Yes, I’m writing on this topic again. On the same topic that I wrote about last week in response to Mr Denmore and the same topic that my mother, Kay Rollison, has written so eloquently about today. There’s more to be said and no doubt I will keep saying more because this topic is important.
I’m talking about the quality of our mainstream press.
I’m sure mainstream journalists who write about politics in Australia have noticed how angry huge swaths of the politically engaged populace are with them and their measly efforts at ‘journalism’. I often wonder what they think about the criticism they receive, week in, week out on social media, blogs and independent news sites. But I’m not likely to find out, because to tell us, they would have to reveal what they really think, and as I’ve already established, this is a big no no. Having an opinion is akin to hysterical nonsense in their world. So they end up saying nothing at all. They end up saying ‘the Opposition Leader says’ while we all yell at our TV’s ‘so what? This is completely irrelevant!’
I’ve been thinking this week about how has this sorry situation occurred. How has it come about that we have an oversupply of right wing commentators and talking heads all over our TV, including the ABC, but we never seem to hear from anyone who is willing to go out on limb and say anything about the successes of the Labor government? There are a couple out there, I will admit. Channel 10’s Paul Bongiorno is one who battles on, giving his opinion on policy and sometimes even debating on Twitter, proudly showing off what he really thinks about political news. But the fact that Bongiorno stands out as not always negative about the Gillard government, while there are literally tens of journalists, commentators, columnists and personalities on News Ltd, Fairfax and the ABC who are openly partisan towards the right, openly hostile about the Gillard government, and completely unreasonable when it comes to balance and accuracy, shows just how slim pickings there are for a left-wing audience. And I’ve got a hypothesis about why this is the case.
The problem is, the likes of Andrew Bolt in all his revolting disrespect for facts, accuracy and balance, scares the pants off journalists who don’t want to appear to be as downright unprofessional and dodgy as this gutter dweller is. It’s like their thought process works as follows:
‘Andrew Bolt agrees with everything Abbott does, and hates everything Gillard does. He is quite obviously a terrible excuse for a journalist. He is a propagandist and is untrustworthy. If I endorse anything Gillard does, I’m just a left-wing version of Bolt and this is not the type of journalist I want to be. I’m above that’.
The whole ‘above it’ argument has been brought up again by Jonathon Green on the Drum this week. The headline is all you really need to read to understand Green’s point: Journalism tainted by conviction isn’t journalism. Conviction. Defined as “a firmly held belief or opinion”. Green’s basically saying if you have a a firmly held belief or opinion as a journalist, you are tainted. You are alike to Andrew Bolt. But here lies the problem. There are so many journalists making such an effort not to be ‘tainted’, they are missing the fact that their lack of conviction is destroying their work. Because they have no conviction, or they hide their conviction in order to make it appear they are pure and unaffected, they end up being nothing and offering their audience crap.
It’s no wonder so many of us are frustrated. Because it’s perfectly clear that while the left has this problem, the right doesn’t.
Let’s pause for a moment and think about this left/right divide. If I write that I think the Gonksi education reforms are a fantastic idea and will be good for the long term success of the Australian economy and I provide evidence for why I have this view, am I automatically ‘tainted’ as a ‘lefty’? Remember I’m analysing the policy and I’m providing evidence for why I think it’s a good policy. Does this make me a Labor stooge? Does this make me a propagandist? Does this make me a tainted ‘lefty’? No. It doesn’t. I’m not behaving like Bolt in any way shape or form. Because Bolt doesn’t use facts. He prefers to misrepresent them. He prefers to use hyperbole, mock outrage and general nastiness towards people he doesn’t agree with. He doesn’t reason. He doesn’t analyse. And his conclusions are always utterly predictable and easy to refute. But somehow, journalists have let the Bolts of the world win by using this tactic, as they have convinced themselves that if they say anything complimentary about the Gillard government, they’ll be tainted in the same way Bolt is who obviously campaigns for Abbott regardless of what he think of his policies.
It’s quite obvious that the reason there is an abundance of left wing bloggers, and a distinct shortage of right wing ones, is because the right have their opinions adequately covered in the mainstream press, and the left are screaming out for a voice. So us bloggers are doing the job of journalists in analysing policy and providing our thoughts on the impact of these policies. We can’t find this analysis elsewhere so we write it ourselves. Let’s be clear – we’re not doing this because we’re campaigning for the Labor party. We have convictions that we have no intention of hiding. We’re not in anyone’s pocket and there’s no vested interests dictating our views. Just because I’m a Labor voter, and proud to say it, does not mean I’ve given up the right to analyse with an objective eye. Each and every post I write is filtered through my view of the world – which is all any one can ask of any writer or journalists. In fact, most independent bloggers I read, who would be considered ‘left wing’, are critical of the Labor party when they feel it’s warranted. And we’re always very particular about getting our facts right. We’re doing the job of the journalists too when it comes to correcting the official trail of lies the right wingers in our press leave in their wake. For example, since journalists aren’t pulling Andrew Bolt up on his blatant misrepresentation of climate change (and his insult to mathematics), independent bloggers like Greg Jericho point out these facts instead.
