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Tag Archives: Paul Sheehan

First Class Travel and the Danger of Extremism . . .

This morning Paul Sheehan quoted Canadian author, Mark Steyn who was over in Europe to see what immigration had done. Canada, of course, has been ruined by immigration – just ask the indigenous population!

However, we’re not talking about Canada here, we’re more interested in a how a Canadian perceives Europe. Apparently early on in his visit there was an a rather nasty incident. Sheehan quoted Steyn:

“I was looking forward to sitting back and enjoying the peace and quiet of Scandinavian First Class. But, just as I took my seat and settled in, a gaggle of ‘refugees’ swarmed in, young bearded men and a smaller number of covered women, the lads shooing away those first-class ticket holders not as nimble in securing their seats…

“They seemed to take it for granted that asylum in Europe should come with complimentary first-class travel … The conductor gave a shrug, the great universal shorthand for there’s-nothing-I-can do.”

Refugees taking it for granted that they should travel first class is outrageous enough, but that first class travellers should have to put with men with beards “swarming” in. Although how Steyn managed to determine that they were refugees and not hipsters, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was the “covered women’, because, after all, this was Scandinavian first class travel and it’s my understanding that everyone’s naked there most of the time, but that could be because I reduce everything to stereotypes.

Of course, the same mental powers of clairvoyance that enabled the writer to tell that they were asylum seekers and to determine exactly what the conductor meant by his shrug, enabled him to see that they both clearly knew that travel comes in classes and that they had an economy class ticket but were choosing to travel first class, out some sense of entitlement. Now, a socialist might suggest that those in first class also had a sense of entitlement but, as we know in Australia, the age of entitlement is over so that socialist would be wrong.

Of course, Paul Sheehan goes on to tell us about how this influx of refugees is causing a lurch to the right and how anti-immigration parties are gaining ground in many European countries. He talks about Germany’s decision causing problems with social cohesion because as he says:

“Too late. More than 500 arson attacks have occurred in Germany this year targeting housing designated for refugees.”

Now, I could go on to quote a lot more of Paul Sheehan’s article but the basic thrust of it seems to be an attempt to make Tony’s “Jesus didn’t know what he was taking about it and I was just so awesome that I stopped the boats speech” seem reasonable. I think you’ve probably got the gist. It takes the view that if people are starting to believe something then it must be true, which makes an interesting contrast to views on climate change where people are just being gullible and going along with a majority.

He goes on using the sort of logic that suggests that Reclaim Australia is the result of the Liberals being too left-wing before concluding with:

“This encapsulates a growing view in Europe from which you may recoil, as it contrasts starkly with the liberal belief that the West has a moral obligation to help the wretched.

I doubt the liberal view will prevail. The dots are starting to connect. They point to a gathering storm, building on millions of small indignities and disappointments which, over time, will add up to something large.”

Yep, once you fail to see the irony in a Canadian complaining about foreigners disturbing his “Scandinavian first class travel”, then it’s a small step to argue that refugees are causing problems with social cohesion because people are attacking them.

But then consistency has always been in short supply when it comes to politics.

 

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Paul Sheehan And Any Evidence Will Do . . . Actually, Forget Evidence – An Opinion Is Enough!

This morning I made the mistake of reading the ramblings of Paul Sheehan. Now, because his lack of a coherent argument upset me so much, I thought I’d subject you to my ramblings on the subject of Paul Sheehan.

Ok, part of me thinks that he’d be better ignored. But another part of me worries that if we just ignore people writing in nationally distributed papers, the next thing you know, someone in the current government will read it and use it as evidence.

Because that’s one of the things that’s truly disturbing about much debate in the media these days. Opinion is mistaken for evidence. We seem to think that the truth is simply a matter of votes.

So Mr Sheehan’s column was spuriously titled:

“Baird has same problems as Abbott; an upper house dominated by electoral fluke”

Apparently, lower houses have clear mandates, but upper houses are elected by “flukes”. As he put it:

“On Saturday we saw, yet again, a clear mandate to govern being muddied by uncertainties in election for the upper house. The Legislative Assembly may be the oldest parliamentary body in Australia but it is also dominated by machine hacks and minor-party blackmailers. For years, the balance of power has been determined by electoral fluke, not representative politics.”

