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Paul Sheehan And Any Evidence Will Do . . . Actually, Forget Evidence – An Opinion Is Enough!

This morning I made the mistake of reading the ramblings of Paul Sheehan. Now, because his lack of a coherent argument upset me so much, I thought I’d subject you to my ramblings on the subject of Paul Sheehan.

Ok, part of me thinks that he’d be better ignored. But another part of me worries that if we just ignore people writing in nationally distributed papers, the next thing you know, someone in the current government will read it and use it as evidence.

Because that’s one of the things that’s truly disturbing about much debate in the media these days. Opinion is mistaken for evidence. We seem to think that the truth is simply a matter of votes.

So Mr Sheehan’s column was spuriously titled:

“Baird has same problems as Abbott; an upper house dominated by electoral fluke”

Apparently, lower houses have clear mandates, but upper houses are elected by “flukes”. As he put it:

“On Saturday we saw, yet again, a clear mandate to govern being muddied by uncertainties in election for the upper house. The Legislative Assembly may be the oldest parliamentary body in Australia but it is also dominated by machine hacks and minor-party blackmailers. For years, the balance of power has been determined by electoral fluke, not representative politics.”

 

So the lower houses aren’t dominated by “machine hacks”? Mm, well that’s good to know. And he’s doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that one might actually choose a “minor-party blackmailer” (why the hyphen?) because one actually supports what they’re doing. How many Democrat voters felt betrayed when Meg Lees did a deal to allow the GST, for example? (The Democrats? Who were they?). And we could have a long discussion about how the distribution and deals that led to the Ricky Muirs and Steve Fieldings being elected with a toenail’s worth of votes, so it’s hardly the fault of the electoral system when it the decisions of the major parties on preferences which throw up these strange results.

However, it’s not just the frustration of mandates that trouble our Paul.

“The problem in NSW is replicated in federal politics, where the Senate is also dominated by the electoral fluke. This has exacerbated the end of the commodities boom. The boom will not be repeated when the commodities cycle turns because Australia now has a justified reputation for red tape, green tape, black tape, high costs and union extortion rackets.”

Ok, so it’s red tape, green tape, black tape, high costs and union extortion rackets that are exacerbating the end of the commodities boom. Gee, and I thought it was the lack of demand. But hey, we just get rid of all that red tape – you know, that red tape that led those deaths in the roofs during that “pink batts fiasco” – and all other safeguards and regulations then the end of the commodities boom won’t be half so bad.

Of course, Sheehan overlooks that much of his rainbow tape was put in place by governments who had a mandate. Although I suspect that in Sheehan’s world view only LNP governments have a mandate; left wing governments are another electoral fluke that only occur when we have the strange convergence of people voting for the Labor Party or Greens. (Yes, I am reluctant to call Labor “left wing”).

But Australia’s “justified reputation” means that when the commodity cycle turns then companies won’t mine here any more. They’ll mine the Cayman Islands. Or set up drilling for oil inside a Swiss bank, because, well, there’s less red tape.

However, the bit that made me splutter my toast was his use of Andrew Liveris. After establishing that Mr Liveris was a bright and successful man who graduated from the University of Queensland (and an Australian, what more could you ask?), Mr Sheehan went on to tell us that Liveris had been CEO and Chairman of Dow for a number of years and that Dow was spinning of its chlorine business, something that had always been one of its core products.

This, apparently, should send a “shiver down” our collective spine. Because chlorine is like commodities. “Highly cyclical. Capital intensive. Unpredictable. Volatile.”

So what does this mean for Australia? I mean why is Sheehan using a commercial decision by an individual to talk about Australia’s government policy?

“If only national economies could be transformed in the same way. Instead, our politicians must be preoccupied with competing interests rather than the national interest.”

Ah, those “competing interests”. If only politicians could say something like, “There is only ONE national interest and we will determine that in the Lower House and the circumstances under which it comes to Australia!”

