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We are mired in the gutter of character assassination for political purposes

The Coalition’s political strategy has been, for some time now, to attack individuals in relentless smear campaigns. This does absolutely nothing to advance policy. It does nothing to encourage debate, inform the electorate, or garner support for action. It does nothing to improve the lives of Australians.

Looking back over this century so far, it is hard to remember the good things that have resulted from political decisions.

Instead, we remember the tragedy of illegitimate wars and argue about how to deal with the innocent victims. We attack people like Gillian Triggs who try to remind us of our obligation to protect human rights and to inform us of the harm being caused by our inhumanity.

We are told we should revere our civilised Western culture and our Judeo-Christian heritage, ignoring the way in which we built our wealth – invading countries, stripping them of their natural resources, stealing their land, massacring or enslaving the native population, instilling the fear of our god whilst spreading disease and debauchery.

We have sold off our common wealth, resources, crucial infrastructure, and profitable government businesses that provided competition to private providers, without consideration of future consequences.

We see inequality condemn millions to poverty as company profits soar, wages stagnate, employment becomes increasingly insecure and welfare payments fall further and further behind increases in cost of living.

We subsidise property investors ignoring the hundreds of thousands who can no longer afford anywhere to live.

We were briefly world leaders on tackling climate change until Tony Abbott convinced enough people that paying a few dollars a week to save the planet was an evil plot. Reversing the trend of a decade, emissions have increased every year since they “axed the tax”.

As we endure coral bleaching, massive flooding, devastating droughts and bushfires, changing rainfall patterns, increasing temperatures and the melting of the polar caps and permafrost, we brag about economic growth built on the export of fossil fuels. We attack Tim Flannery for passing on the warnings from the science community and disparage environmental protection through the legal system as green “lawfare”.

We wring our hands about falling educational standards as we pay teachers a pittance, pour more money into the private system whilst cutting promised funding to our most disadvantaged schools, decimate the TAFE sector, and burden university graduates with huge debts before they even start their working lives. Bureaucrats and conservative think tanks push rote learning in opposition to the initiative, creativity, communication, teamwork and leadership skills employers are asking for.

The private health system, rather than easing the burden on public health, has led to rising costs for everyone and longer wait times in the public system. Emergency departments are unable to cope as beds lie idle and jobs are filled by overseas visa workers. Primary health has had funding frozen and private health insurance costs soar as do the government subsidies to prop it up.

We had a chance to listen to our Indigenous people about a way forward in addressing disadvantage and giving them a voice in determining their own lives. Except we took their Statement from the Heart, screwed it up, and threw it in the bin without even a cursory glance. I cannot imagine how that must have felt to the people who worked so hard to bring everyone together.

We almost had a world class NBN until Abbott and Turnbull decided to demolish it. To all those lumbered with FttN, I empathise. You wouldn’t want a job with the Telecommunications Ombudsman right now.

The outsourcing of services, whether it be the jobactive network, aged care, the NDIS, private colleges, call centres etc, has not improved efficiency or cut costs but has led to a myriad of problems and opportunities for unscrupulous rorting.

We chose to let out car industry die rather than subsidise it and then decided to subsidise arms manufacturing instead – a fraction of the jobs for immeasurably higher cost. We cannot afford foreign aid but we have hundreds of billions for more weapons.

Rather than tackling the important issues facing government, we have endured endless scandals and directed attacks on opponents.

We have had three Labor leaders dragged before very expensive Royal Commissions. Julia Gillard was subjected to months of attack in parliament over legal work she did decades ago. Bill Shorten is now facing similar attack for a donation made over a decade ago.

In what has become a disturbingly familiar pattern, Craig Thomson’s arrest was televised. The destruction of Peter Slipper’s life also occupied the Coalition for a long time. Meanwhile, Kathy Jackson remains at large and no-one suffered any consequences for illegally sharing copies of the Speaker’s diary or for referring a possible debt of $900 to the police.

Sam Dastyari was forced to resign after asking a donor to pay a couple of small bills and then telling him that his phone might be tapped. No-one ever answered who told the government that this had happened. Is ASIO passing on information to be used for political purposes? And what of Andrew Hastie using parliamentary privilege to reveal an ongoing investigation by the FBI into a donor?

As they throw mud at everyone else, the character of Coalition members and the integrity of their actions often avoids scrutiny as they refuse freedom of information requests, ignore court directions, withhold evidence and advice.

