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Tag Archives: 2013 election

The Second Marshmallow

We need to start encouraging our society to wait for the second marshmallow. I’m not suggesting this will be an easy task, but I am arguing that the left needs to find a way to do it.

For those unfamiliar with the marshmallow test, it’s a simple study into self-control and delayed-gratification. You offer a child one marshmallow which they can eat now. But if they are willing to wait fifteen minutes, they can eat two marshmallows. Researchers found that the children who are able to wait for two marshmallows ended up with better grades in high school and better life outcomes than the impatient snatch and gobble children, therefore concluding that the ability to put off immediate rewards for a larger reward in the future is a more successful life strategy. But what does this idea mean for our whole society?

I like to generalise as it saves time: right wing voters are ‘give me the marshmallow now, hurry up, where’s my marshmallow, why didn’t I have my marshmallow yesterday’ people. Left wing voters are much more likely to wait, bide their time, invest their patience and look forward to the second marshmallow which will be to their betterment in the end. Too simplistic? Look at climate change. All Abbott’s Liberals had to do to scare people into voting down the Carbon Price was to threaten their next power bill. Labor was asking us all to think about the future of something rather important: the continuation of our planet. But unfortunately the next power bill won out and the Carbon Price is no longer. The Liberals have done similar ‘take the one marshmallow now’ campaigns with a range of different policies, appealing to voters who can’t see further than tomorrow in their voting interests and are therefore inclined to vote in the best interests of their short-term opportunism by damaging their two-marshmallow-long term interests and the interests of their children and grandchildren. Voting is all about interests today or interests tomorrow!

In fact, when you look at Abbott’s successful 2013 election campaign and his entire narrative throughout the last 6 years, he is the one-marshmallow-man. Kill the NBN. Destroy the mining tax and your future superannuation savings. Destroy Medicare because you don’t need it today, so don’t worry about tomorrow. Slash funding for healthcare even though you will definitely need the health system in the future. Burn funding for education, and don’t worry about the fact that our future economic growth depends on the children of today being smart enough to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. Completely ignore the infrastructure needs of the future. Kill renewable energy and keep loving coal, which is not only destroying the planet but is also running out. Abbott liked three word slogans. He could have just gone with me me me. Or now now now. Or ‘give me marshmallow!’ Sadly this whole campaign was very effective.

I could be really smug at this point and piss off all Abbott voters, who don’t read my blog anyway, by saying that left wing voters are inherently more emotionally intelligent than right wing voters who are too easily conned into voting against their long-term-two-marshmallow interests by opportunistic tactics, such as Liberal fear campaigns, convincing them that the one marshmallow now is really their best option when it clearly isn’t. But it is not as simple as that. I can see in my own life that worrying about the future is hard when you have worries today. A perfect example is climate change. I worry a lot about climate change. I know pretty much all there is to know about the dangers of climate change which we are experiencing now, and will get worse as we continue to do nothing effective to slow it. But when I do catch myself worrying about the climate, and feeling guilty about the dangerous world my daughter is growing up in, I also notice this worry appears at times when there is nothing more pressing to worry about. Then I wonder what is more pressing than the continuation of our planet, and the truth is, to individuals on that planet, the realities of life is that there are many things we have to worry about just to get through the day. I have a four month old daughter and since she arrived, there are hundreds of immediate worries. My husband and I have a mortgage, many bills to pay and busy jobs that keep our minds focussed on meeting short-term deadlines. For something as big as climate change, even if you are worried about it, even if you consider yourself a climate activist, there is very little, on a daily basis, you can actually do about it. And my family is by no means poor. For those struggling to survive on welfare, or in very low paid jobs, for those living in poverty, there is no such thing as worrying about tomorrow. A recent study as proved this, by finding that ‘people who live in poverty tend to make poor long term financial decisions because their economic situation makes it difficult to focus on anything but the near term’. So we have a vicious cycle. Short-term thinking neoliberal conservative governments result in growing wealth inequality which keeps more people poor, controlled by a very few rich-Turnbullites who are happy to continue to win the class war by keeping the poor on this short-term thinking track.

All of us, particularly the poor, rely on those in power, who are in a position to look after our long term interests, to do just that. But when our own government is only interested in the one marshmallow at the expense of all of our futures, and are hording thousands of marshmallows in their own privileged little world, stuffing more and more into their mouths until they literally look like marshmallow men, it is easy to feel even more individually-powerless and less hopeful about the whole society ever seeing our second marshmallow.

So back to the start of this post. We need a two-marshmallow government. That is why people should vote for the Labor Party. The Labor Party needs to do a better job of encouraging people to wait it out for the second marshmallow and then once in power, the Labor Party must make sure the second marshmallow is worth the wait. My daughter’s future depends on it. Everyone’s futures depend on it.



The Abbott Government has been an easy one to predict

On the eve of the 2013 election I wrote a piece titled, of all things, The 2016 Election. It was my prediction of who would win the 2016 election and why. Twelve months into Abbott’s (first and only) term the predictions have been spot-on. I don’t claim to have a crystal ball or have the ability to glimpse into the future. Rather, the future can be easy to predict when we are dealing with the predictable.

