Canadians voted to continue a reformist agenda with a minority Liberal Government that can still draw upon future negotiated support from both the Bloc Quebecois (BQ) and the New Democratic Party (NPD). The Liberal vote held up well in Ontario and Eastern Atlantic provinces outside Quebec itself.
The urban population centres of Ontario delivered almost half of Liberal Party members (79) in the House of Commons where the Conservatives had a net gain of just three seats. Adjacent Quebec still delivered another 35 electoral districts to the Liberals despite a net gain of 22 seats by BQ. The Atlantic Provinces of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick continued their strong mandate for Liberal members.
The net loss of 29 electoral districts across Canada deprived the Liberals of their majority in the House of Commons from the landslide results of 2015. The Conservatives ended ahead of the overall national vote (34.4 per cent) compared with 33.1 per cent for the Liberals.
The Liberal Party’s primary vote was down by 6.4 per cent with a net loss of 29 seats. The more detailed break-down of voting patterns is readily available from the web sites of Canada Votes (CBC) and The Star (Toronto):
Justin Trudeau’s popular appeal was tarnished throughout 2019 by several administrative irregularities. The first was from the SNC-Lavalin Affair in February 2019 (BBC News 28 February 2019):
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied wrongdoing after he tried to shield one of the country’s biggest firms from a corruption trial.
Mr Trudeau said any lobbying by him or his inner circle for engineering giant SNC-Lavalin was done to protect jobs.
In explosive testimony, ex-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she faced “sustained” pressure to abandon prosecution of the Quebec-based firm.
The Liberal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline, which links Alberta to British Columbia, from the American energy giant Kinder Morgan for Can$4.5 billion ($2.7 billion, 2.4 billion euros).
The goal was to speed up the export of oil from Alberta to new foreign markets. In exchange, the Canadian government promised to invest the profits in green technology.
Many Canadian environmentalists viewed Trudeau’s move as a betrayal. For activists, Trudeau, who was a symbol of hope when he took office in 2015, is no longer a change agent but the man who didn’t do enough for the environment.
Faced with the demands of delivering military commitments to NATO, urban infrastructure and the services demands by large urban populations in the Great Lakes Lowlands, Canada is rarely able to deliver a balanced budget as a percentage of GDP. Only the energy rich and grain producing prairie provinces warmed to the campaign from Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer for an end to Canada’s version of a carbon tax in a more pro-business society.
Canada’s Tolerance of Budget Deficits as a Percentage of GDP
Canada’s government debt to GDP level is running at about twice the Australian level. Higher Canadian levels of government intervention in service delivery have kept the unemployment rate in the 5.4-5.8 range over the past twelve months. Voters east of the prairie provinces did not want to risk a return to the economic austerity of the previous conservative governments in the post-GFC era.
The conventional and highly polarising campaign in Canada largely by-passed the problems associated with a shortage of private sector capital investment.
Canada’s pension funds at national and provincial levels have been a success story.
Having survived into a second term Justin Trudeau can look to support from BQ and NPD for such alternative investment agendas in a middle-sized social market economy with almost half the economic output of France or Britain.
The strains of delivering economic growth and employment show up in middle-sized economies like Canada and Australia in quarterly economic indicators during 2019 without a more diversified financial sector. Trading Economics offers the quarterly GDP percentages for 2019 in context:
From the minority government mix just delivered in Canada, there is a slight possibility that policy initiatives might address these investment shortfalls without drifting further towards the more corporatised society that would be welcomed by US Republicans south of the 49th parallel where tariffs of 25 per cent were imposed on Canadian steel exports to the US and 10 per cent on aluminium ingots by the Trump Administration in 2018 in protest against Canada’s more interventionist economic model.
Tough negotiations in defence of Canadian jobs of these tariff issues in heavy industrial areas of Southern Ontario minimised the appeal of Andrew Scheer’s appeals to blue-collar voters to vote against a continuation of the carbon tax.
Canada’s change agenda was saved on 21 October 2019 even at the expense of continued majority government.
Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.
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Just four months out from the federal election, current indicators do suggest that the federal LNP is fumbling the future of the investment sector of the Australian economy to achieve its short-medium term budget projections and to appease the erratic policies of the Trump Administration.
The IMF data on economic growth trends in Australia confirms the state of flux relating to federal budget projections and delivery of planned tax cuts for higher income earners. These trends will not be unscrambled until the release of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) by early December 2019.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is still optimistic about future delivery of a fiscal balance for 2019-2020 without depressing economic growth projections or causing unemployment levels to rise further.
A key variable in this balancing act is the strength of the public sector spending at both state and federal levels as well as positive trend-lines for commodity and service exports. This favourable mix is marred by data for private sector capital investment over the last two quarters. Release of the September Quarter data on 28 November 2019 will be eagerly awaited. A continuation of the negative trends will be bad news for budget strategies for 2020-21, rather than in the current financial year.
Australia Private Capital Expenditure
To meet its budget targets, the federal LNP is now reigning in the growth in public sector. Probono Australia has revealed the benefits of under-spending on National Disability Insurance (NDIS) to the federal LNP’s efforts to maintain current budget surplus projections for 2019-20 (Luke Michael, ‘NDIS underspend helps return budget to the brink of surplus‘, 20 September 2019):
The federal government spent $4.6 billion less on the National Disability Insurance Scheme than expected because of delays getting people into the program, new budget figures reveal.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Thursday announced the final budget outcome for 2018-19, showing a deficit of $690 million – $13.8 billion less than what the 2018 budget predicted.
This improved financial position – which leaves the budget on the brink of surplus for the first time since 2007-08 – was built on the back of underspending in areas including the NDIS.
The government says this underspend is a result of a slower than expected transition of people into the NDIS, but critics argue the money should be spent fixing various problems plaguing the scheme.
Frydenberg said the NDIS was a “demand driven system”, meaning that a slower uptake of the scheme resulted in less money being spent.
“This is in part because of the delays in some of the states coming on board, and also because it’s taken a bit more time for the service provider market to develop sufficiently to meet the available demand,” Frydenberg said.
Caution with the delivery of future Newstart increases and the delivery of NDIS will assist in the extension of taxation relief that is skewed to middle- and upper-income households as promised in the 2019-2020 federal budget.
Support for market-oriented strategies of the federal LNP came from the US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on his Australian visit with one important policy recommendation (The Australian, Geoff Chambers, ‘Tax cuts key to driving revival, says Wilbur Ross’, 10 October 2019):
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has suggested Australia could increase its global competitiveness and attract direct foreign investment if it replicated Donald Trump’s corporate tax cuts.
Speaking to The Australian on Wednesday, Mr Ross — one of Mr Trump’s closest advisers — said the US company tax cuts combined with regulatory reform had worked “very, very well”.
Wilbur Ross should have added a note of caution to his Aussie Allies Down Under as shown by the latest data from his own Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) in his own US Department of Commerce as released on 24 July 2019:
Direct Investment by Country and Industry, 2018
The U.S. direct investment abroad position, or cumulative level of investment, decreased $62.3 billion to $5.95 trillion at the end of 2018 from $6.01 trillion at the end of 2017, according to statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The decrease was due to the repatriation of accumulated prior earnings by U.S. multinationals from their foreign affiliates, largely in response to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The decrease reflected a $75.8 billion decrease in the position in Latin America and Other Western Hemisphere locations, primarily in Bermuda. By industry, holding company affiliates owned by U.S. manufacturers accounted for most of the decrease.
The foreign direct investment in the United States position increased $319.1 billion to $4.34 trillion at the end of 2018 from $4.03 trillion at the end of 2017. The increase mainly reflected a $226.1 billion increase in the position from Europe, primarily the Netherlands and Ireland. By industry, affiliates in manufacturing, retail trade, and real estate accounted for the largest increases.
