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Tag Archives: Julia Gillard

Apparently Australia is full

Bugger off

Australia is full

“We can’t take all these illegals, Australia is full!”

“Full of racists, you mean!”

OK, we know where this dialogue is going. The words “Nazi” and “bleeding heart” will be tossed around, but rarely do people ever go beyond abuse once a dialogue starts this way. Personally, I try to focus on the issues rather than simply resorting to abuse like those fascist bastard right wingers do! (See, Andrew Bolt, two can play at that game.) But every now and then it’s fun to bait the angry.

Of course, a lot of things are fun. It doesn’t make them right. We all need to demand higher standards of ourselves – except for Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt who always rise to the highest standards. (No-one can accuse me of lacking balance!)

And so, I write this in a state of some confusion. I’m no Julia Gillard groupie, but I admire her courage and toughness, and I do think that she’s been harshly treated. And I suspect that if I’d gone to school with Rudd, I’d have eventually been so annoyed by him that I’d have rubbed his face in the dirt, until someone pointed out that I’m actually a pacifist, and that I actually agreed with the first statement he made.

Having been on social media, read the paper, listened to the radio, watched TV and, generally, heard the forces of Abbott gloat as though they’d actually won the last election, I must confess: I like watching Rudd restore some sense of reality to these wanna-be “Tea Party” losers. They may still lose! Ha!

Of course, the whole asylum seeker issue disturbs me greatly. So let’s start with the things we agree about.

1. It would be better if people didn’t travel to Australia on unsafe boats.

I’m pretty sure that no-one will disagree with that. The “Stop the Boats Nazis” and “The Bleeding Hearts” and everyone in between.

The question is what is our second point of agreement. Can we agree that a strong deterrent will work? Well, if the strong possibility of drowning isn’t a strong deterrent, what is? So I doubt that will be the second point of agreement. From this point of agreement we spread off in different directions. Some complain that Rudd is no better than Howard. Others gloat that he’s removed an electoral positive from Tony. Yet others say that he’s admitted the Liberals were right. And finally, we have Abbott’s: It’s a good policy, but we think he’ll muck it up, because that’s all we’ve got now.

Will there be number two?

I’d like to think that we could agree to find the best solution possible. That people will be treated humanely, that we won’t resort to slogans. And that something better is possible, providing we think about it.

I mean, actually think, and not resort to emotive language, whichever side you’re on!

2. _________________________

Good luck and good wishes.

 

‘FREE’ Election Policies Form Guide

abbott policies

I was an admirer of Julia Gillard. What I liked most was her devotion to sound progressive Labor policies that were forward looking and would serve the common good. In her short stint as Prime Minister she oversaw more policy reform (in a minority parliament) than most long serving governments. By any standards her policy legacy stands unique among any of her predecessors. And surely that is what governing is all about. Good policy that improves the wellbeing of every Australian. The fact is that regardless of whoever wins the forthcoming election the winners will find themselves implementing some Gillard policy.

As a political strategist she out positioned the leader of the opposition leaving no big ticket policies for him to pursue and I might add no funds anyway. Therefore in commenting on policy in general this conversation concentrates itself mainly on the government’s proposals. Having said that it might be unfair on the opposition given that the campaign has not yet started. Who knows they might pull a policy rabbit out of the hat. After all they have had three years to develop them.

When we vote a number of factors come into play. A particular allegiance to one or the other parties and its ideology. A like or dislike for one or the other candidate can persuade us. A leader’s character. A hip pocket ‘’what’s in it for me’’ mentality. Or even a one policy agenda such as ‘’Marriage Equality’’.

However policy is important to most people. In this election they are confronted with a number of policy proposals that will determine Australia’s future. Mr Abbott has vowed to oppose everything so the voters have a clear choice. Traditionally the areas of economy, health and education have been of major importance to the electorate but from time to time nation changing or indeed moral issues are added to the mix.

This election is significant in the policy sense because some of the election policies being proposed will have far reaching consequences for the nation and its future.

Now let’s look at the election policies that are on the table and way them up as best we can. I don’t propose to be long winded about each one. Just too randomly list each one and make a few comments.

• Education funding: The opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, has had some conflicting things to say on his party’s policy. The one certain thing is that they don’t have one. He has said that they would repeal Labor’s Gonski funding package. His leader has stated that it would go ahead if Labor could get all the states to sign up. Pyne has also said that they are happy with the current funding arrangements until something better comes along. The Gonski proposals offer equality of opportunity and have wide public support. In the absence of any policy from the opposition it’s a one horse race.

• Climate change: The Prime Minister has pulled the rug from under Tony Abbott’s feet by dumping” the carbon tax and bringing forward a floating carbon pricing scheme. You can argue whether that is good for the environment but it is smart politics. Abbott can no longer shout his carbon tax slogans. But a bigger problem for him is his own policy. Or lack of one. What he has now has been thoroughly discredited by all and sundry. To quote Lenore Taylor in The Guardian.

‘’Business is desperate to know how the 2009 Direct Action policy will actually work, but usually emerge from meetings with the Coalition spokesman, Greg Hunt, with few answers. Hunt has promised a white paper after the election to flesh out the details, with legislation to be finalised within six months of a Coalition term.’’

I might add that Mr Abbott’s own goal statement ”what an emission trading scheme is all about, it’s a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance, to no one.” Follows his previous similar statement where he dismissed carbon dioxide as an “invisible, odourless, weightless, tasteless substance”. Statements such as these conclusively but him in the climate change official nutter’s category. We can only conclude that the LNP has no policy at all.

Dr Harley Wright Principal at Climate Sense put it rather succinctly:

I plead to the Coalition to come to its senses and deal with this serious issue seriously. Stop playing political games with our descendants’ future. A return to a responsible, bipartisan approach would be welcomed, possibly respected, all-round.

NBN: If we go back to when Abbott appointed Malcolm Turnbull as opposition shadow communications minister it was, if I am not mistaken for the purpose of “destroying” the NBN. That’s what Abbott in his Luddite naivety wanted. When exactly the realisation took place that the Internet has a vital place in our world took place, is unknown. But apparently it did. And so they made their policy announcement in the studios of Murdoch’s Fox Studios.

The next morning I did my early morning scan of on line MSM and it is fair to say that the LNPs policy had met with universal condemnation. Although I must say the Melbourne Herald Sun couldn’t find any room for it at all amongst its daily drivel. But then it is the newspaper where the truth goes to die so I wasn’t surprised. The Age ran an online poll of around 27.000 people and around 75% gave the policy the thumbs down.

A quote of mine:

“On the NBN. “The problem with designing a network to meet the needs of today is that it denies you the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow”.

NDIS: The opposition has said it supports this policy. It is however so popular that they could hardly say otherwise. But it is Labor policy and how ironic it would be if the conservatives had to implement it. And there is no guarantee that they wouldn’t re hash it in some way.

The Economy: We should not under estimate the difficulty the LNP will have framing an economic policy for the next election. With the downturn in revenues the government has had much difficulty in costing its own initiatives. The opposition will have more so. Despite pressure from the government it has yet to say where all its savings measures will come from. It has said it will eliminate the school kid’s bonus scheme and super will be cut from lower paid women but they will need a lot more than that. And of course they will take around 12,000 jobs out of the public service. The government has a record of outstanding economic performance and with Rudd at the helm should be able to sell it more vibrantly.

The opposition intends to have a “commission of audit” after the election, to review government spending “top to bottom”, rein in waste, identify where taxpayer funds should be spent and start “with a clean slate” on government spending. That’s a pretty broad brief and I would interpret it to mean a repeat of the Queensland experience.
Now cast your mind back to the last election and remember that Abbott was not capable of presenting LP Economic Policy himself so he hand balled to Hockey who in turn passed it on to Robb. It then became a total balls up and the accountants they hired to verify their figures were fined for dishonesty. The policy they presented would not get past a first year economics student. It will be interesting to see if Abbott has the guts to present this time around remembering that he has said that the subject bores him.

Asylum Seeker-Immigration Policy:
Both sides of politics should hold their heads in shame for the politicisation of such a human crisis that is not only one of national importance but one the international community is trying to come to grips with. But Tony Abbott who despite having had numerous opportunities to join a bipartisan approach has chosen together with Scott Morrison to tread gutter filth in the hope that they may win a couple of redneck seats in Western Sydney. These two have done more to demonise legal asylum seekers that any other members of parliament. Some of their comments have been founded in racism. And they are both practicing Christians.

