Let the politicising begin

Let me begin by quoting Part 3, section 10 of the Public Service Act 1999 which has the heading APS Values (APS = Australian Public Service):

Committed to service

(1)  The APS is professional, objective, innovative and efficient, and works collaboratively to achieve the best results for the Australian community and the Government.


(2)  The APS demonstrates leadership, is trustworthy, and acts with integrity, in all that it does.


(3)  The APS respects all people, including their rights and their heritage.


(4)  The APS is open and accountable to the Australian community under the law and within the framework of Ministerial responsibility.


(5)  The APS is apolitical and provides the Government with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence.

Number 5 is the interesting one: the APS is apolitical. For those unfamiliar with the term, our friends at Wikipedia provide a succinct explanation:

Being apolitical can also refer to situations in which people take an unbiased position in regard to political matters. The Collins Dictionary defines apolitical as “politically neutral; without political attitudes, content, or bias”.

And that is exactly how the Australian Public Service is. And this defines the code of conduct demanded of an employee of the APS. It looks like all that is about to change:

Workers at [the Department of] Industry were told on September 20 – 12 days after their secretary Don Russell was sacked by the Abbott Government on its first day in office –  to quit if they didn’t want to implement the new government’s agenda.

In other words, let the politicising begin.

It’s nothing new from a Coalition Government. From the time John Howard won office in 1996 one of his first actions was to turn the Public Service into a political ally. (Read more here about his swift move and a more recent reflection of it here). But Howard’s response was more transparent; openly replacing department heads with ones that could best be described as Howard loyalists. The latest move since Abbott took office lacks transparency. It’s sneaky. It goes against the grain of the Act.

What the hell is going on? The Public Service is apolitical. Let’s keep it that way. We don’t want the Public Service turned into an arm of the Liberal Party.

But the Government obviously has other ideas.

Look who’s talking

Thanks to the Facebook group Keep Social Democracy in Australia I have borrowed the above photo.

Tony Abbott, by the looks of it, wore an ear piece during his interview with Leigh Sales on the 7:30 Report on Wednesday night.

Why? Does he have to be told what to say? Can’t he think or speak for himself?

As reported widely in the social media (where else?), Tony Abbott can’t turn up to any interview these days without the famous ear piece.

And those persistent coughs during the interview with Sales (which you may well have noticed). Were they an alert – as someone on Facebook suggested – to tell the ‘listener’  . . . “Help me on this one”.

You’ve got to wonder.

Commentary on Technology in 2013 Federal Election

The New Year is upon us and it heralds the start of a year in which a federal election will be called. Many are calling for an early election while many others are calling for the 43rd Parliament to go the full distance. There is no doubt that I am one of those that prefers to see the Parliament go the full distance and run its course before the Australian people head to the polls.

One of the exciting aspects for this year’s federal election, whenever it is called, will be the part that technology plays in federal election campaign; both the build-up and the campaign proper.

The shift in how people are accessing the internet and using social media will see a similar shift in how content is delivered in the federal election. Of course the shift I’m talking about is the increasing use of mobile devices to access the internet and social media; including to text and call friends.

Political parties might seem like archaic and antiquated organisations but they are sophisticated and look for anyway of gaining an electoral advantage. Given the explosion in the use of mobile devices to access social networking sites, watch videos, catch up on news and stay connected, political parties will definitely be delivering content designed for mobile devices. It will be interesting to see if political parties will ensure they have accessible mobile sites rather than solely concentrate on ‘apps’.
This is important as apps can be limiting and more likely to only be used by the ‘true-believers’ in respective parties. Mobile sites offer in many ways more flexibility for content to be delivered without creating a ridiculously large app to download. Though there are some very real advantages to using apps.

However in my opinion the more important thing to watch will be the consolidation of the various technologies to take advantage of data-driven voter engagement.

This might be a bit of pipe-dream at the moment as most organisations are constantly looking for the latest & greatest new social media tool. Rather it would be excellent to see organisations campaigning in the year’s federal election using the plethora of amazing online and social media tools that already exist to boost their campaigns and improve engagement with supporters and voters.

2013’s federal election campaign will see the most sophisticated use of voter data ever. It might not be done very well or produce the results Australian Obama fans are looking for but this year’s federal election will see the most sophisticated use of voter data to engage and connect with voters on more personal levels rather than the usual robotic method used.

Unfortunately I doubt that these things will be fully realised. While there is evidence to suggest that political parties and strategy-driven NGOs are moving to improved mobile sites and apps; using existing technology in a more coordinated fashion and using more data to connect with supporters and members, given the experience of 2012 I see there will be little change in how technology will be used.

Rather than using it to reach out in intelligent ways to voters, the technology will be largely used to promote television and radio commercials with little integration with the rest of the campaign. No doubt there will be the usual Flash-games and make-your-own banner/poster options and a range of ‘viral’ videos that will only be seen by the most dedicated members and supporters. And there will be the usual attacks and counter-attacks.

