The Rudd phenomenon

I have always liked Kevin Rudd.  I still do.  When he first came to prominence as shadow foreign minister I remember being impressed with his grasp of his subject matter and his articulateness.  I enjoyed listening to him on TV and radio, and occasionally in parliament when he hammered the Howard Government.  Back then I found I understood every word he uttered.  I still do.  Yet it is his ‘poor communication’ that is cited as being a major reason for his downfall.  What am I missing?  More of that later.

How might we assess Kevin Rudd’s legacy?  What is the Rudd phenomenon?

Already there have been many thousands of words written about the events of the last six months and this last week.  I do not wish to bore readers with a repetition of what others have written, but instead to explore some other aspects of how it all came to this.

But first let’s accentuate the positive and give great credit to Kevin Rudd where it’s due.  Many here have developed a deep affection for him, which made his sudden and unseemly exit painful.  We felt his hurt and humiliation.  This feeling was so strong that some felt angry at not just what had happened but the way it happened.  Conflicting emotions made it hard to separate the stark reality of the situation facing members of the parliamentary Labor Party and what seemed to many the brutal remedy they applied.

After a few days of reflection it is easier to see where things went wrong, and at the same time what has been achieved since Kevin Rudd came onto the Federal scene.  

He earned his stripes with his exemplary performance in his shadow ministry.  He was forensic in his dissection of the AWB affair and pursued the Government relentlessly.  That he did not succeed in getting some scalps is a tribute to John Howard’s clever terms of reference of the Cole inquiry.

Historical accounts of Rudd’s rise to power insist that he has always had his eye on the prime ministership, so when the factional heavyweights arranged a merging of interests of right and left factions, a Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard ticket was organized and Kim Beasley was toppled, even at a time when the polls were not too bad for Labor.   This event foreshadowed what would transpire over three years later.  Beasley was considered to be unable to beat Howard at the 2007 election, so he was replaced, just as Rudd has now been, with polls much worse than in 2006.

So what has Kevin Rudd done for which he deserves our eternal gratitude?

First, after over eleven years of Labor in opposition, he challenged and defeated John Howard and his Government.  Whatever the legacy of the Howard era, there was in 2007 a strong desire in the electorate for change and Rudd enabled that to occur.  Thank you Kevin.

Next, he led Labor to do some of the things the Coalition ought to have done – apologize to the Stolen Generations and sign the Kyoto Protocol.  The latter was part of Rudd’s push to tackle global warming, something Howard came to so reluctantly.  His commissioning of the Garnaut Report, the Green and White papers and the subsequent ETS/CPRS legislation were landmark events, all of which came to nothing because of Coalition and Greens’ Senate obstruction, and eventually lead to the removal of Malcolm Turnbull and the rise of Tony Abbott.  Copenhagen, into which Rudd put so much effort, was disappointing, leaving him with almost nothing.  Whatever we feel about the deferment of the CPRS, we thank you Kevin for getting us as far as you did.

All except the most hard-hearted and biased give you and your inner cabinet team great credit and thanks for shielding this nation from the GFC, high unemployment and business failures.  Increasing job opportunities, economic prosperity and consumer confidence resulted.  Thank you.

There are many other things you did for which we are grateful – you insulated a million homes while lessening the chances of fire and injury in the process.  We all know the problems there – the media made sure of that, but thank you for getting so much done.   You have built countless school buildings, but all we heard from the media were the ‘cost-blowouts’, the ‘rip-offs’, the ‘fraud’ that occurred in a few instances, mainly in NSW.  But schools, teachers, parents and their children will be grateful for many years to come.  Thank you.

There are many other things: abolishing WorkChoices, the computers-in-schools programme, the national curriculum, the MySchool website, the increase in funding for education, the health system changes, the tax review, the review of pensions that made life easier for recipients, the PPL scheme, the NBN, the Murray-Darling plan, gaining Australia a place at the G20, and so on it goes in a very, very long list – it would take too much space to record here.  But we are grateful.  Thank you. 

But for many your compassion for the less fortunate, your dedication to making this nation a better place, your passion for getting the job done, your ceaseless devotion to your work, your work ethic sometimes to the detriment of your health and well being, your determination against overwhelming odds, your willingness to stand up against powerful vested interests for the sake of the people, and your decency and fairness will be remembered by a grateful nation, sad that you left us so precipitously after all you had done.  Thank you Kevin – you are a good man.

So how has it all come to this?

Commentators point to communication problems, centralization of decision-making, inadequate consultation, poor political judgement, and lack of anticipation as the prime causes.


There are several elements in communication: the message, the messenger, the recipient and the media.

The message 

Too often the message was seen to be confusing.  Personally, as mentioned earlier, I have had no difficulty in understanding Rudd’s messages, but journalists became irritated by the repetitive phrases – ‘working families’, ‘in the national interest’ and so on; annoyed by his use of old-fashioned words such as ‘balderdash’, ‘bunkum’, and worst of all, ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle’, which it labeled as ‘fake’ ockerism.  Having lived in Queensland including a stint in Nambour, I know these expressions were used there and at Eumundi where Rudd grew up.  But the media didn’t like them so it revolted, made them the issue and wrote about them endlessly.  There’s no accounting for the mindless infantilism of some journalists.  

Of course the central message was at times unclear to some.   On this blog site some of us have expressed the view that a specialized media unit was needed to craft easily understandable messages the public could and would assimilate, as the Government’s messages were not ‘cutting-through’.  Rudd’s inexperienced staff was not up to the job. On this blog site we suggested how the CPRS might be ‘sold’.  Yet not one journalist who wrote about lack of ‘cut-through’ suggested what messages would ‘cut-through’ – they just kept harping that they weren’t. I’m still wondering what these cut-through messages would look like, and asking if we’re talking about some fictional notion of ‘cut-through’ that nobody has much idea about.  The media is well and truly capable of talking about a non-existent entity as if it was as plain as a pikestaff.  It also had the temerity to say that the messages about the good things the government was doing were being ‘starved of oxygen’ by the Government’s ongoing travails, most recently the RSPT, when IT was deliberately doing the starving.  Talk about media hypocrisy! 

Early on, the media criticized Rudd endlessly for the lack of narrative in his message, but then turned round and criticized him for hyperbole, over promising, setting expectations too high – presumably that was too much narrative.  As argued in another piece on The Political Sword: The folly of putting a politician on a pedestal, we the public placed unrealistically high expectations on Rudd and became disappointed when the sheer weight of partisan politics and self-interested opposition crushed some of them.  It is generally accepted that a turning point for Rudd’s decline in popularity was when he deferred the CPRS until the end of the current Kyoto agreement in late 2012.  This was branded as a serious betrayal of trust after his ‘greatest moral and economic challenge of our time’ rhetoric, a theme the media pounded relentlessly until everyone had been indoctrinated with ‘Rudd’s broken promise’.  There was little mention of Opposition obstruction or that he had been let down at Copenhagen – only trenchant condemnation – it was clearly Rudd’s fault he had not delivered.

The messenger
The media labeled Rudd as robotic, endlessly spouting focus group-generated phrases.  By the time they had indoctrinated the public into thinking likewise, any substantive messages were easily overshadowed by the language Rudd used, language that the public had been programmed to despise and eventually ridicule.  It was a classic instance of media scapegoating which worked brilliantly for them. Every time Rudd spoke, the listener homed in on the language the messenger used, not the message.  Intimidated by shock jocks and the likes of Kerry O’Brien, in the manner of a self-fulfilling prophesy, Rudd became even more ‘robotic’, and when he showed some spirit in standing up for himself was accused of a ‘meltdown’.

The recipient

Although much of the repetition was designed to impact the busy homemaker and the tired worker who might catch only a fragment on TV at the end of a long day, because the media made such a noise about it, the repetition became the focus of the recipient, a classic example of media brainwashing and manipulation at work. 

The media

This blog site has as one of its prime aims the exposure of the pernicious influence on public thinking of much of the media, particularly the Murdoch outlets.  The media went out of its way to condition the mind of the electorate that Rudd did nothing but waffle, that he spoke gobbledygook, that he talked spin instead of substance, and that he had become a laughing stock.  That accomplished, is it any wonder that the people stopped listening, the ultimate death-knell for a politician.  And if they hadn’t done so already, the media’s repetition of ‘the voters have stopped listening’ ensured that those still doing so wondered why they were.  

Scapegoating is powerful.  We see it in families.  Once started, it is very hard to stop it escalating, let alone reverse it.  The media’s scapegoating of Rudd has been deplorable.  It would argue that all it did was expose Rudd’s weaknesses and foibles.  That is a cop-out.  No matter what defects Rudd had and still has, the media’s role in Rudd’s downfall cannot be underestimated.  It has been as shameful as it has been successful.  When will it start on Julia Gillard?

Of course the media would counter that Rudd did not show them due deference, but exploited them to his own advantage.  That has an element of truth but Rudd has found out the hard way that the media is powerful and punishing, and has contributed substantially to his political demise.

The media message was so persuasive that Labor members found that people in their electorates had stopping listening to Rudd, and had turned away from him so profoundly that they were no longer prepared to vote Labor.  They fled to the Greens, the Labor primary vote in the marginals as well as federally fell to levels incompatible with re-election.  A rout was looming, and no sign of it reversing was to be seen.  The only solution these members could see was to replace the one identified with this desperate situation – the Prime Minister.  This is what they did with clinical precision.

It is seen by many as ruthless and unfair – those responsible were convinced that to do nothing would have given Australia an Abbott-led Government, an alternative too horrifying to contemplate.

Centralization of decision-making

It is now established that Rudd’s modus operandi was control of all aspects of Government.  Although ministers did their work individually and have acknowledged that they were allowed to do so, the requirement was that every move had to be signed off in Rudd’s office even if it was going to Cabinet, and often that process was inadequate.  There was not enough sharing of responsibility, enough delegation, enough sharing of information and decision-making.

