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Tag Archives: Labor.

Labor’s empty promise

Much has been made of the influence of trade unions and the power of factions within the Australian Labor Party and rightly so considering some of their preselections, particularly for the Senate where position on the ticket has become a gift for union and party hacks rather than a reflection of talent.

In Western Australia we saw the disgraceful elevation of Joe Bullock, assistant secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union (SDA), above sitting Senator Louise Pratt, causing her to lose her seat.

To underline what a travesty this was, Ms Pratt outpolled Bullock in first preference below the line votes – 5,390 to 3,982.

Ms Pratt was a talented, intelligent, hard-working Senator. Joe Bullock, on the other hand, is a conservative old white guy who described the ALP as untrustworthy and full of “mad” members and admitted he had voted against Labor.

Bullock described Ms Pratt as a “poster child” for gay marriage and questioned her sexuality. He said he was needed in Parliament otherwise it would follow “every weird lefty trend that you can imagine”.

For some reason, the Catholic right leadership of the SDA feel they should have a say in marriage equality. National President, Joe de Bruyn, who Gough Whitlam described as “a Dutchman who hates dykes”, and who was the driving force behind the elevation of Bullock, said “Marriage started with Adam and Eve.”

It is an “objective” truth, he says, that same-sex couples cannot marry. “Marriage is between a man and a woman; always was, always will be. It is based on what is innate in human nature.”

Paul Conway, secretary of the left-wing Victorian meatworkers union, described the SDA as “a tame cat union.”

“Its primary interest is not its members but numbers in the ACTU and ALP, getting its people into Parliament, having an impact on issues like same-sex marriage.”

Bullock is also anti-republic. Addressing the Australian Monarchist League last year, he said the presence of a monarch protected people from “the oppression of a totalitarian regime”.

“An hereditary constitutional monarchy is particularly well suited to embodying in a living human person a focal point for all the best sentiments of patriotism, duty and public spirit,” Senator Bullock said.

Now, in Tasmania, we are seeing a similar factional power play relegating talented Labor Senator Lisa Singh to an unwinnable fourth position on the Senate ticket. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary John Short leapfrogged the sitting Senator to take third spot.

Senator Singh, who is Labor’s parliamentary secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Water, spent four years in the Tasmanian State Parliament before being elected to the Senate in 2010. She has been very active in advocating many causes and was named Hobart Citizen of the Year in 2004 among other prestigious awards such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2014, one of India’s highest civilian awards, for her exceptional and meritorious public service as a person of Indian heritage in fostering friendly relations between India and Australia..

John Short suggests he is “a reasonable candidate because I’ve got a lot of life experience.”

“I’ve done a lot in my life, brought up a family, struggled at times, and I know what it’s like to struggle, and I stand up for workers every day.”

Lisa Singh is unaligned to any faction and that, rather than lack of talent or performance, is what will cause her demise. Former Queensland senator Margaret Reynolds weighed in on the issue, saying that preselection was a weakness in Australian politics because it relied on the wheeling and dealing of powerbrokers.

Former Franklin Labor MHR Harry Quick also criticised the decision.

“Another example of the Tasmanian Labor Party looking after their mates, regardless of the talent pool available to them,’’ he said. “Having Lisa Singh as a senator has injected a degree of humanity and tolerance to a moribund Senate team, currently representing the union and party hacks who do as they are told.’’

In July this year, Bill Shorten made the following pledge to the ALP National Conference:

“Let us end the debilitating gender divide. Because if Australia can lead the way in equality for women then we will truly be the richest nation in the world.

Rich in every sense of the word.

Our goal should be nothing less than the equal participation of women in work … equal pay for women at work … and an equal voice for women across our parliament.

So let this Conference declare, by 2025 … 50 per cent of Labor’s representatives will be women.

Only in a society where men and women are treated equally, can the true potential of women and men be achieved.”

When the ALP dumps two outstanding young women with proven success in public service for two old men who have done nothing to recommend them, and who express views that are diametrically opposed to Labor policy, one can only conclude that the noble aspirations expressed by Mr Shorten are nothing more than hot air and that he does not have the power or the inclination to make them a reality.

 12 total views,  3 views today

Give Labor a big tick

It was bound to happen and I’m glad it did.

After weekly emails from Labor – that were generally pointless or simply wanted me to sign a petition – I am pleased to announce that something constructive found its way into my inbox.

Instead of garbling on about nothing or inviting me/email recipients to send stern words to the government about whatever horrible policy they were trying to thrust upon us . . . Labor wants my opinion about the policies important to me.

I don’t know how many people received said email but I do hope that a hell of a lot of people are on their mailing lists. I want a hell of a lot of people telling Labor what is important to them.

Now to the email:

We want to make sure our community is heard. We have so many supporters who are passionate about so many different issues.

That’s why we’d like to hold a series of Facebook QandAs with Labor Shadow Ministers so that you can ask your questions about Labor’s plans and policies directly from the source.

So what issue are you most passionate about?

The Budget

The Economy

Education

Environment and Climate Change

Foreign Affairs

Health

Higher Education

Immigration and Asylum policy

Infrastructure

Innovation and Start-ups

National Security

The NBN

NDIS

Regional Australia

Social Security, Pensions and Welfare

Are Labor actually about to start implementing some policies? Are they actually trying to shake off the Liberal-Lite label? Are they actually trying to move forward again now that Tony Abbott and his wedge-style of politics have been swept away?

If ‘yes’ to all of the above, then “thank you, Labor”.

For two years I’ve been dumbfounded as to why the issues important to me have been ignored. There must be tens of thousands of Labor supporters who feel the same way, but at last Labor wants to hear from us.

As I’ve been the first to complain over these two years I will be making sure I am one of the first to tick some of the boxes. Please join me. We are about to be listened to.

 22 total views,  1 views today

Labor need to stand for more than just climate change

The latest email from Labor read:

Roswell —

In case you missed it: last week Tony Abbott committed all of us to one of the weakest emissions reduction targets in the developed world – 26%.

This means we would fail to meet our commitment to help limit climate change to 2 degrees in the lead up to the Paris Climate Change Conference. Climate scientists say that if the world fails to limit warming to 2 degrees, we reach a dangerous tipping point where there are natural changes that release huge amounts of greenhouse gases like methane from melting permafrost and huge forest fires. That’s why we have to have a serious commitment to joining the world in limiting warming to 2 degrees, but it’s clear the only way to get real action on climate change is to get rid of Tony Abbott. He never believed the science of climate change, and not even the rest of the world can convince him.

The polls show the Australian people are well and truly over this guy, but a week is a long time in politics and we can’t assume we won’t have one hell of a fight on our hands to win back government and put in place a decent and responsible climate policy. To do that we need passionate Australians like you to give us a fighting chance at the next election and righting this wrong. Can you contribute $5 today?

The next election will be a choice between real action on climate change vs none. Labor has a vision to reach 50% of renewables by 2030 and we want to see our country do its part to reduce emissions. Please help us and together we can get this message out – climate change is too important for us to remain quiet.

Thank you for your support,

Skye Laris
Digital Director

Maybe, to a point, the next election will be a choice between real action on climate change vs none, but I don’t agree that it’s the only issue as they so suggest.

Perhaps they need to read my earlier post and start getting real vocal in their support for things like:

  • same sex marriage (glad to see that they do)
  • the National Broadband Network (which they’ve gone quiet on)
  • raising taxes for the rich (which they haven’t mentioned)
  • taxing the super profits of mining companies (which they’ve also gone quiet on)
  • getting rid of internet regulation (OK, they’ll be called hypocritical after first having supported it, but they shouldn’t have supported it in the first place)
  • holding politicians financially responsible for promoting false statements
  • investing in the construction of a high speed rail (they’ve also gone quiet on this)
  • pricing carbon emissions (we’re starting to here a whimper about this, but it’s all negative rubbish coming from Murdoch)
  • not allowing Coal Seam Gas (CSG) projects in Australia.

For goodness sake, start fighting for what the people want and don’t be afraid to mention it.

And by the way, I can’t spare the $5. However, if you start being a bit more proactive in listening to your supporters then I might chuck in ten.

 7 total views,  1 views today

The election: hope versus fear

Hope Versus Fear

Abbott is gearing up for an election. First he wants to ensure he will be the leader who takes the Liberal National Coalition to an election, and this is by no means a done deal. And then he is convinced that he can sloganeer away the poll deficit he needs to win a second term. Or rather, his strategists are convinced they can come up with effective slogans to take Abbott to victory, and Abbott is happy to believe them.

As reported in the Guardian this week, Lynton Crosby of campaign strategist firm Crosby Textor, is confident he can use the Liberal staple of simplistic messaging around ‘economic competence’ to convince a not-very-interested-in-politics electorate to forgive everything Abbott’s wrecked with his wrecking ball, and to have permission to fire up an even bigger wrecking ball in a second term. But the question is, will the electorate fall for what basically comes down to a dirty, negative, fear campaign again? Because that’s what Crosby really means when he says Abbott needs to rely on a simple message focused on economic competence. He really means that Abbott needs to scare the electorate into thinking they’ll lose their jobs, they’ll lose their homes, they’ll be destitute and on the street if they don’t do what they’re told and vote for Abbott’s Liberals. It really is as simple as that apparently.

