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Tag Archives: Julia Gillard

In defence of Pauline

A probably unpopular take on the return of the female redhead who challenges our parliament and how we see ourselves as Australians.

Ms Hanson would have got in anyway. The changes to the senate rules didn’t make her return any more likely.  What made it inevitable was the failed economic and social policies of state and federal governments that led the same anti-modern voters who elected Ms Hanson 20 years ago to come full circle.

Brief History
After Ms Hanson was ‘betrayed’ by her own party apparatchiks, these voters tried minor parties.  They muddled about trying to find a voice that reflected their own thoughts. Suddenly Tony Abbott gave them true hope that Australia would return to the halcyon and mythical days of the 1950’s, when men were Men… and White. Then he got the sack, and was replaced with an urbane do-nothing who was completely clueless about what was going on below the executive floor, let alone at the bar in the country pub.

The last few months under Turnbull gave voters time to think. Time to realise that maybe they’d been conned. For years, many of these voters have bought the ‘aspirational’ market-will-provide line trotted out by the LNP… It’s only recently that people are actually figuring out that trickle-down doesn’t work; but don’t yet understand what happened. People voted to stop the boats, and then lost the farm.

This time, just as last time, Pauline Hanson has attracted groups with an axe to grind. The Socialist Alliance, Animal Justice Party, and other groups on the Left are just as guilty of this sin.  It should not call into question the legitimacy of Ms Hanson as a representative, or the legitimacy of those who voted for her.

E-con 101
We are in the midst of another labour-force revolution, coupled with major shifts in social identity. Types and terms of employment are in flux; and so far, no one has any clear answers on how we can transition from where we are into the future. That scares most people. For people who have missed out on a promised life of stability; and who feel marginalised and under siege by changing labour, cultural and social norms, it is terrifying.

Hanson appeals to people who cannot cope with contemporary life, let alone the future; different cultures or skin colour are not really the issue. When pressed only the true believers have problems with race and sexuality.  For the majority, those things are an obvious symptom that they can use to define their position. The real problems come from change, from different ways of thinking, the rise of technology and change in labour, the shifting sands of meaning, being unable to trust the local newspaper (if you still have one).

If you read the One Nation website, it is an almost incoherent rant. It is filled with the confused and bitter ramblings of everyday people, who have no comprehension of the policy and economics that have led to their current condition. This is a group of people who have no particular political, economic or social ideology.  They thought our society was still based on the True-Blue, Fair-Go, rustic simplicity represented by the 1950s. Now they have awoken post GFC to discover that the new century is a complex and frightening place, and they want someone to blame.

We need to accept, despite how they express their concerns; people do have valid reasons to be concerned.  In the last 20 years Australia has become one of the least protected markets in the world.  However, the prosperity promised as result of these changes never arrived. Instead services and businesses have shrunk and vanished. Lives have been whittled away by neo-liberal economics and globalisation from the Right; and shifts in worldview and social justice from the Left.  This is a group of people who are no longer at the centre of Australia’s life, and they have been left to fend for themselves without any help to transition or understand the change.  They feel justifiably marginalised…

…as an intermission, I suggest you all take a moment to watch THIS and then come back.

Peoples is People
Supporters of Ms Hanson don’t see themselves as racist or homophobic; just as their mirrors on the Left probably don’t see themselves as social fascists.  They are just humans who are uncomfortable with diversity, and don’t know how to express themselves. The intellectual Left has had decades sitting in ivory towers to reform language to accommodate diversity.  For most in regional Australia or outer city suburbs, casual sexism and racism is a way of demonstrating affection.  Labelling a person as racist, sexist or homophobic doesn’t make them so, it only shames… and then angers them. But, again, they do not know how to express their confusion.  Pauline Hanson gives them voice. She is representative of the views of thousands of Australians.  The difference is that she is happy to take money from David Koch to air these grievances in public, rather than just bitching into a pot of Four X.

These Australians (and they exist on the Left as well) don’t care about facts, they just know how they feel. They don’t want to think about consequences, or geopolitics, or climate change, or complexity; they want things to be simple, and they don’t want to have to change. They don’t want to think about policy, they just want government to take care of them; and they will give their vote to anyone who promises to do that. Last election it was Tony, this time it’s Pauline.

The saddest thing about all this reaction to Ms Hanson, is that it didn’t have to be this way. Pro-environment sentiment in the bush is at an all-time high.  The Greens candidate Jeremy Buckingham has large support for his pro-farm stance. The Greens and ALP could have gone into the regions and actually spoken to these people.
If they had heard their grievances, and took them seriously enough to have the lengthy conversations needed to bring understanding, then the past two elections would have been very different.

A classic example of this is renewable energy. Regional and outer suburban manufacturing is collapsing.  Ironically, if a ‘jobs and growth’ argument for renewable energy and action on climate change had been prosecuted more effectively, it’s likely we would be a lot further along to reaching our emissions target.  Instead we are facing the prospect of a Royal Commission into climate science.  All because no one bothered to address the dog-whistling from the Liberals, and actually explain the issues and opportunities.

The shrill and uncompromising front presented by angry voters is just that; a front. However, while anti-corporate ranting is accepted without question; too often intellectual and urbane progressives have not bothered to engage with the people Ms Hanson represents, purely because of their views on social policy.

Which is unfortunate, as those views are rarely concrete, and more often simple, easy targets for confusion and anger: It’s a lot easier to blame an immigrant (or a corporation) than unravel the economic and policy choices responsible for ones current state. If anyone took the time to talk, they’d find reasonable, if uninformed people who are willing to give up acting on social prejudice for better work opportunities and better services.

As seen by the non-partisan cooperation between progressive greens groups and conservative farmers in the Liverpool plains or The Great Barrier Reef, on many levels Ms Hanson’s supporters are natural allies against the destructive aspects of corporate neo-liberalism.  If the socially and economically just future we all claim to wish for is to become a reality, complaining about Pauline Hanson isn’t going to help.

If the elections of 2010 and 2013 should have taught us anything, it is that mud-slinging and ignoring citizens only further fractures our society; with serious deleterious effects on our economy, civil society and democracy. If progressive, intellectual, inclusive citizens are truly concerned about what’s happening in regional Australia; then they need to stop criticising and start having conversations.

Will you have to swallow your own prejudices?  Yes.

Will you have to work with people you do not like? Yes.

Will it be hard work?

Yes, democracy is hard work; anyone who tells you different is selling something.

 

Ms Gillard’s sickening hypocrisy laid bare

It was with disbelief, and finally contempt, that I watched excerpts of the Al Jazeera interview with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the topic of her government’s treatment of waterborne asylum seekers, particularly women and children.

Gillard, now a global advocate for the education of girls and women, employed what has disturbingly become a normalised justification for Australian governments’ increasingly callous torment of women and girls in off-shore detention: we do it to stop people drowning at sea.

I have yet to get my head around the psychopathology of those who believe the torment of one group is justified in order to discourage another group from undertaking a particular action. I think such justifications are teetering precariously on just about every ethical and moral ground I can think of, beginning with the Kantian argument that it is reprehensible to use people as a means to an end, and that people are an end in themselves. To treat them in any other way is to dehumanise them, and ultimately, ourselves.

However, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and now Turnbull apparently have no difficulty with treating waterborne asylum seekers as a means to an end, and justifying their hideous treatment of them as a necessary deterrent in order to save the lives of others.

It has been said more than a million times: arriving in this country by boat, seeking asylum, is not a crime. Indeed, as we are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, we actively invite people to arrive here by whatever means they manage to employ.

If we want to save people from drowning at sea, and if we care about the humanity of those we already have in detention, we would cease to use the detained as scapegoats, and as examples of what will happen if you legitimately arrive here by boat. We would instead withdraw from the Refugee Convention. People come to Australia because we invite them, through our participation in the Convention, and our agreement with its principles.

Of course, we aren’t about to take that step. So instead we will continue to ill-treat asylum seekers in off-shore detention. We will continue to justify this crime against humanity by claiming it’s done to save lives.

And Ms Gillard will continue to strut the world stage advocating for the education of women and children but not, regrettably, those she imprisoned in mandatory indefinite dentition in tropical hell holes where they are abused, raped and made mad.

Women for Gillard? Non, merci.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Labor’s Scare Campaign . . .