US Investment plays a relatively minor role in the Asia Pacific Region compared with commercial interactions with Britain and Europe as well as countries in the American Hemisphere from Canada to Central and South America:
Making America Great Strategies have resulted in a decline in US Capital Flows across the Asia Pacific Region between 2017 and 2018. Australia is an exception to the regional trends and provides the US with highly favourable surpluses for trade in commodities and services as well as capital flows.
Days after this visit to Australia by Wilbur Ross, President Trump announced new compromises in his trade and investment war with China that undercut our own export gains in the Asia Pacific Region in favour of new export incentives from the US farm lobby.
The honeymoon after the last election may still be in session. As the rhetorical euphoria continues, it is time for Aussies to do a fact check of our unfavourable commercial relations with the USA. The Trump Administration has left Australians high and dry in a slowing global economy as the Trade and Investment War is replaced by a new Lovefest with China to the cheers from the US farm and resource sector lobbies which are our real competitors on the world market.
It’s surely time for our federal LNP leaders to show a spark of independence in defending Australia’s commercial sovereignty within the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement as President Trump focuses on his re-election strategies for November 2020.
Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical, structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.
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Abbott is gearing up for an election. First he wants to ensure he will be the leader who takes the Liberal National Coalition to an election, and this is by no means a done deal. And then he is convinced that he can sloganeer away the poll deficit he needs to win a second term. Or rather, his strategists are convinced they can come up with effective slogans to take Abbott to victory, and Abbott is happy to believe them.
As reported in the Guardian this week, Lynton Crosby of campaign strategist firm Crosby Textor, is confident he can use the Liberal staple of simplistic messaging around ‘economic competence’ to convince a not-very-interested-in-politics electorate to forgive everything Abbott’s wrecked with his wrecking ball, and to have permission to fire up an even bigger wrecking ball in a second term. But the question is, will the electorate fall for what basically comes down to a dirty, negative, fear campaign again? Because that’s what Crosby really means when he says Abbott needs to rely on a simple message focused on economic competence. He really means that Abbott needs to scare the electorate into thinking they’ll lose their jobs, they’ll lose their homes, they’ll be destitute and on the street if they don’t do what they’re told and vote for Abbott’s Liberals. It really is as simple as that apparently.
But are Australians going to fall for this again? Are the Turkeys really going to vote for Christmas? Will Australians again drink up ‘Great Big Tax’, ‘Axe the Tax’, ‘Stop The Boats’ and more recently ‘Jobs and Growth’ – the bogan slogans that make Abbott sound like a 2 year old whose just learned a new word and wants to wear it out on his parents?
This is where I pause from typing and I sit back and worry. It doesn’t make rational sense that Australia would be so gullible to fall hook-line-and-sinker for such an obvious, shallow, implausible slogan to scare them into making the second biggest mistake of their lives after their first mistake elected Abbott in the first place. But there is nothing rational about politics. Especially when you mix irrationality with fear, a fear that experts like Crosby and Textor are very good at whipping up. This is why the re-election of Cameron in the UK sent chills down my spine. Cameron was just as unpopular as Abbott and resided over just as big an austerity-caused-badly-managed-economy with high unemployment and barely any growth. Yet he still was given the keys to the country again to wreak more havoc on not just the UK economy, but also to hammer the UK health system, education and social welfare system. But Crosby and Textor helped the very-easily-frightened electorate to forget about all this havoc and they’ve given Cameron a mandate to make the situation even worse. Fear really does make people do stupid things.
It seems like a simple problem to solve, however, it’s not. If you were working as a campaign strategist for Labor, you would think you could just point out to voters how utterly hollow Abbott’s ‘economic competence’ slogan is, how unfounded in reality, and how dangerous it would be to let Abbott’s economic incompetence continue to hurt the economy and to destroy jobs. The statistics are easy to quote – Abbott’s unemployment rate of 6.34% is the highest in 13 years, growth is stagnant and even Abbott’s favourite stick to beat Labor with – government debt – is up $100 billion since Abbott took over the job. The ironic thing is that Australia’s debt and deficit wasn’t even a major problem when Abbott turned it into a vote-winning-slogan, and yet he’s gone on to make this debt even larger. Yet still his strategists feel confident that they can run a fear campaign based on the strongly held electoral perception that Liberal governments are better economic managers than Labor governments. Even after Labor saved the country from a recession during the GFC, a GFC the Liberals claimed never happened, which Labor says didn’t happen to Australia because of Labor’s good economic management, which the Liberals now say is the reason the Australian economy isn’t strong – because the world economy still hasn’t recovered. See how irrational politics is? Facts are irrelevant when it comes to emotional responses to fear campaigns. Labor strategists have hopefully worked this out.
But what’s the answer then? If you can’t convince the electorate that Abbott’s claims of economic competence are as baseless as all the promises he made during the election, which have now been broken, how does Labor ensure that Abbott doesn’t win a second term?
I suggest Labor should learn from Abbott’s success and forget about quoting facts. Facts are really good at convincing people they are right when they can use them to back up their own preconceived, emotional beliefs. For instance – I know Abbott’s the most incompetent and unproductive Prime Minister Australia has ever had, and this article gives me the facts to prove it. A swing voter, on the other hand, doesn’t care about such analysis. So what Labor needs to do is forget about facts and appeal to emotions. In doing so they have two options: the first is to use the dark-arts of Crosby and Textor by scaring people about the prospect of an Abbott second term. This should be relatively easy. The very thought of such a thing terrifies me and although I know I’m not your average swing voter, surely Abbott has done enough scary things in the last two years for Labor to be able to convincingly show how things could get much scarier if Abbott has another go? And surely he’s given enough hints about what he might do in a second term – such as his promise not to increase the GST this term or to make any industrial relations changes this term – to scare people off living this reality?
The second option is to rise above the negative fear campaign of what an Abbott second term would look like, and to appeal to a much more savoury emotion – hope. Labor’s ‘hope for the future’ campaign could focus on all the things Abbott is interested in wrecking that Labor wants to invest in. Jobs of the future. Technologies of the future. The educational needs for jobs of the future. A safer environment for the future. Energy needs and industries of the future. I love the idea of a ‘rise above’ campaign, but I also recognise it’s naïve to think the electorate is ready to put long term progress ahead of short term Abbott-opportunism. So really there is a third option; a little from column A and a little from column B. Simplistically it looks something like this – ‘Abbott will wreck everything, so vote Labor for a brighter future’. Sounds good doesn’t it. If only it was so simple.
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him…
Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.”
Winston worked in the Ministry of Truth and had been working there since he left High School in 2015, back in the days when people used to wonder where alll the jobs would come from, back in the days when people would retire and spend their final years doing such unproductive things as travelling, gardening or filling the minds of their grandchildren with stories. Thankfully now there was plenty of work. At first, it had simply been correcting the mistakes from the speeches of the Prime Minister, but that had soon grown to correcting the mistakes of the whole government, as well as eliminating from public record things they wish they’d never said. And pretty soon, there was a whole army of people scouring the Internet for mistakes other people had made and correcting them as well.
Why just this week, Winston discovered someone of his age, writing that there had been a time when Melbourne hadn’t been a tropical climate and there were people living in Queensland. Queensland, Winston seemed to remember, had never been inhabited by actual people, and was just one of those mythical places like Atlantis. It was a place that people used as a setting for absurd stories to demonstrate why democracy was such an absurd system where people like the mythical “Campbell Newman” were elected. Using his powers under the law, Winston corrected this person’s recollections, and arranged for the person to be taken to the doctor’s for help.