He then goes on to talk about how the NSW upper house may stifle the “dynamism” of privatisation.

Ok, so somebody thinks Dow shouldn’t rely so heavily on chlorine as a product and this is more evidence that the upper houses stifle elected government’s. Ok, I can almost buy that if I squint and look at it from a certain angle. But it’s the next few paragraphs that make we wonder whether Sheehan thinks before he writes, or whether he writes down the most absurd thing he can think of in the hope of becoming Andrew Bolt.

After lamenting the tragedy of governments not be able to implement their mandates unfettered the “flukey” upper houses, he goes on to say:

In Queensland, seven weeks ago, voters elected an unknown leader, Annastacia Palaszczuk, with little management experience, no major policy beyond opposing privatisation, and no plan to rein in the state’s debt, which had exploded under Labor. Her government is already in trouble.

In Victoria, 17 weeks ago, voters elected a Labor government closely aligned with the corruption-riddled Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union. The new Premier, Daniel Andrews, then moved quickly to shut down the construction industry’s Construction Code Compliance Unit, loathed by the CFMEU.

He then complains that the polls suggest that Shorten could become PM without a coherent strategy just by constant sneering and making “racist insults” to the Japanese.

All of which seems rather strange given that his whole thrust has been about the denial of all that’s right and proper when elected governments are prevented from implementing their mandates. This is just wrong, according to Sheehan. Unless, for example, part of their mandate was a promise to CFMEU. (Actually, the CFMEU is the elected government in Victoria – the Liberals assured us that if we voted Labor then that was giving the green light for the CFMEU to run the state!)

Well, at least Queensland has no Upper House, so there’ll never be a threat to democracy there, eh Paul?

34 comments

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  1. Terry2

    Sheehan, like many conservatives seems to think that the government of the day should always control their upper house : nonsense !

    I have been quite impressed with our federal senate and particularly the hard work and common sense of Nick Xenophon and other cross benchers.

    Good, well argued, progressive legislation will always get through an upper house but ideologically driven policies will always need to be scrutinised and questioned as Pyne recently found to be the case.

  2. Loz

    Thank God for the upper house. Sheehan is a right wing fanatic and is full of wind. Good article. Journalist in the MSM take note.

  3. O'Bleak

    The senate exists as a house of review, not a rubber stamp. Don’t like having to explain your decisions to another section of the democratically elected parliament? Suck eggs.

  4. stuffme

    Just another right wing goof.

  5. brickbob

    Mr Sheehan is a right wing raving loonie tune,and every couple of weeks he gets trotted out to spew his bile on ABC breakfast television beside those other two idiots who host the dam show.
    What the hell has happened to the Media in this country? even our ABC has morphed into a propaganda unit for every RWNJ in the country.””’

  6. CMMC

    ABC Radio in Newcastle say that we ‘must come to terms’ with how many seats ‘fell’ to Labor.

    They seem to be true ‘card-carrying’ Liberals in our commentariat.

  7. Fairynuff

    Thank God for the “flukes” like Ricky Muir, Jacqui Lambie, Glen Lazarus etc. They are trying very hard to do the right thing by the Australian electorate. And after seeing LNP senators O’Sullivan and MacDonald’s appalling treatment of Gillian Triggs, I say thank God indeed.

  8. townsvilleblog

    Ross, it is laughable isn’t it that the same people vote for both houses and they vote differently in both houses because they just do not trust any government to keep their promises. as Fairenough above says Thank Christ for the “flukes” in the Senate, they have saved the nation from some of the worst legislation ever seen in Australia.

  9. crypt0

    Indeed.
    How depressing it is that there are so few of these “flukes” as mentioned above , who have actually worked in real jobs and know about the real world.
    Meanwhile, the benches of government and opposition are over-represented by those of us who aspire to a comfortable lifestyle and retirement, courtesy of the long suffering tax payer.
    Don’t mention leaners, but how many of them look as though they have done a hard days work in their lives?