“This morning, we’ll be talking to prominent Coalition supporter, Mr Con Server-Tiff. Good morning.”

“Now, if I can just correct you, I’m not a Coalition supporter, I’m an independent commentator.”

“Yes, but you have been supporting Coalition policies, haven’t you? I mean it would be accurate to describe you as Right wing, wouldn’t it?”

“No, that’s the sort of bigotry that you people on the ABC indulge in!”

“But this isn’t the ABC!”

“Well, it might as well be if you’re going to attack people and suggest that they’re political views are irrelevant just because you don’t agree with them.”

“I wasn’t actually attacking your political views, I was just attempting to describe them.”

“This is the sort of stuff that the Christian Right have to put up with all the time! People describing them as the Christian Right, you don’t have the left wing described like that.”

“What about references to the ‘loony left’?”

“What about them?”

“Well, isn’t that an attack on them?”

“Go on, defend your left wing mates!”

“Can we get back to the purpose of this interview – the proposed rise in the GST?”

“An excellent idea.”

“But isn’t the Liberal Party supposed to be opposed to raising taxes, I mean, don’t they always spruik themselves as the party of lower tax?”

“Well, the important thing here is to ignore Labor’s scare campaign. This won’t be increasing taxes because the overall tax take will be the same. We have Scott Morrison’s word on that and if you can’t trust the word of a Liberal minister then they might as well be Julia Gillard who promised us that there’d be no carbon tax!”

“If you’re not increasing the overall tax take, then why is it necessary to make any changes at all?”

“To make it fairer, of course!”

“And how will raising the GST make the system fairer?”

“Well, for one thing, the government will be able to do what the Business Council asked last week and use the money to reduce company tax.”

“How is that fairer?”

“Companies will be paying less tax. You don’t get much fairer than that.”

“Yes, but how does that benefit the man in the street?”

“Well, nothing can really be done to help the homeless. If people want to sleep in the street, that’s their choice.”

“I meant the average family man. How does increasing the GST help the average family man?”

“Well, it won’t be just companies that pay lower taxes, I’m sure that Mr Morrison can find an extra billion or so to cut everyone’s tax.”

“What about the unemployed?”

“They’ll have an incentive to get a job now.”

“But if they don’t get a job, won’t the increase in the GST hit them harder than anyone?”

“Yes, but if they don’t get a job its their own fault. I mean it’s easy to get a job. Even a dud like Amanda Vanstone found work writing a column for Fairfax. And Joe’s going to be ambassador to the US. You just have to look.”

“With respect, I don’t think that the average unemployed person would find it as easy as those two to get that sort of job.”

“I was just using them as examples. Obviously not everyone can become an ambassador but there are plenty of jobs about. Why just the other day I saw a help wanted in a shop window.”

“You said something before about a scare campaign, but didn’t your side of politics run a scare campaign about the carbon tax and how Whyalla would be wiped off the map and lamb roasts would be $100 each?”

“That wasn’t a scare campaign, that was just a series of possible scenarios under the GST.”

“Rather far-fetched ones I might suggest.”

“Hey, are you here to ask questions or commentate?”

“Do you concede that those were rather far-fetched?”

“Not at all. The Liberal Party had already started printing maps with no mention of Whyalla and sooner or later lamb roasts would have got to $100.”

“Yes, how is it reasonable for you to say that the carbon tax was a great big tax on everything and not to expect that Labor would try the same tactic with the GST?”

“There’s a fundamental difference there!”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Well, Labor started running a scare campaign before the last election suggesting that if we got in we’d raise the GST.”

“But you are planning to raise the GST!”

“No, we’ve simply put it on the table. We need to have a clear, level-headed discussion without the hysterical commentary from the opposition saying that when it was first introduced Howard promised that it could never go up. That was last century and as if ‘never’ refers to a new century.”

“I think you’ll find that ‘never’ means ‘not ever’, in much the same way that ‘no’ means ‘none’ when someone says ‘no cuts’ to things.”

“If you’re refering to the so-called “no cuts to pensions, health and education” comments that Tony Abbott was alleged to have made.”

“There is film of him saying it right before the election.”

“Allegedly.”

“Are you denying that there’s film of it?”

“Look we can get bogged down by what people did or didn’t say and whether the film’s clear, but I think that it’s more important to look to the future rather than argue about a leader who’s long gone.”

“It’s only been two months!”

“Allegedly.”

“Are you saying that you don’t believe that Mr Turnbull only became PM two months ago?”

“No, I’m saying that Tony Abbott was gone a long time ago. After that Prince Sir Duke thing, nobody let him make any decisions.But let’s not talk about Mr Abbott he did some excellent things while he was PM and I’m sure that history will judge him much more kindly than many other leaders.”

“What are his achievements?”

“Well … um, he stopped the boats, and … um, he introduced knights and dames and even though, that’s been thrown out, there are a number of people who wouldn’t be knights or dames if it wasn’t for him… and… ah, he got rid of the mining and carbon taxes … and he … um, he stood up to Putin and told him that we were really cross … and did I mention stopping the boats?”

“But he didn’t get the ‘budget emergency’ under control!”

“Ah, yes, he produced a chart showing us that by 2050 Labor’s debt would be twice that of Liberal’s debt!”

“That’s all we have time for. Thank you.”

“Typical! Cut me off just when I start to talk about this government’s achievements!”

 

I hope Rupert is happy

There was a time not so long ago when Australia’s future looked bright.

In 2008, Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generation and COAG agreed to a definitive strategy to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage.

We had successfully negotiated the global financial crisis with continued growth and relatively low unemployment.

We were world leaders in putting a price on carbon. We were addressing water issues with the Murray-Darling buyback scheme and extending marine parks.  We had introduced water trigger legislation giving the federal government the right to oppose mining in sensitive areas.

We had expanded the Renewable Energy Target and established the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Wind capacity trebled and Labor supported the installation of more than 1 million solar panels.

Needs based funding for school education was underway, tertiary education had been expanded, and we had an agreement with the states on hospital funding.

The rollout of a world class fast NBN was underway.

We had a mechanism for deriving some income from the mining of our natural resources which was just about to start earning some money as they moved into production phase and had used up their accelerated depreciation.

We had introduced paid parental leave and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

There was a Royal Commission into child sex abuse instigated.

Our troops had finally come home from Afghanistan.

We had our first female Prime Minister who was admired around the world who looked on bemusedly at the vilification she received at home.

But Rupert Murdoch wasn’t happy.

We had a debt and deficit disaster, which is now much larger.

They were a dysfunctional illegitimate government who knifed their own leader, just like the Libs have done.

We had to get rid of the carbon and mining taxes to improve investment and employment, both of which have gone backwards after the repeal.

And Juliar told us there would be no carbon tax, just like Tony said there would be no cuts to health, education or the ABC.

So what do we have to look forward to now?

Another war in the Middle East.

Paying hundreds of billions for war toys.

Paying hundreds of millions for political witch hunts aka Royal Commissions designed to demonise Labor and the union movement.

Becoming a toxic dump for the world’s nuclear waste.

A great big new tax on everything you buy.

Paying billions to polluters.

Forking out millions to try and keep Telstra’s copper network working so we can have really slow broadband.

Lots of big new coal mines and CSG mines dotting our prime farmland.

Getting sued by global corporations if our laws interfere with their profits.

An influx of 457 visa workers.

Condemnation by the world for torturing asylum seekers.

The selling off of all our assets.

Working till we are 70.

The removal of penalty rates.

Being told that government spending on everything to do with society is unsustainable because we need more money for security.

I sure hope Rupert is happy because we have paid a hell of a price for him to get his way.