 

So the lower houses aren’t dominated by “machine hacks”? Mm, well that’s good to know. And he’s doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that one might actually choose a “minor-party blackmailer” (why the hyphen?) because one actually supports what they’re doing. How many Democrat voters felt betrayed when Meg Lees did a deal to allow the GST, for example? (The Democrats? Who were they?). And we could have a long discussion about how the distribution and deals that led to the Ricky Muirs and Steve Fieldings being elected with a toenail’s worth of votes, so it’s hardly the fault of the electoral system when it the decisions of the major parties on preferences which throw up these strange results.

However, it’s not just the frustration of mandates that trouble our Paul.

“The problem in NSW is replicated in federal politics, where the Senate is also dominated by the electoral fluke. This has exacerbated the end of the commodities boom. The boom will not be repeated when the commodities cycle turns because Australia now has a justified reputation for red tape, green tape, black tape, high costs and union extortion rackets.”

Ok, so it’s red tape, green tape, black tape, high costs and union extortion rackets that are exacerbating the end of the commodities boom. Gee, and I thought it was the lack of demand. But hey, we just get rid of all that red tape – you know, that red tape that led those deaths in the roofs during that “pink batts fiasco” – and all other safeguards and regulations then the end of the commodities boom won’t be half so bad.

Of course, Sheehan overlooks that much of his rainbow tape was put in place by governments who had a mandate. Although I suspect that in Sheehan’s world view only LNP governments have a mandate; left wing governments are another electoral fluke that only occur when we have the strange convergence of people voting for the Labor Party or Greens. (Yes, I am reluctant to call Labor “left wing”).

But Australia’s “justified reputation” means that when the commodity cycle turns then companies won’t mine here any more. They’ll mine the Cayman Islands. Or set up drilling for oil inside a Swiss bank, because, well, there’s less red tape.

However, the bit that made me splutter my toast was his use of Andrew Liveris. After establishing that Mr Liveris was a bright and successful man who graduated from the University of Queensland (and an Australian, what more could you ask?), Mr Sheehan went on to tell us that Liveris had been CEO and Chairman of Dow for a number of years and that Dow was spinning of its chlorine business, something that had always been one of its core products.

This, apparently, should send a “shiver down” our collective spine. Because chlorine is like commodities. “Highly cyclical. Capital intensive. Unpredictable. Volatile.”

So what does this mean for Australia? I mean why is Sheehan using a commercial decision by an individual to talk about Australia’s government policy?

“If only national economies could be transformed in the same way. Instead, our politicians must be preoccupied with competing interests rather than the national interest.”

Ah, those “competing interests”. If only politicians could say something like, “There is only ONE national interest and we will determine that in the Lower House and the circumstances under which it comes to Australia!”

He then goes on to talk about how the NSW upper house may stifle the “dynamism” of privatisation.

Ok, so somebody thinks Dow shouldn’t rely so heavily on chlorine as a product and this is more evidence that the upper houses stifle elected government’s. Ok, I can almost buy that if I squint and look at it from a certain angle. But it’s the next few paragraphs that make we wonder whether Sheehan thinks before he writes, or whether he writes down the most absurd thing he can think of in the hope of becoming Andrew Bolt.

After lamenting the tragedy of governments not be able to implement their mandates unfettered the “flukey” upper houses, he goes on to say:

In Queensland, seven weeks ago, voters elected an unknown leader, Annastacia Palaszczuk, with little management experience, no major policy beyond opposing privatisation, and no plan to rein in the state’s debt, which had exploded under Labor. Her government is already in trouble.

In Victoria, 17 weeks ago, voters elected a Labor government closely aligned with the corruption-riddled Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union. The new Premier, Daniel Andrews, then moved quickly to shut down the construction industry’s Construction Code Compliance Unit, loathed by the CFMEU.

