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Day to Day Politics: Proving his Luddite qualities.

Friday 6 October 2017

The National Press Club from time to time can throw up some wonderful moments, and one such moment was the launch of former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans’ memoir on Wednesday. Evans of course was one of the standout ministers – among many – in Bob Hawke’s first ministry.

Political commentary since would suggest that it is universally held up as the finest ministry ever in Australian political history. It was Bob Hawke’s leadership that made it so. He had fine qualities of leadership. Delegation, he was a good listener, and encouraged cabinet debate. Often ministers would complain about the length of time meetings took. It was also the quality of the public service that backed him.

Many astute minds with great intellectual capacity have followed, but none have commanded the admiration of his troops like Hawke.

As I watched he and Evans – who by the way enjoys an international reputation second to none – reminiscing about times long gone when there was a certain respectability about politics, I bemoaned the quality of leadership since the 80s.

If anyone stands out as an example of the decline in political excellence in this country it has to be Tony Abbott. No one has fostered negativity as much as he. No one has shown such an ability to look into the past and long for its impossible return. No one has shown such an inability to grasp and understand the future as Abbott.

An example of this is when on September 14 2010 Malcolm Turnbull returned to the Abbott Ministry as the Communications Minister. In doing so, Abbott ordered Turnbull to “demolish” the Government’s National Broadband Network (NBN).

Yes, it is difficult to believe that an Australian leader could be so much a Luddite as to say that the internet needed to be abolished.

Declaring the NBN would be the “absolute focus” of the political battle of the next 18 months, Mr Abbott said he could think of no better person to “ferociously” hold the Government to account on the issue.

“The Government is going to invest $43 billion worth of hard-earned money in what I believe is going to turn out to be a white elephant on a massive scale … I’ve already described it as school halls on steroids, and we can be certain the NBN will be to this term of government what pink batts and school halls were to the last term of government.”

Given Abbott’s discredited views on other technological policy – like Global Warming – it’s a wonder that anyone listens to him at all. But they do. Even with Marriage Equality where he continues to try to persuade people with his outmoded views.

An observation

“When the PM champions innovation is he doing so only for capitalism’s sake?”

He is a man desperately clinging to the past while trying to survive in a present he doesn’t understand, and a future for which he has no comprehension.

In part, one could argue that our now Prime Minister has succeeded in what Abbott instructed him to do. The NBN isn’t what we were promised.

Recently a joint standing committee reported on the progress of the NBN. Victorian Nationals MP Andrew Broad said he had not signed a report criticising the findings of a cross-parliamentary committee on the rollout of the national broadband network as he thought it would be “disingenuous”, because other work had prevented him from taking part in much of the committee’s “listening tour” in which it heard customer complaints.

But Broad now has one of his staff dedicated full-time to resolving issues and dealing with complaints.

“When Telstra used to be government-owned, you had Telstra Countrywide and you had people you could direct people to,” he said. “Now, with NBN, it is sort of faceless.

“You’ve got retailers blaming the service provider and then they get exasperated and they come into our office and you end up having to spend all your time having to sort it out.

“We almost have a person full-time on mobile phone and NBN issues in our electoral office – which is ridiculous – that is not the role of an MP.”

For his contribution of dumbing down of Australian politics, his efforts in trying to recreate the past and his role in destroying out democracy he should be offered a knighthood with a residency from whence he came.

On ya, Bob. Thanks for the memories.

My thought for the day

“For a Ministry with diploma’s from the greatest learning institutions in the world its difficult to imagine how so many brainless buffoons could gather around the same table at the same time and cause so much havoc.”


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  1. Kaye Lee

    In response to Hawke labelling the marriage equality survey a waste of time and money, Abbott called him a “silly old bugger” who is “suffering from memory loss”

    Speaking on 2GB, Abbott recycled his old chestnuts.

    “Let’s face it, it was the former Gillard Labor government which spent $16 billion on school halls, grotesquely over-priced school halls,” he said.

    Mr Abbott also listed spending on the home insulation scheme by the Gillard and Rudd governments in his criticisms.

    Meanwhile the debacle they call the multi-mix technology NBN is over budget, behind schedule, plagued by technical problems, and losing the government billions every year which doesn’t appear on the budget bottom line.

    Not to mention Abbott’s personal decision to order an extra 58 dud fighter jets that can’t fight.