 

Squeaky Clean

Rat with a gold toothPutting aside the fact that Julia Gillard was treated as a back-stabbing-murderess after she replaced Kevin Rudd as PM. Putting aside that she was labelled ‘the illegitimate PM’ even after she went straight to an election to let the ‘people decide’ and then won, but for some reason was then even more ‘illegitimate’ presumably because she led a minority government and it suited Abbott’s Liberals and their mates in the media to paint this as unstable when really it was the most productive government Australia has ever had. Putting aside the grand hypocrisy of none of these labels ever being assigned to Malcolm Turnbull when he plotted and schemed and white anted and undermined and destabilized and finally got what we all knew he wanted because he was quite openly campaigning for it: Abbott’s job. Putting aside that he hasn’t gone straight to an election and is instead intent of pretending he was legitimately chosen by the people to be PM when he quite clearly was not. Putting aside all these things which really make me so mad I could lose my mind, except that I won’t because it’s all so predictable that the Liberals would have their own leadership spill and it goes completely unnoticed by the mainstream media like a massive ‘meh’, when Labor’s leadership spill was the only thing the media wanted to talk about. For 5 years. What I really want to discuss today is the fascinating situation of Turnbull’s Prime Ministership where he can do NO WRONG, according to the mainstream media, and anything that does go wrong in his government is, incredibly, coincidentally, conveniently, somehow painted as still the last guy’s problem. Still Abbott’s fault. Except Abbott isn’t the PM anymore. Turnbull is. How the hell does Turnbull get away with this bullshit? He reminds me of the classic quote from the classic movie, Shawshank Redemption, but replace ‘Andy Dufresne’ with ‘Malcolm Turnbull’: Malcolm Turnbull – who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side. How? How is Turnbull squeaky clean after all the crawling through shit he’s been up to?

Take, for instance, the horrific and tragic case of rape victim and asylum seeker, ‘Abyan’. Dutton is in a bit of hot water over this. That’s not to say Dutton is in as much hot water as an Immigration Minister should be who has denied an asylum seeker, a frightened young woman, the dignity and human rights any human being deserves, for political gain. But there is some criticism of the way Dutton has handled this situation, such as here, here and here. And you will notice in this Dutton-criticism, Turnbull is either given a cursory mention, or not mentioned at all. As if he’s somehow not involved in this situation. As if he’s floating situation, detached, uninvolved, an innocent bystander. As if somehow Dutton wasn’t chosen to continue in his evil role of Immigration Minister in the new Turnbull government, and therefore doesn’t report to Turnbull like an employee reports to an employer, where the employer is ultimately responsible for the decisions made by that employee and liable for any damage done by that employee. Why is Turnbull not being held liable? How is he coming out of this squeaky clean?

Another example is the news this week that the rolling ball which Abbott started rolling in his ideological quest to eat away at the public’s ownership of Medicare by privatising some parts of it, with the ultimate goal of privatising all of it, is still rolling forward. I’m really glad there are news outlets letting us know about this treachery because it’s a really seriously important news story that all Australians would be interested in. But I don’t understand why articles about this news story, such as this one, fail to even mention the word ‘Turnbull’. Turnbull, who we all knows likes to talk, and likes to explain, and is even well known for his particularly patronising ‘mansplaining’ tone, which he no doubt uses because he looks down on all of us since we’re all poorer than he is, is completely silent on this issue. He’s had plenty of time to comment and as far as I can tell he’s made no comment. It’s really not hard to guess why he’s made no comment. There are two reasons: a) because he doesn’t want to be splattered in the dirt of this issue, having to explain why his government is considering turning our universal health sector into a profit making machine for potentially international companies who would then ‘own’ our health records and eventually may own our entire health system. And b) Turnbull loves this idea, and hopes if he keeps his mouth shut it will more likely slip through unscrutinised. Which it possibly will. Turnbull loves this idea both for ideological reasons and perhaps because he has money invested in the companies who will make billions out of taking over Australia’s Medicare system, money which will be filtered through the Cayman Islands, un-taxed and back into Malcolm’s pocket which is bulging with cash. Of course there is a class-war, and Malcolm’s pocket is winning.

Long-time readers of my blog will recognise that the longer my sentences, the angrier I am. My keyboard will also tell you that the intensity of my fingers hitting the keyboard is a fair indication of the level of blood boil going on. So yes, I’m angry about this ‘Turnbull getting away with swimming in shit, yet still being treated like the beloved-shiny-sparkling-glistening-in-the-sun-squeeky-clean-brand-new Prime Minister who can do no wrong’. I’m terrified the squeaky cleanliness will get Turnbull another Liberal term of government and all the horrors of his political agenda will come about, unabated by any real scrutiny, just like the media did when they betrayed the country by giving Abbott such a free pass. It’s not just News Ltd this time either. It’s also Fairfax, the ABC and even, inexplicably, the Guardian. I’m not asking for these media outlets to do anything except their job and their job is not to let Turnbull get away with zero scrutiny on issues damaging to Australians. Just do your jobs people. For the love of dog, just do your jobs.

 

Am I not pretty enough?

When I recently saw a photograph of Julie Bishop’s boyfriend David Panton sitting next to her in the official delegates section on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly, I wondered what the reaction would have been if that was Tim Mathieson sitting next to Julia Gillard.  Imagine the outrage, the questions, the accusations.

For some reason, Julie Bishop has been treated entirely differently to Julia Gillard in so many ways.

When Ms Gillard did a photo shoot for an article in the Weekend Australian, Julie Bishop accused her of behaving like a “fashion model or TV star” rather than a politician, adding that posing for magazine covers was “not my style”.

who weeklyIn the last two years, Bishop has appeared in Who Weekly, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire talking about her portfolio as well as fashion and fitness.

Unlike Gillard she has not been criticised for her magazine profile or her cultivation of social media and the blogosphere.

When Scott Morrison talks about childcare funding there is no Sophie Mirabella screeching from the other side to the childless Bishop “You won’t need his taxpayer-funded nanny, will you?”

There is no Bill Heffernan suggesting she is unfit to lead Australia because she is “deliberately barren” or George Brandis labelling her as “one-dimensional” because of her decision not to have children.

Bishop has largely avoided scrutiny of her time as a lawyer and her treatment of dying litigants as well as her very brief tenure as shadow treasurer.

She has never been grilled by radio shock jocks on the private lives and business dealings of her various partners.

Rather than having Germaine Greer telling her she has a fat ass and Anita Quigley telling her to “get a stylist her own age”, Bishop is always described as “stylish”.

Julie-Bishop-5

 

When, as deputy, Julie Bishop stabbed a first-term sitting Prime Minister in the back she was just doing her duty. Perhaps it was acceptable because she didn’t have the temerity to think she could be leader.  Why would she when she is “living the dream” as Foreign Minister.

 

Did Julia Gillard cop the abuse because she was the first female PM? Was it because of the nastiness of the Abbott era unleashing the hounds?  Was it due to the vitriolic campaign by conservative commentators and the Murdoch press?

Or was she just not pretty enough?

julia

The same but different . . .

When Turnbull ‘knifed’ Abbott a week ago after publically shaming Abbott’s terrible government on national television while announcing his intent-to-knife, I wondered how the mainstream media would treat this story. I couldn’t help but worry this would be yet another example of a Liberal story being treated with a completely different narrative to the same Labor story. A sitting PM is replaced by a member of their own cabinet. A late night coup. A first term Prime Minister. Abbott lasted a shorter time than Rudd and had already been challenged 6 months earlier. By my reasoning, the white-anting, destabilising activities of Turnbull and his supporters over the last 6 months was far more bloody and underhanded than Gillard taking the opportunity to lead the Labor government when it was offered to her within hours of her colleagues’ decision that Rudd’s chaotic leadership was not going to improve, second chances or not. However you argue it, overall a fair observer would see great similarities in the two situations. But these similarities are clearly ignored by the media and it turns out my worry was well founded. Low and behold, the Turnbull/Abbott story is being treated completely differently to Gillard/Rudd. Of course everyone in the mainstream media is very busy mansplaining to little-old-us the voters why the two situations are apparently completely different. But I don’t need this situation explained for me, because I can see with my own eyes that Turnbull just did to Abbott the same, if not worse, thing Gillard did to Rudd.

If you haven’t already noticed for yourself the differing tone of the stories about new-PM-Gillard with new-PM-Turnbull, take a look at this apple-with-apples comparison.

Here is a transcript of Gillard’s ABC 730 interview with Kerry O’Brien the evening she became PM on 24 June 2010 and Turnbull’s ABC 730 PR campaign interview with Leigh Sales a week after he became PM, which aired this evening.

