29 November 2007

Mister In-Between

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

By voting for Brendan Nelson, the Liberal Party has demonstrated that it is staggering from the wreckage of the Howard government. To embrace Abbott would be to embrace his denial that Howard had contributed anything to his defeat. To embrace Turnbull would have been too much, too soon.

Whichever PR dolly told Nelson that his flat, dull monotone is the way to go when speaking have done him a disservice. He's a shallow man and his ministerial service demonstrates just how much the Liberals have sold themselves short. I hated his creepy and macabre Anzac Day address at Gallipoli last year. The ministry will line up to bag him in Parliament over his ALP past and his sloppy administrative performance and Nelson will just sit there like a shop-window dummy.

He's not quick on his feet and Rudd and Swan will do him. Swan will have to dodge Turnbull, and won't always succeed.

Nelson will pay for his denial that an apology is due to Aborigines. He has a real track record in helping Aborigines when he was a medico - much more than Rudd or any member of his Cabinet, including Garrett - and any goodwill that might have come from that has just gone. Still, at least he's shored up a base in WA, that's the main thing for now. Nelson is every bit the duffer that Hewson was, without the policy depth.

As to putting Bishop against Gillard, that's just unfair. Gillard will eat Bishop. Instead of Bishop seeking funds from WA mining magnates, they'll get her to run for state politics once Nelson proves himself to be a wood duck. Even Omodei wouldn't give Julie Bishop a right cross when she comes to tap him on the shoulder.

To indicate just how unready the Liberal Party is for profound re-examination, see this. It's trying to have it both ways - we've got to do things differently, without repudiating anything we may have done. It's a crock, the work of a man with less grey matter in his head than I have under any of my toenails. It demonstrates no ability to pre-empt Rudd's shortcomings or to help the Liberals back into office any time soon. It's the happy-talk of a slave traumatised by the sheer scope of his newfound freedom.

As to the ministry, there are gaping vulnerabilities that a sober Liberal Party could push through to government:

  • It's one thing to have Joel Fitzgibbon as Shadow Defence Minister, but actually having him as minister is taking the piss. This is the man to oversee the withdrawal from Iraq? What if there's a crisis? This is a minister who'll be outshone by his parly secs.

  • Kate Ellis in Youth and Sport is an expression of contempt for these areas of policy.

  • Tony Burke in Agriculture is like Billy McMahon or Simon Crean in that portfolio: it'll make him or break him.

  • Stephen Conroy and Kim Carr are disasters waiting to happen.

  • I suspect that McClelland will be out of his depth as Attorney General.

  • Julia Gillard has taken on too much - workplace relations will take up the first part of her term and education the second. She needs some assistant ministers. The Liberals should disrupt that, but they won't.

  • Smith will be stiff and unimaginative, like Robert Hill.

Tanner and Albanese could well be brilliant in their respective portfolios. Some dopey member of the Coalition will launch a frontal assault on Penny Wong and she'll demolish them.

Still, Rudd and Nelson each have to make the best of what the factions and the voters have sent him: better to do that in office with public goodwill behind you.

27 November 2007

The media pack always missed the bus

In this article, Matthew Ricketson briefly stirs from the slumber of his profession, but rest assured that nothing will come of it.

No journalist has ever written or broadcast anything worthwhile from any media bus in any election campaign ever. The nearest thing that happened to worthwhile journalism was Michael Lewis's dispatches from the 1996 US elections, but that said more about him than it did about the politicians whom the media bus is designed to have cover. Any journalist who refused to get on the bus would face censure from someone at editorial level, like Matthew Ricketson.
given that the gallery is the group best informed about the progress of federal politics.

If you assume that "federal politics" consists of nothing more than what happens beneath Capitol Hill and surrounding restaurants in Canberra, perhaps. If you think there's more to it than that, they are spectacularly ill-informed - and rather than expand their sources to lessen their ignorance, they worsen it by tending to groupthink. The can write the most grievous rubbish on the basis that nobody else dares to write better, and they keep doing it until the crust formed by their inertia becomes the patina of experience.

Ricketson is right. The polling should have caused journalists to ask more questions, of people they don't normally ask. They should have drilled through the cracking-hardy that undoubtedly came from Coalition ministers at the time.

However, it's toward the end of this article that Ricketson shies away from making the big calls and basically rolls over and goes back to sleep.
The problem with Canberra press gallery coverage — a problem not confined to the gallery, I should add — is that journalists become too close to those they write about.

This is a continuing, thorny problem. Journalists need to develop relationships with politicians to gain their trust and to be connected with the humming network of information, gossip and power plays that is the lifeblood of politics.

The problem here, Matthew, is what people like you regard as "the lifeblood of politics". The importance of parliament comes from beyond it, and policy responses are developed by the executive and parliamentary wings of government in response to pressures from outside. It is those pressures, and the responses of the executive and the parliament, that should constitute political reporting.

Let's look at the "information, gossip and power" to which Ricketson refers. The most significant example of this in the past decade or so was the Howard-Costello thing. Vast forests have been culled by The Age and other papers to canvass an issue which we now know never had any substance.

There are other aspects of "information, gossip and power" which exist entirely for the bemusement of Capitol Hill players and have no impact on readers for better or worse. Who's dreadful to work for? Who's a drunk? Who screws around? You can pick up all this stuff in your first week working in Parliament House, but none of it will ever get reported - not even if these qualities have a direct impact on an area of policy, or in an election campaign (or a round of preselections) where this information might serve some public good.

Press gallery journalists rely too heavily on parliamentary sources in deciding what constitutes political news. If the issue is education, for example, the press gallery journalist relies too heavily on the Minister and the Shadow, not heavily enough on actual teachers and educators; those who have forced/opposed the particular issue for a long time, those who'll have to live with the changes. The same narrow focus applies to defence or tax or disability services, or any other issue you'd care to name. Whether or not an issue enhances or diminishes the standing of a particular minister is important in political reporting, but not to the overwhelming extent that it does today. The whole idea of editorial staff is to provide the wider focus that journalists may lack at the coalface.

Proof of the inadequacy of press gallery groupthink comes from all those opinion pieces in the past week (and probably the next week or so) complaining that we naughty voters have knocked over all the cliches by which press gallery journalists operate. There's this from Milney - a sucker for good company and who fancied himself as a gameplayer, who shows no evidence of any knowledge about what "plays" in people's lives and what doesn't. Then there's this from Annabel Crabb, who doesn't quite shriek "my kingdom for a cliche!", but she may as well. She's had to resort to school to get her cliche fix, poor lamb, and it's all our fault. Next time Wayne Swan announces a revamp of dividend imputations or whatever, he should bring his wife just to rattle poor Annabel.