Independent writers and bloggers seem to have more conviction in one post, than the mainstream media have collectively in all their work. Mainstream journalists don’t care that Abbott’s Opposition are constantly distorting the facts about the current state of the Australian economy and the size of Australia’s debt. They don’t care that a well orchestrated campaign was carried out within the Liberal National Party to force the resignation of the Speaker, to try to force an early election. They don’t care that Abbott’s Direct Action policy has been left un-scrutinised, while the story about climate change and the Carbon Price was all about Gillard’s supposed ‘lie’. If they had even an ounce of conviction (not left or right, just plain old conviction about right and wrong), how could they possibly ignore this? How can we trust what they say if they are so determined not to care about anything? Surely this is the definition of tainted; writing without conviction.
The question of balance is also one that needs to be examined. Does balance mean being negative about Gillard one day, and positive the next, while being equally negative and positive about Abbott? Do climate change deniers funded by vested interests get the same access to an audience as distinguished scientists who have proved time and time again that the deniers are wrong? Of course balance means none of these things. Gillard should only get positive coverage when her government deserves it. But when you look at the facts, and the resulting coverage, there is a huge hole when it comes to positive stories about the Gillard government. Balance is the ability to weigh up facts fairly, to report these facts fairly and to provide analysis of the impact of these facts fairly, without prejudice or dishonesty. There is no simpler way to explain it.
Frankly, I’ve had enough of the whole scene and I don’t think I’m alone. While Abbott gets a free run in a cowardly press, who refuse to question anything he does, while Gillard’s achievements are buried and her problems over-exaggerated or created, and while the right wing mouth-pieces get free rein to say anything they want without any standards of fact-checking or decency applied, we are all losers. While journalists are ducking and weaving to hide their convictions, all that is left for the thinking public is to find analysis and inspiration elsewhere. And if we can’t find it, we write it ourselves.
I know it’s a bit unorthodox to post on a Sunday night. I usually pipe up at the start of a weekend. This post actually started it’s life as a very long comment on Mr Denmore’s excellent blog post which also went up tonight: The God Complex. But when I went to submit the comment, everything disappeared and I thought, stuff this, I will just write a post instead.
Mr Denmore’s words struck a chord with me. In fact, he reminded me of a foggy frustrated idea that’s been buzzing around my head for months, that I haven’t quite managed to write into a post yet. So thank you Mr Denmore, because now it’s flowing out.
I couldn’t agree more that the media landscape has changed. Now that us independent bloggers are having our say, it seems more and more obvious that the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (that is the mainstream journalists), is this:
they spend all their time desperately trying not to show what they really think, whilst we do the complete opposite.
There’s no doubt that many of us bloggers who write about politics, media and the nexus between are utterly fed up with the work produced by mainstream journalists. And the mainstream journalists are fed up with us.
I’ve written a lot over the last few months about the failures of the mainstream media, but I’ve never managed to entirely portray the difference between us quite as eloquently as Mr Denmore. In his post, he writes about two problems with the attitude of mainstream journalists – the view from nowhere and false equivalences. If you haven’t already, as I said, this post is definitely worth a read. Mr Denmore concluded with the following suggestion to mainstream journalists:
If they are to succeed, they are going to have to stop seeing themselves as boundary riders, referees and voices of God and get in among it with everyone else.
It was the words among it with everyone else which fired me up. Mainstream journalists have become absolute experts at writing articles, or speaking on the radio, or appearing on TV show panels, and providing many words, without actually telling anyone what they actually think. It’s as if having an opinion is an unforgivable sin. Because having an opinion equates to partisanship and if you’re partisan, you can’t possibly be professional. Of course I’m not talking about those journalists who make a living out of campaigning for their political party. The Andrew Bolts and the Piers Akermans and the Chris Kennys. I’m talking about the ones who are meant to be providing fair, balanced and interesting political commentary. I’m talking about those who we expect to see policy analysis from, but we end up just getting hollow narratives along the lines of ‘they’re all as bad as each other, so we may as well make a joke about the whole thing’. The Annabel Crabbs, Philip Cooreys, Peter Hartchers and Waleed Alys. And worse than offering bland nothingness in the place of real analysis, they offer sideshows and irrelevant innuendo in the place of a real, in depth look at something that’s really important. Like the future of our country, or the effect a policy will have on our community.
And still it gets worse. It gets much worse, when these people treat anyone that does write about policy, as if we’re too close and too partisan to matter. Those of us who do care about politics care about it not because it’s the topic we happen to make a living writing about. We don’t fixate on it because it’s a ‘thing’ and it’s ‘entertaining’. We care about politics because it actually does matter. And when we care about policy, and we write about how much we care about it, it’s as if our words are somehow tainted with the hysterics of being passionate on a topic. As if we’re just offering a biased opinion, and that this opinion therefore doesn’t count. Because we care too much. This is the attitude that oozes out of mainstream political journalists and commentators. And I’m sick of it. Surely a prerequisite for writing about politics is caring about the outcome?
A perfect example of this attitude was the Press Gallery’s decision to lock out Independent Australia journalist, Callum Davidson, from the ‘in club’. David Speers, the current president of the Press Gallery, provided this reasoning for the decision to reject Davidson’s application to join the Canberra Press Gallery:
“Your website appears to be opinion-based rather than a news site. We have received numerous requests from similar sites which have also been declined.”