The Abbott Government have helped because they are just so damn predictable. Here is the article from September 2013:

Let us indulge ourselves and assume that Rupert Murdoch’s shonky Newspolls are correct and the incompetent, gaffe prone Tony Abbott wins the job of leading us after Saturday’s election and look ahead three years: what would happen in the 2016 election?

What would have voters learned after three years under Tony Abbott (and his moguls)?

The first thing they’d have learned would be the obvious: the Tony Abbott Government they voted in will in no way resemble the government they voted for. What they wanted, looks nothing like what they got. But I don’t think this will be the key issue so I will not adress it here. The issue will be about where the country is going, which would be nowhere, rather than how badly Abbott has been guiding it.

His term as leader would have reinforced our perception of him as he was in opposition. Tony Abbott would not have provided one tiny morsel of evidence that he had any plan of moving this country forward, let alone managing it. This was apparent in his term as Opposition leader. The preceding Labor Government focused fairly and squarely on moving forward but it was stalled not just by sorting through the mess left by the Howard Government, but also amid screams of horror from the opposition that the government was doing absolutely nothing. And as the Government’s term progressed during a period when it could have been meeting its commitments to the electorate and moving this country forward, it was further stalled by an obstructionist opposition, again, amid screams of horror from those causing the obstructions. Plus of course a fair amount of chest beating.

And by 2016 we would have learned that chest beating about stopping the boats (which will not be stopped) does not move the country forward. Unplugging the national broadband network does not move the country forward either. Nothing he has offered will.

There will be a different demographic in three years time and they will want to see the country move at a pace that keeps up with the rest of the world. And this new demographic is the key. In the three years leading up to the 2016 election youth will have become a powerful electoral tool. Boxlid, who has been a guest poster here commented that:

Our current youth is far more aware than generations before us, they don’t fall for spin and media proclamations, they know how to access information and share it between everyone else.

Ask the teachers in high school about their level of understanding of the students they are teaching. From what I hear, they have to spend extra time to keep up because they don’t have adequate resources available to them.

Our youth are adults at a younger age and capable of making decisions for themselves regarding their own lives. Difficult to accept isn’t it?

Our younger generation are not dumb and stupid. They are creating our future and from my interaction with them in many ways they are remarkable, skilled, talented and forward looking not just two years, not just five years or ten years: they are looking at fifty years or more and embracing all of the potential opportunities that the future has to offer.

The Abbott Government hasn’t offered this new demographic the possibilities of the future. By 2016 there will be hundreds of thousands of new voters demanding it. Hundreds of thousands of voters unhindered by the influence of a declining media and discontent with the country’s stagnation. They will have a voice.

Tony Abbott would have given no indication that he has any idea of what’s happening in the rest of the world. He would have shown also he has no idea that the mind-set of most people in the Western world has been dragged out of the 1970s. The world is not flat and we now live in a global society.

Furthermore, we are in a new environment of border-less or global economies and markets. One major challenge he faced in this global economy was to think, plan and act globally as well as domestically. He will have failed. He remained entrenched in his 1970s mindset. He failed to develop an international focus amid the diminishing influence of domestic markets in the face of the competitive global economy and global ideas (think technology and climate change). This global village provided an opportunity he overlooked. In 2016 we would have expected that a successful government recognised it as an opportunity and would have initiated changes in response to those opportunities.

Mr Abbott didn’t have a global mindset and he failed to move the country forward. The new demographic will recognise this far more than the rest of us and their vote will be influential. More so than ever before. The older demographic that Tony Abbott has appealed to will have diminished significantly.

What, then, would happen in the 2016 election?

My prediction: possibly Bill Shorten to lead Labor to a win over an out-of-touch Tony Abbott.

I may have erred on the latter. Tony Abbott and his government are living down to all expectations, but I’m not sure that Bill Shorten is living up to those expected of him.


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Tony Abbott: I make this pledge to you, the Australian people

The following is an excerpt from Tony Abbott’s 2013 election campaign launch speech with an interactive report card on how he is going so far. Click on the links to read further.

“This election is about making a great country even better; and that starts with changing [to] the worst government in our history.

I will spend the next two weeks reassuring people that there is a better way while Mr Rudd will spend the next two weeks trying to scare you about what might happen if he doesn’t keep his job.

Mr Rudd thinks this election is all about him.

Well, it’s not about him and it’s not about me.

It’s about you and how a better government can help your family and make your job more secure.

We know that a stronger economy is not about picking winners but about helping everyone to get ahead.

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.

From day one, it will be obvious that Australia is under new management and once more open for business.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will cease making non-commercial loans with taxpayers’ money.

And the motor industry will be saved from Mr Rudd’s $1.8 billion tax on company cars.

Within one hundred days, 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.

The WestConnex in Sydney, the East West Link in Melbourne, the Gateway Upgrade here in Brisbane, the North South Road in Adelaide, and the Swan Bypass in Perth will be well and truly underway.

A standing Green Army, rising to be 15,000 strong, will be working with councils, farmers and volunteers to clean up our polluted waterways and restore our degraded bush.

And the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be operating in large parts of every state.

We’ll trim the commonwealth public sector payroll by 12,000 through natural attrition

And we won’t increase the humanitarian migrant intake until such time as it’s no longer being filled by people smugglers.