But are Australians going to fall for this again? Are the Turkeys really going to vote for Christmas? Will Australians again drink up ‘Great Big Tax’, ‘Axe the Tax’, ‘Stop The Boats’ and more recently ‘Jobs and Growth’ – the bogan slogans that make Abbott sound like a 2 year old whose just learned a new word and wants to wear it out on his parents?

This is where I pause from typing and I sit back and worry. It doesn’t make rational sense that Australia would be so gullible to fall hook-line-and-sinker for such an obvious, shallow, implausible slogan to scare them into making the second biggest mistake of their lives after their first mistake elected Abbott in the first place. But there is nothing rational about politics. Especially when you mix irrationality with fear, a fear that experts like Crosby and Textor are very good at whipping up. This is why the re-election of Cameron in the UK sent chills down my spine. Cameron was just as unpopular as Abbott and resided over just as big an austerity-caused-badly-managed-economy with high unemployment and barely any growth. Yet he still was given the keys to the country again to wreak more havoc on not just the UK economy, but also to hammer the UK health system, education and social welfare system. But Crosby and Textor helped the very-easily-frightened electorate to forget about all this havoc and they’ve given Cameron a mandate to make the situation even worse. Fear really does make people do stupid things.

It seems like a simple problem to solve, however, it’s not. If you were working as a campaign strategist for Labor, you would think you could just point out to voters how utterly hollow Abbott’s ‘economic competence’ slogan is, how unfounded in reality, and how dangerous it would be to let Abbott’s economic incompetence continue to hurt the economy and to destroy jobs. The statistics are easy to quote – Abbott’s unemployment rate of 6.34% is the highest in 13 years, growth is stagnant and even Abbott’s favourite stick to beat Labor with – government debt – is up $100 billion since Abbott took over the job. The ironic thing is that Australia’s debt and deficit wasn’t even a major problem when Abbott turned it into a vote-winning-slogan, and yet he’s gone on to make this debt even larger. Yet still his strategists feel confident that they can run a fear campaign based on the strongly held electoral perception that Liberal governments are better economic managers than Labor governments. Even after Labor saved the country from a recession during the GFC, a GFC the Liberals claimed never happened, which Labor says didn’t happen to Australia because of Labor’s good economic management, which the Liberals now say is the reason the Australian economy isn’t strong – because the world economy still hasn’t recovered. See how irrational politics is? Facts are irrelevant when it comes to emotional responses to fear campaigns. Labor strategists have hopefully worked this out.

But what’s the answer then? If you can’t convince the electorate that Abbott’s claims of economic competence are as baseless as all the promises he made during the election, which have now been broken, how does Labor ensure that Abbott doesn’t win a second term?

I suggest Labor should learn from Abbott’s success and forget about quoting facts. Facts are really good at convincing people they are right when they can use them to back up their own preconceived, emotional beliefs. For instance – I know Abbott’s the most incompetent and unproductive Prime Minister Australia has ever had, and this article gives me the facts to prove it. A swing voter, on the other hand, doesn’t care about such analysis. So what Labor needs to do is forget about facts and appeal to emotions. In doing so they have two options: the first is to use the dark-arts of Crosby and Textor by scaring people about the prospect of an Abbott second term. This should be relatively easy. The very thought of such a thing terrifies me and although I know I’m not your average swing voter, surely Abbott has done enough scary things in the last two years for Labor to be able to convincingly show how things could get much scarier if Abbott has another go? And surely he’s given enough hints about what he might do in a second term – such as his promise not to increase the GST this term or to make any industrial relations changes this term – to scare people off living this reality?

The second option is to rise above the negative fear campaign of what an Abbott second term would look like, and to appeal to a much more savoury emotion – hope. Labor’s ‘hope for the future’ campaign could focus on all the things Abbott is interested in wrecking that Labor wants to invest in. Jobs of the future. Technologies of the future. The educational needs for jobs of the future. A safer environment for the future. Energy needs and industries of the future. I love the idea of a ‘rise above’ campaign, but I also recognise it’s naïve to think the electorate is ready to put long term progress ahead of short term Abbott-opportunism. So really there is a third option; a little from column A and a little from column B. Simplistically it looks something like this – ‘Abbott will wreck everything, so vote Labor for a brighter future’. Sounds good doesn’t it. If only it was so simple.

 

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Bill Shorten’s Address at ALP National Conference on Asylum Seeker Policy – Key points

Below is the video of Bill Shorten’s address at the Labor Conference, regarding Asylum Seeker and immigration policies. Key points from the address are listed below:

Key Points:

  • Immigration has been one of the secrets of Australia’s success.
  • Shorten believes in a new direction for Australia’s immigration policies
  • Accept more refugees and ensure we treat refugees more humanely
  • Shorten guarantees to keep closed the lethal journey between Java and Christmas Island, which claims lives.
  • Australia can be the greater, kinder nation, we want our children to see.
  • A Labor Govt will keep more people safe in a more humane way
    • Safe from persecution by dictatorial regimes
    • Safe from the exploitation of criminal people smugglers who prey upon the vulnerable.
    • Safe from abuse in facilities which even fail to meet the basic standard of decency
    • Safe from losing people they love from having families torn apart from drownings at sea
  • In addressing this, unlike the Liberal National Coalition, we do not play to the politics of fear
  • Labor will never use labels to denigrate desperate people
  • Fleeing persecution is not a crime
  • We will not pander to a noisy tiny minority who will never embrace multi-cultural Australia
  • Shorten acknowledges the history of Asylum seeker policy
  • We must ensure Navy, customs officials and border force people never again pull bodies from waters
  • We must maintain regional settlement agreements Labor introduced. Safest deterrent to people smugglers
  • Under Labor’s policies people smugglers cannot falsely advertise settlement in Australia
  • There are now over 60 million displaced people in the world through no fault of their own and this will only increase
  • Risking lives in unsafe vessels will only increase and desperation will become more intense.
  • We should never tolerate the exploitation of vulnerable people.
  • We cannot allow people smugglers to take advantage of perceived weakness.
  • We need to ensure people smugglers cannot traffic vulnerable people.
  • We need to ensure Australia provides safe haven to a greater share of refugees
  • Displaced people will arrive here more safely.
  • We must have the option of turning boats around provided it is safe to do so.
  • By 2025, a Labor Govt will double Australia’s annual refugee intake to 27,000 people.
  • Labor will dedicate a portion of our program to resettling refugees from our region.
  • Labor will abolish temporary protection visas
  • Labor will reinstate the United Nations Refugee Convention in the Migration Act.
  • Labor will reverse the Abbott Govt’s retrograde efforts to undermine international law
  • Labor will deliver historic 450 million dollars to the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees
  • Labor will take up overdue leadership role to work and engage with our neighbours, including Indonesia
  • Labor supports regional processing.
  • Processing offshore does not mean we can offshore or outsource our humanity
  • Vulnerable people should never be subject to degrading violence in Australia’s name.
  • To guarantee safety Labor will implement Independent oversight of every Australian funded facility
  • Labor will ensure refugee claims are processed as quickly as possible.
  • Labor will restore access to the refugee review tribunal
  • Labor will ensure increased transparency for processing times.
  • Labor will fulfil the solemn duty we owe to children.
  • Labor will end the moral shame of children in detention as quickly as possible.
  • Labor will establish an Independent Children’s Advocate
  • Independent Children’s advocate will be separate from Department, Minister & Government, serving only the interests of children.
  • In addition to Whistle Blower safeguards, Labor will legislate to impose mandatory reporting of any child abuse in all facilities.
  • Labor’s plan ensures Australia takes a fair share of refugees
  • Labor’s plan ensures refugees in our care are treated with humanity and dignity
  • Labor’s plan ensures that Australia steps up and fulfils a greater responsibility as a global citizen
  • Shorten says he did not enter politics to shirk hard decisions and hard issues
  • Shorten is determined for our country to be responsible in the world and secure at home
  • Shorten is determined for us to be a welcoming, kind, compassionate and safe destination
  • Shorten is determined Labor will achieve this for Australia.

*Video sourced from Bill Shorten’s Facebook page.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

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Still being lied to

So it seems that Bill Shorten will be taking a proposal for a 50% renewable target by 2030 to Labor’s national conference in Melbourne this weekend. Accordingly, climate change is shaping up to be a major battleground for the next election – probably much to Abbott’s chagrin. On this argument, the Coalition starts from behind. Tony Abbott would prefer the discussion to be neutralised and as a result the government is stepping up the rhetoric to attack Labor’s history and position on the climate change front. As a result, the laughably-named Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, has been working the airwaves furiously to poison the national consciousness.

Shorten’s laudable goal, as those who have been watching the development of renewable energy and its increasing prevalence in the energy mix of countries and even Australian States will know, is technically not difficult. Labor describes the proposal as “ambitious”, but the main challenge with achieving this is political. The primary difficulty is that the Australian people are skeptical about the ability of renewable energy to be a practical, economical choice for energy generation, and consecutive conservative governments have sought to play up on that uncertainty at the behest of their backers and overlords, the existing fossil fuel oligarchies. The Australian people have been lied to from the outset.

