What should Shorten say?

LightbulbIn the political battle of ideas, the weapon is the political narrative. After spending the last year researching political narrative, I have learned it’s not as easy as saying ‘here’s your narrative’, attaching your words to that wagon and off you go and win an election (not unless you’re Tony Abbott). As Bill Shorten is hopefully learning, narratives are about more than words. They’re about showing what you stand for, not just telling. And they’re about more than winning elections too; they’re about the way you plan to govern.

The Abbott government’s narrative, and their Opposition narrative before that, flew under the radar for the past seven years. For most of their time in opposition, and their first year of their first term in government, the mainstream media let them get away with saying one thing, and doing another. But the minute this cosy little arrangement started to become unstuck, so did Abbott’s grip on his leadership, and hopefully, so did the Liberal National Coalition’s chances of winning the 2016 election. Abbott might have scrutiny-free based his election winning narrative on a the unicorn-like-promise to fix the budget, cancel revenue (mining tax and Carbon Price), not cut education, health or pensions and everyone wins, no one loses. And the mainstream media might have let us all down by standing idly by in their failure to point to the fact that unicorns don’t exist. But either way, these hollow words are not Abbott’s narrative because Abbott’s narrative is in his actions, not his words. His real narrative, which coincidentally if you haven’t noticed, fits like a glove around his well-known ideological position (did any journalist actually read his book Battlelines?) was rolled out in Hockey’s 2014 budget. Abbott’s narrative, or story if you like, is that the poor are to blame and the rich are to be revered and protected. Abbott’s narrative is that domestic violence campaigner, Rosie Batty would make a good Australian of the Year because that would boost his political popularity, but that domestic violence refuges are not the responsibility of the government to fund and that women fleeing abusive partners should fend for themselves, or give in and be killed, if they can’t afford alternative accommodation. Abbott’s narrative is that it’s an individual’s responsibility to pay for their education and their healthcare, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is self-entitled. Now that Australians have seen Abbott’s narrative, they plainly don’t like it. You really can sum up Abbott’s political downfall just in that one sentence.

So how is knowing this useful? Bill Shorten is once again finding himself as a Labor leader accused of missing a narrative. Gillard was dogged by this criticism throughout her time as Prime Minister. Troy Bramston has written an article in The Australian today (paywalled) titled ‘Bill Shorten causes Labor dismay over lack of ideas’, which cleverly ties Shorten’s narrative problems with leadership tensions, presumably to pass The Australian’s eligibility test for inclusion in their Labor bashing campaign, I mean, newspaper. Apparently Labor needs a narrative and needs a full policy agenda to go with it 18 months before the next election, even though Abbott didn’t even need anything more than a vague pamphlet of brain-farts up to the day of the last election. Go figure. But either way, Labor does need a narrative and so I’m going to suggest one. Keep in mind this narrative needs to be a show, not tell, and therefore needs to be reflected in what Labor does, not just says. So perhaps a good place to start is to look at what Labor does and work back? Now there’s a revolutionary idea.

2015 is the year Shorten promised to release Labor policies, and to Shorten’s credit, a couple of good ones have been released, both which give us a good foundation to look at a possible Labor narrative. One is a crackdown on multinational corporations illegally evading taxation. The other is a national summit on domestic violence. These policies, along with all the work Labor is doing to block most of the worst of Abbott’s policies, and the previous Labor government’s policies which Labor would clearly like to reinstate or repair given the chance after they’ve been damaged by the Abbott government (think Gonski, a climate policy such as an ETS, perhaps another mining tax etc, the Medicare system etc), give a really strong foundation for a simple narrative, that can be used to tie all these different, yet related, political ideas together. So here’s my suggestion of what Shorten and all Labor MPs should be saying whenever they’re competing in the battle for political ideas:

Labor is the party of the collective. Labor is the party of success through unity – of workers getting together to better their position, of communities helping each other to improve everyone’s lives. Labor doesn’t hold these values, and promote this cooperation because we think it’s a nice, warm fuzzy thing to do. We do it because it’s in the best interests of all of us when we look out for each other. Because we believe no one ever ultimately improved their own position by reducing the position of someone else. Because we believe that every individual who grasps an opportunity to improve their own life through this {insert this policy here} and all Labor policies, whether it be through education, through innovation, risk-taking, through the care and support of those around them; is bettering their community through the betterment of themselves. And when you understand that we’re all in this together, and you understand that we collectively take responsibility for our futures, and that ultimately everything that hurts one of us hurts all of us, and everything that is good for one of us is good for all of us, you can see why {insert policy here} is the best investment we can make in the success of our collective tomorrow.

Those who don’t share our values of community, who look only at short term self-interest, who don’t see that they belong intrinsically to something bigger than themselves, might scream and yell and complain that they’re being asked to contribute to our better tomorrow. But we know the voice of the community is louder than the voice of selfish individuals, and we see their threats, their protestations, and their three-word-slogans as the quiet whinging of the truly self-entitled that will not be heard over the roar of the collective. No dollar that was ever spent as an investment in the good of our community is a dollar wasted; no worker’s effort in our collective productivity should be forgotten, and no one’s desperation to pull themselves out of misfortune and disadvantage should be ignored. When you understand that your neighbour’s wellbeing is your own wellbeing, you can join with Labor in embracing this {insert policy here} for a better future for all of us.