Of course there will be the usual rise in fake social media accounts to troll others and relentlessly repeat campaign messages, stupidly watering down the willingness of interested people to get more involved.

However, I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

Politically speaking, Australia kicks America’s ass

I had pleasure in posting Politically Speaking, Australia Kicks America’s Ass, originally written for vegasjessie.com by an Australian, Derek Wood of Sydney. Vegasjessie.com is an American blog site that promotes the same issues as Café Whispers, albeit at a local level. A link to vegasjessie can be located under Global Sites below our Blogroll. It is an informative site for those interested in the grass roots machinations of the American way of life. In particular, the American passion for those ‘taboo’ subjects, politics and religion are articulately expressed by blogmaster Jessie.

I found Politically Speaking, Australia Kicks America’s Ass a very interesting read which I hope you enjoy as much as I did. I learned something from it and I look forward to hearing what you may have learned too, as would Jessie.


Another guest blog by Derek Wood, a resident of Sydney, NSW, Australia.  Follow him on twitter @Main_Man. 

As a country Australia is very similar to the US.  Both have historical British influences, geographically they are large countries, English is the main language albeit with some idiosyncrasies and, more importantly, both countries have been built on the back of migration and multiculturalism.

Despite this, politically there are a number of differences.  I should point out that Australia’s population of 21.5 million is extremely small when compared to 311 million in the US.  This can obviously make a difference when it comes to political observations and activities. In America, presidential campaigns cost a large amount of money.  Hundreds of millions of dollars are raised by both the Republicans and Democrats.  This, in turn, is used to publicise the policies and candidates of both parties with a view to gaining your vote.  I have…

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Tony Abbott: pride before the fall

It would be anticipated that the prime motivator in making political choices equates with rational analysis of issues; and expressed by virtue of a leader with a vision which best represents the ideals and aspirations of oneself. This then being reflected in both policy and the team which the leader chooses to bring this about.

Certainly there is an element of personality involved with some psychologists hypothesizing that all beliefs, including political ones partly arise from an individual’s psychological fears and needs. At one end of the spectrum there is the desire for stability, order and belonging, and at the other a fervent desire for rebellion and novelty.

Has Tony Abbott been successful in latching onto these elements?

Tony Abbott on “stability, order and belonging”:

Tony Abbott has promised to return Australia to the “golden age” of the Howard government under his “incoming Coalition government”…

The tradition of the Howard government would live on, Mr Abbott declared…

“That’s why the longer this government lasts, the better the Howard government looks and that’s why the Howard government now looks like it created a golden age of prosperity, which is lost.”

Tony Abbott on “rebellion and novelty”:

Interesting is Tony Abbott’s assessment of himself from his boxing career..ego. Although somewhat subdued in recent times, (which can be dated from the series of “get dressed Tony” articles run by the media); this is the way that Tony has attempted to present himself.

TONY ABBOTT: I was very, very nervous, as you can imagine. It was my first formal bout…I got into the ring, determined to hit my opponent harder and more often than he could possibly hit me. I went out like a whirling dervish, kept hitting him again and again and again with just a left, right, succession. And then I got him this magnificent left upper cut and he seemed to go up in the air, across the ring and almost through the ropes.

On the face of it, the answer to the question regarding Abbott as “successful” would appear to be Yes. As the mainstream media has repeatedly insisted: Tony Abbott Is The Most Successful Leader of the Opposition since time immemorial.

At least he was until yesterday.

After wasting countless months attempting to paper over “the real Tony”, the media has suddenly and somewhat amazingly decided that their own polls might just be right. Nobody likes Tony.

“Tony Abbott is increasingly unpopular”, writes Chris Berg.

But it’s not true to say Abbott is the most effective opposition leader in history. The only mark of success in opposition is becoming the government. And Tony Abbott is going to have to change tack if the Coalition wants to remain competitive at the next election.

This dose of realism as compared with the endless blather about Tony Abbott and his startling “success”, is truly refreshing.

Chris Berg adds:

The Coalition has long believed it can win government on an impressionist platform: a few bold, strong strokes (stop the boats, axe the tax, pay back the debt) that, if voters step back and squint, offer a picture of what an Abbott government might look like. Those strokes are looking worn and colourless.

We therefore return to my original statement that the prime motivator in making political choices equates with rational analysis of issues; expressed via a leader with a vision which best represents the ideals and aspirations of oneself.

Michael Gordon’s suggestion is that Abbott’s “dual challenge is to be more positive on the one hand and to be far more disciplined on the other”.

I would suggest that Michael Gordon read the article by Chris Berg.

Gordon is an example of exactly what Berg is stating, that the Liberal Party is offering nothing more than an “impressionist platform” – yet Michael Gordon would, instead of suggesting that Tony Abbott present ideals and aspirations give himself a superficial make-over by becoming positive and disciplined. But that would only be an impression, wouldn’t it…and an insincere one.


Mig’s topic about Abbott selling his arse prompted me to think about how the LNP will sell him (and the LNP) at the election, which is still not due for at least 12 months.