Last year had been a particularly busy time for the Ministry of Truth, as it marked the seventieth anniversary of Abbott’s ascencion to the role of Imperial Ruler after being chosen by the great god, Rupert. To spoil the occsasion, various people had attempted to spread the idea that back in those days that people had been allowed to vote for their leaders. These anarchists had also suggested that Abbott’s decision to cease making public appearances was because of his refusal to stop writing his own speeches and that he’d been locked in a room, while a group of his associates made all the decisions. They attempted to argue that, if Abbott was actually still Imperial Ruler, he’d be well over a hundred years old. Why that was a problem, Winston couldn’t fathom, people in “The Party” often lived to be hundreds of years old – it was only the workers who died. Mostly, by making a mistake, and usually that meant a risky operation to try and put their brains back into the right position. Apparently an easy operation for qualified surgeons, but there were so few of them, and as this required an emergency procedure, the operations were usually carried out immediately by local managers and security guards, with limited success.
Once, someone had tested Winston by telling him that a “resistance” existed, but Winston wasn’t fooled. He knew this would be someone from “The Party” testing him. When this person suggested to Winston that surely he remembered a time before all this began, but Winston just shook his head, and sipped his drink. “Even if I did,” thought Winston, “I’d be a fool to say anything because, at 86, I’m only fourteen years off my retirement age and Chairman Abbott has issued a decree promising that they won’t be raising it again, and all those who reach it will be sent to any of the twelve inhabitable places in the world with enough food to last them a year.”
Winston smiled, remembering how when his memory was questioned, he could assure the person that he remembered everything clearly. How he’d decided against university because of the cost, and how he’d been offered this job after telling the police about a plan to wear unapproved t-shirts prior to the elections of 2015.
“Elections?” the person interjected, “You remember the elections?”
“What elections,” replied Winston, “I was talking about t-shirts. Nobody said anything about elections.”
“You can trust me,” said the person.
“Of course,” said Winston, making a note to erase all records of this conversation just as soon as went to work, and just to be on the safe side, he decided to erase all records of the person to whom he was conversing…
To Be Discontinued, Owing To Unauthorised Use Of Irony.
Speaking on Adelaide radio yesterday Tony Abbott said that the last thing voters want is another election. Given the shocking polls, the shocking budget, and the shocking run the government is having, I’d say that the last thing Tony Abbott wants is an election. I’m sure that voters can make up their own minds.
I never got around to updating it, however I’m sure that as it stands it might provide you with a bit of humour and more tellingly, trumpet loud and clear that Tony Abbott is only interested in elections when ‘he’ has a good chance of winning them. Some of the links have been removed as the sites they linked to are now ‘dead’ – most of them being to the Liberal Party’s own website, strangely.
So from the good ol’ days when Tony Abbott wasn’t the Prime Minister:
June 30, 2011: Tony Abbott calls for an immediate election after ‘the experiment that failed’ (referring to a minority government).
July 2, 2011: Abbott interviewed in Port Lincoln. He calls for an election.
July 11, 2011: Pollution tax won’t cut emissions: Abbott (and he calls for an election).
July 13, 2011: Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott face angry public in carbon tax pitch to the nation (and Abbott calls for an election).
July 17, 2011: From the Liberal Party website, Tony Abbott wants an election.
Aug 16, 2011: Tony Abbott joins carbon tax rally to call for fresh election.
Sept 4, 2011: Abbott calls for election as PM digs in on leadership.
Oct 13, 2011: Scott Morrison calls for an election because of the blocked Malaysia deal.
Oct 16, 2011: A big week in politics (and Abbott wants an election).
Nov 2, 2011: Abbott renews call for election on migration policy.
Jan 24, 2012: Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne is urging Prime Minister Julia Gillard to call a federal election.
Feb 3, 2012: Here’s something different: Joe Hockey says that Rudd will be the new PM and he’ll call an election.
Feb 23, 2012: Opposition leader Tony Abbott says an election is the best way out of Labor leadership debacle.
Feb 23, 2012: Abbott to call election if government falls. WTF!
Feb 27, 2012: Vote a stay of execution for Julia Gillard, says Tony Abbott (and calls for an election).
Feb 28, 2012: End of distraction praised as Abbott calls for election.
April 23, 2012: Government pressured (by Christopher Pyne) to call election after Slipper steps aside as Speaker.
April 30, 2012: Abbott pressures independents over Thomson affair (and calls for an election).
May 25, 2012: In an interview with Neil Mitchell Joe Hockey says the people want an election (in other words, he does).
June 21, 2012: In an interview on 2GB Scott Morrison calls for an election.
July 16, 2012: Just had to put this one in. In reference to the Lib’s IR policy Hockey had this to say: We will release it well before the next election. The next election is scheduled for the 2nd half of next year. If we followed the lead of the Labor Party, we would be releasing our policy in the second half of next year. (But I thought they wanted an election now).
July 17, 2012: Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne has laid out plans to move under-performing teachers out of the profession as part of its education policy (and calls for an election).
July 18, 2012: Joe Hockey wants another Labor leadership spill or else they should call an election.
July 20, 2012: According to Pyne, the Slipper scandal was yet another reason why the government should call an election.
July 21, 2012: “If this Government cannot solve the crisis at our borders then they should call an election” (Michael Keenan, Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection).
And the above was only a sample! I’d not included YouTube videos of live interviews where there had been a call for an election and neither had I searched for statements from all the Liberal politicians. Who knows how many calls there might have been from Malcolm
He didn’t mind having to vote in 2013 (image by ibnlive.in.com)
Turnbull or other prominent players. And neither had I bothered with the Nationals, of which I’m sure Barnaby Joyce would have raised the idea on numerous occasions.
We had calls for an election because of the carbon price, the Budget, The Slipper scandal, under-performing teachers, Nauru, border protection, migration, the Labor leadership challenge, Julia Gillard winning that challenge, no more distractions, the minority government, and Craig Thomson.
And on and on it went until the election was called. Until of course, when Rudd took over again and the calls resumed with vomitous regularity.
These days Tony must think the electorate is happy with the performance of both himself and his government, because, says he, it doesn’t want another election.
Truth is . . . Tony Abbott doesn’t want another election. Gosh, I wonder why.
There seemed to be some confusion about Abbott’s promise to spend his first week as PM in an Indigenous community. Some people were arguing that he’d broken an election promise in record time.
Others argued that he – in fact – promised to repeal the carbon tax “straight away”. I tried to point out that “straight away” meant as soon as possible, not literally straight away.
“But that’s what he said,” said Dave. “He shouldn’t have said it he couldn’t do it immediately.”
“I don’t really think you can consider these things broken promises,” I argued.
“Well, what about his promise on school funding that every single school would get the same funding,” said Jonno, “they broke that one.”
“No, they’ve said that the total funding will be the same,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, but that’s not every single school.”
“We don’t know that yet,” I insisted.
“Then there’s the money to the childcare workers,” said Dave.
“And Holden,” said someone else.
“Look,” I said, “before the election the Liberals were quite clear that they weren’t going to continue to throw money at the car industry.”
“I heard today that Turnbull’s announced that they’re going back on their NBN commitments,” said Jonno.
“This mob hasn’t kept a single promise,” said Dave.
“That’s just not true!” I insisted.
“Well, can you name one?” he asked.
Before I had a chance Barry spoke up.
We looked at Barry.
“Before the election, I got talking to the Liberal candidate in my area, and he told me that I shouldn’t believe Labor’s scare campaigns about Workchoices and raising the GST. He told me that if I voted for the Labor Party, I’d get the most incompetent, the most dishonest, the nastiest, stupidest government in the history of Australia.”
He sipped his beer.
“Well, I voted for the Labor Party, and I guess you’d have to say that they kept that promise!”
At various times over the past few years, I’ve felt enormously frustrated. Not just on social media and reading comments on some of Murdoch’s Media Sites, but listening to the garbage that people have written and said about the Labor Government.
I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool, Labor forever lefty as anyone who disagreed with me wanted to suggest – I even voted for Fraser in 1975 – so it’s wrong to dismiss me as someone who’d justify the ALP whatever they did. But that seemed to be what happened any time I defended anything that the Labor Government was doing.