Mind you, people outside the press gallery can also delude themselves like Gerard Henderson.
John Howard deserves to be remembered as one of Australia's two most successful prime ministers, ranking equally with Bob Hawke.

Menzies was easily Australia's most successful Prime Minister, and I'd include Barton and Curtin as well. Henderson does not make the case for putting Howard right up there, which is probably just as well.
It's not quite like 1929, when the conservative prime minister Stanley Bruce was defeated in his seat of Flinders, then on the outskirts of Melbourne, since it was a safe seat. Howard has lost what was a marginal seat to Labor's celebrity candidate Maxine McKew, with a swing against him that reflected the national average.

Flinders is still on the outskirts of Melbourne. Bennelong was not always a marginal seat, it tok years of that John Howard magic (not celebrity endorsements) to make it so.
There was never any point in Costello challenging Howard when he did not have the numbers to win a leadership ballot.

Yes there was. If Costello had challenged twelve months ago and been defeated, he could have retired to the backbench and waited for the party to turn to him about mid-year, which it would have. The most damaging thing Keating did to Hawke was to deny him his services in mid-late 1991: Costello didn't do this, reinforcing Howard's claim to power and making him a poor choice as Opposition Leader as a result.

26 November 2007

Howard, Costello and Milne

I always wanted to see the back of the Howard-Costello danse macabre, but I didn't realise it could happen so soon. Mind you, neither did Milney - he's spent two decades sucking up to Peter Costello, and he didn't even call. His credibility as a Canberra insider is shot, his future reporting on a Labor government zero. Hollywood-on-the-Molonglo is one step further into history with Milney gone.

Two choices for the Liberals in Opposition

The Liberals have two choices, neither of which depend on Rudd or the vagaries of fate. They can stay focused on holding Rudd to his promises, while at the same time working out what theirs should be. Or, they can pretend that all they need to do is fine-tune the message a bit and they're fine. The latter is the most likely, but the great thing about pessimism is that surprises are usually pleasant.

1. Who hesitates is lost

Like Rudd, the Liberals should get to work as soon as possible if they want to get back into government.

That means the first twelve months will consist of clearing out dead wood:

  • Bill Heffernan (NSW Libs will have to choose a replacement), crazy old man, law unto himself. Now that Howard's gone there'll be nobody to make excuses for you. Piss off back to your farm.

  • Nick Minchin (SA Libs will have to choose a replacement), you've led the Liberal Party here and you can't lead it out, only deeper. Your tactical stupidity is on show in SA state politics and the country has suffered enough.

  • Phillip Ruddock (byelection in Berowra NSW): you've done as much as you're ever going to do.

  • David Hawker (byelection in Wannon Vic): you didn't contribute anything the last time the Liberals were on office, you've had your go as Speaker and now have your pension. Goodbye.

  • Bronwyn Bishop (byelection Mackellar NSW): you've also done as much as you're ever going to do, but you haven't done much.

  • Tony Abbott (byelection Warringah NSW): you'll only cause trouble. Any ditching of the sort of policies that saw the second-longest-serving Prime Minister to lose his seat will be over your dead body, so stop acting as a brake to reform and just go. Getting rid of you will also diminish David Clarke.

  • Alex Somlyay (byelection Fairfax Q): who? Why? Make way for Mal Brough.

  • Andrew Southcott (byelection Boothby SA): get rid of yourself or the voters will. You only get one Nicole Cornes, and the SA Libs should force you out if you won't go.

  • Peter Slipper (byelection Fisher Q): you've done nothing, and there's plenty more in your future. The question is, does the Liberal Party in Queensland have as much future as you do?

  • Alexander Downer (byelection Mayo SA): absurd and flatulent response the morning after, you'll only be an obstacle to change and change is what's needed.

  • Wilson Tuckey (byelection O'Connor WA): as much of a joke as Heffernan.

Accidents waiting to happen: Michael Johnson, Alex Hawke.

By this point, Rudd will have stuffed up enough such that people will start listening to the Liberals again. They'll show that they have learned their lessons and are starting to think about solutions so as to chart a course different to and more appealling than Rudd's.

The rapid clean-out, fast recovery and discipline are characteristics of Australia's most successful opposition, that of the Whitlam Government. Whitlam's natural tendency was to hubris and the Liberal-Country opposition kept him on his toes. Whitlam's ministers (who were mostly old duffers like Frank Crean) knew that they had to lift their game. Three years after losing office, they won the biggest margin in Australia's history. Those who remember that time have gone, or (like Phillip Ruddock) have forgotten, so study up and apply what's relevant.

The Liberals should elect Turnbull bnecause he's most likely to do this. He may drive the party into a ditch but at least he'll do so at full clip and they won't feel a thing.

2. Where fools fear to tread

Alexander Downer's star turn on Insiders tries making the case for minimal change:
Ah, look, what’s the point of going back over the last 12 months, we can't relive that. It's all over. We just, I think for the Liberal Party, it won't be doing itself much of a favour by a constant retrospective.

The one election we will never fight again is the 2007 election. So we didn't win the election, so that's fair enough. We'll leave commentators to trawl over the entrails of the 2007 election, but I think the main thing for the Liberal Party so to look to the future, to try to win the 2010 election.

And the first thing the Liberal Party should do in order to win the 2010 election is get behind Peter Costello as the new leader of the Liberal Party, because I think he will be a very formidable Leader of the Opposition and I think he will very much get Kevin Rudd's measure. So I think that is the important thing for the Liberal Party to do, not think about whether we should have said this or we should've said that.

Even if you take out the bit about Costello, what you have there is a recipe for disaster. Two years of faffing, followed by glib attempts to bat away any criticism of John Howard and reassert the same basic message that got you belted the last time.

In Parliament, Labor have the measure of Tony Abbott. He'll try his tough-guy act on Liberals who know that they have to drop and distance themselves from some aspects of Howard, demonstrating that he's not part of the solution but the problem.

This is a recipe for atrophy and bloody-mindedness out of sheer boredom, which means that the Rudd Government will face no significant opposition. This faffing and denial has led the state oppositions to where they are today.

25 November 2007

The past is a foreign country

Another failure of policy analysis in the Australian media.

This article purports to be an examination of the career of the then Foreign Minister, with the implicit message that he's doing a great job and you can perpetuate quality policy by re-electing the Howard government.

