kill your dreams! It’s well known that Unions just want to eat up all your well deserved prosperity. Unions eat prosperity and kill dreams. That’s what they do.

(sigh)

What can you do when presented with this sort of pap but to turn away and let a shiver run up your spine? Yet even as you turn the page you know you are likely just turning from one batch of pap to another, but you, like most every other Aussie, will persist regardless. This is what ‘reading a newspaper’ has become. Unfortunately, looking for news in our newspapers is now a hit and miss affair. Sometimes you can decode what really happened. Sometimes the veil of political smear and spin is simply too think to be able to work out what actually happened.

Our modern multi-media, all-singing-all-dancing, ideological extravaganza has shifted so far away from traditional reporting that the Daily Telegraph can boast, on its front page, a picture of Scott Morrison pictured as a Superhero labouring to save the working man; with no irony intended.

It’s hard to put a finger on exactly when the role of political commentator transitioned from acting as a reporter to being an ideological warrior, but now it is so blatant that many political hacks don’t even bother to try and join up the dots. It’s become both sad and scary.

There is nowhere left to go. Our political commentators, as a professional category, have jumped the shark. We all know that. In fact at times you have to put on an ideological filter just to be able to read the newspaper without being blinded by the apparent absurdities.

Newspapers like the Telegraph and the Australian have now moved into another realm of ‘reporting’ entirely. One where it is impossible to out-ludicrous the actual text. A part of our press where any attempt at parody appears to be a mere washed out imitation of reality. It might even be life threatening. It makes you want to guffaw and vomit simultaneously.

Which of course brings us back to how obviously nasty and horrible and despoiled and thuggish and naturally not-nice all unions are: Mr Gottliebsen addresses the situation of fire-fighters in Victoria.

He laments that: ‘Premier, Daniel Andrews, wants firefighting in the state to be controlled by the union [i.e. the fire-fighters]. Under the plan agreed to by the Premier and the fire union, members of the union [ie accredited fire-fighters] need to attend every fire.

There are some 60,000 volunteers available to fight fires in Victoria via the CFA and they are one of the best fire fighting organisations in the world [i.e. because they are all highly trained accredited fire-fighters]. Under the Premier’s plan volunteers will be controlled by members of the union or somehow unionised [i.e. will continue to be unionised].’

Obviously this is a recipe for disaster. The Victorian fire-fighters are going to remain unionised despite the obvious and pressing need for us all to become ‘aspirational, patriotic, working men and women of Australia’. Apparently they have not suddenly woken up in the middle of the night realising, in a fit of existential humility, that they simply cannot organise the fighting of fires without first consulting Adam Smith and their local LNP branch.

The model that the fire-fighters and the Government in Victoria have settled on is so obviously perverse that it cannot be in the public interest. It includes only the people who are funding the activity and the people who are engaging in the activity! All without any business being involved? It’s a total and outright travesty! No wonder Gottliebsen is getting annoyed. It’s the thin edge of the wedge.

The takeover of the fire-fighting capacity in Victoria by the people who are actually fighting the fires is downright anti-commercial. What next? Socialistic free water? Communistic free roads, rail, sewage, and telephone services? Free electricity poles? All without an added layer of commercial activity making it twice as expensive?

It’s absurd. Because Scott Morrison is a working class hero and Greg Hunt is a defender of the environment. And unions are bad because unions are bad because unions are bad.

Just a bit more than seven weeks to go before we vote and then get to enjoy another two months of non-stop political speculation and hoopla.

Whooopeeeee!

I better stop typing now. I’m feeling just a tad queasy.

 

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Promises, promises

Near the end of August in 2013 Tony Abbott launched the Liberal Party Campaign with a rousing speech full of pithy one-liners and simply jam-packed with heartfelt promises. But so much has happened in the last 31 months that most people have entirely forgotten the raft of promises that were made and the sense of anticipation that we all felt on the change of government.

Of course we were all destined to be disappointed.

In the intervening 31 months Tony Abbot was unceremoniously dumped from office and a new and shinier incumbent has been installed. But does this obviate all the promises made before the last election? Does a change of leader mean that all the prior promises are suddenly off the table?

Certainly we normally take the promises made before an election with a degree of scepticism but at the last election the feeling of scepticism within the community was palpable enough to cut with a knife. All of us were dead sick of political chicanery and we were united only in our wish for a stable government that would do as it promised and would not be constantly enveloped in a permanent sense of crisis and disorder.

So the Abbott opposition was all about promising that the tenor and ethic of government would change, as well as the policies. Everything would be different. Cautiously made promises would be fulfilled in their entirety. No excuses would be entertained. The adults would be back in charge.

Yet while we all suspected that some of the promises that were being made would likely be a little difficult to accomplish – very few of us anticipated a train wreck.

However, since the Liberal Party in opposition spent so much time decrying the dishonesty of the Labor incumbency, and was so eternally ready and willing to make heartfelt promises regarding how their efforts would be so different, I thought it might be informative and enlightening if we all took a trip down memory lane to remember what it was we bought when we elected the LNP government.