There will be no new spending under a Coalition government that’s not fully-costed and fully-funded.

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.

We must be a country that rewards people for having a go – but we must never leave anyone behind.

That’s why I announce today that an incoming Coalition government will finally index eligibility thresholds for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card so that more self-funded retirees will have access to cheaper medicines.

If our vision is realised, within ten years, Australia will have lower, simpler, fairer taxes.

There will be two million more jobs, in manufacturing as well as in agriculture, services, education and a still buoyant resources sector.

We’ll have a more functional federation where the states are sovereign in their own sphere.

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.

As long as I am in public life, I will continue to spend a week a year in a remote indigenous community as I’ve done over the past decade.

Because, if they’re good enough for people to live in, they should be good enough for a prime minister to stay in.

Over the next three years, should we win the election, an incoming Coalition government will do exactly what we’ve said we’ll do.

We will be a no surprises, no excuses government, because you are sick of nasty surprises and lame excuses from people that you have trusted with your future…

It’s performance, not promises, that will earn your respect; it’s actions, not words, that you are looking for.

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 pensioners and superannuants, I don’t see people who are a drain on the taxpayer but people who have built the country that I am lucky enough to live in.

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.

After the previous Liberal and National party government gave you the four largest surpluses in our history the current government has given you the five largest deficits in our history.

But the worst deficit is not the budget deficit but the trust deficit.

This election is all about trust.

Kevin Rudd says that a Coalition government would sack nurses and teachers even though we don’t employ any…and sell schools and hospitals…even though we don’t own any.

So not only is Mr Rudd leading the most incompetent government in our history, he’s now running the most dishonest election campaign in our history.

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 one thing you know is that you can’t trust what Labor tells you.

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.


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“One-term Tony”: It’s a sure bet

An editorial opinion:

Bill Shorten finally emerged from wherever he had been hiding and smacked us with the downright obvious: Tony Abbott is a potential ”oncer” prime minister. God bless you, Bill, I couldn’t agree more.

Whether Bill was basing this no-brainer on the tumbling opinion polls for Tony Abbott, the Keystone Cops like performance of the government, or the sheer bumbling buffoonery of Abbott himself … I’m not sure. But all three are valid reminders that what we have in Tony Abbott as prime minister is nothing more than, simply – and I’ll borrow a term raging across the social media – a “One-term Tony”.

All three factors have resonated across the mainstream media (bar Murdoch) and in particular the more rigidly probing independent media.

It is no surprise to most of us that no first-time prime minister has suffered such a fall from grace as Tony Abbott. Indeed, never has there been a swing of such magnitude against a new administration. It is no surprise to most of us either that his ministers have failed to demonstrate a single ounce of competence in their portfolios (the exception being the heartless Scott Morrison who is in complete control, apparently, of our apparently fragile borders). After all, they showed little interest in their portfolios as Shadow Ministers when they sat around in Parliament like stunned mullets; clueless, baffled by their counterparts. And it is certainly no surprise to most of us that Tony Abbott is just as gutless and shallow a politician as prime minister as he was leader as of the dazed Opposition.

A large number of people are surprised though; hence the massive slump in the polls. The reality of an Abbott Government must have been a huge blow. Yes, it’s a hollow feeling knowing you’ve been conned.

But these are the people who will ensure that Tony Abbott is a “oncer”. They are quickly joining the ranks of those who have vociferously expressed serious doubts about his ability to run a political party, let alone a progressive (or formerly progressive) country. Conservative politics in a progressive country is a bad marriage. Even worse when a confused and stupefied Tony Abbott is in charge.

It has been a total disaster. “One-term Tony” is one term too many.

And it will be one term only. It’s a sure bet.

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This is Democracy

500 BCE, Athens
This is Democracy.

Each year, 500 names are randomly drawn afresh from the pool of eligible voters. These 500 citizens will serve the next year as the legislators for the city. All citizens of Athens are required to vote on any new law that this body creates. Votes are won by a simple majority: one voter, one vote.

There are some people whose opinion does not count; who do not get to vote. In ancient Athens, these include women, children, and slaves. Modern estimates indicate that of up to 300,000 people living in the region at the time, about 20% have voting rights.

Political literacy is high. The opinions of the people are heavily influenced by the media of the day – political satire performed in the theatres.

There are no politicians.

Democracy is dangerous. It takes power away from those who have it, and distributes it amongst those who may have different ideas. It cannot be easily controlled, only influenced. It equalises and it disempowers the powerful.

Thus, since time immemorial, those with responsibility for administering democracy have sought to control its use by limiting the people who may participate. Slaves, foreigners, women, coloured people, non-citizen residents – they’ve all, at some point or another, been excluded from the processes of power.

The great likelihood is that currently, you who are reading this blog post are amongst them.

It is sometimes asked why, if somewhere between 64% and 68% of the Australian people want gay marriage legalised, the major parties are so intransigently opposed to it, or why with seemingly a high proportion of Australians simultaneously outraged by Labor’s and the Coalition’s plans on refugee arrivals, both parties continue trying to out-hardline the other. (I’ve found it impossible to find an actual figure for the proportion of Australians for whom this is a driving issue. If anyone can point me to this number it would be appreciated!