Sheridan's article aims to support the rhetorical question-and-answer the seventh and eighth paragraphs ("But already ... ministers.") in his article. He should do so clearly, with insight and wit as optional extras. He fails at this, displaying no insight about the area in which his friend operates nor any areas where Downer has really succeeded or failed.

I saw the article today, after the election, and will resist the temptation to be wise after the event. Let's read it in its context and see whether it succeeds in telling us much about Australian foreign policy in the hands of Downer particularly, and the Coalition generally.

Skip past the flatulent first five paragraphs: they contain untested assertions and the silly implication that elections are inconvenient to elected politicians.
The most significant foreign minister in Australian history by far was Percy Spender. He gave Australia the alliance with the Americans, ANZUS; he also brought about the Colombo Plan; and he was responsible for Australia committing ground troops to the Korean war. He was not foreign minister for all that long, but that is an unmatchable trifecta. I rank Downer as just behind Spender as one of Australia's most significant foreign ministers.

Percy Spender was sworn as Minister for External Affairs on 19 December 1949 and was replaced sixteen months later, on 26 April 1951. Talk about damning with faint praise: Downer has been in office five times longer than Spender, also during a period of profound geopolitical realignment, and has achieved less.
Downer is well liked by specialist foreign affairs journalists who spend time with him, but he is not much liked by the press who don't know him very well. This is mainly because he has a slightly, just slightly, plummy way of speaking.

What about the notion that Downer covers his insecurities by condescending to people who aren't less intelligent than he? Sheridan, like Downer, cultivates an air of self-satisfaction that can be repellent to Australians.
In truth Downer is an earthy, vigorous, intelligent and extremely hardworking Foreign Minister. His physical stamina is remarkable. I've been in many foreign cities attending or covering meetings with Downer and the night almost always ends up in his hotel room with a few people having a late-night drink. Downer doesn't actually drink much at these sessions but smokes cigars relentlessly and talks and talks and talks.

There is often a bit of ribaldry and good-natured Australian chiacking, but 95 per cent of the talk is policy. He is relentlessly interested in all aspects of foreign policy and he talks through his ideas in countless late-night sessions such as these.

So, he saves his best for impressing journalists in hotel rooms? Nothing about what happens in those meetings (accepting that some sessions are secret), we are seriously asked to accept that impressing journalists is the essence of his job, the criteria on which he should be judged.
In substance it is impossible to distinguish Downer's achievements from Howard's in foreign policy.

Why no mention of East Timor in this article? No mention of the resentment Pacific nations feel toward Australia (again with the condescention: perhaps you're used to it Greg)?
after some early near-death political experiences - Australia losing its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council and a great controversy over the cancelling of an aid finance program - he buckled down and really got to work.

Why did these matters not kill his career stone dead? If the Prime Minister accepted disasters on this scale, doesn't it show that he doesn't take foreign policy seriously?
In foreign policy, longevity is an enormous strategic asset.

Again with the assertions: proof that it's worked to our benefit, Greg?
it is inconceivable that we could have got much more intimately involved with China, Japan, Indonesia and now, albeit a little belatedly, India, during the past few years.

Really? Why not? Is this a failure of imagination on your part? Why the lag with India - I still don't understand why the hissy fit boycotting India in 1998 has now been reversed, or even to what extent. Was it possible for Downer to have built a relationship with Musharraf that positioned Australia as an honest broker with the West, heading off or ameliorating the current situation in Pakistan? If Sudanese refugees are such a big problem, why not exert Australian resources and efforts toward a solution that might stem this exodus?

True, an article like this can't cover everything. It should, however, offer more than the reflection of Downer's late night bull sessions.
Most of all Downer, like Howard, has recognised the nature of the enemy in the war on terror and he has not shirked the battle.

The main job of foreign policy is to accurately assess the threat, and assertions aside it's not clear he's succeeded; hairy-chested nonsense about battles and shirking is out of place until this confidence can be built.
He seemed to take himself too seriously and his job too lightly.

When it comes time to write the epitaph on Greg Sheridan, this is the quote to use.

How I voted

House: This is not the order in which they appeared on the ballot paper:

[1] Democrat. Why? For the same reason anyone votes Democrat: because I felt sorry for them. Fewer than 1% of the electorate voted as I did. Hooray!

[2] Maxine McKew, for reasons I posted on Crikey: the area needs a local member who can navigate Canberra, not an absentee landlord who's had his - and someone else's - fair go. I was glad that I didn't see the cheesy speech she made on election night until after the event: I hope McKew doesn't become the Oprah of Northern Sydney (can't help you with your issue, but here's a hug instead).

... that's my major-party preference sorted. A Labor vote, eh? Now, who's next ... nobody looks appealling. Who do I hate? Nazis and communists.

[13] CEC. The Illinois Nazis of Australian politics. God damn the League of Rights and all who sail in her.

[12] One Nation. As above, but dumber and while still spiteful, slightly less malicious.

[11] LDP: I would have put them ahead of the major party if they were actually libertarian, but as they've thrown in their lot with the gunlosers, they can piss off.

... wot, no Socialist-Fuckwit Alliance? No Maoist Apologist League? Maybe I'd spent too much time in the inner city.

[10] Green: they put a poster of the ridiculous Kerry Nettle out the front of the booth to remind me why to vote against these fools.

... at this point I turned my attention to Christian Hypocrisy reps:

[9] The old duck who always stands for Fred Nile's outfit should inspire some sentimentality, but when you consider Nile is one of those lazy Christians who's stopped doing good works and stresses his virtues by whom he looks down upon, his party can go below the merely absurd.

[8] Fielding First: no evidence of Christian principle, just another lite-brite-n-trite independent.

... this leaves positions 3-7.

[3] Yusuf Tahir got a sympathy vote just because of Jackie Kelly and Troy Craig, and not because I know anything about them. "Ala Akba", as they say in St Marys.

[4] John Howard. Never voted for a sitting PM before, never voted against one either. Time to go.

[5] Climate change.

[6] and [7]: two independents whose names mean nothing to me.

Senate: I vote below the line and have done since Bronwyn Bishop rolled Chris Puplick in 1989. I voted [1] Marise Payne and [2] Democrat and [100] Kerry Nettle. I tried really hard to find good moderate liberal candidates and came up with about 12, numbered accordingly. Again I went after the Trots, white supremacists and Christian Hypocrisy candidates, leaving me with about 70% of the paper blank. I then numbered the remainder as [13], which means that my ballot exhausts at that point (why the law can't be changed such that my ballot exhausts after the last number of my preferences is a mystery. I'm sure there's a reason, but I'm equally sure it's bullshit).