Before the election the Liberal Party promised us all that:

  • We’ll scrap the carbon tax so your family will be $550 a year better off.
  • We’ll abolish the carbon tax so power prices and gas prices will go down.
  • We’ll abolish the mining tax so investment and employment will go up.
  • We’ll cut the company tax rate because, as the former Treasury Chief has said, the main beneficiaries will be workers.
  • We’ll move the workplace relations pendulum back to the sensible centre, restore a strong cop-on-the-beat in the construction industry, and hit dodgy union officials with the same penalties as corporate crooks.
  • I want our workers to be the best paid in the world and for that to happen, we have to be amongst the most productive in the world.
  • And the motor industry will be saved from Mr Rudd’s $1.8 billion tax on company cars.
  • The Australian Building and Construction Commission will be running again, and the true state of Labor’s books will be revealed.
  • The NBN will have a new business plan to ensure that every household gains five times current broadband speeds – within three years and without digging up almost every street in Australia – for $60 billion less than Labor.
  • By the end of a Coalition government’s first term, the budget will be on-track to a believable surplus.
  • And the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be operating in large parts of every state.
  • We won’t shirk hard decisions.
  • There will be no new spending under a Coalition government that’s not fully-costed and fully-funded.
  • That way, we can be confident that the budget will return to surplus as quickly as possible.
  • By the end of a Coalition government’s first term, working with the states, teacher standards will be rising and teaching programmes will be improving.
  • People who are capable of working will be working, preferably for a wage but if not, for the dole.
  • And there will be a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme in place, because factory workers and shop assistants deserve to get their actual wage while they are on leave – just like public servants do.
  • There will be two million more jobs, in manufacturing as well as in agriculture, services, education and a still buoyant resources sector.
  • Public schools and hospitals will have far more freedom to be as good as their private rivals.
  • Childcare will be more affordable and more available to families who need more than one income and who have to cope in a 24/7 economy.
  • Within a decade, the budget surplus will be 1 per cent of GDP, defence spending will be 2 per cent of GDP, the private health insurance rebate will be fully restored, and each year, government will be a smaller percentage of our economy.
  • You could trust us in opposition and you will be able to trust us in government.
  • You don’t expect miracles; just a government that is competent and trustworthy and a prime minister who doesn’t talk down to you.
  • And I’m confident that your expectations can be more than met.
  • An incoming Coalition cabinet will respect the limits of government as well as its potential and will never seek to divide Australian against Australian on the basis of class, gender, or where people were born.
  • When I look at workers and managers, I don’t see people trying to rip each other off but people trying to get ahead together as a team.
  • When I look at the benefits that all Australians rightly enjoy such as Medicare and good public schools and hospitals, I don’t see “middle class welfare” but the hallmarks of a society that gives families a fair go.
  • This election is all about trust.
  • Who do you trust to reduce power prices and gas prices?
  • Who do you trust to get debt and deficit under control?
  • I make this pledge to you the Australian people.
  • I will govern for all Australians.
  • I want to lift everyone’s standard of living.
  • I want to see wages and benefits rise in line with a growing economy.
  • I want to see our hospitals and schools improving as we invest the proceeds of a well-run economy into the things that really count.
  • -I won’t let you down.
  • This is my pledge to you.
  • The last time Mr Rudd was prime minister, his own party sacked him.
  • When a desperate party put him back, one third of the cabinet resigned rather than serve with him.
  • So my question is this: if the people who’ve worked with Mr Rudd don’t trust him, why should you?
  • We can’t go on like this.
  • As you know from bitter experience, if you reward bad behaviour, you get more of it.
  • If you reward failure, you just get more failure…
  • To Labor voters wondering why your party has sold its soul to the Greens; to Green voters wondering why your party has embraced socialism over environmentalism; to independent voters wondering why your MP has sided with a bad government, to everyone who has been let down and embarrassed by the circus in Canberra,
  • I say: give my team a chance.
  • I’m confident that our best years are ahead of us, but not if we have another three years like the last six.
  • Choose change, and the last six years will soon seem like an aberration.
  • Choose change, and we’ll send a signal to people in authority that we can forgive honest mistakes but not persistent incompetence and deception.
  • Choose change, and there are few problems that cannot be improved.
  • But the only way to choose change is to vote for your Liberal and National candidate.
  • We have the plan, we have the team and we are ready.

And of course all of these aspirations were garnished with:

  • “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS”

So how do you think the Liberal party has fared?

How many of these promises were fulfilled?

Can we ever again trust anything that any professional politician might ever say?

Should we?

In recent years it seems that every time a politician has promised the Australian public the moon, all they have delivered are moon-shadows. So maybe this list of promises is as much an indictment of the gullibility of the Australian voting public as it is of our facile political leaders?