How did this occur?  Studies of Rudd’s past show that he has formidable intelligence and an uncommon capacity to assimilate vast amounts of information and come to a reasoned conclusion and a plan of action.  He has unbridled faith in his ability and brainpower.  So he sees no need to consult with others, as he believes he has the answers.  The matters which a Prime Minister has to deal with are so profoundly complex that no one person can possibly encompass all the facts, figures, wisdom, experience and foresight needed to fashion a rational plan and achieve a successful outcome.  This defect in Rudd seems to be longstanding, going back to his days as chief of staff for Wayne Goss.  It may not be remediable.  Rudd’s reaction to failure in any policy area was simply to ‘work harder’.

The upshot of this approach was alienation from colleagues who felt their work was not valued.  They felt anger at being overlooked, ignored or exploited.  The end result was the slowing of the process of governance.  There have been many media reports of the torpid process in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, something aptly described recently as chronic constipation of governance.

The same self-belief, coupled with disdain for Labor’s factional system, led Rudd to insist on selecting his own Cabinet ministers, and subsequently paying little attention to his backbench who found it difficult to engage with him.  It was those backbenchers, even more than factional heavyweights, who toppled Rudd, although the latter were involved in organizing the coup.  He found himself friendless among the wider parliamentary party.  The Abbott attempt to raise the spectre of ‘faceless’ men in Sussex Street running the show – who will forget the ‘36 faceless men’ mantra of forty years ago – will not succeed.  It is not the case; only we oldies remember that era.

Another outcome of centralization of decision-making, especially if the staff involved is inexperienced, is that anticipatory actions are stultified.  There are many who assert that many of the problems Rudd encountered in selling his policies resulted from lack of anticipation of the reaction of those affected.  The CPRS is quoted as a classic example. In his piece Thank you, Kevin, Bushfire Bill makes the telling analogy of ‘Rudd as engineer’ – if you make your product well enough, it will sell itself – but that is a delusion.  He also suggests that Kevin Rudd is an example of The Peter Principle: namely that: “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."  There seems to be much evidence to support that.

In his Quarterly Essay: Power Trip, David Marr asserts that anger is Rudd’s most powerful motivating force.  This psychoanalysis is suspect, based partly as it seems to be on Rudd’s explosive reaction to what Marr had written about him.  If he had written that about me, I think my reaction might have been the same!  Therese Rein corrected Marr when she said, with tears in her eyes on that awful 60 Minutes interview by Tara Brown, that the one thing that motivated her husband was compassion.

So there is my assessment.  Many thousand words more could be written, but enough is enough.

So what do we say now?

What is the Rudd phenomenon?  

Although difficulty in communicating messages the Government wanted the people to hear was a major problem, and the centralization of power and control in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was debilitating, the role of the media in bringing about the downfall of our Prime Minister was as ugly as it was overpowering.  We shall never forget the disgraceful role of the Murdoch media and particularly The Australian, the paper that nominated Kevin Rudd as its Australian of the Year in January and then proceeded to relentlessly and shamelessly tear him down thereafter.  

While acknowledging his shortcomings, those of us who admire his many attributes and achievements, his passion and his compassion, pay tribute to him for all he has done for the people of Australia.  

To me, that encapsulates the real Rudd phenomenon.  Thank you, Kevin.

What do you think?

Thank you, Kevin

Well, after a good night's sleep and a bit of a think, count me in on the Julia side.

It seems Rudd isolated himself, and treated the caucus and the cabinet with seeming indifference.

Why this is so, I don't know. 

Could this have been his personal nature? 

Maybe he thought the parliamentary party needed training wheels until the government matured enough to look after itself? (He did have a very good record of not shedding ministers, after all). 

Maybe he knew what the factions would - and still might - get up to once in power and, in a reversal of the usual secularizing process, tried to put God-Rudd in place of the Party in MP's hearts. 

Or maybe he just never learnt anything from his time with Goss, or perhaps learnt too much from studying Whitlam (who in Rudd's mind might have been not frantic enough).

Perhaps he worked too hard and lost his judgement, losing sight of the forest for the trees.

Perhaps he was an engineer who wanted to make his product so perfect it'd sell itself (like a Cham-Wow! wunda-wipe). Then he, not a great spruiker with ability to talk in sound grabs, wouldn't have to.

Perhaps he's shy, or arrogant, or too modest to speak up (why wasn't he giving yesterday's speech every Thursday afternoon at 4 o'clock for the last 2 years?).

Or perhaps he just wasn't a politician, in the 'fully-rounded' sense of the word.

There are a thousand cliches that come to mind.

When he took over from Beazley I was about as disappointed then in losing Beazley as I have been over the past few days, losing Rudd. I'd personally gone into bat for Kim - as would have many here - for over three years. I worried that Beazley had been dealt a raw deal, that Rudd didn't have the oratorical skills to be a perfect attack dog, or the experience to get a drifting Labor Party behind him. In the most positive way possible, in turn I worried that Rudd was a nerd, more for his sake than testosterone's. I thought the macho Press Gallery (and that's just the women!) and cruel Labor hacks would tear him apart. Come to think of it, it all came true, of course, but with a famous victory to make it seem alright.

Rudd put iron discipline back into the Party, but the passion went AWOL. He used to tell us of the things he was passionate about, and he was, but it didn't come across as passion. It came across as bureaucracy, structure and politics by the numbers. Everything Rudd said - well, almost everything - sounded like someone had coached him, provided him with talking points. I know he was decent, hard-working, and yes, passionate. But towards the end we saw more of the former, and not enough of the latter. When David Marr wrote his piece I grabbed at it like a starving man. I thought to myself that at last someone else has seen what I wanted to see and had seen in Kevin Rudd: the anger, the fire in the belly. Maybe I wasn't fooling myself after all about Kevin, I thought.

But ultimately Rudd was someone whose passion was kept - had to be kept - always in check, almost as if he was scared to let it go off the leash. I'm the same with one of my dogs. If I let him go he'll get run over by a car for sure, in some mad terminal frenzy of street-crossing, trigged by seeing a cat (or thinking he does). He's his own worst enemy... as was Rudd.

Loyalty to the King is no bad thing. Loyalty, blind, excuse-making loyalty, where you argue until you're blue in the face for your man and his character... that's what politics should be about, or partly so. If we dumped our leaders as easily as we disposed of yesterday's newspapers, there'd be no continuity and no decency in politics, or in life. Perhaps Rudd was well-past his usefulness to the Party, but the Party owed him some momentum, some chance to get it right. I [i]do[/i] think they gave it to him. But it didn't do any good. As Kevin retreated into the PM&C [i]bunker[/i], access to him, advising him, imploring him to see what was happening, became next to impossible.

I agree with Marr that the most signal part of his now famous essay was where Rudd declared he would just "have to work harder" to achieve a victory in the election. I groaned when I read that sentence. I thought to myself that Kevin really didn't get it. No-one was questioning his work ethic. It was his direction (or rather lack of it) that worried them. He was leading Labor in grand circles, and when they arrived back where they started, they were more exhausted than when they started out. Labor MPs and ministers, unable to get to the boss to find out what was happening, had to finally get rid of him.

Rudd would have had a favourite anecdote, one where he illustrated the benefits of determination, grit and punishing attention to detail as helping him out of a seemingly hopeless situation. Perhaps it was in the 'off the record' section of Marr's piece, in that last conversation where Rudd let go at the essayist and told him what he really thought. We may never find out what it was. Whatever Rudd's favourite story about himself, one set of circumstances doesn't necessarily apply to all others as the ex-PM has just found out. Hard work when you've lost your direction doesn't always help. Sometimes it just means you've gone a little bit crazy. Over-work can do that.

Kevin should go home for a month and get a lot of sleep, reconnect with his family and with life and only then come back ready for whatever action Julia wants to give him. She shouldn't give him a task that will allow him to indulge himself too much. He'll only work himself to death, and in the process fail in the task. I don't know what the task will be but it should be simple and possess clear targets. That would be best for everyone, but most of all for Kevin.

In the end Kevin Rudd was the living embodiment of The Peter Principle: a person promoted beyond his level of competency. This doesn't mean I think he was an 'incompetent' person. It just means his skill set was no longer appropriate to the task. Whatever me might say today, of one thing I am sure... there was nobody else at the time - 2006 - suitable for the job (what would they have done to Julia if she had been elected leader in 2006... the thought is almost too awful to contemplate). 

Kevin had all the bullet-point attributes in spades - intelligence, charm, popularity, a good policy head, but came to lack a sense of perspective and a tolerance for other ideas. The more success he had the more he, and those in the immediate circle of staff around him, came to believe he was infallible. Still, despite the events of this week, there was no-one else more suitable in 2006 than Kevin Rudd. He got Labor over the line, despatched the hated Howard and all but one or two of his most egregious subordinates, and set down his Party's roots for the future.

In many ways, tremendously important ways, Rudd has been a successful Prime Minister. He won the election. He has preserved his ministry and seen it mature. He saw off a gaggle of Opposition Leaders and hangers on. He initiated ground-breaking policies, heading the country towards the 21st century and away from the backwards-looking Howard fantasies of Queen and Cricket. Indeed, many of these policies have succeeded and are now in place, functioning well. I won't list them. Anyone reading this will know what they are, the GFC triumph right at their head.

But there is someone suitable to take over now. Most importantly Rudd has prepared the ground for Julia Gillard. We have seen her blossom into a formidable politician. The rough edges are off her and she is a hard, tough, steely machine more than a match for any of her opponents... and more than a match for the Labor hacks who might think they have sway over her. 

Kevin Rudd held the line until the party caught up with him, morphing it from a loose rabble into a government. His mistake was to hold on too tightly and too long. I for one can forgive him easily and say to him, with love, "Kevin, job well done". It is up to him now to forgive us. 

I believe he's man enough to do it. There's an important bonus to it too. In doing so he will of needs be completing the most important task any person can possibly undertake: forgiving himself as well. 


Greetings fellow Swordians.  Today I'd like to report on a worrying trend which I have noticed creeping into political reportage of late in this country.  I am not quite sure how extensive it is yet across the country, only that I have noticed it increasingly here in Sydney on Channel Nine.  So I'd also like to know if anyone else has perceived it in their neck of the woods, and I'd also appreciate it if fellow Swordians could keep a Watching Brief to look for more examples of it, because there's one thing I do know, and that is the manifest nature of the Australian Press to behave as a herd, and once one outlet debuts a new idea for them all to follow it and push it to further extremes.