Even with the protection racket, the Coalition have had more than their fair share of controversy.

Tony Abbott told us, when asked about the qualities of a female candidate, that she had “sex appeal”. Jamie Briggs was stood down for inappropriate and unwanted advances to a staffer. Barnaby got a staffer pregnant and is facing sexual harassment complaints. Both the head and deputy of Border Force stood down for affairs with junior staffers. Allegations of inappropriately securing jobs for their girlfriends remain unanswered.

Peter Dutton texts that a journalist is a “mad fucking witch” and Greg Hunt tells a female mayor to “fucking get over it”, “robust” language he also admitted to using to bully a public servant. Turnbull goes toe-to-toe with Abbott on a plane telling him “you’re fucking hopeless, you’re a fucking c#nt, you should resign.” And, in Parliament, Christopher Pyne calls Anthony Albanese a word that sounded a little bit like grub and a lot like c#nt.

Bronwyn Bishop and Sussan Ley both lost their positions for abusing travel entitlements.

The head of the ABCC is found guilty of breaching Fair Work Commission laws and the Public Service Commissioner resigns amidst questions about his links to the IPA. Michael Lawler also beats a hasty retreat allowing Michaelia Cash to bury the report into his protracted “sick leave”.

Tim Wilson went through no selection process for the job created for him at the AHRC, an organisation he had campaigned should be abolished, where he warmed a seat collecting a hefty salary for a short while whilst waiting for a safe Liberal seat to be gifted to him.

James McGrath was admonished for paying for tawdry dirt files to be complied on Labor members and was then gifted a job as Senator.

Andrew Robb and Bruce Bilson both took jobs before they left parliament which presented significant conflicts of interest.

Speaking of which, how has Stuart Robert survived the many controversies surrounding him?

The Coalition want proof of the process for approving the donation made by the AWU to GetUp in 2005 yet refuse to disclose the process for approving the $30 million grant to Foxtel Sports and the $443 million to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (whoever they are). And why was Gina gifted $70,000 to host a dinner where she gave $40,000 to Barnaby?

The Coalition has spent all of its time attacking unions, attacking Labor, attacking individuals who question their policy, and fostering division by ‘othering’ various groups in our community. Five years in and they still are looking for others to blame.

The rich have got richer but the vast majority of the population are feeling disappointed and uneasy, concerned about the future.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

The Coalition election strategy is, once again, to go for character assassination of the Labor leader – “Kill Bill” and “Unbelieva-Bill” and other such puerile nonsense

It is up to the public to reject this inadequate attempt at deflection and to demand a genuine debate of important policy.

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34 comments

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  1. Keitha Granville

    Couldn’t we have new rules about all of this ? A good start would be Question Time – where the Speaker was able to immediately terminate any MP for resorting to character comments. And while they are at that, dump the Dorothy Dixers – if any MP needs to spout about some policy or other let them do it via general email to everyone.

    How are we to achieve this ? Whilst we must get rid of this bunch of liars, I fear the ALP will do the same once they are in government.

  2. Kaye Lee

    Keitha,

    I think, or should I say hope, the ALP will be better but I cannot see real change until we change our system of government. We should take the opportunity of becoming a Republic very seriously and consider how we can fix the system. I really think a multi-party executive would make a difference. This archaic winner takes all system just doesn’t work anymore. Ambition replaces service.

    Question Time is a disgraceful waste of time. Senate Estimates are a bit more useful.

  3. Christine Farmer

    Brilliant article, Kaye Lee, but so depressing. How could anyone not in the top ten percent of income earners even think of voting for them? The lack of examination of what’s going on is a measure of how badly the MSM are doing what used to be their job. We are lucky to have people like you to provide some balance to the garbage we are being fed. Roll on the election, and meantime, thankyou for your pieces.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Kaye, I pause from reading the article to say this:

    Never has an opening paragraph been so crystal clear, so “hammer on head” than yours. It sums up this corrupt mob of incompetent buffoons gloriously. I could read no more than the opening paragraph – so much does it say.

    But now I return to the article and resume at paragraph number 2.

  5. babyjewels10

    Well said, Kaye Lee. I feel your pain.

  6. Michael Taylor

    Absolute Wow! The rest blew me away too.