But then it does seem a bit harsh to blame the voting public for the woeful quality of our politicians of recent years. After all it’s a hard to imagine what we could all have done that could be so outrageously wrong that we could possibly deserve the sort of political leadership we have been provided with during the last two incumbencies.

Anyway: here we go again…

 

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Drug testing the unemployed for God

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz is reported to be in favour of drug testing welfare recipients to ensure they are ‘job ready’. An idea originally raised by the Tasmanian MP Brett Whiteley.

But this is hardly ‘news’. That the slack and feckless amongst us (ie welfare recipients) should be drug tested is an article of faith amongst the far right wing. The idea resurfaces every now and again for just long enough to cheer up the party faithful before once again being ruled out due to commie-pinko-civil-rights.

Last time around the idea was floated by George Christensen, then Abbott. Before being passed on to Kevin Andrews who considered it for a good long time and then ruled it out. Of course Senator Jacqie Lambie also indicated that she also thought it was likely a good idea.

It seems almost churlish to argue with such an illustrious group of moral philosophers.

Predictably Senator Abetz wants to go even further than just drug testing welfare recipients; he recently floated the idea of widespread random drug and alcohol testing on Australian building sites. For the safety of the workers. He was quoted as droning that: “Safety is a paramount consideration on construction sites. It is simply an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of employees and the public to have workers affected by drugs or alcohol on construction sites.”

So why does this dead horse cop such a flogging? Eternally. After all: the Health and Safety advice is that legal recreational and prescription drugs are the ones that are doing all the damage in the workplace, on our roads, and in people’s lives. Every day 15 people die and 430 others are admitted to hospital just due to the abuse of alcohol. When you add to this the people who are dying from tobacco abuse, and from abusing prescription drugs, that accounts for 98% of drug deaths in Australia. When you add up all the columns, for every death due to the use of an illegal drug in Australia there are at least forty-one deaths due to the use of a legal drug. So why the focus on illegal drugs?

One of the bedrock assertions motivating this proposal is the assertion that welfare recipients are morally weak individuals who are therefore more likely to use and abuse illicit substances. How true is this proposition?

The available research comes to the astonishingly logical and obvious conclusion that really poor people don’t actually spend a lot of money. While many of our politicians like to constantly intimate that all the Australian unemployed habitually engage in drink and drug fuelled satanic orgies until late in the night – it appears that this is not the case. Apparently the unemployed simply can’t afford to spend a lot of money. Who could have guessed?

It also seems that in the real world testing welfare recipients for illicit drugs costs a lot of money but does not seem to catch many welfare druggies. In those forward looking and progressive states in the US where the drug testing of welfare recipients has been tried (Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Florida, and Missouri) it has failed to catch anyone much despite it costing a fortune. After a year of drug testing in Tennessee welfare assistance was denied to around 30 people – out of 28,559 welfare applicants. Last year a report on the website Salon indicated that: ‘Out of 38,970 welfare applicants, 48 people got positive drug tests in Missouri. Utah blew $64,566 to catch 29 people who did illegal drugs. Arizona found 3, and Mississippi just 2.’

So why do people like Abetz, Christensen, Abbott, Andrews, and Lambie seem to remain forever immune to comprehending any of this factual information? Yes everyone agrees that illegal drug use can have deleterious effects. But surely it is impossible to accidentally ignore the actual proportion of welfare recipients who are harmed by illegal drugs, in comparison to those who are harmed by legal drugs as there is a huge avalanche of factual data available?

Unfortunately for all the rest of us the theological argument is undeniable and unequivocal. It makes absolute sense in a superficial and fascicle manner. To the rabidly religious folk in our federal parliament it is apparent that, because those who use illegal drugs are morally decrepit, and those who are on welfare are also morally decrepit, then those who receive welfare must be more likely to use illegal drugs than are ‘normal’ Aussie citizens. It doesn’t matter what the facts might say. This is a religious belief so facts do not matter.

So while the rhetoric of the drug war warriors may sound shrill and largely incoherent to the majority of the population their dedication to their nonsensical arguments is undeniable, as is their air of desperation. This is because currently our drug laws represent the last moral cannon left in the legal armoury of those who deem themselves to be our moral superiors. All the rest of our laws are now designed to stop Aussies from getting harmed. Our drug laws are the last laws left that are based on protecting our moral rather than our physical health. So in the modern age the far right wing are fast running out of moral ‘outrages’ to be outraged about in public. Just about every other ‘moral outrage’ has become legal. Without the ‘drug laws’ the morally superior among us would be largely bereft of a weapon to use to bash the ungodly with. Therefore they clutch at their arguments despite the evidence and regardless of the obvious harm inflicted on individuals and the society at large.

In every other way except for in our drug laws we have largely ditched our victimless ‘crimes’ and excepting for those on the far right we all feel so much better for doing so. In the Australian context it now feels positively vulgar to even think about protesting against providing gays with the same suite of rights as any other member of society. Prostitution has long been decriminalised almost everywhere, and pornography seems not only ubiquitous but even rather passé. Plus virtually everything up to and including Satanism is now recognised as an acceptable lifestyle choice. So unfortunately for those who really want to get outraged; most of the good old legal snubs have slowly ebbed away. The only morality laws left standing are our drug laws.