So let me just start by outlining one particular incident in this new trend, which I have christened: 'Gotcha! Politics'

On Thursday night on Channel Nine 6 pm News the newsreader, Peter Overton, in his initial summary of the night's top stories, referred to an upcoming 'Channel Nine Exclusive', “that exposes another one of Kevin Rudd's 'Broken Promises'”.  That teaser led me to expect that the Nine media organisation had done the hard yards of investigative journalism and had a scoop that exposed a heretofore unknown broken campaign promise.

With trepidation I sat and waited for the story to unfold.  I thought to myself, if it's such a big deal as to be bringing to light another broken election promise which Channel Nine have uncovered, they'll come out all guns blazing with it as their top story.  So with bated breath I waited.  It wasn't the top story.  Or the 2nd, or the 3rd.  It was the 4th story, and after an ad break!

Well, I thought, they must be going to prop Laurie Oakes up in his chair from Canberra to make the announcement of this momentous 'Exclusive'.

Thus it was to my ultimate bewilderment when, after the ad break, I, the viewer, was informed that this new 'Broken Promise' of the PM referred to the fact that Kevin Rudd had said to Dr Richard Phillips of Hornsby Hospital in NSW, in January this year, that he would visit the Public Hospital which Dr Phillips administers, and check out its dilapidated state of repair. Well, now for the scandalous part. By gum, it's June already and the Prime Minister has failed to keep his 'promise' to visit the run-down hospital, which we were shown in graphic detail, down to the last dust bunny in the corner of the wards.  We were then breathlessly informed, with a disapproving and disappointed tone in the voiceover from Peter Overton, that Dr Phillips had tried to contact the Prime Minister seven times already and had, as yet, not had the courtesy of one reply!

Now, this is where this story gets really interesting, and shows to me the extent to which media organisations in Australia are now attempting to manufacture the news and the political narrative, rather than simply reporting it.

As I said earlier, I was fully expecting this story to have been broken by Chief Political Reporter for Channel Nine News, Laurie Oakes.  He was nowhere to be seen.  Instead, this story was 'broken' by Ben Fordham, who, until as recently as last fortnight, had been a foot-in-the-door and ambulance-chasing 'journalist' (and I use the term advisedly), and fill-in compère of 'A Current Affair'!  Which is not to say that he doesn't have what it takes to be a serious political journalist, just that, looking at this specific example, that is not how his role is being developed by Channel Nine with respect to his political reporting.  Instead, what his presence on the federal political scene has heralded is the era of ‘Gotcha! Politics’, and the appearance on the scene of the ‘Gotcha!’ political journalist.

To see exactly what I mean I'll take you through the rest of the timeline of how this story unfolded.  So we started with the groundwork being laid by the newsreader, Peter Overton, creating, to me, a false impression that probably in parliament that day Kevin Rudd had been exposed by the Opposition, through forensic questioning in Question Time (well, you never know), as having broken another campaign promise.

Then, left to sit through the ad break we were left  on tenterhooks to reflect upon and reinforce to ourselves the meme of 'Rudd Government broken promises', which, to my mind, serves to build on the sense of resentment the electorate feels towards the PM and his government because of this.  At which point, after the ad break was over and the suspense had been built up sufficiently, the political ground tilled and fertilised, we were finally made privy to the story.  However, instead of a story from Canberra, we were dished up one which had been totally confected by Channel Nine News, their 'Exclusive', as they would have it styled, in cahoots with a doctor from Hornsby Public Hospital, and, I would not be surprised one bit to find out, with the federal Member for Berowra in the House of Representatives which covers the area in which Hornsby Hospital is located, one Phillip 'The Cadaver' Ruddock, and the Liberal Party of NSW.  For, as it turned out, this 'Exclusive' was a total tabloid current affairs-style beat-up, and Ben Fordham (son of media industry veteran and heavyweight, John Fordham), was just the man for the job, as the story mirrored exactly the confected outrage that 'A Current Affair' and 'Today Tonight' specialise in.  Except this time they weren't just attempting to scandalise over a dodgy Used Car Salesman, they were attempting to ensnare the Prime Minister of Australia in a totally contrived controversy of their-own mischievous making.

But Wait. There's more!

Following the Tabloid TV-esque wonky and gloomy and shaky hand-held camera shots of the dust bunnies and Band Aids holding together light switches above walls with crumbling painted surfaces, we had the extended interview with Dr Phillips himself, which, we were told, Channel Nine was 'privileged' to have been given (!?!) by the good doctor. Cough.

In exasperated tones, with appropriately stern and concerned expressions on the face of Master Fordham, we were informed by Dr Phillips that he had contacted the PM seven times since January about keeping his 'promise' to visit the hospital, and he had not yet received one reply from the PM or his office!

So, now we had not only the magnification of the 'Broken Promise' meme, but also the 'Imperious PM and Non-Responsive Office' characterisation tacked on for extra effect.

Guess what happened next?

Ben Fordham popped up in the Canberra press pack at the PM's Presser to announce that Paid Parental Leave had finally been passed by Parliament.

Guess what Ben Fordham asked about?

You got it.  Nothing to do with PPL, and everything to do with the PM's 'Broken Promise' with respect to Dr Phillips!  Groan. 

However, and thank goodness for the PM and his very smart 'Junior Woodchucks', they had come forearmed with the facts to this particular fight.  When Master Fordham, who seemed to have a camera team all to himself in tow, asked why the PM hadn't responded to the seven!!! requests from Dr Phillips to keep his promise, made back in January, to visit Hornsby Hospital, the PM calmly explained back to 'Master of the Universe' Fordham, that six of those seven communications had been via Twitter(!!!), and one by E-mail, which was the most recent, and which had been responded to promptly, with a visit having now been tee'd up to go and take a look at Hornsby Hospital.

Well, you'd think that that would've been enough to put Master Fordham and Channel Nine back in their boxes, the shallowness of their case having been exposed for the sham it was.  Well, you would be wrong.  This is the foot-in-the-door brand of political journalism that is being worked up here.  No backward steps are ever to be taken.  Instead, you take the response you have been given by the PM and develop a new line of condemnation and censure out of it.  'If at first you don't succeed...', and all of that.

I tell you, I sat there gobsmacked in front of my TV, as all this played out in front of me, on what is supposed to be the 6 pm NEWS Bulletin.  Because, as I said, Channel Nine weren't going to be satisfied here for one minute with their 'get' of the PM 'failing' to keep his 'promise' to visit Hornsby Hospital, and the implication that he had been dodging it because he would rather be seen only in neat and clean hospitals, as opposed to being filmed in a run-down hospital. No, it was onwards and upwards with the next condemnation to be heaped upon the 'beleaguered Prime Minister'. 

Wait for it.  This one is a doozy.

Channel Nine heaped outrage on top of scorn, due as a result of the PM's 'Broken Promise', because Kevin Rudd does not personally reply to every Tweet he gets on Twitter from twits like Dr Phillips!

Well I never!  The Prime Minister should be sacked forthwith!  I mean, the Premier of NSW, Kristina Kenneally had just the other day participated in a Twitter Debate, doncha know?  Ergo, communication by Tweet has now thus been legitimised, and the Prime Minister of this country ought to therefore be held to account for not responding to each and every one of his importuning constituents Tweets in real time.

How patently absurd and contrived!  But instructive, as it should, and probably has, put up in neon lights in the PM's office, just what lengths media organisations in this country are prepared to go to to trip up Kevin Rudd, using the tools of the new Web 2.0 media, and also the depths to which they are prepared to sink, in order to lay a trap for our good and kind-hearted, reformist PM, and to give the Press Gallery's pro forma anti-Rudd memes and mischaracterisations credence.

We therefore need to be alert and alarmed (ha, ha) about the new 'Gotcha Politics'.  Thus I put out a 'Call to Arms' to fellow Swordians to monitor this new development in their own media backyards and join with me in documenting each and every instance of this new type of political journalism, as I fear we haven't seen the last of it, and I doubly fear that the Liberals are behind it as well, as they seem to have vacated the floor of parliament in order to take their battle for the hearts and minds of the electorate four square into the media, with the media's help and complicity.

I don't like it!

And this woman knows all about the skullduggery, with the aid of the media, that the Liberal Party is capable of: I don't like it!  


Who cares about the next Newspoll?

Certainly those at The Australian newspaper do.  After all, they own Newspoll, and say they understand it better than anyone.  But there’s more – they value it as a heavy political weapon with which they flail this nation’s Prime Minister even when the poll shows only a modest decline in his popularity or his party’s polling, or even if his opponent has gained some ground, or even if the poll figures haven’t changed – then he is not making headway.

Does anyone else care?  Yes, political journalists, and not just those at News Limited, find excitement at any hint of an adverse movement.  It gives them an eagerly seized opportunity to critically analyse the meaning of the movements and the reasons behind them.  For this it seems they require little knowledge of statistics as evidenced by some of their innumerate and illogical conclusions.  Fortunately we have competent statisticians such as Possum on Pollytics who can put us straight.  Apart from their statistical analysis though, it’s their notion of what the stats mean that gives them free rein to put whatever interpretation on them they wish – in Alice in Wonderland style, ‘stats can mean whatever they want them to mean’.  Dennis Shanahan, The Australian’s commentator-in-chief on Newspoll, has a well earned a reputation for that.

Of course, as far as News Limited is concerned, no other poll can hold a candle to Newspoll.  Although their outlets will publish Nielsen poll results and its other favoured pollsters – Galaxy and Westpoll – so long as the results are adverse to the Government, it is rare for any News Limited outlet to mention Morgan polls, which have been around for much longer than the others, and the newer poll, Essential Media.  They get a guernsey only when their results are bad for Kevin Rudd and the Government.

