What the hell is going on?

Abbott asleep

Now and again – but rarely indeed – I come across a political article in the mainstream media that has me nodding furiously in agreement. Yes, like I said, rare indeed. The simple truth is rare enough, let alone an article that goes to the heart of it. This one by Geoff Kitney titled What is going on with the Abbott government? in yesterday’s Australian Financial Review stands out.

I cannot reproduce the article due to copyright reasons but I can compile a few telling sentences from it that gets the gist of the matter. I’m sure, that after reading them, you too will be nodding your head. Here goes:

The alarm bells about the Abbott government are becoming deafening . . .

And it’s not hard to imagine that the first question being asked about Abbott’s Australia is: “What on earth is going on?”

Australia’s most important regional relationships – Indonesia and China – have entered dangerous territory since the Abbott government came to power.

And what this has revealed has been a worryingly narrow vision which seems to take too little heed of the economic dimensions of Australia’s foreign and strategic interests.

A wake-up call is desperately needed.

I hope I’ve teased you enough to be encouraged to read the article. Actually, I implore you to. I would also implore you to share it widely because not only is a wake-up call required of the Abbott Government, but for all Australians who voted for him.

My TV is full of rubbish – and so is my letterbox

For those wanting a well-earned break from politics, this guest post from Joseph might help fill your day with something different. There are a couple of things stuck in Joseph’s craw which I can certainly relate to.

Anyway, over to Joseph:

Free To Air is nothing more than an advertising vehicle.

When did you see something with substance and entertainment value? Apart from the ABC and SBS there’s very little to watch and even then they are very old imported European and UK television programs, repeated ad nauseum.

On the commercial channels it’s just a whole load of stupid aggressive, confronting, violent, mind-numbing American crap.

The advertising on commercial TV is an obscenity and nothing too intelligent. All day, every day, insurance policies – for example – are being pushed at you with the most stupid connections and reasons. Most of these, in collusion with the banks and the two major supermarkets are directed back to a German Insurance company and when you actually read the terms and conditions, you in fact get less, if anything, than the cost of your premiums.

I find it very difficult to watch anything on Australian Television and even on-line subscriptions are somewhat limited in their content. We had a whole day on commercial channels spruiking the Melbourne Cup, Bris31 showing Chinese news and SBS broadcasting American news. The ABC just follows along and reports as “News” the sporting events and reiterating what the commercial TV stations and the newspapers are saying.

We as an Australia population are in dire straights with this level of commercial and stupidity being pushed at us from all broadcasting networks. Maybe we could say “no” and inform the networks that “We are as mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”.

And I’m also sick of receiving advertising material in my mail box. It never lets up despite a sign that says quite categorically “No Junk Mail”.

Apparently these purveyors of marketing trash think that it’s not “junk mail”: it is obviously of importance to society – so they think – but God knows how many trees were chopped down and pulped to make such a volume of useless paper.

Everything goes straight into the recycle bin. I don’t even bother looking at them. Because I live in what is regarded as a “Wealthy Suburb” it seems that I’m inundated with all this marketing crap.

We live in a brain-numbing society.

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How much damage?

This is purely speculation as no one can predict the future.  However, the future close and more distant can be based on past experience.  This is of course what this blog and many others have been attempting to do for almost as long as blogs have been a vehicle for public opinion – that is, take reports from mainstream media sources, and apart from analytical assessment and commentary, predict what an Abbott led government might have in store for us in the future.

Latest on Abbott’s list of debacles, when it comes to foreign affairs is:

In a Washington Post interview, Tony Abbott bagged the previous government- “They made a whole lot of grubby deals in order to try and perpetuate themselves in power. It was an embarrassing spectacle, and I think Australians are relieved they are gone.” A leading US political commentator responded by saying, ”It really does violate a basic principle of diplomacy to drag in your domestic politics when you go abroad.”

But when have we ever known Tones to be concerned about things such as sensitivities of others, after all funerals are cheap pickings when it comes to finding opportunities to bag “whatever”.  I honestly do not think that Tony even thinks.  A part of me suspects that it’s not so as to be nasty nor ignorant, nor rude, it’s just that he really is clueless.

It is clear to me that Abbott feels far more comfortable safe at home in his pyjamas, at a place where he doesn’t have to contend with these odd types, such as people of other races and of different religions – safe and comfy in a place where he doesn’t “feel threatened”.  Tony always has to be in charge, whether it means sitting in the front seat of a truck, being admired for the body beautiful or intimating that “the others” would be better off in their own comfort zone such as behind an ironing board or picking up rubbish, or enjoying sleeping rough.

As far as being diplomatic goes, Tony struggles.  Who else would boast that their daughter were/are virgins?  Or that marriage equality is “a passing fashion”.  Or that it is “folly” to expect women to achieve equality in public life.