I was dumbfounded when I read this. The first reason is because the Press Gallery generally doesn’t offer ‘news’ in any way shape or form which isn’t also easily categorized as ‘opinion’. News comes thick and fast, usually instantly and by the time the Press Gallery has time to present it, we already know the facts and all that is left for them to talk about is their analysis of these facts. Their opinions of the facts. But these ‘opinions’ just look different from the opinions you see on Independent Australia because most of the writers on Independent Australia care about the subjects they are writing about.
The second reason I was amazed was because I get most of my news from sites like Independent Australia these days – since these sites are the only ones interested in actually finding out what the hell is going on in Canberra. No doubt Press Gallery journalists are sick of people on social media begging them to investigate the circumstances behind James Ashby’s decision to take Peter Slipper to court. But guess what – there’s a reason we’re begging. It’s because we just can’t believe that mainstream journalists have become so cynical, so lazy and so unambitious that they wouldn’t be desperate to investigate this story for themselves. It is really exciting that Independent Australia has managed to raise funds from the public to investigate Ashbygate. But it’s also depressing because the mainstream media should be doing this. And Independent Australia is the publication that the Press Gallery have decided ‘don’t count’, because they have too much opinion on their site. They’re offering us exclusive news, and the Press Gallery is trying to block their access to the source of this news. It’s ridiculous.
I know I’m just one of many bloggers who write on this subject, and more than likely everyone in the Press Gallery has never heard of me. But that has never stopped me providing my thoughts. I write because I care. I always write about issues that are important to me and I think that’s obvious in the way that I write. If that makes me partisan, and therefore unqualified to provide an opinion, so be it. I wish just for once we could read an article in the mainstream press and actually get to the end with some sort of idea of what the journalist thinks. We need to feel them get amongst it with us because otherwise what they produce is bland, boring and completely irrelevant. Don’t they ever wonder why their readership is declining?
I’m sure you can guess why I’m writing you this letter. You’ve no doubt had many similar complaints this week surrounding your comments about the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the effect this policy will have on Myer consumer spending. So here’s another one to add to the pile. Even if you don’t have time to read it, please do me the favour of handing it around your mates, fellow CEOs of big companies who think they’re entitled to an opinion about political policy. These words are for all of you.
First off, let me just say that I am a very grateful person. I am grateful that I live in a society where a brand like Myer exists. But I don’t wake up in the morning and curse that Myer isn’t open yet. I, like all other Australians, don’t need Myer. We don’t rely on Myer providing us with products. This is because nothing your store provides could ever, in anyone’s warped sense of reality constitute a ‘necessity’. Necessities, things needed to live, for lucky Australians like me, include shelter, food, water and healthcare. Everything else is lifestyle. That’s what your store sells isn’t it? Lifestyle choices. As an Australian, I get to enjoy a whole raft of lifestyle choices, Myer being one of them. I get to enjoy so much more than just bare necessities, and that’s why I’m so grateful.
I am also grateful that my life has not been touched by the difficulties of disability. Yet, if I was to find in my future that, for instance, I had a child with a disability, I don’t think my first concern would be that this child might cost me more money, and reduce the amount of cash that I could spend at Myer. Thousands of Australians have been looking after themselves or loved ones who have a disability, buying all the expensive healthcare and equipment needed to give them a life that’s nowhere near as privileged as most of your customers, without the government offering them the support that it has always been able to afford. Hence why Gillard’s Labor Government has introduced the National Disability Insurance scheme. But rather than applaud this social policy, you whinge to your investment banker crowd that the policy is going to hurt your shareholders. How pathetic a human being you are. When I think of your shareholders, somehow I don’t manage to conjure the sort of pity that I have for people who are prisoners in their home due to a disability, or for their carers who have been by their sides their entire lives. Giving up trips to Myer. Giving up everything for their loved one.
It’s clear that you have a predictable view of government spending on social welfare. You don’t like it. You don’t seem to think the government can afford to do anything. Although I didn’t hear you complaining when Rudd’s Labor government stimulated the economy during the early stages of the Global Financial Crisis by giving your consumers money to spend in your stores. Are you grateful at all for that Bernie? That this country didn’t plunge into recession like the US and most of Europe?
When you found your statements about the NDIS had made their way out of your investment banker echo-chamber and into the general populace (your consumers) and you realised your words might affect your shareholders’ income, you issued the most cowardly format for an apology – a press release. And in this release, you stuck by your criticism of the funding model for the NDIS – a minor increase in the Medicare Levy. You said you would prefer the NDIS was funded using ‘existing revenue streams’. Well thanks Bernie. Thanks for this insightful advice. Have you not heard that government revenue isn’t doing so well lately? You are constantly complaining that your retail sector isn’t performing well but do you ever put two and two together? While you and your CEO mates might find the economic conditions difficult, might it also be so that government taxation revenue is also dropping due to large companies like your own not contributing as much in tax revenue? Or is the government meant to be responsible for this as well? Last time I checked, Australia is doing incredibly well economically compared to other developed nations – would you prefer to run a group of department stores in Greece? And while you and your mates are constantly backing Tony Abbott’s catch-phrase that the government MUST be in surplus, how do you expect that government to afford the NDIS, which you now seem to agree we need, without an increase in taxation? What’s this magic pudding you seem to know about that the government doesn’t? Please enlighten us.
