Wednesday 1 February 2017
1 At the risk of repeating myself the job of Opposition Leader isn’t one you would wish on your worst enemy. So when Bill Shorten addressed the National Press Club yesterday he did so with his usual lack of charisma and looking like he had just fallen out of bed, and still half asleep, picked the wrong suit and tie.
His speech was full of all the usual stuff that one would expect at the start of the year. There weren’t any captivating phrases that would make your hair stand on end. Well not mine anyway. None of that is what I expect from Bill Shorten. What I expected and what I got was thoughtfulness.
Indeed, it was a speech that left me in no doubt that he thinks about things that matter, deeply so. I won’t write about the speech in its totality, but rather concentrate on one portion of it. The important part.
He showed that he had thought intensely and genuinely about the international crisis in democracy. He made a concession to the Australian people that he recognised that he and the Labor Party were part of the problem and vowed to be part of the solution. He indicated that the Australian disengagement from politics was part of a worldwide phenomenon. He said that he would be making, in his year of preparation, as he called it, a commitment to people first politics. Including a vow to divest himself of school yard politics together with an obligation to more transparency.
Three things he said would help the Australian process. 1 A pledge to have a more transparent method of accountancy for MPs expenses. 2 Revealing and limiting political donations. In particular from third party entities. 3 A Senate enquiry into the necessity or otherwise for a national body to investigate corruption in politics. (An independent one would be better) In my view a gigantic concession given his recent remarks on the subject. Did he go far enough, no he didn’t. But he made a start.
”The peoples of all the nations of the world increasingly seem to be having less to say about their destiny”.
He spoke about the need for a national conversation saying that he would continue with his successful Town Hall Meetings but would change their focus from questions to answers. Seeking peoples solutions to problems.
Adding to this would be a series of meetings that took advantage of internet technology. ”Listening to people.”
Of course he spoke about many other issues but this is the first time I have heard an Australian Politician admit that Brixit, the Trump phenomenon and the resurgence of One Nation were a real and present danger to our democracy. Having said all that he could do with a speech writer, who with the art of embellishment, and a turn of phrase, could give all the thinking, a floor to dance on.
In yesterday’s Essential Report the following question was asked:
Thinking about our current political and economic system – that is, the structures that set the rules for the way Australian society operates – which of the following best describes your view?
44% think Australia’s political and economic system is fundamentally sound but needs to be refined and 40% think the system needs to be fundamentally changed. Only 6% think it should not be changed in any way.
Those most likely to think it needs fundamental change were “other” voters (52%) and those on incomes under $1,000 pw (47%).
Those most likely to think the system just needs to be refined were LNP voters (52%), Greens voters (54%) and incomes over $2,000 pw (52%).
By the way the Essential Poll has Labor leading the Coalition by 8 points.
What a proper mess they have made.
2 The Conservative Government of Tony Abbott came to power in 2013. It was to be arguably the worst Government the country had ever had. Abbott himself was a monumental flop.
Prior to his election he had served four years as opposition leader. A period in which on a daily basis he called the then Prime Minister a liar, and generally stoked the fires of diversity and hate. In my view Abbott has been the major cause of the dissatisfaction with politics in this country. A divisive character who seemed to take delight in scaring people to death for no reason.
In particular he attacked Labor for what he saw as mismanagement of the economy. He was such a monumental flop as Prime Minister that after two years the party was forced to replace him with Malcolm Turnbull who in turn, despite his appeal as a moderate, turned out to be a hypocrite of mammoth proportion.
He was re-elected in 2016 by the skin of his nose. Since then he has proven to be as much a disaster as Abbott. So in all fairness what has Australia gained from having four years of conservative rule.
The news early this week that our Gross government debt, which was about $274b when Tony Abbott won power in September 2013, and is now $474 means that $200b has been added under the Coalition is deplorable.
If you cast your memory back to the front pages of the tabloids of the time, you will recall the insults from Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott, the accusations of incompetency that stretched the truth and perpetuated the myth that they alone were best with money.
What a sham it was. Where are the Murdoch headlines now denouncing the conservative’s credentials?
Maybe the Prime Minister will fill us in today on this and other matters when he addresses the National Press Club. What might he tell us about the economy, about education, the failure of the NBN rollout, marriage equality? The future of Universities, the policy debacles over Christmas and just what are the conditions under which America will take asylum seekers from Naura and Manus, and when. How much he donated to his election campaign. He might even fill us in on the 12,000 refugees we were supposedly going to take from Syria. Apparently the backbench and George Christensen are upset about it and want it reversed.
Will his Government continue to go further to the right following the Trump agenda? What about MPs entitlements. What about jobs and the future of them. How does he plan to address growing inequality?
Can he give us something beyond just working for the survival of him and his party? However the one question central to the minds of most Australians is this. Just how has your government advanced our nation economically and culturally?
“Power is a malevolent possession when you are prepared to forgo your principles and your country’s wellbeing for the sake of it.”
“Turnbull came to office promising to raise the level of economic debate in Australia. Gone, we were told, were the three word slogans and instead a mature conversation was to be had. But that approach vanished as quickly as Turnbull’s popularity. Now he is taking his lead from a man who writes policy 140 characters at a time.’’
3 On this day in 2016 I wrote:
Quoting Scott (Gunna) Morrison on the Tax Debate. ‘We’ve advanced the debate I think a lot more effectively over the last four or five months than a green paper ever would,’ (Talking about Tax Reform).
What absolute drivel. All they are doing is continuously repeating the same lines over and over saying that they are thinking about and talking about the issues.
Doing something seems to be out of the question. There surely will come a point in time when it will occur to a journalist, or someone, to ask just when decisions will be made. I mean for God’s sake what have they been doing for two and a half years.
My thought for the day
“Good democracies can only deliver good government and outcomes if the electorate demands it and it doesn’t come about by people disengaging from the process”.