Criminal laws are crafted to protect people while morality laws are crafted to control them. So of course Abetz, Christensen, Abbott, Andrews, and Lambie all remain immune to any rational scientific evidence regarding drugs. For these individual this is a moral question: not a scientific or social one. The attribute they all share is a belief that they are all duty bound to look after our moral health. They feel they are obliged to outlaw anything that fails to accord with their spiritual beliefs. They also have another thing in common – they have all been failing to keep us ‘pure’. So they continue to fight for their drug laws despite any amount of evidence.

Their sense of desperation can be explained by the growing gap between the opinions of the political class and those of the majority. It’s becoming ever more difficult to deny that the sole reason that illegal recreational drugs remain illegal is because our politicians continue to wilfully refute the evidence in front of their own eyes. So despite all the evidence and against the oft stated wishes of the majority, Queensland is currently doubling down on the drug war by increasing the penalties for using cannabis to the same as those for using heroin. Similarly our federal government is currently in the process of setting up a huge bureaucracy to protect us all against the evils of anyone taking cannabis for recreational rather than medicinal purposes. It would all be laughable if it was not so tragic.

Until we finally confront this ‘third rail’ of Aussie politics nothing will change. Misinformation will continue to be paraded about as apparent fact. Citizens will continue to be demonised and their lives destroyed for no rational reason and for no apparent social benefit.

If we must have fools in our parliament then at least let us have honestly misguided fools rather than the wilfully ignorant. Individuals such as Abetz, Christensen, Abbott, Andrews, and Lambie have every right to preach from any pulpit in the land, but when they do so in our parliaments they do our democracy a gross disservice.

 

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The Emperor fiddles while Rome burns

We are currently experiencing a massive natural catastrophe such as Australia has never before experienced. The Northern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef are dying. Much of the coral cover over thousands of square kilometres of the reef has turned as white as bone china. Even the fringing reefs are dying.

Professor Terry Hughes of James Cook University recently flew over 660klm of the northern reaches of the reef and estimated that 60% of the reef was entirely bleached. Many of the most famous dive sites on the northern reef have been reduced to barren ghostly white wastelands. Soon algae will discolour these lifeless coral skeletons and they will begin to crumble. As will the local tourism, diving, and fishing industries.

If you hop on any number of the dive or charter boats available in Port Douglas and motor out over the reef for several hours you will come to the famous Agincourt Reef system. Or at least you will be in the vicinity of where it used to be. In today’s Guardian you can see pictures of this natural wonder of the world bleached as white as coral sand. The same thing has happened to most every reef between Cairns and Papua New Guinea.

Meanwhile on another planet entirely, in Canberra, our government has been summarily recalled to debate vitally important business. In an action which has no modern precedent our PM has recalled parliament so as to sit for a few days to reconsider matters that are of such dire consequence that normal conservative practice and tradition must be set aside.

As I write I am listening to the leader of the opposition moving for the business of the house to be suspended so that they might all discuss the banking ‘crisis’. This motion will fail. The Turnbull government will then use this extraordinary meeting of parliament to prorogue parliament and call a Double Dissolution election.

The government has not been able to get its extraordinarily repugnant economic agenda through the senate. Many of the 2014 budget cuts are still delayed. And despite the fact that even the government has turned away from many of the more obnoxious of these proposals, this is now a ‘crisis’. Moreover: if we don’t suddenly reinstate a home-grown FBI built just for unions involved in the building industry then the whole of the Australian economy is under threat (apparently).

Under normal circumstances the artificiality of our politicians and their views is somewhat masked by the gravity of the issues they consider. However in this instance, for this week, there are only artificial crises being considered.

Nobody in our country really believes that the passage of the BCCC Act is a first order problem. If it had wanted to negotiate an outcome on the BCCC Act then the government could have done so. Many cross bench senators may have been willing to negotiate a reasonable outcome, if only the government had not already rammed through alterations to the senate voting procedures that will wipe them all out at the next election, and then recalled parliament using a long dormant constitutional manoeuvre so as to manufacture a double dissolution election.

Six months ago it may have possible to still keep a straight face while calling DD and arguing that it was because there was a policy agenda that was being thwarted by senate intransigence, however after six months of political inertia it is no longer tenable. For the last six months the government has done nothing but rule things out. When Turnbull was raised to the throne all of Australia chanted ‘yes’ ‘yes’ ‘yes’ in unison. The ‘Party of No’ was at last going to pursue a middle of the road conservative agenda. Then ever since Turnbull has done nothing but say ‘no’ ‘no’ ‘no’.