Speaking of your buddy Tony Abbott, what are your thoughts on his plans to fund his inequitable-middle-and-upper-class-welfare-election-bribe paid parental leave with a 1.5% increase in the company tax rate? Myer will be paying that I would think. I totally understand big business. I know the cost of this tax increase will be passed onto Myer consumers. Aren’t you concerned that if you charge us more for your lifestyle choices, we might not be able to afford as many lifestyle choices? Or we might give up on your lifestyle choices altogether? Heard of the internet? I’ve only got a rudimentary understanding of economics and supply and demand, but that’s how it works doesn’t it? Prices go up, demand goes down. I would personally agree with you if you were to come out and criticize Abbott’s paid maternity leave policy. I don’t want your prices to go up so Abbott can ensure women who earn way more than the average wage, get paid more than an average salary when they go on maternity leave. I don’t want to see every company in Australia put their prices up so women can pay for expensive lifestyle choices whilst being full-time mums. If the company tax rate was increased for an equitable policy like the NDIS, I would have no complaint.
I guess it all comes down to priorities, doesn’t it Bernie. My priority is the poorest and most disadvantaged in society. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to contribute from my taxable income, to ensure disabled Australians are better supported with their challenges in life. Your priority is your shareholders. How’s that working out for you this week Bernie? Are your shareholders impressed with your public relations disaster?
‘Voting for Tony Abbott because you don’t like Julia Gillard is like eating shit because you hate spinach’.
Fine, some people don’t like Gillard (spinach). They don’t like her voice. They don’t like her hair. They don’t like her glasses. They don’t like her boyfriend. They don’t like her marriage status. They don’t like her lack of religion. They don’t like her gender. They don’t like her. Fine. Some people are unhappy with some of Labor’s policies. I get it. It’s absolutely understandable that you don’t like everything the Labor party does. Neither do I. I like most of it. And I like some of it very much. But not all of it. Big deal. The odd thing is, every time these shit-eaters are asked why they are eating shit, they just go on and on about hating spinach. It’s quite irrational.
Let me say first up, I quite like spinach, especially with feta, so this is an easy choice for me. But there do seem to be quite a few people in Australia who are absolutely hell bent on rejecting the healthy spinach option, and haven’t even considered the side effects of eating shit instead. Let’s have a closer look at the alternatives in a few important areas of political policy.
There has been a lot of fascination over the last few years in Gillard’s determination to bring in an ETS, and her supposed lie of bringing in a Carbon Price instead. Never mind that Gillard quite clearly is doing what she promised, and bringing in an ETS, with the Carbon Price used in the interim to compromise with the Greens to form a minority government. Either way, if you’re a shit-eater who hates the Carbon Price, have you ever had a look at the shit alternative?
Ever heard of Abbott’s Direct Action Policy? In this fantastic post on the Political Sword, Ad astra asks some very good questions about this shit policy. It’s probably not your fault that you know little about Direct Action, considering how pathetic the mainstream media’s scrutiny of this policy has been. But if you can’t be bothered seeking it out, and haven’t even thought about the alternative once the Carbon Price is ‘axed’, it’s important that you know you are not being offered zero action against climate change. What you are being offered by Abbott is a shit, no details policy that will cost tax-payers $1,300 per household, per year. Considering the bleating about larger electricity bills, you’d think $1,300 per household would raise some eyebrows. And even worse, no one has been able to confirm that this policy will even reduce emissions, when the Carbon Price is already effectively doing this. So Direct Action is expensive and possibly won’t work. It’s funding coal instead of research and development into sustainable energies. It’s bullshit. And Abbott hasn’t even explained how he will fund it. If you’re going to hate the Carbon Price, the least you can do is justify this hatred with a love for Direct Action instead. And if you can’t muster love, at least be informed. Rather than ranting about ‘Gillard lying’ as if this is some sort of critique of the Carbon Price, when deep down it’s clear you don’t believe in climate change and therefore can’t understand why action needs to be taken, at least give it five seconds thought. Have a think about how it will taste to eat shit.
Surely you can see how desperately embarrassed Malcolm Turnbull is of his party’s shit alternative to the Labor government’s National Broadband Network. If Turnbull can’t get excited about a crap alternative to a superior network, why on earth should you be excited about it? Labor’s NBN is going to cost $37.4 billion and will offer super-fast broadband to homes and businesses Australia wide. Turnbull and Abbott’s shit NBN will cost $29.5 billion, and will only supply not as fast broadband, to businesses in metro areas, and households who can afford up to $5,000 to connect. Murdoch is happy with this policy. It keeps his Foxtel TV subscriptions monopolizing the market for many years to come. It’s no wonder the Liberal’s launched their policy at Fox Studios, just to show Rupey how much they care. So you shit-eaters, when Telstra’s copper gives out and you’re left without any broadband, let alone the not so fast version that you paid through the nose to connect to, and when giant fridge units turn up on your pavement, will you at least do us spinach eaters the courtesy of admitting you’ve been eating shit?
Gonski Education Funding Reform
So you’re not happy about the Gonski school funding model? You don’t want extra money from the Federal Government for schools to provide a more equitable standard of education for all Australians, regardless of family wealth? Fine. So what do you think of the alternative? Christopher Pyne, the so called Shadow Education Minister, who wouldn’t recognise a good education if it was gifted to him, claims that:
“too much money has been wasted on reducing class sizes and that instead there should be more focus on the quality of teaching.”