Over the past few years, I’ve read such wonderful things as:
“It’s time we had something similar to Fox News in Australia to give the shameless ABC propaganda some balance”
“the labor morons have a complete disliking for any persons that have had success in their lives, they cannot understand that 1=1=3”.
One of the pages on Facebook was called “Direct Democracy” and was arguing that citizens should have the right to call an elected government back to the polls if 15,000 people signed a petition. This was particularly ironic given the fact that one of the site’s administrators was David Flint – a staunch monarchist. Another point of irony was that it used a drawing of senators in ancient Greece as its profile picture! Ancient Greece – where democracy was born, but women and slaves weren’t allowed to vote!
Naturally, its followers were of the opinion that not only had Gillard lied about the Carbon tax, but she was lying about the whole climate change thing. It was a UN conspiracy to enable world government AND Australia was going it alone and no other country was introducing a carbon tax AND the carbon taxes in other countries – which, in the space of two comments, now had them – were much lower than Australia’s. Lately, however, it seems to have dropped this concept of citizens being allowed to demand an election, preferring to complain about Paul Keating and suggesting that people want the cane reintroduced to Queensland schools. (Personally, I think that there’s a much better case to introduce it for Queensland voters! Although, it seems that many of them must enjoy that sort of thing given how overwhelmingly they voted for the Newman Government).
When Abbott was first elected, I was concerned. I was afraid that the Murdoch Press would continue to present his failings as insignificant, to magnify any minor achievement and to continue to present him as the strong man (as opposed to a “weak” woman, but then a “strong” woman is just unnatural, so ain’t it great that a real bloke is back in charge, but don’t call us sexist, you politically correct parrots!).
I imagined day after day when I’d have to listen to the gloating of Liberal lackeys who possessed less grace than the Australian Cricket Team after a night out celebrating. I worried about my blood pressure. I was concerned about keeping my temper in check.
But I’ve found the past few weeks surprisingly calming. Oh, for sure, there are things I find appalling. I worry for the future. And I’m sure that as time passes, I will start to shout at the TV again. However, so far, Abbott has given me more laughs than an episode of “The Chaser”. I’m finding it hard to actually believe that he’s PM – as I’m sure he does from time to time – and it’s like watching a re-write of “Yes, Prime Minister” with an Australian setting, and a less sympathetic main character.
Great comic moments include:
His trip to Indonesia, where he apologised for just about everything, followed a few weeks later with his lack of an apology, because we’re not admitting to tapping anyone’s phone and anyway, everyone does it.
Julie Bishop saying that she wasn’t commenting on anything that involved intelligence.
Hockey’s attempt to increase the debt limit by 66%.
Pyne – “We discovered that they didn’t sign anything, so we’re starting the education reforms from scratch”! Actually, just about anything Pyne does makes me laugh. Watching him with the sound down makes me think that I’m watching new episodes of Mr Bean.
Morrison – “There were no unaccompanied minors sent overseas because we thought they were older”! Try that one in court! (No, really, it deserves a trial).
Browyn Bishop – first the idea that she’d restore “dignity” to the role of Speaker, then her ruling that “Electricity Bill” wasn’t a nickname, it was a description.
Barnaby Joyce – our own Basil Fawlty.
So, it’s my turn when smug Liberals point out that they won the election to say, “No, you didn’t – you got less first preferences than Labor and it’s only when you add the National’s vote that you get there and we all know that parties shouldn’t form coalitions! And now, thanks to Tony, no objective person can say that the recent Labor was the worst government ever”.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT Every day on my Facebook page I post (usually in the form of a quotation) a “THOUGHT FOR TODAY” and more often than not I follow up with “AND ANOTHER THOUGHT” which is usually political. Here is an edited selection since the election. The reader should allow for a time context when reading them.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT “Has Australia ever elected a Prime Minister so ignorant of technology, and science, so oblivious of the needs of women and so out of touch with a modern pluralist society?”
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT Yesterday I was having a discussion with a Facebook friend. He was obviously concerned about local businesses in his area. And rightly so where as I was speaking in a much broader context. The difficulty in any exchange is having people put aside what effects them personally in order to see a larger world view.
Let me put it this way. “When asked for a generalised opinion, retailer Harvey Norman can only ever give it as he views it through the prism of his cash registers”.
”Even if you can’t turn all boats back, you’ve got to be able to bluff that you can”.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
About Julie Bishop:
“We had to fight even for the right of dying cancer victims to get a speedy trial. I recall sitting in the WA Supreme Court in an interlocutory hearing for the test cases involving Wittenoom miners Mr Peter Heys and Mr Tim Barrow. CSR was represented by Ms Julie Bishop (then Julie Gillon). (She) was rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying”. (Australian Doctor Magazine, 2007).
Why would you then be surprised at a petty vindictive decision to sack Steve Bracks?
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Usually when we replace something with something else it’s because the latter is an improvement. However, we know from such imminent institutions such as the Grattan Institute and many other experts that meeting the 5% target of cutting greenhouse using direct action methods is highly improbably. So Tony Abbott really does need to come clean (pardon the pun) and tell the public the truth of his intentions. Does he intend faking some action and then dropping it altogether? Highly probable I think. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Under the Government’s new NBN plan some suburbs and country towns will have a digital divide. Half of Ballarat, for example, has fibre to the home. How will the other half react when they find they will have to pay $5000 for the same service? And this will happen all over the country.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
I wonder if the Government has decided which countries will miss out on a share of the $4.5 billion cut to foreign aid. How will they react and how many fewer children will be vaccinated as a result? AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
I wonder when Mr Abbott meets with the Indonesian’s whether in fact the “Turn back the boats” policy will actually be raised. And how will we go about buying their 750,000 boats? I assume we will use eBay, or maybe Scott Morrison will stand on the shore will a megaphone and a fistful of rupiah?
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Now that Mr Abbott is sworn in can he please tell us if he really intends to abolish the low-income superannuation contribution of 3.6 million of the country’s lowest paid workers? And do it retrospectively. Please note that 2.1 million of these people are WOMEN.
Remember that it is Mr Abbott is representing women in the cabinet. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
I’m a bit perplexed as to how Tony Abbott will reduce public service numbers by 12,000 without actually sacking anyone? Won’t public servants just stay in their jobs once the hireling freeze sets in? And what if a key infectious disease specialist leaves the Department of Health – will that person really not be replaced? AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
We know that one of the leading causes of Indigenous disadvantage stems from incarceration, which is why both parties are committed to adding it into the Closing the Gap targets. But given that he has committed to cutting funding to Aboriginal legal aid, how will Abbott ensure that this doesn’t lead to more Indigenous people ending up in jail?
Mr Abbott is committed to cutting legal aid for Aboriginals yet one of the leading causes of Indigenous disadvantage is incarceration.
So, I ask again, how will he ensure that more indigenous people don’t end up in jail? AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Given the Prime Minister’s reluctance to answer questions on the deaths of a large number of people seeking asylum, it would be tempting for people on the left to be rightly disgusted. After all, for three years he has been treating this most serious problem in a deplorable and inhumane manner for political advantage. And of course he has said that only he could stop the boats and we would notice a difference from day one. Now the political boot is on the other foot and he isn’t handling it very well.
But none of that will change the simple fact that this is an extremely complex problem and politics should be taken out of it. It is time for common sense to prevail with a bi-partisan approach.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
It is rather odd that we have elected a new government but it is unable, or doesn’t want to tell us when the new Parliament will sit. I hope that fewer sitting days to conduct the nation’s business is not also part of Mr Abbott’s plan to govern on a need-to-know basis. Or perhaps it is just that they haven’t any legislation to present.
“It is one thing to in opposition insult ones neighbors and another to apologise for doing so in government”.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Mr Abbott has decided to continue with the current system under which parliamentarians claim expenses. This means that the rorting will continue and the already abysmal view the public has of its politicians will be further eroded. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Isn’t it interesting that Italy declared a national day of morning when hundreds of asylum seekers lost their lives seeking a better future?
