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Election campaigns are unedifying spectacles nowadays

The spectacle of political parties jostling with each other for ascendancy is ugly.

Promises of money are thrown around like confetti – a tax cut in five years’ time, an infrastructure spend after two more elections, hubs aplenty, and always a crumb for the little people at the local sporting club.

Huge numbers over ridiculous time frames are touted with an accuracy that is impossible to believe considering projections do not last six months and are often influenced by events beyond the control of our government.

Accusations fly about racism, sexism, economic vandalism, ecoterrorism, cronyism, corruption, intimidation – the pack is waiting to rip apart anyone who misspeaks or who is photographed with the wrong people, now or in the past.

The government is spending an inordinate amount of time on a scare campaign about Labor’s costings. It is a sad indictment of themselves that they are not focusing on their record over the last six years and their vision for the future. They haven’t articulated the reasons behind what they are doing and the results they hope to achieve. Saying “a strong economy” over and over isn’t a plan – it’s an aspiration reduced to a slogan without a goal.

Why is it that when we talk about reform it is nearly always about how much something costs rather than what it is worth?

I remember the joy of the Whitlam years. It was invigorating. The changes he made – not promises for the distant future but real achievements – could truly be labelled reform.

  • Ended conscription and got us out of Vietnam
  • Opened relationships with China
  • Established Medibank
  • Introduced the supporting mother’s benefit and welfare payment for homeless people.
  • Equal pay for women and extended adult minimum wage to include women workers
  • Abolished the death penalty
  • No-fault divorce
  • Federal funding for state schools
  • Free university education
  • 25% cut in tariffs across the board
  • Sewerage connection
  • Reduced voting age to 18
  • An Order of Australia replaced the British Honours system
  • Racial discrimination act
  • Land rights to Indigenous people
  • Replaced God Save the Queen with Advance Australia Fair as the national anthem.
  • Established the National Gallery of Australia, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Heritage Commission, FM and community radio.
  • The film industry flourished

Talk about tax cuts, national security, and surpluses doesn’t have the same inspirational ring to it somehow.

And before anyone brings up the economic indicators from Gough’s time in office, they should read Ian Verrender’s excellent article showing how comparatively well Australia did in a global context where the price of oil skyrocketed and stagflation and recession crippled the UK and the US.

Ah, those were the days when one could feel pride in our nation and real hope that we were moving forwards towards a better society for all.

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  1. Keitha Granville

    Agree Kaye, it’s all about my surplus is bigger than yours.

    I think Labor is on a winner with the health plans, free or at least significantly cheaper cancer care, pathology and scans. That’s what we should expect, Medicare working as it was intended.

  2. Kaye Lee


    They must include dental.

  3. Peter F


    My sentiments exactly.

    ( At my age, the ‘dental ‘ element would be an added bonus.)

  4. Josephus

    I know adults who get free basic dental care already. Children do also.

    Yes elections have turned into debased, vulgar and dishonest brawls. The equivalent of trolling on line. Why? Parents don’t teach good manners? The relentless marketing of often useless objects and the lack of civics lessons in schools train citizens to turn into oesophaguses? Both?
    The best manners I have encountered have been the hallmark of new citizens, especially those from the Middle East and Africa, while the rudest, meanest behaviour seems to me typical of some people born here.

  5. Kaye Lee


    I used to work on a factory production line. The migrants worked far harder than the Aussies. They were grateful to have a job and would do nothing to jeopardise it. It even got to the stage where the exploitation of some of them was so bad that I went and complained – it was a uni holiday job for me…my life didn’t depend on it.

    I don’t know when we got so selfish. It wasn’t my upbringing and it isn’t how I feel now. I am proud of my children who understand that generosity and helping others is far more fulfilling.

  6. king1394

    Remember the Whitlam years well. His governments achieved so much but I also remember the flight of capital, the scandal mongering, the insistence that he was bringing on the collapse of our society. The media never stopped denigrating every change, while the Liberal opposition stopped at nothing to bring him down

  7. Frank Smith

    A stark contrast between the quiet, reasoned arguments put forward by Terri Butler and Larissa Waters on Q&A last night and the angry, out-of-control shouting and raving by James McGrath. A real live demonstration of the Coalition MEN problem that highlights Kaye Lee’s point – “jostling with each other for ascendancy is ugly” – it is particularly ugly when the three women on the podium (Butler, Waters and Trioli) were talked over, interrupted and yelled out by this dinosaur McGrath. A disgrace!