Pyne also thinks the 5 – 15% of teachers, who he describes as ‘not up to scratch’ should be sacked. Apparently he thinks sacking teachers helps education quality. I guess the spinach eaters in this case would have to be those who value the benefits of a good education for all, whereas the shit-eaters just want to see the government cut, slash and burn spending with the selfish hope they’ll be left with a few extra dollars in their pocket each week through a tax break, and if that means larger classes, less teachers and lower quality education system, so be it. Sorry to tell you, those eating shit, that a short term tax decrease at the expense of quality education will just end up costing us all. Please think about this before picking up your spoon.
King of the Scandal
If you relied on the mainstream media for all your news, you might think the Labor party is the party of scandal and smear. You might think the most newsworthy political event in the last twelve months was a nasty misogynist blogger urging an incompetent, biased, idea-free press into beating up a story about the Prime Minister, surrounding unproven wrongdoing by her boyfriend 20 years ago. You might therefore have missed that Abbott was sued this week over his own little slush-fund affair, which he used to destroy the career of his right-wing rival, Pauline Hanson. It’s amazing how the mainstream media and their shit-eating cheer-squad change their tune about truth, public-interest and political scandal when it comes to Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party.
You might also think ex-Liberal Peter Slipper was the most corrupt in James Ashby’s sexual harassment case. Again, the mainstream media would have you believe this to be the case. The mainstream media don’t want you to know that the real rat is Ashby. And Abbott’s pre-selected friend Mal Brough. So while you’re complaining about the problems with spinach, think how silly you’ll look, when you realise just how badly you’ve been duped. Duped by the mainstream media. Duped by the rich vested interests of Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch who have every reason to promote the eating of shit over spinach for their own self-interest.
So you hate Julia Gillard? Can you at least understand why I’m not just asking you to stop eating shit? I’m also asking you to stop forcing others into a shit-eating situation which is not of their own making. Don’t elect Abbott as Prime Minister. I don’t care if you don’t like spinach. Disliking spinach does not justify a vote for Abbott. Grow up and think of the alternative.
UPDATE: Original spinach or shit Tweet was by Geezlouise (@Turlow1)
I have cause to write this week because I wanted to remind you that I am still here. And I am still angry. I know there’s been a bit of talk since the passing of Margaret Thatcher about her famous line denying my existence. History has shown time and time again how wrong Thatcher was about most things. However there still seem to be some people in positions of considerable power who would like to perpetuate the lie that you are more important than me. It’s true, people watch you much more closely than they watch me. We get a stock market report on the TV news every night, even though most of my constituents wouldn’t even know what a stock was, let alone own any. This obviously gives you delusions of grandeur. But what’s become really apparent over the last couple of decades is that you think you own us all. And you don’t. You might own the greedy and the very rich. The likes of Rupert Murdoch and Gina Rinehart bow down to you like a god. In your eyes, these two are probably favourite pupils. However, if you use my very different measures of what constitutes a successful life, both these lowlifes are complete and utter failures of the highest magnitude.
Speaking of failures, this is another reason for my letter. It’s not good manners to reject me completely when you’re having a good time, and then to call me when you’ve got a problem or when things go wrong. This ‘too big to fail’ argument is just silly. If you fuck up badly enough, sure, I’ll always have to pick up the pieces. That’s just who I am. But you can at least work with me a little to make sure I have the resources I need to build the safety net that you expect me to have whenever you do fuck up, which is pretty frequent of late. You see, I’m not just some doormat you can walk all over and treat like a ‘get out of jail free’ card when you’ve stuffed up. If you want me to look after you, you need to better look after me. If everything I own gets privatized, by the way, I don’t own it anymore. That might not make sense to you, but think about it for a second. You want me to take responsibility for things that I need, to make sure that my people have a good chance to be happy and effective members of my club, but then you steal these things off me and try to sell them in your market. How am I meant to make sure everything is working and available to everyone who needs them if you suddenly own them! There’s no middle ground with you either, it’s all or nothing. Dog eat dog. You really should stop being so selfish and think about everyone, like I do, and not just your rich buddies who get richer by buddying up to you. If you had your way, there would be no minimum wage and your best buddies, the very rich, would happily see those invisible people who I look after die in the gutter from starvation and exposure to the elements.
Speaking of the elements, isn’t it time you had a think about the climate? I know you don’t believe anything matters if it doesn’t have a price tag, which is obviously why you think I’m so inconsequential. But seriously, haven’t you noticed that the climate is costing you? It shouldn’t be up to me to remind you of this. You’re meant to be good with numbers and I’m no accountant. But I’ve seen the insurance pay outs that go to victims of natural disasters. Surely you can’t be blind to these. You might be blind to the human tragedies of drought and flood: the deaths, the loss, the upheaval of people’s lives. These are all my problems. But the money cost? It’s going up and it’s going to affect you more and more as the temperature keeps rising. You never were quick on the uptake and I really can’t help but think you’ve become quite lazy in your old age. Sure, the old energy sources of coal and gas have helped you to chug along without a care in the world for the side effects but the profit isn’t going to last. Why you might ask? Because this stuff is going to run out you buffoon! And you expect me to have all these people ready to solve this problem, ready to find some way to keep you running using sustainable energy sources, yet you won’t invest in research and development. So no, I don’t have anything or anyone ready to solve this problem. I’m barely able to keep some of my lot alive in the wreckage you have left behind from your greedy pursuits, let alone having them ready to build a car that runs without petrol. Stop being so stingy and go to work to solve this problem yourself. For once in your life, think of something in the future that will happen more than a day down the line.
