Thursday, September 30, 2004

Kurt Kennedy! Ydennek Truk!

This is a guest post by Gloomy, who wishes to merely dip his toe in the blogging waters....


The Federal election is boring me.

Fortunately, there is another election campaign going on at the same time – the election for the illustrious ACT Legislative Assembly is being held on October 16. While this means that Canberra residents have to go to the polls on two consecutive weekends, it has fortunately meant that out ACT “politicians” haven’t had much airtime over the course of the election campaign so far. They have just been drowned out by the Federal campaign.

Nevertheless, some local media is still finding some time to cover the local derby. A quick glance at the ABC Online *forum* will give you an idea of some of the hot issues concerning Canberrans: Bicycle lanes on main roads! Fireworks! The Dragway! Happy chooks! (If you’re confused by the last one, a group called “Free Range Canberra” is running on a campaign to close down Canberra’s battery hen operation – apparently there are 250,000 battery hens in Canberra.)

Strangely, the ABC forum doesn’t mention one promising young candidate, *Mr Kurt Kennedy*. Mr Kennedy’s certainly got some interesting policies. Take his views on the issue of interest:

Interest rates should be zero. The government will not receive interest as part of its revenue.

The expectation of receiving interest on deposits/lending is nothing but pure greed. What is the difference between a person who lends money and does not charge interest and the person who lends money and charges interest? The person charging interest is greedy.

If you lent someone a pen to use, do you expect that person to give you the pen back and in addition give you another pen?

No, indeed.

I’ve often thought there weren’t enough fruit trees in Canberra. Fortunately, Mr Kennedy has a solution to this problem!

Use fruit bearing trees as street plants to provide a source of free food for the community. Include fruit trees as an extended plant issue scheme. Information brochures on how to propagate fruit trees from seed will be made available to help you grow your own fruit trees.

Home owner have the option of replacing their street tree (when due) with a suitable fruit tree if they are willing to look after it and reap its fruits. Suitable trees may include figs, persimmons (sic); that is trees that are low maintenance, do not need spraying and are not dangerous.

And what better way to make good use of your fruit tree than to share its bounty with your family? But it would be such a hassle to drive all the way across town to share some apples or persimmons with your parents. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if they lived close by? Mr Kennedy’s thought of that too, with a policy to encourage people to live close to their family members:

When you buy your home within walking distance of any of your family member (parent-child, and sibling relationships), you can be eligible for a proportional duty reduction. This is to encourage people to live near and walk to visit loved ones, thus reducing the use of cars and increasing community closeness and interaction.

That’s the solution to our transport woes! If there’s one thing wrong with our transport system, it’s the number of cars clogging our roads with people driving to see their loved ones.

And if there's one thing wrong with the Australian legal system it's that it's way too hard to dig your own well. But Mr Kennedy will fix that, by “making it easier for you to dig your own well to get water”. You can use the water to irrigate your fruit trees!

Mr Kennedy has also brought a refreshingly new approach to political campaigning. Here’s an extract from his press release of 25 September:

As you can see from my campaign calendar, I've been very busy. I am going to write in the first person now as I am capable of changing and adapting. There's no rule that media releases should not be in the first person, especially when I am uploading them into my web page. (...) The National Library has approached me to archive my campaign webpage as they consider it is of "national significance". How mind blowing; I was happy to oblige.

In spite of his radical and thought-provoking policies, part of me can’t help but hope that Mr Kennedy is not successful in his campaign. It would be such a waste were he elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly. After all, he has so much to offer the world of music through his *music mirror* palindromic compositions. The benefit of palindromic music, as Mr Kennedy points out, is that you only need to do half as much work. Of course, one disadvantage is that it doesn’t end up sounding very good, but that’s a minor quibble.

I think he could be onto something with these palindromes. He should consider encapsulating some of his policies in palindromic form.

A suggestion: Apple ho ! Help, Pa!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Unfocused groups

Seems like the campaign to sell the Latham ‘brand’ has only half succeeded:

When the uncommitted voters of the marginal federal seat of Parramatta were asked to give their impressions of Mark Latham, they generally started with a gush of positives.

The Labor leader was passionate, sincere, down to earth, determined, confident, self-made, youthful, a fresh face, intelligent, a fighter, a believer, a working man, an intellectual - all descriptions offered spontaneously by people in three focus groups convened for the Herald last week by pollsters ACNielsen.

But then the positives started to give way to negatives […]The word that came up most often was inexperienced.

See the full story here.

This would suggest that Latham’s newness has not been successfully sold as a positive. That his freshness and youth has not so much contrasted with Howard’s age, but has contrasted with Howard’s experience. Well, in these people’s mind anyway.

Some aspects of Latham’s character which I thought could have easily come across as positives have been damned by some of those interviewed:
John Howard is battle hardened - I saw Latham with tears in his eyes because someone said something bad about his family. At least Howard has his mind on the job.

Talk about tough! Makes me wonder what a leader would have to do to appeal to people like this.

And as for Howard, the voter’s impressions were so confused I’d be surprised if they could tell their arse from their elbow:

The Prime Minister was a grump, old-fashioned, 1950s, whingey, peevish, a liar, a bit devious, a twister of truth, evasive, boring, bland, short, "a bit of a grandpa - he looks like he needs help to cross the street".

But after the initial reactions came a generally more positive stream of thoughts. Howard was experienced, stable, decent, in control, qualified, solid, tried and true, doesn't give up, a good leader, solid, a guy you can't push over.

Perhaps these people should sit down and have a good think about why they have these negative impressions of Howard, and then try to reconcile these with their good impressions of him. Methinks this would be an impossible task. At least they might then see in themselves the same conflicts which come across in the focus group results.

Allow me to introduce an analogy. Any good relationship consultant worth their exorbitant hourly fee would tell you that a relationship with so many conflicts can only be unhealthy and destructive. One simply can’t be happy in a relationship if one is continually reconciling the negative characteristics of the other person – trying to find reasons to stay.

On the other hand, who can honestly say they don’t enjoy that first, exciting and ‘dangerous’ period in a new relationship, a period of discovery and tumult. Even if the relationship doesn't turn into something more long term, you've still lived and enjoyed that period in your life more than you would have had you not taken the risk in the first place.

These voters have enjoyed learning more about Latham as the campaign has gone on and I think they should throw off their inhibitions and progress from flirting to dating.

So I would implore these voters (who, the article states, are more likely to vote on the basis of leadership brands than policy) to break off their current deceitful, negative and stale relationship. Fill your life with positives! Throw off the shackles and free yourself from Johnny’s destructive grasp! Commit your hearts to the young Lathario!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Man-hugs all round

A quick link to another blogger, Ms Fits.

Her post commenting on Howard's campaign launch made me laugh out loud, even if it was in the awkward stifled manner that results from being in a whisper-quiet office.

Almost spilled me soup all over me keyboard. Go check it out.

I read the news today, oh boy.


This hurts:
Support for the Coalition moved to a historic high of 54 per cent in two-party-preferred terms, eight points ahead of Labor and widening the lead by six points in just a week.

I've been searching frantically for some informed comment telling me that this poll is inaccurate, or focuses on the wrong issues, or that there is now an 8 point margin of error. But there's nothing. Chris Sheil's analysis is very sobering:

Alright, Nielsen is out. And it's ugly. Real ugly. There's no getting around an 8 point spread. It's bad news. But not unambiguously so, even if it comes on top of yesterday's bad Morgan phone poll. The story is here, with a comment here.