    Abbott’s only purpose in life is to attack and destroy. I blame him specifically for the deplorable state of politics in this country.

  2. helvityni

    “Given Abbott’s discredited views on other technological policy – like Global Warming – it’s a wonder that anyone listens to him at all. But they do”

    Sadly many still listen to him and to Hanson, Dutton, Abetz, Cash… We might not listen to Ms Cash, but we certainly hear her…

    KL, Abbott has another purpose; to be our PM for the second time.

  3. Terry2

    Hawke makes a good point. Somehow an expenditure of $122 million that was twice disallowed by our elected parliament (the Senate), was approved by the Finance Minister from a pot of money designed for an entirely different purpose and totally lacking in adequate regulation and parliamentary oversight.

    And, as regards school halls, in my local area our primary school (built in 1902) had no assembly hall but now has a much cherished multi-function hall that accommodates school assemblies, indoor sports including basketball/netball, cricket and soccer as well as community functions including amateur dramatics, meetings,voting and so on .

    When it comes to Ned Ludd and the Luddites, they would have cheered Tony Abbott’s reintroduction of imperial knighthoods. Tony Abbott and 2GB are relics of a bygone era, they should just go away.

  4. Glenn Barry

    Kaye-Lee although I agree with you on the havoc and chaos wrought on contemporary politics by Abbott and now Turnbull.

    I believe the stench emanates originally from Howard as I see the extremism endemic in the LNP as a direct consequence of his leadership period.

    This doesn’t admonish Abbott and Turnbull in any way, shape or form, however their ascendancy, both Abbott and Turnbull, to Prime Minister(s) is a symptomatic consequence, as much as it is an ongoing cause of LNP toxicity

  5. Henry Rodrigues

    Thanks Abbott, nincompoop. He’s just highlights the disaster that was his government and Turdball’s, in contrast to the stability and the success that Hawke and Keating brought to Australia, in that golden period. Just bugger off Abbott, you idiot.

  6. Zathras

    When it was proposed and introduced by the outgoing Chifley government, the Snowy Mountains Scheme was NBN of its time and met strong resistance for its construction from Menzies.

    Fortunately the ALP legislated it in such a way that it couldn’t be changed or halted so construction continued as originally planned after they lost the following election to Menzies.

    Menzies later changed his mind and said “In a period in which we in Australia are still, I think, handicapped by parochialism, by a slight distrust of big ideas and of big people or of big enterprises … this Scheme is teaching us and everybody in Australia to think in a big way, to be thankful for big things, to be proud of big enterprises and … to be thankful for big men.”

    It’s a shame that the NBN couldn’t have been kept politically bullet-proof in the same way.

    Nobody from the Abbott/Turnbull era will ever be stepping up to take any glory for the mess they created by placing political opportunism ahead of the national interest and the NBN should stand as a monument and eternal reminder of such things.

  7. Jack Straw

    I thought Bob Hawke’s stance on the pilot strike was over the top many moons ago.Tony Abbott is no different to any other religious fundamentalist. He’s blind stupid and dumb. He’d chop off a head if he was working for ISIS.He’d be the number one Mafia Clipman; if he worked for them.Tony just does what he’s told and does what it takes.Interestingly they’re both Rhodes. Scholars? Who’d want one of those things! Alan Jones is the Don.

  8. Kaye Lee

    Independent review of the BER program (misnamed school halls as it also included things like libraries, language centres and science labs for example) showed the 24 000 construction projects made a material contribution to Australia’s economic growth and was projected to support around 120 000 jobs over the life of the program spread across all areas of Australia. The BER kept industry going, kept people in jobs and kept skills in our economy. The HIP also provided low-skilled work and contributed to reduction in emissions by insulating millions of homes.

    I do understand there were a few school building programs that did not represent value for money and that four young men tragically lost their lives installing home insulation. I do not blame the funding or its intent for these things.

    Compare what this government does. Decides to build submarines costing hundreds of billions to provide a couple of thousand jobs. Considers giving an Indian company of dubious reputation taxpayer funding for a stranded asset that MIGHT provide 1400 jobs if it ever finds anyone willing to give them money. Makes a whole government department move to Barnaby’s electorate, not to create new jobs, just to shift existing jobs to stimulate Barnaby’s electorate at the expense of Canberra’s economy and uprooting people’s lives. Decides to tunnel through the Snowy Mountains again. Spends hundreds of millions on reviews and audits and feasibility studies and inquiries and commissions – and then ignores them – but it keeps the consultants in a job (at the expense of public service jobs). I could go on…..

