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What would you know anyhow?

1 Have you ever been reluctantly drawn into one of those political discussions that just seem to flare up randomly in the office, on the train home, during a dinner party or at half time at the footy or the local pub? You know, the sort that takes you by surprise.

After many years of experience, I learned that by giving them five minutes of listening time, which ones were worth engaging in and those that weren’t worth the pain. The ones that usually end with a loud. “What would you know anyhow?”

My observation of these matters taught me that it’s usually good when temper flares to put some space between it and my common sense. Presenting facts to people who have reasoned by virtue of their feelings that they are right is totally futile.

You see, experience also told me that people often argue from within the limitations of their understanding. When their factual evidence is scant, they revert to an expression of their feelings. Or, more often than not, opinions are based on our values rather than our understanding, and the difficulty is separating the two.

Sometimes I would – if the protagonists were just too much to bear – spend enough time trying to convince them of the point I was making, before saying my goodbyes.

I never said it arrogantly. Unfortunately, I found that less informed folk usually outnumber the more politically aware. Therefore, conservatives feed them all the bullshit they need, and the menu generally contains a fair portion of untruths. No, we are not a nation interested in how we are governed and it never ceases to amaze me just how little people know.

Perhaps a greater understanding of what I am saying might be obtained by exercising a greater willingness to think more deeply.

A good example was when Julia Gillard made her “There will never be a carbon tax under a government that I lead” statement on August 16, 2010. Then when the inference of a lie was growing, she said on August 20, “I don’t rule out the possibility of legislating a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a market-based mechanism. I rule out a carbon tax.”

Trying to explain to people that the clarifying statement negates the first one is almost impossible in politics.

I have learnt in the longevity of my existence that if I had a point of view, that I should feel free to express it. And if I did so with civility, my point of view would be laced with a degree of dignity. I still apply that principle today.

When people like Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt write or voice their opinions outrageously – based, so it seems, on ‘payment for controversy’ – they pick up on a statement like that of Gillard’s and run with it. You know that’s the end of the argument. They saturate the news media and other viewpoints aren’t heard.

Sometimes I allow myself the indulgence of thinking I know a lot. Then I realise that in the totality of things, I know little.

One thing I am sure of, however, is that there are known facts in the world because facts and science prove them so.

You see, a debate is not of necessity about winning or taking down one’s opponent. It is an exchange of facts, ideas and principles. Or in its purest form, it is simply the art of persuasion.

So millions of YouTube subscribers watch the first video (the edited one) and conclude that Gillard lied. The Murdoch media pushes the shit out out of it, and it sticks.

Julia Gillard was vilified for what was perceived as a lie about the carbon tax. Tony Abbott told lies outrageously, and survivors of his ministry are still pumping them out today.

The three categories of political lies that l identify with most are gross exaggeration, omission, and falsehood.

The first may be when a party grossly over exaggerates its performance, the second is when they deliberately leave things out, like saying we have lowered our emissions when they have only done so by using credits issued at the first Kyoto. Thirdly there is the blatant lie.

Now I constantly ask myself if we have reached a point in politics where truth is something that politicians have persuaded us to believe, like ‘alternative facts’ rather than truth based on factual evidence and arguments.

I am also convinced conservatives believe that the effect of lying diminishes over time and forget that they leave behind a residue of broken trust.

Over the years l have written much about lying and still see it as a stain on the profession. If politics is to be cleaned up, it is firstly by eliminating lying as a political tool.

2 On a lighter note, Mike Carlton was as totally upset (NOT) as I upon hearing the news that George Christensen was leaving politics:



While Peter van Onselen noted that there was something smelly about this:



3 The usual approach by this government is to promise outcomes without the government accepting responsibility for any action to achieve that outcome. Nothing new there.

4 The PM tells us that what the country needs right now is the church. Good lord!

5 Not sure about Morrison’s laying on of hands stuff. It didn’t do much for Malcolm.

6 Of our ten most recent prime ministers, only Morrison was not politically active in his or her youth. Hawke joined Labor at 18. Keating at 15 or 16. Rudd at 15. Howard was involved in the Liberal Party in his early twenties, as was Fraser. Gillard was in student politics.