  7. Zathras

    First Rule of politics (and talk-back radio) –
    If you don’t have the Facts on your side, argue the Truth
    If you don’t have the Truth on your side, argue the Facts
    If you don’t have the Facts or the Truth on your side, call the other person names.

    It sounds Unbelieve-a-Bill, I know, but it’s true!

    Democracy – a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

    Kakistocracy – a system of government which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens.

    Oligarchy – a small group of people having control of a country or organization.

    Banana Republic – an insulting word for a tropical country that is considered to have a weak economy, a dishonest or cruel government, and public services that do not work.

    Corporatism – a political and economic system in which planning and policy are controlled by large groups such as businesses, trade unions, and central government

    Kleptocracy – a form of corrupt government that allows the ruling class to accumulate great wealth and power while neglecting the mass of citizens

    Plutocracy – the state of being governed by a group of rich people

    The Coalition Government – philosophically and by it’s own actions – exists somewhere amid those definitions, but not entirely within the definition of a Democracy.

    Politically Incorrect – The act of voting for the Coalition.

  8. Keith Vass

    Love the article but where are the solutions? We all know we are being screwed right around the world but who is offering any genuine ideas for change? Where are the Bernie Sanders in Australia? I would love to help but lack the knowledge to do so. Where are the genuine THINKTANKS ? Is no one game to speak out?

  9. Matters Not

    Great article KL. Weaves many threads into a rich tapestry of modern political times – including the journey undertaken and the vehicles employed.

    Just for the record, there are ‘staffers’ and there are ‘public servants’ whose roles in government are somewhat different. But again the lines are increasingly blurred. Nevertheless Briggs and Joyce played in different ball parks.

  10. Matters Not

    What to do? Perhaps change the focus of the discourse completely?

    The trick of neoliberalism was to convince the public that it is the economic dimension of big issues that we must focus on,” he says.

    “Past generations . . . did not see the need to delay all significant debates about the shape and direction of their society until tax and industrial relations policies were optimised according to specific principles understood by a tiny proportion of the population.”

    After 27 years of continuous economic growth, it is inconceivable that the thing Australia needs most is to ‘grow our economy’ some more.

    “What we really need is to rebuild trust in our institutions and confidence in our country. We need to debate far more specific and important national goals, and then show ourselves that when we work together we can make things better. We have done it before and other countries are doing it right now.”

    We need to have a complete re-think. A new ‘common-sense’ – with new priorities and new paths to journey, An increased focus on ends, outcomes and the like. priorities etc.

    ROSS GITTINS. How we could revive faith in democracy (SMH 6 June 2018)

  11. helvityni

    Excellent article, KL, I also agree with your ‘solution’ in your reply to Keitha.

    In the meantime in Spain; The new cabinet will have 11 female ministers among its 17 members. By comparison, only five of the 22 ministers in Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet are women.

    “All are highly qualified and bring a vocation for public service and reflect the best of Spain,” Mr Sanchez ( the new PM) said on Wednesday.

    “[The new cabinet] is pro-gender equality, cross-generational, open to the world but anchored in the European Union.”

    PS. And what kind of women do we have, Michaelia, Kelly….etc….

  12. stephentardrew

    You are a star Kaye love your work.

  13. Ill fares the land

    In lot’s of unsavoury ways, whilst out politicians, be they federal, state or local government, have come to reflect the decline in our societal standards. True, the behaviours of all of our elected representatives are repugnant – they are self-serving, devious, corrupt or corruptible, but every day, each one of us probably witnesses some vile stream of diatribe unleashed by someone on someone else and often for some trivial or matter or imagined slight. An example. I recently witnessed a woman getting of a bus. As she got off, the driver let the bus inch forward slightly. Concerning yes, but no harm was done and the woman was not knocked over. But she went to the front of the bus and unleashed a phenomenal stream of bad language at the driver the screaming and language is about winning (I think). If not out in the world, we will see it online. We have allowed our world to be dominated by opinion, by imagined and confected outrage and a “win-at-all-costs” mentality. In one sense, our politicians should not be excused – they are elected, I fear, BECAUSE they represent the worst of ourselves – our fears, our hatred, our indifference to the plight of the vulnerable despite our pretentious shows of fake empathy, but they are also obnoxious, crude and bumptious and the LNP truly are the most execrable and absolutely the “worst of the worst”.