The answer, of course, is that the seats that matter, the swing seats, do not share the outlook of the whole of Australia. Both major parties spend huge resources polling and evaluating their standing in the swing seats.

Both parties target individual seats for marketing, for campaigning, for pork-barrelling and election promises, and both parties heed the opinions and prejudices of the people in these marginal seats as a matter of high priority.

If a policy is adopted that panders to a swing seat, the parties can do this without fear of the outcomes because they know that the rest of Australia will either vote for them or not vote for them, regardless of actual policies.

Of the 144 seats in the Australian parliament, 74 are “safe” – they require a minimum of an 8% swing in order to change hands. The traditional view of “safe” seats is any seat that requires a minimum of a 6% swing, so I’m being conservative here.

Technically, every seat in Australia can change hands at any election. At the 2010 election, some electorates swung by as much as 13%. 18 of the 144 electorates swung by over 8% (17 of them in the direction of the Coalition).

At the 2013 election, with the current projected swings based on polling, any seat on 10% or less might be regarded as a marginal seat.

1789 AD, United States of America
This is Democracy.

“We the people”, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, have the right to vote for their Congress. Most major offices in the country, up to and including the office of President, are elected positions and the people can vote for their preferred candidates to hold them. Legislation is passed by the Congress and ratified by the President.

There are some people whose opinion does not count; who do not get to vote. In post-independence USA, these include women, children, slaves, negroes, native Americans, and non-landholding males. Modern estimates indicate that of up to 5.3 million people living in the USA at the time, about 17% have voting rights.

Technically, the United States is a Democratic Republic. There is already, effectively, a two-party system in operation, with Democrats and Republicans making up the two main schools of thought.

The outcome of the feverish focus on swing seats is twofold. It results in two paradoxically opposed effects. It pushes the parties closer together on big-ticket items, and it increasingly leads to class politics in day-to-day governing.

Both parties are desperate to win the votes of a handful of electorates. Electoral strategy revolves around picking your battles and pitching your offer directly at the heartland of the undecided.

With a limited number of seats in contention, and the stakes so high, both parties have incentive to follow the same path. In Australia, at present, this is slightly right-of-centre.

On refugees, on infrastructure, on education, on the economy, both parties are guilty of me-too politics, as clear vote-winning policies are adopted and co-opted. The opinion of the majority of Australians is not the major consideration. This is one contributing factor to the electorate’s general disengagement from politics in recent years.

The other effect is one of separation, as Labor and the Coalition focus their policy development on particular demographics. Electorates vote on the basis of the people who live there, and most electorates have a character, a homogeneity of age and social class.

As Labor continues to court the vote of the young and the educated, they develop policies that suit their safe electorates. As the Coalition continues to pitch to the battlers and the owners of small businesses, they develop a different set of policies that suit their own electorates.

Neither party is operating in a centric fashion with concern for the opinions of the electorates and demographics that they historically have not appealed to and can’t afford to put effort into winning.

2013 AD, Australia
This is Democracy.

All adult citizens of Australia are expected and required by law to enrol to vote, and are eligible to vote in local, State and National elections. Federal elections allow citizens to elect representatives for their local area, who despite election may not be a part of the governing party. All elected representatives may bring legislation to the house regardless of party affiliation.

Everybody gets to vote, but there are still some people whose opinion does not count. In practical terms, residents who do not follow the majority view of their electorate have no effective voice in parliament and their opinions are not important in the development of policy by the major political parties.

If we estimate that the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has been reasonably successful in distributing votes evenly between electorates, and if we assume further that an electorate requiring at least an 8% swing is “safe”, then of 22.3 million citizens, about 49% live in electorates where their vote is actually likely to be courted. 51% of the populace lives in electorates where the outcome is assumed.

The people are largely ignorant about the day-to-day processes of government and legislature, with attention paid to a small number of big-picture policies and ideologies, and most activity of the Parliament unseen and unremarked.

So what is the answer?

I increasingly feel that the two-party system is broken. Has representative democracy had its day? The day becomes ever nearer when we will have the technical and administrative ability to develop policy on the basis of the intentions of the people as a whole, rather than a representative attitude of the people in your suburb.

A time when every major decision is treated as a referendum and every voter’s attitude is counted, even if only in determining the overall intention of law. (Much of modern legislature is far too complex to be suitable for a census of opinion, but bureaucrats and lawyers can argue the semantics of law required to implement the expressed will of the people.)

This may be a pipe dream and unlikely in the foreseeable future. Until then, the best we can do if we want to ensure our voice is heard is to move to live in a swing electorate.

Co-posted on Random Pariah on 31 August 2013.


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An Open Letter to Journalists at News Ltd

Dear News Ltd Journalists,

I’m writing you this letter on behalf of all Australians. That includes everyone who can vote in the upcoming election, as well as those too young to have a say in their own future. I wanted to let you know that your behaviour throughout the election campaign has been appalling. I know you know as well as I do that it’s not the role of a journalist to campaign for a political party. Journalists often justify their bias by saying that opinion pieces can be whatever they want them to be – whether or not they’re biased, unbalanced, untrue, or part of a conspiracy on behalf of your boss to get rid of the NBN, which threatens his business interests. But you’re not just contributing opinion pieces and amateur PhotoShopped front page images, denigrating the target of your smear campaign. You’re also contributing news articles, designed to bring about a certain result, a result you’ve allegedly been instructed to manufacture to help your boss make money. Doesn’t this make you feel dirty? Doesn’t the 17 year old aspiring journalist in you feel even a little bit sad about finding their middle-aged-self behaving in this unethical way? Don’t you care about the impact your work has on the country you live in?