The guts is that the LNP is ahead 54/46 on the 2pp and 50/36 on the primary. That's a beyond-margin-of-error 8 point spread. Perhaps Labor is stuffed. If this poll was an actual vote, it would be the biggest LNP primary since '75 and 2pp since '77.

I've decided to console myself with the thought that not that long ago, the polls had changed dramatically in the ALP's favour, so they might swing back again soon. Sort of reinforces my earlier speculation that the last few days will be vital.

I don't know if my 'denial' strategy will work though. I've noticed that my pessimism about the likely election result has started to derogate my overall interest in the election. That probably makes me sound very fickle and shallow, but no one likes bad news.

Anybody else having a similar reaction?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Nothing good on telly lately

I’ve been lucky enough to spot a few electoral advertisements and I have to say that so far, I am pretty disappointed with Labor’s efforts. Seems like they’ve had one idea and carried it through several ads. And let me say it seems like they have one idea several years ago. I don’t think I’m imagining having seen the doctors’ waiting room ‘Hot Auctions’ style scenario. Other people have confirmed that they too think it is a recycled ad.

The same theme has been applied to education, with oh-so earnest looking publicly educated kiddies being outbid by smug-looking private school kiddies for a university degree. So, what clever visual cues does the ad employ to denote the educational background of the bidders in this auction?

Well, the very obvious private school kiddie wears a very sharp blazer. Now the blazer alone is not obvious enough if you ask me – blazers were compulsory at the Guvvie school I attended. Just as well then that private school kiddie has a superior look on his face. This way we are in no doubt that he has recently graduated from Lord Fatwallet’s Academy for Gross Inequity.

The public school kiddie? Well, he’s there in his casual attire. I’m not quite sure what the point of that is (why isn’t he just wearing a Guvvie school uniform?). He also sports scruffy hair and generally looks a bit anguished (probably from trying to climb a ladder without rungs – I can imagine that would be really hard and frustrating, think of the splinters!).

All in all I reckon I’d give these two ads a combined score of 2 out of 5. In my humble opinion, viewers are already well aware of the pro-education and pro-health policies of the ALP. An ad in which specific reference is made to Coalition Government announcements and policies which have damaged Medicare and ruined Universities would be far more effective. But obviously, I don’t have access to the kinds of focus groups and research which would have informed this commercial. Also, I’ll admit to a general desire to see the government slagged off on TV – a desire which probably doesn’t always align with principles of good campaigning.

As for Coalition ads, I’ve only seen a couple, one of which was the first real scare-tactic ad I’ve seen (apart from the Murdoch press). This ad focused on Latham’s time as Mayor of Liverpool Council and featured such brilliant visual cues as a black-on-yellow ‘L’ for ‘learner’ plate near the word ‘Latham’. Brilliant!

Now, just to prove I haven’t lost my ability to focus on trivial and insignificant aspects of this election, I’ve come to notice a difference in the overall colour schemes being used by Coalition ads on the one hand, and ALP ads on the other. Coalition ads attempting to portray negative images of the ALP predominantly use black and white, with red accents. The ALP’s ads, and specifically the final frame of the ads where Latham’s face and slogan are displayed, use lots of blues (very calming and reassuring – ahhhhh).

Now, I would like to share with you some knowledge I picked up years ago, care of a very short career in the retail industry. Back then, as I was peeling chewing gum off the shop floor and folding my one-millionth pair of $10 tracky-daks, I would never have guessed that working in sports-retail would assist me in putting together an analysis of electoral advertisements. But there you go. Looks like all that crap I put on my resume about the position giving me ‘transferable skills’ wasn’t so far off the mark.

But anyway, it was one of those stores which was always having a sale on. New stock would come in, and at the same time we put on the regular price labels, we would attach the ‘reduced price’ labels. The store was always decorated wall-to-wall with ‘Sale’ signs. The prices never actually went down, we just changed the theme of the sale, to make people think we’d made new reductions. So, one week it would be ‘school holidays’ specials, two weeks later it would be a ‘back to school’ sale of the century. You get the idea.

Anyway, one day, whilst pondering the half-life of the in-store supply of socks (you know, the ones you use to try on shoes when you forgot your own), my manager let me in on a retail-psychology secret. The most successful sales were the ones where the store was decorated in red, black and white signs and banners. The data on the computers backed this up.

Apparently, the human eye is immediately drawn to this combination of colours as they convey messages of urgency and compel action. So, it doesn’t matter if the hideous basketball shoes endorsed by a player accused of sexual assault are still on a cost+50% mark-up, put a red, white and black sign over them and people will think they’ve scored the bargain of the year and will slap them on their 12 year-old’s feet.

The point of all this useless information? I have come to the conclusion that the Government is being run by a group of ex-retail managers – which would greatly explain their overall meanness, stupidity and their complete and utter craptitude. Anyone else who has ever worked in retail will most certainly agree.

The sound of one hand slapping

I almost fell off my recycled office furniture chair when I saw this headline in the Australian this morning:
“Costello's $700m tax debate backfire”

I guess I never thought I’d see the day when a Murdoch paper revealed a Government mistake – and an economics-related mistake at that. Best not to get carried away though, one article could hardly make a dent in their ongoing campaign to have Howard re-elected.

I have to say I prefer the ABC’s headline:

Crean slaps down Costello's 'incompetent' ALP tax analysis

The mental picture of Simon Crean slapping anything is really quite amusing. You should try it yourself.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Remember the Democrats?

Remember that party that saw themselves as a viable alternative to the Big Two? Remember they had a couple of leadership coups, a couple of high-profile defections and some bloke with a drinking problem? Well, apparently they are still around. They're calling for more attention to be given to things like "the seachange." That's right, that phenomenon that sees rich, city people moving to the coast, buying up everything because it's so much cheaper than the Eastern Suburbs and thus making small towns inaffordable for locals. (Just ask the people of Sawtell whose rates now far outstrip those of Coogee). The Democrats feel that the Federal Government should pay attention to this problem. While I recognise it is a problem, and one very close to home, this is a Federal Election and this statement today by Andrew Bartlett seems so out of left-field I am starting to wonder if he's back on the drink. Of course the Libs aren't going to give two figs about this "problem", a lot of the people causing the problems are their voters.

Meanwhile, Aden Ridgeway says that the Labor/Greens preference deal could hand Pauline Hanson the balance of power. He says:
I think the Labor Party ought to stand up for principle in this country and really make sure the like-minded parties, where we've supported them, then they should've given us at least 50 per cent of the preferences...
Like-minded parties eh Aden? Like Family First?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Home stretch

I tried everything to avoid the news yesterday. No, I’m not ‘burnt out’ from the increasingly blanket election coverage, or exhausted from trawling the papers trying to ‘spot Crean’ (see if you can). I was trying to avoid hearing the results of the Japanese Moto GP so that I could rush home and watch my video recording of the overnight race coverage.

Proving myself to be a techno-mortal, I failed to properly set my video recorder. So when starting up my video tape, where I expected to see Rossi’s cheeky grin, I instead saw Howard’s furrowed brow and hearing aid. The video hadn’t recorded anything so the previous recording was still on the tape – it included a news story on the Leaders’ Debate. Yes, the debate, remember that?