What about your predictions last Tuesday? Ah, yes.

Here's where I thought I did well: Bass, Bennelong, Boothby, Bonner, Bowman, Corangamite, Deakin, Dobell, Eden-Monaro, Hasluck, Leichhardt, Lindsay, Macquarie, Moreton, Page, Petrie, Wakefield and Wentworth (ha!). I'm going to claim Kingston and Makin, even though they were pointed out to me by someone else, because I acknowledged them before election day. This doesn't make me Antony Green, but what does?

Too early to tell: Cowper, Solomon.

I'm glad I was wrong about Bob Baldwin losing Paterson, he's a good man. Likewise, I'm sad that Senator Andrew Bartlett and the Democrats are gone.

This is where, and why, I botched it:

  • Cook: I still say the Liberals in that area are riven and the winning candidate can only deal with voters in the abstract. One for the landslide.

  • Fadden, Flynn and Forrest: three for the landslide.

  • Gippsland: I still say McGauran is a waste of space. One for the landslide.

  • Grey: I was smart enough to stay away from Kalgoorlie so shoulda stayed away from this too.

  • Hughes and McEwen: Labor candidates mustn't have wanted it, two more more the landslide.

  • McPherson: One for the landslide.

  • Robertson: I still say Labor chose the wrong candidate and the Coast will recoil from Belinda Neal if someone like Mick Gallacher takes her on - but he won't.

  • Ryan: Michael Johnson is an accident waiting to happen, not a contributor to the longterm future. Another one for the landslide.

  • Stirling: Yet another for the landslide.

  • Sturt: So I don't like Pyne, sue me. I'm not that upset he won, as Downer would be. How will he cope in a post-Costello world?

Watch for byelections in Wannon and Berowra at least.

22 November 2007

The rain dogs of Surry Hills

From New York came the phenomenon of "rain dogs". Dogs navigate their way around their neighbourhoods by a network of smells, and a sudden downpour will wash away those smells, leaving these dogs stranded in what should be a familiar neighbourhood.

This is what's happened to the opinion writers of The Australian (whose offers are in Surry Hills, thus the title), who have ignored the coming Rudd Labor government and, rather than be embarrassed or catch up, rail against their own confusion like some pensioner shaking his fist at Video Hits.

Writers for The Australian have spent all year confecting elegant theories as to why Labor can't win, and only now is it becoming apparent to these writers (having been apparent to readers for some time, an understanding referred to by the Government Gazzette as 'elitism' until one of its writers succumbs). Today, it's Janet Albrechtsen. Here we see the collapse of a lazy set of assumptions, with jowl-wobbling outrage applied to anyone but the most deserving target: herself.
For the past six elections in Australia ...

There have been three Prime Ministers over this period: the incumbent, Keating and Hawke at his most exhausted. This is too short a period to form any sort of reliable historical pattern, too hard to manage out quirks of individual circumstance and personality. So much for any pretense for a sound historical basis.
A Rudd win on Saturday will rescind all those rules. In a few days we will learn whether precedents in politics count for anything.

They're not rules, they're theories. A Rudd victory will show those theories up as ill-founded. Precedents can count for plenty, but badly-founded precedents need to be re-examined.
... likable election losers such as Beazley and Latham.

Beazley I'll grant you, but most voters regarded Latham about as likable as an angry brown snake.
We have consistently chosen leaders who rate as decisive and strong, except in 1996 when Keating’s time was up and not even this trait could carry him across the line ahead of Howard. Since then, Howard has out-rated Beazley and Latham on this marker. Rudd, with a 12-point deficit on this score, looks set to topple another traditional Howard strong point.

Note the use of "traditional" here, where "cliched" is the word she's looking for. This is someone who's had access to all the inside dope from the Coalition over 11 years; how dopey it, and she, looks now.

Relying on one change of government only over a decade ago is a poor means for assessing "precedent". Jeff Kennett was more decisive and less likeable than both Joan Kirner and Steve Bracks, but in electoral terms so what? You could get all sniffy about state politics if you like, but not only would you be doing the Coalition no favours ultimately, you'd be ignoring precedent. Victorian politics provides a better pointer to Australian federal politics than, say, contemporary developments in Washington DC.

The issue here is not about that Howard has played to his strengths. You'd expect him to do that and you'd criticise him for not doing so. What Howard has (not) done here is less important than what his fan club (yes, including you Janet) has let him get away with: sloppy thinking, the hasty burial of difficult issues confused with permanent resolution. No true conservative would make such an assumption about public policy, but the bombastic prigs who call themselves conservatives, whose only experience is in journalism and PR, fall into this trap constantly.

And when we talk about sloppy bombast, we are talking Greg Sheridan and his Michael Duffy Hot for Boofheads routine:
It has been interesting to observe Rudd this week relentlessly attacking Health Minister Tony Abbott. This is a shrewd, pre-emptive move by Rudd who understands Abbott would be among his most formidable opponents.

Or, it is a sign that by drawing attention to a clueless boofhead, he paints the Liberals into the corner of having to apologise for every offhand, ill-considered misstep this clown makes.
But as this election is showing us, politics is not ruled by precedent.

One in the eye for you, Janet, especially as you don't know a precedent when you see one.
So the Liberals might have an outside chance in three years' time. But they will need to remain credible: more than that, to have a sense of life about them, a sense of vigour and purpose.

They'll need to undergo root-and-branch reform, of which Tony Abbott is one of the major obstacles. The future of the Liberal Party involves a re-establishment of state governments, of which Abbott disdains. In other words, the future of the Liberal Party is over the dead body of Tony Abbott. Following your logic, Greg, you come to the opposite conclusion of your article.
The Liberals will need both their small-l liberal and their moderately conservative wings. Abbott represents the latter.

Indeed he does. To be successful in a leadership role you have to reach out, and Abbott can't do that. The far right hate him for what he did to Hanson and the moderates hate him for what he did to Puplick, Payne and others. He needs to break free of the Taliban, and he can't. He needs to have the greatness of spirit that nobody believes he has, and that only his friends wish for (but do not make laughing-stocks of themselves by claiming he has).
More importantly, he is a genuine intellectual and political warrior

No he's not: the Catholic philosophies he picked up as a schoolboy back in the 1970s are the only intellectual qualities he has, swords and shields in an era of dirty bombs and 9/11. You can impress a shallow efforts like this with that nonsense, but Abbott's is not a fit mind, engaging with the ideas of others and adapting them to changing circumstances: this is a bulldozer who is easily bogged and not particularly adaptive, but impressive to those who can't peek behind the curtain.