  14. Adrianne Haddow

    Bravo, Kaye Lee.
    Thanks for the reminders of the many dodgy dealings of the Lying iNept Party.
    There are so many incidents of corrupt practice, week after week, month after month, that it is hard to remember them.
    Each one overtaken by the next insult to our intelligence.

  15. guest

    Character assassination is a common means of attacking the perceived enemy.

    We as nation have voted in favour of same sex marriage, but we have had an inquiry about preserving religious freedom. Safe Schools programs are being dumped because they say, it is a Marxist idea. Meanwhile school chaplains are being made permanent in order to persuade the ignorant.

    In the universities there is the challenge of who will accept the idea of a Western Civilisation course promoted by John Howard. He has his own ideas about History, and that does not allow the Black Armband version of Oz History. It is not surprising that the Sydney University might find their view of the subject incompatible with Howard’s. So we get the Murdoch media attacking universities as being against freedom of speech and academic learning in general (a wonderful irony from the champions of a narrow view of free speech and their promotion of myopic ideology.

  16. paul walter

    The latest victim appears to be the vice-chancellor of the Australian National University. for refusing funding with ideological strings attached.

  17. Matters Not

    Methinks the ANU has just begun to fight:

    Professor Schmidt said the Ramsay Centre had “sought a level of influence over our curriculum and staffing that went beyond what any other donor has been granted, and was inconsistent with academic autonomy”.

    “This would set a precedent that would completely undermine the integrity of the university,” he said, noting the ANU had declined donations before and “will again”.

    https://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/act/very-surprised-pm-to-question-anu-over-ramsay-centre-backdown-20180607-p4zk0r.html

    Who would want to be on an intellectual bus driven by Rebecca Weisser? Surely Kim Beazley would’ve known it would come to this. Why, oh why? Howard f*cks Beazley once again. Won’t even make the headlines because there’s nothing new.

    A pity!

  18. Glenn Barry

    Mendacious malicious Malcolm the menacing guttersnipe – just look at the behaviour of the LNP with him in charge and see that it has to be a reflection on both the morals and character of the man – they’re feverishly diseased and reek of desperation

  19. paul walter

    Fantastic commenting, MN!!

  20. Sean Crawley

    Great overview exposing the consistent and total lack of ethical principles within the current government. And the detrimental effects to the well being of this country. It is clear that the system needs a major overhaul. In the meantime all the public can do, aside from revolution, is vote for change at the next federal election. To avoid the mostly apathetic and ignorant electorate from lazily and foolishly falling for the LNP’s election campaign propaganda – which will be well served by the 24/7 news cycle where the past’s lies and corruption are washed out of the collective conscience (ala, 3 second goldfish memory) – your above article Kaye, should be compulsory reading before anyone is allowed to cast a vote.

    Possible title for the leaflet – “Kaye Lee’s Lest We Forget Manifesto”

  21. Peter F

    Kaye, whenever I see your name as the person posting, I am drawn to it. This is among your most devastating. Well done. We MUST do all we can to remove these selfish idiots.

  22. James Cook

    We have a daughter who now lives in, and is a citizen of, Sweden. When we send her your posts she responds how she misses us and beaches and real summer but is so glad she is in a country that, although not perfect, at least tries to care for its citizens, not just the wealthy. FFS, what’s wrong with half of our population that they vote for, and still defend, this mob of traitors?

  23. Kaye Lee

    Unfortunately, people seem to be more moved by emotion than facts when deciding who to vote for

  24. Joseph Carli

    ” Unfortunately, people seem to be more moved by emotion than facts when deciding who to vote for”…and has it not always been so?
    And has not the fool played as great a part in human history as the wise person…the hypocrite even more trusted than the honest person..?:

    ” In truth, it is because Don Quixote is a fool that he is also a tragic figure. It is an affecting fact that on the world stage, where so many great and wise figures have moved and acted, the fool is more times than not destined to give the epilogue…” (Theodore Mommsen…Roman History).

    We have our own “fool” ; Turnbull..in these times that must now figure and in the future will be seen as a tragic figure.

  25. helvityni

    …are we living in a fool’s paradise ?

    Our universities under attack…what next..? Is this the time for an exit plan?

  26. isw

    Tell it like it is KL, if there’s no “None of the above” on the ballet of the next election I won’t be voting, again.