However, at least for the time being we’re stuck with a prime minister who has stated that foreign affairs isn’t his strong suit, nor is economics, nor is…….

On foreign affairs, Abbott must remember that he has a hard act to follow.  Rudd for all his faults knew diplomacy, Gillard also for all her faults, knew to either show respect or to stay out of the picture.  I keep wondering why Abbott insists on attempting something which he knows he is extremely bad at, and has said he has no interest in.  Is it that his Foreign Minister J. Bishop is equally as hopeless (sorry Julies but your brief forays into your own portfolio when in opposition instilled me with no confidence whatsoever).  Is it that Abbott is attempting to emulate his hero JW Howard and make a spot for himself on the world stage?  In spite of the build up from Abbott’s cheer squad in the mainstream media and especially the Murdoch media, Abbott’s attempts at foreign affairs could best be described as lurching from one disaster to another with only the good graces of his overseas counterparts sufficient to partially makes excuses for him.

When you slam asylum seekers as “un-Christian”, for some reason our neighbors from whom you seek cooperation think to themselves WTF!

On Syria,

Mr Abbott dumbed down the crisis by saying it was not a situation of “goodies versus baddies” but “baddies versus baddies”.

As Australia’s intervention is unlikely, is it not best to stay out of a conversation which you know little about?  Australia has fought hard to be taken seriously, and it’s not all that long ago that we were considered a bunch of beer swilling yobs – do Australia a favour and desist from dumbed down commentary while others are speaking.

Tony and diplomacy:

Tony Abbott joked about the Costa Concordia, a cruise ship that sunk claiming 11 lives.

Tony Abbott joked “that was one boat that did get stopped, wasn’t it?”

When Tony Abbott was advised that she should apologise, Tony Abbott felt that he didn’t need to apologise as it was just “banter”.

Tony’s note to self:  sarcasm is inappropriate when lives have been lost.

On refugees:

The UN Human Rights Committee recently identified 143 violations of the UN Human Rights Convention with respect to these refugees. They referred to their treatment as cruel, inhumane and degrading.

Although completely irrelevant to “insular Australia”, these findings do not go unnoticed nor unremarked internationally.

Although the UN Committee has directed Australia “to provide the refugees with an effective remedy, including release from detention on appropriate conditions, rehabilitation and compensation”, it will be who cares a FF in Abbott’s Australia.  After all we have far more important matters to attend to than our moral world standing; at least for now.  I do not hold much hope that diplomatic relations with other countries will be of any priority in Abbott’s-Australia.

Unfortunately for Tony the rest of the world has concerns such as the use of fossil fuels, alternative energies, protection of habitat, multinational domination.

Even in fortress Australia, we are a country with an obesity crisis, a gambling addiction crisis, an ever-increasing wealth divide between the haves and the have-a-lot less, the never-tackled problems of housing affordability, a non-existent dental care system and the most casualised workplace in any first world economy – currently running at 35% according to latest figures.

Will an Abbott led government have any interest in these issues or will One Term Tony even be unable to get his head around these issues? Given past experience of Tony Abbott’s inability to grasp the essence of things that matter, I doubt it.

Wrecking Ball

For sale: Australia

Did anybody see this in The Australian a few days ago? Here are some key points:

Indonesia’s biggest importer of live cattle from Australia, the Santori company, has just announced the purchase of two massive cattle properties in the Northern Territory.

The sale comes just a day after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott concluded his first talks in Jakarta with his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Mr Abbott made it clear Australia would welcome any investment by Indonesian companies, including government-owned businesses, in Australian cattle stations . . .

Tony Abbott has certainly kept his word. It was recently announced that:

Tony Abbott has put investment and free trade at the centre of the Coalition’s agenda to reignite economic growth by warning that other countries would “build walls against us” if the nation cracked down on foreign capital.

In a news conference to announce his government frontbench, Mr Abbott said: “I want people here and abroad to understand that Australia welcomes foreign investment. It’s got to be the right foreign investment, which is in our national interest, but one thing we can’t do is build walls against the world.”

But wait! Prior to the election Tony Abbott and the Coalition were against foreign ownership of agricultural property. Last August in their own discussion paper they stated:

. . . the Coalition proposes the sale of farmland and agribusinesses be examined particularly closely, suggesting the Foreign Investment Review Board scrutinise all foreign acquisitions of agricultural land valued at over $15 million. The current threshold is $244 million.

And the Murdoch media even jumped in with it’s undying support:

South Australia’s food supplies will be increasingly at risk unless Julia Gillard adopts the Opposition’s new measures on the sale of farms to foreign investors.

And of course, Tony Abbott was at pains to tell us how much he was against foreign ownership.