I’m not suggesting Labor MPs recite this whole spiel every time they open their mouths, but elements of it should be found in every statement they make because this is the connection, the thread, the narrative that does run through Labor’s policies. And any policy that doesn’t suit this narrative should be discarded and reworked to fit this very simple story. We’re all in this together. I just hope Labor is listening.


An Open Letter to Peta Credlin

PetaCredlinCartoonDear Peta Credlin,

First of all let me say that I’m sorry you’re having such a horrible time at work at the moment. Since it’s clear that you work extremely hard and your job is pretty much your life, I’m sorry that your life is fairly horrible at the moment too. I really am. This solidarity I feel with you, by the way, has nothing to do with the feminist code or standing up for the ladies, because quite frankly I don’t think your current predicament has anything to do with your gender and in writing this letter, I want to make the point that I am writing to a person, not a man or a woman. I am writing to a person who holds a great deal of responsibility, and power, and I don’t think you’re getting a fair hearing and clearly no chance to explain what is really going on in your world. So bear with me for a moment while I try to envisage how things have got to this point, and perhaps you are the only person who can confirm or deny if I’m off the mark.

First of all, it’s clear to anyone with any understanding of who and what Tony Abbott is that you’ve got your work cut out for you keeping this moron in check. I know the Australian media did their best to help you out during your time as Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Opposition, in that you didn’t really have to worry about any real scrutiny of your boss, and therefore were able to keep the puppet on-message by sticking to carefully recited three-word-slogans and never answering any questions at press conferences. There weren’t many times when you agreed for Abbott to go on radio or television to be interviewed by anyone who wasn’t already in your corner, fighting the same fight as you, so I guess this made your life a whole lot easier as there was no challenge to the ideas behind the three-word-slogans, or investigation into a pamphlet that you said was a plan but I’m not sure any of the press even read. Most importantly, no one bothered to check if there was any factual or expert analysis contributing to the formation of your slogans; for example, the journalists didn’t worry about the cost and effectiveness of the Direct Action policy because they just loved your idea of taking Abbott banana stacking, truck-stop chatting, butcher visiting and Alan Jones rally attending to fight against a climate change policy that was working to reduce emissions, and generating revenue for renewable technologies just as Labor planned for it to do. The journalists never asked ‘what budget emergency?’ so you could continue to use this lie to justify ideological slash and burn. So this lack of scrutiny generally, for both Abbott’s character, personality, ideas, competence and honesty and for the few policies you told the electorate about before the election, really made your job a whole lot easier.

I’m wondering if perhaps it was too easy. Do you ever wonder if you were lulled into a false sense of security? You knew your boss was incapable of being a leader. You knew that without you by his side at every waking moment, a disaster would happen. That’s why you’ve had to work so hard. That’s why, according to John Lyons, who did me the favour of confirming everything I already knew about Abbott, you’ve had to resort to interrupting Abbott and even placing your hand over his mouth when he’s about to say something stupid. Again. You’re just doing your job! And that’s why I feel sympathy for you. Maybe when he won the election, you got a bit complacent? Or maybe his incompetence is literally impossible to keep secret forever?

Even with the tight controls you have placed on Abbott since becoming Prime Minister, even with you standing close by his side in every interview, in every public appearance, in any scenario where he has to do anything in his job, a job he is being paid very well to do, you can’t stop the occasional glimpse of the real Abbott being flashed to the country. It must give you nightmares! The knowledge that you can stop Abbott leaking himself to the world. No matter what you do, how hard you work, somehow the real Abbott has been revealed. And as you always knew, Australians don’t like this person at all. And as you always knew, there is no way he would be Prime Minister now if it wasn’t for your careful management of his image; and when I say careful management, what I really mean is trying to turn Abbott into someone who doesn’t exist. Because you know as well as I do that he’s just not cut out for his job. He’s not intelligent enough, he’s not articulate enough, he’s not inspirational, funny, kind, quick-witted, compassionate, approachable, organised, fair, strategically minded or, the most importantly, likable. He’s just not likeable and now that Australia has seen the real Abbott, there’s nothing you can do about it now Peta. Your job is finished because you have failed to hide Abbott. You’re going down with the sinking ship.

Before I sign off, I want you to know that I might respect you, but I certainly don’t like you. I don’t like the job you are doing, but I respect that you’re working hard. I just wish you were working hard for the good of Australia, rather than for the good of rich mates and donors to the Liberal Party, and to bring about the IPA’s vision of Australia, which is quite frankly terrifying. But you’re clearly determined, organised, and capable, and the reason you’re still sitting next to the Prime Minister of Australia, feeding policy ideas into cabinet, pushing your version of the world onto the country’s agenda, and making life very difficult for anyone who falls outside of your privileged bubble is because he needs you. He can’t get rid of you because you’re the only thing between him and humiliating annihilation in his career. So you’ll keep your job, but it’s not going to be easy. Now that the scrutiny has finally, belatedly, arrived, it’s like a tap that has been turned on and is now spewing water like a fire hydrant. You can’t turn this tap off now Peta. Abbott’s own colleagues are leaking to your old media friends, so this is way out of your control now. Abbott is now a known liar, so when he denies the content of the leaks, no one believes him. Does Abbott even have any friends except you anymore? We can all see that your boss, the emperor is not wearing any clothes and no matter how many blue ties you try to cover him up with, we can see his rude bits and quite frankly, the country is disgusted by the sight of him.

