How to imply a sinister twist from almost nothing

Turnbull link to Grech fee deal – EXCLUSIVE” headed the right column of the front page of this week’s edition of The Weekend Australian.  When the names Turnbull and Grech appear in the one line, the question is “What have they been up to now?”  Paul Maley’s answer is: “Godwin Grech, the Treasury official at the centre of the fake email affair, proposed a fee deal to the merchant bank running the OzCar fund whose chairman was a key backer and personal donor to Malcolm Turnbull.”   The plot thickens – you must read on.  “The effect of the deal was to enable Credit Suisse, the bank hired by Treasury to implement OzCar, to maintain its $5 million in fees, despite the fund being scaled back from $2 billion to $1.3bn.”  Then ‘the exclusive’: “The Weekend Australian can reveal that John O'Sullivan, the chairman of investment banking for Credit Suisse, donated more than $20,000 to the Wentworth Forum, the Opposition Leader's political fighting fund.”  And there’s more: “Mr O'Sullivan is president of the federal electorate conference in Mr Turnbull's Sydney electorate of Wentworth and a member of the Opposition Leader's Point Piper branch.”  Goodness me! More...

Political planning using Maslow’s pyramid

In the 2009 book The Best of Australian Political Writing edited by the publisher of Crikey, Eric Beecher, there is a chapter by Christine Jackman The future guy that was published in The Australian on 19 July 2008 that gives an account of the planning behind Kevin Rudd’s ascension to Opposition Leader and the campaign to wrest government from the Coalition.  In it she explains how Neil Lawrence, the advertising executive Labor had engaged to assist in preparation for the 2007 election, applied Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of human needs, which Maslow represented in the shape of a pyramid, to fashion Labor’s election strategy. More...

The corrosive effect of political anger

The intensity of anger being exhibited by some Coalition members seems to be on the increase, culminating last week in a ‘walkout’ of several of them from the House in protest.  If you doubt that anger is simmering just below the surface ready to bubble over unpredictably, watch a replay of this past week’s Question Time in the House of Representatives.

There are cogent reasons for anger among Opposition politicians.  They lost the last election and their leader with it.  After over a decade in power, that was bound to be upsetting, especially as many probably still feel, as does Tony Abbott, that the Howard Coalition was such a ‘good government’ and did not deserve, on its record, to be thrown out of office.  Several have said, and probably more feel that John Howard let the Coalition down by not arranging a timely succession to the top job.  Resentment about this eddies below and occasionally surfaces; Peter Costello has shown us how he feels several times.  To sense that the last election result might have been so different had Howard gone sooner must evoke ‘if only’ frustration and anger.  So the election result is reason enough for anger, but that after eighteen months the anger continues unabated, suggests that the result has not been accepted by some who persist with the view that the Coalition is the natural party to govern, and that Labor is a usurper not fit for high office. More...

Are Coalition scare campaigns running out of steam?

Scare or fear campaigns are as old as politics.  Scare the daylights out of the plebs and then pledge to protect them.  Better still, scare them about what your opponents are proposing to do, or even what you think they are going to do, or even what you have erroneously or dishonestly claimed they are going to do, and then commit yourself to not doing that.  Fear is corrosive and evokes a desire for protection from the threat.

When the general public wallowed in ignorance, fire and brimstone preachers of another era could instil the fear of eternal damnation, purgatory and an eternity in the fires of hell among those who disobeyed them, disbelieved them or even entertained different views.  The subjects quivered in terror, obedience followed.  In settings other than ecclesiastic, fear worked wonders – fear of losing one’s job ensured compliant workers, fear of tempest made taking shelter obligatory, and fear of the consequence of political decisions made voters apprehensive and ready to look elsewhere for leadership. More...

Will anyone who really understands emissions trading please speak up

Can anyone remember a piece of legislation about which there has been so much ignorance, so much misinformation, so little reliable expert opinion, and so much politicking, than the emissions trading scheme legislation now known as the carbon pollution reduction scheme?

The problem is that so very few understand how the CPRS is designed and how it might work.  Those who believe they do seem unable to articulate it in a way that might inform the average citizen. More...

Brendan Nelson says leadership is everything - how does Malcolm Turnbull rate?

There has been a lot of talk about Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership in recent weeks, but little about what political leadership means in operational terms.  Brendan Nelson produced a notable list in an article he penned on August 10 in the SMH: The priorities are party, people and platform with an inspiring vision.  He said “At times like this assertions are made that it is not about leadership and the party should drop its ‘messiah complex’.  Nonsense.  Leadership is everything, whether of a political party, company or school. Vision, inspiration, character, judgment, temperament, humility, intellect and courage are just some of the qualities that will define our party's success.” More...

The Turnbull reply to the latest Rudd essay

This is not a long piece, because there is little worthwhile that can be said about Malcolm Turnbull’s reply Rudd’s debt to burden future generations in the SMH on August 1.  There has been so much else to write about these last few days that Turnbull’s piece has slid almost unnoticed into the background.  As could have been anticipated, the debt and deficit bogy has been given a thorough outing, which few commentators bothered to address until Ross Gittins wrote his well-argued piece in yesterday’s SMH, Don't let Turnbull fool you: debt is not a dirty word.  I need say no more; Gittins has said all that needs to be said to debunk the debt and deficit story. More...

The Turnbull endgame?

The Australian today abounds with talk of replacing Malcolm Turnbull as Coalition leader.  Dennis Shanahan and Matthew Franklin wrote a piece Desperate Liberals look to replace Turnbull with Robb, and Shanahan has a blog.  It's a loser or the last man standing.  The sixty comments are pretty evenly divided between support for making a change and leaving Turnbull there as Robb would be no better.  Jack the Insider has a blog Turnbull artistry no match for the numbers.  He concludes “...that the hard heads in the Coalition will soon reach the view, if they have not already done so, that the continued existence of the Liberal Party depends on a change in leadership.”  He did not canvass Robb as an alternative.  Most of the 240 respondents, even those with Liberal leanings, agree that a change is necessary. More...

Killing him softly with his words

When did you last see a politician knife his leader and hang him out to dry as openly as Peter Costello did live on air on ABC’s Lateline last night?  This morning’s news of the dawn raids on suspected terrorist cells, the OzCar story and the tabling of the Auditor-General’s report, have pushed the extraordinary Costello interview aside.  Tony Jones, like all journalists, looks for a scoop, and as the interview about the two new chapters in The Costello Memoirs proceeded, he knew he had one; his non-verbals said it all.  And he achieved it with little coaxing; Costello was in an expansive mood, and seemed only too ready to ‘tip the bucket’.

So what did Costello say about the Liberal Party and Malcolm Turnbull? More...

Is the latest Rudd essay all spin?

Ross Gittins gives that impression in his piece in The Age on 27 July: 'Tough' talking PM is all spin.  In it he analyses Kevin Rudd’s latest essay The road to recovery that appeared in the 25 July issue of that paper.

Exactly what is ‘political spin’?  Wikipedia says: “In public relations, spin is providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favour or against a certain organization or public figure. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, ‘spin’ often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics. Politicians are often accused by their opponents of claiming to be honest and seek the truth while using spin tactics to manipulate public opinion.” More...