If you can’t be bothered reading these transcripts, take it from me that Gillard was interrogated about her ‘knifing’ of Rudd for the entire interview, and framed as the ‘villain’ who couldn’t be trusted, a tone which continued throughout her time as PM. Gillard was also hectored about what she would do about the mining tax policy, not forgetting she had become PM that day. Turnbull, on the other hand, was treated like a ‘hero’ and provided with the invaluable opportunity to outline his vision for the country on an unchallenged soap box where he was allowed to sell his government’s refreshed credentials. He wasn’t even tested when he claimed Direct Action was working to reduce emissions when there was no evidence backing this claim. Two interviews in similar political circumstances, yet chalk and cheese in their treatment and tone.

A simple word count showed Gillard spoke for 65% of her interview with O’Brien. Turnbull spoke for 77% of his interview with Sales. Sales even apologised for asking a question Turnbull might ‘find offensive’ and then again said sorry for cutting him off. Soft doesn’t even come close to describing this cringe-worthy excuse for journalism. But it gets worse. Check out the word clouds of both interviews and see if you notice the same thing I did.

Here is Gillard’s interview, where the most used words were obviously Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. So the main topic of the interview were Gillard’s villainous replacement of Rudd.

Gillard Wordle

Now here is Turnbull’s interview.

Turnbull Wordle

Can you see what is missing amongst all the positive words? Yep, that’s right. The word Abbott. You can do a Where’s Wally search for it if you like, but I’ll save you the trouble and tell you it appeared twice in the interview. Hardly there at all. Abbott’s already gone and the media aren’t dwelling on the part Turnbull played in his demise. Unlike Gillard, who had to put up with the media’s obsession with the Rudd leadership spill throughout her entire tenure as Prime Minister, even after she went straight to an election to prove her legitimacy in the role. Yet Abbott has been erased and shiny-Turnbull-with-a-sly-grin has got off scot-free. See what I mean about same story but very different treatment? How do you even begin to explain this other than to say Labor is always bashed by the media, and the Liberals always excused? Sadly this is the only explanation that makes sense.

A letter to the Editor, from Morrie Moneyweather.

I didn’t think I would ever do this again because the last time I wrote none of you ungratefull bastards appreciated the wisdom of my words. All yous could do was have a go at me gramma. Even after me sons final year English class at Melbourne Gramma proofed it.

Anyway Im upset, again about the dispectfull way in which your writers are treating one of the finest prime ministers we have ever had. Even to the point of commenting on his receeding hair. No bloody wonder hes loosing it with all the crap he has to take. I meam Juliar also had a hair problem.

I agree with Chris Kenny. Quote:

“For all the coalitions failings and missteps it is surely incontestable that Tony Abbott has provided the best 16 months of government Australia has seen in 7 years.”
Absolutely incontestable.

You can do as many fact checks as you want but they will never be a substitute for the truth.

I mean look at some of the things he has done. Hes put Bronnie in charge of the house and made the whole thing more equitable (did ya like that word) and fairer. Now she is a women with balls and is displaying an unbiased approach to the job that has been lacking with Labor speakers.

And with a cabinet shuffle hes fixed the sexual imbalance.

Just before I go on. I read that piece by John Lord; “Why are the Right so Feral?”

Fair dinkum. He wouldn’t know shit from clay. I’d suggest he takes a hold of himself. Surely it’s clear to everyone that we need to be free to pursue wealth. I mean I needed the freedom to accept my inheritance. The same with Gina. There will always be haves and have nots. Lifters and leaners as Joe calls them. Even Jesus said that. And Ronald Regan said. If we keep giving more money to the rich, everyone will have more money. It’s called tickle down economics.

And all this shit about the budget being unfair.

It wasn’t it was just misunderstood. Joe was just sayin that the poor and middle classes had to support the rich. Christ anyone can understand that.
It was the fairest budget in fifty years. I mean what choice did Joe have? Someone has to pay to balance the books and it shouldn’t be those creating the wealth. People need to understand the stress involved in wealth creation.

Conservatives were born to control capitol. Labour comes after capital. Not everyone can be effluent. Had we had less regulation and let market forces have their way we wouldn’t have had a Global Financial Crisis. Now look at the mess Tony has to get the world out of.

Oh and another thing. At the risk of repeating myself. I didn’t appreciate all the sarcastic remarks from those people last time. Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.I can only say that good manners is a basic tenant of conservation. And women should be obscene and not heard.

Now where was I? Yes? There is no inequity in society. It’s just that some deserve more than others. We were born to rule. If we don’t have poor people who’s going to do the work.

That’s why I admire Christopher Pyne. It talks a lot of courage to do what hes doin even if I don’t understand what it is. I mean two many educated people can be dangerous for society.

They might all want to be wealthy.

And we don’t tell lies.

And talking about lies. How stupid people can be. Have a read of this letter I found in the AGE. I mean really.

“Some time back Tony Abbott told us that the best way to understand the truth of what he was saying was to have it in writing. Otherwise what he was saying was just idle chatter for an audience. So now I’m a little confused. You see now he is saying that what I thought he said is only a figment of my imagination. That what I think I thought he meant is not what he meant at all. That when he says something and I take it to mean one thing he has the option of saying that what I thought I heard was not what I heard at all. It was only my interpretation of what he meant. I mean, did he say what he meant or did he mean to say what he meant or was what he meant really what he meant.
I know that I am 75 and I have the odd senior moment but usually I know what I mean and what is meant by what I say. I also know that people understand what I’m meaning.

The silly confused old fart must be suffering from dementia.”

And all that nonsense about knighthoods. He should have given John Howard one too. He would have appreciated it for sure. I mean really think about the contribution Philip has made to our country. I mean really think it if your capable. And I’m sure Philip will keep up the good work. When and if we see him.

Anyhow I think all the writers on this blog show such little respect for Tony its just revolting. I think you’re that dumb that you must be three bricks short of a load or not the full two bobs worth. Either that or your three sanwhiches short of a picnic.

And most of the comments have to be a joke – no-one can be that stupid and arrogant, unless they are members of the Greens.

And that fellow. Ive forgotton what his name is. Your comment about me being a lesbeim was despickable. I could describe you as a pain in the neck but I have a much lower opinion of you.

There were so manny comments regarding mylast letter. All of them in such poor taste that I feel I cannot avail myself to share my wisdom with you again. I can only hope and pray that someday the working classes will come to their senses and show their appreciation for the effluence we share.

I think you are all so mean that if I paid you a compliment you would probably ask for a receipt.

So stick it up ya jumpa.

Morrie Moneyweather from Malvern.

PS Tony is the best thing to ever happen to this country. So tell the person who runs this sight that he needs a manager. Hes been handlin himself to long. Good government started last week. Cant remember the exact date.

Pave paradise, put up a parking lot

When Julia Gillard left office we had a carbon price in place, a burgeoning renewable energy industry, and the respect of the world as leaders in taking action on climate change. The system had not been perfected but it was underway and open to refinement with expert bodies set up to advise us on the best way forward.

Now we are advised on climate change by Maurice Newman and Dick Warburton. Billions of investment dollars have been lost due to the abandonment of the Renewable Energy Target.  Instead, we are pinning our economic future on coal whilst killing our natural wonders and tourism industry.  Instead of collecting $10 billion from polluters, encouraging them to move to clean practices, we will give them $3 billion to do their upgrades while we pay for the research – a $13 billion turnaround in revenue.

When Julia Gillard left office, we had a mIning tax that paid us a small but growing dividend for the huge profits being made by selling our resources. Once again, it was not ideal but at least it was in place and the original concessions like accelerated depreciation were running out.

Now we have no mining tax which, even according to Hockey’s pessimistic outlook, will cost the budget about $5.5 billion in foregone revenue.

When Julia Gillard left office, we had signed agreements with most states and territories for hospital and school funding. To get the federal funding, the states had agreed to matching proportional funding, locking both parties in, and to accountability reviews where standards had to be achieved to maintain funding support.

Now we have reneged on those agreements, cut $80 billion in funding from health and education, released states from their obligation to direct set amounts into these areas and from accountability goals, and seem on the road to privatising both sectors and increasing the GST.

When Julia Gillard left office, the rollout of a world class National Broadband network was underway where over 90% of us would have fibre to the premises. There were teething problems as there would be with any such undertaking, but the contracts were signed, the plan was made, and premises were being connected at an increasing rate.