Yours sincerely
Victoria Rollison


The Elephants in the Press Gallery

ElephantRoomThe Press Gallery have been busily, emphatically, excitedly making the most of the new leadership tensions story that Abbott has gifted them over the past few weeks. But amongst the innumerable number of articles about what’s gone wrong for Abbott, how he got to this point so quickly in his first term, and what he plans to do to fix this mess, there are some massive elephants in the Press Gallery who are being consistently ignored. In fact, there are enough elephants to build a pretty decent circus, if you throw in the journalists as the clowns.

Here are some of the most obvious elephants who have been ignored in the leadership crisis coverage, the 16 months of Abbott’s government and in some cases, his entire 6 years in Opposition:

  • Abbott’s ‘budget emergency’ is a lie he has used to justify cutting government spending for ideological reasons, at a time when the economy needs stimulus, not cuts. This fake ‘budget emergency’ has decimated consumer confidence and has reduced the amount of money in the economy to the point where Australia is teetering on the edge of a recession. Put simply, Abbott has ideologically wrecked the economy because he prefers small government.
  • Abbott’s budget aimed to protect wealthy Australians from ‘budget pain’ and to blame poor people for all the economy’s problems. The blame is based on the lie that the unemployed are lazy and if they want to go on being so lazy they will be punished because of it. This ideological position relies on various economic lies such as the following:
    • That jobs can be created by the unemployed applying for more jobs. There are 5 unemployed people per available job in Australia. People want to work and there are no jobs for them to work in.
    • Tax cuts for the rich create jobs. No, they don’t. Demand from consumers create jobs. Tax cuts for the rich just make the rich richer, and inequality worse. If consumers can’t afford to spend, the economy grinds to a halt.
    • Wealth trickles down. No it doesn’t. By next year, the 1% richest people in the world will own half the world’s wealth. There is no trickle.
    • Government spending and taxation is like a household budget. No it isn’t. If you haven’t heard of Modern Monetary Theory yet, follow this link.
  • Abbott is failing to get his budget through the Senate, not because Labor controls the Senate, but because right wing minor parties, those who traditionally supported (and in one case funded) the Liberal National Coalition, are refusing to pass policies they know are so unpopular that they would threaten their political careers putting their names to them. It’s really as simple as that.
  • Abbott never properly defined what he would do as Prime Minister because he knew if he told the voters what he really wanted to do, ideologically, to the Australian economy, culture and society, he would never have won the election. The Press Gallery ignore this elephant because to point it out would be to also admit that they never scrutinised Abbott in the lead up to the election since they were too busy writing about Labor leadership tensions. The first rule of political journalism in the Press Gallery is ‘never ever admit you were wrong in the past’. Anyone with eyes could see exactly what the Abbott government was going to be like and if you followed independent media sites like this one you would have got a very accurate preview of the situation we are in now. But you never got this preview from the mainstream media. And the last thing they want to do now is to admit they were the reason the electorate got such a shock when they realised who Abbott really is, and what his real plans for this country were.
  • There are things Australians should be scared of, and there are other things Australians should stop being scared off. We should be scared about Climate Change. We should be scared about wealth inequality. We should be scared about our own and future generations’ ability to find jobs in an economy where manufacturing is declining, the mining boom is over and competitor economies are forging ahead with technological innovation on the back of better education systems than we have access to in Australia. But instead, Abbott, at every opportunity, without scrutiny from the Press Gallery, goes straight to two boogeymen-under-our-beds as diversionary tactics to try to scare us into supporting his ideological agenda (which we’ve already proved we don’t like). These boogeymen are ‘debt and deficit’ and terrorism. The quest for the revered ‘surplus’ is akin to the government throwing all their resources behind an ideological holy grail, at the expense of Australian jobs and to increase household debt. It is nonsense, yet the Press Gallery don’t seem to understand this. Oh, and terrorism? According to this helpful analysis on Crikey, more people died in the past ten years falling off chairs in Australia, than they did from acts of terrorism here and overseas. What would you say if the Abbott government tried to make you scared of sitting down?

These five elephants should be at the heart of any political discussion, at the heart of debate about policy and what is right for Australia’s future. But this is where the grand-daddy elephant needs to be pointed out. Political journalists in Australia are not interested in discussing policy. According to them, there was no need to discuss the effect that Abbott’s policy decisions have had on his current leadership-crisis predicament. No, as usual, the journos are as shallow as a puddle, with analysis such as this from Lenore Taylor, Laura Tingle, Laurie Oakes and Peter Hartcher. These articles all share two things in common; they perpetuate the myth that the Liberal government’s problem is all about Abbott and the dysfunctional processes around him, when really the entire government has helped create this situation by all sharing the same ideological agenda as Abbott. They all supported the turd, cooked the turd, and perpetuated the lies that brought the turd about. And now they’re all complaining that Abbott’s has failed to polish the turd and they want to give Malcolm Turnbull a go. But it’s Turnbull’s turd just as much as it is Abbott’s. Where is this analysis? And of course, they ignore the elephants I’ve described, whilst also ignoring the role the Press Gallery played in putting Abbott where he is, without scrutiny, without analysis, without a heads-up about what the country was about to experience. Rather than taking a step back and looking at themselves, they keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Exactly like Tony Abbott. The Australian public deserves better government. And we deserve a better Press Gallery to help explain what a better government would look like.