  9. Roswell

    I blame him specifically for the deplorable state of politics in this country.

    So do I, Kaye.

    But we mustn’t forget who unleashed him: Howard.

    Howard annointed him as the government’s attack dog and ever since he has chased and barked at every car going past.

    The man still assumes the role, happy to lap up any dog biscuit that his media masters reward him with.

    He turned Australian politics into something ugly.

    On a different note, I’m pleased that Labor – in opposition – don’t behave like Abbott did.

  10. Johno

    I don’t pray but if it would help get abbott out of politics I would give it a crack. Down on knees beside my bed at night. Dear whatever, please, I humbly ask for the tones to leave politics and take up some other vocation eg florist shop owner, publican, just anything.

  11. Jack Straw

    helvityni Tony Abbott is just a puppet. The real power is at Big Business Tables; The IPA and 2GBs Alan Jones and the gross businessmen Jerry Harvey and Packer etc.

  12. Kaye Lee

    wow…..”Crossbench senator Nick Xenophon has announced he will be quitting federal politics and returning to state politics in South Australia.”

    “I will remain in the Senate fighting for the state, until the High Court determines the outcome of the so-called citizenship case affecting me and six others,” he said.

    “While my lawyers are confident I will succeed, whatever the outcome, once that decision is handed down I will be in a position to leave the Senate.”

    He will then contest the South Australian seat of Hartley, centred around Adelaide’s inner north-eastern suburbs.

  13. Michael Taylor

    Kaye, he said that he can’t fix SA from Canberra, hence his reason to return to state politics.

    Hopefully SA will remember that he fizzled in Canberra. Supported the government on almost everything. Appeared to me that 90% of the time he was only interested in himself.

    But … they love him in SA so they’ll welcome him back.

  14. Michael Taylor

    An update: a friend was just telling me that all that love turned to disappointment months ago.

  15. Matters Not

    A little fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond?

    Given that Labor is likely to lose the next SA election, Xenophon might see himself as a potential Minister in a new Coalition. Deputy Premier? Besides he seems unlikely to win the legal case. So get in early.

  16. nurses1968

    Kaye Lee
    The BER had an approval rating of 97%
    The Home Insulation Programme although a Federal initiative was to be operated under the States by Departments such as Workplace Health and Safety Queensland – Office of Industrial Relations in each State and Territory
    While not downplaying the deaths of the 4 workers on the Pink Batts Programme it should also be viewed within the number of work related deaths
    In the 13 years from 2003 to 2015, 3,207 workers lost their lives in work-related incidents.
    In 2015, there were 195 worker fatalities,
    This is an area where Unions work tirelessly for inproved safety and conditions in the workplace

  17. helvityni

    Michael, I thought well of him at first, but he turned out to be a big disappointment…

    Matters Not, I agree ,he wants bigger and better things for himself…

  18. Matters Not

    A review of the BER found:

    •The new infrastructure is, in the review team’s opinion, “sorely needed, particularly in government schools”.

    •The review received complaints from 294 schools across the entire program — 3% of the 10,000-odd school projects.

    •The review team closely examined 57 projects, nearly all of which were drawn from “the most egregious complaints received by the Taskforce or were selected from our reading of media reports”. Seventeen of those 57 projects were found to fail the value-for-money criteria established by the review team.

    •Extrapolating that 17/57 figure across all complaints (even though the selected projects were “the most egregious”) suggests the rate of valid complaints about value for money is 0.9% of all projects.

    •The review has lowered its estimate of how much more the NSW government paid in order to deliver its projects quickly, from 5-6% to “at the bottom of that range, around 5 per cent”.

    •The total complaint rate even for NSW government school projects, which attracted more than half of all complaints, was 7%.

    In short, the report is a comprehensive demolition of the campaign that has been run against the program by the opposition

    Shows what happens when ‘fake news’ takes hold.

    The BER outcome: time to correct the record

  19. Zathras

    Here’s some historical trivia about the Home Insulation Programme –

    When Rudd was frantically looking for such an initiative he found that such a scheme already had been proposed and most of the work had already been done by the previous Government but “left on a shelf”.

    The Environment Minister responsible for the original scheme was Malcolm Turnbull.