They’re still being lied to now. Greg Hunt has been given saturation coverage on news media outlets, parroting the Government’s official response to the reports of this labor policy proposal. The detail of Hunt’s interviews and discussions has varied slightly from broadcast to broadcast, but the salient points remain the same. Unfortunately but predictably, the Government’s official stance – and thus Hunt’s answers – is a farrago of lies and mistruths that often pass without challenge. The ABC is not immune to this mistreatment: in several ABC news interviews Hunt has made the same baldfaced statements without being challenged. The ABC can’t be blamed for this. In an already fraught environment with the national broadcaster under continual threat, challenge and attack by our government, it is vital for the ABC to retain an appearance of impartiality for its news arm. Rather, the problem is with our laws and systems that contain absolutely no penalty for a Government Minister to lie to a reporter, and to lie to the Australian people, so long as they can get away with it. A Minister can lie with impunity – as long as their lie goes unchallenged.

This is a problem, as we head into an election year in 2016. Standard practice in news reporting is to describe the news item of the day, interview appropriate persons involved with the policy or proposal or scandal, and drill into the detail to as shallow or deep an extent as time allows. Then, in the interest of “balance”, journalism will often seek a response from the other side. In politics, this brings us to a situation where the Coalition, with the benefit of incumbency, can coast with few policy announcements, leaving Labor few opportunities to respond. Labor’s situation is more challenging. Winning back government from opposition is difficult and requires a constant stream of policy announcements. When the last word in a news report comes from a Coalition minister in response, far too often the sound bite the audience will remember is the government’s position. If that position is in error, the voters have been misled.

A news reporter is not in a position to challenge a statement made. That comes down to us – the concerned public. It is incumbent on us to be informed, and to inform others who might otherwise be taken in by the lies.

Because the Coalition adheres to the concept that repeating a lie often enough will convince people to take it as truth, their talking points in response to Labor’s proposed policy are consistent and we will hear them trotted out regularly over the coming weeks. Each one of them is demonstrably untrue and the best response progressives can make is to have ready clear, concise explanations as to why each Coalition argument is based on a falsehood. With that in mind, what follows is a precis of the Coalition’s talking points on Labor’s proposed renewable energy target and ETS.

The centrepiece of the policy will be a new carbon tax.

“Carbon tax – they’ll call it an emissions trading scheme, but it’s the same thing, with the same effect, the same hit on electricity prices…” In a recent interview, asked several times for clarification, Hunt fell back on the government’s agreed attack line: that an ETS is just a carbon tax by another name. This was not true the first time around and it is certainly not true now. The reason why is very simple.

Under a carbon tax, every emitter pays for their emissions. Every tonne of carbon carries a cost. The incentive is obvious for the business to reduce its carbon emissions and pay less tax. All taxes raised go to the government, for use in whatever way it deems appropriate. The government may choose to return some of the taxes to companies in the form of incentives and subsidies, but to do so is to devalue the impact of the tax. Over time, unless you force changes to the tax rates through parliament, the price of carbon remains the same.

In contrast, under an ETS, businesses are permitted to release carbon emissions up to a cap, without any cost to them. If a business holds sufficient carbon permits, it can emit as much carbon as it likes with no financial cost at all. If it emits less carbon than it holds permits for, it can trade the excess permits on the market, allowing other businesses more latitude to emit carbon. This brings you to the question of how the business gets the permits in the first place.

Under the Gillard government’s ETS, initial permits were allocated for free to relevant industries to shield them from the immediate impact. Other organisations were forced to purchase initial permits. Over time, under an ETS, the number of permits available is regulated to decrease, providing incentive to companies to reduce their carbon emissions over time: as time goes on, carbon permits become more expensive, increasing the benefit to the company if it can trade its excess permits on the market, and increasing the cost of permits if it does not.

Due to compromises with the Greens required to get the legislation through a hostile senate, the price of permits was set for an initial three year period and the permits were not eligible to be traded, thus making the scheme’s initital appearance close enough to a “tax” to make it unworth arguing the semantics of “tax” and “ETS”. This led, in short order, to Labor being lambasted as a high-taxing regime (ironic, coming from the party which would soon implement a much more oppressive tax regime) and Julia Gillard as a liar.

Labor has learned its lesson on this front. It is fair to assume its new ETS will not commence with a set price and untradeable permits. For the government to claim that Labor’s new ETS will be “exactly the same” as a carbon tax is misrepresentation of the highest order. The ETS will be a different thing, with a very different effect, working in a very different way.

Greg Hunt knows this very well. This is the same Greg Hunt who won an award for co-authoring a thesis about implementing an ETS in Australia. Until recently some on the left held a grudging respect for Mr Hunt, being forced to toe the party line against his own documented beliefs, and pity, for being one of the few realists in a cabinet laced with flat-earthers. His recent performances have shown that he is a thorough convert to the Coalition’s paradigm that somehow a market-based scheme is far inferior to direct governmental intervention. As a result, his respect has died, leaving him only with pity.

Regardless of his personal beliefs, however, Greg Hunt knows very well that an ETS is not remotely similar to a carbon tax, and to claim that it is is to deliberately mislead Australian voters.

A higher renewable energy target will increase electricity prices

The talking point that a renewable energy puts upwards pressure on power prices seems an article of faith for the Coalition. This also is demonstrably untrue. ETS or carbon tax aside, all experience in Australia to date disproves the idea that renewable energy competition can push the price of electricity up. All models and analysis, including the government’s own modelling, show clearly that renewable energy puts competition and downwards pressure on energy prices. The only group that this hurts is the big energy generators and distributors, who coincidentally are big benefactors of the Coalition.

An ETS did have the expected outcome of pushing up power prices from carbon-heavy power generators. Gillard’s government allowed for this and overcompensated consumers for the expected price increases.

The one thing likely to place significant upwards pressure on energy prices is the effect of Queensland’s previous, liberal government opening its gas markets to export. The result is that gas, one of the major energy sources for much of Australia’s eastern seaboard, will now be traded at the significantly higher international price rather than the domestic one.

The carbon tax “didn’t work”

Perhaps the most egregious lie of all is the continued insistence by the Government and Greg Hunt as their mouthpiece that the carbon tax was ineffective. It has been claimed that during the carbon price, emissions continued to increase. This is true. What is wilfully ignored in that discussion is that, under the influence of the carbon price, emissions rose less than they would have otherwise done. In fact, the carbon price was restricted to a relatively small part of Australia’s economy. In sectors where the carbon price applied, carbon emissions decreased markedly. (And, unsurprisingly, upon the repeal of the carbon price, carbon emissions in these sectors immediately increased again). Hunt has argued that Australia’s carbon emissions were already falling prior to the introduction of the carbon price and that the ETS had little effect. This also is untrue. In short, the government’s overblown claims about the carbon tax are almost universally deliberately misleading or even entirely untrue. The carbon price, even at a high price per tonne and acting like a tax, had little effect on the overall economy, destroyed no country towns, and was being remarkably successful at reducing Australia’s emissions.

A new ETS could do the same again.

Labor is inconsistent

Greg Hunt foamed that the parliament had “…just voted for stability in the renewable energy sector…”, referring to the recent passing through the parliament of a reduced renewable energy target for Australia. This criticism popped its head up but has now subsided; perhaps the Coalition has decided that talking about “the politics” is a little too fraught to be a certain winner. In any case, the fact that Labor reluctantly supported the government’s cut of the renewable energy target to 33,000 GW does not mean that Labor is inconsistent. Labor was able to forge a compromise position for the sake of settling the argument in the short term and giving certainty to the existing renewable energy market, but it was clear that this figure was not Labor’s preference.

Frankly, it seems amazing that Labor was able to secure any kind of a compromise from this government, after more than a year of the government steadfastly refusing to budge from its original position. As this government has shown, any policy agreed to under one government is not sacrosanct to the next.

The truth shall set you free

Armed with the facts, it becomes easier to counter the government’s wilful misinformation. Not easy, of course: there are none so blind as those who will not see, and for many in the Australian public the prevailing narrative being told by the government is emotionally compelling. But there are some who may be persuaded by actual facts and evidence. It is for these people that we must be prepared to call it out when we see the government deliberately distorting history and building straw men on Labor’s commitments. We must be able to point out that they have been lied to, and they are still being lied to.

 

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Labor’s plans for a highly skilled, smarter future for Australia

Tonight in front of a capacity crowd at Trades Hall in Sydney, Bill Shorten MP laid out Labor’s plans for a highly skilled, smarter future for Australia at the Sydney Jobs Forum.

 

Transcript

Labor has a plan to create the jobs of the future for all Australians and it was fantastic to be able to present these ideas and our program for the future of jobs in Australia at the Sydney Labor Jobs forum tonight.

Australians are smart! We understand that if we want to create jobs we need to be a smart nation. So Labor will have a program at the next election – an economic program for jobs. That is what good Labor Governments do.

We understand that older Australians – they lose their jobs and face the ruthless discrimination of age.

We know that our young people in country towns and pockets of our cities face unacceptable levels of unemployment and people with disabilities are treated as second class citizens too often in the labour market.

So a Labor Govt will absolutely have policies that go towards helping these groups get equal opportunities in the market place and work. Our democracy has the ability for every person to contribute to it. Every one of us has the chance to challenge the status quo.

Labor believes that no Australian is expendable. I promise you that Labor will be guided by an economic program for jobs. We believe in unleashing the potential and possibility of Australians.

The mining boom was nothing compared to what a Labor Government can do with the great creative capacity of the Australian people. We need to win the next election because the Australian people deserve better than what they are getting now.

Jobs for now and the future!

Originally published on Polyfeministix

Video via NSW Labor

 

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Sweeteners

porkbarrel-e1409295205387 “Australians don’t want another election”, says Tony Abbott. Naturally, this reflects both his own achievement of the goal – personal power – and the government’s standing in the polls. For Tony Abbott, elections are not about fulfilling the will of the people. They are about putting the right people into government. The “right people” are already there, job’s done, so there’s absolutely no call for another election – even one that might strengthen the government’s own standing.