One of the things that's diffrent about Labor '07 is that they know how to play the Liberals' biggest weapons, Costello and Abbott, and neutralise them. Julia Gillard has Abbott's measure and so does Nicola Roxon, it seems: Abbott so lacks intellectual and political flexibility that he can't handle being trounced by a couple of women.
Suggestions that he is tired of politics are dead wrong.

Oh, I see. I wondered what the Foreign Editor was doing in writing about the Health Minister. This is a rebuttal to Milney. Never mind the fact that the Liberal Party was right to minimise the damage they suffered at the hands of this boofhead, whose idea of being a "political warrior" is to dump on a dying man who's made more of an impact on public health than the Minister.
An essentially genial and gregarious personality, Abbott is nonetheless addicted to the battle of ideas.

I've known redback spiders to be more genial and engaging than Tony Abbott. It's all very well going on about ideas, but as a minister of many years' experience you should have some added depth from seeing those ideas play out in the lives of many people far from your own life. Abbott lacks this. He genuinely can't tell the difference between a lousy idea and one that hasn't been pushed hard enough. His addiction isn't my problem, it needs treatment rather than encouragement.
In that way he resembles many in the Labor Party and is a precious resource for the Liberals.

Because what you want is for Labor to set the paradigm of Australian politics, and if the Liberal Party isn't like Labor then it's lacking. You disdain this argument applied to moderates, and it doesn't work here either Greg.
Abbott, more than anyone except Howard, was responsible for defeating the push to a republic. Republicans may resent this but it cannot be considered a political failure to have your position endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the electorate ... But any opposition that defeats a government referendum wins a huge victory.

This explains why when Evatt defeated the ban on the Communist Party, he romped into government.
And remember that he was brought into health to solve a crisis for the Government, which he did, and the Government has had a shot at playing health from the front foot ever since.

Yairs. Kay Patterson, a moderate, was given a set of policies to introduce and little room to manoever in getting them through. A healthcare professional, she was stuck with policies she knew wouldn't work. Abbott, a healthcare ignoramus, was given absolute freedom to abandon the unpopular and impractical stuff. But the Foreign Editor, like the immediate past Premier of NSW, can be forgiven for overlooking such a quotidian miasma. Three cheers for moderate government, I say.
Many in the media continue to write that Abbott swore at Roxon.

Just imagine what would have happened if, say, Stephen Smith had said bullshit to Julie Bishop. You, Greg, would be on the ramparts defending her honour with jowl-wobbling indignation. Once you understand that, you'll be better able to regulate your cant gland.
Abbott has been central to conservative politics for the past 15 years. He needs to be central to it for the next 15 years.

He might have his needs, but we don't have to indulge them as you do, Greg. Bring on the warrior shining and dripping with the jugular blood of David Clarke; such a person would be a credit to Warringah and the nation in Parliament (as opposed to the grubs from Penrith - Tony Abbott's mates all - with their silly pamphlet).

21 November 2007

Back to 1996 with John Roskam

[Paul Keating] may yet have the last laugh on Saturday night. But not in the sense that he'll win the election — although that's not beyond the realms of possibility.

Rather, the Prime Minister's triumph rests with the truth that the only way the [Coalition] can beat him is by running a candidate on a platform that is practically identical to his own. In terms of policy inclination as well as personal style, there's a bigger difference between [Ralph Willis] and [Paul Keating] than there is between John Howard and [Paul Keating]. Saturday night might not so much be the ending of an era but its continuation under a new leader.

[The Coalition] might ponder what therefore will be the point of its victory. Members of the [Coalition] expecting that their party will satisfy the commitment to be the party of the "[right]" won't want to consider too closely what it means when Labor's tax policy is basically the same as that of the Liberals. The Greens can talk all they want about being the true party of the "left", but this rhetoric is hollow while their preferences go towards electing ALP candidates.

The dilemma for [the Coalition] is that because it has presented itself as conservative and safe, as soon as it does something that is neither of these things it will alienate the voters who delivered it government. Peter [Reith]'s comment that the ALP will change all its policies once it's in power wasn't an expression of his humour — it was an expression of his hope. What he forgets is that [the Coalition] will have been elected to keep things as they are. Change is the very last thing being demanded by voters in marginal seats.

The [ALP] might soon be starting some soul-searching of their own. As they begin arguing over [Paul Keating]'s legacy, they'll begin from a position that sees Labor more than happy to endorse the scale of the Liberals' taxing and spending policies.

Given that above all else in the mind of the public the Liberal Party stands for fiscal prudence, when it is the ALP promising to cut public expenditure and reduce the size of government, the Liberals have a problem. The problems get worse when it is appreciated what else has been lost. The principles of federalism and constrained government have been a core doctrine of the party since Menzies. Now they exist in name only.

The [1996] federal election could, for the moment at least, signal "the end of history" in Australian politics. Aside from some inconsequential differences, the major parties are characterised by the extent to which they agree. "Vision" hasn't featured in this campaign — possibly because the Liberals and Labor share the same vision.

There are few groups more disappointed by this policy convergence than the country's academic and intellectual left. And there are few groups that will have had less of an impact on the election outcome. The totemic issues of the left will not determine the election result...

It is ironic that it will be the votes of those the left disdains that could determine the election result. The ... rise of the families who aspire to own a McMansion and who are willing to take large mortgages to do so, has been the social phenomenon of the decade that has done the most to raise the ire of the left. Anyone concerned about keeping their job and paying their mortgage has been castigated as materialistic and voting out of "self-interest".

By using the phrase "working families", [Howard] has effectively repudiated this sort of mindset while acknowledging as legitimate the concerns of "working families". Indeed, the entire campaign against [Howard] is based on economic self-interest.

Those who hate [Keating] and everything he stands for have for [13] years deluded themselves with a convenient fiction. According to them, the Prime Minister is to blame for everything from the failure of the [L-A-W tax cuts] to the fact that the Japanese still hunt humpback whales. If only it was so simple. The frustration of the left is that to a large extent John Howard merely reflects that attitudes of his, and their, fellow citizens.

How [Paul Keating] changed Australia will be debated for years to come ... someone such as Paul Keating who had the arrogance to imagine ...

[Click here for a pathetic retread of the above, like Costello trying to dish it out in Question Time.]

20 November 2007

Predictions 2007

At the start of the campaign I predicted the shape of the Senate and broad numbers for the House. Now, I'll be specific about which House seats I expect to change hands.