Now we hear that he wants to attract foreign investment.

What ever made him change his mind?

Will the real Scott Morrison please stand up?

Anyone who listened to Scott Morrison’s maiden speech to Parliament in February 2008 would have been heartened that a man of such humility and humanity could one day be a political heavyweight in our country, especially of one who belonged to the Coalition. They had, after all, suffered a massive defeat at the hands of an electorate after twelve years of Howard’s mean spirited government.

After Howard’s demonisation of asylum seekers it was a breath of fresh air to hear someone new in the party speak of his love for all people and their right to share our country. One could have easily been lulled into believing this man could one day become the Minister for Immigration and through his beliefs restore Australia’s long-gone goodwill of fellow beings. Here are some extracts of his speech:

It is with humility and a deep sense of appreciation to the electors of Cook that I rise to make my maiden speech in this House. Today I wish to pay tribute to those who have been instrumental in my journey and to share the values and vision that I intend to bring to this House. I begin by acknowledging the first Australians, in particular the Gweigal people of the Dharawal nation of southern Sydney, who were the first to encounter Lieutenant James Cook, the namesake of my electorate, at Kurnell almost 240 years ago. I also commence by expressing my sincere appreciation to the people and families of the Sutherland shire in my electorate of Cook for placing their trust in me on this first occasion.

The shire community is a strong one. It is free of pretension and deeply proud of our nation’s heritage. Like most Australians, we are a community knit together by our shared commitment to family, hard work and generosity. We share a deep passion for our local natural environment and embrace what Teddy Roosevelt called the vigorous life, especially in sports. It is also a place where the indomitable entrepreneurial spirit of small business has flourished, particularly in recent years. In short, the shire is a great place to live and raise a family. As the federal member for Cook, I want to keep it that way by ensuring that Australia remains true to the values that have made our nation great and by keeping our economy strong so that families and small business can plan for their future with confidence.

At a local level, families—in particular carers—will come under increasing pressure because of the inability of local services to meet the changing needs of an ageing population. The character of our local area is also threatened by a failure to deliver critical state infrastructure such as the F6 extension for our current population, let alone the population growth targets set by the state government for the future.

On the Kurnell peninsula, the modern birthplace of our nation, we must reverse 150 years of environmental neglect, most recently demonstrated by the construction of Labor’s desalination plant—a plant that New South Wales does not need and the shire community does not want.

We must also combat the negative influences on our young people that lead to depression, suicide, self-harm, abuse and antisocial behaviour that in turn threatens our community. We need to help our young people make positive choices for their lives and be there to help them get their lives back on track when they fall.

For the past nine years, the Hon. Bruce Baird has ably represented the Cook electorate. Bruce Baird is a man of achievement, integrity, faith and, above all, compassion. He has set a high standard. I thank him for his service, his personal guidance over many years and for being here today.

From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil.

Australia is a strong nation. It is the product of more than 200 years of sacrifice—most significantly by those who have served in our defence forces, both here and overseas, and by those who have fallen, particularly those who have fallen most recently, and to whom I express my profound gratitude. But a strong country is also one that is at peace with its past. I do not share the armband view of history, black or otherwise. I like my history in high-definition, widescreen, full, vibrant colour. There is no doubt that our Indigenous population has been devastated by the inevitable clash of cultures that came with the arrival of the modern world in 1770 at Kurnell in my electorate. This situation is not the result of any one act but of more than 200 years of shared ignorance, failed policies and failed communities. And we are not alone: our experience is shared by every other modern nation that began this way. There is much for us all to be sorry for. Sadly, those who will be most sorry are the children growing up in Indigenous communities today, whose life chances are significantly less than the rest of us.

We can choose to sit in judgement on previous generations, thinking we would have done it differently. But would we? Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Nor can we compare the world we live in today with the world that framed the policies of previous generations. So let us not judge. Rather, having apologised for our past—as I was proud to do in this place yesterday—let us foster a reconciliation where true forgiveness can emerge and we work together to remove the disadvantage of our Indigenous communities, not out of a sense of guilt or recompense for past failures but because it is the humane and right thing to do. Having said this, we cannot allow a national obsession with our past failures to overwhelm our national appetite for celebrating our modern stories of nationhood. We must celebrate our achievements and acknowledge our failures at least in equal measure. We should never feel the need to deny our past to embrace our future.

We are a prosperous people, but this prosperity is not solely for our own benefit; it comes with a responsibility to invest back into our communities. Our communities are held together by the selfless service of volunteers. We must work to value their service and encourage more of our community to join the volunteer ranks and assist local organisations engage and retain today’s volunteers, particularly from younger generations. We must also appreciate that our not-for-profit sector has the potential to play a far greater role in the delivery of community services than is currently recognised. As global citizens, we must also recognise that our freedom will always be diminished by the denial of those same freedoms elsewhere, whether in Australia or overseas.