The Italians demonstrated an enormous capacity for compassion and sorrow to those affected by this terrible tragedy.
Meanwhile in Australia former immigration minister was opining that “a sad story from an asylum seeker does not entitle them to seek sympathy or refuge in Australia”.
How sad it is that we are not the compassionate country that I was once so proud of?
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
A first small step has been taken. The Labor Party has become the first political party in Australia’s history to give its members a say in the election of its leader. Further reforms have been promised and not to proceed with them would be political folly.
The outcome of this election may not have been to everyone’s liking, however, I would urge members of the Party to have patience. This first small step is but one of many that will have to be taken on the long road to party reform. One step at a time, hey.
“Substantial and worthwhile change comes with short term controversy but the pain is worth it for long term prosperity”.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
If all this secrecy and invisibility of Abbott and his ministers continues for three years it is highly likely that the electorate won’t remember their names. Perhaps that’s a good thing. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
How many trees have been lost in the NSW bush fires? How many more will be lost in future more frequent fires? How long will it take to regenerate? How many trees does the PM intend planting? How long will they take to grow? Is “Direct Action” up in smoke?
With apologies to those who have lost property. I happen to think anytime is a good time to talk about disaster prevention. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
What sort of practicing Christian Government Minister would insist that his department employees call people seeking asylum, ‘illegals’ in the full knowledge that he is deliberately demonising them in the public mind?
John 10: 10: I have come that they may have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
The inflation rate on Wednesday is tipped to come in at 1.8 per cent. An unbelievably low figure. The PM said the carbon tax would have an “almost unimaginable” effect on prices. “Almost undetectable” might have been a better description. So how does he explain the destruction of a price on carbon that is actually reducing emissions?
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Reading the following article will only confirm the fact that when matters of truth are being discussed Tony Abbott cannot be taken seriously. This feeble attempt at defending Don Randall is unfitting of the office of Prime Minister.
I can only put it down to the fact that he wants to enhance his already abysmal reputation.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
The hypocrisy of the Abbott Government knows no bounds. Not so long back we had the Coalition rejecting Labor’s Malaysian Solution on the grounds of their human rights record. Remember the tears during the debate? Now Scott (the Christian) Morrison embraces them with open arms. So much for human rights.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Let me get this straight. The Prime Minister is having a “Private Function” to entertain his most avid supporters in the right wing media. He is (as much as I disapprove of the invitation list) perfectly entitled to do so. That is so long as the PM foots the bill. Could someone please confirm that he is? AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
For years now neo-conservatives around the world have been saying that the term “Climate Change” is but a ploy to replace socialism with environmentalism.
With this statement in Tasmania yesterday I believe that the Prime Minister confirmed what I have suspected all along. He does not believe in the science. He thinks its crap. The cat is out of the bag.
“Let’s be under no illusions the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism”.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Invoking inquires that are so obviously political sets a dangerous precedent. We have had eight inquiries thus far into Pink Batts that have revealed nothing that is already known. When finally the judges reveal the result of the Ashbygate appeal can we also have one into it?
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
“How extraordinary it is that Australia’s largest circulation newspaper publisher chooses not to report the findings of 97% of the world’s climate scientists”. Guess who?
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
I wonder if anyone can help me. I am suffering from an acute case of withdrawal symptoms. I have had over three years of Tony Abbott in my face and now he is nowhere to be seen. What medication should I take . . . I have it really bad?
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Government Ministers typically attend the final days of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change annual meetings. But neither Hunt nor minister Julie Bishop will be in Warsaw. This is entirely consistent with Abbott’s attitude to global warming. He reckons it’s a socialist plot. Australia deserves better. But what would you expect from the boys club? AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
“Long term government secrecy it doomed to evaporate into long term lying”.
“Christopher Pyne on the Bolt Report this morning said that the Government was more intent on doing, rather than talking. Seems like he has exempted himself”. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
I have been posting my daily quotes and thoughts for a couple of years now. My intent has always been the singular purpose of provoking conversation and the exchange of ideas. If people disagree I either reject, accept, consider or reappraise my stance. So my sincere thanks to all who contribute to my enlightenment. And especially those who read me at the AIMN blog. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
It has become patently clear that the LNP has become infiltrated with Tea Party ideology. Menzies would turn in his grave. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
If the first day of parliament was an example of the adults being in charge then I am fortunate to have assisted my grandchildren with their homework last night. Much more maturity there. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Does Australia have a First Lady and if we do how does she fulfill her role? Are we entitled to expect (if only by convention), that she should support the Prime Minister? AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
What a remarkable comparison these two conservative leaders make. One an Englishman, David Cameron, who believes in human rights and is prepared to stand up for them. Who believes in the science of climate change and is prepared to act. And believes in marriage equality and has acted.
The other, an Australian, Tony Abbott (born in England), who seems to condone torture under certain circumstances. Who seems to think its okay to prevent people from escaping persecution. A man who is a climate denier and doesn’t believe people are sexually equal.
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
For an Australian Prime Minister to say Australia is spying on a close neighbour to “help our friends and our allies, not to harm them.” Is one of the most gratuitous things I have heard? AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Why is it that conservatives (even those who support certain issues) use the old excuse about “this not being the time.” Take this from Kelly Dwyer for example:
“I believe that we’re a mature democracy and that we can and should have an Australian head of state. However, I’m not sure that this is a number one priority issue right now.”
“There are a lot of issues on the to do list and I’m not sure this is up there in the top 10.”
They use the same excuse against marriage equality and other issues. Always begs the question. When is the right time?
AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
Not content with ditching the annual payment to help pensioners pay for unexpected bills, the Federal Government now plans to dice the pay rise allocated to improve the wages of child care workers.
“A $300 million funding boost aimed at improving the wages of 30,000 childcare workers looks increasingly likely to be axed as the federal government continues to sit on the Labor-approved initiative”. AND ANOTHER THOUGHT
The poll results in today’s Fairfax press confirm my view that the people wanted to change government without giving much thought to the consequences. Also that Tony Abbott will never be a popular leader. His character (or lack of it) does not translate into likability.
Indeed, where did they go? Mysteriously 3.3 million eligible voters went missing at the last election. That is a whopping 15% more than the previous one.
There is something fundamentally wrong when, despite a huge recruitment drive by the Australian Electoral Commission, 1.22 million citizens failed to enrol to vote and 400,000, or one third of the non-registrants, were aged 18 to 24. Additionally, 760,000 House of Representatives ballots were informal – about 6 per cent, – up more than 0.3 per cent from the 2010 election.
Who carried the loss? Our democracy did.
Unlike the US and the UK who both have voluntary systems, we have a compulsory one. We shouldn’t need to entice voters to the polling booth. But something has changed. It seems that in increasing numbers our citizens are walking away from their obligation.
Are they just morons who we should ignore anyway or are there other reasons? I don’t in the least subscribe to the moronic theory. I believe that most of these people made a conscious decision not to vote because they have become disenchanted with the system. Who can blame them?
In 2010 93% of eligible people voted. In the US about 60% of the population vote. In the UK it is about 65%
What would happen if the lost voters returned? Recent analysis of the election result suggests that fifteen of the Coalition’s new seats are held on very thin margins. Eleven seats have margins of less than 4000 voters. In essence the election was a lot tighter than first thought. Effectively this means that it would only take about 30,000 people to change their vote to change the government.
Answering the ‘if’ question may be complex. But simply put, it lays in a worldwide dissatisfaction with the practice of traditional Western politics. Left vs right. People who once saw politics as tough but with an ability to compromise now see it as tough but indecent. It is now an institution of power that drives self-interest and ignores the common good. If we look around the world, wealth has become the measure of success and the rich are becoming weather at an alarming rate. And in the history of this nation the rich have never been more openly brazen.