  8. Kaye Lee


    The Bretton-Woods financial system collapsed in the early 70s accompanied by a devaluation of the US dollar.. OPEC formed and the price of oil quadrupled between October 1973 and the following January. Between 1973 and 1975, inflation in the UK grew from 7.4 per cent to 24.89 per cent – vastly higher than anything experienced in Australia. America, meanwhile, endured its worst recession since the Great Depression between November 1973 and March 1975. Inflation soared from 3.65 per cent in early 1973 to a 12.34 per cent peak at the end of 1974. Between January 1973 and December 1974, Wall Street lost 45.1 per cent of its value. In London, meanwhile, the FT 30 declined a massive 73 per cent.

    Considering all of that, Whitlam did very well to keep the economy growing and, from what I remember of the time, no-one who wanted a job was unemployed. Mind you, we perhaps weren’t as picky about what we would do and we didn’t necessarily need the qualifications required today.

  9. Deidre Zanker

    Kay Lee, I remember the Whitlam govt. For a short period in our history we had a true social democracy.
    I hope our democracy can be saved.
    We can’t afford another 3 yrs of dishonest, lying LNP non-govt.
    I hope the majority of voters will see the constant lies for what they are.
    How on earth do we combat the enormous volume of lies from LNP, Murdoch media etc.

  10. Alcibiades

    The acceptable ‘narrative’ & discourse, the topics and the limited scope thereof, whilst desperate to avoid any ‘gotcha’ moment are defined & enforced by the Murdochracy & fellow travellers, the corporate MSM are they not ?

    Strategically & tactically is there any other choice, in order to avoid an apoplectic mob attack & pile-on by Media ? Have to win big within the constraints of a political straightjacket before having any possibility of enacting significant reform … understood, yet …

    Yet, even if achieved, will dramatic reform occur ? There are tentative hints, & whispers & indicators of intentions such as Adani, raising Newstart, abolishing the CDC, revitalising a car manufacturing industry (EVs, with value add Lithium/Hydrogen batteries for export), etc, yet it is very hard to embrace ‘tentative hints’ absent details, as opposed to openly declared substantive policy statements.

    One wants anti-trust Laws enacted & immediately used to breakup & dismantle the Murdochracy, as well as the offshore detention policy, illegal detention/refoulement, the entire farce of the construct of ‘illegal’ refugees with all it’s apparent venality promptly demolished root & branch, white collar crime & tax evasion & avoidance truly criminalised by individual Gaol terms & nothing less, just as an entree’ … & only fer starters. The abandonment of the tenets of neoliberalism in it’s entirety as the first course … nationalisation of all essential services & assets & operated as not for profit & cost neutral basis, no outsourcing, by the government of the day. A referendum to ensure it stays that way along with enacting & protecting a Federal ICAC with the powers of a standing Royal Commission … followed by a true sovereign & independent foreign policy grounded in International Law & simple Humanity, & more.

    Or will it again be Neoliberalism Major vs Neoliberalism minor, in our binary choice system of party machine politics ?

  11. Alcibiades

    The gold standard was revoked, fiat currency, manipulation thereof & ‘printing money’ (Quantitative easing) became the norm, laws revoked to allow permissive conflicts of interest & outright speculation, previously illegal, the basis of the last 40+ years of neoliberalism & the global economic ponzi scheme of debt that came about. Mandated unemployment, & the ascension of ‘property rights’ & ‘capital’ to be valued & ‘protected’ above & beyond all else regardless, especially community & cohesive society, by the State & the utterly unaccountable Reserve Banks came into force … as unassailable policy.

    A learned economist/specialist would be far more able to define it better, but the tea leaves are far too many and too damned large to be ignored … all coinciding with the cancer of neoliberism subsequently spreading throughout the ‘Freedom & Democracy’ loving ‘West’. Purely coincidentally forcing people & businesses to take on ever increasing debt & leveraging of assets to survive … the growth of impune multi-national corporations/monoplies of 19th century Robber Baron proportions & conduct, with the subsequent consequent largest sustained transfer of wealth & debt burdened valuable assets in living memory …

    All by mere coincidence & chance …

  12. TuffGuy

    IMO Australian politics well and truly hit rock bottom when Abbott became Opposition Leader. He took any debate down to the lowest level of blatant lies and slanderous comments about everyone not LNP. The level of lying by the LNP these days is just obscene, disgusting and I just don’t know how anyone can be so stupid as to believe anything they say. Even their policies, they don’t even bother to hide the facts behind their lies anymore, the whole trickle down economics thing, the lack of governance, maintaining power at any cost and the corruption.
    It really disgusts me and I wish there was something we could do about it.