My view is that in all its complexity there is no solution to this dilemma. It can only ever be a ‘’manageable problem.’’

A people smuggler in Indonesia has told the ABC that none of the domestic policies being considered in Australia can stop the boats. As the Federal Government looks for answers leading up to the election, the people smuggler says proposed measures like turning boats back or making it harder to get refugee status are not enough. The smuggler says there are now too many people fleeing death and persecution and that factor outweighs Australia’s attempts to stop them. And while more boats reach Australian waters, some former refugees who have lost family members on the dangerous journey say the immigration system is oppressive.

At the time of writing Kevin Rudd seems to be coming up with some fresh proposals and we can only live in hope that Tony Abbott might come to his senses and adopt a more humane and bipartisanship approach. Lies and shouts of ‘’stop the boats’’ will resolve nothing.
• Maternity Leave: The Liberal Party does have a policy. It will increase company tax by one and a half per cent. Most economists say the policy is unaffordable and caters for women with high incomes. No costing’s have come to light.
• Marriage Equality: Tony Abbott is totality against it because of his Catholic beliefs. Imposing his own morality on everyone. Kevin Rudd is in favour and has indicated that he will legislate. And so he should. Meanwhile the rest of the world moves on.

An Australian Republic: The Labor Party would support a plebiscite as a first step. Mr Abbott is a devout Royalist and led its campaign at the last referendum. In doing so he told some atrocious lies.

The following Liberal Party policies are taken from an article in The Guardian by Lenore Taylor.

• Renewable energy: The Coalition has promised a review of the 20% renewable energy target in 2014, even though it was already reviewed by the Climate Change Authority just last year. Some in the Coalition are demanding that it be scrapped altogether. More likely, say senior sources, it will be wound back a little, because its promise to deliver 41,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy by 2020 is working out to be more like 25%, due to falling electricity demand. Bottom line: the renewable energy industry is not sure what will happen to the target under the Coalition.

• Federal state relations and COAG: In his budget-in-reply speech, Abbott promised that within two years of a change of government, working with the states, the Coalition would produce a white paper on Coag reform, and the responsibilities of different governments, to ensure that, as far as possible, the states are sovereign in their own sphere. The objective will be to reduce and end, as far as possible, the waste, duplication and second-guessing between different levels of government that has resulted, for instance, in the commonwealth employing 6,000 health bureaucrats even though it doesn’t run a single hospital.”

• Northern Australia: The absence of a northern Australia policy would not normally be notable, but Abbott recently released a “vision” to have a white paper on the development of the north. The “vision” said the white paper would look at most of the ideas being vocally advocated by mining magnate Gina Rinehart and the Institute of Public Affairs, but in terms so vague and non-committal it is unclear whether the Coalition intends to actually do them, or was just trying to appease its powerful backers.

• Industrial relations: The Coalition’s policy promises only minor changes to the fair work laws, but will ask the Productivity Commission to undertake a “comprehensive and broad” review of industrial relations policy – with the results to be taken to the next election

• Car industry assistance: We know the Coalition will cut $500m from the budgeted car industry assistance between now and 2015. It says it will have another Productivity Commission inquiry into what assistance should be provided after that and how it should be spent. Given that the industry says ongoing assistance is essential for its survival, that leaves a large question mark.

. Childcare policy will be the subject of yet another Productivity Commission review. The terms of reference ask for policy to be assessed against the working hours and needs of modern families, and leave open the possibility of government rebate being extended to in-home nannies. That all sounds good, but we also know spending will be constrained so the results remain unclear.

• Competition policy: The Coalition has given mixed signals on competition policy, saying both that the existing laws are too onerous and that small business needs more protection against large competitors. Competition law will be the subject of another “root and branch review” after the election.

• Tax policy: Abbott has said he will repeal the carbon and mining taxes and promised a “modest” company tax cut, with the size and timing still uncertain. He has also said he will have a white paper, a full review of the tax system, with any subsequent decisions to be taken to the next election.

Authors note: The Labor Party intends to scrap its carbon tax in favour of a floating price so Mr Abbott can no longer campaign on a repeal the tax policy.

There may of course be other policy areas that would interest people. Predominantly in their own electorates. I think however I have covered the key issues. This election should be about policy and who has the best to serve the nation. Of course the personal character of the opposing leaders will hold some sway with the punters. One is a negative individual and the other sees a positive future for our country. But I do hope policy determines our fate. Hope all this helps you in your decision making.

House of cards

HouseOfCardsDear Tony Abbott,

You probably get a lot of letters from both admirers and those seeking to criticise every facet of your existence. I am one of the latter. You might recall I’ve written to you before. Last time I wrote I told you about how concerned I was that you weren’t getting proper scrutiny in the mainstream media. Thankfully, since the recent change in ALP leadership, the media seem to have moved past their obsession with Julia Gillard. And in want of something else to write about, some of the more scrupulous journalists are taking some interest in your plans for the country and your behavior in trying to achieve your ambition to be the next blue-tie-wearing Prime Minister of Australia.

The introduction of the Guardian’s local edition has helped this happy scenario come about. Just in the last few days, Margo Kingston revealed your lies about using Comm cars for private travel while promoting your book Battlelines. I’ve also seen an article about your Direct Action policy by Lenore Taylor, Jonathan Swan from the SMH has taken an interest in the Ashbygate Trust and Chris Uhlmann asked you some direct questions about your ‘stop the boats’ policy on ABC’s 7:30. Did I say policy? Apologies, I meant slogan.

All of this scrutiny no doubt makes for an unhappy week for you, which I’m not ashamed to say makes for a very happy week for me. It’s clear you’re under a bit of pressure, what with your cowardly decision to turn down a debate with Kevin Rudd and this behavior in your pie stacking press conference was just, well, I don’t know what it was Tony?

But the reason for my letter is not to make your week any worse, although that would be a welcome side effect. No, I’m writing to you about your crumbling personal character and policy platform which is quite clearly a house of cards, built on quick-sand foundations. You see, the thing is Tony, when I stand back and look at what you spend 95% of your time in the media saying, it’s pretty clear to any objective outsider that you’ve set yourself up to fail. And it’s quite clear why you can’t possibly risk debating Kevin Rudd at this point in time, because you know as well as I do, if you’re really honest with yourself, that your house of cards could come crumbling down at any moment. Because it’s basis is a massive pile of dishonorable, weasel word, downright misleading and dishonest sloganeering and smear. This is what you have built Tony. And I think it’s time you realise just how dangerous a position you are in.

It’s all been so easy up to now. It’s no surprise that you’re suffering from the worse kind of complacency. The complacency of a man who hasn’t had to defend his own positions. Who hasn’t had to compete on a platform of ideas and intelligent debate about the merits of your alternative plans. All you’ve had to do for the last three years is to call Julia Gillard a ‘liar’ and your work for the day was done. How easy you must have thought life was. How weak your brain muscle must have got over all this time while you leisurely went about your business, doing stunt after stunt on your anti-Carbon-Price-Convoy-of-No-Charisma, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax-payers’ money on your never ending election campaign, while paying little or no attention to the policy success of your rivals in the government. And while paying little attention to the merits of what was coming out of your mouth.

Yes, I’m talking about the merits of what you have been talking about for the last three years. Because the fact is, while you’ve been using your Murdoch-inspired media pack to convince the Australian public that Julia Gillard can’t be trusted, the real truth has been that your entire policy platform, your whole view of the world, is so easily unpicked that you literally will not risk being asked any questions about it. It’s as flimsy as your claim to have ‘no specific knowledge’ about the Slipper/Ashbygate scandal. But know this. We can see right through you Tony. And right through your cheer squad of angry Abbott supporters who scream and yell on the radio, write misogynist blogs and troll #auspol.

If you were an emperor Tony, you wouldn’t be wearing any clothes. But you’re not an emperor. And your supporters have no logical argument for why they support you. Because the truth is, they have absolutely no reasonable way to defend your policy positions, except to admit the one thing they, and you, will never admit. And that is that your slogan policies aren’t based on intelligence, truth and respect. Let that settle for a second Tony. Intelligence. Truth. Respect. When you say ‘stop the boats’, you deny the complex problem of displaced, scared, desperate people looking for some way to save their lives. When you say Labor is all about debt and you spread economic doom and gloom around the economy, you deny the Global Financial Crisis and Labor’s success in steering the country away from recession. When you say ‘axe the tax’, you’re pretending the problem of climate change is not important enough to make sacrifices for. And you think short-term opportunism is more important than the lives of future generations of earth’s inhabitants. When was the last time you, or any of your LNP colleagues, showed intelligence, truth and respect? I can’ think of a single instance.