At the time of the debate there were some comments about how it would be soon forgotten, as it was so early on in the campaign. Just a week later and I think that those predictions have been proven prescient.

In such a close campaign, it really makes me nervous for the last week of campaigning, in which any kind of fortuitous turn of events for the coalition of evil could easily tip the scales their way. 6 weeks of campaigning can easily come down to the last few days. I think I’ll be hiding under the doona for most of that time, trying to calm my nerves….

Monday, September 20, 2004

Liberal cry-babies

Kick and Scream has pointed out the coincidence that a letter-writer to the SMH, giving an almost-convincing sob story about his daughter being unable to continue at her expensive private school, has the same name as the Associate Director of Wealth Management at Macquarie Bank. If I wasn't already such a cynical beast I would be be vomiting all over my laptop. Well done Robert Corr.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

An amateur analysis of the story so far

Many people in the circles in which I move* have recently expressed the opinion that Latham and Labor were not going to win this election. Some have talked about possible migration plans should Howard be returned. There is a sense of desperation but also a resignation that he just can not be moved.

Today, for the first time in this election campaign I have had a sense that Latham is hitting his stride and that he may have a sniff of a chance. Whereas Beazley was very nice and perhaps a little wishy-washy, despite his better attempts, (we won't even mention Crean), Latham is starting to show (whisper it) leadership. The fact that he ruled out pre-emptive strikes on a neighbouring country that may have been "harbouring terrorists" brought this home to me. Latham showed a streak of maturity whereas Howard's response to Latham's answer was a reiteration of his willingness to follow the US. "Pre-emptive strikes" is a phrase developed by the Bush administration to somewhat absolve themselves from the consequences of what in another time would be called invasion. Howard's stubborn allegiance to this concept is one of the many reasons that people are wishing him gone. And he's still trotting out these phrases, this Bush-esque view of the world, in the election campaign. It's starting to sound like a very old tune. The bombing in Jakarta does not seem, at this point, to have had the effect many of us feared.

Latham seems to have tuned in to the fact that many Labor voters have been forced further left to the Greens in search of a viable alternative to Howard. He is not just reacting to and reinforcing the Government's view, he is starting to offer an alternative. The preference deal with the Greens is further evidence of this. Howard found this deal "sickening." And that's exactly what we want him to think. Such a deal may also horrify some old-school Labor blokes but this is the way forward for people living in electorates such as Sydney. The ABC lists it as very safe Labor but the presence of the Greens is being felt. As I heard a very ordinary, suburban gay bloke tell Tanya Plibersek's people campainging on King St Newtown: "she's pushing shit uphill now." Latham is starting to make moves in turning this shit downhill.

On other matters, John Anderson's statements to the press are becoming more and more outlandish. Today he told the ABC that a vote for an independent was a waste. Ahem, John, it's called democracy and apparently it means that almost anyone can run for a seat and we can vote for anyone we want. He went on to say that:
"Name me an independent who has made a contribution to the sound economic management of the country."
Well, it's about more than economic management and many of us will no doubt feel the reverberations from Brian Harradine's time in Canberra for years to come.

* Disclosure: I work at an inner-Sydney university and am currently residing in a seat that is very safe Labor, the only threat, and a very real one, being the Greens. So, I admit that this environment is not exactly a litmus test for the nation. In fact it is quite possibly one of the most left-leaning electorates in the country, barring the Far North Coast of NSW, where I grew up.

Friday, September 17, 2004

A stitch in time

I may be a bit slow on the uptake here but perusing Pauline Hanson's website today (which, incidentally, is right in line with other pollies sites, bloody awful), I noticed that I had missed my chance at owning a blue baby's jumper that was knitted by Pauline while she was in prison. That's right, Pauline auctioned off this potential piece of political memorabilia for the grand sum of $3500. The jumper comes mounted in a frame accompanied by a photo of Pauline wrapped in the national flag. Mr Peter Bussa is now the lucky owner.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

First Bob, now Pauline. So many candidates to demonise!

So Pauline is back is she?

A high profile campaign from Pauline might just distract the Murdoch press from its sadistic mauling of the Greens…

Hmmm, we’ll see.

With some predicting that the Coalition will end up with 38 Senate seats (that’s 50 per cent), the make-up of the sewing circle that is the ‘independent’ (yes, I’m having a go at Meg) Senators club, will be one of the more interesting aspects of the election. God help any one hoping to get legislation through in the next 3-6 years! Well, legislation which loosely resembles the original proposal anyway.

I guess one thing is for sure though, with Harradine retiring we can expect a sharp decline in the number of Bills and policy announcements which include special funding schemes for Tasmanian communities. Launceston Broadband Project anyone?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

My schools funding rant

The ALP's school funding policy released yesterday managed to get second billing behind the hostage news stories. I'd be interested to know whether the ALP are happy with the reduced profile of the policy release, and to what extent this is of benefit to them.

At any rate, there were certainly ideological tensions ahoy evident in the reactions to the policy.

One private-school loving family, interviewed on 7.30 Report last night, was asked whether or not it supported the diversion of funds away from outrageously wealthy schools (schools with rifle ranges, archivists, vast playing fields, advanced human cloning programs, secret underground lairs… well maybe not those last two):

TRACY BOWDEN: Do you feel comfortable with that idea, that your school, already a very wealthy school, gets additional funds from the taxpayer?

CONNIE THERKILDSEN: Well, yes I do.I pay my taxes like everybody else does and every child has the right to a good education and I don't see that my children have any lesser right than any other child.

To be honest, I just don’t get it! How can you honestly believe that equalising the wealth and resources of schools is somehow evidence of a plot to remove your child’s right to ‘a good education’. I really am flabbergasted – but then they showed footage of her delivering her kids to school in a four-wheel drive and everything fell into place.

Seriously though, if Connie thinks that “every child has the right to a good education”, then surely she can see the sense in distributing funds to the schools that need it most, so that these schools can achieve that very result!

Someone needs to tie her down and yell in her face “the wealthiest schools already have well enough resources! Public money is scarce! We need to send it where it is most needed!” I am quite happy to volunteer for this job.

Its quite obvious this kind of ‘equal funding for my rich little kiddie – we shouldn’t be disadvantaged just coz we are rich’ argument is operating on a model of ‘formal equality’.

That is, equality = giving every school the same amount of money and thereby turning a blind eye to their pre-existing position or level of need. It takes me way back to uni, and the perpetual struggle of male students against the Women’s Room ("real equality means having a Men’s Room’ too"). Ahhh, memories.

My ranting aside, the story gave a very strong sense of the ideological battle which is attached to debates about school funding.

This funding package is being sold by some as an attack on private schools (see ‘Latham guts private school cash’). It really isn’t, and in it we can see a real pitch to ‘aspirational’ voters.

So much of the redirected funding will go to low-fee independent (mostly Christian) schools. These are the schools which are popular among the outer-suburban, ‘mortgage belt’ types, who are of real importance to the ALP’s chances (or so I'm led to believe).

The Government’s response has been to suggest that the ALP’s policy will reduce parents' choice, by making it harder to send their kids to the ‘elite’ (in terms of reputation I guess) schools.