We must engage as individuals and communities to confront these issues—not just as governments. We have all heard the call to make poverty history. Let us do this by first making poverty our own personal business.

The Howard government increased annual spending on foreign aid to $3.2 billion. The new government has committed to continue to increase this investment and I commend it for doing so. However, we still must go further. If we doubt the need, let us note that in 2007 the total world budget for global aid accounted for only one-third of basic global needs in areas such as education, general health, HIV-AIDS, water treatment and sanitation. This leaves a sizeable gap. The need is not diminishing, nor can our support. It is the Australian thing to do.

What a wonderful human being. One who recognised injustice to the first Australians; one who felt for those suffering overseas and one who believed in Australia’s ability to open up its arms to the underprivileged of the world.

What happened to him?

First, as our Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship  and now as our Minister for Immigration and Border Protection we hear these words (not in chronological order):

“I have always been angry at people making moral judgements…just because we took a different position from them”.

. . .

More than 30,000 refugees living in Australia will be denied permanent settlement and have their appeal rights stripped, under a new Coalition policy released on Friday.

Mr Morrison said the system would, in part, be modelled on Howard government policies and a system currently operating in the United Kingdom.

He said it would prevent the “90% of those arriving receiving permanent visas”, and address “a backlog of more than 30,000 illegal boat arrivals” already waiting for permanent visas.

. . .

Liberal Party immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has taken the demonisation of refugees and immigrants to new depths. Morrison called last month for asylum seekers living in the community under the Labor government’s punitive temporary visa scheme to be publicly identified, forced to report regularly to the police and placed under unspecified “behavioural protocols.”

. . .

This is an appalling failure from this government where we see other governments like the Government of Canada acting to introduce temporary visas.  They understand the need to take permanent residency off the table.

. . .

Well, I think the real point here is that the Gillard Government is known globally as a soft touch on this issue and people will go where the door is open and that’s certainly the case under this Government.
. . .

THE opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate.

Sources say Mr Morrison told the shadow cabinet meeting on December 1 at the Ryde Civic Centre that the Coalition should ramp up its questioning of “multiculturalism” and appeal to deep voter concerns about Muslim immigration and “inability” to integrate.

. . .

The Coalition won’t give up the ‘tow back the boats‘ line, even as it falls apart under scrutiny. It’s dangerous, illegal and threatens our key bilateral relationship with Indonesia.

Morrison’s media strategy is simple, but effective. Every time a boat arrives, he issues a press release and makes himself available for media comment. The line is always the same: we’ll tow them back. On 5 July, for instance, he wrote that “if elected, the Coalition will implement a full suite of proven border protection policies including turning boats around.

I could go on. And on. And on. The internet is filled with online material providing examples of what has become of Scott Morrison (look them up if you need more convincing). He isn’t behaving like the “man of such humility and humanity” that spoke to Parliament in February 2008. The new Scott Morrison seems as mean spirited as Howard himself. It’s hard to believe that the Scott Morrison of today is the same as the one of five and a half years ago.

Will the real Scott Morrison please stand up?

I’m afraid he has.

Stop the rot (the media rot)

A message from change.org . . .

Rupert Murdoch, Fairfax, ABC, SBS and all other Australian media outlets: Stop interfering with the democratic process.

The editorial published in The Age on Saturday, June 22 calling on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to step down, has spurred many of us to express our anger and dismay at the way the mainstream media are manipulating the public.

Like many other Australian voters, we believe that we’re living in the most desperate times that Australia as a nation has ever faced. Nothing less than our precious democracy is at stake.

So far, we haven’t taken to the streets, but we will if necessary. Many Australian voters have found it difficult to believe what’s been happening to us, and to our Prime Minister. But the time has come for us to take action to express our anger and disgust and to demand change.

We are no longer prepared to accept that a former Australian billionaire who owns so much of our media, and Newspoll, of course, is lying to us, manipulating us, and using us to further his own interests. And that the rest of the mainstream media, including the taxpayer-funded ABC, has fallen into step with the Murdoch media.

We are no longer prepared to accept the blatant bias of the mainstream media. We are not prepared to accept television and radio interviewers refusing to allow both the government and the opposition to spell out their policies.

We have had enough of the colossal cheek of interviewers preventing Labor spokespeople from talking about anything other than the leadership, as happened on the 7.30 Report last week, and then being told, as we were in The Age editorial: ‘The Age’s overriding concern is that under Ms Gillard’s leadership, the Labor Party’s message about its future policies and vision for Australia is not getting through to the electorate. Our fear is that if there is no change in Labor leadership before the September 14 election, voters will be denied a proper contest of ideas and policies – and that would be a travesty for the democratic process.’