  13. Lambert Simpleton

    It has become farcical because most people have realised that decision making has been taken out of the hands of Australians and repatriated to the wrong sort of interests offshore.

  14. Alcibiades

    Scott Morrison responding during his presser this arvo :

    On Labor’s pathology announcement, will the Liberals match it ? Is he worried about a new Mediscare campaign?

    Bill Shorten lies. He lies. He lies all the time. I mean, Bill Shorten …

    On the Grattan Institute analysis of the government’s tax plan:

    That’s complete rubbish. It’s absolute, complete rubbish.

    Does this engender trust or confidence in this mendacious disingenuous fool to anyone other than their disaffected base ?

    On a separate note, the least worst of the corporate MSM, the Graund, is running with the expose that ex senator Sam Dastyari has registered along with others as a lobbyist for a firm representing 18 businesses with interests in pharmaceutical, aged care and healthcare.

    Have you or any of your colleagues spoken to Sam Dastyari, about the pathology policy?

    Bill Shorten: I haven’t. And indeed, this pathology announcement stands on its own two feet. When you think about it, and I will get Catherine to supplement the answer, pathology makes sick people well. It has that potential.

    Why don’t they just come out and openly accuse Dastyari of lobbying on behalf of Chinese Communists, hiding under our beds, & by implied association smear the Labor party. Worked for the MSM last time. Andrew Robb anyone ? And they are the least worst of our corporate MSM 🙁

  15. pierre wilkinson

    Alcibiades: I was not in the least surprised to hear ProMo answer most questions with “well, Labor is worse…” but it came as an unpleasant realisation that he can out trump the Donald when it comes to denigrating his opposite number.
    ProMo stated baldly and loudly that Bill Shorten lies all the time and not a single journalist called him on it.
    What have become when we allow this kind of behaviour to go unanswered?

  16. Wam

    Daydreaming is great but we need to help shorten be the first non-giant just nice Labor leader to win government. It shall not be easy because a believed lie is the truth and there is a bloody lot of believer ready to put the economic fear into workers.
    ps Go hard in Melbourne give the loonies a shove

  17. Alcibiades

    Indeed, on both counts. The MSM has normalised it, deemed it unremarkable, banal. Yet, the sustained ‘Kill Bill’ campaign has been running for more than 1,980 days now, 52 lost newspolls in a row as at Sunday. That clearly indicates the ‘Kill Bill’ factor has long been taken into account by voters & their intentions years ago, their bored with & oblivious to it. ALP had a ~3.13% swing to it in 2016 election under ‘Kill Bill’. And today, sustained 2PP margins of 3-6%+ minimum plus. ALP only needs ~0.7% swing to assume majority. LNP needs to win 6-7 seats whilst losing none. A 3.9% swing to the Coalition ?

    The logical probable conclusion one comes to is they persist, along with the tax/economy boogeyman because they are narrow casting, targeting their disaffected base in attempt to limit the damage. Cannot run on a record that does not exist. So far the Morrison visits have been to Coalition seats, with margins of up to 4.6%+, same same for ALP. Has Scomo visited any electorates they are trying to actually win ? Will he ?

    Offered detailed analysis of merged polls/bookies odds 4 days ago(13th) was they would most probably lose 21+ seats, the PollBludgers analysis today(16th) on the same topic is a difference of one seat.

    With one exception, the NSW electorate of Eden-Monaro has been the predictor of who forms government since ’72. Currently ALP 1.05 v LNP 8.00 odds.

    For weeks prior to the bugdet odds were ALP 1.14 v LNP 4.50. Post budget week, no change. Post election announcement ALP 1.18 v LNP 4.50. Post the Sunday Newspoll 4 day special immediately following election announcement of ‘No Change’, in fact would argue a hidden 0.5% Coalition drop, now stable for two days on ALP 1.18 v LNP 4.75. A widening.

    No bounce, no tightening re voter intention. Historically unprecedented.

    PS Dutton(& Barnaby too ?) is gagged or they lose even more seats. Dutton has a margin of only 217 votes. ALP is fronting the cameras with many capable ALP women & others as well as Shorten. A ‘capable team’ visual & presentation. LNP is forced by lack of talent & competency to rely upon Morrison almost exclusively. Things that make you go, hmmm ?