An Open Letter to Malcolm Turnbull

OpenLetterToMalcolmTurnbullDear Malcolm Turnbull,

I hate to distract you from the clusterfuck that is your political party at the moment. But I can’t help but notice you’re all very busy doing whatever it is you do during a painfully drawn out Libspill; you know – making phone calls, counting numbers, receiving phone calls, tallying numbers to be counted, and not really concentrating on your jobs that you get paid to do, by us the tax payers. It’s all actually fairly boring apart from being absolutely impossible to look away from. But while you seem to be personally readying yourself for the job you’ve been readying yourself for your entire life, I wanted to just let you know how I feel about your leadership ambitions and the type of Prime Minister you are going to be. I don’t think you’re going to enjoy this.

First I’d like to say that I do appreciate that you’ve previously been very vocal about your support of action to reduce the catastrophic effects of climate change and of course we know you lost the leadership of the Liberal Party previously for your determination to be bi-partisan and to support Rudd’s ETS. You should be applauded for this noble gesture. However, what you will not be applauded for my be, and all Australians who worry about our ever uncertain future in a post-climate-change world, is that you are willing to give up on this determination, this value, this hallmark of your political career, in order to get yourself a new job. It’s one thing to be a spineless, cowardly, lying little worm like Tony Abbott and to stake your political career on denial of climate change and the wrecking of a perfectly good Carbon Price. But honestly, I think your betrayal would be worse Malcolm. Because you have shown that you understand the science, you accept the science, and you’re alarmed about what the science is telling us. Yet for your own political purposes, for your own personal ambitions, for your own sense of individual achievement, glory, power and no doubt pay rise, you are willing to do deals with climate change deniers on the acceptance that you won’t, when in the most powerful job in this warming land, do anything about climate change. And that makes you the lowest of the low. That makes you worse than a denier. That makes you a grub. Please don’t think Australia isn’t going to notice.

Another policy I am similarly concerned about you getting anywhere near in your planned future as PM is the National Broadband Network. We already know that you’ve been beavering away doing your best to destroy this future-proofing world’s- best national infrastructure project for the benefit of your Telstra mates in your job as Minister for Communications. Or is that the Minister for not-as-fast-as-they-should-have-been Communications? You’ve proved over this NBN wrecking that you’re not fit to be in charge of Australia’s future technological innovation, and therefore you’re not fit to be making decisions about Australia’s future, full stop. And no, I’m not going to give you any benefit of the doubt about what motivated you to destroy the NBN and to instead create a joke of a copper fraudband. If you were thinking you might be able to blame Tony Abbott for everything that happened before you took his job, you’ll need to think again. Because if that’s the case and you did just do whatever you were told without protest, without care for the damage you were doing, then you’re even more unqualified to be our Prime Minister.

As a man who knows how to make money, and who lives in Australia’s most expensive suburb in a house that makes the Lodge look like a cottage, you must know that talk is cheap. Yet, despite your popularity due to presumably the leather jacket you wear on Q&A and your some-might-call-charming-but-I-would-call-smarmy demeanour, all I see from you is talk about your values and absolutely no action to back these values up. For instance, have you ever, once, whilst working as a member of the Abbott government, crossed the floor to protest Abbott’s policies? No? Have you spoken out publically about Abbott and Hockey’s outrageously unfair budget and actually fought them to change anything? Or have you just been laying low, like a snake in the grass, waiting for your moment to strike, your moment to take what you believe to have always been yours at the expense of the Australian public who never chose you as their PM?

The fact is that I don’t trust you Malcolm. I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you. You’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing who talks about supporting gay marriage, but given the chance would forget he ever said that and instead campaign to reincarnate Howard’s WorkChoices as soon as I can say ‘free-marketer’ or ‘neoliberal stooge’. You want what’s best for your rich mates. Though you might make this look a bit prettier than Abbott, we have learnt throughout this painful period of Abbott’s prime ministership that the most important thing is not how something looks, but how they behave. What policies they try to push through. You would deregulate universities, you would slash and burn to create a small ineffectual government, you would destroy Medicare, you would cut education funding, you would fight on behalf of miners as they deny Australians their fair share, you would get rid of penalty rates, you would decrease the minimum wage, you would deny rights to asylum seekers, you would destroy the NBN and you would deny Australia a climate change policy. How do I know you would do all these things? Because you’ve been doing it as a member of Abbott’s government and there is absolutely no reason on earth why someone like you, who shares Abbott’s values, would do anything differently. A turd with a cat-like grin polished across it is still a turd.