Does this really wash with people? This statement, from one of the parents interviewed on the 7.30 report, had me yelling ‘right on!’ at the telly, something I normally only do when the bitchiness starts on Survivor:

JANE CARO, PRIORITY PUBLIC: Parents are starting to believe that in Australia, unique almost in the Western world, they are going to have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to educate their child properly.

This is not true, but the more people who believe it, the more governments exploit that belief, the more likely it is to become true.

And then they have the nerve to talk about choice? Is this just another crazy-brave attempt by the Government to try and convince us they are tree-hugging, Medicare loving softies and we should really ignore all their past policies as not really being true?

I really hope the ALP comes back strongly to rebut the Government’s silly arguments (I'm sure they can come up with some ingenious illustrative phrase - something about opportunity, and ladders perhaps). One gets a feeling that community attitudes on this issue are at a crucial point. A continuation of current trends would mean that it would be very difficult to ever restore the reputation of public schools. A re-orientation of policy, along the lines of the ALP’s approach is a good start, but not strong enough for me.

I thought I’d finish off with a diverting link. Check out this list from Crikey! It sets out some famous alumni from Australian schools. See who is listed for your school! I was quite surprised to see that both Antony Green and I experienced the joys of an agricultural education…

Monday, September 13, 2004

Hair? Yeah yeah!

A frivolous link but kind of fun (I'm in that mood tonight).
My father sent me this pearler. Change Johnny's hair and change Latham's hair. You need Flash to see it.

Bush v Jesus

Sorry, not OUR election but I couldn't resist: check out Bush v Jesus. My excuse is that little Johnny is a good mate of Dubya and well, you know, we're trying to get rid of both of them.

A threesome I'd like to see

Opposition Leader Mark Latham said today he would be happy to debate both Treasurer Peter Costello and Prime Minister John Howard at the same time.

From the SMH

Down on the farm they're growing ALP plants...

I'm beginning to think that the fresh-faced, hay-seed chewing deputy PM is actually an ALP stooge. I can't wait for him to open his mouth again - it's so refreshing to hear a Coalition government member tell the truth.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

One Worm. 90 People

Watching the 'Great Debate' tonight it quickly became obvious why Howard wouldn't agree to more than one event, and was particularly concerned to face a room of swinging voters. According to the worm, they don't want to face him come October 10 either.

The result isn't a surprise: Howard typically suffers in a debate performance. But I have to say he looked particularly uncomfortable tonight, particularly when he was called on to explain his policies on health and education. It seems the only thing that could invigorate him was to bag Mark Latham: then he looked positivley sparky, squinting his eyes, leaning forward, waving his hands around and generally talking without a pause.

But whenever the focus switched back to his domestic record, his demeanour altered noticeably. He lent backwards, away from the panel of jounalists. He ummed and licked his lips. And he couldn't pronounce the tongue twister 'full fee paying', mangling it to 'full fee faying.' And he tried twice.

The subjects in the debate ranged from national security (this took up the first half an hour), hospital funding and medicare, education, family tax payments, Howard's longer term plans, and trust in Government.

I thought that Latham was a clear winner. He was far more relaxed. He could quantify his policy statements by referring to concrete figures - 80% of people missed out on the budget's tax cuts; Labour will bring the bulk billing rate back up to 80%. And he had the good sense to wait until 8.20pm before pulling out the ladder of opportunity.

When not talking about Latham's failings, Howard was most at ease talking about the economy. His opening speech was interesting, beginning with the 1.8 billion medicare package, then seguing to the Government's economic track record (because of course you can only deliver on social policy when there's money in the bank) and then sliding from economic to national security. He seemed to want to through down the gauntlet, by putting his weaker point up front, as he did by declaring that the election would be about 'trust.'

Yet Howard wasn't comfortable, and he wasn't statesmanlike. After being baited twice, he seemed to admit that John Anderson was right in his statement earlier today on the Sunday program that Australia was a greater terrorist target thanks to our participation in the War on Iraq. He got excitable over the GST when Neil Mitchell asked him about what he was planning to do about the crisis in the public hospital system (I thought he was going to claim that the GST is the best thing that's ever happened to hospitals, but sadly he stopped himself just in time).

Overall, Howard looked shaky. He was happy to diss his oppponent, but strangely reticient about talking up the social and domestic policy agenda of his Government. The only thing that energised him was the medicare safety net, and that was only because it gave him the opportunity to claim that Latham wanted to take it away.

In fact, watching the debate, I couldn't help but think that Howard is so used to negative campaigning and electoral fear that he is only truly comfortable to frame public discussion in those terms.

I wish the worm had been available throughout the debate, because it made fascinating viewing. The only pity was that the audience weren't able to speak for themselves. The conservative Annabel Crabbe (whom I normally find entertaining) was pointless. She seemed to give it equally to Howard and Latham, even when it was clear that the '90 swinging people' didn't see it that way, and it seemed fairly plain that Howard was uncomfortable at points.

I don't know that this debate will tip the election. But I welcome the fact that despite Howard's best attempts, the two leaders did get to meet head to head, and did get to finally canvass some of the big issues facing the Australian electorate. And I'm heartened that 90 people saw fit to believe that, on the day, Howard can be bested.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The political life of Brian will, I predict, be short-lived

I have a lot of respect for Brian Deegan but must say that for a politician, he makes a very good magistrate. If he ever had a chance of defeating Downer on preferences in Mayo, he's certainly blown it now, with reports that he's advocating chats around the fire with JI. Clueless.

Some new sites

A couple of new sites people may want to check out:

- The Greens continue their groundbreaking (for Australian politics) use of the web with a blog and

- an online how-to-vote card of sorts imploring Wentworth voters to put Turnbull last.

Friday I've got Tampa on my mind...

Now, lets not pretend for a second that producing a politically- skewed analysis of the Embassy bombing in Jakarta is evidence of a lack of emotional/compassionate response to the event. Blogs like Troppo Armadillo present political comment, opinion and analysis. The abuse that was directed at Ken Parish is astounding.

It just seems to be further evidence that conservatives/right wing types, think that disgust at, and compassion for the victims of terrorist acts are partisan issues. These people need some flash-cards to carry around with "I do not own the concept of outrage at terrorist acts", just so they dont' forget it.

Furthermore, it is ridiculous to deny that there will be some impact on the election campaign. It is therefore ridiculous to suggest that we can not discuss that impact, for whatever reason. Enough said really, I don’t really think it serves any good purpose to sit here and try to expose further the folly of personal abuse when discussing politics. Let’s get back to discussing politics.

Malcolm Farr notes that events such as these push national security (a Coalition strong point) back up the list of electoral issues, making it even harder for the ALP to keep the focus on what it sees as the Coalition’s weaknesses – health, environment, education and ‘trust’.

In my (humble) opinion, the prominence of security issues in this campaign may be decisive.

The bombing reinforces Coalition party rhetoric and ideology which has sought to place Australia in a ‘war’ state of mind. This is very important if you keep in mind this election campaign can be chiefly understood in terms of an “incumbent vs outsider” construct. An incumbent is in a very powerful position when the electorate is fearful. A general sense of fear can easily magnify the typical suburban fear of change.

The irrepressible Krugman explored the consequences of a ‘war’ state of mind in an election campaign here.