Now the rollout has slowed down while Malcolm Turnbull conducts three reviews into why Labor was bad. In the meantime we have no contract with Telstra, who are in a monopoly situation, who can hold out for the best deal for their shareholders (note the dividends this year were higher?).  We will now get some mix of technology sometime, maybe, but certainly not soon and definitely more expensive in the long run.

When Julia Gillard left office, the orders had been given to bring home our troops from Afghanistan.

Now we are sending them back to Iraq and farewelling them with a wage cut.

[And before anyone mentions the one year freezing of politicians’ wages, could I point out that in the 16 months leading to July last year, they received three payrises, delivering a salary boost of $54,220 or more than $1000 a week since March the previous year.]

When Julia Gillard was in office, she was unable to get her media reform laws passed that would have protected against ownership monopoly, and against factually incorrect reporting. Who could forget the screams of censorship and the Murdoch photoshopping.

Now we have the possibility that the Attorney-General can decide to prosecute and incarcerate a journalist for ten years for telling the truth about what our government bodies are doing.

When Julia Gillard left office, pensions were indexed to rise with Average Male Weekly Earnings which kept their standard of living relative to the community.

Now pensions will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index. The proposal to change the indexation, due to commence in 2017, would cut the value of the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Veterans’ pension and Carer Payment by an estimated $80 a week within ten years. Despite the anger the changes sparked, they raised a modest $449 million over five years.

When Julia Gillard left office, we had a universal health care system that was the envy of the world.

Now we will have to pay every time we see the doctor or have a test and our Pharmaceutical Benefits System will be at the mercy of free trade agreements.

When Julia Gillard left office, we finally had universal agreement for a National Disability Insurance Scheme funded by an increase to the Medicare levy, a move widely accepted by the population, even if the Opposition didn’t bother to turn up for the introduction of the legislation of this groundbreaking reform in Parliament.

Now we find Mitch Fifield tasked with the job of holding it up for as long as he can while he conducts….you guessed it… more reviews.

The third quarterly report on the NDIS, released in May, makes clear that there is no case for any cut, cap or delay to the NDIS but Tony wants a surplus so I guess he will collect our increased levy and sit on it while he pays consultant mates to recommend winding it back or leaving it to Labor to pay for.

“In response to the capability review, the Agency has developed an action plan and will provide further advice as to whether the current implementation timetable is consistent with a successful full scheme rollout.” – Mitch Fifield, March 2014

Senator Fifield’s comment echoes previous statements from senior Coalition figures that indicate the national start date of 2018-19 could be pushed back.

CEO of Carers Australia, Ara Creswell, said:

“The NDIS has an inbuilt review, a cost review at this point in time is both curious and concerning. Costs are right on track, package numbers are consistent and hopes are high. We need to move forward, not tread water while we undertake yet another review.”

[ARA CRESWELL, CARERS AUSTRALIA, 1 MAY 2014]

Kevin Stone, President of the National Council on Intellectual Disability said:

“…we expect the State and Territory Premiers and Treasurers to stand by people with disability and their families and stand firm against any attempts to change the agreements made”.

[KEVIN STONE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COUNCIL ON INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY, 1 MAY 2014]

What will be next?

“Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.”

Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’

-Martin Niemoller

 

How about some other political witch hunts, Mr Abbott?

Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard (image from nws.com.au)

Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard (image from nws.com.au)

Tony Abbott promised to do many things if the LNP won the 2013 election. One of these, which was no doubt driven by populism and not policy (like everything else), was his promise to hold a judicial inquiry into Julia Gillard’s actions as a lawyer. He hammered this issue relentlessly during the campaign. Not content to simply ‘ditch the witch’ he wanted to conduct a political witch hunt of his own into irrelevant matters that were played out almost twenty years ago; matters that meant absolutely zero to the country. Most of us know of course that those matters mean absolutely zero in this present day as well, but that’s another story. Twenty years later, on this irrelevant issue:

Mr Abbott insisted again that Ms Gillard had committed a crime in her role of providing legal advice to incorporate an association for her then boyfriend and Australian Workers Union Victoria state secretary Bruce Wilson.

Abbott had no doubt been buoyed by poll after poll showing that voters questioned Ms Gillard’s explanation of the matter, hence his race towards tacky populism.

He of course ran the risk of being exposed as an utter fraud if the judicial inquiry turned up nothing to support his favoured exercise of fear and smear. But it would never deter him from practicing current day populism. History now shows – or is presently being played out – that the inquiry has turned into a ‘monumental failure’, as reported by Peter Wicks. It joins Abbott’s ‘own goal’ with his farcical Royal Commission into what he shrilly keeps calling the ‘pink batts fiasco’. He loves the smell of blood.

Given that he is keen to exert his time and money on judicial inquiries – witch hunts – I have a mere handful of instances of where he might want to hold witch hunts on whose episodes are more recent than Julia Gillard’s alleged criminal behaviour 20 years ago and whose outcomes would certainly be of national interest.

Below are some of the witch hunts Mr Abbott should take the time to pursue (as the man displays an obvious fetish with them). Long-term readers might recognise that I have raised these before, but given that witch hunts have been dominating the news over the last few days, raising them – and the manner in which they were quickly and conveniently swept under the carpet – further show that the current witch hunts are nothing but political opportunism.

So, Mr Abbott, what about these?

Our illegal war

Please take a look at John Howard’s lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. We entered into an illegal war based on that lie. We ordinary Australians are more interested in the lie that cost this country billions of dollars and the thrashing of our national pride. We, as a country, are still shadowed by that war, whereas Ms Gillard’s alleged actions were almost 20 years ago. Let’s have some priority.

AWB

The AWB Oil-for-Wheat Scandal refers to the payment of kickbacks to the regime of Saddam Hussein in contravention of the United Nations Oil-for-Food Humanitarian Program. AWB Limited is a major grain marketing organisation based in Australia. For much of the twentieth and early 21st century, it was an Australian Government entity operating a single desk regime over Australian wheat, meaning it alone could export Australian wheat, which it paid a single price for. In the mid-2000s, it was found to have been, through middlemen, paying kickbacks to the regime of Saddam Hussein in exchange for lucrative wheat contracts. This was in direct contradiction of United Nations Sanctions, and of Australian law. Mr Abbott, please take a look into how the Howard Government – of which you were a member – were entangled in this reprehensible act. Please also ask your former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who knew ‘nothing’ of the affair, if it is true that his staff removed 11 wheelie bins filled with shredded documents from his office the morning after losing the 2007 election. Perhaps you could put an end to the rumour that circulated Canberra about the contents of those mysterious bins.

Dodgy deals – Malcolm Turnbull

Mr Abbott, do you remember this?

In a speech that Mr Turnbull gave in Perth it was reported he “ . . . decried the state of political discourse in Australia, saying it had deteriorated to such an extent that the nation suffered “a deficit of trust” and there was an urgent need for honesty in politics.”

Despite all that preaching he then refused to answer a number of questions in relation to a grant he gave when he was Environment Minister in the Howard government to his friend Matt Handbury. Mr Hanbury, co-founder of the Australian Rain Corporation and nephew of the News Corporation chief, Rupert Murdoch, you might recall, contributed to Mr Turnbull’s electorate fund-raising machine (which was set up in 2007).

Mr Abbott, do you remember Mr Handbury’s company receiving a $10 million grant from Mr Turnbull when he was Environment Minister not long before the 2007 election? $10 million of tax payer’s money.

A witch hunt may jog your memory. And what an amazing coincidence that he is related to Rupert Murdoch.

Dodgy deals – John Howard

Mr Abbott, in 2000 your old boss decided to help the retrenched workers of National Textiles to recover their entitlements after the company, of which Mr Howard’s brother Stan was Chairman, was placed in the hands of an administrator.

It was reported at the time that it was Prime Minister Howard:

. . . who proudly announced that the cash-strapped National Textiles’ workers would receive their full entitlements. It was the Prime Minister who said they would be the first to recover wages, leave and a redundancy payout under a new National scheme and it was the Prime Minister who urged the creditors to accept a Deed of Arrangement so that the $6 million in State and Federal funds would flow.