The travesty rests squarely and heavily on your shoulders – it is of your own creation. How dare you treat the Prime Minister in this way, and then try to blame her for your own behavior?

Why is the message not getting through the media to the voters? Why are you refusing to allow it? Why are you creating doubts about the Labor leadership? Why are you not asking the opposition the tough questions? Who are these unnamed sources? Where are these leaked internal polls?

We could mention uncountable other examples of behavior from the mainstream media that we are no longer prepared to tolerate. It is not OK to treat anyone in the way our PM and the Labor-led minority government has been treated.

So, we, ordinary Australians, request that the management of Fairfax, the Murdoch press, SBS, the ABC and all other media outlets insist that their journalists commence demonstrating the professional qualities required to truthfully inform the people of Australia of issues impacting on ordinary Australians.

In particular, we insist that:
• The media discontinue its creation of news as opposed to the reporting of news.
• The media immediately commence reporting on the policies (or lack thereof) of the Government and the Opposition to allow Australians to have an informed vote.
• You get your hands off our democracy. No more interference in the democratic process.
• You cease and desist from allowing the Prime Minister to be demeaned and trivialized in the media.

If you want to help stop the rot: sign here.

Change

Tony Abbott: high anxiety

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It seems that politics in Australia exists in some sort of parallel world. Is it that the Australian media is completely disconnected from reality, or is it that it chooses to be so?

From reading or listening to little but mainstream, it would seem that the media and the Liberals would prefer the impression that nothing has changed since the last election. The rhetoric remains stagnant: the Gillard government it is repeated, is in deep trouble. Julia Gillard’s hold on power is tenuous we are told; and we have been told the same thing since 2010. As Rossleigh so ably put it in his topic at The Australian Independent Media:

A leadership spill is speculated to occur tomorrow, and on Thursday . . . Friday at the latest. If not Friday, certainly sometime before or after the next election.

Yet strangely, little is forthcoming from the Opposition to enlighten us as to why this is “a bad government”. Where is the rhetoric, the photo ops, the hard luck stories to back up the imagine which Tony Abbott wishes to convey?  It seems that it exists in this parallel world, in the imagination of Tony Abbott and the media.

If The Master (and I do not use this term as a compliment) John Howard was in charge today, then by God we Aussies would know we were in strife as not a day would go by without pictures of Howard’s “Battlers”; photos of Aussies “doing it tough”. Mums, Dads and kiddies would be out there on the streets displaying their ragged and torn Nikes while mum sobs into her somewhat bedraggled pure silk Ralph Lauren hankie. The headlines would read: This is what has become of Howard’s Aspirationals under a Labor government.

Yet where is Tony Abbott? Tony is on the beach with a daughter or two, Tony is hard-hatting it with the workers, Tony is downing a cleansing ale. Empathy with Howard’s Battlers does not exist for Tony.

Tony (not) empathising with workers and unhappy domestic situations, and yes he managed to do this all in one brief sentence:

Bad bosses, like bad fathers and husbands, should be tolerated because they do more good than harm…

Tony (not) empathising with the gay community:

Well, there is no doubt that it challenges, if you like, orthodox notions of the right order of things…

To me, this is a WTF moment on indigenous issues:

Racism used to be offered as the complete explanation for Aboriginal poverty, alienation and early death. Racism hasn’t disappeared. Still, if racism caused poverty, why hasn’t poverty declined as racism diminished.

Tony yet again (not) empathising with the indigenous community:

There may not be a great job for them but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done.

Tony (not) empathising with the difficulties facing Australian businesses:

To be honest, I think that Australian-made campaigns are feelgood campaigns at best.

Tony (not) empathising with mental illness:

…we just can’t stop people from being homeless if that’s their choice…”

And:

We can’t stop people drinking; we can’t stop people gambling; we can’t stop people having substance problems; we can’t stop people from making mistakes that cause them to be less well-off than they might otherwise be.

Is this the picture of public anxiety which the Liberals wish to convey? If there is community anxiety, it should be that a person with these opinions might become Prime Minister.

However, onward Tony Abbott hastens all a’flurry on a road back to nowhere in particular, and all the while providing constant visual images that just perhaps Australians aren’t doing it all that tough after all. Yet again and all the while, glossing over and trivialising the many important issues which Australia has been facing, and will face in the future.

So here is our parallel world where Whyalla, the government and our society are about to collapse in chaos and despair we remain where we started, with a photo op and little else.

It is with some gratification that an article in the Herald Sun announces that:

TONY Abbott’s budgie smugglers have been replaced with ”stopping the boats” and ”people smugglers” in an analysis of the most used political words in mainstream media.

Tony Abbott . . . who do you trust?

