The Horcrux of the Matter

In the epilogue to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, the last book in the series about the wily young wizard, the author JK Rowling tells us that, after the demise of the evil Lord Voldemort, Harry and Ginny later get married and have three children. Similarly, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger tie the knot and they have two children.

However, the famous author didn’t reveal everything as, eventually, Ron, Hermione and their family later migrate to Australia (as ten-knut Poms).

Not long afterwards, a third little bundle of joy, Julia, arrives to further brighten the Weasley household down under. And the proud parents are delighted that Harry agreed to be the godfather of the newly hatched little witch.

Anyway, five or so years have passed since Julia was born and it is clear to everyone who meets her, she is quite the child prodigy. Harry, meanwhile, has been so busy cleaning up the mess caused by the now-deceased evil Lord Voldemort, he has never had the opportunity to visit Australia and catch up with his old friends. He decides it is time he went Down Under for a holiday. However, knowing that Ron and Hermione are interested in politics, he did a bit of research, before he left England, on recent Australian political developments.

So, eventually, he apparates, or hires a Concord broomstick, or whatever, and heads off to Australia for that well-earned holiday.

Everyone in the Weasley household is ever so pleased to see Harry and the three friends spend lots of hours reminding each other of the many good times, and the not-so-good times they had when they were fighting the Dark Lord. And, like any curious five-year-old, Julia listens in to the adult conversation, wide-eyed and gob-smacked at the fascinating tales surrounding the epic struggles her parents and “Uncle Harry” (as she called him) had against Lord Voldemort.

This particular evening, however, Ron and Hermione take advantage of Harry’s visit and go out for a few butterbeers at their local, the Spilling Billy-Can, leaving him to baby-sit the five-year-old Julia, who had been, that afternoon, at the beach, participating in her learn-to-swim program. Harry is reading the paper on the sofa, with Julia beside him. Julia recognises a man in swimming togs pictured on the front page.

Julia: Uncle Harry?

Harry: Ummm?

Julia: Uncle Harry...I saw that man at the beach today...

[Harry, caught up in reading an article about Rebekah “Bellatrix Lestrange” Brooks, merely gives Julia a patronising, “is that right”, before continuing with his reading. Julia, now bored stiff, heads off to bed. After a while, however, Harry hears a little plaintive cry from upstairs. “Uncle Harry...Uncle Harry...I’m frightened...” He bounds up the stairs and enters Julia’s bedroom. Lying in her bed, Julia’s long Weasley nose and red hair are silhouetted against the dim light emanating from her Kreacher the house-elf comfort lamp.]

Harry: What’s the matter, Julia – had a nasty dream?

Julia: Not really, Uncle Harry...it’s just that I saw something at the beach today that frightened me and I can’t get it out of my mind...The other kids were saying it was one of those hospital crutches that you, mum and dad used to fight against in the olden days...

[Harry is wondering to himself: “whatever is Julia talking about – hospital crutches...hospital crutches...mmmm...”

Just then, Harry has a eureka moment as it dawns on him what she is referring to.]

Harry (triumphantly): Oh, you mean HORCRUXES, Julia! Now, don’t you worry your little head about them...Your Mum and Dad and I, and Dumbledore and Neville, amongst others, destroyed all the horcruxes...There aren’t any more, so don’t worry about them...they’re all well and truly gone...

[For those readers who aren’t familiar with the nature of horcruxes in the Harry Potter series, they are items, living or inanimate, that Lord Voldemort encased parts of his soul in. As long as these horcruxes remained intact, Lord Voldemort maintained his immortality. Harry’s mission, therefore, was to arrange for the destruction of the horcruxes, thereby killing the evil Lord.]

;


Julia: But...but...but...Uncle Harry...you must have missed one...cos I saw it today at the beach!

[Harry laughs out loud, trying to re-assure his god-child there is nothing to fear. He decides he will have to use a bit of poetic licence and some of his recently researched knowledge of Australian politics to list the horcruxes and how they were eliminated.]

Harry: Okay, Julia...to put your mind at rest, I’ll describe how all the horcruxes were destroyed...First, there was Godwin Grech’s email dairy, which we deflated by piercing it with one of the hairpins Bronnie Bishop used to hold together her bee-hive...hee...hee...

Then, there was Gaunt Tony’s three-ring circus, when he was so confused about whether he did or did not support a 5 per cent reduction in his flatulence emissions, everybody concluded he was full of hot air and boycotted his circus, putting him out of business...

And then, later, the infamous Death Eater, Alan Jones got his Tea Party cup smashed, weakening Lord Voldemort’s power even more...

Julia: Erm...how was the cup smashed, Uncle Harry?

Harry: Actually, it was your mum who did that, Julia...You see, your dad made one of his gross male chauvinist remarks and your mum threw it at him...Luckily he ducked in time and it hit the wall instead...hee...hee...

And the next horcrux we destroyed was the locket that Mark Scott of the ABC wore around his neck...Every time he opened it – which was every second minute – it blared out, “The Leader of the Federal Opposition said...”