I’m sure many of you justify your blind obedience in the ‘get Rudd’ campaign to the fact that you need a job. You have to do what you’re told so you can keep working as a journalist. I know there’s not many jobs out there for journalists, but this doesn’t justify you doing the wrong thing. There are hundreds of examples throughout history of ‘employees’ doing the wrong thing on behalf of their bosses, and justifying this wrongness by saying they were instructed to do it. That doesn’t make it OK. If Murdoch told you to hit your wife, would you do that too? Where exactly is the line that you wouldn’t cross, no matter what your boss wanted? Is there a line? When you write puff pieces about Tony Abbott, when you do glamorous photo shoots of Tony Abbott’s daughters but don’t actually ask them a question, when you choose not to scrutinise Abbott, and omit news that is damaging to him, when you support Mal Brough’s campaign to destroy Slipper and then ignore the news that you were part of the Ashbygate conspiracy which a Federal Court Judge has revealed, when you cover your front page with blatant propaganda to help Abbott win government, but don’t tell your readers what his real plans are, when you give a candidate a free run and create the misleading impression that the Labor government is unsuccessful, you are failing Australia. Your job is not more important than your responsibility as a journalist. How are you ever going to get another job with this sort of behaviour in your background?

I actually think it’s an absolute outrage that not one of you has resigned in protest during this election campaign. Not one of you has stood up for journalistic integrity and said ‘enough’. Not one of you has said your pay cheque isn’t more important to you than your ethics. And what about all the jobs your readers will lose because of your campaign? You know Tony Abbott has proudly announced that he’ll sack 12,000 public servants. These are people doing important work in our communities. They help people. They support the disadvantaged in society. How is your job more important than their jobs?

No doubt many of you are Liberals yourself, having been hand-picked by your boss to make sure you’re on his side. But even if you think Tony Abbott deserves to win the election, and even if you like his policies and are completely in favour of his plans for this country (assuming you know what these are), don’t you think the Australian people have a right to hear both sides of the story before making up their own minds? Don’t you think it sounds a little bit like Fascism for your boss to decide that he wants an Abbott win, and then for you, his minions, to do his dirty work in the most blatantly dishonourable and immoral media campaign this country has ever seen?

Perhaps you read letters like this, and you are so hardened to the world that you let it roll over you, like water off a duck’s back. But I just hope that somewhere, deep down inside you, there’s a little voice reminding you that you’re doing the wrong thing. If you even have the ability to feel guilty, to feel ashamed, even if it’s just at 3:00am in the morning when you can’t sleep, I hope you feel awful.

It’s also important for you to know that we won’t forget what you’ve done. If your boss gets his way, and you do manage to deliver Australia the most conservative, austerity obsessed, downright mean and selfish government we’ve ever had, it’s very likely most of your readers, especially those in areas like western Sydney who’ve you’ve conned most successfully, will not be very impressed with you. They might ask why on earth Abbott is cutting spending on services they need, like health and education, when they didn’t hear about it before the election. They might be disappointed to hear their work rights are being undermined by the same front bench who came up with Work Choices. And they might be really pissed off when the surplus they’ve been promised is actually a gigantic $30 billion dollar black hole. No doubt you’ll do your best to blame all these woes on Labor, as this is your unthinking knee-jerk reaction to everything. But how long can this work? I know you like your readers dumb, but don’t underestimate how quickly people work out that they’ve been screwed over. I hope your precious job is worth it then. I would have thought your entire industry was in enough trouble without you putting another dozen nails in its coffin through your own arrogance and incompetence.


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Six of the best

We are at that moment in the election cycle (and given that we have a Labor Government, much to the consternation of a compliant right-wing mainstream media) that we can expect the said media to ramp up its attack on how hellish the Government is while promoting Tony Abbott and his team as political deities. Nothing is more certain. Their efforts to date – as toxic as they are – will pale in comparison to the venom we can expect over the coming months.

Those of the Fifth Estate (social and independent media) are also ramping up an attack, collectively, but with the opposing message: the Labor Government has performed extraordinarily well and the possibility of an Abbott led government will deliver dire social and economic consequences, the likes of which this country haven’t seen for many decades. And may themselves take many decades to recover from.

Those people wise enough to follow the writings of the Fifth Estate at the exclusion of the Fourth Estate (the mainstream media) could not have helped but notice the flood of articles holding the current opposition and their media mates to account. Only the Fifth Estate are providing a true picture of what an Abbott Government would mean to most Australian families, while themselves being gobsmacked at the media’s reluctance to actually ask a simple question of Abbott for fear of the (half-hearted) answer deterring the nurtured voters.

Over the last few days some brilliant articles about the reality of the incompetent media and the prospect of an Abbott Government have been published. I have picked six of the best from sites other than those on The Australian Independent Media Network site that deserve, nay, demand wide coverage. They are all a MUST read. They are all a MUST share.