    As for the BER, the fact that the building industry kept on going throughout the GFC flowed onto other parts of the economy and it’s precisely what kept us out of a recession. This has been recognised and acknowledged by international analysts.

    The Liberal remedy could only have been further Corporate tax cuts and deregulation plus a reduction in working conditions because that’s literally all they have in their arsenal of solutions.

  20. jimhaz

    BER could easily have been done for 20% less. The policy was fine – other than the period which should have been extended for 2 years once consumer confidence figures showed we were unlikely to go into recession.

    As far as I can tell it lead to inflation of tradies wages purely as there were too many jobs to do. Also the short time frame meant that state govs had to employ as head contractors the mega construction companies who took there 20%.

    No congrats should be given to the ALP in regards BER.

  21. Barry Thompson.

    Kaye, Nurses and Matters Not, well said all of you regarding the BER. A very effective program.
    The home insulation issue was down to cowboys sending kids into roofs without adequate training. A bloody disgrace in their pursuit of a quick buck..

  22. Kaye Lee


    “The Taskforce view is that the NSW Government’s high total project costs ($3,448/m2) reflects the relatively high fees paid to managing contractors (20 to 24 per cent) which itself is a product of the lack of NSW public works capacity available

    This progressive diminution of public works capacity evident in NSW and Victoria may represent a false economy (i.e. governments may incur increased costs when the capability to be a fully informed buyer is lacking and services are outsourced).”

    Yet another example of how outsourcing costs us more. We lose expertise in government decision-making.

  23. Matters Not

    KL. also went looking for reports on BER. I remember there was one at Larvatus Prodeo by JohnL. Possum made reference to it at the time

    It completely demolishes the claims made by alleged BER “whistleblower” Craig Mayne – claims that have been bootstrapped into major media reporting of the BER that – and let’s be blunt – is mostly not true,

    Much of the erroneous reporting of the BER comes back to the very same problem that we’ve witnessed in other areas (statistics, risk management, mildly complicated economic policy etc) – a lack of professional knowledge by the reporters themselves (especially those undertaking “analysis” pieces) on the actual topic at hand, in this case, the economics of the construction industry and the public policy mechanics surrounding public capital expenditure.

    We’ve seen all sorts of nonsense reported such as journalists describing how some yahoo builder could construct a school hall at a far less cost than the company that won the tender – even though the builder’s quote isn’t compliant with school building standards (standards that are much higher than residential construction standards – something a great many people just do not know). Or how some school building cost X times more than an identical building up the road, while ignoring that one required a couple of hundred thousand extra on earthworks and utility infrastructure.

    Unfortunately the links to LP no longer work. A great pity. Fake news lives on.

    Demolition of so called BER whistleblower

  24. Matters Not

    Still on the BER:

    At Epping North Public School for example, a parent and builder on the [parents’ and citizens’ committee] indicated he could complete the building works cheaper than the managing contractor’s estimated price for a hall, [covered outdoor learning area] and canteen. The BER [integrated program office] arranged for the managing contractor to include this builder in the tender process. His quote was the most expensive option at well over $3 million for the project—or 50 per cent higher than his original claim.”

    Note: 50 per cent higher than his original claim. Sometimes things aren’t always as they seem.

    The BER Audit Report

  25. Matters Not

    Yes Terry2, I remember that episode rather well. And the gnome statue – as well as its intended destination.

  26. jimhaz

    [Yet another example of how outsourcing costs us more. We lose expertise in government decision-making]

    I fully agree with this comment. In IT the recurrent costs of the loss of expertise in contractual management are enormous.

    I’m from NSW, which I think was the most expensive BER state.

    Sadly, it was actually the ALP that did the most damage to the dept that would have otherwise handled BER. In the 90’s a pommie called Simon Domberger had already infected the ALP with outsourcing policies on the false premise of a 20% reduction in costs.

    Then the Terrigal Mob (and probably Obeid) got hold of the Treasury and the Dept of Commerce and employed too many incompetents and over spenders from private industry in executive positions.

    One of the main problems with executives from private enterprise is that they are managerial trend followers – they see their status and career opportunities as being tied up in the latest trends. Fickle and expensive morale reducing trends that the public service once knew better to ignore. They spend like bankers to get a result that appears positive – it aint their money – it is just money they can use to prove their pseudo worthfulness. The PS does not need to be at the business trend pointy end – it was once sprendthrift and would have adapted well enough to modern technology without the replacement of in-house execs with private industry execs.