When war psychology takes hold, the public believes, temporarily, in a "mythic reality" in which our nation is purely good, our enemies are purely evil, and anyone who isn't our ally is our enemy.

Any of this sound familiar? The ‘comments’ (abuse, more like it), levelled at Ken Parish are just one example of this ‘mythic reality’ and its polarising effect. You don’t have to look very hard to see this theme in Government rhetoric, and indeed, US Republican party rhetoric.

And the political consequences?

This state of mind works greatly to the benefit of those in power […]. The point is that once war psychology takes hold, the public desperately wants to believe in its leadership, and ascribes heroic qualities to even the least deserving ruler.

And it is testament to the polarising power of the ‘mythic reality’ that even small attempts to explore the influence of war/threat on politics elicit the kind of responses you can find over at Troppo Armadillo.

A further consequence of this atmosphere will be that it will now be very difficult to get reasoned analysis of Howard Government foreign relations policy onto the agenda. For example, any attempts to draw links between the utter catastrophe that is our involvement in Iraq, and the heightened threat of terrorist activity will, of course draw shrieks from the right along the lines of “we won’t be bullied or threatened.”

I find the inability of those on the right to understand that recognising that the war in Iraq has failed miserably in decreasing the threat of terrorism (something the Government probably knew beforehand anyway) does not equate to a capitulation to the demands of terrorists to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq, to be very disturbing.

When pure emotional response dominates public discourse on an issue and drowns out the concerned voices of the critical minds, we are surely headed for some very big mistakes (flashback November 2001).

Brings a smile to your dial

Gee I love Cathy Wilcox.

I thought I'd link to a few ripper Wilcox cartoons, in case we all need a lift this morning.

Here's Wilcox on trust.

Wilcox on Howard's hypocritical rejection of dicussion on his Government's past.

This one is my absolute favourite. If you don't go to any of the others, at least click through to this rip-snorter.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Reacting to reaction

Well, right now I am glad that Psephite's readership isn't as large, and/or as vocal as that of Troppo Armadillo. Ken Parish posted in response to the Jakarta bombing with words that were perhaps clumsily chosen but with a sentiment that many are thinking. Not so much that people are thinking that this was actually orchestrated by some Coalition-lovers but that the incumbent government will make political mileage out of it. As of 8.45pm on Thursday (AEST) there are 52 comments on Parish's post and a great deal of them are negative, some are downright obscene. Some express a disbelief that anyone in the current government would seek to use this incident for political advantage. Of course, this comes from people who Troppo classifies as "right wing death beasts" (Tim Blair et al) Howard has used Bali and 9/11 to his advantage, why not this? To not even consider that this is a possibility is to be blind to the past 3 years in Australia. John Howard positions himself as a fatherly protector who will defend us from the evil, bad men who are terrorists. What he refuses to admit, as do his supporters, is that his actions have made us more of a target.

I'm not saying anything new. Those who move and think in left-wing circles see Howard in much this way. Those who move in circles further to the right believe that terrorists are a legitimate threat that must be combatted with "pre-emptive" strikes. Lefties don't deny the threat, but they also see the increase in threat created by the actions of our government. What I have found interesting this evening is the reinforcement of an age-old problem, the world views of those on the left and right are so at odds that there seems little hope of intelligent discussion or compromise. The reactions to Ken Parish's post illustrate that.

Australian embassy in Jakarta 'bombed'

The SMH says Australian embassy in Jakarta 'bombed'. The ABC says Explosion heard near Australian embassy in Jakarta. Reuters says the fence of the embassy was damaged. In a couple of hours hopefully we will have the full story and hopefully this won't turn out the be this year's Tampa...

Spun-out by the spin? Me too

I’ve been thinking a little bit lately about a few things, which seem related, but which also contribute to an overall sense of doom that is festering within.

Firstly, I make reference to my earlier post in which I wondered about the ability of the Coalition to spend the surplus till it’s nose bleeds, but still retain an image of ‘good economic managers’. All the while, the same actions render the ALP ‘splurgers’, and definitely not to be trusted.

On a similar note, how is it that Republicans can portray John Kerry as some kind of military fraud, without a mass cry of disbelief and scorn from most of the country (the one-eyed ultra-right are automatically excluded from my calculations)?

Particularly in light of the increasingly solid evidence showing that Bush couldn’t even show up for what appears to be a the back-up, substitute, reserve ‘Army Reserve’...

While a great many people on Kerry’s side of politics react in such a way, where is the widespread dismissal of such messages which should follow in the face of such a ridiculous proposition? It seems as if the mass audience in America is not having such an instant reaction of disbelief – it seems they might be letting Bush and Cheney’s arguments into their consciousness.

That familiar old line starts creeping into my mind: those dopey Americans! They deserve everything they get! And similarly, any one who, no doubt as a result of a steady diet of Ackerman, Devine et al, thinks that the Coalition is good for this country, they deserve what they get too!

How condescending of me, you must be thinking. But I’m sure we’ve all had similar thoughts.

But of course, its not just Bush-believers and Howard-hangers-on who will be getting their just desserts. I get it too!

We all get what they deserve, irregardless of our collective outrage, despair and disgust for the actions of Bush and Howard.

And, because of the long-lasting power of the decisions of any Government in areas such as High Court (or, in the US, Supreme Court) appointments, health and education policy, foreign policy and reactionary social agendas, we'll all be experiencing the effects for many many years to come. So will our kiddies, should we have any (note my shameless emotional cue there).

Must go make some ritualistic sacrifices, say many prayers, light some candles, etc, etc, to cover off all possible religious contingencies in recruiting some divine assistance in my quest of ‘anyone but the Coalition’.....

Web diary makeover

Margo Kingston's Web Diary has had a makeover. It's now a bit more blog-style. Looking good.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The wheels on the bus are made of spam

I caught a bit of SBS’s Insight last night – it carried an interesting short following Misha Schubert, a journalist from The Age on Latham’s campaign bus. We followed the bus to a school in Melbourne, where Latham was to make a policy announcement on education.

Of particular interest to me in this story was its illustration of how journalists on the campaign bus access information. I wrote earlier indicating that the parties' release of information would be a point of interest for me in this campaign, and while the practices outlined on last night’s show are certainly nothing new, learning about them in more detail will allow an ordinary observer like myself to soak up news and comment with increased understanding of the context in which they are developed.

In this instance, we learned that Latham’s policy was released to the journalists on the campaign bus minutes before the scheduled press conference:

MISHA SCHUBERT: Part of the great frustration about covering a campaign like his is the excessive secrecy that happens on both sides. Its deliberately designed that way to try and keep us from having research or other questions we can come along and ask.

A great little aspect of this story was its depiction of a practice I was first made aware of through Crikey:

It's a good thing for Liberal dirt digger Ian Hanke that the Spam Act specifically exempts political parties, as some Press Gallery hacks might have a case against him following his spamming of their mobile phones in the first week of the campaign.

It's a repeat of the tactic employed by Hanke in 2001 when he collected the mobile numbers of all the journos travelling with Kim Beazley, and bombarded them with suggested questions and information just before Kim's press conferences, obviously with the help of at least one compliant journo tipping him off about names and press conference times.

Insight was able to show us some real live spamming, the camera was on Schubert as her phone lit up with spamly goodness. One would like to think the journos might ignore the spam, but why would they? One might liken it to receiving a press release via email or fax.