7 New fighter planes and submarines. Are we under threat? Who would want to invade us? We can hardly harvest enough water for our own thirst, let alone a significantly increased population.

8 The Coalition ride a wave of popularity and portrays itself as an election-winning powerhouse. It is not. It is highly dysfunctional with very average politicians. But lying is a very potent tool, and it comes in many forms. They are revealed in the sorts of situations l mentioned earlier.

9 It is the young who have a manifestly different view of the future and know that the time has come for change, not just to clean up the environment but also to rid the parliament of corruption. Where to start? Well, start with a Royal Commission into every aspect of the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Instigate a National ICAC with teeth and the power to conduct retrospective inquiries.

10 We must have the courage to ask our young that they should go beyond desire and aspiration and accomplish not the trivial but greatness. They should not allow the morality they inherited from good folk to be corrupted by the immorality of evil minds.

11 The drums of war are also drumming up a scare campaign for the next election. This is just the prelude.

12 Two more deaths in custody, now totalling 7 in the past few weeks. Is anyone in the government interested?

13 Criminalizing Australian citizens for wanting to return home is a disgusting thing to do, and the way the Prime Minister is so flippantly treating the decision is equally so.

I agree with Malcolm Turnbull that Australian citizens must be repatriated and quarantined at Howard Springs or elsewhere.

14 Distant threats of war with China and Peter Dutton as Minister for Defence. What could possibly go wrong?

My thought for the day.

What would l know anyhow?

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  1. Sue

    Royal Commissions don’t fix problems either. Their recommendations routinely ignored.

  2. Terence Mills

    The Morrison government are trying spin again by saying that testing the constitutionality of the ban on Australian citizens returning to Australia (from India in this case) won’t be heard by the courts until after the ban has been lifted and thus should be abandoned.

    That doesn’t matter, they are trying to avoid this important constitutional point being tested by our courts and that is unacceptable.

    It is important that we establish, in the absence of a Bill of Rights, whether a government minister can withdraw the rights of Australian citizens from returning to the land of their citizenship.

  3. Karl Koch

    Is it constitutional to accept that the PM of the day may choose to close Parliament for months, hold meetings in secret to discuss the future well being and survival of the country with his selected team of gas industry and fossil fuel magnates?
    Is it constitutional to block the opposition from speaking in Parliament ?
    Is it prudent or acceptable to supply a government plane to a retiring politician for a jaunt around the world to secure a job at the cost of at least $4000 per hour to the tax payer ?
    Why is it accepted that a PM of the day may choose the date of the next election to appease his will and convenience?
    Just a sampling of valid concerns from a mere individual who only gets to express his view on a ballot paper……

  4. Josephus

    Excellent article ditto the comments. Having read decades ago Karl Popper’s Conjectures and Refutations I learnt the difference between opinion and evidence and not just any evidence but falsifiability. So when the big redneck bloke in the village pub told me climate change was a lie I replied that his opinion was worthless and that he might consider reading expert reports instead. To my delight he was fuming- bet his wife believes his nonsense.

  5. Kaye Lee

    “start with a Royal Commission into every aspect of the Murray Darling Basin Plan”

    They already had one in South Australia and the Feds blocked public servants from appearing or providing documents.

    When the courts ruled that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to fund school chaplains in public schools, they just gave the money to the states instead and insisted it be spent inflicting non-trained religious people on students instead of trained youth counsellors and psychologists.

  6. Maggie

    How many examples not just in Australia of politicians, bankers, corporations & marketers unethical even corrupt behaviors will we the people tolerate?

    Why is it not considered treason against our Nations and peoples best interest when powerful and influential exposed for manipulate, filter exclude information and even lie to mislead voters citizens customers.

    Why is there no fit and proper person/company measure legislated with harsh swift penalties that can be applied to remove unsuitable people and or revoke business license? there is no excuse all have ample money & resources to check the facts.

  7. Lorraine Osborn

    Thanks John. My only quibble is your observation that Morrison wasn’t active in politics in his youth. He may not have joined a political party but he was a political animal. He and he family were actively religious. His father was in local government, so politics and religion, a potent mix, would have been part of his upbringing. Reports of him lurking around the Liberal Club at Uni, David Hardaker’s report about his uni thesis on the Brethren Sects seems to show he was in the game very early.