Speaking of looking to the future, I hope you know that all my poor friends are eventually going to come and bite your rich friends on the arse. I’m not talking about a revolution, so don’t go organising private security armies and building more gated communities yet. I wouldn’t mind if an uprising happened, by the way. I think it would be a good way to shock you awake. But unfortunately my guys don’t have time to mobilise to that extent, when they are working long hours just to feed their families and keep themselves from being evicted. No, the way they are going to ruin your rich people’s lives is by collapsing you in on yourself when their wages are crushed, and their spending becomes so minimal that you can no longer flog your shit to them. You see, if they are barley earning to survive, they can’t afford your shit. Makes sense doesn’t it? When I say ‘shit’, I mean all the useless stuff you produce to make a profit. Nothing that benefits me. In fact, most of this shit is completely useless to me and if anything, it is to my detriment. Especially when they all try to get rid of it and find they can’t because it won’t wash down the drain. Somehow you’ve managed to convince my people that your shit will make them happy, that somehow they’ll find satisfaction from buying it and looking at it. That the more shit they have, the more successful they are. But this is all part of your con and one day this fraud of yours will be exposed. As will the lie that you need to keep growing to survive. It’s time you went on a diet! You don’t need to keep growing. You’re fat enough already.
The more I write, the more I realise just how unhappy I am with you. You promise the world, and all you deliver is mess for me to fix up. You were meant to solve all your own problems. That’s what you promised when I first met you. But you don’t solve problems, you just make them. I think it’s time we met up to discuss this problem further.
As this is my first ever post, I’ll briefly introduce myself.
My name is Cat Williams, but on twitter I am known as Catherine Rollison which is my maiden name.
I am 31 years old and I live in Adelaide with my husband Dave and our beloved dog Tully. I am a project manager in construction (currently working for Syntheo, who is building the National Broadband Network).
My main interests outside of the long and tireless hours I work, and aside from the obvious, being my family and friends, are AFL and politics.
Some of you may follow my sister, Victoria, and/or my mother, Kay, both of whom are prolific bloggers.
Victoria is my twin sister so apart from the same DNA, we share very similar opinions on many things: socialism, progressive politics, the environment, although mine are not as well vocalised as Vic, nor our mother, both of whom have an excellent way with words and a far greater urge to read and write than I do. Unsurprising that Victoria’s education led her towards humanities, like both our parents, but mine ended up in the relatively dry surroundings of the Adelaide University Civil & Structural engineering department.
I sometimes think of Vic’s passion for writing, whether it be the two novels she has penned, or her regular blog, as the outcome of someone who’s thoughts and opinions fill her like a cup of water which regularly overflows onto the keyboard. In that respect, it sometimes seems like no matter how many other things she crams into her life, she can’t NOT write. The words would have nowhere else to go.
I have been known to accuse Vic and our mum of being stuck in an echo chamber, only willing to write for, watch, read and converse on twitter with the other rusted-on left winger tweeps or commentators, many of whom they would now call friends.
When something controversial happens in politics I will show up unannounced at my parents’ house and request that we watch 7:30 together, no matter who is appearing, and no matter what they have to say (my parents infuriate me by putting the television on mute when they don’t like what someone is saying – they do this too with football commentators). I know if I didn’t force them, they would walk around the house in enraged silence, TV and radio OFF, and they would throw the Sydney Morning Herald out, unwrapped. Yes, they subscribe to the SMH, a day late, as the Advertiser is simply not an option. As much as it pains us all, I often DEMAND that my family members watch and listen to what is happening in forums and on mediums other than those they allow themselves to watch. I call it our reconnaissance mission.
As painful as it is to listen to people we disagree with, I think it is important to do so, for two reasons. First of all, if we don’t know what our opponents are saying, then how can we understand what attitudes our side of politics needs to counter? Sure, none of my family is actually IN politics, but we should never underestimate the impact and reach a simple conversation with a friend could have, or the questions we answer when we volunteer to hand out ‘how to vote’ cards at elections, let alone Vic’s blogs which some weeks reaches 10,000 Australian voters.
Second of all, I am fascinated by the swing voter, often reminding my family that, particularly in an election year, the ALP will do many things that make no sense to their most loyal supporters. In fact, a lot of things they say and do will elicit more criticism from the Rollisons than they do from the swing voters or the LNP’s rusted on voters.
But this is the point. WE, whether it be the rusted on ALP / Greens voters, OR the rusted on LNP / National voters, aren’t going to change our vote this year. It wouldn’t matter whether the ALP changed leaders in farcical circumstances three times between now and September, or whether Tony Abbott had a sudden change of heart and decided he supported meaningful action against climate change and is keeping the carbon price / ETS unchanged, there would hardly be an election in Australia’s history whereby the supporters of each party were LESS likely to change their votes between now and September.