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Tony Abbott was clearly channelling John Howard and the ghosts of an election past when he made his announcement that the forthcoming election was to be “all about trust”.

“Who do you trust to reduce cost of living pressures?” he (Tony Abbott) said. “Who do you trust to boost small business and to boost job security, and who do you trust to secure our borders?

“That’s what this election will be all about.”

Abbott’s strategists have been working on this for some considerable time, with the primary challenge facing Abbott’s people being Tony Abbott himself: The Gospel Truth Tony and Phoney Tony.

From Bernard Keane:

But Abbott also has long-term form in struggling with the truth in interviews. In 1998, he — commendably — undertook a personal mission to destroy One Nation..trouble was, he later denied to the ABC ever funding Sharples — a blatant lie he was sprung on in 2003. Then there was his curious denial of meeting George Pell during the 2004 election campaign, until Tony Jones jogged his memory and Abbott suddenly recalled that he’d met him the previous week.

Infamously, Tony Abbott would be the first leader in Australia’s history to come forth with the statement: Don’t trust me – make sure that you get it in writing.

The vital decision then had to be made by Tony Abbott’s strategists on whether to tackle Abbott’s trust predicament, or to make an attempt to avoid it completely. Clearly avoidance and attempts to replace Abbott’s image with non-threatening positive images have been “it” up until this present point in time.

It is no coincidence that photo ops of Tony always coincide with the issue which is currently foremost in the minds of his spinmeisters.  Defence, Tony holds a gun.  Small business, Tony is with a dead fish.  Women are the issue, enter Mrs. Tony.  Trust is the issue, Tony is a volunteer.

Contingent on this plan was the device of endowing Prime Minister Gillard with the habitual patterns and aspects of behaviour of which Abbott himself is guilty.

Enter the JuLiar Campaign.

At the 2004 election, the method used  to tackle the Lying Rodent and Honest John issue was to confront it, and there would be many amongst us who sputtered at the temerity of John Howard’s declaration:

This election, Ladies and Gentleman, will be about trust. Who do you trust to keep the economy strong and protect family living standards? Who do you trust to keep interest rates low? Who do you trust?

At the Howard-Latham election, “who do you trust?” was a shock tactic and it worked.

The promise made over and over is that Abbott is on the cusp of reinventing himself with plans to dispel his entrenched negativity.

. . . the Opposition had been preparing to roll out its policies and move on to a positive agenda.

The above was written by Lyndal Curtis – the date: May 18, 2010.  Tony Abbott was unable to sustain the momentum then and it is inevitable that he will be unable to sustain the momentum this time around.  This inability suggests a lack of discipline which is quite at odds with the perception which Abbott has gone to great lengths to promote, such as the “almost an excuse” conveniently provided by Michelle Grattan.

He is obsessed with discipline though seemingly unable to avoid periodic lapses.

It is therefore highly likely that during this year’s election campaign that little will be uttered on the issue of Tony Abbott’s image as Mr. Positive; the negativity is far too firmly entrenched. To do otherwise would require a complete change in Tony Abbott’s method of functioning which, as has been proven in the past, has been impossible for him to maintain.

Trust is the issue on which Tony Abbott hopes to run his campaign, however unlike Howard whose longevity provided some barrier between reality and rhetoric, Tony Abbott has no such barrier.  Once again the challenge facing Abbott is Abbott himself.  It would take but one slip, one single act of an aggressive approach such as on the occasion of his debate with Nicola Roxon for history to repeat itself.  Does Tony Abbott possess this discipline?  We are all about to find out.

The Coalition: A Plan and few solutions

It was with some trepidation that I ventured into the Coalition website titled: Real Solutions

According to the 12-points, The Plan (my summary) consists of:

  • a stronger, more productive and diverse economy with lower taxes – more jobs, higher real incomes and better services for you and your family.
  • Budget back under control, cut waste and start reducing debt – to keep interest rates as low as possible; and to protect the Australian economy from future economic shocks.
  • help families get ahead by freeing them from the burdens of the carbon ax – especially rising electricity and gas prices.
  • help small businesses grow and create more jobs – by reducing business costs and cutting taxes as well as cutting red and green tape costs by $1 billion every year.
  • create stronger jobs growth by building a diverse, world-class 5-Pillar economy which will.. 
  • generate one million new jobs over the next five years and two million new jobs within a decade.
  • build more modern infrastructure to get things moving – with an emphasis on reducing the bottlenecks on our gridlocked roads and highways.
  • We will deliver better services including health services – by putting local communities in charge of hospitals and improving co-operation with the States and Territories.
  • We will deliver better education – by putting local communities in charge of improving the performance of local schools.
  • We will take direct action to reduce carbon emissions inside Australia, not overseas – and also establish a 15,000-strong Green Army to clean-up the environment.
  • We will deliver stronger borders – where the boats are stopped – with tough and proven measures.
  • We will deliver strong and stable government that restores accountability – to deliver a better future for all Australians.