So while six months ago Turnbull might have been able to call a DD and be pretty sure to get elected on the basis of all his wonderful aspirations for our country, now it’s not a sure thing. The longest election campaign in Australian history is in prospect. And while very few Aussies know what the BCCC is, most every one of them is fairly attached to the Great Barrier Reef.

Unfortunately for the Turnbull incumbency he is leading the wrong political party. All of Australia was backing him on the hope that he would be able to lead us out of a wilderness of political rhetoric and bowing and scraping to vested interests. Aussies largely agree with his stated sentiments regarding climate change, keeping manufacturing in our country, addressing long term unemployment, providing decent education and health services, and knowing that there will be a secure pension available at the end of a working life.

However every time Turnbull has voiced anything that might possibly be construed as being in line with any of these stated aspirations he has been immediately beaten up by right wingers before backing down. It is becoming more and more apparent that Turnbull is entirely captive of his own Praetorian Guard. He is up on the battlements playing a sweet fiddle, but nonetheless Rome continues to burn.

So while six months ago Turnbull would likely have won an election comfortably, now it seems the worm has turned. It is going to be a long cold winter for Turnbull and the LNP. The bookies are still offering reasonable odds against a Labor victory. Maybe it’s time for a flutter?

Also by James Moylan:

The ongoing News Limited ‘reality show’

Likely arguments in Day v Regina

Why we need to be intolerant of climate science fools

Campaign coping strategies

‘The modern and wonderfully diverse 21st century Australian democracy®’

Yes, we do need to talk about the spurious nonsense being taught to children in our schools

Election 2016: Media Groundhog Day

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Campaign coping strategies

We are all in for three months of non-stop, 24/7, stage-managed outrage, reaction, over-reaction, retraction, retraction outrage, non-retraction outrage, etc. Gala headlines slagging-off individuals, unions, politicians, dole bludgers, corporate bludgers, or the whole of Europe will be mere wallpaper behind arguments that we will all wish we had never had or heard. Once again our press will run amok. Once again we will endure truckloads of fascicle nonsense dressed as political discussion. For weeks at a time confected outrage will blanket every waking moment of our communal awareness. Instantly we will all know a great many things that we never wanted to know and never knew that we didn’t want to know. But this time it will be different. It will stretch away into the far distance for day after day after day.

Every one of you have to WAKE UP RIGHT NOW. Realise that you only have a few precious hours left in which to sketch out some definite plans. Drastic measures are warranted. We are all moving out of our social comfort zone and into the unknown. For fifteen weeks a dark pall of continuous election coverage will descend upon our nation. It is probable that not all of us will make it out the other side in one piece. Those of us who have a handy checklist or coping strategy prepared beforehand are far less likely to suffer significant psychological or emotional damage. If you are already feeling a bit thin then I am afraid that, in this instance, blind panic may be the only appropriate response.

Any minute our entire social landscape will once again be overrun with celebrities pretending to be journalists and journalists pretending to be celebrities. Our meek and mild journalists will all instantly be transformed from fearful and careful arbiters of truth into no-nonsense, hard-hitting, pencil chewing assassins, all looking to metaphorically rip the leg off any handy candidate and use it to bludgeon the truth out of them. Suddenly bland candidates, who had no discernible view about any subject at all during pre-selection, will start to emulate ‘the most interesting man in the world’ and begin passing out pictures of their debauchery in a tent during a lion hunt in South Africa.

And at every turn there will be candidates, events, conferences, debates, passion, and gallons of justifiable outrage, plus ever more BANNER HEADLINES. For FIFTEEN WEEKS! But do not despair. There are tried and true ways of coping with this sort of widespread social mania.

A holiday might work. If you feel you have a book in you then now might be just the time to lock the study door and begin scribbling. As for the rest of us? More plebeian coping strategies are also available. First and foremost don’t forget those simple things like alcohol, drugs, extreme sports, yoga, hiding away in dark cafés, and/or paragliding. (Some more distressed individuals may even want to employ several of these strategies simultaneously).

One emergency coping strategy is to simply assess every bit of election coverage in terms of its raw comedy potential. After all, for anyone interested in satire, or improvisational, or skit comedy, then a modern election campaign in Australia is a gold mine. So when the coverage starts to become so unbearable that you feel on the verge of mowing the lawn (again), or even moving to someplace where politics might make some sort of sense, then why not try one of these ‘Election Campaign Considered as Comedy Coping Strategies’.

#1. Pretend the Press Conference you are watching is actually a comedy impro session and try and work out what the comedian was told to do.

i.e. You are a politician at a press conference and:

  1. you are there to announce that you are going to release a policy but you are not allowed to tell anyone what the policy is or when it will be released,
  2. you are lying but you are a bad liar and so everybody knows you are lying,
  3. you have to praise someone that you hate so badly that you find it difficult to mention their name without wincing,
  4. you only called the press conference because you are in a really bad mood and wanted to argue with someone but you don’t actually want to say anything about anything,
  5. you answer every question you are asked with a well crafted answer to an entirely different question.

Etc.