In any case, a new election at this point in the cycle would not suit the Coalition. It is standard political operating procedure. In your first year in office, you do the “Mother Hubbard” trick and use it as an excuse to bring in the most unpopular and difficult of your priorities. To some extent you can still trade off this dialogue for your second budget as well.

By the time you get to the third year in office, you need to start thinking about another election, which means you focus on what little tidbits you can feed to a battered population. John Howard was a past master at this cycle and it bought him three terms despite the most egregious betrayals of the electorate – including a “never, ever” GST. It was only the continued focus on Workchoices – introduced midway through a cycle and still “alive” at the time of the 2007 election – that ended his run. This was despite Howard’s late attempt, in mid 2007, to introduce a “sweetener” to his toxic IR platform, in the form of a fairness test.

This is actually a crystal clear example of the way the Coalition works: impose your ideological position early, and if required, water it down slightly by the time of the election. You still end up with most of your goals intact.

A couple of days ago Kaye Lee related the experience of a senior government official, who was confident the Coalition would win the next election: “The sweeteners are coming and that is what they will remember.” If this is true, then Australia needs an election NOW – before the Coalition gets the chance to bring about its full electoral cycle of “hit hard, then give ’em back some of what you took to win votes”.

This statement leads to consideration: what kind of sweeteners can the Team Big Australia realistically offer come 2016?

It is certainly true that the toughest changes in the recent budget are expected to come to pass later rather than earlier – either ramping up over the next few years, or budgeted to become active after the next election. In part, this is Tony Abbott’s self-limitation: his unwarranted promises not to impose changes to education, health, the ABC or seemingly anything else before another election. Those promises force Abbott to adopt a largely status-quo approach: no major changes for the first few years. How that must smart.

Politics operates on a long-term forward-planning basis, but it’s often not good at communicating that. See, for example, Labor’s MRRT, the proceeds from which are expected to ramp up significantly in the next few years. That won’t save it from the Coalition’s “barely any revenue” rhetoric or its intractible desire to repeal it.

Therefore, much of the pain of Joe’s budget, the budget that we’re all squealing so loudly about, doesn’t actually kick in until after the next election. Notable exceptions are the changes to Newstart / Youth Allowance eligibility, which start on 1 January 2015, and the medicare co-payment, scheduled to begin 1 July 2015. (Both dates presume the legislation can be successfully passed before those deadlines.) But many of the most painful elements, including the indexation changes to the age pension and the $80bn cuts to health and education payments to the States, aren’t expected until after 2016.

All of this indicates that come 2016, the Coalition has more pain in mind, not sweeteners. But lately, the conversation has notably changed tack.

Joe Hockey has previously stated that the 2014 budget is just the start. We don’t hear much said about this any more – the idea that the Coalition wanted to go further, cut more harshly. Instead, the promise of doing more, with the implication that this is necessary and good, has transmuted to an amorphous threat that more will come if Labor and the Greens don’t play ball and pass this budget. The conversation has changed. Instead of being the first step in a long-term dialogue with the Australian people, “starting a national conversation about how we can live within our means” as Hockey said at the time, the 2014 budget is now the magic pill that tastes bad but will make it all better by the time the next election comes around.

It seems like not too far a stretch to expect that the Coalition plans to begin handing out its incentives by the time the next election comes around. Again, what kind of sweeteners can it actually offer? And is there any possibility that they might be successful? Will the Coalition really “romp home” in 2016?

Having run so hard on the concept that “Nothing is for free… nothing can continue to be free,” it seems unlikely that they will offer to restore the social support structures they’re currently fighting so hard to dismantle. Changes to unemployment benefits, healthcare funding, and pensions are long-term structural changes. The intent is good even if the methodology is not; these are areas where ongoing expenditure must be controlled for fear of them outstripping the government’s ability to support them. It would be counterproductive for the government to offer to retreat from its changes, so it’s fairly certain that, once legislated, the six-month furlough of payments, the medicare co-payment, and the changes to eligibility and indexation of support payments will be here to stay.

They could offer more infrastructure. But Tony Abbott’s repeated mantra of being “the infrastructure Prime Minister” appears to be falling on deaf ears. This is partly because of the Coalition’s intent to artificially restrict the kind of infrastructure projects it will engage in, and partly because of a range of State Liberal governments backing unpopular or inefficient projects that lack the populist chops except amongst people who are already their strongest supporters.

Thus the Coalition is likely to find itself constrained by the time of the next election. Building more schools and hospitals will not be helpful if the funding for existing schools and hospitals has been gutted. By the time of the next election the promise of more toll roads is unlikely to be a big draw-card, and the Coalition doesn’t want to be engaged in building rail.

This leaves tax cuts: the perennial stopgap of conservative governments and darling of John Howard’s appeal to the battlers. Tax cuts are within the Coalition’s DNA – their raison d’etre is to reduce taxes, reduce government offerings, and reduce community support. For those who can’t prosper under those conditions, the Market Will Provide.

Past Coalition election sweeteners have included a succession of income tax cuts, company tax cuts, and bonuses – for instance, the baby bonus was introduced by Howard in 2001. The 2007 election campaign carried all manner of sweeteners – 9 billion dollars worth – if we would only give the Coalition another chance. In many cases these offerings were “me-too” responses to promises already made by Labor.

So any incentives the Coalition can offer are likely to come in the form of tax cuts. They might be named “bonuses” or “supplements”, and they might be one-time only, but effectively the government will offer cash, hand over fist. Labor’s offer to increase the tax-free threshold to $18k and adjust the tax brackets, effectively giving tax cuts to large portions of the electorate, will be entirely forgotten in the rush of joy we will all feel at the government’s largesse. Expect many congratulatory statements from Team Abbott about how we all “pulled together”, bore the pain, took our medicine and reached a point, thanks to the Coalition’s careful management of the economy, where we can afford the rewards.

But will sweeteners be enough to secure the Coalition another term? It’s been repeatedly said that elections are lost, not won. It’s certainly true that the past two changes of government have occurred in spite of offered sweeteners, rather than because of them. In 2007, as mentioned above, Howard offered more incentives to electors in addition to a concession of watering down his beloved WorkChoices regime, but that didn’t save him; public opinion was far too set against his government and Kevin Rudd led Labor to a resounding victory. In 2013, too, Labor had far more on the table than the Coalition, including the aforementioned adjustments to income tax that would have seen millions of Australians no longer needing to pay tax at all. Ironically, Tony Abbott’s repealing of this legislation means that many more people are paying more tax than they otherwise would. Regardless of the sweeteners on offer, voters resoundingly voted Labor out of power. Unfortunately, the corollary is that they voted Tony Abbott in, without ever necessarily being won over by his ideological intentions on policy. Labor warned the electorate, at length, about the likely outcomes of an Abbott victory. Tony Abbott blithely dismissed these warnings as political alarmism and promised that he wouldn’t be like that at all. So now that his reassurances have proven hollow, could the Australian people be hoodwinked a second time?

We’ve never seen a government with the trajectory of the Abbott government. Already it languishes in depths of unpopularity not traditionally seen until several terms into government and, usually, preceding an electoral loss. It would seem at least possible that One-Term-Tony could be a predictive term. Historically, Australians don’t vote governments out after only one term, but this government may prove the exception. It seems likely that the only thing that could save them would be an electorate that still thinks that Labor is unelectable by the time of the 2016 election, which is why rejuvenation and reform of the Labor party is so critically important.

If the Coalition is able to retain government at the next election, the faint consolation will be that it won’t take long after the election for them to tighten the screws further. Then we’ll be having this discussion again, three years later, and with each successive election the chances of Labor regaining power improve.

The question then becomes, how much damage will Tony Abbott and his fellows do to Australian egalitarianism and society?

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How the Communists have wrecked our land

Photo: shutterstock

Photo: shutterstock

“Advance Australia Fair” was made the Australian National Anthem in 1984. Ok, it’s been clear for sometime that this is a piece of leftist propaganda, slipped in as our Anthem by that socialist Bob Hawke. (Let’s not forget that he was head of that union organisation dedicated to destroying our way of life, the ACTU. Their stated policies include such things as improving job security and wages for workers! Imagine what sort of country we’d become if they had their way!)

Lyrics were changed to this:

“Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

“Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.”

The second verse was inexplicably changed by the socialists from its original.

When gallant Cook from Albion sail’d,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on,
Till he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
The standard of the brave;
With all her faults we love her still,
“Brittannia rules the wave!”
In joyful strains then let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

So, I”m proposing a few minor changes to make the song more relevant to the wonderful country, Australia is in the process of becoming. In the interests of effeciency – we don’t want people having to learn a new tune – I propose that rather than pay money to some already overpaid musician we only change the lyrics.

The first line, “Australians all let us rejoice” is a bit too wishy-washy and “let us” implies that there’s an element of choice about it. I propose that it become “must now” instead.

“For we are young and free” sends the wrong message. While we value “freedom”, in this user pays society, we don’t want anyone to think that there’s any such thing as a free lunch. This should become “And join the company”.

The next lines in this verse are self-explanatory.

“Australians all must now rejoice,
And join the company;
We’ve coal and soil and lots of oil
Some in East Timor’s sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
For miners rich and rare;
In history’s page, no culture wars
Advance Australia Fair.
In Liberal view, no black armband,
Advance Australia Fair.