Here they are, in no particular order with some selected, and hopefully, enticing quotes:

The Political Sword: Political hatred: its genesis and its toll by Ad astra who writes:

Abbott has always maintained that he should have been PM, that the Gillard Government is illegitimate, and that he would do everything in his power to bring it down, something he envisaged would be easy and swift, and The Lodge his by Christmas. That was two Christmases ago, and with each passing day his anger heightened and his campaign of vilification intensified.

Before any of you tell me that politics is a rough and tumble business, that conflict is at its very centre, that such hatred is the norm, reflect on when you have previously seen such intense hatred. We all remember the unpleasant things that were said about some of John Howard’s policies, about some of his statements, about some of his ideological positions, about some of his reversals – ‘core and non core promises’ – even about his eyebrows, but can you recall such a level of hatred, such vitriolic hatred, being expressed? Older readers will remember some of Paul Keating’s colourful language, but can you recall him emitting hatred such as has been directed to Julia Gillard?

I have not witnessed such hatred as we now hear in the language that Opposition members and some commentators use, and see in the angrily contorted faces of Tony Abbott, Christopher Pyne, Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop and other Opposition members in parliament and in interviews.

The Failed Estate: Damned Lies and Journalism by Mr Denmore:

The sheer volume of this muck prompts one to ask where journalists stand. For instance, we constantly see deceitful scare stories about public debt, devoid of context. In the case of this boogeyman, the News Ltd scribblers conveniently leave out that to ensure a liquid bond market, gross debt will rise if government issuance is kept at a set ratio to the economy (as requested by APRA, the RBA and other key institutions). They ignore that our net debt is among the lowest in the OECD, and they will ritually overlook that, in the eyes of bodies like the IMF, our debt is of no concern at all. These are facts. They are not ‘left-wing’ facts. They are facts.

Independent Australia: The polishing of Tony Abbott by Clint Howitt:

The intrusion of religion into politics runs counter to the traditional separation of Church and State in modern democracies, but Abbott’s statements and actions have already made it clear that his strong sectarian convictions do encroach on his political role.

Given the controversial positions he has taken on the sensitive matters of the status of women, abortion and gay relationships, it must be of great concern to people affected by these issues that the hard-won gains are likely either to freeze, or worst still, wind them back, under an Abbott government.

Again on Independent Australia: Tony Abbott’s 12 biggest budget reply porkie pies, a gem by Alan Austin:

Observers aware of Australia’s extraordinary economy were stunned to hear Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s budget reply speech on Thursday.

Never so many implied falsehoods, bare-faced hypocrisies and blatant lies in the one presentation since … well . . . since Abbott’s speech at the IPA dinner in April.

Would this be the end of Phoney Tony? Could any leader survive the media onslaught after a hubristic homily with such huge hypocrisies?

Well, not only was media reaction completely devoid of fulmination against the fibs, but it seemed none had even been detected. Somewhat bizarre.

Politically Homeless: Manufacturing Base by Andrew Elder:

This is the point where companies are starting to make investment decisions about the next financial year, and to make long-term decisions for the rest of the decade. We’re at the point where the Coalition should start looking like a confident alternative government, rather than like a bunch of chancers riding their luck. Late last year, The Australian‘s Paul Kelly declared that the Coalition had fifty fully-costed policies ready to go: it’s increasingly clear this isn’t the case, and could well be for Kelly what assertions about Iraqi WMDs were to Colin Powell.

On Turn Left 2013: Tony Abbott announces the Oprah Winfrey of budget replies: You can have free money and You and You, the author writes:

What we witnessed from Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott was the Oprah Winfrey of campaign launches. You can have free money, and you, and you, and you…

Unfortunately Tony was pointing to the Gallery, where his family were watching from, and Gina Rinehart, who was also watching.

Tony’s speech was designed to satisfy only 3 people: Gina Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch, Tony Abbott.

[Correction: Thursday night was a budget reply, not a campaign launch]

The feedback to the Budget Reply was a little like an episode of Orpah – a buffet of everything.

Tony’s plans to scrap the carbon “tax” to save families up to $300 a year in exchange low-income Australians will lose the low-income super contribution as well as the supplementary bonus paid to people on benefits. Makes sense? Perhaps to a Coalition voter. Although, as NSW Senator Doug Cameron points out, the Liberals are far from economic geniuses.

Six great articles among dozens to choose from, and my apologies to those great social media authors and their articles not included – this time. Your turn will come. To all, keep up the great work. You’re all brilliant. You really do give the mainstream media – dare I say it – a caning.


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Predicting the future is hard, but predicting the past is an oxymoron

“There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.” Donald Rumsfeld

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Yogi Berra

Ok, the future is a strange country which we presume looks just like now apart from the different bits. Now that the Mayan Calendar didn’t accurately predict the end of the world we can all get back to normal, and leave prediction to the experts.

Of course, one wonders why, in a supposedly rational age, that the Mayan Calendar received so much attention. I don’t recall reading about the Mayans special relationship with soothsaying. There was no list of amazing accurate Mayan prophecies of the Nostradamus variety. Yet, here we were in the the 21st Century, being asked to consider that 2012 might just be the end of it all.