    I suspect the NSW LNP would have been worse. The current NSW LNP is almost entirely made up of essentially business lobbyists like Dominic Perrottet and they are trying as hard as they can to outsource core administrative services to overseas (something that is clearly economically void of reason due to the loss of the multiplier effect).

  27. Michael Taylor

    “Where is door?”

    “Door is gone.”

  28. Zathras

    For the BER to have worked perfectly they should have first assembled a Working Party which would pass its findings onto a number of Steering Committees to liaise with representatives from all States, regions and School Zones (once they nominate and elect representatives from each local area of course) and then throw everything open for Tender for a specific period.

    Of course everyone in each area would have to agree on the same project or submit their own proposals for assessment.

    Then quotes could be assessed individually and comparatively and eventually something could be set in motion (once it passed all the tests as determined by an army of private consultants).
    Information would flow to and from the Government and be overseen by Treasury at specific stages who would have to set priorities and allocate the funds.

    Maybe it would have been ready to start by now?

    Unfortunately the “go hard and go early” strategy that was suggested was followed and well, it worked.

    It was no more wasteful than spending $1 billion on a Federal Government IT system that never worked, another billion on Treasury “currency swaps” or billions on helicopters that could never fly – or the countless other half-baked money-saving ideas that never got off the ground.

    There was a Canadian IT Company called SaskTel that wanted to wire up the Hunter Valley with an optical fibre network about 15 years ago. Once they got through all the usual hoops such as planning, finance and approvals they hit an impenetrable brick wall with local council areas and eventually abandoned the idea.

    The BER would have experienced similar problems, even with the Federal Government behind it.

  29. wam

    when telstra was owned by us it employed Australians and the money stayed here. Funny, remember when they used to seek timed local calls and we resisted but now undreamed of success in timed everything.
    When Australians built cars, ships and subs….???

    The NBN is giving ‘silk purses to sow’s ears’ is my national party boy’s born to rule attitude.
    ‘The idiots who vote labor will never need fibre’.

    I love the word ‘disingenuous’ as an honest word for politicians.

    The concept of ‘dissembling’ is vital for a pollie to understand and use. Truths and lies are too subjective to be in their vocabulary.

    It has long been obvious that the slimy X would not run the distance once he had got his pension in the bag. Whilst it is possible that the SA wowser will wake up to the wriggler but I doubt it.

  30. bob bob

    I simply don’t understand why you continue to give Tony Abbott air time. All media has the power to make him totally invisible but continue not to do so. He has nothing of functional value to offer Australia and never did.

  31. John Lord

    Because Abbott is the example one uses when talking about how to resurrect our democracy.

  32. Matters Not

    bob bob, I think that Abbott, Hanson, Bernardi et al should be given as much air time time as possible. And then some more. Should be on the MSM on the hour, every hour

    Nothing like exposure.

    Besides, Abbott leads the opposition to Turnbull. Go Tony!

    Get strategic. Think long-term.

  33. Kaye Lee

    I would be thrilled to never have to mention Tony Abbott again (and I have felt that way for over 40 years) but, in a situation I find absolutely unfathomable, this totally inadequate man is STILL dictating policy in this country and threatening, not only our democracy, but our very existence. If Turnbull wants to take over the job of slapping Abbott down I would happily stop. But the gutless wonders in the Liberal Party seem too scared to take Tony on so it falls to us to continue to point out the damage this narcissistic pugilistic anachronistic wrecker is wreaking on our country.

  34. Roswell

    Personally, I like reading about Tony Abbott. He’s entertaining.

  35. paul walter

    It has come to a sad state of affairs when reading about people like Abbott is considered “entertaining”.

    He has become another Latham, a sad shuffling dancing bear. He is, after all, a neurologically crippled caricature of Turnbull, Shorten and the rest, ones we are commanded to take seriously.

    It has fallen a very long way when someone like Xenophon now demands to be taken seriously, by the way. Yet maybe there is a point, if we can accept the others or at least grow habituated to them, if only in the embrace of contempt driven by familiarity, should old not Nick be given a similar courtesy?

    When will Dante’s narrative lead us back from this macabre landscape, or is all hope abandoned?

  36. Clyde James Roberts

    Tony Erroneus need to be abolished himself. Ronald Gump, Forrest Gump’s dumber brother, and Kim-Jong-Knong might very well kill billions of people with their shenanigans!!!!

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