As for the second verse, well, we all know that certain left organisations have appropriated the Southern Cross, so it’s a rather divisive line. I propose to remind people how lucky they are to be working. In the third line, I felt that the word “commonwealth” somehow gave the impression that we all should be sharing in the wealth, so this also has to be changed. What we end up with is this:

“Those lucky ones who have a job
Will toil with hearts and hands;
To help the trickle down effect
Which failied in other lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ll process you off-shore
Just like our Anthem’s second verse

You’re something we ignore.
We love the strong, we hate the weak,
Advance Australia Fair.”

Australia, nobody can say we’re not fair.

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We can afford $25 million for a Royal Commission, but not $9 million for indigenous legal aid.

 

“THE Abbott government will strip funding from the peak Aboriginal legal aid organisation and policy positions in its state affiliates, but has moderated the extent of cuts to at-the-coalface services following an outcry from the indigenous community.

The Coalition today will announce the defunding of the peak National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and all law reform and policy officer positions within each state and territory affiliate, saving $9 million over three years.”

The Australian, Dec 17, 2013

“FORMER Labor government ministers, including former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, will be compelled to give evidence as part of a $25 million Royal Commission into the botched roof insulation program.

The Abbott Government will announce the scope of the judicial inquiry, which will be led by prominent Brisbane lawyer Ian Hanger and will be asked to report by mid-2014.

In a move designed to expose the role played by former Labor ministers, the Royal Commission will examine what “advice, warning or recommendations” were sought or given to the former Rudd Government.”

news.com.au, Novemember 25th, 2013

It does seem odd that we can afford $25 million for a Royal Commission, when so many other things are being cut. I’m sure you can all make a case for the hypocrisy of the Abbott Government. In fact, there’s a compelling case that hypocrisy is one of their core values.

But what seems most odd to me is the political strategy behind the decision. What do they hope to achieve?

As Sir Humphrey Appleby (“Yes, Prime Minister”) put it:

“In the world of government there are two principal rules:

  • One, never look into something you don’t have to, and
  • Two, never start an inquiry unless you know in advance what the results will be.”

Yes, I know that the general expectation is – because of the terms of reference – that the results of the Royal Commission will condemn Rudd and Garrett and give the government a stick with which they can beat the Labor Party. That may well be the result. However, there seem to me no scenarios in which Abbott will come out of this a clear winner.

Let’s take the best case for the Coalition: The Royal Commission finds that Rudd and/or Garrett were negligent and condemns them for their rush and lack of proper regulation. As this is already the belief of most of the population (thanks to the current government and the Murdoch media), there’ll be an element of “Did we really need to spend $25 million to find out this?” And as both Rudd and Garrett are no longer MPs, then it’s harder to blame the current Labor Party.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that Royal Commission have a tendency to make recommendations. Potentially, these could be inconsistent with a government hell-bent on removing “red tape” and “speeding up” processes for employers. Even if they’d appointed Peter Reith to head the investigation, it’d be hard to come up with a conclusion that there needs to be more regulation to prevent deaths, but only in schemes that Labor introduce, because under a Liberal Government, employers can be trusted to ensure adequate safety training. And again, $25 million is a lot of money if Abbott is just going to say that they don’t see any need to implement the Commission’s findings.

Of course, that’s the best scenario. What if the Royal Commission were to find that neither Rudd nor Garrett were in any way responsible? Or even, while they failed to ensure adequate safety training, in fact, it was the employers who were principally to blame for the deaths and housefires? Anything which reduces the blame for Labor in the public mind will diminish the Liberal’s capacity to use the Home Insulation Scheme as a political football.

And, of course, it becomes harder for the Coalition to bring up the topic of the Home Insulation Scheme while it’s the subject of a Royal Commission – it could be perceived as trying to exert undue influence. Although, given the way they’ve tried to browbeat the ABC, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.

Whatever, in a time of cutbacks, it’s a lot of money to spend when I doubt that it’ll achieve its aims – which, I’m sure Abbott would argue is to ensure that the same mistakes aren’t repeated. More cynically, I’d suggest that it won’t achieve his actual aim – to change the way people vote at the next election. Those who blame Rudd or Garrett will continue to do so, as will those who wish to exonerate them. But, for most, it’ll be old news. As John Howard said about the WMDs, the public have “moved on”.

Ever since 1975, the Liberals seem to have adopted a fairly standard modus operandi. In Opposition, they say that Labor is the “worst government in the history of the world” and “sending the state/country broke”. In government, they say that things are worse than expected, and it’ll take them a long time to fix things but it’s all Labor’s fault. After a few years, people get sick of hearing whose fault it is and just want things fixed – and the Liberals by that time have usually made such a mess of Health and Education, that Labor only have to have a half-way decent policy to be voted in.

Unfortunately for Abbott, many people seem to have reached the “We don’t care whose fault it is, fix it” stage much more quickly than normal. I don’t see harking back to something that happened under a Prime Minister and Minister that are no longer in Parliament, makes it sound like Abbott has a clear plan for the future. It starts to sound like an argument where someone brings up a time several years earlier when you were in the wrong – you sense that they may just feel that they’re losing the current discussion. “I know I didn’t I ring to tell you that I wouldn’t be home for dinner and you’ve been waiting to eat and when I didn’t answer my phone you got worried, but let’s not forget that in 1996 you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, so I don’t see why you think you have any right to complain!”

When Labor left office, the debt was $284 billlion, and while it would be impossible to turn that around immediately, to argue that we need to scrap the debt limit because there’s no way we can stop it getting to twice that in the next three years, doesn’t sound like the mob who promised us a surplus in every Budget once they were elected. I’m not arguing that the debt needs to turned around that quickly, just that it seems strange that they could attack Labor for incorrectly promising a surplus, but ask us to simply ignore their own guarantees.

Yes, I know that most of you will want to argue that Labor didn’t, in fact, “leave a mess”. And I certainly don’t agree that the Government was “dysfunctional” as so many in the media like to write. I think I agree with sentiments expressed by Tanya Plibersek:

“I would give us nine out of ten for governing the country, I’d give us zero out of ten for governing ourselves. I think it’s pretty plain we had too many people playing their own games and not playing for the team.”

I think the mistake the Liberals are making and will continue to make is that they want to keep contesting the 2010 election. My best advice for Labor is not to make the same mistake.

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A 21st century Labor Party – our future depends on it

The Labor Party - our future depends on them (image by nla.gov.au)

The Labor Party – our future depends on them (image by nla.gov.au)

Another guest post from Stuart Whitman. National Convener of Local Labor.

It is possible to argue a similar case for acting on Labor Party reform as the former federal Labor government argued for pricing carbon and addressing climate change, there is no time to lose and that it is better to make small sacrifices now than painful ones later.

As noted in a recent Cosmos Magazine article IPCC reporting suggests we may have as little as 30 years left to get carbon emissions to a level where we have a chance to slow down, mitigate or adapt to global warming.

The alternative is a rapid spiral into catastrophic and potentially civilization-ending climate change.

Every term of an Abbott government is another 3 years robbed from that critical 30 years for Australia to work with the international community and perhaps take a lead in helping prepare for the transformational changes ahead.

The CSIRO has indicated that Australia will be one of the countries most at risk from climate change. However, by harnessing our great wealth and the talent of our people, we have the potential to become the model nation to show the world how to adapt.

Yet to be ready for the revolutionary transformation of economics and governance that will be required, we need a transformed Labor Party. This is ultimately what I believe the ALP reform campaign is about – building a Labor Party with the capacity not just to win elections but to reflect, help prepare for and equitably guide Australia through the massive economic, environmental and social shifts ahead.

We must reform and renew our political movement now to be able to ride the coming wave of 21st century politics and provide the good governance and leadership our country, and the world, deserves. And we need to have an honest conversation with our members, supporters and voters to achieve it, including articulating the stark realities facing us all many election cycles ahead.

This new politics employs pervasive technology tools to maximise the participation of individuals and communities in economic and government decision-making resulting in the widest distribution of economic and political power. The old adages of “think globally and act locally” and “all politics is local” rings true more than ever. It is the only solution to address the abuses of a corporate ideology that is wreaking havoc on our ecosystem and social equity.

The corporatisation of economic and political power has brought us to the precipice on which we now stand. Society and political parties should not be run like corporations with power and information vested in the hands of an elite board of directors.

Corporate models of power that concentrate decision-making in the hands of a few tends to stifle the possibility of a fair contest of ideas and a fair system of representation based on merit rather than just patronage. Corporatism disconnects decision-makers from those for whom the decisions are made and risks our being held hostage by short-term sectional interests.

The ALP was always intended to be a member-based organisation and a member-driven political movement. We are at our best when we are open and connected and brave. This will require re-organising the party so that Labor values, ennobling policy goals and diversity of experience is embraced and opinions, and at times dissent, arising from a broad membership representative of the broader Australian community is welcome.

This new broad-based and open ALP culture will succeed if it is founded on genuinely democratic processes that work towards reaching consensus alongside a system of governance that ensures the rule of law rather than the law of the jungle applies.

Corporate style politics in the Labor Party will become increasingly unworkable as the nature of politics itself shifts to more flexible, participatory models of governance while the electorate grows more volatile.