  8. Jack sprat

    Smirko was active or should I say inactive in politics when he was at university and joined the young liberals at another university across town as the uni he attended did not have one . According to the others menbers in the party at the time he was thought to be a dickhead who seldom said anything and was only notiiceable for always wearing a business shirt with corduroy pants .This information comes courtesy of true crimes weekly .

  9. Kerri

    How about a Royal Commission into Angus Taylor alone?

  10. Andrew J. Smith

    Unfortunately we get the MPs we deserve and/or we think are deserving of our votes. If you go back in time to Neil Postman of ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ etc. fame, his work on tv media especially and how influential legacy media like tv has been in shaping opinions and how we think, or not…..

    One can see the influence often, not to say too much internet and/or screen time are good, but too many Australian homes have large screen tvs, running continuously or ever present, yet the content (with too much sport) has been dumbed down or simplified, and informed communication compromised by 20 second sound bites not elaborative conversations, at least on serious issues.

    The outcome? I am surprised how often even highly educated professionals, on any given topic, ask a question (mostly closed for yes/no response) but preclude one responding openly when they then interject trying to guess the answer….. (like a tv quiz show presenter becoming a contestant); well conditioned response showing some insecurity and/or need to show how clever they are while framing and limiting any subject?

  11. wam

    Juliar was a victim of brandt and the words carbon tax. Sadly, it was truth only for a few moments, when she had the media saying carbon price but she wasn’t, backed up and not strong enough to continue alone with the rabbott screaming his debt and carbon tax QED. In the old days pensions depended on 3 elections so a clever dick(almost certainly labor) put the candidate election as one. QED pensions without facing 3 elections. Then some equally clever dick added a gift for friends returning to society without 3 elections, as a ‘re-settlement’ gift of $100k. Now another rort, to get the pension AND the resettlement. ICAC needed but the trough is always full of snouts left, right and centre and only arses in the air.
    What you know depends on the people you talk to, listen to and read about.
    If the range is narrow???

  12. Consume Less

    Thought to be a dickhead,,,,… so much for change.

  13. B Sullivan

    Julia Gillard was representative of the Labor Party’s lack of commitment to protecting the environment. Why for the earth’s sake didn’t she argue the obvious merits of a carbon tax instead of flatly ruling it out of the question? Why didn’t she fight for what Kevin Rudd had lost sight of, if he was ever sincere about the threat of global warming in the first place? Whose votes was she seeking, environmentalists or climate change deniers?

    We know Julia Gillard can fight and we know she didn’t fight for the environment. We know her opposition were flakes of no substance exposed by the light of science. We know she submitted to a second KRudd Labor government bent on repealing the Carbon Tax.

    Both Labor and the Coalition know that under Australia’s biased electoral system government can only be won by appeasing the regional states, with their appetite for environmentally destructive industries. They know from the AEC’s records of primary votes that more people vote to be represented by the Greens Party than by the Nationals. So I assume they know that democracy doesn’t really mean democracy in Australia where minorities overwhelming decide who rules, OK.

  14. wam

    Well repeated sullivan baa baa.
    All that is needed is 50% plus 1 vote what is biased about that?? Except in the senate, where the above the line abrogation of preferential duties gives the minority supporters over their odds.
    ‘So I assume they know that democracy doesn’t really mean democracy in Australia where minorities overwhelming decide who rules..’
    In his search for cash from the city latte-ists, the bandit lost any control in parliament passing it on to other extremists. But standing in every seat garnished him $9m more than his usual $6(thanks boobby). Wonder if his 9 seat plan is gaining support?
    Long live the preferential system down with extremists.

  15. Maggie

    B Sullivan
    So easy in hindsight but I do ask the same questions why did ALP cave in, if they were going to lose the next election better to stand up and fight for the right policies not water them down and or abandoned and or look for a scapegoat (Mr Rudd)

    Sadly last election policies were excellent but yet again ALP cut and run changed the leader and watered down the policies.

    I did hear I think Kevin Rudd say but the party must build the communities understanding and commitment to Policies I find it hard to agree I wonder if the little by little is too little and too late?

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