Your Dad actually gummed up its works, literally, by pouring superglue over its clasp...heh...heh...

And then there was “Lord” Monckton’s diadem – he was another death-eater who had tickets on himself by claiming he was a member of the House of Lords...

Julia: And what happened to him, Uncle Harry?

Harry: Oh, the last I heard, Julia, he got banged up in the Tower of London by the Queen, for impersonation...Then, she beat the crap out of his diadem with that big sword she knights people with...That made it safe from Lord Voldemort’s evil soul, and then she gave it to Kate Middleton as a wedding present...

Julia: Oh, that’s lovely, Uncle Harry...And, by the way, did you know I have a diadem as well? Though mine hasn’t got real diamonds – it was a present from Uncles Fred and George when they were getting rid of old stock from their Diagon Alley jokes’ and trinkets’ shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes...

But, Uncle Harry, I’m still frightened...Are you sure you got all those horrid-thingies?

Harry: Yes, of course, Julia. Now, as I was saying, the next horcrux we had to deal with was an old pair of trakkie-daks, belonging to Lord Voldemort, which he didn’t want. There was a lightning-shaped rip in them, but, because I lived in the cupboard under the stairs, and was so poor, I had to wear them, as I had nothing else. Eventually, I grew out of them and chucked them in the fire, as even the Salvos wouldn’t take them...

Then, we destroyed the last horcrux item when that slimy snake, Declan Stephenson, crawled out from under his rock and started to stalk some of the female students at Hogwarts...So, we hid his rock, giving him no-where to hide and Hagrid’s hippogriff, Buckwheat, had him for a snack...heh...heh...

So, that brings me to the part of the story when we destroyed the last of the horcruxes – Lord Voldemort’s own body! And it was your Mum and Dad, Julia, who helped organise his downfall when, in 2007, they were the leading lights in Bennelong and he finally got kicked out...So, you see, Julia, all the horcruxes have gone, so you have nothing to worry about...So, get yourself a good night’s sleep and you’ll feel a lot better in the morning...

Julia: But...but...but...Uncle Harry...I’m telling you – the kids at the beach said the man in the paper was wearing one of those hor-thingies!

[By this stage, Harry is totally exasperated.]

Harry: Right, Julia! Now, just tell me again exactly what the other kids said...

Julia: They were pointing to his bathers and saying, “Euwwww...yuk...what a horrible crotch!”



[Harry stifles a loud guffaw at Julia’s expense. “Out of the mouths of babes”, he says to himself.]

Harry: Okay, Julia, your Mum and Dad and I are going down to the beach tomorrow with our wands and we’ll soon put paid to that nasty horcrux...and after that, I’ll get onto the floo network to JK Rowling herself – I reckon this has got the makings of another book and follow-up movie...lol...

If Tony Abbott were PM

What would Tony Abbott do if this nation were so unfortunate as to have him elected as Prime Minister some time in the future? I can see your lips moving to mouth the words: “Who knows?” And our would-be PM, who by his own admission is a weathervane, would likely not know either, because even he would be unable to predict which way the political wind would be blowing so far ahead.

So let’s imagine what might happen in several of the key policy areas that are of contemporaneous importance. It is worthwhile doing as I am unaware of anyone in the MSM who has sketched even a rudimentary picture of life under PM Abbott. I have wondered why as all the polls suggest he will be PM after the next election. The MSM is naturally preoccupied with PM Gillard and her Government, but why not paint a picture of what the alternative might be like, what he has to offer? I suspect that one reason is that it is too difficult an exercise for the average journalist, but perhaps a more likely reason is that media proprietors don’t want that disturbing picture exhibited lest it drive away voters from the one the media has anointed as the next PM, one that will suit its commercial imperatives better than the present PM

Climate change
PM Abbott would be able to choose any position he wanted and to say this has always been his position as he has occupied every possible one from skepticism bordering on denial at one end of the spectrum to support for an ETS and a carbon tax at the other. Last week he claimed that he never supported an ETS, although he is on record as having done so several times, even at one time supporting a carbon tax. The media, instead of calling him a liar as they do PM Gillard every day and play her ‘no carbon tax’ clip to reinforce the liar message, is chary of doing this, contenting itself with a ‘he said, she said’ account and blushingly adding that he later ‘clarified’ what he meant, which was that he has opposed an ETS ‘since becoming leader’. As telling untruths and changing position according to the wind direction or his audience is no impediment to Abbott, he could and would say anything he liked, and have the compliant media swallow it whole.

So let’s postulate what he might do as PM. By then, accidents apart, the carbon plan will have been passed into law. As he has promised to repeal that law in Government, he would lose a lot of credibility, and run counter to his aggressive nature, if he did not try to do so. I imagine he would threaten the Greens, who have vowed to oppose any repeal motion, with the prospect of a double dissolution election during which he would attempt to wipe them out or at least seriously diminish their power, a task that would have the full support of News Limited media. He would also threaten Labor in the same way with an even bigger wipe out than at the election that brought him to power. There seems to be some uncertainty about when a DD election would be possible after the normal election of an Abbott Government, but Antony Green believes it would not be possible before the first half of 2015.  So Abbott could huff and puff as much as he liked but not be able to force matters before then, and could repeal the carbon tax legislation only if he got control of the Senate after the DD election. It’s all rather hypothetical and unlikely to happen.