Some of you are probably smugly sipping your coffee and saying, well, there are still superstitious people in this world who read the horoscopes and such nonsense. And you’re right, there is still a great deal of superstition out there. But it’s not the beliefs of the people who find their futures in their tea leaves or the entrails of chickens that bother me. When it comes to the prediction, one superstitious method is as good as another. No, what bothers me is the serious lack of accountability for people being wrong.

I’m not too concerned about the daily horoscopes, and I don’t suggest that we be given the right to sue the “astrologers” because Gemini did not have a good day, and this enormous rash demonstrates that it was clearly wrong to “try new experiences”. My concern is more to do with the supposed rational thinkers that use their capacity to argue that they weren’t really wrong, but there was just an event they didn’t quite predict which stopped their perfectly accurate prediction from being perfectly accurate. Someone once said that an economist is a person who is paid a large amount of money to explain why they were wrong. But I don’t just want to pick on economists here. I want to pick on everyone who enters the area of making definitive statements about the future, only to argue that, in fact, while the world didn’t end in 2012, that was only because they misread the calendar, or certain events happened in a slightly different order.

Of course, I’ve spent enough times on racetracks and in TABs to know that no punter ever gets it wrong. The horse just needed one more run. That jockey must have backed the winner because he rode mount – the one they backed – so badly, and that was why it didn’t win.It didn’t get a clear run at them. Yep, Black Caviar isn’t really a 1000 metre horse – this thing will be too speedy for it. After we’re wrong there’s always an intelligent explanation, and we can re-write history any way we like.

I’m not going to predict that Julia Gillard will win the next election. However, I would like to remind everyone who keeps talking about the impending Abbott victory that not a single vote has been cast yet. This is not like GP motor racing where drivers rack up points and then of them may draw away to an unbeatable lead. This is more like the final of a tennis match where all the points are decided on one day. (Or a couple of days in the case of a rain interruption – in case any pedants out there want to comment on a minor inaccuracy which has little to do with the overall blog). It’s highly unlikely that I’d be able to beat Bernard Tomic in the final, but I will start on the same score, and who knows, he might have a bad day. Or be disqualified for his behaviour when I make a comment about using his head for that point…

Yes, I’ve seen the opinion polls, but as I said to my wife after I heard on the radio that Labor would be wiped out if an election was held today, “If an election was held today, they wouldn’t have any of the ballot papers printed.” I then went on to say that opinion polls are a bit like asking a man if I’d leave his wife for Scarlett Johansson – lots of men would say yes without thinking but when the actual reality hit, they may not be so keen on a Hollywood lifestyle. Or, it’s like asking who you’ll support in the AFL Grand Final – apart from actual supporters of a club a lot of people will change their mind at the last minute. I started to explain that historically people can drift back toward a Government when the Opposition starts actually releasing policies, but at this point, my wife said that Scarlet was welcome to me.

The opinion polls have helped divide Labor, creating the impression that nothing of note is being done. They’ve given Abbott momentum, and made him look like a winner. He’s been able to lose some of his negativity, because Labor politicians and supporters themselves have been critics of Gillard. Every achievement – for example, dragging Abbott onboard with the NDIS – is viewed cynically, as though everything is poll driven. It’s possible that Gillard may see these last few months before the election as perhaps Labor’s last chance to actually put in place some things that will be – like Medicare (Medibank) in the 70s – hard for the Conservatives to completely dismantle. Just as it’s possible that she may play “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John every morning and convince herself that she’s a winner no matter how many times she’s been written off.

Whatever the faults of this Government, whether Gillard lied or not (no Liberal lied about Children Overboard, of course, that was just a factual inaccuracy), I find the rhetoric about “the worst government ever” ridiculous. We can despair about the mainstream media seemingly singing in chorus, or we can start to fight back. And belief is a powerful weapon. Optimism can create momentum.

Perhaps Abbott will be Prime Minister come September. But if one looks at past predictions that is no certainty. In 2010, Sportsbet had Gillard at long odds to last till 2013. Of course, they may have looked at the Mayan Calendar and factored in the end of the world in 2012.


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I’ll be unemployable if I don’t support Tony

OK, for those of you who’ve read my previous blogs, where I’ve clearly been somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I’d say that there comes a time to speak seriously, a time to say what you mean. I need people to understand that this is not a satiric piece, that I’m speaking from the heart, because I suspect that some of you will judge me by your past experience of my blogs.

You see, in the past, I’ve often said things that I don’t mean, but I was being “ironic”. I don’t really believe the things I wrote, and neither should you.

So when I say that I think we should all vote for Tony Abbott, I mean it from the bottom of my heart. (Ok, obviously we can’t all vote for Tony Abbott. We need to be in his electorate to do that, but I mean, we should vote for the party he leads. We don’t directly elect the PM. I know there’s been some confusion about this over the past couple of years!) And I’m not just saying this because I’m concerned that in the post-election Liberal-controlled employment market, I’ll be unemployable if I don’t support Tony.

I’m saying it, because I understand that, like me, Tony may have been misunderstood. For example, when Tony said that he was “threatened by gays”, most people probably thought that he was speaking generally. Now that he has appeared on “60 Minutes” with his gay sister and her partner, we realize that he was probably being literal. After all, if you were Tony’s sibling, wouldn’t you threaten him?