#2. Pretend you are a journalist and you are able to ask the candidate just one question on behalf of everyday Australians before the ‘Absolute Truth’ force-field shuts down. What do you ask?

i.e.

  1. Who do you really work for?
  2. Are you a closeted and repressed homosexual?
  3. Are you acting on the advice of your tax accountant?
  4. How much stuff have you really got squirreled away?
  5. What do you really think?

Etc.

#3. Mentally replace any party name mentioned with the ‘crazy loonies’, or the ‘moss-hugging sycophantic cry-babies’, or the ‘very very very silly party’ or any other vacuous and insulting title you might be able to dream up. Simultaneously it assists if you mentally re-label every topic mentioned as ‘talking point one’, ‘talking point two’ etc. This helps in firmly categorising nonsense as nonsense and getting it out of your consciousness fairly efficiently.

#4. Try and compose the teletext that would be running on the little title bar under the press conference/event if the person doing the typing was both drunk and being brutally honest.

#5. Work up a list of Stereotypical Federal Election Campaign Events and when you see one of them you can mentally tick it off your list and then score the participants on a scale of 1 to 10 on their ability to slavishly adhere to the stereotype.

i.e. Look for standout performances in:

  1. Standard Campaign launch with PM.
  2. Campaign launch with ‘Our next Prime Minister’.
  3. The ‘Error in the costings’ attack by Ministerial tagteam press conference.
  4. The get your head into the media re-announcement of a vague policy idea in a badly attended conference.
  5. The categorically wronged and totally misrepresented but I am now pulling out of the campaign and retiring to my garden anyway press conference
  6. The hugely overproduced and overly long party campaign launch in the second last week because we are drowning in public event.
  7. The lame political attack ad.
  8. The lame political counter-attack ad that gets pulled really quickly.
  9. The PM in a fruit shop photo op.
  10. The mall walkthrough and mingle.
  11. The journalist becomes the story story.

Etc.

We are embarking on a long journey through unmapped territory and many of us are entirely ill-equipped for the many weeks of Turnbull, Pyne, Lambie, Leyonhjelm, Ricky Stewart, and Bill Shorten that stretch ahead. People will wake up screaming in the night. Young children will wonder at the distress of their parents. Pets will be disturbed and a great many marital arguments will cause otherwise great men to sleep in uncomfortable positions in odd locations. All for no actual reason. So in the coming weeks, in your travels, be nice to a stranger. Pat a dog. Comfort one of our sobbing children. Remember we once lived in a happy prosperous land where people were nice and everyone was not always snarling at each other and complaining.

But most importantly you must immediately grasp this opportunity to plan for and brace yourself against the coming onslaught. Prepare for our long dark disheartening electoral winter. Do some emotional push-ups. Write out a list of things you pledge to utterly ignore. Lay in a massive stock of comedic interpretations. And become prepared to laugh at everything and anything, at the drop of a hat. Then you may yet survive the coming communal emotional maelstrom.

Personally I doubt if I have even the faintest chance of emerging as anything less than a blubbering mess. Fear is warranted. A massive and seemingly eternal election campaign has broken out and has begun to blanket the known earth with its baleful gloom. Woe betide the citizen who is ill-prepared. May God help us all.

 

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‘The modern and wonderfully diverse 21st century Australian democracy®’

Now that the door to the Senate has been closed to anyone who is not a party apparatchik, it’s hard to be optimistic about where our politics is headed. After their recent ‘Meg Lees’ moment the Greens will soon fade away to being just a rump and we will be a two party state. Just two right wing parties backed by two right wing media conglomerates, two large commercial retailers, four big banks, four big mining houses, and any sectional interest with a big pocketbook. Welcome to the modern and wonderfully diverse 21st century Australian democracy® – brought to you by Chevron, Adani, and Coke!

Way back in the beginning Australia became a prosperous nation because we were egalitarian. The common bloke had a stake in the good life and so worked hard for a chance to own a small but adequate slice of the pie. The common bloke worked hard because it was easy to be optimistic. Society was conceived of as being relatively equitable. Nobody was too grossly rich nor were they too poor, and nobody was going to be left too far behind. Yet even while reality rarely lived up to this ideal; at least optimism was warranted and widespread. So what happened?

Up until the eighties our parliament was wildly diverse. In the 1930’s the same Federal Electorate that is now represented by George Christensen sent a card carrying communist off to the Federal House of Representatives. This was because once upon a time local constituencies sent known representatives to parliament to do their bidding (I know it is hard to believe but this was actually the case). And not only were local constituents allowed to have a say in who their representatives were, they also got to have a say in what was going to be talked about in the parliaments of our land. This is because in days gone by the order of business in our parliaments (in other words what was going to be talked about and in what order) was largely controlled by the clerks of the parliament. So any member could post a notice of motion, and so lot’s and lots of topics were talked about. Also, way back then, parliaments actually got together and talked about things more often then just every other fortieth Tuesday in a leap year.