Genuine dialogue between communities and Labor policy-makers and members helps us avoid the trap of groupthink that would constrain the ability of our party leaders to respond to and accurately interpret real-time accurate quantitative and qualitative data that pervasive intelligent technology systems will generate. And decisions based on that stream of information must be framed by our Labor values and wide consultation as much as scientific rationale.

If we fail to become more sincere about internal and external dialogue and transparency in decision-making the ALP will be tarnished in the minds of electors as merely a machine that manufactures banal corporate marketing slogans. Sending signals to our members and to the electorate that our board of directors “knows what’s best for you” only contributes to growing disenchantment with the political process and infects society with a sense of frustration and powerlessness to all of our detriment.

The decades ahead may be a grave story of the unravelling of social order and harmony across the world arising from the greater frequency and intensity of natural disasters; diminishing financial capacity of even developed societies to rebuild following these disasters; conflict over rapidly depleting energy resources and arable land and clean water; unrest from lack of opportunity, growing inequality and the displacement of large populations. This pain will be felt most acutely at the personal and community levels.

On the contrary, it may also be a triumphant story of the resilience and capacity of human beings to adapt to meet those challenges with historic international cooperation, and the application of our ingenuity and new technological tools to finds solutions also at the personal and community level.

Either way, it is a choice we need to make now.

To attain the latter scenario will require a post-ideological politics where political parties are organised around common values, and decision-making depends on scientifically obtained and critically analysed evidence not old ideological dogmas or personality cults.

Effective political parties will be those that encourage an independence of thought within the party’s membership and openness to sharing ideas and information to sustain ongoing engagement between the party’s members with their communities.

The Australian Labor Party already has those critical values of fairness, justice, compassion and equity relevant to the new politics. We already have the talent to optimise and apply new technologies to more frequently and deeply involve our members in the development of the necessary policies. We have the resolve and hunger among our members and branches to more actively and meaningfully engage with our communities.

But we need an ALP organisation that does not lock us into outdated modes of thinking, or to corporate paradigms of concentrated top-down power. We must seize the coming year to implement reforms that empower our members’ ability to obtain information and evidence, think more critically, speak more openly and act more locally.

We need an ALP that is transparent, accountable and responsive to its members and upholds Labor values and encourages the fullest participation of members in party decision-making.

If we want Labor governments back in power soon so that the next 30 years are not wasted, and so that Australia can be a model country to help guide the world through the upheavals of climate change to come, we must become the party that embodies the participatory politics of the 21st century.

By mobilising the capabilities of as many of our fellow Australians as possible and engaging their trust and involvement in the political process through Labor membership and support we can rise to meet the unprecedented challenges ahead.

These challenges present us with the prospect of a world with increasing demand colliding with increasing scarcity, that can only result in inequality and conflict. It is the defining moment for our Labor Party that is dedicated to increasing equality, abundance and social cohesion, and we really do have no time to lose to prepare ourselves to lead Australia safely through.

Stuart Whitman, National Convenor of Local Laborimg-profile-stuart

Local Labor https://www.facebook.com/groups/locallabor/

Local Labor http://local-labor.org/

 

 

 

 

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Assaults on democracy

Parliament House - the centre of our democracy (image by holam.com.au)

Parliament House – old and new – the centre of our democracy (image by holman.com.au)

There are at least two fundamental requirements for a functioning democracy. In various ways, in recent years, we have seen political parties in Australia attempting to subvert and limit these requirements. This is an assault on democracy itself. It may not be deliberate – political parties, like business entities, will work within the constraints of the law to achieve their ends, and loopholes and aggressive tactics are a part of the game. But dress it up how you may, attempting to coerce the workings of parliament and the electoral choices of a population is anti-democratic even if done within the limitations of the laws of that democracy.

In the business sphere, there is an overarching structure to act as a check and balance. The courts, and above them the legislature, ensure that eventually businesses that exploit loopholes to the detriment of the community can be brought back into line. Through the testing of legislation in the courts, through the drafting of new laws and regulations, there are means to help ensure that the system is fluid and no entities can subvert the intention of the regulations to which all businesses are subject.

Politics has no such overarching structure. The limits on politics are the various parties themselves – where one party oversteps the bounds, the only bodies that can pull them up on it are other political parties. Some of the time this works. And sometimes it does not.

Given untrammelled power – for instance, control of both houses of Parliament – a government can adjust the goalposts in such a way as to benefit their own interests and continued dominance. When the cycle turns, as eventually it must, an incoming government is then able to either take advantage of the changes the previous government has wrought, or to reverse the changes and implement their own.

The Australian constitution holds various aspects of our democracy sacrosanct and to change these requires a referendum. The basic mechanics of elections and parties and the existence of two houses are not in danger. There are plenty of other ways that a political party can act to extend its own hegemony, and any number of ways that the intent of a democracy can be subverted by the details.

Basic requirements for a healthy democracy include the following.

1. A free press

Or more accurately, even and impartial coverage and analysis of the issues. Fundamentally, Australian democracy is about vision. In a hundred policy areas each government has to balance the requirements of the community and the best interests of the country. In order to effectively judge the promised approach of a candidate government to each of these areas, in order to accurately evaluate the needs of Australia’s present and future, clear and informative reporting is needed.

In Australia, the media environment is skewed. Various reports have pointed to the obvious bias in the large majority of Australia’s news media. Against this bias, only the minority Fairfax and the public broadcaster ABC attempt a more balanced view. Readers of this blog will understand that “more balanced”, to the conservatives, reads as “rabid pinko”. A detailed analysis of the relative bias of the ABC vs News Ltd is outside of the scope of this article. What is not, is that the Coalition is currently openly discussing curtailing the ABC’s power to operate in the news arena.

“He said there was a compelling case to consider breaking the ABC into two entities with the traditional television and radio operations protected to ensure services in the bush and regional Australia, while the online news service could be disposed of.” http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/turnbull-defends-abc-but-colleagues-want-to-preach-it-a-lesson-20131203-2yotw.html#ixzz2mS3lekiz

Of course, the Abbott government has form in the area of suppressing balanced information from the populace. In just a short three months in office, they have disbanded information bodies, restricted the information flow out of government, suppressed information on the grounds of “operational matters” despite said information being available to those not unfortunate enough to live in Australia, and continued the active dissemination of misinformation, half-truths and blatant untruths.

2. Robust representation in the Parliament

In a representative democracy, not every member of Parliament is going to belong to or be sympathetic to the government. Those members and senators elected to represent the opposition and independent parties – even those who do not represent a party at all – are not there to warm chairs. They are not elected to become a part of the government machine and uncritically support any intentions of the government of the day. Instead, they are there to be a dissenting voice, and hopefully through negotiation in the interests of the people they represent, to improve proposed legislation through amendments. The operation of the Parliament and Senate in this regard is a deliberate structure to ensure that all new law is viewed through the lens of more than one stakeholder; to ensure that legislation that benefits one group does not act unfairly to the detriment of others.

Both Labor and the Coalition in recent years – and as recently as the current sitting of Parliament – have taken, and are taking, actions to subvert this function. Such actions include scheduling complicated legislation for debate and passage in unfeasibly short timeframes. For examples of this – on both sides – you need look no further than the carbon “tax”. Labor provided a package of legislation running to over 1000 pages to the Parliament with eight days to read, understand, debate and vote on it. In response, the Coalition has given the repeal of the carbon tax – eleven bills, to be discussed together – just three and a half days of debate. It would be bad enough if it were just the “tax” being debated, but tied up in the repeal are dozens of climate bodies, administrative bodies, funding arrangements, and associated clean energy infrastructure.

Arguably, however, the Coalition has been worse in their abuse of the processes of Parliament. During the previous term of government, they brought few amendments to the house, preferring instead to grandstand, disrupt proceedings with continual calls to suspend standing orders, and in most cases in Question Time to ask not one question relating to their own portfolios. This was not effective representation of their constituents. But the worst was yet to come.

In the current term, in addition to electing a clearly partisan speaker to the chair of the House – Bronwyn Bishop, who remains in the party room and is an integral part of the Coalition’s governing body – they have also taken actions that in one fell swoop ensure the failure of any amendments to legislation and disempower any independent voices. The attempt to vote on all proposed amendments as a block ensures that a flaw in one amendment, or contradictory amendments, or an extreme position on behalf of one proposal will knock out all the amendments at once. As Penny Wong stated in parliament, this is procedurally impossible. She might have added, deliberately so – it is a flagrant breach of the intention of amendments. (I am unable to find references online to this abuse of process. If you can provide a link, please leave it in the comments.)

Understandably, governments want to implement their policies. But subverting debate using procedural methods is as much an assault on democracy as is continual sabotage of proceedings using points of order and interjections.

Does anybody even listen to Parliament any more?

The majority of the Australian people remain minimally aware of the vagaries of Parliament and how it operates, far less the way that it is intended to represent the interests of non-governmental political parties. Tony Abbott and some sections of the news media deliberately play to this disaffection as they talk about a “mandate” for the government to implement its policies and report scant, if any, details of the proceedings of legislation through the parliament. Regardless, the details remain critically important. These are our representatives, this is our government, and any attempt to usurp the proper processes of democracy is an assault on everyone’s rights – whether you support the government of the day or not. Accordingly, those who are politically aware and interested need to draw attention to these abuses wherever they may be found. Only by showing that people are watching, and that we care about the concept of democracy as much as about its outcomes, can we avoid permanent and catastrophic debasement of government in Australia.