He then complains that the polls suggest that Shorten could become PM without a coherent strategy just by constant sneering and making “racist insults” to the Japanese.

All of which seems rather strange given that his whole thrust has been about the denial of all that’s right and proper when elected governments are prevented from implementing their mandates. This is just wrong, according to Sheehan. Unless, for example, part of their mandate was a promise to CFMEU. (Actually, the CFMEU is the elected government in Victoria – the Liberals assured us that if we voted Labor then that was giving the green light for the CFMEU to run the state!)

Well, at least Queensland has no Upper House, so there’ll never be a threat to democracy there, eh Paul?

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The Greens support is dropping – just shows that climate change isn’t real

Photo: wordbubble generator

Photo: wordbubble generator

Ok, I’ve read a number of times about The Greens losing votes in the Federal Election. Then after Saturday’s Miranda By-Election in NSW where the Liberals lost with a swing against them over 20%, Paul Sheehan treated us to this:

Bushfires should be good for the Greens.

They have been warning about the rising impact of extreme weather events caused by global warming. Their deputy leader, Adam Bandt, spent last week attaching the bushfires raging across the state, with the destruction of more than 100 homes, to the policies of Abbott. The destruction of the Labor brand in NSW should also be good for the Greens. So, too, should be the government’s cuts in services. And the dominance of the NSW Liberals by lobbyists.

Despite all this, on Saturday, in an electorate that adjoins the bushfire-prone Royal National Park, and on a day when Sydney was ringed by fires and had just experienced the hottest September on record, the voters demolished the Greens.

In the 2011 state election, the Greens won a respectable 8.8 per cent of the primary vote in Miranda. On Saturday, that was cut in half, to 4.4 per cent. This was also worse than their 6.6 per cent vote in 2007, and 5.9 per cent in 2003. You have to go back 14 years, to the 1999 state election, when the Greens were still a fledgling party, to find a lower Greens vote in Miranda, 4.2 per cent.

This follows a failure in last year’s local government elections, where the swings against the Greens were biggest in the areas where they had exercised the most power. Their primary vote fell 12 per cent in Woollahra, in Leichhardt it dropped 11 per cent, in Canterbury, 10 per cent, in Marrickville, 7.4 per cent, and in the City of Sydney, 9 per cent. Apart from several modest improvements in other local government areas, the Greens’ vote in last year’s NSW local elections was a general retreat.

Apart from making the rather strange comment that “Bushfires should be good for the Greens” – (I wouldn’t have thought that bushfires are good for anybody. Reminds me of a comment from someone about the “pro global warming lobby”?? when refering to people concerned about climate change) – Sheehan goes on to say later:

The Greens have been going backwards for several years. Yet the party shows no evidence of humility, nor signs of listening to the messages being delivered by the wider public.

This analysis concerns me for a number of reasons. Sheehan is not the first commentator to suggest that The Greens have had their day, and now the electorate is returning to “more sensible” parties. But very few of them aknowledge one of the very important differences when comparing the votes today with the previous election.

Bob Brown’s retirement.

Bob Brown was a high profile politician, who like him or loathe him, gave you the feeling that he believed in his cause. He managed to project his party into the media in a way that Milne is yet to do. This is how Sara Phillips, ABC, saw his retirement at the time:

Bob Brown’s departure from politics is a big deal. His party garnered nearly 12 per cent of the vote in the last election. The Greens held the balance of power in the upper house of parliament, and was a key vote in the government’s shaky grip on the lower house. The party appeared to be growing and seemed as though it were an increasingly serious third force in power.

Commentators are wondering whether his replacement, Christine Milne, has the strength of character and political smarts to hold the party together and push it forward into the future.

His political style was one of calm reassurance. His lanky frame never looked at ease in a suit, but he carried out interviews in a way that seemed to emphasise the reasonableness of his view. Christine Milne, by contrast, always seems lecturing and peevish. Where Brown is all ageing greyhound, Milne is a Jack Russell.