And even if the unlikely occurred and Abbott had the numbers in both houses in early 2015, the legislation would have been in place for almost four years, by which time most of those affected would have adjusted to it and discovered that the sky had not fallen in, massive job losses had not occurred, industrial towns had not been reduced to ghost status, and few had been made worse off in any way. Moreover, the world would have moved closer to consensus on carbon pricing. At that time, business would not welcome another period of uncertainty that repealing the tax would occasion.

So Malcolm Turnbull’s suggestion that the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan would be easy to discontinue may never be tested, because it would never likely be introduced, lacking as it does support from even one trustworthy economist. And if it were by any chance, how would Abbott and Greg Hunt explain where they would find 29,000 hectares of marginal land to plant trees when only 27,000 hectares of arable land currently exists? How would they justify the high cost of increasing soil carbon? And most importantly how would they justify paying polluters taxpayer’s money in the hope they would reduce pollution, and how would they justify and implement the clawing back of increases in pensions and compensation payments?

In summary, PM Abbott would be stuck with what this parliament had legislated and would have to like it or lump it. All his overblown rhetoric would be seen as just hot air, opportunistically emitted in pursuit of his aim of overthrowing the elected Government.

The Mining Tax
This also will be passed by the current parliament. As the three largest mining companies have negotiated it with the Government, any protest by the now somewhat discredited Twiggy Forrest, or similar miners, will have little effect. As the tax will be operational, attempts to repeal it will be subject to the same restrictions that apply to the carbon tax. Again, despite his insistence that he will repeal these taxes, Abbott will get nowhere.

So two of his big election campaign ploys, repealing the two taxes, will be seen for what they are – hollow promises that he cannot keep.

The NBN
Accidents barred, by the end of 2013 when the next election is due, the NBN will have been rolling out for almost four years. As several regional towns will have begun to experience the benefits of very fast broadband download and upload speeds, faster than anything we have now or the Coalition is offering, the others will not want to be offered something inferior, not even Malcolm Turnbull’s less costly compromise. They will have realized what enormous benefits are available for small business, farming, education and health. The NBN is not just about sending emails and downloading movies, as Abbott seems to think; it is revolutionizing many professional and business endeavours. Any region or city that is still to get the NBN will not want anything with quality and potential poorer than other regions, no matter what Turnbull says.

Moreover, as Turnbull has pointed out, the cost of aborting the NBN will likely be considerable, especially after Telstra has decommissioned its copper network, and the contracts that the NBN Co. and the Government have entered into will be difficult and expensive to break. So Abbott will likely find himself frustrated in carrying out his threat to ‘demolish the NBN’. It will be too far advanced and too popular for him to destroy.

The regional asylum seeker plan
Today’s signing of the agreement with Malaysia for the so-called asylum seeker swap will put a spoke in the Abbott slogan ‘stop the boats’ as this move is likely to achieve just that. And now that alternative arrangements for processing those arriving after the announcement of the Malaysia plan have been announced – in Australia as the Manus Island option is not yet available – the negative impact of irregular boat arrivals will have been substantially reduced. Abbott will not get traction from his ‘we will stop the boats’ slogan if they have already stopped. So long as human rights and dignity have been addressed to the satisfaction of the UNHCR, and since opportunities for schooling, healthcare and jobs for returned asylum seekers have been agreed to, the sting of criticism from the Greens and Labor members supportive of asylum seekers will have been blunted.

The Coalition will hardly be likely to swing over to the Nauru solution if the Malaysian arrangement is working, as it would risk boat arrivals escalating. So Abbott will be frustrated yet again.

Health system reform
A major reform of Australia’s healthcare system is underway. Although the Liberal Premiers have made it more difficult to bring it to a conclusion, progress continues. In as far as it delegates much responsibility for management to local bodies, in a way similar to the Coalition policy, there will be little for the Coalition to gain by advocating its policy once the changes are bedded down. The cigarette package labeling legislation is in train, and as Abbott could not find a reason to oppose it now, it will not be an item of contention come the next election.

Overseas Cattle Trade
Although this issue provided fodder for Abbott when the crisis struck, as it is now been satisfactorily resolved, it will not be relevant at the next election.

Bringing the budget out of deficit
Since the Government has promised to bring in a surplus budget in 2012/13, if that is accomplished, the prospect of the Coalition bringing in a surplus budget will have lost its novelty. An Abbott Government would have to do better in validating its so-called savings, and have no $11 billion black holes. The $50 billion savings the Coalition claimed in its election budget proved to be fictional, but despite that they still quote that fabricated budget as if it was real, and the media lets them get away with it over and again.

Abbott and Joe Hockey claim they will make further savings by eliminating 20,000 public servants by not replacing those leaving through attrition. Apart from that being a slow process, the Coalition may find it can’t do without these people, and therefore the expected savings could be evanescent.