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Winner takes all

Bronwyn Bishop (image by canberratimes.com.au)

Bronwyn Bishop (image by canberratimes.com.au)

With the commencement of the 44th Australian parliament, and the installation of Bronwyn Bishop to the Speaker’s chair, it is appropriate timing to look at the way that democracy in Australia has been subverted over the past two terms of government, how this subversion is likely to continue, and what may be done to address it.

The subversion to which I refer may most readily be summed up as the phenomenon of “mandate”, but in more practical terms is described as the disempowerment of individual politicians, and by extension of the people that they represent.

In 2013, there are two independent members in the House of Representatives. There are one representative each from the Greens, Country Liberal Party, Palmer United Party and Katter’s Australian Party. The rest of the 150 seats in Parliament are occupied either by Labor or the Coalition.

The 2010 Parliament was famously “hung” – Labor had sufficient votes on the floor to support it in forming a government and to guarantee supply, but every piece of legislation needed to be hard-fought and negotiated in order to reach approval. It is a testament to the goodwill of Labor and the negotiating skills of Julia Gillard and her frontbench that the 2010-2013 term of government was one of Australia’s most productive, passing bills at an unprecedented rate of one every two days of being in power, all despite being in a minority government. Every member of that Parliament had a voice that counted. It would take a single member from the Coalition crossing the floor to guarantee success in any piece of legislation; similarly, a single member of Labor voting with the Opposition would be sufficient to scuttle it.

In addition to this, a defining factor of Australian parliamentary democracy was thrown into stark highlight: any party, or even any member, could bring a piece of legislation to the floor with some hope of success.

The party in government during any term enjoys a number of privileges, in terms of resources, support of government departments, and direct hands on the reins. There are any number of areas in which a government has real power, and whereby a member of the government can make real change without immediate opposition. The current government intends to capitalise on these powers to establish its Direct Action environmental plan without needing to bring legislation to the contention of the parliament.

However, the bread and butter of government is legislation – the to-and-fro of debate on the floor, of proposals and amendments and eventual acceptance of new law. It is this law that shapes society and by which governments can seek to implement their vision for the country. There are limitations to the power of politicians without recourse to legislation through the parliament, and for good reason. A hallmark of the 2010-2013 Parliament was that the Coalition had about as much chance of defining legislation and getting it approved as did Labor, the party ostensibly in government. The opposition could have brought its own vision, in the form of legislative proposals, to the floor any time during that term of government.

But they did not.

Unless you count motions to suspend standing orders, as far as I can tell the Coalition brought a grand total of zero proposals to the parliament. If you do count those motions, the total rises to one. Seventy-two times.

This article is not specifically intended to criticise the Coalition, because there is fault on all sides, and it is supported – encouraged – by the design of the system. As long as Australia lives under a two-party political system, then politics will be about politicing, not governing. That said, the current Australian government, the Liberal-National Coalition, has made a virtue of the necessity that the government rules and the opposition is powerless.

The Coalition in 2013 has been accused of purveying a “right to rule” mentality. This is propped up by continual discussion of the “mandate” that Tony Abbott claims to implement his program of legislation. Indirectly, this is in complete agreement to the Coalition’s approach during the last term. Despite having the opportunity to be productive, to work with the government of the day on finding agreement on the big issues and bringing forward, arguing and winning the contest of ideas with proposals of their own, the Coalition approached opposition with the intent of being as obstructive as possible. Instead of acting in a bipartisan manner for the benefit of the people, the Coalition talked everything down, sought to block every proposal, and belittled every intent of the government. They came in like a wrecking ball.

The eye of the Coalition was not on governing during 2010-2013. Their eye was on government for 2013-2016.

Abbott himself said as much. “Oppositions oppose. That’s what they do.” This was the justification given for not coming up with their own policy platform, for not having a suite of nation-building proposals of their own. The argument was bandied about that revealing policies simply gives the government ammunition, allowing them to take your own un-implemented policies and absorb them into their own platform. Indeed, recent history has seen this happen. But 2010-2013 was special. Before the election period, there was plenty of time for the Coalition to place its stamp on the legislative agenda of the country. Arguably, doing so would have given them an electoral fillip as they could argue they were already governing by default. As it happened, this was not necessary – the alternative approach was effective in winning government. But the Coalition had almost an unprecedented opportunity to use the term of government for the Coalition’s vision of the good of the country – if the good of the country had been their primary aim.

So why do political parties want, so strongly, to gain the reins of power? If the Coalition is not driven by the chance to implement a legislative agenda, what is the primary driver? Why buy into the winner-takes-all mentality that says that only Government can propose the agenda? Why deliberately take your own chance at power off the table?

I suspect that a big part of the reason is that it’s so much more personally profitable to be in government.

The disparity between government and opposition in terms of pay and benefits is a strong motivator to do whatever is needed to move from opposition into government. With this motivation in mind, it’s a short step from working for the benefit of the people to working for your own interests. In opposition, the priority is to win at all costs. In government, the main game is to attack the opposition. Maintaining a stranglehold on power is a corrupting influence par excellence and we can see the effects in policies that debase democracy, that result in government by stealth, that reduce the influence of the opposition and minor parties. As an example, destroying unions is not, per se, an attack by the conservatives on the working man; it is a direct assault on the Labor party. While the government should be concentrating on serving the people of the country, it instead focuses on perpetuating its own rule through any means possible.

So what solutions can we propose?

The first and best thing we could do to improve our polity is to establish equality of pay. If it makes no difference to your personal reward whether you are an MP or a shadow MP, then the political contest can be personal and local. Winning your seat becomes the ultimate aim; whether your party wins government or not, the personal rewards for victory in your seat are the same. If this simple change were to be accomplished, every member elected to Parliament could truly have the same power to serve their constituency. A shadow MP might not have the apparatus of a Department behind them, but if we were to additionally put the some of the resources of government departments at their disposal , we might be a step closer to a real democracy.

Many have also pointed to the concept of “party politics” being at the root of democracy’s malaise. Perhaps best exemplified by Tony Abbott’s defense of Jaymes “Six point plan” Diaz (incidentally, Google search for ‘six point plan’ – people pay good money to have the top spot on Google!): “He might not understand the policy, but he will vote for it. He will vote for it.” Party politics mean that individual candidates are not able to faithfully represent their constituents. At best, a vote for a major party is a vote in support of a bunch of policies you agree with, a selection of policies you have no opinion on, and probably at least a few policies you vehemently disagree with. Labor’s policies on refugees arriving by boat would seem a case in point for many people who nevertheless brought themselves to vote Labor in 2013.

The problems with party politics are legion and deserving of a post in themselves. If voting as a bloc was banned, I suspect we would have a political conversation much more nuanced, much more open and potentially much more informative. The opinions of every senator would count – whether they were in government or not, whether they were in opposition or not, even if they were an independent. If every vote on the floor was effectively a conscience vote, we might possibly get closer to an overall representation of the country rather than pandering to the desires of a few swing electorates. It would be important – nay, necessary – for every member, and every senator, to have understanding of what was being proposed in legislation. If we could somehow ensure that votes were not held unless every senator could sign a form saying they understood the legislation to their own satisfaction, it would require proposed legislation to be well examined and well explained.

This is not the world we live in. We live in a black and white world, a two-party world, where the Greens fight to retain a 10% share of the vote and count themselves lucky, where independent members are courted for their vote and loathed and derided in private, and where legislation is decided by leaders and party rooms rather than by the majority rule of the people. We must work within the paradigm of government and opposition. The 2013-2016 term of government will provide less opportunities for the opposition of the day and the independent members to have a constructive voice. But more importantly than opportunity is vision, and so long as Labor operates on the Coalition’s preferred terms – that the government proposes the legislation, and the opposition opposes – and so long as reaching government is required not only to do good, but to personally profit, there can be no drive for change. So it is up to the Australian people to consider how we may resolve these conflicts of interest – because occasionally, eventually, the wishes of the people can have an influence on the policies of our leaders. But this will be a long fight, and possibly futile. The sad facts are that no government is ever likely to vote for an increase in the pay of the opposition.

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What do we do now?

tony

So it’s over; the Coalition has triumphed in the contest of ideas and will (eventually, one hopes) form a government.

Tony Abbott has been described as the most effective opposition leader in a generation. This may or may not be accurate, but it cannot be argued that he has achieved his goals with a combination of balls-to-the-wall confrontation and maintaining a small target on his weakest points. The question now becomes what kind of a Prime Minister he will make, and what his collection of Howard-era ministers will do now they’ve reached power in the 21st century.

The first thing we need to understand is that what the Coalition government will do, now it’s in power, is not what they said they would do while they were in opposition.

To some in the electorate, this may come as a surprise. They may actually think the Coalition fully intends to do the things they talked about during the campaign. But things promised during the campaign were not real; they were props, to support Tony Abbott’s approach to the job of opposition. They continued on from the years preceding the election, from the very moment of Abbott’s elevation to the position of Leader of the Opposition.

“The job of an opposition is to oppose”, and that’s what the Coalition did – regardless of whether they agreed with the policies on offer or not.

Prior to Tony Abbott, worthy policies had a chance of bipartisan support. Abbott himself in years gone by argued for the imposition of a carbon tax; Malcolm Turnbull was ready to sign on to support Labor’s policy in this area.

It was on this very matter that Abbott was able to replace Turnbull as the leader, and he never looked back. Even in those areas where there is “bipartisan support”, it is conditional; according to Tony Abbott, the Coalition wouldn’t be doing its job if it didn’t find aspects to criticise in even the best policy.