But Newspoll is now being used in another way – as an anti-Rudd warhead to prospectively strike at him.  Take a look at what Peter van Onselen had to say in The Australian on June 14 in Rudd has a week to shape up: “Next week opens with another Newspoll and its findings - Labor's primary vote as well as the Prime Minister's personal ratings - will determine whether passive concern about Rudd's performance turns into active lobbying for Gillard to take over. So far, the powerbrokers are unmoved, but they will closely watch Newspoll before re-evaluating their positions.”  He concludes confidently: “Although Rudd does have options to remain master of his own destiny, he must face up to the disempowering reality that his survival until the next election is largely out of his hands.  Rudd's future is beholden to the decision his deputy makes, and the way the polls fall. That is a far cry from the all-conquering hero who beat Australia's second-longest-serving prime minister less than three years ago.”  Note the phrase ‘the way the polls fall’.  Don’t be taken in though, Vex News puts paid to van Onselen’s predictive brilliance in Peter van Onselen: political scientist or quack Read it for a sobering laugh.

Dennis Shanahan makes this comment on June 12 in The Australian in Change in the air as Labor thinks defeat“Rudd is not the only Labor MP contemplating a first-term loss. The polling universally has Labor's primary vote in the 30s and desperately relying on an unrealistically high Greens vote of 16 per cent to deliver enough second preferences to ward off defeat. There is ample polling to suggest Labor could lose enough marginal seats in Queensland alone to lose the election.” and “Another Labor MP summed up the Newspoll surveys in nine Labor-held marginal seats in the resources states of Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia, showing a 26 per cent shift in the way people were likely to vote at the next election: ‘Those numbers give Rudd about a month as leader…before he's replaced’." 

In both these instances Newspoll is quite extravagantly being given stature it cannot deserve.

The problem Labor has is that News Limited, and indeed journalists generally, have elevated opinion polls, and particularly Newspoll, to the status of reliable predictors of political outcomes, despite the fact that their predictive consistency is questionable.  So they dwell breathlessly on each new Newspoll and immediately make judgements about what it means for the Government.  All other factors, such as past accomplishments, current policy initiatives and plans for the nation, have been relegated to insignificance against the power of Newspoll.

So what should we, who have no vested interest in Newspoll, react when it arrives?  How much credence should we give it?  How much predictive power should we attribute to it?  In my opinion, we should ignore it.  It's just another opinion poll.  That is easier said than done, as we know those who have a vested interest in it will ascribe great significance to it. 

What should we expect it to say?  Given the Nielsen poll of last week where Labor was well behind, and the modest leads Labor has in the latest Morgan and Essential Media polls, can we expect the next Newspoll to be significantly different?  No.  So let’s not get exercised if it looks much like the current run of polls.  Don’t be put off by the van Onselen assertion that the next Newspoll will have profound implications for Rudd’s future.  Knowing that there is unlikely to be any great improvement in Rudd’s or Labor’s ratings by next week, he is setting the scene for another article – ‘Rudd makes no headway’ ‘Labor bogged down with record low primary vote’, or ‘Rudd continues to slide’; certainly not ‘Rudd rebounds’.  We can see it coming Peter and know you will use it to polish your guru status.  Remember though that you’ll have plenty of competition for top guru position from Dennis Shanahan, Glenn Milne, Andrew Bolt and a bevy of like-minded writers.

It is plain as a pikestaff that there is in progress a slow but unremitting political assassination of this nation’s leader by large sections of the media – the Murdoch media, the Murdoch influenced ABC, by some independent journalists, and by a horde of venomous anti-Rudd bloggers who inhabit sites such as those run by Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman, Glenn Milne and the like.  Even moderate journalists attract the same vitriol to their own sites.  The level of antagonism, hatred and malevolence is frightening.  They are determined that Rudd must be defeated, and Labor defeated with him and exiled to the opposition benches for a decade.  One has only to look at the daily media to see this in abundance. On Gutter Trash, reb asks: Is The Australian running The Country? and cites some evidence that it thinks it is or believes it ought to be.

For a man who has enjoyed record levels of popularity ever since he became Opposition Leader, why has there been this dramatic turn around?  Most observers attribute this largely to Rudd’s deferral of the ETS until the end of the current Kyoto agreement that expires at the end of 2012.  Others believe his suspension of processing of Afghan and Sri Lankan refugees has been a factor.  Those are plausible explanations for the loss of support of a group of Labor voters who hold those actions as reprehensible and who have fled to the Greens.  In a May 10 piece: The folly of putting a politician on a pedestal I suggested that high, sometimes unrealistic expectations have been placed on our leader and that when circumstances result in these expectations not being fulfilled, understandably there is bitter disappointment.  But this doesn’t explain the extreme venom, hatred and ridicule that is being heaped on Rudd’s head.  Disappointment, even disillusionment is understandable, not hatred and loathing.  I believe there is an entirely different reason for this.

Those who exhibit these unpleasant attributes will quote as justification for their position what they see as Labor’s many failings – insulation and BER problems plus a long list of misdemeanours that they have collected as boilerplate to trot out on every occasion.  But there’s more to it than that.  Misdemeanours, even incompetence, do not warrant hatred and loathing.  These wholly unworthy attitudes do not result from mistakes no matter how grievous they are painted to be. 

I believe they result from Kevin Rudd’s refusal to comply with the media’s narrative that a leader, while entitled to a brief honeymoon, is definitely not entitled to a prolonged one, one that goes on at near stratospheric levels for almost three years.  Repeated predictions from the likes of Dennis Shanahan, Glenn Milne, Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt that the Rudd honeymoon was over, or almost over, or about soon to be over came to nothing for three long years.   Rudd orbited high above them, defying their predictions and showing scant respect for their judgements, for them as journalists, and for their media outlets.  He incurred their intense wrath for showing them to be repeatedly wrong, and for showing well-earned disdain for them, their editors and their papers.  There are few situations that evoke as much anger, even loathing, as being shown to be wrong again and again, and being treated with contempt in the process.  Now that the honeymoon has at long last come to an end, revenge is what they want.  They want to rub the nose of this loathsome Rudd in the dirt and keep doing so until they smother him politically or until their desire for retribution is satiated, whichever is sooner.  They show no sign of relenting.  They are going in for the kill – they must, for should Rudd rise phoenix-like once more, should he defy their predictions of and desire for his political annihilation, that would be a supreme affront to them.  It would heighten their anger and frustration and intensify their loathing.  Life would be intolerable.  So it is a fight to the death.  Someone has to lose.  Fearful it may be them, they are determined it will be Rudd and Labor.

To return to “Who cares about the next Newspoll?”, we know who does, who desperately want it to be poor for Rudd and Labor, who want it to confirm the narrative they are creating of a decaying, incompetent, useless, do nothing Government with a hopeless leader that must be removed for the sake of the country; but most of all they want at long last to enjoy the retaliation and the vengeance they have for so long waited.  

Let’s not be sucked into the vortex they are creating.  Let’s not expect much from the next Newspoll, and let’s anticipate a continuation of trenchant criticism and prophesies of doom and gloom for Rudd and Labor from the usual suspects. 

But let’s rise above the clamour and look to the future when the RSPT is settled, the election campaign is under way, the Government’s achievements and plans are there for all to see, Tony Abbott’s policies are on display and his extreme views exposed, and well prepared ads are appearing to inform the electorate.  To use expressions journalists so enjoy, let’s wait for that ‘circuit breaker’ which will change the ambience, give some ‘clear air’, provide some ‘oxygen’ and set a path for the re-election of the Rudd Government that has still much to accomplish in reforming and rejuvenating our nation that was let down during the Howard years when the reforms in health, education, industrial relations, infrastructure and tax that were needed for the growth and prosperity of our country, were ignored.

What do you think?

The media’s specifications for an Australian PM

First, it must be understood that it is the media who will shape the Prime Minister of this nation.  It is to the media that he or she must answer.  It will decide which of the contenders should be elected, and how the one so crowned should govern.  If the public can understand that, everything else makes sense.

So it is appropriate that those who might aspire to that highest of high offices understand what attributes they must exhibit, what the media requires of them, and how they must behave – in other words their job specification.  Go along compliantly and success is assured.

The media’s news’ specifications

As the controlling influence in matters of political discourse and action, the media’s news and current affairs requirements head the list of specifications. 

The media insist on the following:

The Prime Minister must be available to the media whenever it demands.  News and current affairs programmes need constant feeding.  So doorstops, calls for interviews, and requests for press statements must be complied with immediately – the media has no time to waste.

Although the media has created the feeding frenzy of the daily media cycle and requires it to be satiated hour by hour, it reserves the right to lampoon the PM for complying with that cycle and will indict him for ‘obsession with the media cycle’, and if the PM actually seeks out the media, it will assume he is in ‘panic mode’.

The PM must be ready to answer any question, no matter how obstruce, no matter how rudely put, no matter how irrelevant to the matter in hand.

The PM must never ‘lose his cool’, refuse to answer a question, challenge the interviewer, answer back the interrogator or suggest that a question is stupid, even if it is.  Otherwise the media will retaliate by accusing the PM of ‘a meltdown’, ‘losing it’, or ‘unable to take the heat’.

Questions that require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer must receive them without delay, without preamble, and without obfuscation. 

‘Will you guarantee’ questions must be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without equivocation.  The media needs these on record so they can be quoted back at the PM at any time.

No questions will be permitted to be ‘taken on notice’.  The PM must be fully familiar with all matters at all times, no matter how trivial, no matter how complex, no matter how recent, and be able to deliver cogent answers immediately.

The answer to questions must be brief yet detailed enough for even the most ignorant to understand.  On no account must the PM bore the audience with prolixity; repetitive phrases such as ‘working families’, ‘in the national interest’ and ‘for the future’ must be avoided no matter how relevant to the subject, and replies must fit into the media’s need for short grabs.  However, snappy phrases such as ‘great big new tax’ are permissible provided they come from the Opposition.

Colloquialisms or phrases such as ‘you know something’, or ‘the overwhelming majority of mainstream voters’ or ‘I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t’, and obscure, antediluvian phrases such as ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle’, are such anathema to journalists they must be avoided.  If repeated often enough they will result in extreme distress and annoyance to them, and for the obsessive among them, a counting frenzy. Journalists are under enough stress; they must not be subjected to such gross and unnecessary mental trauma.

If questions are not being answered to the satisfaction of the journalist, the answer will be interrupted, rudely if necessary, to get the answer the interviewer wants and needs for his media outlet.  The interviewer’s ego has to be protected and his need for a scoop respected.