  10. hemingway13

    Just a note of thanks for another incisive analysis, proving I was sensible to eschew Sheehan’s columns many years ago. It makes one curious why Gina Rinehart never bought Paul his own television show. At the very least, she should have promised editors at Fairfax whatever they required to approve her takeover so that Paul’s curmudgeonly spruikings would then be moved to the front pages.

  11. Mercurial

    The only reason Sheehan thinks the government of the day should control the senate, Terry2, is that conservative governments are generally pretty hopeless negotiators. They don’t like having to get their hands dirty dealing with the ferals.

    Now when Labor is in power, it seems that their powers at negotiation are just overlooked. Julia Gillard had an allegedly ‘dysfunctional’ government. My, but how functional that government now looks in comparison with the lot in power now. She knew how to negotiate. She knew how to get the result she wanted, as well as what the crossbenchers wanted. Was she devious? I don’t think so, just a damn good negotiator.

  12. Mercurial

    hemingway13, if Sheehan had had his own show, I’m afraid nobody would have been able to keep awake during it.

  13. Jexpat

    The mistake of reading Paul Sheehan unfortunately applies, albeit to somewhat lesser degrees, to most of the commentators at Fairfax.

  14. bensab3

    Paul Sheehan accuses Victorian Government of having CFMEU run Victoria. Funny how these RWNJs,Libertarians, neo-liberals use double standards to advance their arguments. With the ‘Lists of 75, and then another 25 respectively, instructions to the Abbott Government from the Institute of Public Affairs, being ticked off as the government term progresses, the strong suggestion is that this Federal Government is being ‘run’ by the Institute of Public Affairs, and therefore, also by Murdoch.

  15. hemingway13

    Mercurial,
    Good point there! 🙂

    No prizes for guessing why Sheehan doesn’t object to the consequence of NSW’s Lower House voting system favouring the Nats. They are currently predicted by ABC website to win at least 16 seats with 10% of the statewide primary vote, but the Greens will get at most 4 seats with slightly higher than 10 % of primary vote. Tassie has a system which differs significantly in this regard from the NSW Leg. Assembly’s.

  16. diannaart

    I agree, Sheehan’s “electoral flukes” have proven to be the remaining shreds of democracy.

    If the RWNJ’s cannot understand the intent of the public, may be Labor can learn why 4 seats went to the Greens – because Labor just isn’t Labor any more.

  17. Kerri

    And in 2011 in NSW voters elected some 10+ politicians who were later proven to be corrupt by ICAC!

  18. Anthony Shorter

    It is so hard to take Paul Sheehan seriously.
    He pops up every now and then on The Drum and all I can think of when I see him is his Magic Water and Krispy Kreem donut articles and then his railing against local TV for not showing American College football for him and a couple of dozen transplanted Americans.
    I stopped reading his items about then and I still can’t understand why any body would give this dill airtime or print opportunities to put his Mickey Mouse view of the world into circulation.

  19. Gilly

    The problem with truth is that it is naked thus, it is offensive to sophistication and any thing else which has been developed, advanced or otherwise improved on by the march of “civilisation”. To that end, for truth to have any standing or recognition, it must be bathed in political correctness and clothed in commentary, interpretation, context and understanding.

  20. Jexpat

    He pops up every now and then on The Drum and all I can think of when I see him is his Magic Water and Krispy Kreem donut articles and then his railing against local TV for not showing American College football…

    That along with his recurrent “I hate the Greens” articles.

  21. Andreas Bimba

    A really well written and amusing article. I can feel victory when this is the best that the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) propagandists like Sheehan can deliver.

    Queensland under the previous appalling Campbell Newman government is an example of the necessity of having both an upper and lower house of parliament. It is also essential that Australia has proportional representation voting for both houses of parliament for all states, territories and federally.

    The neo-cons now know that they have lost when they cannot get a majority in any upper house. Whenever the IPA’s team B, the ALP right decides to collude with the neo-cons to pass legislation it will weaken them.

    Victory!