Because let’s be frank Tony. There’s a reason why weasel words are your only option. You’re only interested in helping a very small percentage of the Australian population. The minute anyone examines your slogan policies, this truth is revealed like budgie smugglers tearing open in the surf. The reality is, you’re the enemy of the working people you stand next to at your countless factory visits and anti-carbon tax rallies. You cosy up to them as if you’re backing them all the way, when really you would happily destroy their prosperity, their stability of employment, the infrastructure they need, their access to government services including health and education, if you thought there was a buck in it for your rich mates. Everything you say and do is designed to both fool people that this is not your true purpose, and to reassure those who know you are only supporting them that you will continue to do this. Please understand that when I say you only care about Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch, I’m not saying you literally only support two people. I’m talking about Rinehart, Murdoch and the people who are like them; those who aspire to be as selfish, ruthless and rich; those who fantasize about a world where the Rinehart/Murdoch philosophy is acceptable and success is measured by how like-them you are. It’s a disgusting aspiration Tony, and you should be embarrassed to be encouraging it.

As soon as this fact becomes more apparent to the electorate, as soon as they realise how abhorrent your world view is, you’re done Tony. Because I believe Australians are better than this. While you’ve been aiming for the lowest common denominator, you’ve been underestimating that Australia is a community. Not an economy. The economy serves the community, not the other way around. Your house of cards will come tumbling down as soon as this simple truth is more widely acknowledged. I just hope this happens before the election, and not after.

 

Who Should I Vote For?

abbott-and-rudd

Abbott or Rudd – who should I vote for?

Who Should I Vote For?

Actually that headline is misleading. I know exactly who I will vote for and why. Labor is indelible within me and I am proud of it. At an early age I inherited (or it was born in me) an unshakable belief in social justice. In equality of opportunity and a belief that every person has an indisputable right to an equitable share of the country’s wealth. Labor is the only party that can deliver on these values.

I believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all. That it is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. I further believe that the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need. That progressive policies are needed for government to solve problems.

If that sounds idealistic then so be it.

I have never understood the conservative reluctance for change. Why conservatives dislike and resist change in the foolish assumption that they can make permanent that which makes them feel secure. Yet change is in fact part of the very fabric of our existence. I think I have probably seen more change in my lifetime time that any other period in history. Often worthwhile change comes with short term controversy but the pain is worth it for long term prosperity. And change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making with its own inevitability. Change is in fact one of the only constants in life. Conservatives often become so trapped in the longevity of sameness that they never see better ways of doing things. Change is the tool that serves the common good.

All of this I believe without discounting the rights of the individual to pursue worthwhile ambition. Be it monetary or otherwise. And that in the absence of any another system capitalism is what we have. At the same time I believe that capitalism without regulation is a recipe for calamity both environmentally and economically.

With the ascension of Kevin Rudd voters (if one is to believe the opinion polls) it would seem that the punters now have a choice. This has been allowed by an opposition leader incapable of preventing himself from overreaching. He has been touted as being the most effective leader of the opposition we have ever had. Really. Having had the government on toast for the best part of three years and the polls suggesting a defeat of the government of monumental proportions he continued his attacks on Julia Gillard until the caucus was left with little choice but to change leader. The result being that Mr Abbott now faces a reinvigorated party with a leader of vast popularity with a self-belief in himself and the future of the country.

I would venture to suggest that Abbott has shown a total lack of political judgement that borders on the nonsensical. Had he approached the past 12 months in a more positive manner the electorate may have viewed him differently. They had made up their minds on the Prime Minister and their judgement was set in concrete. So why the hatchet job? This can be best explained by analysing the character of the opposition leader. As I have written previously Tony Abbott if nothing else is a very colourful character. He is aggressive both physically and in the use of language. His negativity is legendary and he has little consideration for any ideas other than his own and says NO to his opponents policies regardless of their worthiness. He is by evidence and his own admission a liar of some regularity. Added to that he has a political gutter mentality and little respect for the institution of parliament and its conventions.

I would contend that rather than being an effective opposition leader he is lacking in political judgement and that the ‘’best leader polls’’ are a true reflection of his unpopularity. It may well be that those who have always said that he is unelectable might be right. As a people Australians are a positive lot and his constant negativity and putting us down really grates us.

As it now stands now Kevin Rudd has all the running and Tony Abbott is looking shaken. His demeanour is nervous and he finds it impossible to shake off his negativity. The hesitation and stutters have begun. Mind you it must be hard if it’s so ingrained in you.

When the Prime Minister elects to go to an election is irrelevant. If he chooses to wait a little longer he can (because of Abbotts reluctance to talk policy) simply continue to paint him as the negative conservative he is. On the other hand should he decide on an early election he has the advantage of momentum.

In terms of policies again Labor has thanks to Julia Gillard pulled the rug out from under the feet of the conservatives. There are no big ticket items left. Better education, NDIS and the NBN are all popular whereas the opposition’s direct action plan for the environment is proving to be farcical. They don’t seem to have an education policy other than saying they will support the government if it can get all the states to sign up for Gonski. (I’m still calling it that) They have no alternative energy policy other than a white paper.

Is Tony Abbott still insisting that the election will be a referendum on the carbon tax and does he still intend a double dissolution on the matter? Despite the obvious facts Hockey and Abbott have been painting a bleak picture on the economy, debt and deficit. Will the electorate fall for it or will facts matter. And of course the coalition will have to be honest as to where they intend cutting to pay for their direct action policy and come clean on the true cost of its maternity leave scheme. Then of course we have his “stop the boats” mantra only now he cannot explain how.

Tony Abbott, as Kevin Rudd suggests might be a formidable negative politician but he is vulnerable on policy detail and this is the area that Mr Rudd should hone in on.

There is much water to flow under the political bridge and the Australian people hopefully have shrugged of the malaise they have embraced for too long. There is a matter of importance to confront.

And to think that a month ago it was a forgone conclusion.

Is Kevin Rudd a winner? Is Tony Abbott a whiner?

A quick summary of the past three years:

“I’m Julia Gillard. and I’m your Prime Minister.”

“I’m not Julia Gillard, she wasn’t elected by the people but by the faceless men of the Labor Party, so vote for me.”

“I’m Julia Gillard. And I believe the following things.”

“I’m not Julia Gillard, so vote for me and I’ll stop the boats, abolish the carbon tax, reduce tax for everyone and get the budget back to surplus.”

“I’m Julia Gillard. I’ve accomplished the following things.”

“I’m not Julia Gillard. So vote for me.”

“I’m Julia Gillard. These are the things I want to do.”

“I’m not Julia Gillard, I’d die of shame if I were.”

“I’m Julia Gillard. AND YOU OFFEND ME!”

“I’m not Julia Gillard, so vote for me.”

“I’m Julia Gillard, and I’m going to introduce a disability insurance scheme and improve education..”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll do all that, and I have the added advantage – I’m not Julia Gillard.”

“Neither am I – I’m Kevin Rudd.”

“…Ah… Julia should be PM, you weren’t elected by the people.”

*           *           *

Ok, that’s probably left a few bits out, but I think I’ve covered all the significant things that Abbott has said over the past three years. Voting, for a lot of people, is about perception. Kevin Rudd may be annoying, and remind people of their school principal when he’d try to show the kids that he was a “good sport” and could speak their “lingo”, but, for many, that’s the sort of person who should be running the country.

Abbott, on the other hand, has been suggesting that we need to have a change of Government. That Gillard and Swan need to be removed. In a way, that’s happened in the past week! No, no, complains Abbott, that wasn’t the change I meant. Mm, think the mob, that man is never happy. Of course, some will be thinking that he couldn’t get rid of Julia, but Rudd did. Rudd wins, Abbott is ineffectual.

Now, I realise that these are not sophisticated ideas, but that’s the point. There’ll be thousands of voters who switch based on their impression. Not on what they’ve read. Not on the detail of news bulletin. They’ll vote on what they perceive to be happening. “We wanted change, now we’re happy.” That’s why the Liberals flyer in my letterbox was telling me that this is the same Labor Government. Anyone who follows politics will know that; anyone who doesn’t probably won’t even read the pamphlet.