But of course things were not as well organised in those days. Back then political parties did not have minds of their own but rather were made up of like minded representatives, and since there were quite a number of different parties, and movement from one party to another was not infrequent, it was considered more appropriate for a politician to move to a party that matched their views on a matter rather than betray the trust of the constituents. How quaint.

These days our politicians are far more expensive, far less significant, and utterly owned. Over the last forty years the two big political parties have slowly increased their grip on the groin of our political leaders until they absolutely rule those who rule us. These party bosses stand above the law, adhere to no cohesive moral or ideological code, feel free to deliberately mislead, and take no heed of the views of the majority.

Who will deny that we have now reached the point where it does not really matter what any individual representative in our parliament might think about anything? This is because unless ‘the party’ and ‘the mainstream media’ both think the same it simply will not happen. Likewise it doesn’t really matter what any particular area in Australia happens to think should happen, if one of the two major parties (i.e. their corporate backers) do not want it to happen, it will not even be discussed. No longer do local constituents get a free reign to choose their local member and once elected to parliament representatives cannot discuss what they want to discuss, or freely vote in a manner they think is best for their constituency. If there are one or two rogue (independent) members in the house it hardly matters. They are outnumbered 50 to 1.

The political parties and their right wing media backers own the agenda because they own the media. They are the ones who tell us who we can vote for, what votes will matter, what we can talk about, what points of view are acceptable, and how grateful we should be. It’s a neat two-card trick. The big political parties do the bidding of big media, big business, small business, the mining industry, the banks, the insurance industry, the unions, and every other ‘interest’ except for the public interest. We lose faith in them and start voting in droves for independents and small parties. So they simply change the rules to make it perfectly legal for them to throw away the votes of anyone who disagrees. Hmm?

But if you disagree you can say so in the ‘alternative or social media’. Even though we all know that the new-age free press available online is just a load of people complaining about a whole bunch of stuff that is completely irrelevant. We know this because we hear it every day, in the mainstream media.

Yet still social media booms because there is always such an awful lot of irrelevant stuff to bitch about. But even so there is no doubt that the optimism of earlier times has long since been painted over with a thick coat of despair and general despondency. Which is understandable considering the circumstances. After all we should have seen this coming. It’s not as if our politicians have even been pretending to ‘do the will of the people’ for a very long time. Governments in the modern age long ago turned from serving the people to instead telling them in exhausting detail exactly why it is simply not possible to do what the majority wants. Regarding virtually anything you might want to name.

Most Australians (and the High Court) agree that we should not be spending a quarter of a billion dollars a year on enabling proselytising evangelical Christians to have access to our schoolchildren on a regular basis. So our parliament guts an eight million dollar a year anti-bullying campaign because it might offend a few people who want to be able to continue bullying certain already demonised segments of our population. Most Aussies think cannabis should be decriminalised and medicinal cannabis should be widely available for those who need it because we all know it to be a relatively benign herb. So our politicians continue to spend billions of dollars in an attempt to eradicate the herb and incarcerate its users. All the while our newspapers and television stations continue to tell simple homespun lies about how illegal drugs will send your budgie and child mad even while carrying endless advertisements for alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and sugar bomb foodstuffs packed with all the wholesome goodness of transfat, sodium, and fourteen artificial colours and flavours. Most Aussies would like to see less bushland cleared and more national parks declared. So business interests are hurrying to open hostels in remote parks and massacring as many acres of Queensland scrub they possibly can before anyone notices or Labor gets back in. Most Aussies are worried about climate change. But about half of our politicians and half of our journalists, plus all of their employers, just know that the majority are wrong. So we have been encouraging our biggest polluters to continue to pollute by handing them huge wads of cash from the public purse. We have scrapped the carbon tax. Government has ensured that the renewable energy sector will be crippled for years by investor uncertainty, and having thoroughly investigated whether or not wind turbines kill people, we continue to encourage new coal mines to open up all across our land and subsidise the search for new deposits. Most Aussies find it easy to agree that large corporations and multinational concerns should pay a reasonable amount of tax. Most Aussies like Medicare. Most Aussies think that super is too generous to millionaires, that housing prices are far too high, that education should be affordable, and that fracking is a disaster.

However it has long been apparent that it does not matter a jot what most Australians think or want. But now at least the charade is over. Our political parties have at last written us out of the picture. From here on in, if we vote incorrectly, they will simply throw our vote in the bin. Welcome to the modern and wonderfully diverse 21st century Australian democracy® – brought to you by Chevron, Adani, and Coke!

Don’t fret. We still have the right to remain silent (at least for the time being).

 

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There is no such a thing as ‘too much democracy’ in our Constitution

The big three political parties seem to have overlooked the fact that our Constitution does stipulate some parameters by which senators must be elected.

The hubris of the big political parties in Australia is remarkable. The recent debate regarding proposed alterations to our senate voting system has been engaged as if our democracy is the simple plaything of the political parties. Unfortunately for many of the propositions being advanced, ‘political parties’ are absent from our Constitution.