Something will have to break or in the future there will be a revolution. Even Americans no longer believe the dream that has been instilled in them since birth. That they all have an equal opportunity of success. It simply doesn’t exist.
Before going further we need to establish why Labor lost the election and I don’t propose to elaborate on this point. They lost firstly because of infighting over leadership and the perception of dysfunction. Secondly they lost because of a dominated right wing media which was under instructions to get rid of them and thirdly because the then opposition had the most negatively persuasive liar of a leader the country has ever known.
There is no doubt that the Australian political system is in need of repair but it is not beyond it. Labor has taken a small but important first step in allowing a greater say in the election of its leader however, it has a reform mountain to climb.
Besides internal party reform that fully engages its members, it needs to look at ways of opening our democracy to new ways of doing politics. Ways that engage those that are in a political malaise so that they feel part of the decision making process.
Like fixed terms, the genuine reform of question time with an independent speaker. They need to promote the principle of transparency. Advocate things like no advertising in the final month of an election campaign and policies and costing submitted in the same time frame. And you can add reform of the senate into the mix. And perhaps some form of citizen initiated referendum.
It has to raise itself above and overcome its preoccupation with faction power struggles. Struggles that preoccupy and erode the ability to be creative. In a future world dependant on innovation it will be ideas that determine government. Not the pursuit of power for powers sake.
If the Labor party is to convince the lost voters who have left our democracy to return (and I am assuming that most would be Labor) it has to turn its ideology on its head, re-examine it and reintroduce it as an enlightened opposite to the tea party politics that conservatism has descended into. It must turn its attention to the young and have the courage to ask of them that they should go beyond personal desire and aspiration and accomplish not the trivial but greatness in the name of altruism. That they should not allow the morality they have inherited from good folk to be corrupted by the immorality of right wing political indoctrination.
It might even advocate lowering the voting age to sixteen. An article I read recently suggested the teaching of politics from year 8 with eligibility to vote being automatic if you were on the school roll. Debates would be part of the curriculum and voting (from 16 -18) would be supervised on the school grounds. With an ageing population the young would then not feel disenfranchised. Now that’s radical thinking. The sort of thing that commands respect. And it might also ensure voters for life.
Why did the voters leave?
How has democracy worldwide become such a basket case? Unequivocally it can be traced to a second rate Hollywood actor, a bad haircut and in Australia a small bald headed man of little virtue. They all had one thing in common. This can be observed in this statement. (Paraphrased):
“There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals making their way. The poor shall be looked after by the drip down effect of the rich”
Since Margaret Thatcher made that statement and the subsequent reins of the three, unregulated capitalism has insinuated its ugliness on Western Society and now we have an absurdly evil growth in corporate and individual wealth and an encroaching destruction of the middle and lower classes.
These three have done democracy a great disservice.
Where once bi partisanship flourished in proud democracies it has been replaced with the politics of hatred and extremism. Where compromise gets in the way of power and power rules the world.
3.3 Million Australians have tuned out of politics because of the destabilisation of leadership. Corruption on both sides and the negativity and lies of Tony Abbott. The propaganda of a right wing monopoly owned media and the exploitation of its parliament by Abbott.
Somehow the lost voters must be given a reason to return. A reason that is valid and worthwhile. A reason that serves the collective and engages people in the process. A politic for the social good of all. One that rewards personal initiative but at the same time recognises the basic human right of equality of opportunity.
A robust but decent political system that is honest, decent, and transparent. Where respect is the order of the day. Where ideas of foresight surpass the politics of greed and disrespect. Where truth, respect, civility and trust are part of vigorous debate and not just uninvited words in the process.
“The right to vote is the gift our democracy gives. If political parties (and media barons for that matter) choose by their actions to destroy the people’s faith in its principles and conventions then they are in fact destroying the very thing that enables them to exist.
The misuse of free speech may have contributed to the decline of our democracy but it is free speech that might ultimately save it.
“They put a hot wire to my head Cos of the things I did and said And made these feelings go away Model citizen in every way
Anger is an energy Anger is an energy Anger is an energy Anger is an energy Anger is an energy Anger is an energy
I could be wrong I could be right I could be wrong I could be right I could be wrong I could be right I could be black I could be white I could be right I could be wrong I could be black I could be white
Your time has come your second skin Cost so high the gain so low Walk through the valley
The written word is a lie”
Public Image Limited.
There’s a lot of anger in the air. Of course, many would suggest that Abbott’s opportunism in blaming Labor for anything that went wrong is the reason.
Others would blame the Labor Government itself. “It’s because of the incontinence of Labour that the country’s broke”. (Not sure about that, but I definitely nearly pissed myself after reading that.)
And I know that Abbott is going to make a lot of people angry over the next few years. People such as Andrew Blot and the shock jocks go out of their way to say things which seem perfectly reasonable to their fans, but likely to provoke an irate response from any thinking person.
Personally, I’ve decided to take Gandhi’s advice and “be the change you want to see in the world”. (It was Gandhi, wasn’t it? I’m sure if I’m wrong I’ll have some halfwit Abbott groupie writing in the comments that I’m a “moron” and that it was actually said by Bono.)
So, I have to say that it’s totally unfair to blame Tony for the asylum seeker boats still arriving. I mean, it’s the Indonesian Government’s fault for allowing them to leave, right?I’ve read this in many places today. It’s just not right to blame the Australian Government for boat arrivals. And while Tony did promise to “stop the boats”, he never put a timetable on that. In fact, I can’t find any quote that says exactly where he plans to stop them either. Stopping them at Christmas Island is one place. Stopping at the Australian coastline is another. We don’t want those boats sailing on past the coast and unto our highways. (See Fiona Scott) So long as they are stopped, he’s keeping his part of the deal.
Yes, I know that some of you will think that we shouldn’t be stopping boats at all, but look at the terrible record of boat people in Australia. For example, at the election, one of my local candidates had arrived by boat in the seventies, and now he was standing for the Liberal Party.
But it doesn’t just end there. Tony Abbott, for example, arrived by boat.
And, of course, we have all those other refugees who arrived by boat after World War 2. Plus the “economic migrants” from Greece and Italy throughout the 60’s. As for the Gold-diggers who rushed to Australia to dig up our gold in the 1850’s. Similarly, the First Fleet (and the Second and Third) was comprised mainly of criminals.
It’s probably too late to round them all up and send them back where they came from, so I guess we’re stuck with their descendants.
As for some of the other things that Abbott has done – like get rid of the Climate Commission – well, they were part of his election policy, so he can hardly be criticised for keeping his promise to remove everything that Labor did on Climate Change, and replace it with his Climate Change Reduction Action Program (or CCRAP, as it’ll soon be known).
Another thing that has made people angry is the story of George Brandis claiming travel expenses to attend Mike Smith’s wedding. People were furiously drawing comparisons between this and Peter Slipper. However, if one examines this more closely there is an enormous difference: Peter Slipper has been accused of deliberately misusing taxpayer funds, and George Brandis is a Liberal.
So, I’m breathing deeply, and remaining calm. And if anybody wants to bring up anything about the Labor Government, I’ll tell them to stop living in the past. If they want to do that, they may as well join Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party.
P.S. There some excitement when it was thought there’d been a rare sighting of an endangered Canberra species “The National Party Leader”, but it turned out to be a false alarm – it was merely a dodo.
Our economy is in a mess. And we’ve just had the worst Government in the history of Australia. We know this because we’ve been told so by the Liberals on a number of occasions. But it’s OK, now because the adults are back in charge and Australia is “open for business”. And as somebody wrote…
Many issues arise from the aftermath of the recent election. None more important than the political apathy that grips the electorate.
There is something fundamentally wrong when, despite a huge recruitment drive by the Australian Electoral Commission, 1.22 million citizens failed to enrol to vote and 400,000, or one-third of the non-registrants, were aged 18 to 24.