Is there anything new here?  Not that I can find.  A condensed version might be:  Stop the Boats, A Green Army, No Carbon Tax, No Mining Tax, to put local communities in charge of health and education and “restoring” accountability. On the latter, given that Mr. Cori Bernardi is chairman of a committee which scrutinises politicians’ declarations, and given Mr. Bernardi’s failure disclose his links to a right wing, pro-tobacco group which is fighting gun controls, that one might need some work.

It appears that not only are the Coalition intending to locate seemingly cyclopean amounts of money for “better services”, plus vastly improved infrastructure (which is to be commended) but also guaranteed are substantial tax cuts to basically anyone who considers that they pay too much tax, i.e. Everyone.  Plus all the while and simultaneously, bestowing on the country a surplus every year for eternity.

The Coalition has reaffirmed its commitment to delivering a budget surplus within its first year of government, despite there being no mention of the promise in a new policy document.

And how are the Coalition going to achieve this?  As per The Plan:  cut waste.  Simple isn’t it..

The figure previously put on this Mr Hockey said he stood by the $52 billion in spending cuts outlined by the Coalition before last year’s election, and dismissed Treasury criticism of its costings.

jhock

From an article in Macrobusiness titled Some questions for Joe Hockey :

If Hockey runs a fiscal surplus with falling business investment and a current account deficit, by definition other parts of the private sector must be borrowing to support growth. That either means selling a lot of assets or, more likely, a lot more debt for households, again inconsistent with Hockey’s larger pledge of living within our means.

And,

In short, Joe Hockey has an attractive liberal message that is right for the times. What he lacks (at least so far) is a policy matrix to match. He is basically offering a return to Howard era economic policy, which is for government to save and the private sector dis-save , and he plans financial reform to make it possible.

Today’s National Times leads with the headline:

Coalition sharpens its razor

Details are as always, sparse as to how the Coalition will achieve this, however motherhood statements and trite phrases do abound:

Tony Abbott:  “..but I tell you what … the fiscal position will always be better under the  Coalition because budget surpluses and reducing debt, paying back debt, that’s in our DNA.”

We are also told by an unnamed Liberal MP that we are ”lumbered with unaffordable policies”.  However, to date the only policies which Abbott has promised to axe are the revenue raisers, therefore where savings are to be made remains somewhat of a mystery.

Certainly axing the number of public servants will be greeted with loud applause; a simplistic and somewhat pompous pandering.  But how does one improve the delivery of services by reducing the number of people whose job it is to implement these services?  According to Tony Abbott, sacrosanct is his pet $3 billion paid parental leave scheme, family payments, and defence.  Which begs the question, if Abbott is intending to cut 20,000 public service jobs who will administer these, and where will his “15 thousand strong Green Army” come from?  Would not a Green Army be public servants?

Some clues as to the Coalition’s intended direction comes from previous statements:

Mr Hockey insisted that he supported the NDIS but raised doubts over his committment to delivering the scheme when he said he would not raise ”false hope” by committing to promises a Coalition government could not fund.

Mr Abbott has been critical of the government’s cash payments to families with school children, and yesterday the opposition voted against it in the Lower House.

Joe Hockey declared the “age of entitlement” was coming to an end: Speaking to Lateline, he said that Australia needed to scale back the size of its welfare bill to strengthen the national finances. But he declined to say which benefits would be put on the fiscal chopping block.

Babies are however to escape: Joe Hockey: Trimming Baby Bonus is Like China’s Murderous One Child Policy.

One opinion of the 2013 political landscape

If you haven’t noticed by now, this year heralds a federal election year. For the next few months we will see the first rounds of the election shadow boxing before the election date is finally announced. There are some screaming for the government to go to an early election while others want the government to go the full distance. Given the most recent polling results it seems the government is on its way back from total oblivion. However politics is a strange beast and anything can change between now and whenever the election is called. Under our federal electoral system, only the Prime Minister truly knows the dates for issuing the writs for an election to be held (after the Governor-General has given their consent).

However after the last couple of years of significant negativity in our national politics, the political landscape in 2013 looks very interesting, to say the least. The often repeated statements by the Coalition that the minority government has failed Australia are at odds with reality. The Coalition’s commentary has been the usual negative critique of the government that had, until more recently, been repeated by the mainstream media is likely to continue this year. There are many successes this government has had with the support of the Australian Greens. And at the same time some of the worst this government has come up with has been done in concert with the Coalition, like the return to the worst policies for assisting asylum seekers.