So in the lead up to the big day in September, I’ve been willing to advance my reconnaissance missions, whether it be to seek conversations with an LNP voter or to look for the ‘uninformed or not decided’ members of the electorate , whether at work, socially or on Twitter or Facebook. Heck, I even read comments on news.com.au sites very occasionally, when I’m feeling bold. I think it’s important to try to understand what sort of issues, or the reporting of perceived issues, influence people’s votes. Or what has driven them already, to choose and actively support one candidate over the other.
This leads me to a conversation I had on Twitter recently, which, unexpectedly, went from being a conversation with (what I thought was) a Rudd supporting ALP voter, to a conversation with a rusted on LNP voter (reconnaissance)! But degenerated quickly into, what I am now led to believe, is a conversation that is very typical on Twitter for those of us who identify ourselves as left leaning Australians of the female variety.
It was two days after the embarrassing Rudd ‘no spill’ fiasco and a tweet appeared on my newsfeed from a ‘Greg Jessop’ (kudos to anyone on twitter who doesn’t hide behind a fake name – less likely to be a troll). His avatar was a photo of Kevin Rudd with the words ‘Its On’. Note this avatar has since changed to stick figures having intercourse. Charming stuff.
I tweeted him with a leading:
At this point I realised he wasn’t a Rudd supporter at all, but an LNP voter disguised as a Rudd supporter in order to, as he put it, destabilise the ALP from within. A double agent one might say.
Now I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with having an avatar, or even a name, that suggests you’re supporting something you’re not. I mean, sure, the actually satirical fake politician, or fake Andrew Bolt twitter accounts are much more entertaining than someone who uses their real name and poses as a fake Kevin Rudd Supporter, but again, as long as you’re not a pesky troll, I figure, I don’t mind talking to you.
I might even poke fun at you with a:
Now this comment was designed to hurt the guy’s ego. Sure it’s not ‘nice’, so to speak, but I figure, it’s a harmless way to tease someone on twitter who has dedicated over 5,000 tweets yet amassed less than 200 followers (I personally pride myself on my tweet to follower ratio being currently a fairly steady 1:1, but then I don’t tweet very often so I can’t really gloat).
He responded, unabashed, with a friendly-enough ‘stay mad, stay insignificant’, but then rapidly changed the topic drastically with the taunt ‘I do hope you’re looking forward to a decade of in Opposition and the return of WorkChoices’.
Part of me was surprised to see it was the first time I had been taunted on twitter by someone who could actually spell ‘you’re’.
The other part of me was a bit surprised that an LNP voter was taunting me with a jibe about WorkChoices.
I would have thought that most LNP supporters considered that a ‘no go zone’ after it had, in part, delivered Howard not only a heavy loss of an election, but also the loss of his own seat, being only the second ever Australian Prime Minister in history to achieve that feat.
I mean, sure, many LNP voters are very attracted to the WorkChoices policy and would support its return under the guise of a different name, but even Abbott is well advised enough not to CALL it Workchoices, as I pointed out to Greg Jessop:
Greg argued his wish for the return of a form of Industrial Relations Reform:
My retort, like the ‘tweet to follower’ ratio was on the slightly personal side having discovered from Greg’s bio that he was a Geotechnical Engineer, I used the normal ‘in’ engineering term:
Greg stayed in the LNP ‘groove’ with a dig at the unions:
This is where my reconnaissance missions, I feel, start to pay off when I can actually counter LNP ‘lines’ with a little thing I like to call ‘facts’:
I might add, at this point, that I’m actually enjoying this conversation now, more than I was at the beginning, when I thought Greg was a Rudd supporter. All pretty harmless fun.
Greg, in further LNP-voter predictable fashion used a ‘me’ example to refute a national statistic.
By this stage, I’m wondering how much further this guy could follow the ‘I’m an LNP voter on twitter’ playbook. I goaded him with a double edged attack both on his ‘me’ mentality and an open ended query on his stance on climate change:
His retort was probably equally as predictable:
And that’s where the ‘pleasant’ retorts spectacularly ended.
Greg Jessop, clearly ENGRAGED by conversing with someone who not only supported unions, but agreed with 98% of qualified scientists that AGW exists, exploded with a:
Wow. That one, I didn’t see coming.
But was I that surprised?
Well. A bit. Greg didn’t originally present himself as the kind of person to resort to misogyny at sign of losing an argument, or at least, not as rapidly as he did.
And as I said to Greg:
I don’t think we as a society will ever understand why so many men, particularly belonging to the right side of politics, hate women so much. The Workchoices, the unions, the false economy statistics, the Climate Change denial, these are all standard LNP lines. But in chicken and egg, I don’t think the hatred of women is something these men have developed purely because Tony Abbott does. I think they always have and it’s not a problem we will solve in a hurry.
I would like to be able to converse with these people I disagree with, without being called a whore. But in my experience, there are very few right wingers, even amongst those using their real name and profession in their twitter profile, who are willing to engage about political policy, the state of the economy or anything they disagree with me about, without quickly going to the gutter with nasty personal, unwarranted attacks. It’s a real shame.