Should the PM refuse to answer as required by the media, the most uncomplimentary photos or video clips of him will be used to accompany any reportage of the event.  With rapid-fire or video cameras it is easy to produce appalling images, which can be stored in perpetuity for later use, even if not actually taken at the event being reported.

Interviews should be held in conditions congenial to the media at a time suitable to journalists, be of a correct duration for the journalists, and concluding in good time for the media’s deadlines.  Announcements after the close of play, such as on Friday evenings or at weekends are taboo and will be interpreted by the media as a cynical attempt to 'cover up' unpleasant news.

Interviews in front of churches or religious places must be avoided, but those in sporting precincts, on beaches or in cycling contests are permissible as they are in tune with this country’s sporting orientation, provided of course that the media does not categorize them as ‘flagrant photo opportunities’ seized by the PM for political purposes.

The PM must not repeat the same ‘message of the day’ on different outlets or for different audiences, as the media has the capacity to juxtapose these utterances into a collage that will be used to mock the PM for repetitiveness.  Nor must ministers do likewise, or the media will castigate the Government for being in the thrall of its media advisers, otherwise known as ‘junior woodchucks’.

The PM has no right to challenge the accuracy of journalists’ reporting of media events – they are professionals who know how to get the story right. Such challenges will be ignored, and in the unlikely event they are valid, any apology, if considered appropriate at all, will be placed where few will see or hear it.

The media’s image building of the PM

The media require a certain type of person as PM.

He/she must comply with the following:

The PM must be acceptable in appearance: preferably a George Clooney or 007 clone, with the bearing of Clint Eastwood, or of Julie Andrews solidity or Angelina Jolie beauty.  Resemblance to a dentist, wearing square glasses, a nerdy look, a cartoon character look-alike, bushy eyebrows or a protruding lower lip, a bald scalp or too much hair, while the delight of cartoonists, are not what is required of the leader of a rugged nation.

The PM must avoid any language that any citizen might find unpleasant, yet still portray the ‘where the bloody hell are you’ image.  Any instance of bad language will be archived for repetitive use.

The PM must have an impeccable past history with no trace of misdemeanor, especially visiting undesirable places or associating with undesirable individuals. Any such instances will be raised as often as necessary to demean the PM, as is the media’s right.

The PM must paint a stunning vision of the nation’s future, express that in a compelling policy narrative, announce it with soaring oratory, and carry out all moves towards that vision with assurance, determination, meticulous planning and with careful use of scarce resources, and deliver it in full, on time and on budget, and with no administrative stuff-ups on the way, no matter what exigencies complicate the process.  The PM must stick to policy; to do otherwise will properly evoke the accusation that it is another instance of him putting ‘politics ahead of policy’, although the media’s interest is really in the former.  The media will always decide which is which.

The PM must express unequivocally ‘what he stands for’, but the media reserves the right to discount that, lambaste him should he abandon any of what he says he stands for, yet criticize him as stubborn or ill advised if he sticks determinedly to it.  Any deviation from what he stands for will be attributed to defects in his ‘character’.

The PM must never make promises that cannot with utmost certainty be honoured. Even if stated only as intentions they will be interpreted by the media as promises since the media needs as many ‘broken promises’ as it can muster to flesh out its stories.

The PM must never change his mind about anything, no matter how much circumstances have changed.   The media will label any change of mind or direction, no matter how justified by the prevailing situation, as a ‘back flip’ with or without double pike, a ‘turn-about’, an ‘about-face’, a ‘U-turn’, and of course a ‘broken promise’. Whatever the PM says will happen, must happen, and even in the event a change of mind or direction is the sensible thing to do, the media reserves the right to lambast the PM for not changing, for being stubborn, not listening to the public clamor, or being blind to reality.

The PM must tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth at all times – truth being defined as what the media deems to be true.  No matter how important it may be to keep confidences of national importance or those arising from cabinet discussions or confidential documents, the PM must not avoid answers or deflect questions or tell a porkie.  Be sure, the media keeps very careful records of every word uttered or written by a PM, and will quote them back at him when it suits its purpose.  However, the media is under no obligation to verify the truth of anything it reports that emanates from third parties.

The PM must accept any and all criticism of his intentions, actions and achievements with equanimity, recognizing it is the media’s right, indeed responsibility to hold the PM to account at all times over all matters, and that any citizen, no matter how ill-informed, is entitled to criticize the one elected to hold the highest office in the nation and be quoted in the media.

The PM must accept that criticisms are warranted for any defect in policy implementation no matter how outstanding and worthy the accomplishments of the policy are.  The media reserves the right to repeatedly apply to such defects descriptors such as ‘flawed’, ‘bungled’, ‘debacle’, and the like.

The PM must not overwork or sacrifice sleep– it should be possible to govern a country of 22 million people during regular working hours, with plenty of time for sport, relaxation and a cold beer.

A PM must never do his block at staff even when they stuff up.  Anger and bad language is taboo, but copious quantities of political passion are essential.

He must never overwork his staff, who are entitled to a decent night’s sleep and seeing their kids occasionally, yet not employ too many and willfully waste the country’s money.  The business of government should be achievable at a leisurely pace with minimal staff – what can’t be done today can wait until tomorrow.  Nonetheless the PM must fulfill the expectations of all interest groups in the community, even if they are in conflict, and all citizens generally. 

In meeting the diverse needs of the community, the PM must not show signs of populism or indulge in pork barreling; every move must be justifiable in the court of public opinion and of course to the media, which governs public opinion.

The PM, no matter how well endowed intellectually, must not exhibit this, as it will be seen as conceit.  A ‘too-smart-by-far’ aura or ‘the smartest person in the room who can solve any problem’ air is particularly taboo.  A knock-about sporting image is to be preferred.

As the media has journalists of great experience, unlimited wisdom and penetrating insight into all matters political, even among its junior contingent, it reserves the right to criticize any government initiative, point out its obvious flaws, suggest more appropriate alternatives and recommend to the PM how he should proceed on any matter.  These opinions will be expressed with the assurance of always being right.

The PM must be careful when writing in the media not to express beliefs, attitudes, conclusions and intentions, as this is pretentious.  It is particularly ostentatious to cite a role model, especially if that person comes from a religious background.  Such writings will be subject to scrutiny, criticism and ridicule by the experts who write in the media, whose understandings surpass any understanding a PM might have.  With a few notable exceptions, the media’s economics correspondents, despite their consistent inability to agree on almost anything, will make their assessments in condemnatory terms should the PM trespass onto their sacred turf.

The PM must be able to explain even the most complex matters with crystal clarity and searing simplicity that will inform and convince even the most ignorant, disinterested and biased members of the community.

The PM must be able to negotiate brilliantly and swiftly with any group in the community, no matter how self interested they are, no matter how well-heeled and able to throw vast resources into the negotiation, no matter how complicated the issue, and come up with solutions acceptable to all, so there are winners all round.

The PM must use existing media outlets to promulgate Government messages.  The use of new-fangled social networks is to be deplored.  Ads are the lifeblood of the print and electronic media and should be used liberally, no matter what spurious arguments are advanced by do-gooders to restrict Government advertising.  Without ads, print media will die, all the editorial wisdom it offers will be lost, and media empires that gainfully employ so many will collapse – to use a common expression, ‘thousands of jobs will be lost’.  Notwithstanding this, the media reserves the right to severely criticize Government attempts to inform the public about its policies at taxpayers’ expense, and will condemn such attempts as ‘flagrant advertising’.

The media’s right to determine the next Government

Since it is the media, so much better informed than the electorate, that determines who will be the next PM and the next Government, what it says must be addressed.  The media, in its role of kingmaker, must be listened to carefully and followed without question.

It is the right of the media to dredge up any matter repeatedly, no matter how remote, no matter how inconsequential, to put down the person is does not want as PM and the right to foster the media-preferred candidate no matter how politically unsuitable or how poorly supported by political colleagues.

The media is entitled to mount any campaign, no matter how disingenuous, it deems necessary to denigrate, diminish and eventually dismiss the current PM in favour of a preferred successor.  No limits will be imposed on the rhetoric, the evidence used, the past history raked up, to achieve this aim.  Persistent leadership speculation, which is a tried and true media method for destabilizing a leader the media wishes to replace, will be used unremittingly.

The media will use polling data that its outlets generate to prosecute its case for dismissing a PM and installing another.  Such data are powerful if used as a heavy weapon to diminish an incumbent, and will be used relentlessly until the desired outcome is achieved.

The media is entitled, indeed has the responsibility, to kill off politically any PM it deems no longer suitable for its purpose.  By doing so the media knows it will have served the community well, while of course carefully looking after its own vested interests.

The media’s rights and responsibilities

All of the above is premised on the media’s unalienable right to determine who is best qualified to lead this nation, who is most likely to fulfill the media’s agenda, who is most likely to comply with the media’s requirements.  It is based on the concept of the media and its journalists being the story rather than the events that the media report. Its purpose is to maintain its influence over the hearts and minds of the people.

The pen is mightier than the sword.  The media reigns supreme!

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin.

My heart is breaking. With the release of the latest Nielsen Poll a dagger has truly been inserted into my heart, not of the RSPT, politically-opportunistic kind which Tony Abbott squawks about, a sentiment of his that actually runs counter to the national interest when you think about it closely enough, but instead the dagger which has also plunged through the heart of the Rudd government this week as a result of those dreadful poll numbers, and which appears to be causing it to bleed to political death before our very eyes. The knives are out and they are being waved around and thrust at the Rudd government with gay abandon, causing them untold damage.The polls are indicating an electoral bloodbath is on the cards if the Rudd government, and Kevin Rudd in particular, don't figure out how to staunch the flow of political blood, and we'll be going to their political funeral if they don't move quickly and decisively to figure out what to do to save themselves from this poll-based attack, and standing in the electorate's estimation that it represents.  They must take pre-emptive action to inoculate themselves from further daggers aimed their way in the future.

So, for what it's worth I'd like to offer them my diagnosis of the problem and my 2c-worth of advice on what the cure should be.

Firstly, the problems as I see them from out here in ConcernedVoterLand.

The nation wants a Prime Minister.

Well, you might say, we've got one, and his name is Kevin Rudd. However, that's not what I mean.