Stopping the waste
How the Coalition will do this is problematic. As by the time an Abbott Government could assume power, the Government programs that have been accused of waste, such as the HIP and the BER, will be complete or close to it. There may not be any waste left to stop. There never was much.

Paid Parental Leave Scheme
Since the Government scheme is already operative, what dividend would accrue to the Coalition by substituting its more generous but more costly scheme? There may be little credit to be gained, but considerable costs to wear. The scheme was to be funded by increasing company tax on the 1000 largest companies, many of whom are already running their own schemes. Then through an Abbottesque manipulation, the cost was to be offset by reduction in the company tax rate that according to Hockey would leave them square. It was somewhat of a smoke and mirrors illusion. Abbott is so likely to be short of the funds he needs for his generous scheme that he would be likely to postpone it.

The Murray Darling Plan
After an abortive start, this is moving towards resolution. What does Abbott plan to do different from that proposed by the committee that is investigating how to ensure water security, enough for farming and the environment, while securing the economies of regional communities? I have not heard any.

So we’ve covered climate change and the carbon and mining taxes, the NBN, asylum seekers, health reform, deficit budgeting, stopping waste, surplus budgeting, the PPL scheme and the Murray Darling plan. What other policies has Abbott put forward? Just about every utterance has been negative and obstructive, pulling things down and stopping things, with a side promise to do everything cheaper.

Where are his economic policies? He talks of taking up the recommendations of the Henry Review, on which the Government has already made a start, but so far that is just words without plans or costings.

Where are his plans for increasing the nation’s wealth and improving productivity? How does he plan to deal with the patchwork economy?

Does he have a population policy that allows for measured and balanced development, particularly in the regions?

Where is his foreign policy? Whatever it is he may have to do a repair job with China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia after the derogatory remarks he has made about these countries.

You may be able to think of other policy areas that an Abbott Government might implement; if so, please share them with us. Of one thing we can be certain, to date the Coalition has eschewed policy announcements, preferring to leave that until closer to the election. But if Abbott succeeds in precipitating an early election, where would that strategy of delay leave them? We have heard for years that the Coalition has a policy group beavering away producing policies; but so far the slate is blank.

In summary, the threats Abbott has made to repeal legislation he opposes and to demolish what has been started, will come to naught.  And all the hype that the Coalition has propagated about this incompetent bad government that can do nothing right will look as shallow and trumped up as it is unless and until we see the policies, plans and plausible budgets that would be central to an Abbott government. Even if a compliant pro-Coalition media might not demand them, the public eventually will. 

What do you think?

A nice juicy tale

The British House of Commons’ “Court of Star-fruit Chamber” hasn’t been as busy since The Monkees and Milli Vanilli were arraigned before it on charges of pretending to sing on their own records.

And, more recently, Rhubarb Rupert, Rebekah Radish and Jammy James have also been subjected to the pressure-cooker treatment.

So, to offer their mate Rhubarb some moral support, Tony Abbott and his Coalition friends have gone over to London.

Meanwhile, the managers of the House of Commons’ scullery, the husband-and-wife team, George and Mildred, are busily trying to order in enough food and drink to cater for the ravenous appetites of the Court of Star-fruit Chamber members upstairs. Eventually, their order arrives and is plonked at the back door. Mildred asks George to bring the crates of food and drink items in, whilst she goes upstairs to the Chamber to ask the greedy bastards what they want to eat and drink.

However, there are no flies on Tony and the gang, as, disguised as various food and drink items, they had already secreted themselves, back at the suppliers, in the appropriate crate. George now carts the wooden containers inside and awaits further instructions from Mildred. The over-fed seat-warmers upstairs, however, can’t make up their minds what to order, so George, to kill time, pops out to the yard to have a quick smoke. Tony and the others take advantage of George and Mildred’s absence from the scullery to break out of the crates and settle themselves quickly on the table. Ostensibly, they will discuss how they can help their mate Rhubarb, before he gets stretched on the rack.

So, just as during the French Revolution the poor downtrodden aristocracy had their champion in the Scarlett Pimpernel, now Rhubarb Rupert can turn to his very own home grown liberator – Tony the Annoying Orange!!!



Having finished his smoke outside, George wanders back into the scullery and notices some things on the table that weren’t there before.

George (to himself): Hmmmm...funny that...I wonder how they got on the table? Must have been Mildred when I was outside...She must have taken one item from each of the crates for our morning tea and lunch...anyways, those greedy bastards upstairs won’t notice a few things going missing...heh...heh...

[George saunters off to fetch some coal from the bunker, to ensure the ancient range has got enough heat in it to cook the meals for “that lot” upstairs. Tony the Annoying Orange seizes his opportunity. You see, Tony has an ulterior motive for coming to London. He wants to get all his leadership rivals in the one spot where they would most likely all be “taken care of”, Machiavellian-bastardry-style, in one fell swoop...heh...heh...His first target is Malcolm “Turnip” Turnbull.]

Tony: Hey, Turnip...Turnip...hey...hey...Turnip...