People do like to follow crowds and jump on the winning side. Will the swing back to Labor in the latest poll create an even bigger one in the next election or will the honeymoon period only last a week? I suspect the former, because Kevin Rudd now looks like a winner. Tony Abbott, on the other hand, continues to complain that we need an election now. It’s a simple message, and his supporters will agree, but I suspect that, for many, it’s starting to sound monotonous. Rather than sound like he’s keen to be Prime Minister, it has the faint sound of desperation. Politically, it also seems strange. If an election had been held straight away, the Liberals would have undoubtedly been saying that Kevin Rudd was worried that the cracks in the Government would start to show. Abbott’s constant demand for an election makes that line of argument a little harder to prosecute. “We want an election now, but calling one shows that you’re scared.” Surely, the Liberals would expect the sooner Rudd calls the election, the less time for his so called “honeymoon” to wear off.

Whatever, I’ve only noticed one poll appearing in the news in the past week. I wonder how many we’ll get in the coming fortnight. And I wonder if they’ll ask the question I asked last week comparing Abbott and Turnbull.

Contrast the Liberals approach with Labor’s:

Faceless Men are at it again, says Liberal ad as Rudd returns

http://2013electionwatch.com.au/campaign-ads/labors-positive-pitch-reintroduce-rudd

[polldaddy poll=7232128]

Too little too late

mouse-on-wheelThe switch has been flicked. Extraordinary. I have seen more reporting of government policy in mainstream press over the last week than I saw in the last three years. This is probably an exaggeration, but isn’t perception reality? All I remember seeing throughout 2010 to 2013 was yet another report about Gillard’s ‘unstable grip on the leadership of the Labor Party’.

Political journalists treat their readers like idiots by pretending that they got the Labor leadership call right. How dare they now pretend to be innocent bystanders and justify their newfound interest in political policy by saying it was all Gillard’s fault that they couldn’t report her policy success. Because when you’re saying something is going to happen for years and it eventually does happen, you still just look like an obsessive, one-track mind with a Murdoch narrative that no journalist had the courage to rise above. A broken clock is right twice a day; however in this case of course it’s worse than that. The mainstream media just kept picking away, kept writing article after article about Rudd’s campaign to destabilize Gillard’s leadership until they gave her no choice but to give in to the bullying. They made the story a reality.

The excuse that Rudd’s campaign was newsworthy, and therefore justifiably reportable is rubbish. We all know there is leadership tension in any party. Anyone keen to use Turnbull or Hockey as their unnamed source would find the same thing on the other side of the chamber. We all know there is plenty of news going on in Canberra and elsewhere all the time. It’s journalists’ decision, it’s their judgment call, to decide, with their limited column inches and word count, what news is important to report. When every political journalist in the country was writing the same article every week, they were declaring to readers that nothing else of importance was happening in this country. And isn’t this how the mainstream media have really failed? Because I can’t believe anyone could argue that Rudd’s blind ambition was a bigger story than any of the things they missed, namely:

Gillard’s Success

It’s amusing now to see so many political journalists writing glowing obituaries about Gillard’s career as the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Actually, it’s not funny. It’s pathetic. Where were these articles before Rudd challenged last week?

Gillard’s amazing legacy will be intact, and future analysis will only improve our understanding of the significance of the last three years of policy reform to the social fabric of our community. That is, on the assumption that Abbott doesn’t dismantle all Gillard’s good work. But no, this was never the story. The story was never on policy, was never on Gillard’s exceptional negotiation skills. It was never on her poise in the face of constant abuse from Tony Abbott, from his colleagues, from many in the media and all their foul mouthed foot-soldiers across social media and deep, ugly dark parts of the internet. Abbott changed this country the day he stood in front of the ‘Ditch the Witch’ sign (twice). He gave permission to the Grace Colliers, to the Larry Pickerings, the Alan Jones, to the Mal Broughs and his fundraising dinner, to children throwing sandwiches. Abbott’s message was that it’s fair game to personally denigrate your opponent for political gain, and to denigrate the position of Prime Minister in the process. He made it fair game to call Gillard a liar every day until it became part of her name. That is Abbott’s legacy. And this is what we saw in the press instead of hearing about Gillard’s amazing success while leading a minority government constantly referred to as ‘chaos’. Journalists should hang their heads in shame when the only way to get an accurate account of Gillard’s leadership is for the Victorian Women’s Trust to buy space in a newspaper.

Ashbygate

I can already imagine the groans of mainstream journalists about this next topic. But this time, before you all start complaining, I’m not imploring you again to take interest in the campaign designed by Mal Brough to remove Peter Slipper from parliament, with the hope of bringing down the Labor Government. I’m not asking you to track down James Ashby and to find out exactly what went on. I’ve come to terms long ago with the realization that you’re just not up to investigating Australia’s own version of Watergate. But again, aren’t you shamed by the Ashbygate trust, which has raised over $50,000 from the public to dig into this story and to reveal the truth? While you complain you can’t afford to do any investigative reporting, we’re all donating funds to see this job done properly by someone else. Well played.

Policy, policy and policy

Is it not a huge embarrassment to the mainstream media that they are now trying to spend the few weeks before the election playing catch up in political policy areas far too complex to leave to sound bites? The electorate deserves better than this. We deserve to know about Abbott’s plans, and how they differ from the current Labor government. I could write fifty posts about all the policy areas that have been totally ignored for the last three years, replaced and wiped out by the unending narrative of ‘Labor leadership tensions’. Here’s a snapshot of a couple, and some questions I would like answered which should, in a decent mainstream media, have been asked years ago:

Climate Change – we saw Abbott on the news every night in his latest stunt, wearing yellow safety vests, stacking bananas and driving trucks. What exactly is his Direct Action Policy? How much will it cost? And how will it actually work? Did you not think when you went along on one of Abbott’s stunt trips it might have been worth asking about this? And to keep asking until you got an answer?

What about the effect of the Carbon Price which was meant to wipe Whyalla off the map? Have you held the Liberal National Coalition to account for all their easily disprovable propaganda and lies, designed to scare voters and to undermine action against climate change? If you bothered to check, the effect of the Carbon Price has been to reduce emissions and to increase investment in renewable energy which will further reduce emissions in the future. This is great news! Also, it’s slightly newsworthy that, even after Abbott spent all his tax-payer funded time and travel allowance on his anti-carbon-tax road trip, the majority of voters haven’t been fooled. Doesn’t this story warrant as much of your attention as a leaky Rudd? It’s just the health of the planet we live on at stake after all. Is the tenant in the Lodge really more important than that?

Paid Parental Leave – This is Abbott’s ‘signature policy’. He is offering to pay women a full time salary, capped up to $75,000 for six months maternity leave, presumably to help them pay their mortgages while they take leave from work. Apart from the fact that this is middle and upper-class welfare on steroids, I am quite concerned that many voters have very little information about the mechanics and cost of this scheme.

Abbott has said he will tax companies to fund this policy. However he hasn’t mentioned it much since business said they weren’t happy about it. I don’t need to imagine Gina Rinehart’s reaction to a tax increase. Can someone please follow up with Abbott about this? Is his policy a policy or not? We want to see another blood oath! One question, which still hasn’t been answered, is a fairly simple one – will a woman who already receives paid maternity leave as part of her employment contract receive Abbott’s paid leave as well? Or does it just top up the employer’s contribution to six months fully-paid leave? Or is it instead of the employer’s contribution? I would have thought this information is kind of important, no? Is anyone going to ask the question?

We could have seen three years of policy analysis, including plenty of comparison of Abbott’s broadband plan, his education funding versus Gillard’s Gonski plan. We could have heard how Abbott’s ‘Stop the Boats’ policy of turning back boats was not going to be accepted by Indonesia, and how it contravened the agreement Australia has made by signing the UN Refugee Convention.

But no. All we saw was sound bites about how Abbott wants to destroy the Labor government, how Rudd wanted to take over from Gillard and how Gillard’s government was always on the brink. We will surely look back at the last three years as a proud, successful time for the Labor Party with an amazing leader. And a time where trust in the mainstream media was eroded to the point of no return. Because journalists and their vested interests in the vested interests of their bosses have failed the electorate. We are now seeing too little too late and democracy is the loser. Shame on you all.

 

An Abbott in the Lodge: “NEVER” (Part four)

lodge 4

The Lodge – the official residence of the Prime Minister

But what if.