When I say "change hands", I actually mean that the member will be from a different party to the incumbent. Parramatta NSW is "notionally" a Liberal seat according to psephologists, but it's actually held by Labor and will continue to be held by Labor after the election. Other seats are "notionally" this way or that, but I say: "notionally" my arse.

Where I make no reference to the Labor candidate below, you can assume they are barely competent and thus able to surf the Rudd wave all the way to Canberra.

Labor gains

  • Bass (T): the ultimate weather-vane seat swings back. When Labor start to fade it will go Liberal again, but not this time.

  • Bennelong (NSW): people want a local member and the incumbent can't offer that. The Koreans and Chinese are concerned about health and education, and the local member isn't really. Nobody wants a byelection in 2008 which is all the incumbent has left to offer.

  • Bonner (Q): the incumbent is a dunce, hasn't achieved anything and you won't miss him once he's gone.

  • Bowman (Q): see Bonner.

  • Cook (NSW): the Liberals in that area are riven and the incumbent MP is retiring, leaving a candidate who can only deal with voters in the abstract. Labor have chosen an aspirational local who'll win the seat.

  • Corangamite (V): suburbanites have tipped the balance away from graziers, and the Liberals would not dump the wizened and inert incumbent, thus the Libs will lose this seat for probably the first time since Scullin.

  • Deakin (Vic): No reason not to vote Labor, really.

  • Dobell (NSW): Water. Wrong move to have poor old Ken Ticehurst play political hardball with water, and any political party that tries to do this aywhere else will cop the same fate.

  • Eden-Monaro (NSW): the rest of the country needs Mike Kelly more than it needs Gary Nairn and Peter Phelps.

  • Fadden (Q): Possum says: "Fadden has a large number of new residents, pretty rotten housing affordability and is low-to-middle ranked in the other categories". And the sitting MP is retiring.

  • Flynn (Q): It's there for the taking.

  • (Nat) Gippsland (Vic): Two coal/ electricity/ welfare hubs moving into the electorate, the botched post-mortem treatment of local boy Jake Kovco, and repeated vision of the local member on TV looking hapless on horse-flu should see Peter McGauran on his way back to the farm for good.

  • Grey (SA): The hub of Australia's nascent nuclear industry may vote against its own future - or will it?

  • Hasluck (WA): this seems convincing.

  • Herbert (Q): members of the armed forces and Aborigines to use this as a referendum on Howard.

  • Hughes (NSW): Bye bye Danna.

  • Leichhardt (Q): Rising interest rates, the country's best-run Aboriginal community are going to give the seat to Labor and A Girl Called Charlie just can't reverse it.

  • Lindsay (NSW): the Libs have nothing to offer these people any more. Jackie Kelly's journey to becoming the Jeanette Howard of the lower Nepean is almost complete, and the replacement is a nobody like her opponent so Labor will get the benefit of the doubt.

  • Macquarie (NSW): Rural farmland redistributed out, two coal towns distributed in, and a Labor warhorse keen for one last challenge.

  • McEwen (Vic): Fran Bailey has been swanning around like Lady Muck on tourist junkets and her own constituency has become estranged.

  • McPherson (Q): Demographic change and a sitting MP asleep at the wheel, Labor build on state gains to sneak this one.

  • Moreton (Q): Gary Hardgrave should've been turfed by the Liberal Party, but he hasn't so the voters will do it for him.

  • (Nat) Page (NSW): Demographic change, retiring Nat, benefit of the doubt goes to Labor and so will he seat.

  • Paterson (NSW): Thanks Bob. The Hunter ALP is the laziest in the land but they will still take it from you. You wouldn't want to hang around in Opposition anyway.

  • Petrie (Q): No reason not to, really.

  • Ryan (Q): classic small-l liberal seat, tired of Howard and the spiv manning the branch office.

  • (CLP) Solomon (NT): Tired of being treated like dills, Darwinites? Stop voting for one.

  • Stirling (WA): Labor have chosen the right candidate, the incumbent is a hack who should go into state politics.

  • Sturt (SA): Having worked really hard to drop his small-l liberal credentials and snuggle up to Howard to get a ministry, Chris Pyne will find it too hard to un-snuggle.

  • Wakefield (SA): 'cause there's a swing on, that's why.

  • (Nat) Wide Bay (Q): One of the poorest electorates in the country, held by a flat-footed goober from the Nationals. Labor might be on the nose over water, but this will be another of those that sneaks past the pundits.

Nationals gain

Calare (NSW). That's it. Massive seat redistribution, popular sitting member passes away. The exception that proves the rule of decline.

Independent gain

Forrest (WA). Not quite ready to embrace Rudd, and the Liberals have chosen the wrong candidate, so step up Noel Brunning and hope you like all that travel.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda ...

  • Berowra (NSW): Like Bennelong, the rusted-on Liberals are in decline as young families move in with big mortgages and few facilities, with both love for and fear of the natural environment. The sitting member is an absolute certainty to retire during the coming Parliamentary term. Had Labor picked a hardworking local, or a Maxine McKew, Whispering Death would be gone. The swing will surprise pundits.

  • Boothby (SA): Andrew Southcott is a duffer but Labor managed to find a bigger one.

  • (Nat) Cowper (NSW): potentially a real bolter, but Labor chose the wrong candidate.

  • (Nat) Lyne (NSW): see Cowper. Coulda knocked off a Deputy Prime Minister! Never mind, if Labor reopen the AWB they could pick this up at the byelection.

  • Mitchell (NSW): I really hate Alex Hawke, because he hates Australia and he hates the Liberal Party and liberalism, and yet the Liberal Party of Australia chose him to contest their safest seat. An independent with guts and a longterm perspective could take that seat next time.

  • Robertson (NSW): Labor chose the wrong candidate. Belinda Neal is just not the sort of person that people want representing them. Barry Jones knew her better than most and when he was presented with her, he flinched and shuddered, as did many Robertson voters. I don't care who she's married to: no more of this person, no more.

  • Wannon (Vic): Malcolm Fraser's old seat, now held by the Speaker who won't stick around. One to watch at the inevitable byelection.

  • Wentworth (NSW): this time last week it would've been "bye bye Malcolm", but while Wentworth people are notorious flirts they'll take pity on their incumbent. George Newhouse has stumbled a bit, and frankly, he's a bit of a loser! We can't have that, can we? A Labor government won't be that much better on immigration, and Newhouse will be far more effective as some latter-day Rumpole than he ever would as an MP. Besides, the Liberals need Malcolm, and darling simply everybody is voting Labor.