So I’m looking for suggestions as to what will be the LNP slogan for the next election.

Here’s a few from the past:










2010: STAND UP FOR REAL ACTION, go for growth.

Pretty asinine, but don’t worry, Labor’s aren’t much better.

But this is about the LNP. (if the post is successful we’ll do Labor next week…) In other words Iain et al you’ll get your chance. 🙂

So go for it, and the more puns the merrier.

What will be the LNP slogan for 2013?

And PLEASE, nothing serious. (Well almost).

Standing up for Julia Gillard

Standing up for Julia Gillard comes at a price in this country, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay. Most of us have to wear some cost for defending what we believe in.

And what exactly is that cost?

Well that depends on how public your support is. Mine is public, as it is with most supporters who are into social media.

The cost for standing up for Julia Gillard?  Sustained vicious, malicious, abusive, denigrating and threatening public attacks from the nastiest dregs in our society. They attack and threaten personally on blogs, Twitter or Facebook.

But do we care? Absolutely not.  They can throw the mud but it’s not sticking. And don’t they squeal like stuck pigs when it keeps falling off. They can continue with their chest-beating show of ‘heroics’ but nothing can hide the obvious fact that they collectively have the IQ of a moron.

The ferals across social media are tending to look more sinister lately and we have seen a number of attacks being removed from social media by order of the sites involved, in particular Facebook. I thought that some of the bile from the hate-filled Neanderthals I’ve seen on the blogosphere was bad enough, but they are little angels compared to what’s now emerging on Facebook.

When they’re not swinging in trees they are banging on the keyboard spewing out bar room profanities in our direction. The mere word “Julia” sets off the “must act like idiot” button in their tiny, unhinged brains.

Yet I have no idea what they stand for. They never get around to mentioning it. They’re too busy spitting venom.

Just like their hero.

Like it or lump it, I’m standing up for Julia Gillard.

English: U.S. President Barack Obama practices...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stop the election!

I was fortunate enough to eavesdrop on some policy talks between two blokes named Tony and Joe.  Here it is exactly as it was said.

JOE: Tony, we need a policy to take us into the next election.

TONY: I have one. “Stop the boats”.

JOE: No, no no, we need more than that.

TONY: How about “Stop more boats”.

JOE: We can’t rely on that alone. We need something to appeal to all Australians. Something that will show we’re in touch with every single one of them.

TONY: How about “Stop the tax?”

JOE: No, I don’t think that’ll work. We need taxes so we can provide services.

TONY: Simple then.  We’ll “Stop the services”.

JOE: No, no no.  Governments have to provide services.  We have to provide hospitals, defense, telecommunications, welfare.

TONY: Brilliant. “Stop the welfare”.

JOE: Can’t see that working. The Government would lose votes.

TONY: Well we’ll “Stop the Government”.

JOE: Er, Tony, after the election we will be the Government.

TONY: Simple. We’ll “Stop the election”.

JOE: I think you’re on to something.  We should take that to the election.

TONY: And we’ll make it retrospective so we can take it to the last election as well.

JOE: Brilliant, boss, and the one before that too.

TONY: You’re getting the picture.

JOE: Boss, you inspire me. Let’s take it back even further. Let’s take it back to 2004.

TONY: Don’t be a flamin’ idiot.

JOE: Why?

TONY (with eyes rolling): If we took it back to 2004 we’d lose the bloody election to Latham!

JOE: Er, boss, we lost the last one.

TONY: Oh shit. Does that explain the squatters in The Lodge?

JOE: Perhaps we’ll stick to “Stop the boats”.

TONY: Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?

English: Laurel and Hardy dancing in a decor b...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re 2


Café Whispers is 2 years old today.

The site was actually built in February 2010, but the doors weren’t open for comments until June 6 when my good self Min, Nasking, joni and Ben Tolputt kicked off the blog.  Our first post appeared on June 8, being Ben’s Since when did the journalists become the story.  It attracted a whole five comments.

Now, two years later we’ve received over 76,000 comments from almost 700 posts and are nearing a half a million visits.  Over 300 bloggers have commented at the Café.

Most of our visitors come via Google, which is quite pleasing as it shows that people are searching for the Café.  Running a close second is Facebook where our posts get good coverage over a number of Facebook groups.

Of our two years, last month was our best month ever as far as the number of visitors, and last week was the best week ever.  The huge month coincided with Café Whispers making the final seven for the best commentary blog in Australia.

At times I’ve wondered whether the Café should become more of a serious political blog but I always knock that idea on the head as soon as I think of it.  I can say without much contradiction that we all enjoy the lighthearted blogging we offer here, mixed with the thoughtful commentary across a wide range of categories.  In a way that makes us unique.

Having said that, who’s to say we won’t continue to evolve?  Take that as an invitation to put forward any ideas you might have or any subjects you’d like to see introduced.

The real highlight of the two years has been the pleasure of blogging with everyone who visits the Café.  Thank you to the authors, commenters and readers, all of whom make running a blogsite worthwhile.

Now, should I open our cellar door? 😯