MISHA SCHUBERT: Well, you never like to ask questions that have been put to you by the opposition, or the other side in either case, but if it's a matter of legitimate interest, then yeah, of course we'll ask it.

Unfortunately that's all I saw of the show, as the camera then cut back to the audience-forum and revealed the presence of John Pasquarelli, at which point I frantically stabbed at the remote seeking refuge.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Two-party preferred dolt

I don’t care what anyone says, the poll figures released this morning scare me (Howard surges to a winning position) (for a level-headed and well informed analysis of some of the latest poll results, best divert now to this excellent analysis at Back Pages).

I know, I know, this is a long election campaign, and there is plenty of time for the polls to go up and down, many times over. But, as Crikey commented this morning, these poll results seem to suggest there is a lack of the ‘will to change’ in the electorate – the kind of sentiment needed to ensure the end of an incumbent government which has succeeded in projecting itself as eminently capable:

So far the polls are showing no evidence for a "thank God we can finally vote against the bast*rd" swing to the ALP now that an election has been called. That means Latham needs to give voters a reason to vote for him. So far he hasn't. Can he?
The poll figures also tell of voter priorities, with health, once again, topping the list. No surprise then to see Howard unleashing wads of cash and calling it ‘policy’. I’m sorry if this is a perennial election-campaign question – but where was the money before? Why couldn’t we have pay-rises for doctors last year, or the year before?

From a purely selfish perspective, I could have sure used a higher Medicare rebate 5 months ago when my lumbar spine decided to split 5-ways from Sunday, sending me to the doctor, specialist and imaging centre umpteen times (all up-front payments, thanks very much).

Speaking of wads of cash, how is it that when the ALP promises to increase funding for health and education, they are branded as bad economic managers and loose-spenders (and the mud sticks).

Whereas when the coalition promises large spending programs just prior to an election, in an attempt to buy back the votes of those erstwhile Coalition voters tempted to go ALP, they’re still able to claim superior economic credentials.

If we were talking about brands or products, we’d no doubt point to successful ‘branding’ – the ability to instill into the public’s mind that a product or brand has certain intrinsic qualities – to the extent that this ‘branding’ stays true in a person's mind even in the face of contradictory evidence.

Perhaps the Coalition’s tireless ‘branding’ of itself as good economic managers, and of the ALP as fiscally irresponsible, has really stuck. Perhaps the PM knows this, and this is why he is now parroting on about ‘trust’ every second sentence – hoping that if he says it often enough, people will start to believe it.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Old Temporary

I woke up this morning to hear that George 'Dubya' is steaming ahead in the US opinion polls. Admittedly he's coming off a Convention rush, but as it's hard enough to get out of bed at the best of times I'd like to blame this information for my late and groggy arrival at work.

Anyhow, to compensate I thought I'd share a little fact I learnt recently from the July 2004 edition of Vanity Fair.

Apparently George Bush and John Kerry belonged to the same underground college club at Yale called Skull and Bones (although they weren't members at the same time). One of the features of the club is that after initiation each member receives a nickname (or a Bones name as they're officially known). The three ways to get a name are to be handed on a name from a patriarch, take on a 'traditional' name, or choose your own.

Surprisingly, Dubya went with the latter option, but was unable to come up with anything and so was called 'temporary.'

I'm just hoping that was a portent.

Kingsite me

Counter Spin has pointed out that Peter King, the soon-to-be-ex-Liberal member for Wentworth sent out a media release with the URL for a site that doesn't work - the Wentworth Liberals. Ooops. His new site is consistent with those reviewed below - could try harder. Looks like the Greens are still leading the pack in the use of the web.

Bulging wallets

The Greens seem to know how to use the web. They have just launched a site calling for the reform of political donations. Includes a searchable database of donations that goes back to 1998. They have used AEC data but put a friendly front-end on it. Strategically as well as stylistically, the Greens are leading the way online.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

The trust is out there

When I was back at Uni I read about a theory called cynical disbelief. The argument went that sometimes cynicism was an offical ideological tatic which allowed authority figures to hold an ideological position that they knew was untrue. Yet the authority figure would not be held accountable for the lack of sincerity or truth because everyone would implicitly know that the ruling ideology was cynical, and therefore it was not meant to be taken literally or seriously.

One effect of this was to make anyone who took the comments at face value appear foolish and negative. It also meant that simply picking holes in an argument - or exposing lies - missed the point and risked political irrelevance.

Watching John Howard try to avoid the tag of liar made me think back to the tatic of cynical disbelief. Howard has tried to argue that the public don't care about the truth of the children overboard issue any more - that they find it boring. While this is undoubtedly political spin, I have wondered whether there is any truth in the claim.

Do people generally expect that politicians lie and are they therefore unfazed if the 'truth' is outed?

Did Howard nominate 'trust' as the theme of the campaign even though his truthfulness was under question because Howard anticipates that people don't expect the whole truth and nothing but the truth in Government? Did he think that in making it the campaign issue, his lack of truthfulness would not be held against him, but that the statement would encourage his political opponents to focus on the issue, making them seem irrelevant and boring?

Peter Hartcher made the point in today's SMH that trust in politics is not just about truth, but about successful policy. He cites a survey which found that participants rated honesty as the most important attribute for a politician, but listed 'politician's integrity' as only the 14th most important priority for government action. Hartcher concludes from this that 'if trust is defined not as "trust in what the Prime Minister says" but "trust in what he does" then Howard's immunity in the charge of dishonesty instantly makes sense.'

Hartcher goes on to suggest that Howard's call to 'trust' is a negative disguised as a positive because what he really means is, 'don't trust Mark Latham, particularly with the economy.'

A just released Roy Morgan poll found that 60% of people thought that the PM lied about children overboard. Meanwhile, a Newspoll reports that Howard's rating as preferred PM has risen from 47 to 48% in the last two weeks. So basically, more than half the population think the PM is a liar, but they don't necessarily care and on balance it isn't a reason to stop him from being a good Prime Minister.

This episode reminds me of Clinton's 'I did not have relations with that woman' scandal, where only 20% of people believed his story, but 75% wanted him to stay on as President.

Friday, September 03, 2004

A quick review

As comicstriphero frequently uses her expertise and position to pass comment on all things election I thought I would take the chance opened up here to make use of one of the few things I know about: websites.

I have performed a very quick review of the websites comicstriphero has pointed out and will now torture you with my learned appraisals. This isn't as silly as it seems - in the US campaign and politican websites are big deals. The web is taken seriously and real effort is put into the web presence of those who need to persuade. Even bloggers get press passes to the Democrat convention. Looking at the websites below one would think it was 1997 and everyone was discovering animated gifs for the first time. As with all things web, Oz is a bit slower to respond and my, how it shows with the small sample below.

Malcolm Turnbull: A distinct lack of content on the most important and timely pages - the news. His news employs a large amount of white space and several lonely looking links. Once inside the site his template works ok and his information architecture isn't too bad but there is a late 90s feel about this site. He is trying to look hip and happening with this web thing by including his 'blogs'. And what interesting reading they make. By the way Malc, it's blog singular and posts plural. I also suspect he doesn't write these posts. Whoever would have guessed.