Tony Abbott is often touted as being the most effective opposition leader this country has ever had. What criteria people use to reach this conclusion is I am unsure. However it seems to me that it is flawed. Why? Well it’s rather simple really. For almost three years the polls have given the LNP an unassailable lead over the Labor Party. So why the overkill? Obviously both the MSM and Abbott were eager to be rid of the Prime Minister. Did they show good judgement in hounding her out of office in the knowledge that a more formidable and popular opponent would replace her. Why do it when it would have been easier over the past twelve months to let political nature take its course and assume office with little effort. Everyone agreed that the populace had stopped listening to her in spite of her policy success. They needed to do everything possible to see her remain in office. It would guarantee them victory. So what was to be gained by applying the blow torch?

It goes without saying that Julia Gillard was subjected to the most contemptible and at times depraved attacks that in a political sense were unnecessary if just gaining office was the only objective. However, it seems that men cannot help themselves so they went for the jugular and in so doing put Abbott’s election at risk. But they did achieve one objective and set back the political aspirations of women for generations.

If Abbott does lose this election then he could be rightly accused of losing an unlosable one.

Tony Abbott if nothing else is a very colourful character. He is aggressive both physically and in the use of language. His negativity is legendary and he has little consideration for any ideas other than his own and says NO to his opponents policies regardless of their worthiness. He is by evidence and his own admission a liar of some regularity. Added to that he has a political gutter mentality and little respect for the institution of parliament and its conventions.

My personal desire is that Labor wins the forthcoming election. Firstly because it’s the party I support ideologically and at this point in time has the best policies to take this country forward. Secondly because I would prefer never to again see the negative often hateful style of opposition that Mr Abbott has foisted on the Australian people. It may be a way to win office but the country pays a price.

But what if he does win.

He would face governing the country (Perhaps even implementing Labor policies) against a backdrop of unsavoury personal and party distractions. All of these distractions regardless of merit would create major diversions not withstanding constant public intrigue and judgement. He would be a Prime Minister like no other facing constant involvement in court proceedings or by association being on the edge of them.

There is the law suit he is facing in relation to David Ettridge and One Nation. He is being sued by Ettridge for for $1.5 million. His expenses are being looked after by a legal firm of Liberal supporters. Now it is not for me to judge the veracity of Mr Ettridge’s claims (the courts will do that) however, I would just point that firstly Abbott established a slush fund to bring down Pauline Hansen and then lied about its existence on the ABC Late Line program. He would have to explain this to the public. Not a good look for newly elected a Prime Minister. I dare say we could expect a plethora of journalists all chaffing at the bit to fill a few tabloid pages.

Then of course we have the Ashby/Slipper affair and we are awaiting the courts appeal decision. It is difficult to imagine whatever the outcome that there would not be some residual flak that Abbott would have to face. He has said that he had no direct knowledge of the proceedings. He has never explained what knowledge he did have. And if Ashby was granted his day in court it would involve members of his party and he could not escape the obvious implications. He may be able to explain his involvement but he would have to explain the involvement of his colleagues and that would be difficult. If on the other hand the ruling vindicates Justice Rare’s original verdict and an investigation is warranted. Would Prime Minister Abbott have to stand aside? After all, he was suggesting that the Prime Minister Gillard and Craig Thompson do just that under similar circumstances.

Early next year Barbara Ramjan sues Michael Kroger for defamation. Remember she accused Abbott of punching a wall either side of her head during a university altercation. Tony Abbott is not directly involved in this case although he might have to explain the fact that he reckons the event never took place in spite of witnesses saying it did. You might also recall that upon finding out Ramjan’”s standing in the community Alan Jones apologised to her. And she is married to a Supreme Court judge. All in all again not a good look for a new PM.

And Peter Slipper will front court to answer Cab Charge charges. On the surface this might seem trivial but it is still to be explained as to why the matter was not dwelt with in the normal parliamentary manner instead of having to go to court. Again Abbott is not directly involved but he would have to explain his party’s complicity.

And of course, unionist John Setka is also suing Abbott for defamation.

I can think of no person ever running for the position of Prime Minister who would take with them so much personal and party scandal into the office.

What’s on the Menu? Part 2

Brough

Photo: Liberal Party of Australia

A couple of weeks ago, I posted “What’s on the Menu” about the Mal Brough dinner. Someone who works in the hospitality industry raised a number of concerns with me about what people were saying. This person – who I’ll call “Barry” – expressed the view that it was very likely that the people working on the night would have been agency staff, so the idea that they’d be afraid of losing their job didn’t strike him as plausible. Most restuarants, he said, just had a skeleton staff, and used agencies when they had a function such as the one where the infamous menu appeared. (Or didn’t appear!)

“Barry” said that working in hospitality was a hard gig, so people often joked around, so the idea of a fake menu didn’t strike him as implausible. As for the idea that it would be put on the table, well, they have “very severe sexism laws”. Something like that just wouldn’t be tolerated. In the hospitality industry, men and women all get equal respect.

He also had problems with the chef who was sacked. Chefs just don’t get sacked in this industry – very rarely anyway. He only knew of two in his twenty years working in the industry.

Of course, many people have argued that the menu looked professionally printed. “Barry” pointe out that many places now printed their own menus from templates. Knocking up a “joke” menu would be no trouble at all. And I must agree. It’s quite easy to print a professional looking document these days.

It does seem a little implausible that a reputable restuarant would put something so crass on the tables.

All this seems quite reasonable. Still, it does seem strange that Mal Brough knew that the menu was written by “non-party member”. It does suggest that he knew who wrote it, which suggests that he’d seen it before the email from the restaurant owner apologising. So whether the menu appeared on the table or not, Mr Brough seems have been acquainted with it.

Black Swans and Narratives

Black Swan

Photo: Fairfax media

We’re natural story making machines. We like to give our universe a sense of order and reason, so when something happens, we like to create a plausible narrative on this. Of course, sometimes the narrative is just plain wrong, but if enough people repeat it, it seems to make sense.

For example, many people have talked about “that handshake” as being the defining moment in the 2004 election. Mark Latham’s aggressive handshake with John Howard made the electorate think of him as a bully and not controlled enough to be PM. Of course, this completely overlooks the fact that the handshake probably had little effect on the vast majority of the electorate. If a mistake by Howard or one of his front bench had led to a Latham victory, then commentators would be suggesting that the handshake was the moment where Latham defined himself as a younger, more appealing candidate and made Howard look old and past it.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, “The Black Swan” talks about the dangers of retrospective analysis. He argues “almost all consequential events in history come from the unexpected—yet humans later convince themselves that these events are explainable in hindsight.” That we, for example, respond as though the events leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union were obvious and Reagan’s decisions were part of a brilliant strategy.

Apple’s resurgence under Steve Jobs is well documented. With Jobs’ death, Apple may continue to thrive or may be overtaken by a more creative company. Whatever, the narrative may have Jobs as the guru who was irreplaceable, as someone who imposed such a strong culture that Apple continues to thrive or even as someone whose importance was exaggerated. With hindsight, one of those will be an obvious narrative, but which will it be? That’s the interesting question.

And so with Labor’s leadership change. Will the media begin to speculate about a Turnbull challenge if the polls are poor?

A few people have suggested that Shorten has done himself no favours. Of course, that may well be the case. In five years time – if anyone cares – we may be writing that Shorten destroyed his chances of ever being PM when he publicly backed Rudd. But there are many potential narratives. If Rudd goes close or wins (amazing!), then Shorten will be able to paint his “difficult decision” as what saved the ALP from an electoral wipeout. Rather than be the pariah, he can be the “hero” of the narrative. His ambition is obvious, but whether his decision to back Rudd hinders or helps that decision only time will tell.

At the moment, there is a lot of anger from Gillard supporters. Some feel that Rudd’s negativity and treachery shouldn’t be rewarded. I’ve heard more than one person declare that they’ll never vote Labor again. But when it comes to election day, how many will actually preference the Abbott led Liberals above the ALP? Abbott’s negativity or Rudd’s undermining? Mm, if the Greens don’t get a boost, they may as well give up politics and create a real “Direct Action” plan for the environment.

Rudd may not be the messiah. (“He’s just a naughty boy!”) Last night, Michael Kroger was saying that he was the “worst Prime Minister we’d ever had”! (Where have I heard that before?) He also said that Labor all hated each other. No-one asked him if he’d had lunch with Costello lately, or whether he’d like to provide a reference for Jeff Kennett to take over at Melbourne.

But apart from Kroger, the Liberal’s narrative is now looking more inconsistent than ever. “Rudd was replaced by the ‘faceless men’ – outrageous!” becomes “Rudd was restored by the ‘faceless men’ – outrageous!” Except that in recent ballot it was the actual party that voted for Rudd – no suggestion of external union interference. If anything, the unions backed Gillard.