Yours sincerely
Victoria Rollison


We knew who Abbott was back then

WhoTonyAbbottIsI’m really sick of people saying that they didn’t expect Tony Abbott to be the type of Prime Minister he is. I’m really sick of people saying his policies caught them by surprise, that they didn’t expect him to slash and burn to the extent that he has tried, but thankfully, so far mostly failed to. I hear all types of people, even political journalists, saying that Abbott promised he wouldn’t be making cuts and they took him on his word and they didn’t expect him to lie. He had a pamphlet and apparently this was gospel truth about exactly what an Abbott government would look like. To this, I’ve always said, just look at him! Listen to him! Use your brain! Are you blind? Wilfully blind perhaps?

Independent bloggers like me, who predicted exactly how bad the Abbott government would be were told we were just partisan Labor hacks and that he really wouldn’t be nearly as bad as we said. But we, if anything, mostly under-predicted how bad he is going to be. However we were spot on with the ideology that oozes out of this government – the class and culture war that’s been inflicted is exactly as we thought it would be. How did we guess the type of policies Abbott would sneakily introduce once in power, but those who are paid to inform the community totally missed it? Seriously, how was this mistake to universally made? How could Australians be so let down that they have had the Abbott surprise inflicted on them? How could they be left so ill-prepared and uninformed?

This frustration was all running through my head when I came across this address by Abbott as Opposition Leader to the Millennium Forum on 14 May 2010, helpfully stored in Hansard. When Abbott was saying all of this, outlining his plans for Prime Minister Abbott, were political journalists and commentators listening? Or worse, were they listening but couldn’t comprehend what this obvious, blatant ideology would look like in power? Do they have a different definition of ‘small government’ than I do? Or did they know and chose not to say, knowing that Abbott would never win if people knew the truth about him. I fear it’s mostly a mixture of the latter, depending on the media organisation they work for.

You read Abbott’s words for yourself and be the judge. Would Australians have seen Abbott differently if they knew he was coming at politics from this world view? If this world view was explained sampling (for example: small government equals cuts to health, education, welfare and all public services).

Oh, and I can’t help but thank Abbott for his reminder that the last one term Australian government was in 1931. I look forward to Abbott’s government reclaiming that record in 2016.

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WARRINGAH
ADDRESS TO THE MILLENNIUM FORUM
14/05/10
Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen. It’s great to see so many of you here. Julie, I really do want to thank you for that terrific introduction and yes, I think it is very important to be a politician and a leader of conviction but it’s important that leaders of conviction respect the convictions of those who think differently and if there’s one thing that I hope I have learnt over those 16 years it is that this is a great big wide world, not everyone shares my views. I do, I think, have a duty to do what I can to advance these ideas, these convictions that I have but it’s very important to respect the convictions and the ideas of those who think differently and in acknowledging all of my colleagues I should say a special thank you to the political exemplar of exemplars, namely our former Prime Minister, John Howard. A man of great conviction, but a man who realised that in the office of Prime Minister you had to be a Prime Minister for everyone, not just a Prime Minister for those who voted for you. John Howard, the greatest Prime Minister since Bob Menzies, the finest politician of his generation. I am a different politician to John Howard. There would be some in this room who would be disappointed that I am a different politician to John Howard but I say this: the politician that I am owes a very great deal to John Howard’s friendship and his mentoring and I thank you very, very much indeed, John.

Again, I welcome all of my distinguished senior colleagues. I should pay a particular tribute today to my Shadow Finance Minister, Andrew Robb. Budgets are difficult weeks for both sides of politics. They’re particularly difficult weeks for the finance men. I was the one who delivered the words last night but the ideas and the concepts were very much the property of Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb as well as the property of Tony Abbott and thank you, Andrew, for all your hard work over the last few weeks.

But ladies and gentlemen, we are getting to the business end of the electoral cycle and when we look back over the last two-and-a-half years and ask ourselves what has the Rudd Government actually done, I think they’ve done two things essentially. They have spent all of the carefully accumulated capital, they have blown all of the hard won surpluses of the previous government, that’s the first thing that they’ve done. The second thing they’ve done is that they have very seriously undone some of the important reforms of the former government and indeed of the government before that, they have let the union bullies back into so many of our most vital workplaces, that’s the second thing they’ve done. The third thing they are proposing to do is to plunge a dagger into the heart of Australia’s prosperity because that is what this great big new tax on mining will be. Now, all Budget week we’ve had minister after minister hitting the airwaves saying that this so-called super profits tax is about taking from the London shareholders and giving to the Australian battlers. Well, that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

It is a triple whammy tax. It is a tax on the 500,000 Australian workers whose jobs depend directly or indirectly on the mining industry. It’s a tax on the millions of Australian retirees whose incomes are drawn from those shares and those dividends that the mining companies pay. It’s a tax on consumers because you can’t raise the price of coal, you can’t raise the price of oil and gas, you can’t raise the price of building material, you can’t raise the price of fertiliser without that flowing through into the consumer price index. It is a triple whammy tax and my job, our job as Coalition Members of Parliament is to let the country know the threat that they face from the Rudd Government if it is re-elected.

And you’ve got to ask yourself where does this stop? I mean, if a six per cent return on capital is a super profit for the mining industry, what other industry is next for this kind of treatment? And if you listen to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer talking about how good this great big new tax is going to be for the mining industry, why wouldn’t they impose the same tax on everyone else? There is a fundamental lack of logic, though, about what they’re saying. Any of you who have followed the debate closely over the last few days would know that by the logic of this Budget a tax on cigarettes means less smoking but a tax on resources means more mining. It just doesn’t work. It just defies logic and yet it is the fundamental premise on which the Budget is based.