Gary Nairn: Poor page design, poor information architecture, shmaltzy images (oval frames anyone?) but quite possibly gives the impression he is seeking: "I'd rather dig in the dirt than work in a bloody office with those p**fs." Also, not sure about this web thing, the site tells you where to click, in case you didn't recognise a link when you saw one.

Tony Abbott: Assures us that no taxpayer money was used to fund the site and how it shows. Italics are so difficult to read on the screen but Tony insists on using them in large chunks and in an image. Couldn't he find the italics tag? His news runs off the screen and opens without warning to PDF docs. A usability nightmare.

Larry Anthony: a semi-professional look at first glance but further investigation reveals a half-arsed attempt by someone who got excited about something they did in Photoshop and then threw the site together in an afternoon. His moving image at the top is bloody annoying, other images are blurry and his photo looks like it was taken in the 60s. Perhaps it's his father?

Alan Cadman: What the hell is that content on the front page? "I saw almost every student from these schools..." - what, when you were sitting in your car watching as they came out of school gates? What is that about? Again, goes the whole hog with the banner but seems to forget that you actually need to have something interesting to say on your site otherwise it's just graphic design. His news headlines are riveting: "Water" "Police" "Men" - oh to be able to sub-edit with such wit. Next.

Treasurer: Now this looks better, obviously it WAS paid for with taxpayer money. A little too heavy on text with unclear headings, the eye has trouble orienting itself on the page. Information archiutecture not bad. There is though, a caretaker site connected that, we are assured, is not maintained by the Commonwealth. It's branded the same and has his picture, so who is looking after it? Surely the use of the branding constitutes a Commonwealth allegiance? Misleading.

Phillip Ruddock: Oh my eyes! Once my eyes stopped shimmering I could only shudder at the use of white text on a blue background. I also noticed that the designer felt we wouldn't recognise Phil and added a handy arrow pointing to his head. Obviously his job is incredibly exciting: his "Hot topics" area included no more than one. One hot topic. Oh. Strangely he makes use of two different branding schemes. One blue, the other orange. Obviously hoping the subtle difference between the two colours wouldn't be picked up on. He does though include a link to the PMs site. Arselicker.

Joe Hockey: Probably the most professional looking of the lot. Looks can be deceiving though. Information architecture not bad, includes user interaction through an online poll (perhaps he's fishing for campaign ideas). His use of the banner ad technique on his own site is interesting though. He advertises himself. Oh, and his library includes a category called "WWWW links". Is there something Joe knows that the rest of us don't?

Julia Gillard: Unprofessional in the extreme. Looks like something someone created circa 1996 with every animated gif and html trick they found on the web. Uses slow-loading Flash for her banner when a straight image would have done. Information architecture is suprisingly not bad but generally there are too many moving parts and empty pages - in crucial areas like media releases and speeches. Looks like she's not doing much.

Jill Hall: The first time I tried to access this site it crashed my browser. I thought it must have been some shit-hot thing that was way too hot for my little machine. Alas, it's another circa 1996 job. Too tricky by half. If you think animated gifs are tricky. Informs me that "You are visitor" Well, yes I am but haven't you forgotten something?

Kate Lundy: Kate obviously means well. Her site is so sincere. She tells us about the flower motif that is scattered liberally throughout her site. But nothing can save this design. Fonts ahoy! Decide on a font and stick to it is my advice. Someone is obviously trying to work out those tricky alignment tags because I am not sure how to recreate this creative alignment on purpose. A design disaster.

Happy snaps

In putting together my previous post on the Wentworth haps, I was particularly taken by the photo Malcolm Turnbull (or his web designer/campaign manager) has chosen to include in the page banner. Check it out here. It kinda says “Look! Your local candidate is really good at sitting around and doing nothing, like the wealthy eastern-suburbanite he is.”

I’d also noticed the ‘salt of the earth’ photo-montage used by Gary Nairn when putting together my earlier post on Reps seating positions.

Hence, just for shits and giggles, I’ve put together my list of choice promotional piccies from candidates’ websites. Heck, this is what the web is for, isn’t it?

Over at the web site for the ‘Being Evil Makes You Happy’ club, Tony Abbot has obviously had a special brace fitted to stretch his face into something resembling a smile. That or someone in his electorate office is nifty with photo shop.

I just love the web address for Larry Anthony’s site: Yep – just ‘larry’. Hands up all those old enough to remember the series of PC games released throughout the ‘80s called “Leisure Suit Larry”? I wish someone would give him that nick-name. It would be gleefully ironic. Any rate, ‘just Larry’ has a nice, friendly and relaxed pose in his photo. But not too relaxed! He’s still wearing a tie! That really speaks of your credentials mate.

I got to page 4 of Google search results and found no web page set up by Kim Beazley. Come on Kimbo! You can do better than that!

Of personal interest is Alan Cadman’s effort. I lived in his electorate (the third or second safest seat – Liberal – in the country) for nigh on 22 years. I tell you, he’s used the same photo on his website that he has used on campaign material for, well, nigh on 22 years. Either that, or he doesn’t really exist. I suspect the latter.

As treasurer, Peter Costello gets a very special address for his website: Nice…. But what a freakin’ scary photo!

Speaking of scary photos – shield your eyes!!!

Joe Hockey appears to be rising from Sydney Harbour to devour us all in his banner photo, while Julia Gillard does her best not to look like Casey Novak from Law & Order: SVU.

Member for Shortland Jill Hall has a very perky site, in which her photo springs forth in a display which oozes energy and enthusiasm! Nice one Jill.

I guess I should finish up now, but just one more, eh?

Kate Lundy’s wacky web wonderland has always been a favourite, even if its just for the fact that the clever photo of Kate sitting in front of the ceremonial pond which fronts Parliament House can make you think, just for a wonderful brief second, that Kate’s about to fall in and drown….

Let's all get distracted

Hearing news of Peter King’s decision to run as an Independent in the seat of Wentworth conjured up memories of another disendorsed Liberal candidate (although I note that Mr King is the sitting Member). While I have no doubt that there are no other similarities between Mr King and Ms Hanson, these kind of coincidences are always nice to note.

You can read a couple of different commentaries on the implication of this for the Liberals and the Prime Minister. Rob Shilkin at the Herald says its now ‘impossible to call’, whereas Christian Kerr in today’s Crikey reckons it won’t be such a big deal:

It’s a spotfire in what should be a safe seat that the Prime Minister does not need – but isn’t as bad as it could be. King has said he will not be preferencing Labor – presumably so he doesn’t completely cruel the political ambitions of his wife Fiona, already active in local government and said in some circles to have an eye on the safe state seat of Vaucluse.
Hugo Kelly, also in Crikey, picks up on how this fits into the broader theme of emerging disunity amongst the Federal Liberal Party (and makes the almost obligatory reference to ‘rats’):

It's official. Peter King is the latest – and biggest - Liberal rat to jump ship in this weird election campaign.

However, even if the predictable happens and Liberal candidate Malcolm Turnbull holds this seat for the Government, as long as this story is in the news it is taking up valuable space (same goes for other ‘sideshows’ such as the Brandis/Galt issue, which might be forgotten in a week or two). Space which might otherwise be given over to a negative Government message or general Howard scaremongering.

Fine with me.

Tricky and Mean Episode #2

Get a load of this. The Government using the current Russian hostage crisis to try and score points and rustle up some fear and loathing. This is really disgusting. My revulsion reached such levels I had a physical reaction (nausea) upon hearing this news.