14 November 2007

Two silly

First, the weakly Jase. I was getting worried that I was starting to agree with him, then toward the end he came out with some typical silliness:
The one Liberal who is having a very good election campaign is the party's former Victorian president Michael Kroger. Kroger is everywhere — on television, radio and in print. Kroger is everywhere, except the place the Liberals need him most — campaigning for a seat of his own.

And that's how he likes it, and as much good as he'll ever do.

Now that Malcolm Turnbull has turned a seat Labor has never held into a marginal what the Liberal Party needs is cash. Kroger should be taking over from Ron Walker as the bagman and the justification for the party not ignoring Melbourne, its worst-performing state capital.
It's not too late for Kroger, who is only 50, to think about a move into federal politics.

Yes it is. He had his chance in the early '90s. He had another chance when Peacock stood down - Kooyong was his for the asking. Yet again, when Peter Reith stood down he could have brushed Greg Hunt aside - no. You can see why he's such great mates with Costello, can't you? The Hamlet Brothers.
He's rich, he looks good, and he knows the Liberal Party inside and out.

Untainted by the Howard Government, Kroger has a freshness that none of the current front bench has and he knows how to wield the knife.

The hand that wields the knife and the head that wears the crown shall be fed by different hearts. It's some sort of rule, look it up.
If the polls are right, then more than one ex-minister will be a looking for an early exit ...

They needn't look far - looks like the voters are going to replace some ministers with Labor candidates. What on earth makes you think Kroger has any sort of common touch, Jase? Is he really going to sweep on with the fat and greasy citizens, writing polite letters to Labor ministers asking to help this constituent with their social security payments, that one with a visa? Do you really think he'll impress anyone at all north of the Murray? That's the daily grind of politics, Jase, and Kroger knows it's beneath him. Why can't you see that? Don't you understand politics at all?
... giving Kroger the chance he needs to get in and sort things out.

Kroger was a big man in Victorian Liberal politics late last century. Result: a decade of Labor government and that state almost went bankrupt. Jeff Kennett worked out the way to get the Liberals into government: shun Kroger. How important was Kroger in getting Howard up in '96? Not very - the safest place for him was on telly, at least you could see what he was up to and it left the professionals free to work unencumbered.

Feel free to leap to that conclusion yourself, Jase. You've finally got Costello, now wake up to Kroger.

Rudd left himself open to attack by vaguely defining the national security apparatus, but it required a better response than this:
Australia's current system works. Each of the 13 distinct organisations that Labor proposes to bring under the umbrella of its new department, including ASIO and the Australian Federal Police and customs, have adapted well to the post-September 11 environment.

There have been notable successes, including many that haven't come to light I'm sure. Yet, the stumblebum approach to immigration cases in particular makes an assertion like this hard to sustain. Plus, while civil liberties concerns would bog down an effective response to fake militant Islam and other threats, they have a legitimate role to play in considerations as to whether (and for whom) the system "works".
But it was the department's failed emergency response to Katrina that will be forever etched in the American public's mind.

The sight of thousands of helpless families waiting weeks for outside help was a low point in the Bush presidency.

In Australia, while somewhat on a different scale, state and federal emergency management authorities responded quickly and co-operatively to the devastation left by Cyclone Larry after it hit Innisfail, Queensland, in March 2006.

This is all true, and has nothing to do with averting disasters caused by human destruction. This is a real straw man, Josh.
Even the Americans, despite the problems with their agency, never sought to combine their law-enforcement agency, the FBI, with their intelligence agency, the CIA, in one department.

Yes they did, Josh. The original plan was for the heads of FBI and CIA to report to the head of DHS.

The Yanks have not come up with the right model for defence in an age of asymmetrical warfare, and the British and Canadians haven't come up with the right model either. Who has? If there was one area of government that needs to be profoundly rethought, national security is it - and she'll-be-right is the one policy response that is guaranteed to be absolutely wrong.
Joshua Frydenberg is a former senior adviser to Prime Minister John Howard.

Another reason to get rid of Howard, and The Age too.

06 November 2007

With all due respect

Gerard Henderson is wrong in this article. Most Australians always honoured the sacrifices made by his uncle Alan, and those who didn't were few in number and not politically powerful. It's not that there's been some sea-change in Australian society since the 1960s, it's that people have stopped taking seriously those who diminish such sacrifices. The Communist monster is slain, McCarthyism was an unfortunate overreaction, and despite the most vigilant boundary-riding you'll never get 100% agreement on anything. Now can we declare the culture wars over, please?

05 November 2007

Liberty and Democracy

Libertarians have solid grounds to be disappointed with the Howard government.

During the 1980s I was targeted by the Hawke Government's youth policy "Priority One", and finding it an utter load of wank decided that what the country needed was a government that stumbled and bumbled its way less into people's lives, and which took less tax to boot. As I entered the workforce I became irritated at red tape and dismayed at the tax take. You had to be clever to understand libertarianism, and it certainly provided something to do while grappling with undergraduate studies.

Time passed, and working in government - facing real issues with really few resources and real obligations to report one's actions for repackaging by PR dollies - cured the infantile disorder for me. Others are still out there maintaining the rage, such as you might find on Catallaxy. While there is still waste and blundering in government, it is important to think carefully about what government does, why it does it, and whether it's right to send people to prison for not wishing to fund this. I used to post there partly to be cheeky, partly to use it as a stone on which to sharpen my own beliefs, insofar as it remained firm enough for such a purpose.

Politically, the movement that gave rise to libertarians was much the same as that which transformed the Liberal Party during the 1980s. The Chicago school, the examples of Thatcher and Reagan, all had a powerful impact as an alternative paradigm for many in the Liberal Party and a few outside it. If you look at Liberal criticisms of the Hawke and Keating governments, much of it is done from a libertarian perspective: lots of stuff about "the nanny state", paying too much tax and so on.

The high-water mark of libertarianism in the Liberal Party was Fightback!, the cluster of policies the Liberals took to the 1993 election. The party and its message was led by John Hewson, who proudly declared himself as a non-politician (an odd boast for a man seeking the ultimate job in Australian politics: non-medical doctors and illegal lawyers are rightly viewed with suspicion), a position that endeared him to libertarians.

Had Hewson won the 1993 election, the Australian government would have been smaller than it is. Howard took over and steered the Liberal Party firmly into big-government populism, dropping his railing against red tape and funding massive increases in government programs - particularly in welfare transfer payments. It's been electorally successful and it has clearly been sustainable in a time of great prosperity. Yet, the libertarians had hoped for more: only in industrial relations has there been anything like a libertarian policy coming out of the Howard government.