Tony Abbott has also announced that he wouldn’t allow his religious views to dominate his policies. This is a fine and proper thing. His religious views are personal and shouldn’t influence his decisions in the political arena. Similarly, I have personal views on things like slavery and child abuse, but, if I were in politics, I wouldn’t allow these to influence my decisions. For example, if someone made a good economic case for slavery – for example, the proprietor of a news organization – I’d put my petty, personal qualms aside for the national good. I’d understand that slavery has its merits, better to have a job than none at all, and slavery would go a long way towards solving the problem of the homeless. Of course, no-one is proposing slavery at the moment; I merely give this as an example of how a person’s deeply held personal position need not be an impediment to doing something that one regards as wrong or immoral.

Some unkind people are suggesting that Tony is insincere, and that the “new” Tony is reminiscent of the “real” Julia prior to the 2010 election, but I find that absurd. For years, Tony has been someone who changes his position from moment to moment, from audience to audience. To accuse him not being “real” because he’s showing yet another aspect of his chameleon type nature is to miss the true nature of the man. Remember this is the person who said that he opposed the emissions trading scheme, and that it would be far more efficient to simply introduce a carbon tax.

So from this point forward, you’ll find me a staunch defender of Tony. I’ll put the conservative case. As Tony said in his speech to the IPA:

Based on his papers’ 1972, support for the Whitlam Government our guest of honour tonight was once described as a “recovering socialist”. I suspect we will discover later on just how completely he has been cured!

John Howard has said that Rupert Murdoch has been by far Australia’s most influential international businessman; but I would like to go a little further. Along with Sir John Monash, the Commander of the First AIF which saved Paris and helped to win the First World War, and Lord Florey a one-time provost of my old Oxford College, the co-inventor of penicillin that literally saved millions of lives, Rupert Murdoch is probably the Australian who has most shaped the world through the 45 million newspapers that News Corp sells each week and the one billion subscribers to News-linked programming.”

Rupert is a hero, comparable to a war hero. So all you left wingers who think he’s just doing what he does for personal gain and glory, you should be honoring him this ANZAC Day. Screw those insignificant diggers.

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What Tony Abbott will do for you (Part 1): the age pension

I can’t see the mainstream media’s commitment to telling us who to vote for being relaxed until the election is over and they’ve safely delivered victory to Tony Abbott. Like me, you’ve probably noticed that they’ve offered not one piece of reasoning as to why we should vote for Abbott. Abbott, neither, has told us much as to why he deserves our vote.

But we have gleaned a few things from which we can form our own opinion and more importantly, decide on whether as Prime Minister he is offering a better alternative.

Over the coming months we’ll be looking at what Tony Abbott offers particular demographics and how they will be affected by what we know of his policies or promises. Today we’ll be taking a look a brief look at the Age Pensioners.

The Age Pension first came into operation in 1909 for eligible males aged 65, and the following year it was awarded to eligible females once they reached 60.

In the 2009 Budget the Government announced the Age Pension age was to increase to 67 years of age from 2023. At the time, this was met with howls of protest suggesting that:

The Federal Government is facing a protest from two of the country’s biggest blue-collar unions against its plans to raise the pension age to 67.

The unions say it’s too much to expect workers in physically demanding industries to stretch their working lives by another two years.

Little known is that the Howard Government legislated for the pension age for women to increase from 60 to 65, incrementally, until 2017.

Those protesters who were outraged at the age increases announced in the 2009 Budget will find no sympathy from Tony Abbott. He belonged to a Government that lifted the female age by five years and has publicly announced that he wants it raised to age 70 or above, for both males and females. Among the controversial policy measures in the book Battlelines is a proposal for the pension age to be at least 70.

So if you want the likelihood of an increase in the Age Pension eligibility age then Tony Abbott will welcome your vote.

But what if you are already an Age Pension recipient? How will you be affected if Abbott wins power? We know a little bit, but enough to let you know how it will hit your hip pocket.

Let’s start with the ‘carbon tax’ return:

. . . from March 20, pensioners will start receiving carbon tax compensation each fortnight. Singles will receive $13.50 a fortnight while couples will receive $20.40.

Ms Macklin said the government was delivering $1 billion a year to pensioners across the country through the carbon tax compensation package.

”In contrast, Tony Abbott and the Liberals have promised to claw back the $1 billion a year support Labor is delivering pensioners,” she said.

”This means every single pensioner in Australia would lose more than $350 a year and every pensioner couple would lose more than $530 a year under an Abbott government.”

Say goodbye to this under an Abbott Government.

How will a vote for Tony Abbott affect your superannuation if you are an age pensioner? That’s also an easy one to answer:

Superannuation has emerged as an election issue, after Opposition leader Tony Abbott confirmed plans to axe a super tax break worth up to $500 a year for 3.6 million low-income earners.

Mr Abbott yesterday pledged there would be “no unexpected changes that are detrimental to people’s superannuation” if he becomes prime minister, but he confirmed a previous announcement that a Coalition government would axe $1 billion a year in super concessions for low-income earners, funded by the mining tax the Coalition also plans to scrap.

That’s another $500 a year age pensioners can say goodbye to.

And neither does he offer any inspiration for those approaching retirement age who face the prospects of not being self-funded retirees.

I would welcome your comments.

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