But haven’t times changed, ladies and gentlemen? Just a few months ago there was BHP, the big Australian, there was Rio, that great, iconic Australian company under threat from potential foreign takeover. These were heroes, they were the heroes that have saved us from the recession. Now, of course, they’re big, exploiting multinationals. Well, as far as I’m concerned they are just businesses but they are important businesses. They are vital businesses if our country is to prosper, if our people are to grow richer and happier, if our country is to be more cohesive in the years ahead, and they do not deserve to be targeted in the way they have by this government.

Sensible politicians know that what you should never do is sacrifice the long term welfare of the country for tomorrow’s headline and that is what this government has been prepared to do and the risk is that they will strangle the golden goose which has laid the eggs, the golden eggs which have driven our prosperity, and I say to all of you that the only thing standing between Australia and this threat is the Coalition. If you think this would be a disaster for our country and our economy there is only one course of action open to you and that is to vote out this Government.
But ladies and gentlemen, this is Budget week and there have been a lot of stories coming out of Budget week. Some of them I’m afraid are fairytales. The idea that the Rudd Government is ever going to deliver a surplus is as big a fairytale as the book that the Prime Minister spent his Christmas holidays writing. It just is not going to happen. They can postulate a surplus in three years time based on very optimistic assumptions about growth, but the only reality, the only hard fact in this year’s Budget is that this year the deficit is $57 billion.

Now, the great thing about coming to these lunches is that they bring you down to earth and I am indebted to one of you for this very important piece of political advice. He said, don’t talk about a billion. A billion dollars is meaningless to the average person in the street. A billion dollars is the cost of 20,000 Holden Commodores. That means that $50 billion is one million Holden Commodores. The deficit this year is the price of one million Holden Commodores. It is a staggering, staggering amount of money and that’s the money that’s going out the door thanks to the profligacy of this Government and, sure, they tell us that we will be in surplus in three years’ time. What they didn’t want to tell us is that every week until then we will still be borrowing $700 million and to use Nihal’s [Gupta] language, $700 million is two 747’s every week. So, that’s a hundred in two years, it’s 150, I mean these are the sorts of figures, these are the sorts of realities that we are dealing with thanks to the continued debt and deficit of this Government.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we do have a clear alternative. At least, I suppose, we can say that both sides of politics believe that we do need to tame the deficit dragon. We do need to kill the deficit dragon. But, the difference is the high road and low road. We will take the high road of reducing government expenditure and creating a more productive economy. They will take the low road of increasing taxes and fiddling with the assumptions.

What we will do is we will spend less, we will tax less and we will have a smaller government. Lower taxes, lesser spending, smaller government are at the heart of the Liberal Party’s principles, they’re at the heart of the Coalition’s philosophy and what I did last night was start to talk about how we would make that happen. Less tax – no great big tax on mining. Less spending – we won’t give money to the education bureaucrats to waste on over-priced pre-fabricated school halls. We will give it to the parents of Australia who know what is good for their kids and for their kids’ education. We won’t re-build Telecom fortyodd years afterwards. We won’t go ahead with the $43 billion white elephant with this big new nationalised telecommunications bureaucracy You know, I spent long enough as a Minister in the Government to have a good opinion of the Australian public service, but we don’t need more and more of them every year.

There are 20,000 more public servants today in Canberra then there were in 2007 when Lindsay Tanner said he was going to take a meat axe to the public service. Well, I’m not so brutal as Lindsay promised to be. I just think that by natural attrition we can have 12,000 less of them and that will save $4 billion over the period of the forward estimates.
So, ladies and gentlemen, lower taxes, smaller government, less spending. We have to get the debt and deficit under control and it’s pretty clear that the only way you can do that in reality as opposed to in a self-serving political fable is by changing the government by supporting the Coalition.

Now, it’s not going to be easy, as all of you know. It is very difficult to beat a first term government and as all of the commentators will tell you, over and over again, between now and polling day, the last first term government to lose was Jimmy Scullin back in 1931. But, ladies and gentlemen, a 79 year old record is just waiting to fall. It’s just waiting to fall. I don’t for a second underestimate the difficulty of the task. I don’t for a second underestimate the gifts of character that will be required from all of our team and all of our supporters over the next four or five months, but I have great confidence in the common sense of the Australian people and I have great confidence in the ability of my colleagues and I think we can win. I think we can win and we don’t want to do it for us. We want to do it for our country. That’s what it’s got to be for. It’s got to be for our country and I know that’s what all of you think. You aren’t here just for the Liberal Party. You certainly aren’t here just for me. You are here for Australia and I want to thank you for that very much indeed.


It makes no difference

WrongWayGoBackWhether it’s Abbott as PM or someone else from the Liberal government, it makes no difference. Because they are all the same. Sure, it’s fun to watch Abbott squirm as he realises he’s losing the fight. I can’t deny I’m enjoying the sense of schadenfreude that comes from watching the Liberals respond to ‘leadership tensions’, something the previous Labor government had to put up with for years. But that’s not to say that the Liberals are in the same position as the Gillard government was in, because the two situations are completely different.