Yet our media seems to have simply lapped up and regurgitated the public relations output of the major parties without even considering the first principles that are at stake. Nor have they paused to consider the constitutional viability of these propositions.

The suite of propositions being advanced will alter the law to restrict the entry of new politicians to the Senate on the basis of what political party they might belong to. In other words, the new voting rules that are being proposed will thereby generate two classes of voters and votes. There will be those cast for one of the major political parties and those cast for one of the others.

However, political parties are an overlay on our political process that have been developed so as to allow blocks of like interests to coalesce together and serve the interests of particular politicians and their friends. They have no constitutional force. Rather, the rules by which our votes are cast and counted, as well as those which regulate the definition of who we are voting for, are all stipulated in our common founding legislative act. So what does the Constitution have to say?

Most significantly it dictates who shall be eligible to stand for election in our country (for both Houses we refer to Section 34) and it adds a few stipulations regarding the election of our senators (such as in Section 9). This section reads (in part): The Parliament of the Commonwealth may make laws prescribing the method of choosing senators, but so that the method shall be uniform for all the States.

Note that the founders stipulated that the process has to be identical across all the states. It has to have a ‘uniform’ effect. It does not mention ‘political parties’. Yet as soon as any of these possible ideas for new senate voting rules is introduced then there will suddenly be two classes of votes and voters in every federal senate election (1- those that are cast for a senator and then passed on as a preference vote, and, 2- those that are not). Yet while our Constitution does seem to allow for our political class to alter the voting rules so as to enable two classes of voters and votes to exist; one of the very few firm stipulations is that any alteration must be uniform for all the States. Oops!

All the current proposals will result in a differential breakup in the votes cast in the Senate across our states. In NSW the system may provide for one set of six political parties being included and all the rest being excluded, whilst in Tasmania and Western Australia the list will be entirely different, etc.

When our Constitution was being framed the Senate was envisioned to be composed of individual members chosen with regards to regional (State based) criteria. However, under all the propositions that have been advanced then a candidate standing for the Senate in any state of Australia will be advantaged or disadvantaged relative to what political party they might belong to. In one state it may give you a leg up, in another you may not be on ‘the list’. This means that a ‘uniform method’ will not be used to differentiate votes in each state.

I will take a moment to reiterate the legal sense of the argument being presented once again. Many point to the inequity of having sitting members of parliament voting to impose restrictions on entry that didn’t apply when they were voted in as being inequitable. And so it is. But the Constitution does allow the Parliament to compose the voting rules as long as they abide by the few simple stipulations that are made. The Parliament is also allowed to split the voting ticket into two classes of votes and voters, but only if this arbitrary distinction operates in a uniform manner across all the states.

Further, this whole argument is both ill-informed and insulting. Instead of screaming about the size of an electoral ballot paper we should be celebrating it. The miracle that is the Australian ‘fair-go’ is based on the idea that we are a democracy born entirely in peace and so mainly devoted to BBQ’s and arguments in parks. However, this implies much more democracy rather than much less! Aussies carry a sausage sandwich and a big mouth. We have an opinion about everyone and everything but, apparently, we cannot possibly spend five to fifteen minutes once every three years filling out a big ballot paper. What unadulterated tosh!

But it seems that our current crop of incumbents have lost control of the democratic process so we must change the rules that applied to them to keep the ‘undesirables’ out of the House. Give me a break.

Yet in our big-media saturated fast food society we are buying it. What happened to doing your bit? What happened to pitching in and building an egalitarian paradise? Our current leaders and press seem to have decided, on behalf of me and you, that it is all too difficult for them to engage in negotiation and compromise or for us to have to read a long list and then number either one box or every one.

Who do these overpaid and entitled b*stards think they are? First and foremost this is all a whinge about their job being too difficult. My response: ‘If your party cannot get its way then you will have to negotiate with a number of other members of the Upper House. This is the way our democracy was designed to work.’

Just because the Australian population has started to vote for other people does not give our current crop of incumbent politicians the right to entrench their power and influence (and that of our political friends) at the expense of the democratic process. And thank heavens the people who framed our Constitution were pragmatic enough to foresee the tendency of our political masters to ever grab for greater power. So our Senate is different from the Lower House. Any alteration in voting rights must have exactly the same effect across the whole of the Commonwealth, so unless the legislation stipulates which six (or eight, or fifteen) parties will be allowed to run and which will not, then the effects will be differential, and thereby will be specifically precluded by action of Section 9 of our founding legislative act.

Expect any of the proposed alterations to face immediate challenge in the Federal Courts. Do not be surprised if one of the small parties makes application for an injunction precluding the implementation of these new Australian Electoral Commission guidelines on the basis that they are blatantly unconstitutional. If our politicians want to put political parties into the Constitution then they should have a referendum, otherwise they should do their job or make way for someone who is able to do it.

 

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