. . . the Australian newspaper claimed that acceptance of the scheme would prevent an inquiry into National Textiles’ management and Directors, of which Mr Howard’s brother, Stan, is one. The editorial was scathing, raising questions about the government’s probity and calling the taxpayer funded bail-out improper, and policy on the run.

The then Opposition called for an inquiry but it went nowhere (naturally). Mr Abbott, given your carried-out promise of a witch hunt to dig up Julia Gillard’s past perhaps you’d be moral enough to do a bit of digging dig into this shady deal as well. Strike while the witch hunt iron is hot!

Future governments will no doubt be in overdrive holding Royal Commissions into the wealth of material this current government is providing us with – hopefully some of those might get to the truth behind Ashbygate or dodgy donations – but as I have pointed out, there is a lot of old stock to clear off the shelves first.

Mr Abbott is not the only one who smells blood; so do I. His. And his party.

Law & Order, Mars and Why Tony Abbott is Right To Put Science Under The Industry Portfolio.

“I have a great idea for reducing the crime rate!”
“What is it?”
“Well, when someone is caught breaking the law, rather than wasting a lot of money on a trial and jailing them – which is also very expensive – we just give them a large amount of money and tell them not do it again!”
“But wouldn’t that lead to people breaking the law and handing themselves in, just to get the money?”
“Oh the money wouldn’t go to everyone. Just the big criminals.”
“All right, once they’ve got the money what’s the penalty if they break the law again?”
“None.”
“None?”
“Yep, we’re more into carrots than sticks.”
“That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard!”
“Ok, well what about my idea for reducing our carbon emissions?”
“You mean the one where you pay the biggest polluters to reduce their emissions and if they don’t you just say that’s ok?”
“Yep.”
“Oh, that’s fine. That sounds like an excellent idea.”
Mm, we don’t seem to be hearing a lot about Tony Abbott’s Direct Action Plan. You know, the one that’s supposed to replace the Carbon Tax. A Google search reveals several mentions but the only recent one is in an editorial from that foreign owned newspaper, “The Australian” which begins with the rather contradictory concept.
“AUSTRALIA’s ill-fated carbon tax has proved to be a more successful tool of political rather than carbon abatement, felling spectacularly the party leaderships of Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull, Kevin Rudd, and Julia Gillard. Well intentioned in theory, it was in practice a hopelessly premature step for a country that emits around 1.5 per cent of global carbon dioxide and whose competitiveness had long rested on cheap energy. The tax boosted power prices for households and business without altering the carbon intensity of their energy supply. It has hastened the deindustrialisation of Australia’s economy, including the collapse of the aluminium and car industries, without a scintilla of verifiable impact on global carbon emissions, let alone the climate.”
I can’t see how the deindustrialisation of Australia’s economy hasn’t led to some fall in our emissions. And considering we were told by other members of Murdoch Misinformation Media about pensioners sitting in the dark with the heater off because they couldn’t afford electricity any more, it seems hard to believe that bigger users hadn’t found ways to improve their energy efficiency. But it’s good to know that our competitiveness rests on cheap energy and not cheap wages, as has been suggested by the IPA. (Or rather cheap minimum wages. I haven’t heard anyone from the IPA suggesting that Tim Wilson’s $300,000 is an excessive amount. Or even using it as example of a waste of taxpayers’ money.)
Still when the paper talks about “verifiable”, it’s important to remember that they’re not using that in a scientific way, because a debate like this is too important to be left to scientists. We need input from every day people. Like the Senator from Kentucky (Brandon Smith) that was suggesting that climate change wasn’t man-made because there are no coal mines on Mars, and:
“I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change. But I will just simply point out that I think that in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that.”
Well, a scientist might, but we know that they’re just a minority group and the silent majority are sick and tired of pandering to minority groups. So “verifiable” in this sense has nothing to do with science. It simply means that something can be found in one of their newspapers about a reduction in Australia’s emissions. And, of course, it can’t .
As for what the editorial said about Direct Action:
“And Environment Minister Greg Hunt has the hazardous task of overseeing its untried replacement, an unloved $2.5 billion direct action fund cobbled together to burnish the Coalition’s climate credentials in early 2010. Ensuring this money leads to genuine carbon abatement rather than becoming yet another form of industry assistance — subsidising green projects that would have proceeded anyway — will be challenging.”
So, even the usual cheerleaders of the Abbott Government are calling direct action “unloved”.  Poor thing. We should remember it on Valentine’s Day and send it a card and some flowers.
And I would, except I don’t know where to send them because it doesn’t exist yet.
Ah well, maybe by 14th February!

Which way to look?

Ralph Blewitt. Photo: Herald Sun

Ralph Blewitt. Photo: Herald Sun

It is perhaps not surprising that the Royal Commission into union corruption is to begin the day before the budget is brought down.  In a fortuitous coincidence, Ralph Blewitt happens to be in town, so they are going to begin with the AWU “slush fund”.  That should have Larry Pickering and Michael Smith and their band of rabid followers all agog again…or should I say still.  Agog enough to not notice they are getting screwed by the Budget?  We shall see.

In November 2012 Ralph Blewitt turned up in Australia “courtesy of a man writing a book on the AWU in the late 1980s and early ’90s.”

He told 7.30 that he had provided Victoria Police with a dossier of files “which show documents that certainly connect Julia Gillard to having a hand in the establishment of the AWU Workplace Reform Association in WA, and other matters”.  Mr Blewitt declined to outline those “other matters”.   The documents relating to the period 1990 – 95 appear to have been provided to him to “refresh” his memory by ‘researcher’ Harry Nowicki.

Victoria Police detectives who have been running an 18-month investigation with Mr Blewitt’s co-operation, intend to charge him with fraud-related offences, to which he will plead guilty. He is expected to give evidence against others. It is understood that in return for his co-operation and guilty plea, police will make courtroom submissions that Mr Blewitt should not be sentenced to jail.

Mr Blewitt’s travel expenses for his current visit to Australia are being met by a private citizen who has wanted to see the slush fund issues properly investigated by police and the Royal Commission.  This philanthropic champion of justice is no doubt hoping that Julia Gillard may be called though goodness knows what else they could ask her.  She has answered every question put to her.

The Royal Commission will then move on to the HSU.  It will be interesting to see their focus.  No doubt Craig Thomson will be dragged through more proceedings for an amount which, to date, seems relatively trivial.  One wonders if whistle blower Kathy Jackson has made a Blewitt type deal too.

The Health Services Union has launched a legal action against its own national secretary Kathy Jackson demanding she repay almost $250,000 paid into a slush fund.

Ms Jackson in return had launched a counter-claim seeking almost hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay. The HSU is now seeking to recover money paid to the National Health Development Account (NHDA) which was controlled by Ms Jackson.

In a statement to the ABC, Ms Jackson said all the allegations against her were “false and malicious” and accused “dark forces” of being behind them.  Independent Australia has done a whole series of articles called Jacksonville with source documents that provide a rather damning picture

Investigating high profile union cases should defer attention from the high profile political money laundering and slush funds that are coming to light every day, they hope.

Which way to look?

Greens fringe dwellers

“The Greens vote is complex”, writes Douglas Evans in this analysis of not only where their votes come from, but likely to be found in the future.

A recent AIMN article by Sir Scotch Mistery included the following quote:

Some vote Green, but the vote is meaningless we are told, even though almost 12% of the population vote for them. Why is the 12% so meaningless? Labor gets into bed with Bob Brown and others with ethics and vision, and are immediately held up as some sort of traitors. But no one, even Antony Greene, of the ABC, can explain why that vote is wasted.

This struck some resonances with me and prompted a comment in response to the article that became the basis for this article. As a fringe dweller, more an observer than a participant, I’ve got a few (shamelessly partisan) thoughts about the Greens. My former Federal MP Lindsay Tanner apparently agreed with the ‘experts’ Sir Scotch refers to. Tanner liked to say that voting for the Greens was just “shouting from the sidelines”. Of course that was just before the shouting got a little louder in 2010 and his Labor successor in the prized ALP Seat of Melbourne was defeated by Adam Bandt. In 2013 of course the shouting became positively deafening when Bandt repeated this feat without the aid of Liberal preferences.