Gillard was running an entirely successful government and was effectively negotiating many positive policy successes with independents and minor parties as a member of a minority government. Sure, Rudd was a problem for Gillard. There’s no denying Rudd’s leaking spurred on a press pack desperate for any bite of a story that would save them from doing any policy analysis, something they’re incapable of doing. But for Abbott, Abbott is clearly the problem. His incompetence is his problem. His ineptitude and incapacity for the development of reasoned, logical, fair, sensible and importantly, popular policies, and his lack of negotiation skills to get terrible and unpopular policies through the Senate are his problem. Abbott is a problem of Abbott’s making. And it’s such fun watching the house of cards come slowly tumbling down. Especially since he has no idea what the problem really is.

This is why I think it’s important to note now, at the outset, before a decision is made about Abbott’s future by his colleagues who are stuck between a rock of an unpopular Prime Minister and a hard place of the hypocrisy of changing leaders after the way these same very people attacked Labor for doing the same thing, that a leadership change will make no difference. The reason for this is because Abbott is not unique to the Liberal National Coalition government. He is not even rare. He’s just like all of them and his policies are ideas they all support. So why would it make any difference if someone else is PM? It’s not Abbott who has to go. It’s this government.

Ask yourself, once they’re rid of Abbott and Peta Credlin, who would they put in their place? Julie Bishop, who is more interested in locating an earring which cost more than most workers’ monthly home mortgage payment than supporting Australians on death row in Bali? Malcolm Turnbull, the quality NBN wrecker who’s giving his Telstra mates control of a lemon of a broadband network, which relies on old technology and will barely be faster than the internet network we have already? How about Joe Hockey, the cigar smoking, best night of his life dancing, poor people don’t drive, bully boy architect of the most unpopular and unfair budget the country has ever seen, which has so far failed to pass the Senate many many months after it has been released? What about, shudder to think, Scott Morrison, who clearly takes great pleasure in the suffering of desperate asylum seekers who are begging Australia to help them save themselves? Instead of helping these desperate people, Morrison has been aiming to make Australia a scarier destination than anywhere the desperate people have fled from. Would you trust this man with your children’s future? He’s in charge of Social Services now. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Name someone else, anyone else who could take over from Abbott and you will see it’s quite clear that they are all the same. They all share the same values, values that lead them to misunderstand why they’re so unpopular. They all share the same failure to understand that their policies are to blame, policies they never took to an election. The problem is not the way the Liberals spin their policies. The turd is unpolishable and the turd is everyone in the Liberal government.

In the simplistic media narrative that goes something like ‘Abbott can’t get his message across so the Liberals need to try a new salesperson’, there is no analysis of the core of the Liberal government’s problem. The core is that their extreme conservative ideology is disgusting and Australians don’t like it. Australians value a fair go, where a person’s post code doesn’t dictate their future success. The Liberals hate this idea. Australians believe that quality education and healthcare should be available as a right to everyone in the country, no matter their bank balance. The Liberals think people who can’t afford health and education should be denied health and education. Australians appreciate a clean environment which provides a safe climate for their futures and future generations. The Liberals cancelled the Carbon Price to help their rich business owner mates continue to pollute our environment and endanger our futures, all to maintain their rich business owner mates’ profits. Australians think we should all benefit from the rewards that come from the sale of natural resources we all own. The Liberals defended rich miners by cancelling the mining tax. Australians think those who have benefited most from the Australian civilisation – those who are the richest – should progressively pay the most tax to pay forward the opportunities they have benefited from to future generations. The Liberals think the rich already pay too much tax and should pay less, with the tax burden falling regressively on those who can least afford it. The values of Australians are fundamentally different than the values of the Abbott government. This mismatch isn’t going to be solved by cutting off the head of the snake.

So I’ll sit back and laugh as I watch Abbott’s political career unravel, and I will appreciate the self-inflicted karma Abbott and his colleagues have brought upon themselves. But I will not entertain notions of anything changing with a new Liberal PM in the top job. The only way to solve this problem, as I suspect Australians have now worked out, is to comprehensively vote the Liberal government out in 2016, if not before.


Murdoch prepares Bishop for Libspill

JulieBishopAbbott must be having a horrible Christmas break. He can’t have missed that his old buddy, his mentor Rupert has completely dropped him and in doing so, has given permission for his newspapers to admit that PM Abbott is a dud. They’re still not yet ready to admit he’s always been a dud and that they were stupid to support him in the first place (as if they’ll ever be ready for this sort of atonement), but they’re willing to go as far as actually reporting his poll numbers, which speak for themselves, and saying that if only he could get his ‘message’ right, their neoliberal Tea-Party agenda would be gratefully accepted by the electorate instead of wholeheartedly rejected. It’s fascinating to watch an entire news organisation finally coming round to the fact that the public knows better than they do whether someone is a good PM or not. I thought the whole definition of ‘news’ was telling us all something we didn’t know, and being first to the story? Abbott’s incompetence is old news, and News Ltd coming to this realisation last is really the only thing you need to know about the incompetence of News Ltd. ‘Oh Abbott’s polls are bad!’ they all cry in unison! ‘We totally didn’t see that coming!’.