Let me explain it this way. The other afternoon I was listening to the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks, on the PBS Newshour, about the issues of the week in American politics. They were discussing the leadership style of President Obama with respect to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill crisis. David Brooks said he thought the President was doing OK because his quality of being cool in a crisis was coming to the fore. Mark Shields, who is the Democrat-leaning commentator, begged to differ. He said that not only do the people want a Commander-in-Chief at times like this, but they also want a 'Comforter-in-Chief'.  That is, they want their leader to emote their fears and frustrations, and articulate their impotent rage in this situation, and their hopes and desires in general.  I guess what he was getting at was they want their leader to be the lead actor in the ongoing political play, and to give an Oscar-winning performance.

Which is where Kevin Rudd appears to be falling down. It seems to me that the PM is singularly unable to appropriately emote and empathise convincingly. According to the gist of David Marr's Quarterly Essay, which I heard being discussed on the radio, the emotional trauma that our Prime Minister suffered in his very early life has had the effect of cauterising his ability to display emotion openly and lay himself bare to the public, in public. Hence the bland, a-motional, diplo-babble speaking PM we see before us on a daily basis.  It's a sight that doesn't warm the cockles of people's hearts, to be sure, as the polls are suggesting. It may also help to explain that, even though many people recognise that Tony Abbott has a screw loose, they are still warming to him more than Kevin Rudd. He is able to push a cut-through message in a way that the PM cannot. He has the 'Ordinary Joe' shtick down pat, and he knows how to leverage other anti-Rudd government animus to his advantage. Although, to be fair, I don't think that the PM has developed a black heart of darkness, no matter what David Marr says about his 'inner anger', which I perceive in Tony Abbott.  On the contrary, I think the PM's demeanour is a function of his essential shyness and the carapace that he has had to build up like an exoskeleton to protect him from the slings and arrows of his life's outrageous misfortunes, with which we are all familiar.

Which is by no means to say that the electorate is going to give him a Leave Pass on that basis and allow him to go to the election unreconstructed.  It won't.  And they are letting him know in no uncertain terms, via the polls, that they want change from him, and they want it yesterday.

Luckily, the view is out there still that Tony Abbott is a positively 'creepy' alternative to a lot of people (thanks goes to one of the ABC 'Knit In' attendees for that descriptor). Thus the PM and the party have to tip the balance of public opinion more that way and away from a growing accommodation of a politically punch drunk, politically-opportunistic, political pugilist prepared to grasp at any straw in the wind affecting his political antenna, as his running, jumping, standing still political persona careens like a whirling dervish across the Australian political landscape, all colour and movement, but no substance.

However, all is not yet lost for the PM and his government.  Though, I must add that from what I heard of the interview that Lyndal Curtis did with the PM on AM on Monday morning, Kevin Rudd may find it hard to pivot and change his verbal style. As he was continuing along his merry prolix way (who would have thought that replacing the similarly loquacious Kim Beazley with Mr Rudd would have seen us where we are today as far as the verbal styling of his successor goes?), he was unable to deviate from his message, recited parrot-fashion into the microphone, with no mental flexibility apparent due to an acknowledgement of external realities manifest to him contemporaneously, as a result of how the interview panned out.

Maybe he was unable to acknowledge the external reality of the polls and what they meant for him, personally, because he would have woken up to them after his standard 3-5 hours of sleep that night, and it was taking him a while to get up to speed strategically.  Which is Problem #1 as I see it.  He's not getting enough sleep and it shows with respect to how quickly he is able to react to events and think strategically about them and make plans to remedy problems, not just go on in an automatic fashion, which is the way you behave when you are sleep-deprived.

It is a cardinal rule in our house, you have to get your correct amount of sleep at night, or your performance will suffer the next day. There's no two ways about it. It has been scientifically proven, again and again.  Or, if he can't get more sleep and break the habit of a lifetime, then he must switch off from doing all that his job entails sooner at night than he does at present.  He'll be amazed at the difference it will make to his performance, and his ability to think more clearly and more quickly on his feet, because it's as plain as the nose on his face that he's not doing that at the moment, unlike the nimble weathervane, the 'If You See A Chance, Take It' Man, Tony Abbott.

I know the PM is a thoughtful and considered man, with a heart of gold, who wants the best for each and every Australian. That is a given, and the electorate knows that. That's not the problem.  No, what he needs to do is stop, and smell the coffee (not keep drinking it!), and thoughtfully, and in a considered fashion, take stock of his personal inventory and resolve to change those parts of him that aren't selling well.  For his own good, for the good of the Labor Party, and for the good of the nation.  The polls are saying that the electorate doesn't yet think 'It's Time' for Tony Abbott the cynical populist, and his Conservative Christian Coalition to run the country. They are instead willing the ALP and Kevin Rudd to change tack and lift their game in order to win their affections back.

Maybe this might involve a change of leader, as Michael Pascoe postulated in the SMH think piece he wrote after the Budget: Julia for PM.

However, it's my considered opinion that, while that idea might have its merits, to do such a thing now would be akin to throwing the election baby out with the bathwater when it comes to solving the polling slump that the government are in right now.  Maybe it's an option for further down the track, after the election, and I think it would be contingent on the fact of the PM suffering a huge swing against him in his own electorate of Griffith.  So, let us put that idea to one side for the moment and concentrate instead on other options that might help plug the leaks in the Rudd Ship of State.

Throw open the doors of the Prime Minister's Office to all comers from the government, at least one day per week, or have an 'Open Mic' session whenever Caucus meets, from now until the election.  Be all ears and let your guard down and be open to substantial suggestions about ways to do things better, which can be achieved simply and quickly. (If you've had enough sleep you'll be able to sort the wheat from the chaff easily and quickly...OK, OK, that's the last time I'll mention it)

It's also obvious to me, and others, that the political neophytes, such as Lachlan Harris and Karl Bitar that are running the show now for the PM, just aren't cutting it against the political veterans such as Brian Loughnane, Tony Abbott, Phillip Ruddock and Andrew Robb from the Coalition; worthy as the ALP's aims are, and as unworthy as the Coalition's manufactured persona is. Old political warhorses from a bygone era they may be, but successful campaigners they also are, and their tactics must be dissected, countered, and neutralised more forcefully by the government.  So, swallow your pride Kevin, get on the phone to Labor's Elder Statesmen for advice, pronto! As Andrew Forrest has suggested, maybe you need to get Bob Hawke into the room with you and the Miners to hammer out an 'Accord' over the RSPT. However, most pointedly, get Paul Keating into the bunker with you. He could, I firmly believe, in the same way that John Howard appears to be doing with Tony Abbott, give you sage political advice, and a few memorable one-liners that would take the wind out of the Coalition's sails. What's more, he could teach you how to look like you were demolishing the Opposition with one hand tied behind your back, a look that is always productive electorally, you just have to cast your mind back to the political success that Peter Costello also had with this tactic to see that.

Which leads me to my second to last morsel of advice: Delegate! Delegate! Delegate!

It's not too late to let slip all of  the ALP's dogs of political war, and we all know who they are beyond the 'Kitchen Cabinet', which I pleasantly note has been sidelined in favour of more fulsome consultation with the greater Cabinet.  The ALP has some great campaigners, who are able to rally the electorate, if only given more than half a chance by the PM.  Rabble-rousers like Craig Emerson.  Cut-through communicators like Chris Bowen. Let Peter Garrett and Maxine McKew loose in the media more, they are both consummate media professionals. Simon Crean possesses the warmth that the PM and even the Deputy PM, don't, in a casual, fireside-chatty way.

It's worth a try anyway, as there is one thing I know for certain about John Howard, when the chips were down and he was down in the polls, there was no change to his political personality that was too out of character for him to make, in order to get back on the front foot politically and to the other side of the election successfully. No political horse that he wouldn't change midstream, without seeming to even get his feet wet, in order to freshen his appeal going into an election campaign.  He even adopted the mantle of a politician prepared to do something about Climate Change in order to try to get himself over the line again, even as his political death was nigh and obvious to all and sundry.  The electorate was always prepared to accept it, what's more, because the people believed he was 'a conviction politician', who once he had decided to do something would move political heaven and earth to make it happen, whether he believed in it or not, as his political antenna had picked up that that's what the electorate wanted.

So, at the very least, let's just say that, except for a few well-considered changes at the extremities, Kevin Rudd should stick with the RSPT and see it through to the end of the line, come hell or high political water. Engage better salesmen than him to sell it, which I am also pleased to see happening with the release this week of the RSPT ads, and use the issue to give him and his government some much-needed political momentum, and the courage to call the election and fight for the people's votes, with passion!  He has to remember he is no longer a diplomat, but a politician, so he better start acting like one.  Shrug off the carapace that is shielding shy Kevin from empathetically connecting to the electorate, and give the people some sugar!  As it was 'Sunrise' Kevin that won the 2007 election, not the First Secretary at Australia's Embassy in China.

I mean, that's all Tony Abbott has got.  He 'flicked the switch to vaudeville' the day he was elected Opposition Leader, and look how far it's got him in a very short space of time, paucity of policies and lack of compassion for his fellow human beings that aren't electorally advantageous to his cause.

So, my final word to the PM and Julia can been encapsulated in the song How to dance

'Dance!'   Ask the electorate to come dancing with you again.  I'm sure they'll say yes if you ask them the right way! 

Who’s winning the RSPT debate?

It’s now a month since the Henry Review was made public along with the Government’s decision to endorse an RSPT, although there were rumours that this was to be the case for weeks beforehand.  Where is the debate now? Who is winning?

It seems that although the Government was out of the blocks first with its messages, the miners have had more impact as far as one can judge from the MSM and the polls.  The critical question for the Government is how can it regain momentum and counter the mining industry’s strident opposition to the details of the RSPT?

The last piece Is it that hard to sell the RSPT? suggested that the Government was doing a poor job in selling its RSPT.  Today’s Nielsen poll, as dissected by Possum on Pollytics, confirms this, as does a Newspoll in marginal seats.  Today’s Essential Report too shows that the miners’ campaign is having more impact than the Government’s. 