The most recent Age-Nielsen Poll has the Greens on 17% nationally (up 5%) mostly apparently (and counter-intuitively) on the back of disaffected L-NP voters. In WA apparently the Greens lead Labor in the polls 27% to 20% currently and over the weekend with Labor still engaged in its own life and death struggle to reform itself, Christine Milne called for reform of the Greens constitution to give more power to members in formulating policy. This in a party that (in Victoria at least) already formally and regularly, as a matter of course, invites the participation of members in policy formulation.

After the decline in the Greens vote experienced in the 2013 and yet another tiresome round of finger wagging predictions of the end of the ‘accursed Greens’ both in the MSM and online, Scott Ludlam’s re-election in the WA Senate rerun and a bit of good news in the polls is welcome to an ageing Green like me. But just as the doomsayers are continually wrong with their predictions of the end for the Greens so the cheerleaders hoping for the triumphant rise of Australia’s social democrats would be wise to take a deep breath.

Despite these positive signs it would not be sensible to get too optimistic. No-one should assume, either that the the size of their vote will correspond closely with the number of seats they win, or that their vote will continue to grow steadily. It is a striking illustration of how uneven the Australian political playing field is that around 10% of the primary vote delivers a single lower house seat (out of 150) to the Greens while 4.29% of the primary vote delivers nine seats to the Nationals.

The Greens have experienced such swings in the polls in the past only to fall back to what appears to be the baseline 10% of the primary vote. Nevertheless, The Greens vote is complex. People vote Greens for all sorts of reasons. Many find a policy agenda that prioritizes environmental responsibility, social justice and compassion attractive. Some ageing social democrats like me, who believe this is what the Labor Party should stand for but increasingly doesn’t, are encouraged to find it is still possible to vote for a party that reflects these principles and is not simply the least-worst option. Many find it energizing and refreshing to be around an organization with a positive agenda that still, in the face of darkening times, has faith in the possibilities of the future and the potential for positive change rather than offering up continually reheated versions of the same-old same-old that has failed us in the past. The irreducible core of the Greens vote, about 10% of the electorate seems (to me) to be firmly based on these factors.

Then there is a soft vote that will come and go. Some whose natural habitat is either the steamy L-NP swamp or the scorching ALP desert have found themselves so disturbed by individual policies on, for example asylum seekers or climate change that they have moved to the Greens at least temporarily.

Some have voted for the Greens simply because they are not either of the two old parties that so many Australians are so very tired of. A large chunk of this group (which is politically pretty disengaged) is fundamentally conservative. These deserted the Greens in the last election when Palmer showed up on the horizon offering them a conservative alternative to the L-NP. Others (who are basically Liberal ‘wets’) close their eyes tight and vote for the Greens because they profoundly disapprove of what Abbott and his bunch of goons are doing to their Party and they can’t bring themselves to vote for Labor – the old enemy.

Others have voted for the Greens because they have seen them as the new-on-the-block-little-guys sticking it up the tired old tweedle dum and tweedle dee parties in Canberra. For these people the sight of the Greens actually wielding some power both in Canberra and Tasmania (Oh no they are a political party after all!) was disturbing and at the last election these voters deserted for The Pirates, the Animal Liberation Party, the Sex Party etc.

The breakdown of the most recent Age-Nielsen Poll is informative. While about a quarter of Australians between the age of 18 and 39 suggest they will vote Greens, the percentage of older Australians who would do so falls away strongly until apparently only about 10% of the oldest cohort (55+) votes for the Greens.

By contrast Labor scores around a third of the vote across all four age groups. The L-NP coalition captures about a third of the vote from the two youngest age groups but this increases until about a half of the oldest age group say they would vote for the mad monk and his band of merry pranksters. If this breakdown were to be maintained for a decade or so natural attrition would see the Greens steadily increase their vote to somewhere north of 20% Labor marking time in the mid 30s and the Coalition falling back to Labor.

The Nielsen poll is consistent with research for the Whitlam Institute carried out in 2011 by Dr Ron Brooker which examined the voting intentions of young voters (18 – 34 age group) prior to a series of Federal elections from 1998 to 2010. This showed the following:

  • Those intending to vote for the ‘old’ parties declined by about 10%, from somewhere north of 40% in 1998 to around 35% in 2010.
  • Those intending to vote for the Greens increased by about 18%, from around 5% in 1998 to roughly 23% in 2010.

The study shows that young voters are the natural core of support for the Greens and perhaps the vehicle for expanding the vote. It notes the substantial, possibly determinative, impact’ of the youth vote ‘on the outcomes of the 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010 Federal elections.’ However it also notes the volatile nature of the youth vote as reflected in dramatic swings both to and from the Greens over the whole period.

The study argues that the electoral volatility of young Australians reflects that they ‘are strongly values driven and their attachment is to issues rather than traditional political organization.’ They ‘tend to … make decisions based on whose proposal or offer best fits their values on their issue of priority at a given time.’

The youth vote is electorally powerful but volatile. However it is also increasingly disillusioned with the political process. Half a million of them did not register to vote in 2013 and many more of them are presumably among the roughly 3% of Australians who deliberately voted ‘informal’. The rewards are rich for the political party that captures the attention and support of this group, particularly those currently opting out. The conservatives, in government, are focused on the establishment of ‘Australia Inc.’ for the benefit of their backers. Factions permitting, Labor in opposition might finally seriously begin to address its own deep structural and spiritual malaise. With the attention of the ‘old’ parties focused elsewhere and support for both falling among young voters anyway, neither are likely to make headway growing their support among this group. Both Scott Ludlam’s and Adam Bandt’s re-election campaigns bore strong similarity to independent Kathy McGowan’s successful community based campaign to unseat the unspeakable Sophie Mirabella in the Victorian rural seat of Indi. Taken together with the steady flow of emailed invitations from Adam Bandt’s office inviting participation in issues-based door-knocking and letter-boxing campaigns this suggests to me that the Greens’ approach to consolidating and strengthening their vote aligns precisely with what is most likely to attract the crucial youth vote.

I assume that as the crisis deepens (as it surely will) and both L-NP and ALP show themselves to have no remedies (as I expect to happen) support for the Greens will grow. I believe this will occur not only because of the revealed shortcomings of the ‘old’ parties but also because of the perceived strengths of the Greens. In a piece for Fairfax media discussing the current good news for the Greens Michael Gordon notes that they are being rewarded for not wavering in their policies and priorities.’ I think this is self-evident but this, of course is also the characteristic that marked the Greens as ‘unfit for government’ in the minds of granite brained, finger wagging, conservative political pundits and desperate Labor politicians in the dying days of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd soap opera.

However for Greens’ ‘policies and priorities’ to have any effect will mean coalition of some sort with Labor. For this to happen a number of things must change. Labor will have to realize that a Labor primary vote in the mid 30s and a Greens vote in the mid teens (eminently possible in the current climate) might just translate into some sort of progressive coalition government but in the absence of this would probably deliver power narrowly to the coalition.

Labor cannot simply assume that they can continue to disparage their progressive potential allies and float into power in their own right on a raft of Greens preferences. Those days are probably gone. Nor can they assume that they can get their primary vote back up into the 40s from where they might just achieve power in their own right. The breakdown of the Nielsen poll discussed above and the decades long decline in their primary vote to its current position in the mid 30s both suggest that ALP governing in its own right is increasingly unlikely.

They should get busy exploring the possibilities for co-operation and get used to the idea of shared power as an acceptable Plan B. Brad Orgill argued this in his eminently logical but (to me at least) hopelessly politically naïve book ‘Why Labor Should savour its Greens’. They should start exploring the possibilities for re-educating the Australian public who have been conditioned to believe that coalition with the Greens equates to a communist takeover or a pact with the devil. The Greens for their part must learn the hard political lessons of a couple of stints in power in Tasmania and the part they played in the Rudd-Gillard Federal era all of which ended in tears and recriminations.

Freedom to speak badly: one rule for protestors, another for Andrew Bolt?

Andrew Bolt’s racial vilification case and the government’s subsequent hasty threat to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has placed ‘freedom of speech’ at the forefront of political debate. But its importance is always overlooked, or shunned, when it’s those of the Left side of politics who are exercising it. The media’s response to March in March rallies is an obvious case, writes Jennifer Wilson.