This week, Labor backbencher and head Gillard white-anter, Joel Fitzgibbon, tore open again the tired debate about what constitutes a ‘wealthy’ Australian. Why this is even a debate is beyond me. The main reason the topic is discussed is because the government is currently making budgetary decisions about who should be the beneficiaries of a tax break on super. In effect this tax break is a government subsidy. A tax-payer funded government subsidy on superannuation savings. Fitzgibbon, who seems to have forgotten what the Labor party stands for, or never knew in the first place, came out with this criticism of Gillard’s suggestion that high earners should have their superannuation savings taxed, with this ridiculous comment:
”In Sydney’s west you can be on a quarter of a million dollars family income a year and you’re still struggling.’’
The fact that Fitzgibbon used the short-hand way of saying ‘250,000’ is significant as it makes his comment look even more preposterous. A quarter of a million dollars. A million dollars over four years before tax. In the same sentence as the word ‘struggling’. What planet is Joel Fitzgibbon on?
I can probably take a guess at the answer to this question. Fitzgibbons is on planet ‘get me re-elected’ and will say and do anything he feels necessary so not to offend or concern anyone in his electorate, including the very rich. This is a cowardly way to campaign. Particularly since he represents the traditionally safe Labor seat of Hunter. Fitzgibbon has already proven with his behaviour in the Rudd camp that he is undeserving of membership of the Labor party, let alone a seat. But pandering to the wealthy, at the expense of tax revenue that could be used to level the playing field for the very poor, is totally unacceptable for a Labor MP.
In this article Dr Richard Denniss, executive director of the Australia Institute, makes a key point about the definition of what constitutes ‘wealthy’ in the Australian community:
In 1996, when Howard was elected, the top tax rate kicked in at $50,000 and by the time he left office it had risen to $150,000. Obviously you couldn’t be a high-income earner if you weren’t in the top tax bracket.
He used the same approach to welfare support, introducing a range of benefits that flowed to middle- and high-income earners. Again, how could families feel they were doing very well by community standards when the community saw them as being in need of financial support?
By giving wealthy people middle class welfare, such as super tax breaks, the baby bonus and the first-home-owner grant, all Howard achieved was to imbed a sense of entitlement in the very rich. This sense of entitlement remains today. In my view it’s time to turn the tap off. It’s time to remind people who earn a crap load of money that they have absolutely no right to receive welfare of any kind. They should also be reminded that they are not entitled to resent the high rates of tax they pay since the only reason they are rich in the first place is because of the opportunities afforded them by living in a well run society, which was built on the back of a fair government taxation system. Elizabeth Warren explains this best.
Let’s look closer at an income of $250,000. If Fitzgibbon is correct, and there really are people in Western Sydney earning this much money and struggling, then what has gone wrong in their lives to cause this situation? What sort of consuming addiction and predilection to spend outside their means must a family have developed to feel stretched on this income?
Breaking this down, let’s look at an example where a wife earns $150,000 as a sales manager, and her husband earns $100,000 as a plumber. Their after-tax weekly income is $3,492. Anyone who thinks their daily necessities of life cannot be met with $3,492 a week needs to see a financial counsellor. I don’t even care if the family has five children. Food, clothes, bills and a mortgage in Western Sydney are not so expensive that $250,000 is a modest income. Obviously if you spend all of this income, you will feel broke. Is this what Fitzgibbon means? That these people spend too much and that’s why they’re struggling? Look at this house for sale in Cecil Hills. The real estate agent is offering buyers to ‘Live like a king on 943 m2 block of land!’ This mansion has five bedrooms and is on the market for $1,450,000. Assuming the buyer had a 10% deposit, their weekly mortgage payment on this house fit for a king would be $1,886. So our $250,000 family could afford this mortgage if they didn’t mind ‘stretching’ themselves, with $1,606 left each week for life’s necessities. (And also things they want, but don’t need, like take away dinners, holidays and designer clothes, new cars and electronic equipment).
When you compare this family living like a king, to a couple who works full time on a minimum wage, who take home $558 each a week, it’s hard to imagine how their lifestyles could be further apart. And it’s also impossible to imagine that the wealthy family is struggling and in need of government tax subsidies on their superannuation. To put it simply, a family earning $250,000 might want government assistance, but it’s easy to see that there is absolutely no argument that they need government assistance.
To get another perspective on whether a family earning $250,000 is struggling, it’s interesting to look at this US example of wealth inequality. Ignoring for a moment the monumental disgrace of the reality of the gap between rich and poor, I instead draw your attention to the ‘ideal’ amount of inequality. 92% of the 5,000 people surveyed in this research selected their ‘ideal’ inequality as the richest 20% being ten to twenty times richer than the poorest 20%. If this ideal was the reality, and I convert it back to Australian figures, a couple receiving a dole payment of $448.70 a week (who would fall into the poorest 20% of Australians), are receiving just 13% of what someone on $250,000 a year earns. In other words, families earning $250,000 a year earn eight to twenty times more than a family on the dole. So is Joel Fitzgibbon saying that the ideal top 20% of earners in our country are struggling? My question then for Fitzgibbon is – if our top 20% of earners are struggling, what words could we possibly use to describe the conditions of our lowest 20%? Here’s a suggestion: in desperate and immediate need of as much government assistance as the government can possibly afford. And if the government can afford to help these people more effectively by cancelling welfare for the very rich, then this should be done, and it should be done now.