People have already died, and a further couple of hundred people are no doubt sick with terror and fear, utterly traumatised and no one is sure of how long they’ll be held and whether they’ll be released. And then, add to that the hundreds of families going through hell right now for their children and relatives trapped in that school.

Its utterly impossible to draw credible links to the policies of any Australian political party and this hostage crisis (and Chechen/Russian relations as a whole). But hey, let’s not get the truth, and the lives of hundreds of people get in the way of trying to scare the pants of our citizens and get them to vote us back in. Whatever it takes, eh?

Australians should be afraid of their Government – they’ll stop at nothing to lie to us, manipulate us, and turn us into a population so completely spooked we’ll swallow anything just as long as it lets us get back to focusing on our credit card bills and mortgage repayments.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

I wish I could humourously insert "Brandis-hing" into this title, but I couldn't think of anything...

Didn’t catch much of last night’s news offerings, but what I did see seemed to be a mix of the Brandis issue and the Scrafton issue.

The novelty of seeing Howard and Latham sharing official duties at the return of the Olympic athletes and the farewell of the RAAF squadron also seemed to attract press coverage (it would have been interesting to see one of the journalists pick up on the increasingly hysteric idolisation in Australia of Olympic athletes on the one hand, and the somewhat neutral attitude towards defence personnel on the other, in the context of this neat coincidence of events).

The Herald this morning leads with news that:
“strong spending by debt-laden households has ensured a 14th year of growth,
bolstering the Coalition pitch that it is the best manager.”

Now, I am the world’s least qualified person to comment on economic policy, but it just doesn’t seem right that a situation in which a majority of the country is in debt but still spends highly, without any Government incetives towards saving, qualifies as ‘good management’. I’d better leave it there before I further reveal the extent of my ignorance on this issue.

I’d just like to point out however, that I’d like to see some discussion in major media outlets of economic issues that don’t centre around mortgage repayments!

Check out Crikey for some info on the negotiations for coverage of the leaders’ debate. It’s a revealing article, but I reckon some depth could have been added with a discussion of just what the Government is trying to achieve by demanding there be “no broadcast of audience response.”

I kinda hope Channel 7 does go ahead and use the ‘worm’ to give us an idea of audience response. I mean, that’s why we’re having an election, isn’t it? To find out what we all think? This is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of in my earlier post in which I foreshadowed my interest in the Liberals’ dealings with the media.

Over at Backpages (what a popular blog that is, and rightly so), you can find a revealing account of one man’s run-in with Max Moore-Wilton (in the context of Scrafton's evidence yesterday to the Senate Committee outlining his experience with Moore-Wilton). Very much worth the look, just for the jaw-dropping factor.

Also, I recommend you check out John Quiggan’s blog for commentary on the media’s portrayal of the Greens. This might be something to keep an eye on, just to see how long it takes for the coverage to go from ridiculous to pure farce.

Expect to see News Limited hosting public burnings of Greens policy documents, Federal inquiries grilling private citizens and public figures about their links to the Greens, a national competition to 'green' the phrase "reds under the bed"...

Not our election but...

I know this is not (directly) related to the Oz election but this site asks some hard-hitting questions about Bush and his time at Yale.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Today’s news

Daybreak on day 3 of the campaign, and our nation’s hardworking journos have chosen to focus today on such earth-shattering issues as Liberal Senator George Brandis and his rodent remark (perhaps he’ll come out and tell us that he was relying on advice from the Defence Department and thus not accountable for his words), the ALP’s response to the Coalition’s “Big Bad Interest Rates” scaremongering and the $100,000 university degree.

In what will no doubt become a theme throughout the campaign, the Murdoch press is having a field day with the Greens, pretty much echoing directly the PM’s spin on the Greens as the demonic, child-sacrificing candidates in this election.

Sometimes though, it’s the little stories which are most interesting – the small moments in an interview or news article which bring satisfaction. A couple of highlights for me so far.

This from the PM’s interview with Kerry O’Brien on Monday night:

O’BRIEN: You’re happy to attack Labor’s past all the way back to Whitlam, but you want to limit what we can ask about your own past – why isn’t that hypocritical?

PRIME MINISTER: What are you talking about?

O’BRIEN: Well, you’re saying that we can’’ve said this election isn’t about the past, it’s about the future but then in the next breath you’ll tell us about how interest rates has risen under Whitlam, under Hawke, under Keating and so on. So you’re prepared to talk about the past on some things but on other things where one might say it doesn’t suit you, you say we should talk about the future?

Take that! Nice one Kerry.

Similarly, from yesterday’s Crikey:

Our Labour insider writes:

Kerry O'Brien (7:30 Report 1 February 1996): "Okay. the pledge of no new taxes, no increase in existing taxes for the life of the next parliament. So for the next three years, not even a one cent increase on cigarettes or beer or wine or petrol, no other indirect tax increase, no tax increase of any kind?"

John Howard: "That promise is quite explicit".

Up to late 2002, that promise had been broken at least 130 times, according to Clerk of the Senate Harry Evans, in a list he provided to Labor of all bills that introduced a new tax or raised an existing tax, so one must forgive us a little chortle over the extraordinary attempt by Howard and Costello yesterday to hammer Latham over his payroll tax rise.

Now obviously these little moments are but ripples on the surface of this campaign, but one must enjoy the small pleasures when they come along. For we all know that the more uncomfortable and outright disturbing moments are on their way…

Tricky and mean - episode #1 in a long, long series

I really don’t like the sound of the ‘subliminal’ cues being incorporated into planned Coalition advertisements attacking Mark Latham.
The ads will feature images of Mr Latham accompanied by a particular sound aimed at triggering a negative memory response whenever it is heard.

Talk about tricky and mean. Sounds too close to thought control for me. As I suspected, it sounds like nothing will be too low or venomous in its negativity for the Coalition in this campaign.

And how this type of advertising fits in with in with John Howard’s statement that:
“I’m not going to attack Mr Latham as a man, I never have. I’m not interested in all that stuff, I’m not the least bit interested in it.”

Then again, John Howard will probably disassociate himself from whomever is producing the commercials, and then claim never to have seen them.

Stay tuned for many, many more episodes and perhaps some one-off specials, probably also some repeats, wouldn't be surprised to see some celebrity appearances, some 'cross-over' episodes.....

The writ has been issued...

At 5.00pm yesterday, the House of Representatives was dissolved, marking the end of the 40th Parliament. One of the truly great benefits of this is the possibility that we will never have to see the moronic grin of Gary Nairn in footage of Question Time debates ever again. Not just because he is really quite irritating, but also because he is the sitting member for the seat Eden-Monaro. And, as we are all no doubt aware, this seat has fallen for the Government in every election since 1972.

There has been some comment on whether or not Nairn was allocated the seat directly behind the front bench in line with the dispatch box, as a means of boosting his image and profile.

Hence, in the event the ALP were to win Government, and, presumably Eden-Monaro, it would be interesting to see if the relevant Member (the mildly photogenic Kelvin Watt) would inherit that patch of green leather.

Whatever the seating arrangements, should the Government fail to be re-elected, then in addition to the Flashdance style dancing in the street I will be partaking in, I shall carry with me a warm inner glow, knowing I will no more have to look upon Gary’s pallid features.