[Malcolm pretends he doesn’t hear Tony the Annoying Orange trying to attract his attention. “Who does this oaf think he is, addressing moi as a common vegetable”, he complains inwardly. And, talking of his innards, Malcolm isn’t feeling too well. The suppliers had boiled him in water for a quick preparation when he got to the Court of Star-fruit Chamber’s scullery, but the slack bastards hadn’t bothered to dry him off. So, he is now sitting on the table in the middle of a pool of water.]

Tony: Hey, Turnip...Turnip...hey...hey...Turnip...

[Tony the Annoying Orange, as usual, won’t give over. Eventually, Turnip snaps.]

Turnip: What is it, you moron? Can’t you see I’m not feeling well...and it looks like I have pissed my pants...

Tony: Hey, Turnip...Turnip...hey...hey...Turnip...I always said you were a bit of a wet...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...

[Turnip decides to ignore this imbecile from now on.]

Tony: Hey, Turnip...Turnip...hey...hey...Turnip...Masher...

[Turnip had been feeling so sorry for himself he didn’t notice Mildred coming into the scullery. Like George earlier, she is puzzled as to how only one item of the various food and drink orders had got onto the table. So, for her part, she assumes that George had done a bit of pilfering on their behalf...hee...hee...She takes a bowl out of the cupboard, lifts Turnip Turnbull up by the scruff of his neck, plonks him in and proceeds to quickly mash him to a pulp.]

Tony (to himself): Ouch...ooooohhhhh...that must hurt...But, anyway, c’est la vie – another leadership rival less to worry about...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...

[Mildred then leaves the scullery to run some other errands, so Tony the Annoying Orange seizes a further opportunity to cull his opposition. This time he picks on Julie “Bulls-eye” Bishop.]

Tony: Hey, Bulls-eye...Bulls-eye...hey...hey...Bulls-eye...

[Julie is not impressed by the conduct of this ruffian. She also ignores Tony.]

Tony: Hey, Bulls-eye...Bulls-eye...hey...hey...Bulls-eye...

[Julie can’t take any more. In a tone that would make Sybil Fawlty sound like the Avon Lady, she turns on Tony.]

Julie: What do you want, you freakin’ cretin?

Tony: Erm...if there were two bulls-eyes sitting on the table, would one be a copy of the other...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...

[if Julie had a lip, she would be biting it, hoping this idiot would just go away.]

Tony: Hey, Bulls-eye...Bulls-eye...hey...hey...Bulls-eye...Mouth...

[Just at this moment, George comes back in with a couple of buckets of coal for the range. “Yum”, he says, “I love bulls-eyes”, and proceeds to pop Julie into his mouth, sucking ferociously.]

Tony: Yuk...oooohhhhh...not nice...that fur-coated tongue...those yellow teeth...that foul-smelling tobacco breath...what a way to go...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...

[So, Tony is delighted at the demise of yet another leadership rival. His next intended victim, however, isn’t a currently serving politician yet, but has shown all the attributes of fitting right into the Coalition groove. It is none other than Declan “Lobster” Stephenson.]

Tony: Hey, Lobster...Lobster...hey...hey...Lobster...

[Declan, to be honest, doesn’t look like your common or garden regular lobster. Unfortunately, he had been born a mutant, with knuckles instead of claws. However, since birth, he had made the best of a bad job by dragging them across the sea floor, unearthing all sorts of tasty morsels to prey on. Now, looking around for his next victim, Declan is studiously ignoring this prattling, annoying, piece of fruit.]

Tony: Hey, Lobster...Lobster...hey...hey...Lobster...get back under a rock...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...

Declan: Hey – stop stealing my lines, you mongrel...

Tony: Hey, Lobster...Lobster...hey...hey...Lobster...Hammer...

[At that moment, the sickening thud of a hammer being wielded mercilessly by George reverberates within the prison-like walls of the scullery. Soon, Lobster’s flesh is being picked out, piece by piece, from amongst the detritus of his shattered shell.]

Tony: Ooooohhhh...not nice...not a fairy-tale ending...for him anyway...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...

[And so the carnage continues. Much to Tony the Annoying Orange’s morbid fascination, another pretender, Jonnie the Marble Cake, smothered in fresh cream, is munched to bits for morning tea by George and Mildred.

Joe “The Pie” Hockey is so convinced by Tony that he is the nicest pie in the world, he actually commits hari kari by eating himself! And David Bushby suffers the same fate as Joe by foolishly turning up as a tin of cat-food!

Scotch Morrison is downed in one gulp by a very thirsty George, whilst Christopher Pyne-cone is chucked on the hot-plate and roasted to perfection. And the two busy kitchen-hands also have half of a John “Ring Donut” Howard each for another snack. As Johnny disappears down their cake-holes, the last mocking words he hears from Tony are: “where’s your middle, donut? Is it one of your non-core promises...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...heh...”

Finally, all of Tony the Annoying Orange’s rivals have gone to greet George and Mildred’s gastric juices. If he had any thumbs, he would be twiddling them, waiting impatiently for another food item rival to turn up. However, he has nothing better to do than listen in to George and Mildred’s conversation.]