Image: heraldsun.com.au

Image: heraldsun.com.au

Peter van Onselen (pictured) devotes almost an entire page in the Australian this morning (paywalled. sorry) to complaining about the “unedifying” display of bad manners by some protestors who took part in the March in March rallies, comparing them with the infamously abusive banners held aloft by the three hundred or so activists who took part Alan Jones’s 2011 Convoy of no Confidence against Julia Gillard and her Labor government.

I would appreciate someone drawing up a comparison of the two situations, given my impression that the number of participants in the Jones rally carrying offensive placards constituted a far greater percentage of the whole than those in the March in March rallies.

As van Onselen concedes, in the Jones protest virulent expressions of rage and hatred were legitimised by the presence of leading politicians photographed under the placards. No such validation took place of the relatively few offensive banners on display during March in March.

“Calling a conservative a fascist and portraying his image to replicate Hitler is deliberately designed to undermine their ideological positioning in the same way that calling a woman a ‘bitch’ or ‘witch’ carries clear sexist intent,”  van Onselen states, in his comparison of the two situations.

I would not so readily presume an equivalence between sexist intent, and the desire to critique, albeit with a degree of hyperbole, an ideology. Sexism attacks the woman for nothing other than being a woman. Describing Abbott as “fascist” in no way attacks his gender, and is merely commentary on the manner in which he is perceived to enact his conservatism.

Placards claiming that the Abbott government is “illegitimate” are not abusive, offensive or threatening, rather they are simply wrong, and likely being employed as payback for the years of the LNP opposition equally inaccurately describing the Gillard government as “illegitimate.” What is apparent is that there are hot heads and wrong heads on both the conservative and Labor side of politics. This should not come as a surprise to anyone.

Along with Tim Wilson, Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, (I’m sorry, I don’t know what that title means) van Onselen is disturbed not at the exercise of freedom of speech demonstrated by both rallies, but at the ill-mannered, impolite, potentially violent and “irresponsible” speech used by a small number of participants in their signage. A similar rabid element is guilty of foully derailing many otherwise useful Twitter discussions, claims van Onselen, quite rightly in some instances, though there are sensitive souls renowned for “rage quitting” Twitter when they confuse disagreement with abuse.

Van Onselen and Wilson’s desire to see public speech free from offensive, insulting and at times threatening expression is shared by many people, but quite how to achieve that remains a mystery. Bad speech must be countered by good speech, Wilson has asserted, however, taking the case of Andrew Bolt as an example, it’s difficult to see how someone with a large public platform such as Bolt, or fellow shock jocks Alan Jones, or Ray Hadley can be challenged by the people they offend and insult, who rarely have an equivalent public platform from which to counter their attacker’s bad speech with good. It is for this reason we have legislation intended to protect people from racial vilification, for example, the very legislation Mr Wilson is now intent on seeing repealed, as he believes it interferes with the absolute freedom of speech he appears to favour.

I can see Wilson’s point, however, as long as there are more powerful enunciators of bad speech with large platforms than there are good, perhaps we need other precautionary measures.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as I read the article, what van Onselen and Wilson would make of public demonstrations in other countries, Mexico perhaps, where I witnessed protests in which politicians were represented by enormous papier-mache figures with grossly exaggerated sexual organs, accompanied by banners that claimed they f*cked both dogs and their mothers and ate children. Nobody saw any cause for offence. Compared to such robust expression, the complaints seem rather prim.

Amusingly, van Onselen concludes his article with the reminder that “Protest is as an important part of democracy as are institutions designed to uphold democracy, but only when practised within the spirit of Australia’s well established political structure.” I am completely unable to see how any of the offensive signage fails to fit in with that spirit. Australian politics have, for the last few years and most certainly during Gillard’s entire term of office, been such that one would think twice before taking school children to witness Question Time, and I really don’t know who van Onselen thinks he is kidding.

The ongoing discourse about how we should conduct our discourse is unlikely to change anything. Van Onselen’s piece appears to make the claim that those who offend middle-class sensitivities undermine the more moderate message and concerns of mainstream protestors, and destroy their credibility. This may well be the case, but only because people such as van Onselen make it so, opportunistically denigrating the whole on the basis of the actions of a very few.

It is not possible to eradicate voices some consider undesirable from public expression. Otherwise we would not have to put up with the Bolts. A sign held aloft at a demonstration cannot do one tiny fraction of the harm done by Bolt, Jones and the like. If we are to conduct serious conversations about how public discourse influences attitudes and behaviours, surely we must start by interrogating the enunciations of those with the furthest reach.

This article was first published on Jennifer’s blog No Place For Sheep and has been reproduced with permission.

Abbott is Murdoch’s dream come true

Abbott and Murdoch (image courtesy of smh.com.au)

Abbott and Murdoch (image courtesy of smh.com.au)

The Australian’s Christian Kerr was the one called up to last bucket the Labor Party’s leader.

There is nothing unusual about this but I was struck by the column inches wasted on what can be only labelled as an infantile array of unnecessary and completely un-newsworthy cheap shots at the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

He bases his commentary on Bill’s initial response to the closure of Toyota in Australia.

He derides his passionate press stop with Labor colleagues, saying Shorten’s ‘jumble of thought and emotion served neither his cause nor his constituency’.

He then gives a backhanded compliment to him:

‘But it was a different Shorten who appeared in question time. He looked smart; well-groomed, well-dressed – even well-pressed’.

Well I’m glad he met your standards, Christian.

To top off this childish spray he says:

 “The schoolboy hair and rumpled suit were gone, but the Opposition Leader may have spent summer in class in elocution lessons.”

What a puerile effort!

The only opinion writers you will find in The Australian that present the other side of the debate are either former or present Labor Party MPs.

The list of Liberal acolytes and staunch conservatives at “The Heart of the Nation” is extensive. Judith Sloan, Henry Ergas, Chris Kenny, Grace Collier, Janet Albrechtsen, Nikki Savva, Peter van Onselen and Dennis Shanahan all speaking in one voice.

To be fair, Peter van Onselen does occasionally stray into the territory of supporting Labor occasionally but it is always uncomfortably done and in a backhanded manner.

He becomes indignant, his glass jaw on display, when it is suggested he is a Liberal.

He’s a former Liberal staffer, who writes for The Australian and has his own show on Sky News, along with the TV host-cum-shock jock wannabe Paul Murray.

Do I really need to say anymore? He knows which side his bread is buttered on.

All this isn’t an accident. They are paid to push the IPA Fox News conservatism Rupert Murdoch is so in love with.

A quick look at Murdoch’s Twitter stream is enough to make me ill. A pulpit from which this self important man lectures governments and guides his minions.

This is done both for self-interest, to keep the Abbott Government in his pocket, but also to drive the resurgence of Murdoch’s ideology in Australian society.

Abbott is Murdoch’s dream come true. A willing accomplice in dragging Australia back to the bad old “Golden Age” of Howard or, better still, back to the visionary Menzies era. An era where Australia stagnated as a conservative bastion and complete backwater.

A lot of his opinion writers seem to enjoy trying to immaturely bait and annoy progressives and are making a habit of constantly defending the bungling Abbott Government at all costs.

Can you imagine the commentary if Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd started their terms in office how Abbott has? The cabal of Murdoch facilitators would be feverishly speculating about leadership challenges from the front pages of the entire News Corp Australia stable of publications.

All this is completely fine in a free press but who does The Australian serve?

Would it not be best to try and present news in an unbiased manner, without riddling it with opinion?

Would it not be best to have a balanced stable of opinion writers from across the spectrum to present the diverse array of views in our nation?

For somebody as experienced as Rupert Murdoch you would think he would respect the values of “fairness and balance”.

Given the tagline for his joke of a “news network” Fox News is “fair and balanced” it would seem Murdoch has no concept of the most basic of journalistic principles. Or maybe he simply doesn’t care?

Can I make a suggest Rupert? Don’t call The Australian “The Heart of Australia”.

“The Voice of Rupert Murdoch” has a ring to it I think.

Matthew Donovan (pictured) is a former Labor candidate for the seat of Surfers Paradise in Queensland as well as a political commentator and freelance journalist. He’s an active Labor campaigner from Burleigh Branch on the Gold Coast. His interests are progressive politics, policy development and media/social media strategy. Matthew’s studied Journalism, International Relations and History at the University of Southern Queensland. He plans to study Political Science in the near future.

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