Now the Government has begun TV promotion, which is bound to have greater impact. It badly needs something better than it’s had.  You can see two of the TV promotional pieces on Peter Martin’s blog site under At last - some good communication fromthe government about the RSPT.

The Government produced a specific paper on the RSPT – The Resource Super Profits Tax- a fair return to the nation that arose from the Henry Tax Review. I couldn’t find a publication date.  It is a typical Government paper couched in the precise and somewhat archaic language that bureaucrats use.  It is informative for those who seek the detail it contains, but not educational for the general public, as almost none would bother to read it through even if they were interested in the RSPT.  It is not until page 26 that the threshold at which the super profits kicks in is mentioned - the long-term bond rate.  Yet this is a crucial point in the debate.  Perhaps the most telling graph, one that makes the case for the tax, does not appear until page 10 and even then it is complicated by captions (LHS and RHS) for which no explanation is given.  While one cannot expect such a document to be a ‘sales pitch’, one specifically designedfor this purpose should have been prepared at the same time as selling the tax is as least as important as getting the details into the public domain.

I discovered today that the Government has a website A tax plan for our future Simpler. Fairer. Stronger. It says its commencement date for radio was May 29 and TV June 6.   This is the first time I’ve seen this website and I’ve been looking!  On a page headed Public Information Campaign there are videos (the same as those on Peter Martin’s blog site), and several audio pieces for use on radio. 

In contrast, let’s look at what the Minerals Council of Australia has on its website Keep Mining Strong, which has been around for a while – it doesn’t have a publication date either, so I don’t know when they put it up.  It is attractively set out and easy to navigate.  While few would bother, it is educational as well as informative, and has had a head start over the Government site.  The MCA’s press release sets out what it wants on the table for the RSPT discussions – everything.  It denies the oft-heard assertion from Treasury, Government and economists that there is a two-speed economy.

On a website addressing the RSPT directly, The Daily Bludge, J J Fiasson has an informative Mining Tax Facts Site.  It is well worth a visit.

That’s what the proponents and opponents say – what do the commentators say? There are many pieces – here is a selection.

Mark Bahnisch on Larvatus Prodeo on June 5 in What if the mining industry backsdown? concludes: If, say, the government agrees to exempt existing projects and fiddle a bit with the tax’s design, under the guise of the promised “generous transitional arrangements”, where will that leave Tony Abbott and the Coalition?”

In Shallow discourse in The Age on June 5, Shaun Carney opens: “Australia's political debate is more and more about slogans and marketing, and less and less about ideas.”  He sums up the RSPT debate with What we have with the resource rent tax battle is pretty simple: the elected government wants to change the tax system and an important, powerful, cashed-up section of industry wants to frustrate it.”  He laments “Australian voters do not seem happy and they do not seem particularly attached to the government. The nation escaped the recession that hit every comparable country and, according to the budget, the insurance bills will be paid within three years, but it's seemingly not enough.” He concludes: “This is why the mining companies' assault on the government's legitimacy - its right to set taxation - is so important.  If the companies prevail, it will be a powerful sign that our political systemis fragmenting, getting weaker, and governments in the future will be reform-free zones.”  We all ought to be concerned.  

Over at Larvatus Prodeo, picking up on Carney’s piece, on June 5 Mark asks Who governs Australia?  He begins: Much more is at stake in the noise around the RSPT than whether the mining industry ends up paying more tax. A whole host of serious public issues entwined with the proposal –including but not limited to the adequacy of our corporate tax architecture, the desirability of a two speed boom bust economy, an increase in workers’ superannuation, the need to invest in infrastructure, and the fly-in, fly-out regional economy – have been thoroughly obscured by the so-called ‘debate’. Each one of these inter-related questions needs serious consideration on its own, but none is receiving anything beyond an occasional distorted mention to serve the partisan needs of the almighty narrative.”  He refers also to an article by Tim Dunlop on The Drum on June 3 No-one is blameless in the current malaise, that concludes by sheeting home responsibility to the media: It lies with the media. To all intents and purposes they are the public sphere and until they do their job better, we won't get anywhere. What's more, they are the only ones with at least a theoretical commitment to disinterested discussion and objective assessment of the facts… 
A political media that reported honestly, eschewed excessive opinion and trivia, and openly apologized when they made errors of fact or interpretation, would start to buy back the trust they have lost and public discussion might move beyond he said/she said faux-journalism toward informed debate. They might even save themselves.  The media need to stop pretending they are separate from the issues they report on. More than any other institution, they set the terms and the tone for public debate. That's an enormous responsibility.”

Back at LarvatusProdeo in CFMEU on the anti-RSPTcampaign: “It’s going to ruin us!” Mark has an entertaining video that lampoons the ‘disaster’ the RSPT has been painted to be.

Turning to the miners’ campaign, Tony Maher in The Punch writes on June 4 Xstrata is just playing chicken with the Government. He debunks the Xstrata’s claims and concludes To blame yesterday’s job cuts at Ernest Henry on the RSPT– 24 months out from the reform’s scheduled introduction – is plain cruel to these workers, their families and communities.  Passing strange? Actually not that strange. Yesterday’s announcement is entirely consistent with Xstrata’s corporate modus operandi: cynical and money-grubbing. It’s what we expect, but disgraceful none-the-less.

We are told that tonight on Four Corners Clive Palmer admits that he’s not closing a mine in WA as he said a few days ago, but is just ‘slowing it down’ whatever that means!  This is the story in ABC North West WA

Writing on May 31 in The Age in Fear campaign on resources tax is a furphy John Perkins begins: The miners' raucous opposition willfully ignores the facts.” and concludes: By imposing a resource rent tax, Australia is right to show leadership as the major resource exporter. If they are governed rationally, other jurisdictions will follow suit. The miners should quell their raucous opposition. Australia should now join together with other resource-exporting countries to ensure that supernormal resource revenues are invested wisely for the future of the planet.”

At An Onymous Leftie on 4 June Jeremy asks Why’s the business lobby letting the mining companies try to kill their tax cut? He begins: This is what I don’t get about the RSPT and the accompanying 2% cut in the company tax rate proposed by the ALP: why aren’t the lobby groups for other businesses in Australia out there countering the mining companies’ shamelessly dishonest fear campaign?”

In The Age on June 5 in an article: Rudd has more to worry about than miners’ bluster, Peter Hartcher talks about Paul Howes’ entry into the RSPT debate and says: “Why does he think the Rudd government is in electoral danger? ‘I think the government has difficulty selling its achievements.’  For what it’s worth there is an accompanying online poll that indicates that of those polled 77% say the mining industry is winning the ‘public stouch’ over the proposed mining tax.  Hartcher, talking about the reforms Andrew Fisher achieved all those years ago concludes:This sort of real change will take years, and Rudd has only a few months. The Rudd government has not succeeded in explaining its accomplishments, and Rudd has destroyed the political identity which carried him into office. That's why being attacked by overblown miners is his best hope for a new, quick-drying political persona."

In Rudd needs to prove his mettle in tax fight Laurie Oakes in the June 5 issue of the Daily Telegraph agrees: The mining row is Rudd's chance to show some steel. And he is going flat-out to exploit it.”

In his 29 May piece in the Daily TelegraphMining new depths of political bastardry Oakes quotes Rory Robertson, a Macquarie Bank interest rate strategist. “In a recent report, Robertson wrote that miners were not paying their share because ‘flat-footed state governments were slow to adjust their royalties to take account of the surge in global prices’.  He spoke of ‘the basic logic’ of the Federal Government's approach, then proceeded to demolish one of the resources sector's key arguments - that the proposed tax is 'retrospective’.  After all, every city-based household knows that its rate payments will trend higher over time, even if the home was bought many years earlier. Owners of rural property know that the government rates and rents are linked directly to the latest assessed value of the property, and that if that value doubles, then payments to government will tend to rise.  Finally, those of us working over decades to build 'human capital' would struggle to argue with a straight face that any increase in income-tax rates is unfair because it is 'retrospective'."  Oakes concluded:“But the mining companies will not be concerned. Their campaign, after all, is primarily about their hip-pocket nerves.”

That’s enough to give you some flavor of the comments.  I trust you have found them informative.

Let me end by painting a picture of how I see the fight.  Imagine Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner standing on a street corner on their way to deliver what they regard as a beneficial package to the nation.  They are approached by a group of heavy well-heeled men armed with expensive but not lethal weapons who demand they drop the package or at least modify it to suit them.  They threaten to undertake a costly campaign to destroy the package.  The four resist and press on.  The large men become very angry – one of them almost explodes. 

On the sidelines there are some academic looking men who declare that the package is well thought out, fair and necessary.  The four quote them.  On the other side there are some well-dressed men who express doubts about the package in varying terms –some say it is deeply flawed and must be scrapped, that geese laying golden eggs will be destroyed, thousands of jobs will be lost, their endeavors will go overseas, the nation will be threatened by ‘sovereign risk’, and that if it is implemented life as we know it will change irrevocably and nationalization and even ‘communism’ might follow.  Others are more conservative, only saying that the implementation of the package has ‘left a lot to be desired’.  Most, but not all have mining connections.  The large men quote them.

Standing well back but urging them on is an angular man in a wet suit on his way to the surf who assures them he will stop the delivery of the package or will destroy it if they do get it through.  The miners see him as a useful accomplice to achieve their aims; they even hint they might throw him some funding if he continues his opposition to the package.  The angular man looks pleased and claps his hands.  He’s on a winner he thinks.  He hopes the confrontation will continue for a long while.  He enjoys a scrap.

But has he considered what he will do if the four reach an agreement with the big men and put down their weapons?


Is it that hard to sell the RSPT?

In the piece Why is a good Government down in the polls, several reasons for this state of affairs were proposed that included media malevolence, media manipulation, promises sometimes construed as being broken, less-than-perfect management of expectations, inadequate communication of policies, plans, actions and achievements, and less than clear definition of the principles on which the Government will stand firm.  This is the first of several pieces that suggest some remedies.

The last piece on the Resource Super Profits Tax, Getting some balance into the RSPT debate brought together a number of articles and documents that exposed different aspects of the RSPT.  This might have been helpful to the few who were sufficiently interested to plough through the detail, but of no interest to the bulk of the electorate who, if they want to know anything about the RSPT at all, certainly don’t want to delve into the complexities.  At the most they want a simple-to-understand explanation condensed into a few memorable dot points.