Mildred: It looks like they’re finished questioning old Rhubarb Rupert and his gang upstairs, darl...

George: And about time too, love – we were just about to run out of wet lettuce leaves to flog ‘em with...hee...hee...

Mildred: Too true, snookums, too true...All this cooking and preparing isn’t half making me thirsty, though – is there any juice in the fridge, darl?

George: Hah, hon...those greedy bastards upstairs drank it all...But, wait a minute...what about that blender we brought back last year from our holidays in Wales...I’ll just grab it from the cupboard...

Mildred: Good idea, sweetie...I’ll just slice the peel off this nice orange, and then you can give it the works...

[Tony can’t believe his number’s up. His dreams of becoming the Chief Mandarin at the liquescent Lodge are now getting well and truly sliced open by Mildred’s sharp knife. This is bad. But surely the liquefier is going to be a lot worse.]

Tony: Noooooooooooo...not Julia the Juicer!!! I’m too young to die!!! I thought I would have at least two and a half years left in me to be the most annoying person in the world...Aaaarrrrrrgggghhhh...STOP THE JUICER!!!

[Shortly afterwards, George and Mildred are contentedly sipping their freshly-squished orange juice.]

Mildred: Y’know, George...when you were blending that orange, I thought the machine was making some funny noises...

George: Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that, darl...When you juice ‘em, it’s normal to hear the pips squeak...heh...heh...

Why does the media believe it must hold governments to account?

Newspapers should hold governments to account according to John Hartigan, News Limited chairman and chief executive. Interviewed on the ABC’s 7.30 last week by Leigh Sales, the actual words to this effect that appeared in the transcript were: “I think we take them to their official capacity and responsibilities.” This boldly expressed assertion, backed by many other similar statements he made, begs the question: “Who assigned the responsibility for holding governments to account to newspapers or for that matter any section of the media?” I for one certainly haven’t; how many others have? I have always believed that it is the electorate that should hold governments to account, not a third party. Does the media have a role in this process. If so, what is it?

Tony Abbott seems to be in accord with Hartigan. In rejecting the notion of an enquiry into the media, Abbott declared that politicians ‘complaining about the media is like footballers complaining about the umpire’. To use the term ‘umpire’ seems be assigning an even more onerous role to the media, one where it not only holds politicians and governments to account but also imposes penalties for misbehaviour. What is going on here? As it’s an Abbott utterance, not scripted, I expect it is in the category of a glib but superficially plausible off-the-cuff quip without depth or meaning. If pressed, he might not be so willing to be subject to media ‘penalties’, as evidenced by the way he walks away from pressers when the going gets tough.

Let’s begin then by agreeing what we mean by ‘holding to account’. One definition that seems to fit the bill is: “The strength of resolve to hold others to account for agreed targets and to be held accountable for delivering a high level of service.” Although written to apply in a business context, it seems applicable to any endeavour that involves reaching targets and providing service, such as governing. 

In a political context there are several aspects where accountability might apply: ideology, planning and implementation.

Although governments are elected for a variety of reasons, many of which are financial (the hip pocket syndrome), there as still some who vote according to the ideological base on which their preferred party rests. Labor supporters prefer the concept of social justice and concern for workers that that party espouses, whereas Coalition supporters prefer the free enterprise and market based approach of that party. Of course there is now much overlap in ideology between the parties, but the basics are still there for voters to choose.

More important to most voters are the policies and plans that the parties present to the electorate for the time ahead, how they will be implemented and at what cost.

Traditionally governments are expected to detail plans and costings, whereas oppositions are allowed to be much more vague about them. Why that is so can be attributed, at least in part, to different treatment by the media of governments and oppositions, where scrutiny of the latter is too often lacking.

Perhaps as important to voters as plans for the future, is the way in which past policies and plans have been implemented – the Government’s record of achievement. The current federal Government has been criticized heavily for the way it has implemented its policies and plans, by both the Opposition and the media. Hartigan had this to say: “…I think most people would think that the BER program was a sham and very badly organised and I think that some of our newspapers reflected that very strongly. Some of the other issues - the NBN, I think, you know, Australians are asking a lotta questions about the transparency of huge amounts of billions of dollars. So I would suggest that we're acting in the public interest.” Here we have it again: ‘acting in the public interest’, which is code for ‘holding to account’.

The fact that three Orgill Reports have documented a 97% satisfaction rate with the BER seems to have had no influence on the views of Hartigan or his editors. They have made up their minds that the BER was a ‘sham’, whatever that means, wasted a lot of taxpayer’s money, and therefore deserves to be repeatedly castigated by The Australian, which took up the cudgels against this program from the outset and pursued it relentlessly. It seems to believe that it has not only the right, but also the responsibility to pursue this matter. Is this pursuit on behalf of the electorate, as it likes to imply, or is it simply following its own anti-Government agenda?