Brown is certainly a focal point for the environment movement. He earned his stripes campaigning on the Franklin River dam protests. Ardent environmental admirers will point out that he even had the strength of conviction to go to jail for what he believed in. Environmentalists saw him as one of them.

It was not unexpected that the loss of Brown would lead to a drop in the party’s vote. Yet, in spite of the drop in support for The Greens, Adam Bandt retained his seat.

But I’m not as concerned for The Greens as a party, as much as Paul Sheehan’s other assertion that it “shows no evidence of humility, nor signs of listening to the messages being delivered by the wider public.”

A few years ago, there was a poll in one of the newspapers which asked if we thought that the Queen should abdicate now in favour of Charles, or wait until William was old enough to take the throne. My immediate thought was that it doesn’t matter what we think. The Royal Family is not a democratic institution.

And so with climate change, it doesn’t matter how we vote. It’s not a democratic institution. We can’t vote it out of existence. (Yes, all you sceptics, just because the majority of scientists say it’s real, doesn’t make it so! Personally, I’d rather go along with the majority than Lord Monkton.) Were The Greens to say that they’ve suddenly realised the economic potential of razing entire forests to the ground, it’s not really likely to win them any votes. And their reason for existing would disappear.

We expect The Greens to be a party of conviction. Even those who don’t vote for them would be surprised if they made a pragmatic decision in order to win a few votes. The Greens are expected to be like our conscience – at times, a little annoying for most of us; something to be ignored by others.

There are two ways of looking at what a political party should offer us. The first is that parties should stand for something, that it should have certain core values and that you know when you vote for, say Rossleigh Brisbane’s United Australia Party, that you’re electing someone who believes that economic prosperity is more important than people’s rights, but if you vote for the People Against Slavery Party they have a strong record on human rights. Any change in these core values should be a long and slow process, not something to be defined with each election.

The second is that parties should sway whichever was the breeze is blowing, and to reflect community sentiment. That its aim should be to do whatever it takes to gain the maximum number of votes.

The trouble with the latter is that we then end up with no alternatives. If every party is following the focus groups and opinion polls, then every party offers what the majority allegedly wants. For example, if you support gay marriage, which of the major parties was offering to bring that in? (In reality, neither, although Labor might have introduced a Bill.)

I’m glad that The Greens do stick to their policies. I expect them to not listen to the public, but to present their views and give the public a chance to judge them. I don’t agree with everything they say or do, but I’m pleased that they’re not the pragmatists chasing every possible vote.

Strange that Paul Sheehan also mentions how well the Christian Democrats did in the same by-election by doubling their vote to 7%. I can’t seem to find any articles suggesting that the Christian Democrats are lacking humility or not listening to the public.

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“Tony Abbott Worst PM in History” lacks Irony: Paul Sheehan lacks grip on reality!

tony abbott

Image from 2gb.com

Paul Sheehan devoted two columns to a Facebook group called, “Tony Abbott Worst PM in Australian History.”

Now, I’ve always thought that there are certain opinion writers who set out to make themselves controversial in much the same way that shock jocks work. There’s no point in saying something reasonable; controversy and angry argument sells. If the topic is about doctors prescribing too many drugs because of kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies, we don’t want people who’ll rationally discuss both sides, we want someone who believes in alternative medicine against a representative from a multinational drug company. So I had mixed feelings about giving Paul Sheehan any attention at all.

But there was one thing that gnawed away at me. It’s a concept that I think is worth fighting for. The idea that everyone has a right to participate in the democratic process. Paul Sheehan wrote: “But, otherwise, this site is fake on every level. It is the work a single social activist troll, which means unemployed, who shall remain nameless at this point.”

I am reminded of the late Lionel Murphy, who, when presiding over court case where it was stated that the defendant was a “well-known agitator”, made the wonderful statement: “Mr Neal, is entitled to be an agitator.” The idea that the site was “a fake” because it was the work of someone unemployed, or because they were an activist is part of an argument that I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of over the next three years. We’ll be told no-one is really opposed, it’s just the greenies or the unions or the usual suspects or professional demonstrators. (“Where does one apply to be a professional demonstrator? – I’d like to get paid!)