So what are News Ltd going to do now that their favourite son has spectacularly failed? If you’ve been paying attention to the number of puff pieces being written at News Ltd about their chosen successor, Julie Bishop, you will see that a Libspill is clearly being planned.

As soon as I realised that Julie Bishop was being put forward as the most likely replacement for Abbott, I realised just how screwed the Abbott government is. Because if Bishop is deemed as the ‘best performer’, it shows just how badly the rest of them have performed. Think about it for a second. What exactly has Bishop done which is so high performing? Perhaps if the definition of high performing is ‘not stuffing up as badly as the rest of the Abbott ministry and being protected by News Ltd so even if you did stuff up the public never heard about it’, then Bishop has been high performing. But all I’ve seen is very basic no-more-competent-than-you’d-expect-of-an-average-politician-statements from her in response to international tragedies, such as disease, terrorism and plane crashes, and of course I’ve seen her slashing the Foreign Aid budget, making Australia the stingiest rich country in the world, bar none. I can see that News Ltd are clearly happy about this, but as I’ve said previously, News Ltd’s opinion and the general public’s opinion do not match and are increasingly at complete odds so News Ltd being happy about something more than likely works against Bishop in the long term.

But even more interesting than the claim that Bishop is ‘high performing’, is News Ltd’s strategy of backing a female Prime Minister, after systematically mauling our first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, with a sexist, low-life, scum-filled campaign of hateful lies and misinformation. Just to remind you all, Julia Gillard was the most successful Prime Minister this country has ever had. You won’t ever see any such analysis done in News Ltd papers, but this Guardian article has run the figures showing Gillard as the winner. So keeping this in mind, and keeping News Ltd’s vile anti-Gilllard campaign in mind, how are News Ltd going to position Bishop, a female, unmarried, childless ex-South Australian lawyer as PM material, when they so blatantly positioned Gillard as unfit, whilst appealing to the scum who read their newspapers, who were only too happy to agree? They built the anti-female-leader narrative, so how are they going to tear it down in support for Bishop?

So far, I have seen three strategies at work.

The first is to dress Julie Bishop up in her favourite ridiculously expensive clothes, to do a bit of airbrushing and to photograph her looking relaxed and feminine as if she doesn’t have a care in the world (or an office, or a desk, or, for that matter, a job. Notice how male politicians are never photographed posing as if they’re in a fashion magazine?). It’s also worth noting at this point that when Gillard posed for a Women’s Weekly photo shoot in 2007, Bishop was reported as saying:

“I don’t think it’s necessary to get dressed up in designer clothing and borrow clothing and make-up to grace the cover of magazines… You’re not a celebrity, you’re an elected representative, you’re a member of parliament. You’re not Hollywood and I think that when people overstep that line they miss the whole point of that public role.”

Clearly Bishop thinks she is Hollywood and is a celebrity and that’s the end of that.

The second strategy to ready Bishop for the position as Australia’s second female Prime Minister is for her to paint herself as not a feminist, and not as having benefited from feminism to get where she is. It was all her, apparently. And women who think they need feminism to get ahead need to stop complaining and get on with it, apparently. I feel that Bishop claiming she’s got where she is without the help of the feminist movement is akin to the captain of a football team being presented with the Grand Final cup and saying ‘thanks so much for all the applause. Clearly I played really well and that’s why the team won. I don’t know what all those other guys on my team were doing, but without my individual effort, the Grand Final cup would not be mine today’. Feminists have every right to be offended by Bishop’s suggestion that their hard fought battles are just a campaign of whinging. And of course they have every reason to laugh at Bishop, who is one of two women in Abbott’s cabinet, after being the only one for the first year, presumably because all the other Liberal women of merit were too busy complaining instead of being merit selected in a cabinet that is full of un-merit-worthy men. You’ve got to laugh so you don’t cry!

Finally, the last strategy to prepare Bishop for a leadership challenge is for News Ltd to claim that she is nothing like Gillard, and so should never be compared. Please look away now if you don’t feel like being angry for at least the next month over the following statement that was made in this Courier Mail Julie Bishop-fan-mail-puff-piece. Or do what I do and try to turn your anger into productive rage:

‘Dignified yet determined, Ms Bishop has succeeded where Julia Gillard failed, by showing that women can perform at the highest levels of political office without either hiding behind their gender or sacrificing their femininity. A passionate advocate of women, Ms Bishop believes in merit-based promotion, and her own hard work is now reaping rewards, both on the international stage and in domestic polls. And the damage done by Ms Gillard to the public perception of women in leadership roles is slowly being healed as voters regain confidence that a female politician can deliver’.

So this is the campaign and it’s well underway. There’s no sign yet as to how News Ltd will deal with Bishop’s embarrassing past of plagiarism, or her seedy career as a lawyer fighting against asbestos victims, and apparently once asking ‘why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying’. But we will watch and see as News Ltd comes up with new techniques of dishonesty to repel any criticism of their new-found-favourite candidate. And of course, it will be fascinating to see how such a leadership spill could possibly be orchestrated without use of the words ‘blood’ and ‘stab’ littered throughout the reportage. No doubt that’s the last piece of the puzzle that needs to be worked out before we wake up to find Abbott gone, and PM anti-feminist-pro-Armani-asbestos-Julie in his place.


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