In his masterful piece on The Failed Estate: If the cap fits… Mr Denmore had this to say on this issue: “A vigorous, questioning press is indeed an asset to a functioning democracy. But only if it employs that vigour against all sides in politics. News Limited does not do this on even the most charitable measure. Instead, it has run a nakedly partisan anti-government line on the NBN, the fiscal stimulus, asylum seekers and any number of issues with the clear intent of breaking down a minority government it has never accepted as legitimate and in which a major part is played by a party it has openly vowed to destroy. What's more, it has done this with little respect for the facts.”

What is it that gives the media the belief that it has an entitlement to act on the electorate’s behalf in holding governments to account?

I submit that this is an assumed entitlement, one that the media has taken on itself, without public authorization, and having enjoyed the power that such entitlement endows, exercises it ruthlessly in pursuit of its own political agenda. Hartigan went on to say: “…we're the only organisation that really takes it up to the Government”, and talking about The Australian says: "...it really is very strident in the way that it covers politics and I'd argue it's really the only newspaper in Australia that properly covers politics, national politics." He discounted the Fairfax media and the ABC as sympathetic to the Government. Anyone who still doubts the role New Limited believes it has in politics should read the full transcript of the 7.30 interview, particularly about his paper’s assault on Rob Oakeshott. If you are still not convinced of his aggression towards the Gillard Government, look at the video.  

Another of the News Limited newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, has engaged in vigorous anti-Government behaviour ever since the new editor, Paul Whittaker, took over in April. Its negativity has been so gross, turning as it does even positive stories for the Government into negative ones, that it has been named and attacked by Stephen Conroy. He has accused the newspaper of ignoring the basics of journalism - accuracy and balance: "The problem you have when you run campaigns in newspapers is that you are not prepared to give equal coverage to both sides of the argument…the Daily Telegraph is interested in distorting the debate, it's interested in demanding an election campaign purely intended to try and get rid of the Government."

So we have two papers hell bent on attacking the Government with a view to removing it from office; other Murdoch papers are following similar lines.

Conroy acknowledged that newspapers were entitled to take a political position, but my question is whether they are entitled to do so without declaring their hand, instead covertly, and often overtly, undermining the party they oppose by distorting the facts and offering their influential opinions in a way that steers public opinion.

The Murdoch empire has exercised an influence over political debate here and in the US and the UK. In the US, through Fox News, it has become a virtual mouthpiece for the Republican Party, promoting its position relentlessly; some celebrities, such as Sarah Palin, even have their own segments on that network. In the UK we have seen recently how much influence Murdoch has had on politics there. In The Drum Opinion, Stephen Mayne reports on what UK PM David Cameron actually said about the relationship between the Murdoch media and politicians: “Over the decades, on the watch of both Labour leaders and Conservative leaders, politicians and the press have spent time courting support, not confronting the problems. Well, it's on my watch that the music has stopped and I'm saying, loud and clear - things have got to change. In future, politicians have got to stop trying to curry favour with the media, but instead regulate properly. We were all in this world of wanting the support of newspaper groups and, yes, broadcasting organisations and when we are doing that do we spend enough time asking questions about how these organisations are regulated, the malpractices and the rest of it? No, we did not. We have to.”  

If the media has no inherent entitlement to be the voice and opinion of the people, what are its rights and responsibilities?

For my part I expect the media to report the facts, the verifiable facts, and to report them accurately and in full. The media is geared to ascertain the facts, and ought to do so. It then has an obligation to inform the public of them in a balanced and unbiased way, so that voters can use that information to make a judgement about the Government's performance when they come to cast their vote.

Is the media entitled to express a political opinion? It must be in a society that has enshrined free speech as one of its basic tenets. In turn the public is entitled to know what is opinion, as distinct from the facts. Yet opinion and fact are too often inextricably mixed so that it is difficult to know which is which. Murdoch believes that opinion is news, never mind the facts.

So we have Hartigan volunteering on 7.30 that the BER was a ‘sham’, an opinion unsupported by any facts he was prepared to offer. It is simply a sham, don’t ask how or why it was. Opinions such as these are offered endlessly by The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and other News Limited outlets, with little or no confirmatory evidence, opinions deliberately cast before the public, much of which unthinkingly accepts opinion as fact. Indeed because the purpose of these Murdoch outlets is to influence public opinion to their way of thinking, facts are irrelevant and sometimes inconvenient. So they do a typical Murdoch – misrepresent the facts, leave out those that don’t suit their case or dispense with them altogether; instead just offer an opinion.

Later in his piece: If the cap fits… Mr Denmore offers a similar view: “…the media also has a responsibility to get its facts straight and provide honest reporting of primary information before it starts opining on it. It should also separate out straight reporting from analysis and opinion. This is not the way of the Murdoch titles, which revel in openly partisan journalism. And while fearless scrutiny is wonderful, it needs to be applied to everyone - including Tony Abbott. ‘Accuracy, balance and fairness’ were the three principles rammed down the throats of journalism students when I went into the trade and they still should be the bedrock upon which everything is built.” Mr Denmore’s whole article is well worth a read. 