Libertarians seeking as little government as possible had to turn somewhere, having been abandoned by the Liberal Party every bit as surely as the moderates. Moderates are still floundering, failing to link up with Democrats, NotHappyJohn, GetUp and other centrist groupings. The libertarians, however, have taken decisive action - but not necessarily to their benefit.

The LDP is an alliance of disaffected libertarians and gunlosers. The one truly heroic act of the Howard government was the reversal of the onus of owning deadly weapons, requiring the gun owner to prove a legitimate interest in owning weapons. Gunlosers have tried and failed for a decade to make the case that they should be allowed to own weapons because, well, they wanna. They have tried to form alliances with small parties focused on seeking to use the environment for outdoor recreation rather than exclusive environmentalism, but they have shied away. They tried the CEC, but they have their own problems and seem determined to spray themselves with voter repellent. Now they've finally found a host constituency: the libertarians!

The libertarians could have made common cause with civil libertarians: people concerned about David Hicks and the terrorism laws. However, in their new alliance with the gunlosers libertarians seem overly fond of military hardware as the only solution to all foreign policy problems. Besides, civil libertarians tend to be big on social justice, a phrase that causes gunlosers to reach for their missing weapons.

It's inherently unstable because there really are more important rights to assert than the unfettered claim of weapon ownership over all else. Libertarians have to make one of two cases: either what existing services should be cut, or (harder to do while maintaining a broad constituency) develop an alternative paradigm for government along with a method for funding that. Instead, they've retreated into snark: assertive independence with a hectoring tone worthy of any nanny. Take this yobbo, for example:
Unlike most other candidates in this election, I’m not going to ramble on telling you stories about how much I’ve done for the community

Casts some doubt over your suitability as a community representative, and your regard for those who do work hard and achieve much for people.
I am standing in this election because you pay too much tax.

Not that he can or will do too much about that, or is terribly specific about what the wastage is. I like how he, with the mindset of the nanny state he so wants to escape, has made a value judgment about my finances. Click through to this and you're 'rewarded' with guff like this:
Paternalist campaigners argue that more liberal availability of alcohol will lead to social problems. However, most civilised countries allow the relatively free supply of alcohol and they don’t suffer any catastrophic social meltdown.

This not only ignores alcohol regulation in other countries, it also assumes that "catastrophic social meltdown" is the only basis for introducing regulation (and with such meltdown, regulation becomes impossible).

Where have I read that before? Oh yes: the Greens' campaign is predicated on the idea that they had the balance of power in Tasmania and WA, and they didn't melt down - so vote for us and the country might not melt down all that much! The LDP is asking voters to commit another member of the Milat family to a public institution, and the less said about THIS the better. It's a poor and desperate source of appeal, and it shows aspiring small parties why there's little to gain and much to be lost in dealing with the LDP as currently configured.

There will be a certain amount of wary sniffing by libertarians with the Liberal Party in opposition, particularly if the Rudd government and the Labor states reshape the federation profoundly. This will ultimately come to nothing, in terms of influencing the next Liberal government.

Until the libertarians can divorce themselves from the gunlosers, until they can develop some honest responses for government against market-distorting behaviour that were unknown (if not absolutely then certainly in today's scale) before the end of World War II, they can't be taken seriously as a political force. That, and my guess that organising libertarians politically is like herding cats into wet paper bags for the purpose of fighting their way out of them - and their problem(s) become obvious. If you vote for them, you'll have to share their problems and a whole lot of others besides.

04 November 2007

The joke's on you

The job of a journalist is to expose the differences between what those in power say, and what they do. Jase provides his own say-do gap here.
then the killjoys moved in to snuff out all the fun — those mirthless warriors in the war against wit who have succeeded in banning all humour, candour and plain speaking in politics.

Not that politicians are to blame. The funnier you are, the more you get beat up

Beat up by whom, Jase? By you, and people like you. You could break from the pack, become a real journalist and actually write a story on something other than POLITICIAN DEPARTS FROM OFFICIAL LINE SHOCK, but you don't. Because you don't, you don't really have any right to write (or even "pen") a story like this.
A likely consequence of Kevin Rudd winning this election is that he will turn the country into one giant Sunday school.

Who in a Rudd cabinet, one may ask, will be the minister responsible for cracking a joke?

Looking at Labor's front bench, the chuckles are unlikely to come thick and fast.

Well, if the politicians are going to be this dull there's nothing for it but to get off your backside and write some stories.
As for Peter Costello, if he is leading the Opposition, we can forget about any more jokes from him. He'll be so miserable the most he'll be able to muster is a wan smile. The minders have already told him to pull his head in on the gag front.

Yes, because Peter Costello is a politician and wants to maximise his vote, Jase. Very few people would rely on Peter Costello to bring the funny: fewer still among the Liberal MPs seeking an extension of their tenure in office. What Costello has done here is avoid the smart-alec image that turns off thousands of voters. He can't afford to be turning voters off, and it's your job to point that out - not demand that he perform like a seal for your bemusement.
Costello would have done much better if he'd taken the gloves off and given his opponent Wayne Swan an old-fashioned whacking with lashings of ridicule and invective.

No he wouldn't, you've botched it again. Swan would have looked like the responsible Treasurer and Costello like a self-satisfied tosser.
Tony Abbott was vilified last week for using the word "bullshit" but was anyone really offended?

Personally I wasn't by the word itself, and you probably weren't either Jase. The point is that this is a man who turns up late and, instead of apologising, swears. While it's true that the only people offended will be old ladies, consider how desperately the Coalition needs their votes.
Peter Garrett [has] ... also been accused of selling out his principles. Surely we should suspend judgement on this until Garrett has actually been a minister and made a few decisions.

People who are really angry at Garrett for selling out don't want him to be a minister if he's going to sell out. It's your job to explore that Jase, not defend politicians from your readers.

There is humour, anger, sadness and real satisfaction in public life, but you have to hunt for it and not just expect it to be served up to you by press secretaries, which is how Jase operates. Let us be rid of this appallingly inadequate "journalist".

Update: A regular PH reader just sent me the following:
Wow, great blog! I agree with everything you've ever said, thought or done! How do I get an excellent blog like yourn?

PS, I love you.

You could start your own blog any time you like, seeing as you have so much spare time in a campaign that is going absolutely nowhere. It's not my fault that you're going nowhere.