    PPS Turnbull deliberately gifted the LNP a poison pill when forced out by demanding the signatures. Now every time an LNP candidate (43 of ’em) who supported Dutton v Turnbull is before the cameras, they are asked … why ? Oops.

  18. New England Cocky

    @Kaye Lee ….. uhm, as I remember the events the multinational oil corporations came to then Liberal PM John Gorton and did a deal where Australia was guaranteed oil supply for a fixed rate of about 25 cents per gallon. The oil executives were delighted because they forecast incorrectly that oil prices would decline over the duration of the agreement (5years?). Instead, the 1973 Oil Bust happened, and US oil corporations made a motza by storing every drop of oil available in anything that would hold oil.

    Gorton’s comment was “Well the price of everything goes up, including oil”.

    This stability of oil price during a time of world uncertainty in oil pricing insulated Australia from most of the effects of the Oil Bust, just like the ALP policies insulated Australia from the GFC in 1988.

    Perhaps Gorton was the last true Liberal.

  19. Zathras

    I also remember the Whitlam years and the vendetta carried out by a spurned Rupert Murdoch for being refused the position for High Commissioner to London.

    As well as Murdoch’s Daily Mirror propaganda rag it was also a time of alternative publications such as The Nation Review and budding journalists such as Mungo MacCallum who provided a valuable source of real information.

    Back in those days, uncredited stories from “our Washington Correspondent” meant from the media department of the Pentagon.

    Those days are gone and journalism is little more than a mouthpiece for vested interests countered by disinformation from typically conspiratorially driven social media.

    However I can still recognise a phoney when I see one and a once “Conservative but do-nothing” party long since captured by rabid neo-cons and their corporate sponsors is a perfect example.

  20. corvus boreus

    Reality check.
    Adam Brandt holds Melbourne by a comfortable margin (43.75% primary, 68.48% 2PP).
    Last time around the ALP candidate scored a primary vote of under 25%, less than the LIB candidate.
    For the ALP to prioritise their resources to ‘go hard in Melbourne give the loonies a shove’ would be an act of strategic stupidity.

  21. Alcibiades

    Yet those who shall not be investigated, nor named other than in passing, the IPA is supposedly an apolitical, non associated ‘3rd party’, tax free, ‘think tank’, with predominantly overseas multinational corporate donors … the rest ? Oz corporate donors. Among It’s leadership and members are current & former Liberal party members, including PMs & sitting parliamentarians, oh, and a convicted Cardinal paedophile, too ? Grrrh!

    AEC, why haven’t you investigated the IPA as an associated entity, repeatedly, ever ? Hm ?

  22. Florence Howarth

    One of Whitlam’s success that they are intent in dismantling is not getting any intention. Demolition of the Family Law Court.

  23. paul walter

    Flo, you remember Abbott said women should get out of the courts and DV shelters back to the kitchen and bedroom, just like the fifties of last century…no more “barren women”!

  24. Kaye Lee

    May 2013: ”We do not educate women to higher degree level to deny them a career,” Mr Abbott said. ”If we want women of that calibre to have families, and we should, well we have to give them a fair dinkum chance to do so. That is what this scheme of paid parental leave is all about.”

    May 2015: “At the moment people can claim parental leave payments from both the government and their employers so they are effectively double dipping,” Treasurer Joe Hockey said. “We are going to stop that. You cannot double dip, you cannot get parental leave paid from your employer and taxpayers.”

    The minister responsible for the new PPL scheme, then-social services minister Scott Morrison, added fuel to the fire when he said: “We are getting rid of what is an inequity and frankly in many cases I think is a rort.”

    These kings of rorting and double dipping took away the entitlements we already had and besmirched us as rorters????.

  25. Paul Davis

    Today’s campaigning….

    Patricia Karvelas “as every journalist as well as myself have observed, Labor has been consistently on the back foot this week being asked to explain yada yada yada…..” and of course Shorten forget his policy and looked shifty trying to explain. What is it with the ABC, especially the ladies, eg Fran Kelly, the bias is just annoying. Speaking of the ladies, i guess we should feel sorry for George Christensen’s fiancee in Manila, she hasn’t seen the great member since last July.

    As predicted Clive Palmer will not contest the lower house, he said he lost preselection by his party to another ‘brick with eyes’ ex thugby leaguer Greg Dowling….. but the good news for Clive is that the party placed him first on the senate ticket.

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