  27. diannaart

    Just tweeted this latest from Kaye Lee – because it clearly states the difference of what the Federal government has achieved for the nation, post mining boom.

    Answer: FA.

    Pre-mining boom, we had:

    a welfare net that kept up with inflation,

    a job market offering a majority of full-time permanent work,

    an almost affordable (for the public) tertiary education system (Hawke & Keating did introduce HECS)

    good health services (except for dental WTF)

    more public housing – yet we had a smaller population than now

    we manufactured a lot of stuff the world wanted to buy

    and now, post mining-effing-boom, we are told we cannot afford to care for our people?

  28. guest

    A recent example of Murdoch false news is the ghastly Mitchell article on Monday making false accusations about Julia Gillard’s non-existent “slush fund’. It shows the depths Murdoch media will go to besmirch the reputation of someone, especially as the campaign leading to an election hots up.

    It is interesting to see this kind of fake news at a time when the Murdoch media is singing the praises of Western Civilisation. The Murdoch media hardly demonstrates the epitome of intellectual rigour.It has spent much ink on claiming that Western Civilisation is based on intellect and reason. Intellectual rigour hardly shows in so much of Murdoch media opinion pieces and propaganda. So its broadside against universities is merely an ideological attack on what it calls “elite” ivory tower Marxists. The Murdoch bullying is in reponse to the ANU rejection of a proposed Western Civilisation course supported by Howard and Abbott, both partisan in a narrow view of History.

    Nor is the political party Murdoch media supports so zealously exactly a shining light of reason. It is showing itself to be a quagmire of confusion.

    We can see it, for example, in its attitude to climate change, which is itself a result of the machinations of a “reasoned” approach to science and the environment arising after the Enlightenment. We see it in the turning of the oceans into plastic soup.

    We see it in the madness of the Middle East, the insanity of a Trump USA, in the confusion of Brexit in the UK…

    What has the Murdoch media achieved which is of any positive worth for the nation? Its propaganda supports only the rich and powerful, but its underlying philosophical underpinning is in a sure process of decay towards redundance.

  29. Matters Not

    Re:

    people seem to be more moved by emotion …

    Indeed! And fear leads the emotional pack.

    These days there aren’t many scams bigger than all the fuss we’re making about the threat of terrorism coming to our shores. What makes the scam worse is that we bring it on ourselves.

    … this degree of concern is totally out of whack with the actual risk of being attacked.

    A glance of the figures shows that domestic violence, accidental gun discharges, electrocution and falling from moving vehicles are far more likely to produce fatalities than terrorism. Yet that’s where the emotional trigger resides – waiting to be mobilised when the political reality benefits from a distraction.

    Our response to terrorism is emotional rather than thoughtful. And that leaves us open to manipulation by people with their own agendas.

    After the media come the politicians. It’s conventional wisdom among the political class that security issues tend to favour the Liberals over Labor. That’s why conservative politicians are always trying to heighten our fear of terrorism (see Turnbull above) and why Labor avoids saying anything that could have it accused of being “soft on terror”.

    And so it goes. Fear here, there and everywhere. And we cop it.

    ROSS GITTINS. The threat of terrorism in Australia is a scam that costs us dearly (SMH 25/7/2017)

  30. helvityni

    …and according to David Marr;

    “Turning fear into panic is a great political art: knowing how to stack the bonfire, where to find the kindling, where to slosh on the bucket of kero to set the whole thing off with a satisfying roar…”

    According to our Coalition, there is so much to fear: yellow, brown and black people, boats, terrorists, home-grown or imported, people from the Left, the Greens, Labor…but not from One Nation, then there are those naughty university vice chancellors, plus people who believe in the CC, you also got to fear the refugees, who might be accepted into NZ, but who really only see that place as a re-tour to the ‘promised land’ Oz….and there are so many more people and issues that can cause us panic….

  31. Michael Taylor

    helvityni, I’m waiting for the “be afraid of everybody” fridge magnets to be delivered to all households, similar to those that Howard handed out a few elections ago.

  32. Kaye Lee

    Be alert, the world needs more lerts.

  33. Egalitarian

    Greed and Fear are LNP major playing cards. Divide the people and manipulate peoples ignorance and their poor financial circumstances and throw them a few cherries occasionally.Just like what Donald Trump does very naturally. And of course the stupid fall for it.

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