Similarly, the ad that the Liberals have ready, using quotes from Gillard, Latham, Garrett, Emerson and others, doesn’t quite make sense. Aren’t these the people who the Liberals have told us aren’t worth listening to? But how can they work together? Aren’t these people leaving Parliament? 

Even the idea that Julia lied about the Carbon tax and needs to be punished is being blunted by the media. Headlines like “Rudd’s Revenge” may actually help Labor. I know that they’re not intended to. But for some, it’ll be Rudd who got rid of “that woman”, after Abbott was too ineffectual to do it.

How it actually pans out is guesswork. I’m sure that some of the comments will tell me that they know that Labor are still heading for oblivion and that others will tell me that it’s all ok, now Kevin’s back in charge. And some people will be right, but beware the retrospective narrative. Beware the “Of course, Shorten had to do what he did – he saved them!” or “If only they’d stuck with Julia – it’d have be ok!” Some people have announced with certainty that Labor would be thrown out on September 14th and the Liberals had a countdown clock – neither, whichever way it goes, will be true. (Unless Rudd does hold it on September 14th, and loses badly!).

Gillard has done an extraordinary job, under impossible circumstances; history should be kinder to her than the media criticism over the past few years would suggest. But then no-one ever points out that Whitlam left almost no Government debt. Or that “Blue Poles” is now worth many, many more times what we paid for it.

History, someone once said, is written by the winners. Actually, it’s written by the writers. Let’s make sure that the “official” version is not the only voice being heard.

Kevin Rudd is NOT Prime Minister yet!

Image from dailytelegraph.com.au

Kevin Rudd (image from dailytelegraph.com.au)

The media keep announcing that Kevin Rudd is PM again. He’s not!

He’s just been elected leader of the Labor Party. Julia Gillard continues to be PM until the Governor-General withdraws her commission. Which will happen shortly.

Then, it’s highly likely that Bryce will appoint Rudd Prime Minister, but she may wait till tomorrow and ask Parliament to demonstrate confidence in Rudd.

There is a possibility – not a probability, mind you  – that Abbott will be PM by tomorrow. If so, I hope that someone asks him about repealing the Carbon tax on his first day as PM.

But at the time of writing, there is no certainty that the Governor-General will make Rudd the Prime Minister without his support being tested by the Parliament.

So, the blaring headlines: “Rudd Prime Minister again!” at the time of writing are just wrong. He probably will be, but it’s far from a certainty.

If the role of the media isn’t to explain things like this rather than announce what they expect to happen as fact, then they really have just become entertainers! We can’t expect them to inform.

 

Just thought I’d get in first . . .

image

Image from theage.com.au

Labor’s leadership crisis took a turn for the worse today when Rudd replaced Gillard as leader. While Gillard has announced that she will quit politics at the next election, a source told me that someone plans to stand against Rudd in the near future. The source wasn’t clear on who, but they were very sure on when. It’s going to happen a week after the next election. Unless Rudd wins, in which case this person will wait until the honeymoon period is over, so two weeks.

When I pressed him as to who this mysterious challenger was, he assured me that it was someone in a suit. Then, he gave a wink. Followed by a nod. Followed by a gesture with his fingers. So I asked if he was cryptically suggesting that it was a type of bird. “No, a man – someone in a suit.” I tried to explain that meant Wayne Swan, but he went on: “I told you that Rudd would challenge, and I was the one who first predicted the Global Financial Crisis. I predicted it in 1989.”

Shorten, I suggested. At which point my source sunk lower into his seat. I shook my head. Bill, I said to him. No charge, he said, my advice is free. I tried to make myself clearer, Is the challenger Bill Shorten? He looked at me blankly, and said, “Bill Shorten? Isn’t he one of the faceless men? One of the backroom people who do everything behind closed doors? How could he be a challenger when nobody has ever seen him in public?”

When I pointed out that he is part of Labor’s front bench and regularly appears on the news, my source looked confused. “Then how come they keep saying he’s one of the faceless men?”

Clearly Bill Shorten wasn’t the potential challenger. But still I could probably have a regular column repeating the rumours until they become true.

And just remember, when Bill Shorten begins: “In the interest of the Labor Party, and the nation, I can no longer serve under Rudd…” you heard it here first.

Unless you heard it somewhere else, already.

 

Is there a media blackout on Labor’s achievements?

There were a couple of good speeches in Parliament today. One was the valedictory speech by the former speaker Harry Jenkins during which he called on Labor to unite, along with a sprinkling of other negatives towards the party, but they at no time overwhelmed what was an upbeat and positive speech. The media pounced on the negatives. From these little mutterings of negativity sprung the mandatory Labor bashing articles from the usual suspects like the ABC, the Herald Sun, and Perth Now to name but a few. Note that the latter two belong to the Murdoch media. Despite the headlines, it was a great speech. You can watch it here.

The Prime Minister also gave a speech. Her address to CEDA (the Committee for Economic Development of Australia), unfortunately, did not receive the same media attention as the speech by Harry Jenkins did. And why not? Simply, because it contained Labor’s achievements and such material isn’t newsworthy. Here is the transcript of the speech:

Welcome to Parliament House.

Thank you for coming here to build on CEDA’s stewardship of detailed and serious discussion about the state of the Australian economy and its future.

Your presence here this week is not only very important, it is very timely, so I’m particularly pleased to join you first up today.

Three weeks ago the National Accounts for the March quarter of this year were released.

They were solid – they showed our economy is growing and stable and strong – they were good news.

The National Accounts reflected the economy’s underlying stability and strength and our status as a leading nation – yes, in a mixed world environment and yes, with some complex transitions underway.

Solid growth at 2.5 per cent for the year.

Household savings at over 10 per cent.

New business investment still around fifty-year highs as a share of GDP, at 17.5 per cent.

Productivity growth now above trend at 2 per cent.

Net exports making their strongest contribution to growth in four years.

If I can speak candidly, the subsequent discussion has been marked by some strikingly misguided commentary.
I’m not talking here about criticism of the Government’s economic policies – not at all – I’m referring to glaring misstatements about the economy itself.

If “irrational exuberance” has an opposite it’s probably “unreasonable pessimism” and we’ve witnessed that in some quarters these past three weeks.

I want to address that in some detail this morning but first I want to be clear on why I think it’s worth doing.

Simply put, your presence here in Parliament House this week presents you with a special opportunity to bring to the national economic debate the “correction we have to have”.

You can bring to the national public discussion an understanding of the facts, an interrogation of the policy demands that the facts impose on us, an understanding that the benefits of long-term reform are felt precisely over that long-term, and crucially you can present a well-founded confidence in the Australian economy.

I know you will have rigorous and vigorous policy debate and I absolutely welcome critical discussion of the Government’s policy approach.

But I know you want to hear opinion based on facts.

So that’s what I’m asking you to do while you are here – get all the facts on the table, discuss the real policy challenges, and then challenge the negative economic sentiment that is around in some quarters.

Where have the pessimists gone wrong?

First, some reporting has neglected important specific facts about the quarterly figures.

Two particular features would have given Australians some interesting insights on where the economy is headed.

New dwelling investment over the year rose by 10.2 per cent – the strongest annual growth in ten years, further evidence that the non-resource sectors of the economy picking up.

Non-rural commodity export volumes were up 13.2 per cent over the year.

This ramp up largely drove the rise in export volumes – and it is a sign that the production phase of the mining boom we have spoken about for some time is now starting to come through.

These are important signs that the transitions we planned for in the Budget are now underway – yet they went barely remarked.

Second, the most irresponsible pessimists have tossed around the “r” word.

Something not so much sinister as silly, a claim I’m frankly somewhat reluctant to repeat, even in order to contradict it, lest I give it weight.

But consider this.

For the third time in just five years, one leading firm of economists predicted a 20 per cent chance that the Australian economy will actually shrink for two quarters in a row.

Another then quoted a 25 per cent chance that growth would halt completely.

Now as Jessica Irvine has pointed out in a column for News Ltd publications, even these sensationally pessimistic statements were still forecasting the most likely outcome is growth.

Or to put it another way, even these outlying forecasts are themselves statements that the glass is actually three quarters or four fifths full.

Yet the effect on confidence can only be negative and on all the facts, is clearly not justified.

One national daily reported on its front page that our economy had shrunk if you excluded net exports.

You might as well say Shakespeare hardly earned a penny in his life, except from the theatre.

And the assault on confidence in Western Australia was particularly sharp.