The Coalition’s stated intention since 2010 has been to oppose the government on any and all fronts. Opposing requires you to have an alternative solution to point to. It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed, or even achievable; nobody will look at it too closely whilst it’s just an alternative. But you can’t oppose a successful or important piece of policy or legislation without pointing people to an alternative; it shows that the thing you’re opposing is not inevitable.

So the Coalition threw its weight behind a bunch of pointless, useless or impractical ideas – not as real policies, but as props for its position of opposition. NBN-lite, Direct Action, the easy bits of Gonski; these helped it to point to Labor’s NBN, the carbon price, and the full package of Gonski and say “we don’t agree with these, and we don’t need them.” Despite the fact that experts universally panned the alternatives on offer, showed that they were impractical and expensive and simply couldn’t do what the Coalition was claiming, the opposition stuck to its guns knowing that the electorate didn’t care about details and didn’t care about feasibility. Pandering to a voter’s fears is eighty percent of the job, but the other twenty percent is to quiet that little part of their subconscious that says “what do we do instead”?

But now the time of opposition is over, and Tony Abbott and the Coalition have made a rod for their own back. They’ve sworn not to do deals. They’ve sworn to stick to their guns and get their promises delivered. They’ve sworn to be a no-nonsense government that says what it means and does what it says. And now it’s achieved government saying all of these impractical and counterproductive things that it is going to be required to do.

There are always get-out-of-jail clauses; every incoming Coalition government goes down the same path. The “budget position is so much worse than we knew that we can’t do the things we promised” route. Will the Australian people stand for it this time? For the first time, there was a PEFO, as thorough a retelling of the budget standing as possible, to ensure there are no surprises for an incoming government. Despite this, the amazing invisible Joe Hockey has been reported as saying that the Coalition would need an independent, external audit of the finances before they knew the true budget standing, so it seems obvious that they’re going to try this well-travelled road again.

And if the “not enough money” issue isn’t going to serve – for instance, in repealing taxes that you’ve sworn black and blue are losing money, or replacing a nation-building effort with something cheaper and nastier – then you can delay. Thus, the NBN will undergo “three separate reviews and a forensic audit” before the Coalition will even know what to do with it. Who wants to bet that these won’t take up most of the Coalition’s first term of government and be ready with propositions by the time the next election comes around? (Labor took a very similar approach to a series of policy areas in 2007, so it’s certainly not without precedent).

But eventually a government has to be judged on what it did, not what it said it would do. Sometimes, the promises that a government has made to get elected can come back to bite them. Thus Labor’s rounds of tax cuts, promised at the 2007 election in answer to the Coalition’s same promises, had to be delivered in subsequent years as the budget situation worsened and they became progressively more unaffordable. Those tax cuts may even have contributed to Labor’s more recent budget woes and its need to find new sources of revenue. Kevin Rudd, in those days, was desperate to keep all of his promises, just as Tony Abbott is now. Julia Gillard found out the hard way the results of being publically excoriated over reneging on a promise (even though Gillard’s was a matter of semantics rather than intent). So will Tony Abbott back off his promises on NBN, on direct action, on PPL, on returning to budget surplus?

Those with memories of past conservative governments fear what this one might do when the promising is over and the sharp teeth of conservative policy are revealed. In any number of areas, in the last days of the election campaign, Tony Abbott and his senior staff were careful to put caveats on their promises. Undertakings which had previously been unequivocal – promises in blood, you might say – became subject to conditions. If the Direct Action plan on climate change fails to reach agreed emissions targets, the Coalition will renege rather than spend more money. The boats will be turned around – presuming it is safe to do so, which it never will be. (And incidentally, we won’t hear about it one way or another, because boats arriving is a politically damaging sight.) The NBN will be killed, with the exception of contracts already signed, because you can’t break contracts.

The big test for the Coalition is still to come. Will it stick to its guns? Will it attempt to implement damaging and ineffective policies that it doesn’t believe in itself? Will it revert on policy to ideas that are more useful, that might actually work, at the expense of going back on their word? And if so, what tricks will they pull to prove that what they said before the election was not a lie, but simply a position that had to be changed as circumstances changed?

And will the Australian people remember how well that particular approach worked for Julia Gillard?

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Winning the war

winning

Congratulations to Kevin Rudd and federal Labor. In all likelihood, they’ll be going into opposition after this weekend’s election, but it’s not for want of trying.

Despite a campaign that has seemingly lost its way on more than one occasion, despite overwhelming odds of conservative think-tanks and Murdoch press and mining and tobacco dollars, they’ve fought a valiant fight with momentary flashes of brilliance.

Alas, in vain: the brand is too tarnished with unwarranted claims of profligacy and waste, of mismanagement and administrative chaos; and with slightly warranted claims of internal ructions and destabilisation, of an overbearing influence of union heavyweights, and of bad-to-the-bone NSW Labor corruption. It looks as if Labor is bound to lose this battle, the battle for election 2013. Kevin ’13 will shortly be going quietly into that long night.

But amidst all of this comes the good news for the progressives, the thinkers and the nation-builders of Australia. Whilst losing the battle, it may be that Labor has won the war.

The Coalition has finally, less than 36 hours before the polls officially open (and well after tens of thousands of Australians have already voted via postal voting) provided its full costings for the term.

And, as Michael Pascoe puts it, “It’s not unreasonable to claim that the Coalition isn’t making any savings worth mentioning”. The document proves that Tony Abbott and the Coalition have been well and truly wedged by their own history and by Labor’s attack tactics. It’s a set of costings that show that, despite Labor’s rhetoric, they won’t be making huge cuts in health and in education.

Don’t misunderestimate the gravity of the situation. We will lose things of value to an incoming Coalition government. We will lose a belatedly world-competitive broadband infrastructure in the NBN – at least temporarily.

It will still be built, at greater expense and further down the track, but we will lose its benefits for half of a critical generation of youth. We will lose any pretense at respecting climate change and participating in global carbon markets until the world changes for good and not for the better.

We will also lose any claim to have a voice in global affairs – in climate change where we will have squandered what little respect we had, in refugee policy and international aid where we already languish and will fall further behind, and in international politics, when the Coalition ignore our growing voice on the world stage and in the UN and the Security Council.

But this will be an incoming Coalition government unlike any other, a government that knows without a doubt that its core beliefs and ideology are anathemas to the bulk of the Australian people. A government with little to offer to a growing youth demographic, and a great deal of appeal to a demographic that is growing older and dying.

This will be a government driven by the conflict between the hardline Liberals who want to see a return to Workchoices-by-any-other-name, who sincerely believe that this is a medicine ultimately good for Australia’s productivity and the whole community, even if not for individuals within it; and the pragmatists who understand that it is not policy that lost the election in 2007, it is not three-word-slogans and a lack of a convenient crisis, but the core beliefs of the party.

Without moderation, without a counter-influence, this ideology lost the Coalition an election before, and the 2013 election will be won only on the continued and strident claims that we will not go there again.

So the next term of government, should the Coalition prove successful, will see one of two possible outcomes. Down one road, the hardliners prevail, and Australia becomes a harder, darker, less welcoming place. Freedom of speech, workplace rights, multiculturalism and a fair go for all are eroded.

For a time, Australia will languish in a two-speed economy, where the industries of mining and resource-harvesting are booming and continue to ship most of their proceeds out of Australia and out of the lives of Australians.

And then there will be another election, and we will remember. Our voices must not be silent, down this road, as we remind the Australian people how they were misled, how they were lulled into a false sense of comfort at the new, cuddly Coalition; how they were lied to.

I may be falling to optimism here, but I would like to think that this would be a blow the Coalition would not quickly recover from. I hope and pray that Tony Abbott is a once-in-a-generation politician. Please, God.

Down the other road, the Coalition holds true to its new moderate path. It doesn’t cut profligately, it doesn’t open itself to criticisms of elitism or cronyism. Perhaps it is even approaching a good government, if not a great one; a stable hand on the tiller, if not a team of nation-builders. Down this road, the next election cannot be fought on such partisan grounds.

The budget that Labor recently set in place is alike to the budget soft-Hockey is now presenting. If the actual differences between Labor and the Coalition come down to actual policy – NBN vs NBN-lite, carbon tax vs Direct Action, gold-plated PPL vs base-level PPL with extra bonuses for those who need them – these are discussions worth having.

These are the kinds of discussions we needed to be having in 2013 and were not given by the mainstream media. These are the kinds of differences that lead to improvements in national policy, and genuinely progressive political parties on both sides of the fence. This is the road that leads to an actual contest of equals and an election based on merits, rather than on slogans and mistruths.

So in winning this election, I feel that the Coalition may find theirs to be a Pyrrhic victory.

I hope for a Labor victory; I pray for a Senate overflowing with Greens and independents. But whilst I hope for the best, I plan for the worst.

The feeling and the polls indicate that the battle for election 2013 is over. Not perhaps as resoundingly as it might have been; we may even find there are some surprises and Tony Abbott’s new government may not find everything smooth sailing in the next term.

But even if 2013 is a wipe-out for the progressive left in Australia, there is always the next war to be considered.

The next war commences on Sunday 8 September as we fight to hold an incoming Coalition government to its promises, highlight every breach of trust, and constantly remind the Australian people of the society they could have had for an extra six billion dollars and a little bit of faith. Bring on election 2016.

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