So, I set about to get the other side of the story. Who was this unemployed male who acting alone, but who had enough money to pay for likes? Mm. Straight away something doesn’t make sense. So I decided to get more information.

In order to keep their identity from the right-wing nutters, I asked I suggested that I call the creator of the page, “Trevor”. She was ok with this but thought a more feminine name would suit her. So I suggested that I call her, “Carrie”.

So, would you like to comment on Paul Sheehan’s article?

Despite what Sheehan has concluded, I am, in fact NOT a male. I am in fact, a single white female in my early 40’s. I don’t fit into any of the stereotypes scribbler Sheehan has described. I work full time and have done so for 30 years (I started work at 13). I am a member of a union and have been for most of my life.

Well, Paul Sheehan isn’t a journalist so I guess he didn’t have time to check his facts. Wait, is he a journalist? Ah, doesn’t matter, I’ve got a deadline.

When did you set up the Facebook page?

I actually set up the page back in March 2013 and had hoped I wouldn’t have to use it. I activated it on the night of the federal election. Within 12 hours the page received 150,000 likes (not one of them paid for).

What do you want to achieve?

At first, I just wanted the page to be a piss-take on “Julia Gillard – Worst PM” and really only expected a few hundred likes, mostly from my friends. Now that it has exploded, I want to be able to offer a “safe haven” (as best I can) for people to be able to post their anger and frustration about Abbott and his government without the standard hate-filled vitriolic responses one usually receives on “pro” Abbott pages.

I noticed a post where you said that any racist comments would be removed and the people making them banned from the site. Are there any other rules about who can comment and what they can say?

There are no rules as such and to be honest, for a page with our numbers, it is very hard to police. I do not allow racism as I absolutely abhor it. I make no apology for singling that out but we do also monitor sexist comments and hate-filled speech. I have also asked our moderators to delete any comments they see that contain any references to assassinating Abbott. I have 9 moderators and they are all real-life friends with the exception of 3 who are Facebook friends of friends.

I suppose that you read the Paul Sheehan article. Any comments?

Sheehan’s opinion is not one I have ever valued. He is unashamedly Liberal biased. I don’t have any time for Murdoch’s minions and long for the day when journalists with integrity return to the fore. Sheehan may think the content of the page is fake but therein lays the true irony. Much of what we post comes from the media outlets he works for.

I’m not sure how people having the ability to post what they like on a Facebook page is a display of closed-mindedness. On the contrary. Isn’t it our democratic right to form our own opinions and share our thoughts and ideas? Our members have had enough of the en masse brainwashing that has occurred for the best part of the last 5 or 6 years via our one-sided mainstream media. They are looking for an alternative voice which is why pages like ours are so popular. It is why people are turning to AIMN, Independent Australia and The Guardian for unbiased reporting. Or at least, the other side of the debate. Balance.

And as for his charge that you a buying “likes”?

I’m sorry to disappoint Sheehan but not one of our likes is fake. Yes, we have some members who use fake profiles but they are usually Liberal trolls too ashamed to post under their real names with their real pictures. We flick them pretty quick. I know it would be convenient to Sheehan for our page to be bolstered by fake likes but the reality is, we didn’t need to buy our members. Unlike of course Tony Abbott with his unusual overnight number explosions on Twitter and Facebook. Yes, it is most inconvenient that Abbott is just not well liked. Not well liked at all.

It seems to me that many of the accusations from Paul Sheehan were easily verifiable. He, for example, suggests that the group’s number of Facebook likes is “bogus”. He gives no reason for such a conclusion, and it seems he’s either misinformed or just being provocative in the hope of gaining attention. Rather sad really, when someone with a column in a widely read newspaper feels that the most important subject that they can discuss is their inability to believe that there are 166,000 people who are opposed to Abbott. Personally, I believe – and I think my beliefs are just as good as yours, Paul – that the figure 166,000 is rather low. I could cite evidence, but that’s not what an opinion piece is about, is it, Mr Sheehan?

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