However, while the government is in some serious trouble, it seems to me that the Opposition is in even bigger trouble in reality.

In Queensland, the Liberal National Party (LNP) went from exacting a huge electoral win to now being highly unpopular. Queensland’s conservative premier is suffering from delusions of grandeur as he continues to slash and burn essential services, attacking hospitals, schools and emergency services. The Premier continues to ignore the massive contribution that tourism makes to the state, preferring to rely on mining revenue. The conservative government is very keen to destroy sensitive environs, including the Great Barrier Reef. It has gotten so bad for the LNP in Queensland that the conservative government launched a desperate distraction about compulsory voting over the festive season.

In Victoria, the Liberal National coalition is also deeply unpopular. Since pledging to do so much for the state, the Baillieu conservative government have spent the last couple of years sitting on their hands. There has been little development of the state’s economy and in fact there have been active efforts to damage the economy and undermine industries associated with renewable energy production and distribution. The government continues to back a Member of Parliament caught using public funds for his private business with a new round of allegations of a Liberal MP meddling in local government matters. And then there have been the changes to Melbourne’s green wedge to enable further development and expansion of the city, despite the lack of controls on such developments. However the Planning Minister is to give himself more powers to allow him to fast track developments, enabling the Minister to work around environmental protections and planning laws. For the most part this conservative government has been busy doing very little; they’re certainly not rolling out its so-called election agenda.

In Western Australia the conservative government is facing its first real challenge at the polls with the election happening in March this year. The conservatives have done little to improve their position. Despite the efforts of the loose coalition of conservative parties there is little harmony. The state government continues to pour money into the metropolitan regions, neglecting regional centres. There continues the acquiescence to the mining and gas lobby as the state government threatens local communities of forced, compulsory acquisition of land; and removes environmental protection standards. There continue to be problems for senior members of Colin Barnet’s front bench, especially for Troy Buswell, the state’s Treasurer and then there is the souring relationship between the major conservative parties.

In New South Wales, the conservative Premier, Barry O’Farrell, started out swinging but found it hard going not having out-right majorities like his colleagues to the north, south and west. While he hasn’t been as out-rightly vicious as Queensland’s conservative government, he has steadily and systematically been attacking the public service, and especially essential public services like public hospitals, schools and the fire-fighters. There has been little development of the state’s economy and there remains little being done about the pressing infrastructure needs of New South Wales, especially existing and future growth areas.

The Northern Territory conservatives are still busy dealing with being in government after a long time in opposition. It’s clear that there are some internal issues given the website still notes the conservatives being in opposition. While in South Australia the conservatives are completely incapable of making any inroads electorally with regular public spats about whether or not the current leadership is capable of winning an election. However despite the apparent problems, leadership spills have returned the existing leadership; though you have to wonder how well things are going for the conservatives when the leader that is regularly and openly bagged is continually returned as leader after each spill.

At a national level there are even more problems for the conservatives.

The popularity of the leader is perhaps the biggest problem for the conservatives at a national level. For two years the conservatives have maintained a relentless war of negativity against policy proposals before properly considering them, something the greater public has woken up to. However it seems to be very hard for the Leader of the Opposition to back away from his negativity and attacks. Every attempt by Tony Abbott to present a more positive front fails and he quickly resorts to being negative. There are, as already mentioned, problems with the policy platform.

There has been an endless stream of thought bubbles presented as policy and numerous contradictions between Tony Abbott and his shadow cabinet about what is or isn’t Coalition policy. For the last two years we’ve often heard the Coalition talk about their policies yet claim they’ll only be released before the election; it’s surely evident to most observers that the Coalition is extremely light on policy details to be continuing to use this tired line.

More recently they have run into trouble over the Slipper-Ashby case. The calls for a proper investigation have become louder, though the conservatives were probably hoping the festive season would make people forget this affair. There are many, many elements about this case that warrant further investigation, especially given the implications of who may be involved from the leadership of the conservatives.

Unfortunately if the summer is anything to go by, we still have a media environment that spends more time copying and pasting media releases than doing some real work to file stories. You only need to think of the ANZ hoax earlier this year to see that our media is cutting and pasting rather than doing some real work – simply put – such a hoax would not have happened if journalists did their jobs and media companies stopped sacking journalists. We have a media environment that insists on covering the trivial and fluff while ignoring the more substantive issues facing the nation.

Our media will likely fail to cover the important issues leaving most Australian voters poorly informed about the policies and positions of the various political parties and independent candidates.

Let us make the effort to maintain the pressure on all politicians and political parties to be up-front about their policies and positions on the key issues and not accept attacks as legitimate electioneering. And let us keep the pressure on our mainstream media outlets to provide us with information not fluff.

NOTE: This was first published on Alex Schlotzer’s personal blog