  22. xiaoecho

    One can’t help but feel the Liberal instinct is towards fascism.

    fascism
    [fash-iz-uh m]
    noun
    1.
    (sometimes initial capital letter) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

    The Liberals and their boosters in the media make no secret of their disdain for democracy and their distrust of the Australian people to get it right.
    They want to rule OVER us because we are children (ie. lesser) and they are adults who know what is best for us.
    They have since Abbott became opposition leader systematically trashed parliamentary conventions. The speaker has no respect whatsoever for the chair and acts as an agent of the government, attending party room meeting to discuss Government strategy.
    We have a flaccid Corporate media who have abrogated their responsiblity to hold the government to account. Government ministers are now so secure in their dominance of the media that they openly refuse to answer questions saying ‘I dont accept that assertion’ Journalists never or rarely press for an explanation.

    The instincts and institutions that drove the egalitarian 20thC are breaking down. People are already talking of the 21stC as the ‘Post democratic age’

  23. Anomander

    This is the same logic (shit) flowing from the gaping maw of Mr Eleventy.

    We have a government revenue problem because major corporations aren’t paying enough tax, but our corporate taxes are too high and we need to reduce them. I’m no economist but WTF?

  24. stephentardrew

    Like most conservatives blaming the victims gets you off the hook.

    It’s always the other bloke not your rampant incompetence.

    It’s those bloody independents who were elected democratically ergo corporate fascism should rule.

    Sheen should try kindergarten democracy before attempting to understand the complexity of the right to vote good or bad.

    Such a simple minded shrill.

  25. olddavey

    Sheehan is a numpty of the first water, I have given up trying to make head or tail of any of the gibberish he produces.

    And @brickbob, I don’t mind seeing mad rightists like him on ABC news, Q&A etc, because they show everyone how flawed their thought processes are.

  26. totaram

    Once in a while, it’s good to comment on a comment by Sheehan, but you’ll get regular analyses of his and other similar comments on:

    http://loonpond.blogspot.com.au/

    along with cartoons and other fun. Enjoy!

  27. Val Doxan

    You actually “read” Paul Sheehan?

  28. Annie B

    @ xiaoecho ….

    Everything in your post, is spot on.

    Ref : ……… “Post democratic age ” ? ………. has there EVER been anything remotely approaching REAL democracy – anywhere ? … if anyone cares to think about it ?

    I think it is about time, it was actually introduced ……. for once. !! ( no offense intended xiaoecho ).

    ………..

  29. mark delmege

    Does he write for the Oz? It only matters if you think it does.

  30. lawrencewinder

    I heard Sheehan attempt to denigrate the achievements of Fraser just after his death. The only “Flukes” I could probably ascertain seemed to be in his brain.

  31. Pappinbarra fox

    I thought that it was as plain as the mote in your eye that there is only one national interest. And that is to make a profit. Governments should not be in the business of social support. That is for charities. Irony alert.

  32. Möbius Ecko

    lawrencewinder not only that Howard, Abbott and Hockey all arrived late to Fraser’s funeral. The only way they could have shown more disrespect was to not turn up at all.

  33. helvityni

    Sheehan’s voice is changing, he is starting to sound like a grumpy old WOMAN.

  34. kasch2014

    Well, politics is no excuse for anything anyone is doing. Politics is a social disease, not a science, and the same can be said about modern economics, which forgets that money is not a resource, and that fiddling with money is not productive work. I remember the statements by foreign journalists in Nazi Germany who were aware of the Jewish persecution, murders etc., but felt they couldn’t get involved in “political matters”. A hearty thank you for that enlightened stance from six million jews, a few million European minority group members, and about twenty million civilian allied bobmbing and German bombing victims! In politics, the terminally deluded are guiding the terminally insane to Aramageddon just by believing their own nonsense and considering themselves indispensable. have a look at http://www.lifesupportinternational.org and open the PDF’s on the page called “what can we do” for some ideas, inspiration and pretty pictures!

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