Additionally, 760,000 House of Representative’s ballots were informal – about 6 percent, – up more than 0.3 percent from the 2010 election.
It would appear that a large portion of eligible voters no longer have any interest, or confidence in the institution of our parliament, or politics in general for that matter and have succumbed to the Abbott negativity and Labor’s infighting.
One can hardly blame them given the events of the past three years. It has done great damage to our democracy.
The big challenge for both parties should be to engage more people in the process. I use the word should because I fear the right of politics has little interest in doing so.
But the wipe-out of the Labor Party as predicted by the pollsters did not occur and it highlighted the implausibility of polling small samples in individual seats. Just another thing that needs to be addressed before the next election.
The irregularities that enable single interest individuals to gain seats in the Upper House also need to be looked into as a matter of urgency. Some interested parties have already put forward some ideas and these need to be debated.
Now that the dust has settled we can take a dispassionate look at the election results. The fact is that Labor did not suffer the resounding defeat that many commentators have suggested.
The landslide argument doesn’t stand up in light of the figures. The figures simply do not support the assumption.
Fifteen of the Coalition’s new seats are held on very thin margins. Eleven seats have margins of less than 4000 voters. In essence, the election was a lot tighter than was first proposed. In effect, this means that it would only take about 30,000 people to change their vote to change the government.
This, of course, puts paid to any thoughts the Prime Minister might have of a double dissolution for whatever reason. It would be too risky. Remember Bob Hawke tried that in 1984 and went close to losing to Peacock.
Added to all this is the fact that the first preference vote of just 75% for old parties in the House of Representatives was the lowest since World War II. Could this be the new normal?
The final count also suggests that the Murdoch influence (having thrown as much smut and crass images at Labor as possible) may have been vital when you consider the reality of how tight the actual contest was. It might, however, also mean that Social Media may have played an important role in preventing the anticipated landslide.
What does the immediate future hold?
Other factors are beginning to emerge that give some insight into what an Abbott government might look like and behave.
For example, after three years of the well-known slogan of ‘’stop the boats’’ being thrust in our faces, the strategy now appears to be, to take the issue from the front pages and the nightly news and turn it into an Army operational issue. By making the boats invisible. Perhaps like co2.
When governments deliberately suppress information on the pretext of national interest. One would think that the free press might be outraged. After all access to information is their lifeblood. Thus far in Australia, it would appear that the mainstream media has succumbed to the will of government secrecy.
As Annabel Crabb put it.
‘’My best guess is that the removal of boat arrivals from the daily news, and the deletion of their struggles at sea from the national ledger, are calculated to deprive the people aboard those boats of the last hope they had; a vocal contingent of Australian citizens who still looked at them and felt sorry’’
Or I might suggest it’s that if they turn a boat around and it’s a stuff up then no one will know.
When you consider other actions taken as being sworn in it is easy to see that the intent of this government is to be low key, very conservative and wherever possible avoid scrutiny. After being in the face of every Australian for three years there now seems to be a reluctance by Tony Abbott to reveal his face. Mr Abbott has scaled back his media appearances since he came to power and promised to deliver “a government that’s about the substance of getting things done, not about the theatre of putting things on the front page”.
This, of course, begs the question. What about transparency and the people’s right to know.
It also creates a conundrum for the mainstream media. After all, they have made an enormous contribution to his instalment as Prime Minister. Now he doesn’t want to talk with them. How they will react is anyone’s guess. My guess is that they will protect him.
The mid-year budget update seems to have been placed in the secrets drawer and won’t be revealed until the journalists are in their January sleep mode. Ministers now have to seek approval from Abbott’s office before appearing on television or giving interviews.
There is, of course, this frenetic attempt to put things in a conservative framework.
Usually, we would have a new Prime Minister on the front foot outlining his agenda for the next three years. Instead, we have a lot of symbolism like swearing one’s oath to the queen with your personal Bible. We have the image of a ‘’boys own’’ club.
Then there have been the sackings of some econocrats whose only crime was to believe in science. A lot of noise about scrapping the carbon tax which may occur in time to welcome other countries implementation of it.
Of course, there is the hiding of the boats and a delay on a final decision on broadband pending a couple of inquiries that could even recommend a continuation of Labor’s policy.
And of course, we had the destruction of science. In the past few days, Christopher Pyne has indicated a return to the old conservative attitudes of university education. And of course, there is much that will be looked into.
But where is the grand plan?
Where are the policies that will take Australia forward into a prosperous future?
There were no policies during the election and it appears they have none now. It seems they will implement those policies of Labor’s that had popular support. But probably framed in their own image.
But do they have any ideas of their own? What is Abbott’s vision for the country? Is it just a return to Howard’s relaxed state of political bliss? And please don’t give me this crap that he has only been in power for a short time. He has had four years to put together a positive agenda.
Could it be that he spent so much of that time being negative that positive thoughts became dead, buried and cremated?
As Ross Gittens puts it.
‘’It’s as if Tony Abbott believes returning the Liberals to power will, of itself, solve most of our problems. Everything was fine when we last had a Liberal government, so restore the Libs and everything will be fine again.’’
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of taking a class called “Oral English” which was one hour a week and in it Year 10 students were meant to improve their oral skills by short talks, debating and intelligent discussion of issues. The intelligent discussion of issues nearly always descended into them raising their voices and insulting each other at which point I’d bring a halt to proceedings and remind them of the rules of the class.
One day, instead of doing the same ineffective thing, I simply asked them, “When was the last time that someone changed your mind by yelling at you? Or by insulting you?” The general consensus was never. “Then why do you think it’ll work when you do it?’
“We don’t,” said one girl.
“Then why do you do it?” I asked
“Because it feels good.”
“Well, just so long as you’re not expecting to win the argument or change anyone’s mind.”
I sometimes think of this when I read long arguments in the comments section. Am I commenting to change people’s mind, or am I just doing it because it feels good?
On various sites, I’ve had exchanges with people that have started to resemble the Stockholm syndrome. I’ve gone missing for a few days and they comment that they were missing me when I return. On one site, I was accused of being “brainwashed by the (left-wing) mainstream media” (ha!) and told to think for myself. This was often followed by a link where someone would tell me how to think for myself. (One would alternate between links to show that Australia was the ONLY country taking action on climate change and links to show that action on climate change was part of a global conspiracy to establish world government because that’s what the left wing and rich people have conspired to do)
There’s quite an interesting little article that suggests that facts and figures don’t matter much. People’s interpretation will sway even simple mathematics. A good example of this is The Australian’s recent “leak” of the IPCC report which suggesting that warming was only 0.12C a decade not 0.2C. This is being reported as nothing to worry about, after all, rather than, thank god, we still might be able to do something about it. There’s no “it’s definitely warming so all that guff about the planet cooling is just wrong”. (Or, to put the figures in another context, would you be happy if you were told that a particular line in the supermarket was only responsible for 12 deaths in a thousand, instead of the reported 20?).
When I wrote “Dealing With Trolls and Liberals”, I had a couple of people attack me as suggesting that anyone who disagreed with me was a troll. They obviously didn’t get the irony of the title. It was actually suggesting that people needed to be careful about doing just that, but it was also suggesting that the Abbott led Liberal Party was behaving exactly like a troll.
The Urban Dictionary defines a troll thus
1a. Noun One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.
1b. Noun A person who, on a message forum of some type, attacks and flames other members of the forum for any of a number of reasons such as rank, previous disagreements, sex, status, ect. A troll usually flames threads without staying on topic, unlike a “Flamer” who flames a thread because he/she disagrees with the content of the thread.
1c. Noun A member of an internet forum who continually harangues and harasses others. Someone with nothing worthwhile to add to a certain conversation, but rather continually threadjacks or changes the subject, as well as thinks every member of the forum is talking about them and only them. Trolls often go by multiple names to circumvent getting banned.