This arose from the national accounts reporting that final state demand their fell by 3.9 per cent in the March quarter.

Bear in mind, state demand excludes not only net exports but interstate trade.

You might as well say the economy is shrinking in your house when you exclude the money you earn at your office.

The Secretary of Treasury, Dr Parkinson, and his deputy Dr Gruen responded to this unambiguously in Senate hearings ten days ago. As Dr Gruen put it:

The idea that in the face of the largest investment boom we have ever seen, you ignore exports and focus on the piece of the economy that is demand by Western Australia … belongs in the comic books.

As Prime Minister, I am concerned that left unchecked, this kind of distorted coverage could continue to spread.

Australians woke last Wednesday morning to widespread news reports that markets expected the labour force figures for that day to show 10,000 jobs lost in May.

By lunchtime the ABS figures showed a small increase in jobs.

I don’t know if the Australian Communications and Media Authority would welcome a request for 11,100 corrections to be put to air but if anyone here wants to make that submission feel free to cite me in support.

We all acknowledge that forecasting is difficult – at any time.

But the continued pessimism is not being matched by the continued performance of our key economic indicators and low expectations can themselves become an economic problem.

Now, as I have said, many serious commentators have taken issue with the unreasonable pessimists.

Many of you here share their frustration.

Michael Pascoe in his Fairfax column was the most scathing but also I thought the most amusing, reporting on what he called “squawking”. This led, in his words, to squawk like:

“The national accounts suggest the economy would have contracted without a 1 percentage point boost from falling imports and rising exports…”

Michael went on to say:

It would have contracted if a meteor took out Melbourne and would have expanded if kangaroos started defecating gold.

Yes he is pretty good, isn’t he!

Now you came this morning for a discussion about the economic development of Australia, not an episode of Media Watch.

So it’s important that we be very clear about why it matters to get the public discussion right.

Dr Parkinson’s summary overall, in that same Senate hearing?

Trashing confidence for whatever reason is not in the national interest.

This is the first fundamental point. Confidence matters.

Not hope or optimism, but a well-founded positive sentiment based on the facts, recognising that our economy is growing and stable and strong.

In November 2008, in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens, warned about the need to go about business with a “quiet confidence” in our prospects.

His words:

Given the underlying strengths of the economy, about the biggest mistake we could make would be to talk ourselves into unnecessary economic weakness.

Still true.

Any irrational threat to economic confidence is a threat to jobs and growth.

The second reason to get the discussion right is that as economic decision-makers, we must be able to separate the signal from the noise.

We need to pick the real transitions as they are coming.

Growth in Asia, enduring for decades to come.

The peak of the mining investment boom.

The digital disruption and the clean energy future.

The pick-up in broader sources of growth beyond resources.

Critical for the economy right now – new sources of growth, sustaining economic diversity with a strong dollar.

Perhaps there’s no better example of the failure to separate signal from noise than the pessimists who say that the dollar rising is bad news and then say the dollar falling is bad news.

Last week a retail industry leader who’s spent years advocating for direct relief from the strong dollar and low-price imports did widespread media complaining that the falling dollar was bad for consumer confidence.

This actually happened.

I am sure the recent movements in the dollar will not go unremarked here, so I will say just a few things on that front.

The Australian dollar has been at historically high level for some time now and as you all know this has moderated in recent weeks.

Our high dollar reflects our strong fundamentals – solid growth, low unemployment, low debt, AAA credit ratings – but also the challenges that many other developed economies have faced in the aftermath of the GFC, the worst economic conditions in over 80 years.

More simply, the high value of the Australian dollar has been a combination of our strength and global weakness.

Our strength remains, and the good news is that the signs from America are becoming more positive for their growth.

Improvements in the US economy should be welcome – these support the global recovery and growth in the world’s largest economy provides significant opportunities for Australian exporters.

While the high dollar has provided benefits for consumers, it has meant significant challenges for some of our exporters.

As the Treasurer has said, a sustained depreciation of the Australian dollar in those circumstances would be a very good thing, to stimulate further growth in the non-mining sector – while the firms that have adjusted to the historically high dollar stand to benefit from its fall.

As a Government we recognise we need to be ready to seize the opportunities that the future will bring.

We need to make the right investments and deliver the right reforms.

Your theme this week, of “Australia adjusting”, neatly captures the elements of agency and change that are in play.

Your agenda demonstrates that CEDA, at least, is able to identify the real economic signals and to work up the agenda points for a serious discussion about what is to be done.

Productivity and structural reform: where Labor’s “five pillars” of skills and education, infrastructure, innovation, tax and regulatory reform are so vital – and form a discussion which connects to so many other key areas.

Education: as you put it, ensuring Australia’s future prosperity – nothing matters more and this week is vital for this reform.

Energy policy: a historic challenge to decouple economic growth from emissions growth.

International competitiveness: where the dollar’s recent easing hasn’t eased the demand that we plan for jobs and growth and do so through sustained economic diversity.

Innovation: where the jobs of the future depend so heavily on the ideas and the infrastructure of the future.

Health reform and funding models: the structural reforms already made to Commonwealth-State relations and the structural savings we’ve delivered in Commonwealth spending have begun a process which must continue to sustain public finances.

The big one, the Asian Century, a century of growth and change, of Asian middle-class demand for high value Australian services and goods.

Education and tourism, agriculture and advanced manufacturing, financial services, health services, digital media.

These are the real issues, the big picture, the things that matter. You are absolutely right to be discussing them here this week.

2013 is a big year for Australia.

Economic choices and political choices are before us all.

Choices with consequences, choices with purpose, choices which should be informed, informed by the facts.

The facts are these.

Labor – returning the Budget to balance faster than most of the developed world.
Our net debt – one-third Canada’s, one-fifth Germany’s and one-eighth the size of the United States.

Equivalent to a person with a $100 000 income each year having a $12 000 mortgage.

Our nation’s best ever credit rating.  Interest rates are low.  Inflation is contained.
The average tax to GDP ratio under Labor, well below the previous Coalition Government.

Since Labor came to power, the Australian economy has grown by 14 per cent.

And the bottom line of all bottom lines: under Labor, our nation has created more than 950,000 jobs.

You have a big program before you and I’m looking forward to our conversation because there is so much to discuss.

That speech has all the ingredients that qualify it for media exclusion, or, as the title suggests, a media blackout. Is it any wonder that the Government can’t get their message to the electorate?

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The only poll that matters – seriously!

Polls

Just another poll

I was going to start with a little story but I read a column in “The Age” today. And I’m pleased to say that after last week with their column from Nicole Flint calling Abbott the “thinking woman’s candidate” and their editorial calling on Gillard to stand down, they’ve restored some balance: They have an article from an ex-Labor State MP… calling on Gillard to stand down. But they’ve balanced this by another opinion piece saying that Labor shouldn’t put their hopes in Rudd because he’s too flawed.

Of course, I’m all too aware of the irony of writing a blog about how we’re all sick of people talking about the topic of this blog, so I thought I’d start will a story that has nothing to do with politics.

Once upon a time, Keith and Leanne were a couple, but someone stole Leanne away. Keith was bitter and started saying things, behind their back. Eventually, Keith made an attempt to win Leanne back, but this was unsuccessful. At this point, he said that he wished them well, and that he was going to get on with his own life. About a year later, a friend to both Leanne and Keith said that it was obvious that Keith wasn’t getting on with his life and that Leanne’s current relationship wasn’t working out. So Simon arrange for Keith to meet with Leanne. Keith didn’t show. When asked why, he said that there were no circumstances under which he would be getting back with Leanne. A few months later, Keith starting to help organize Leanne’s engagement party. Some people said that this was Keith’s way of getting Leanne back. When asked about this Keith replied, I’m just helping out and I already said a few months ago that I didn’t believe there were any circumstances under which I’ll get Leanne back. The gossips who’d been repeating all the things that Keith had said, now started to say that there was a BIG difference between the two statements, and Keith’s denial was further proof that he was still after Leanne.

Ok, I’d like to deny that the above story is an allegory where Keith is Kevin Rudd and Leanne represents the leadership. Simon is, of course, a made up character. And…

Yes, that’s right. You don’t believe me. It’s clear that I’m not telling the truth. But let’s just look at the story as a story for a second, and asks ourselves the simple question, what if Keith is telling the truth? What if he has decided that he has no chance of getting back with Leanne?