As mentioned in the piece Why is a good Government down in the polls, this Government has not done well in explaining its policies, plans and actions.  The ETS was not well explained and neither has been the RSPT.  Confidence in the merit of both has been eroded by the four-word negative Opposition slogan: ‘Great Big New Tax’.  That’s all many voters will have heard and they have naturally reacted to these policies negatively as is evidenced by the steadily falling support for an ETS, and only about 50/50 support for the RSPT, despite the latter being of such benefit to the majority of working Australians and small businesses.

The Government has embarked upon what the media and even some Government ministers have chosen to call an ‘advertising campaign’ to promote its RSPT.  In fact ‘advertising’ is a misnomer for what is for the Government, and indeed the mining industry, simply an information programme to educate people about what the RSPT proposes to achieve and its advantages according to the Government, and for the mining industry, the disadvantages of the tax from its point of view.  

Because the term ‘advertising’ has been used, a strident campaign has been launched by the Opposition and the media criticizing the Government for ‘breaking its own rules on advertising’ by having evoked ‘special circumstances’ as the reason for beginning it now, thereby circumventing the Independent Communications Committee.  Senior ministers have not evoked either of the two other reasons: ‘a national emergency’ or ‘a matter of extreme urgency’, as the Opposition and media maintain, although Special Minister for State Joe Ludwig is reported to have used the ‘matter of extreme urgency’ reason.  If that is so, and there are doubts about that, he should have been more careful and stuck to ‘other compelling reasons’, which is an accurate descriptor, as indeed there are compelling reasons for an immediate information campaign to counter the contemporary well-funded onslaught of the mining industry.  It’s another instance of the Government’s media unit mishandling what was bound to be a contentious campaign.  As a result Kevin Rudd has been lambasted up hill and down dale by the Opposition and the media for, in their opinion, breaking yet another promise, insisting that in the process he has further shredded his credibility.  

The whole episode could have been handled differently.  As the $38 million funding for the Government public information programme was already in the Budget, where incidentally it evoked no comment from the Opposition, and was therefore planned well in advance as a necessary component of the RSPT strategy, all that was necessary was to state that because of the heavily funded and pervasive campaign by the miners that was stridently spreading misinformation right now, it was necessary for the Government to bring forward the public information programme it had planned and for which it was already prepared, and that this pressing need constituted the ‘special circumstances’ that were sufficient reason for bypassing the usual Independent Communications Committee mechanism.  Talk about the Government making a rod for its own back.

So the Government public information programme began.  I haven’t seen TV or heard any radio promotion, but the newspaper campaign is less than impressive.  Although visitors to The Political Sword would likely read the full text, I expect most would glance only at the bold headings on the one page spread I read in the AFR:

A fairer tax on resources for a stronger economy

A fairer share, a stronger mining industry

Strengthening all sectors of the economy

Ongoing consultation with the mining industry, and

Get the facts.

Without the explanatory text in small print, these headings give only the most general idea of what the RSPT is all about, and certainly do not explain what the average citizen stands to gain.  Spreads in other papers have even less bold headings.  There must be a better way to inform the public. 

Why there is detail in the small print, probably far too much for most, and so little in the bold headings, may be a reflection of the mindset of senior ministers who favour detail over simplicity, probably to the chagrin of those who have been assigned the task of preparing the material.  It is a well known phenomenon in education that those who understand all the intricate details are often the least able to communicate them simply.  Moreover, a pedantic obsession with accuracy too often blunts the message.  There is a need to take a liberal approach that results in simple clear communication rather than detail that confuses.

Journalists have been singing in unison about how poorly the Government has sold its RSPT, repeating quips like ‘they couldn’t sell heaters to eskimos’, yet none, not one that I have seen, has made any suggestion about how the Government might improve the selling of its RSPT.  Frankly, they probably don’t know, and anyway its easier to criticize than give positive advice.

What follows is an attempt to capture, maybe in an amateurish way, the essential elements  of the RSPT that might ‘sell’ it to the average voter.  Your comments and suggestions for improving these points will be welcome.  Together, we might be able to assemble something that could be of value to the Government.  The dot points below are arranged in succinct lists under bold headings that could be used singly or in groups.

The central messages 

All Aussies own Australia’s minerals.

The miners are not paying enough for them in taxes.

A decade ago they paid 1 dollar in 3 of mining profits.

Now they pay only 1 dollar in 7.

We deserve a fairer share for our minerals.

The Government’s new Resource Super Profits Tax corrects this unfairness.

What’s happening now?

Miners pay royalties to the state government for what they dig up even before they make a profit.

This means they are paying during their set-up phase.

Then when they make a profit they also pay tax on that.

They pay company tax too.

The system is so complex that it is unclear what they are really paying.

They claim they are paying a lot - the Government says they aren’t.

The Government has shown they are not paying Australians a fair share.

Remember that once all the minerals are dug up and sold, there are no more.

So we need to get value for them NOW.

Some essential details about the RSPT

The RSPT is a fairer system for all.

First, it gives back to miners what they now pay the states in royalties.

Next, it allows them to deduct ALL expenses and special allowances before a profit is declared.

They pay NO tax on the first 6% of profits.

They pay 40% tax ONLY on profits above that 6% – ‘super profits’.

If they made $100 million profit, they pay no tax on the first $6 million.

They pay 40% tax on the remaining $94 million, that is, $37.6 million.

Therefore they keep $62.4 million out of $100 million profit – not bad!

All businesses have to pay taxes on their profits.

The miners should pay a fairer share.

How does the RSPT benefit ordinary Australians?

The income from the RSPT will be used to fund:

Better superannuation for all workers - from 9% to 12% of wages.  This will mean a 30 year old will have over $100,000 more super on retirement.

Easier tax returns for ordinary Australians.

For most individuals, no need to send in a tax return at all.

Automatic $1000 deductions for all.

Lower company tax - for small businesses this will occur soon.

Additional capital deductions for small businesses.

Infrastructure for business - road, rail and ports to transport its products.

The RSPT will make Australia’s economy stronger - that will benefit all Australians.

If the RSPT is blocked by the miners and the Opposition, all these benefits will be lost.

Who is running this country - the elected Government or the miners?

The RSPT helps the miners too 

The RSPT encourages miners by:
- underwriting their set-up costs by giving them a 40% rebate on their expenses,
- refunding ALL up-front royalty payments they make to the state.

Then they pay tax ONLY on their ‘super’ profits - those over 6%.

This is a fair scheme that supports miners before they become profitable.

And it taxes them ONLY when they do.

Myth-busting the many myths about the RSPT

Myth - The miners claim they saved Australia from recession.  Did they?  NO.

During the downturn they sacked over 15% of their workers - if the rest of Australia’s employers had done the same, unemployment would have reached 19%.

Myth - The  RSPT will impose 58% tax on miners.  NO it won’t.

Profits tax is paid ONLY on profits.  If no profit is made, no profits tax is payable.  That 58% figure is way too high.  It will likely be less than half of that.

Myth - The RSPT is a ‘dagger at the heart of the mining industry’.  NO it isn’t. 

It assists miners to establish new projects and taxes them only when a profit is made.  Leading economists have backed the RSPT.

Myth - Miners have said they will defer projects or take them offshore.   THEY HAVEN’T.

This threat is just part of the scare campaign.  Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Fortescue and other miners have made no changes to development schedules that collectively will add 200 million tonnes more for export by the middle of the decade.  

Myth - The RSPT constitutes a ‘sovereign risk’ to investment in Australia.  NO it doesn’t.

The mining sector is seeking to redefine the concept of ‘sovereign risk’ to something very different from the way it is generally understood. Typically, it is understood to relate to issues of conflict, corruption and expropriation in a country that would scare off investors, but now sections of the mining sector want us to believe that sovereign risk arises whenever there are tax changes the industry doesn't like.  It doesn’t. 

Myth -Tax on mining profits will drive up prices on everything.  NO it won’t.  

Tax on profits never do - this is basic economics.  All businesses pay tax on profits.  Economists insist the RSPT will not harm the economy.

Myth - The Government should have consulted with the miners before it announced the tax.  IT DID.

Miners made submissions to the Henry Tax Review.  THEY ASKED FOR A PROFITS TAX to replace the royalties system.

Myth - The miners are not being given a fair chance to express their views.  WRONG.

The Government is consulting with them RIGHT NOW and offering generous transitional arrangements to phase in the RSPT, WHICH DOES NOT KICK IN UNTIL 2011.

Modifications are possible, but the Government is sticking to its 40% tax rate on super profits.  That is fair to all Australians.

Myth - The tax is retrospective and that’s unfair.  NO IT ISN’T.

The miners want to pay the RSPT ONLY on NEW projects.  That is untenable - all tax changes apply to existing endeavours.  An established business pays tax on profits no matter what changes to tax rates are made - they would pay less if tax rates went down, so they pay more when they go up.  The new tax will NOT apply to past tax years.

Myth - The RSPT will reduce the value of mining shares and super funds.  NO it won’t.

The stock market goes up and down.  Recently the market went down because of uncertainties about economies in Europe.  All of the market went down, and mining shares with it.

Mining companies have unsettled the markets with their scare campaign; this has driven their own share prices down.

Despite some losses on mining shares many miners have bought millions more of their shares themselves, a sign of their confidence.

Mining shares will recover when the market does - this is happening already.

Why is the Government introducing an RSPT?

It is designed to benefit mining, especially exploration, to give Australians a fairer share of the bounty of the mining sector while our minerals last, to give benefits to working Australians, companies  and small businesses, to strengthen the economy, and to consolidate it for its long-term future.

Support it for Australia’s sake.

For those interested in further information on the RSPT, The Daily Bludge has a Mining Facts Sheet.  

So what do you think?  Clearly, to use all of the above at once would be overkill.  How would you use them?  How would you group them?  Do you think they convey the essential messages? Would they have more, or less impact than the Government’s information pieces?  Is there anything you would like added or deleted?

Finally, after we’ve all had a chance to mull over them and improve them, would it be worthwhile forwarding them to the Government’s media unit?