I’ve decided to adopt three rules for trolls:
Be careful not to define every person who disagrees as a troll, but where the person simply starts with abuse and doesn’t actually mention any of the issues raised in the blog, it’s a fair bet.
Don’t let them change the topic. If the blog was on the NDIS, for example, don’t enter into a discussion with them about the “School Hall fiasco”. I intend to calmly tell them that I talked about that on a different post, and their comment would be more relevant there, and give them a link to a post which has nothing to do with what they’re talking about. (One can continue to do this with every comment they make.)
Remember what that girl in my Oral English class said about doing it because it feels good. If you find yourself getting upset or frustrated, it’s safer to ignore them. Or, if you can’t do that, refer to them by name and say something like, “It’s because of idiots like you that we’ve now got a Labor Government”. Confuses them no end, but it’ll also help them achieve their aim, which is to ensure that the comments AREN’T about the blog, or the information being presented. The other option if they bring up the Pink Batts is to ask them exactly what the GOVERNMENT did wrong, and refer them to the report by Alan Hawke, where it was found that the rate of problems was no higher than normal and that scale had more to do with the number of faulty installations.
It’s also interesting that any criticism of Tony Abbott and company is quickly turned into a demand that people writing on this site, justify everything that the Labor government did. As I’ve pointed out on many occasions, I am not a member of the Labor Party or the Greens, and don’t feel the need to apologise for time these parties have got it wrong. For some of you, that may be different and you may feel a compelling need, but try not to let the topic be changed by people who’s main aim is to disrupt. (If the discussion is about whose turn it is do the dishes, don’t let it get sidetracked to how you left the margarine out of the fridge last week. ) The Labor Government has been voted out of office. I accept the “will of the people”. If the discussion is about the current government, trolls bringing up Kevin, Julia, Pink Batts, School Halls or debt should get their own blog, or stick to what’s being discussed.
And no, that’s not stifling your “free speech”, any more than the fact “The Age” doesn’t always publish my letters or when the commercial channel’s decided not run GetUp!’s ads. (If you want to argue about the free speech issue, your comments would be welcome here.)
I step out of the phone box. I look around. Picking up a paper, I see the date September 16th, 2009. Either the time travel has worked or this newsstand is selling very old newspapers. Rudd is enormously popular. There is a headline that the latest polling has Labor ahead 60.5 to 39.5 two party preferred. It’s not too late. I need to warn people. Perhaps we can stop this happening.
I make my way to the pub opposite Trades Hall. I stick my head in. “I’ve come from the future to warn you all.” A couple of people look up, but most people go on drinking. “I come from the Year 2013 and Tony Abbott is PRIME MINISTER.” A couple of people look up and laugh.
“Have another drink,” shouts somebody. There is more laughter.
Obviously, this is not an effective way to communicate. I go to the bar and order a scotch. One of the men smiles and says, “Good one!”
I shake my head. “I know it must seem incredible, but it’s all true.”
“So just four years after Labor save us from the GFC, we elect the Liberals. And not just the Liberals, Tony Abbott?”
“Yes,” I say, gulping my drink quickly.
“Fascinating, so why do we elect him?”
“Because the economy’s a mess and the borders are weak,” I repeat the Abbott mantras.
“Oh, inflation get’s out of control and interest rates soar?”
“Unemployment goes through the roof.”
“No, um, it’s lower than it is now, I think.”
“We’re invaded by a foreign power?”
“No, there a lot of asylum seeker boats. Well, a few anyway.”
“That’s no reason to vote out a government.”
“Well, it happens. Shortly after Rudd is returned to the Leadership.”
“Yes, Julia Gillard replaces him, because he becomes very unpopular after Abbott becomes Leader of the Liberals and the Senate block the ETS.”
“So why does he become unpopular if it’s Abbott that blocks the ETS?”
“Um, I don’t know. Anyway, all this is unimportant, I’m here to try and stop it happening!”
“Sort of like Arnie!” I look blank. “In The Terminator,” he explains.
“Sort of.” I remember the instructions for boiling a frog. If you do it slowly, the frog doesn’t notice.
“Ok, so what’s he like? As PM.”
I can tell that he’s humouring me, but I continue. “Well, one of his first acts is to abolish the Ministry for Climate Change.”
“I suppose that he incorporates it into one of the other departments like Science.”
“Oh, there’s no Ministry for Science, that becomes part of Industry.”
He smiles, “Next you’ll be saying he gets rid of all the women in the Cabinet.”
“He does. Well, Julie Bishop’s still there. She’s in charge of Foreign Affairs.”
“I see,” he smirks.
“It’s all true. And Abbott takes over as the Minister for Women’s Affairs.”
“You’re from the future, you say?”
“And I suppose that you’ve got some explanation for how you got here?”
“Yes, Dr Who lent me his TARDIS. How else?”
“Ah,” he says, “at last you’re telling me something I can believe.”
I once observed that it’d benefit a lot of organizations if someone was paid to take the blame when things go wrong.
“We’ve overestimated/underestimated/overspent/missed the deadline/blah/blah/etc.”
“Oh, sorry, that was my fault.”
“Well, we’re in terrible trouble, what are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing. I’m not paid to solve problems – I’m just paid to take the blame, now I’ve done that the rest of you can work out what to do instead of spending all that time justifying yourselves.”
I think of this now, because I can’t help but feel we’re going to be spending a disproportionate amount of time talking about “blame” in the next year or so.
Reflection and working out what went wrong has its merits, but “blame” is something else altogether.
For example, I notice various letters in the papers blaming Bill Shorten for backing Gillard, for changing back to Rudd, for being a “faceless” man and for being too ambitious. (I still maintain that a Minister cannot be “one of Labor’s faceless men” no matter how much he wheels and deals; it’s an oxymoron.)
Whatever your views on Bill Shorten, I suspect that the more he’s blamed, the more he’ll seek to deflect blame, so while it may feel good to find a villain or a scapegoat, things are rarely one person’s fault.
However, I don’t want to concentrate on Labor’s soul-searching. My purpose here is to look to the future and to remind everyone that Abbott was elected to deal with the Labor Government’s perceived shortcomings.
I use the word “perceived” not to suggest that they had none, but because, clearly, no-one voted for Tony Abbott because of a problem that Labor had, but no-one was aware of.
For the past few years, Abbott has been an attack dog. Laying the blame, always, squarely at Labor’s door. Never mind that some of his complaints lacked any rational arguments to back them up.
Never mind that sometimes future events justified what Labor did, rather than what Liberals suggested. (“We’re spending too much stimulus money now, we need to save some for when we go into recession, which is inevitable!” became “We didn’t go into recession, so we didn’t need to spend any money at all.”)
Never mind the times – as with the Carbon Tax – where Labor were doing what the Liberals suggested. (“If you want to put a price on carbon, why not just do it with a simple tax?” Tony Abbott in 2009). He’s been relentless. And the temptation is to give him a taste of his own medicine. “Let’s make it hard for him. Let’s be negative about everything he does.”
Instead, let’s claim the high moral ground here. Let’s not – as some on social media have done – rejoice in Mirabella’s potential defeat using words like “bitch” and making nasty comments on her personal life.
Let’s not indulge in rumours about Abbott, which even if true, do not diminish his capacity as leader. After all, people objected to such things when the Jones, the Bolts, the Liberals trolls, the Limited Media of Murdoch, all did it.
Let’s not let such people get us on the ropes, where the head-kickers and the body punchers are at their best. Let’s instead hold Abbott to this one standard: “We don’t care who’s to blame, you were elected to fix it! If you can’t do that, you’d better step aside and let someone who can. After all, we have a contract.”
“Yeah but unemployment’s rising/there’s no surplus/we’re in recession because of Labor!!!”
“We don’t care who’s to blame, you were elected to fix it! What’s your answer?”
I suspect that it may be far more effective to do that than to let them deflect blame.