I – like everyone else – think that Rudd would like to be given the opportunity to be PM again. And I think that if he had the numbers, he’d challenge. But let’s just consider the possibility that there is no challenge this week. Everything he has said publicly is consistent with him working toward a Labor victory. And we’re very much in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario here. If Rudd campaigns, he’s undermining Gillard. If he sits back and does nothing, he’s refusing to help.

Yes, we all KNOW what Rudd is thinking. The media tells us all the time. And yes, the polls say that he’s much more popular than Gillard. But will responding to bad polls so close to an election just make Labor looking poll driven and lacking in a clear vision.

Gillard may well lose. And maybe Simon Crean had the right idea a few months ago when there was time to give people the idea that Labor had “united” under Rudd. But it seems to me that Labor’s best hope is to be able to into the election saying these are things we’ve achieved, these are the things we hope to achieve and we’ve stuck to our principles against all attempts to divert us from what’s important.

The cliche “the only poll that matters” does have a certain truth. But I also think that elections are not just about winning. They’re sometimes about presenting a clear view of how you see the future. When the Liberals lost in ’93, several of them said it was a mistake to let the public in on what they intended to do. I disagree – if you get elected the public find out anyway. If you don’t, at least they know what you’re arguing for.  But there’s one poll that I think is relevant now, and I’ve framed it so that Abbott should be a shoe-in.

[polldaddy poll=7199689]

Let’s do a poll!

Image from ichaps.org

Image from ichaps.org

One of the big problems with polls is that people have no idea what they mean. A few months ago, there was a poll showing that Howard was the most popular PM in the past twenty five years. He got a whopping 35%. Impressive? No, not when you consider that he was the only Liberal PM in the survey. It’d be like doing a survey and asking whether you’d prefer to see Gillard, Rudd, Dreyfus, Shorten or Abbott as PM. One would expect Abbott to win that one.  Howard actually received a lower percentage than the Liberal Party did in 2007 election. So, in other words, many Liberals preferred one of the Labor leaders. Yet this was written up as Howard being the most popular PM in the past twenty five years.

The other problem with polls is that they don’t distinguish between the possible, the probable and the impossible.

Ok, let’s imagine I’m preparing a dinner for a hundred people and to give myself a guide for the menu, I use the following poll:

[polldaddy poll=7198307]

The vegetarian option is liable to be very accurate. Most people who identify themselves as vegetarians aren’t liable to change in between now and the dinner. If it’s particularly appealing, on the night, a few extra may order it, but I’m not likely to need less than the poll estimate. But when it comes to the other three options, there are all sorts of things which may make a difference. For example, news of an outbreak of food poisoning associated with chicken may mean that very few people order the chicken. Similarly, rumours of “mad cow” disease may reduce the number of beef eaters considerably.

These things may change what a person initially indicated. And that’s even before, when presented with the final menu, we discover that the beef comes with brussel sprouts because they’re good for you. (“Yuk, brussel sprouts – think I’ll get the seafood after all!”) Or before the anaphylactics discover that the chicken is covered with a peanut sauce.

When it comes to political polls, the media conveniently overlooks that most elections get decided by the people who only start to pay attention in the final few weeks. So when we start hearing about polls meaning this or that, we should be given more information about the circumstances of the poll. Was there an undecided element, and how large was it? How random was the poll? Did the sample include a range of ages and occupations?  What state(s) was it taken in? Were there differences between the states? In determining the result of the Federal Election, these things will be more significant than the actual 2-3% fluctuations that the media obsesses over – even as they acknowledge that a 2% swing is in the potential margin of error, so it may not even exist. I’ve even heard, after an improvement of 1%, commentators hypothesise about the reason for the “improvement”.

Polls can create their own momentum. If everyone else thinks this Government is bad, who am I to disagree? But they can also create a backlash. “I’m not sure that I want to re-elect this Government, but I’m concerned that the Opposition will get too big a majority like in Queensland.” The question for the coming election is which of those is likely to happen.

In short, the poll doesn’t tell us who are the committed vegetarians and who will only be deciding after seeing the menu. We’re encouraged to believe that it’s all done and dusted, that the election campaign counts for nothing and that Julia Gillard should hand Tony the keys to the Lodge. (Barry Cassidy doesn’t believe that she’ll lead Labor to the election. Or was that last week?) But I’d still like to see a poll which asked whether the person was sure of their voting intentions, or whether they were still to make up their mind. Now, THAT might give us something interesting to discuss.

 

An Open Letter to Mike Carlton

InUnityIsStrengthDear Mike Carlton

As is often the case when I write letters to people, I am writing to you as a representative of a greater group. I think you can guess who this group might be. The Ruddites.

It would be inaccurate for me to say I always read your column in the SMH because I very often don’t. But sometimes I do and I usually find it quite amusing and clever and refreshingly nut-free unlike many other opinion columnists printed frequently in the mainstream press. But the column you published yesterday, on the same topic as The Age’s editorial, was, I’m sorry to say, a shocker. Have you ever heard the phrase: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result? Many of your readers might have forgotten that you wrote on this very same subject – asking the Prime Minister to resign for the good of the country – almost a year ago. Here it is again in case you’ve forgotten. I guess sometimes it’s hard to come up with a new idea for an article every single week. But of all the articles to repeat, this probably had to be the worst subject you could choose, if you wanted to keep your dignity in tact.

The reason I remembered your article from July 2012 was because I wrote about it at the time in my post called ‘The Mobius Strip of Leadership Tensions’. Even then I could never have dreamt that this unrelenting campaign by some Ruddites would still be gnawing away at the stability of Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership, undermining her at every turn. With only 13 weeks to go until the election, I would have wrongly assumed that Ruddites, deep down, just wanted to beat Tony Abbott and would do nothing to damage Gillard’s chances of doing this, even if it meant having to grit their teeth and support a Prime Minister they obviously don’t like. But that’s the thing that really upsets me about your articles Mike – it’s the fact that you think your opinion of Julia Gillard is more important than saving this country from Tony Abbott.

I’m sorry that your favourite Kevin Rudd turned out to be such a lemon. I really am. I liked him too! He saved us from another term of Howard, and his success in protecting the economy from the GFC should always be applauded. I’m sorry that you were unnerved by a change to the natural order of things when, instead of a blue tie, we got a female Prime Minister, our very first one. I’m sorry you have such trouble coming to terms with life under a female Prime Minister – yes she doesn’t ‘do TV’ quite the same as Rudd used to but I really feel her policy achievements are more important than her voice, and I’m sorry you don’t too. These policy achievements have just kept coming, despite the media mis-representing this success with constant tales of ‘chaos’ in the minority government. If Gillard had achieved less than Rudd, or even just the same amount, I could understand that you might be disappointed with her performance. But the only performance you seem to care about is her performance in a sound bite – which quite frankly is a juvenile way to judge the success of a politician.

What upsets me the most about your Ruddite campaign is that you are the ones fulfilling the mainstream media’s prophecy that instability in the Labor party will be their ultimate downfall. The instability is caused by you. Sure, it might be trumped up and over-reported in the mainstream press, but you’re fueling this campaign with evidence of the instability, at the same time as you’re saying you’re trying to save the party! No one has ever been saved by this sort of stupidity.

What if you and your Ruddite mates, including Rudd himself, had just sucked it up three years ago and got behind Julia Gillard, instead of white-anting her at every opportunity? What if you’d realised that every time you publically showed disunity in the party, you were contributing to the terrible polls that you then blamed Gillard for as being all her fault? What if you shut up for long enough to understand that your public slaying of our Prime Minister is a stick for every media outlet in the country to beat her with, and all the ammunition the Liberals need as evidence of ‘Labor chaos’, diluting the real facts behind the Prime Minister’s success. What if the electorate sees people who want a progressive government, like you say you do, bad mouthing our progressive Prime Minister, and this is all they hear. Julia bad. Tony good.

Sadly, we will never know what might have been if the Ruddites had got behind the Prime Minister, had been loyal supporters of her progressive government, had championed her cause, had stopped the rumours, stopped the calls for her to resign, stopped the leadership challenges that came to nothing and had stopped being the sideshow that the media so wanted them to be. I don’t think the press would have suddenly become experts on policy, and I know they would never have accurately reported Gillard’s success to their readers. Their vested interests in an Abbott victory would never have allowed this. But I do know one thing. Your behaviour hasn’t helped. And now blaming Gillard for the position the party is in now, sounds to me, very much like bully boys blaming their victim.

I know if we do end up with Abbott as Prime Minister, I will sleep well knowing I didn’t contribute to this end. How about you Mike? How will you live with yourself?

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