In my opinion the media has a responsibility to give us all the information we need to make a judgement about our governments, information that we otherwise may have difficulty accessing. It has the right to express an opinion so long as it’s clear that it is just that. Its opinions would be worth having if they were based on all the verifiable facts and a well-reasoned argument, but to hope for that from most of today’s media is pie in the sky.

In my view, the media has no right to arrogantly inflict its opinion or its personal biases and preferences on us, devoid of facts and reasoning. Yet that is what it does over and again. It has no entitlement to hold governments to account on our behalf. It ought not to assume that it has a divine right to speak for us, or to influence us to its views. After all, the media is just the media, a group of people: proprietors, editors and journalists, who gather and analyze facts, reach conclusions and offer opinions, which we are entitled to take or leave. They ought not to assume that their opinions are more worthy than ours, and they ought not to believe they have they right to tell us how to think. Yet that’s just what many do, especially those from the Murdoch stable. Let the voters hold governments to account, not the media.

What do you think?

Crowded out by IT

As we all now know, Rebekah Brooks has resigned from her position as CEO of News International. Furthermore, she was later arrested by London police on suspicions of phone hacking and corruption.

However, if she is brought to trial and acquitted, where will she go? Will she help out in a leper colony run by Mother Teresa’s nuns? Or get a gig as a Page Three model in The Sun? Or maybe she’ll head off down under?

But, a crucial question is, “why did she actually resign from News International?”

The Political Sword brings you an exclusive account of the dramatic events surrounding Rebekah’s last few hours as a Murdoch head-kicker. So remember, you read about it here first, on THE POLITICAL SWORD!

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You couldn’t quite see his arse through the seat of his threadbare pants yet, but times aren’t nearly as good for Rupes Murdoch as they used to be.

All this kerfuffle over the News of the World has caused the value of his assets to diminish somewhat, with the latest setback being his inability to pay the wages of the Page Three Girls at The Sun.

Feeling besieged in his Unadax Ranch, high up on the Arizona plains, Rupes is taking this particular setback pretty hard, as the Page Three lovelies have become an institution within his organisation over the years.

However, one of his intrepid offsiders, Rebekah “Jen” Brooks, has been tasked with solving the problem of meeting the Page Three deadline. For Jen, the solution is simple: get a nudie photo from a copy of Playboy she has found, photocopy it, and fax it to The Sun, in time for their print run.

But, what a time for the photocopier to play up! And especially as Rupes has run up some many debts in the local community, he can’t get a technician to come within cooee of the place. Why, he even had to go cap in hand to his neighbour, Sen John McCain, to cadge a tank-full of aviation fuel for his private jet.

In a previous life, as the “Relationships Manager” of Reinhold Industries (Australia), Jen would have passed on such mundane tasks to her two geeky underlings, Moss Conroy and Roy Quigley, aka The IT Crowd. She misses them so much. Maybe she should ask for their help again?



Rupes has racked his brains for a long-term answer to this cash-flow problem he is encountering. But to no avail. “How on goddam Earth am I going to ensure I can pay my Page Three Girls?” he self-torturously asks himself. Therefore, he has instructed Jen to make it her priority and come up with a solution.

Meanwhile, in her office, Jen is driving herself to distraction, trying to think of a way to contact her old colleagues at Reinhold Industries (Australia). She reminisces over the good old days when the two lads would come to her rescue and somehow get her out of some mess or other. That they, with their school-boy pranks, had caused the mess in the first place however, was neither here nor there. After all, they all got paid at the end of the day. Which Jen won’t, if she doesn’t come up with the goods this time.

How will she make contact? Phone? Nah – the bastards never answered it when it rang, ever. They used to stare blankly at it, a bit like the Head of the RAN when he knew Tony Abbott was trying to contact him on his boatphone.

Send them an email? Nope – ever since the Godwin Grech episode, they refused to even open their emails, claiming they were all forgeries.

“Anyway”, Jen admits to herself, “I’m only fooling myself here, as I don’t know how to phone Australia, or work a computer. All I know is how to press a button on a photocopier, and the only one we have here doesn’t bloody work”.

Then, Jen has a brainwave.

“I’ll send my pet carrier pigeon, the supersonic one I’ve had since my time at Reinhold Industries! Those two nerds are always time-wasting and looking out the window, so when it lands on their sill, they’ll be only too glad of a distraction, see the message around its little leg, and come to my rescue!”

Jen puts her master-plan immediately into action and the world-record breaking carrier pigeon flies to and from Australia in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. The two lads reply that they “will be delighted to help our old colleague out”.

But what the two geeks actually said to each other was, “Wow! – a free trip to the States, plus another chance to take the piss out of Jen – who would be foolish enough to turn those offers down...hee...hee...” In the carrier-pigeon message, however, they don’t tell her that since her day, Reinhold Industries has been taken over and re-named. They’ll break that to her when they get there.

So, Rupes’ private jet, with the two Aussie lads on board, lands on the runway in front of the Unadax complex, and the now almost-penurious mogul and his trusty assistant, Jen, gratefully watch it taxi to a halt. If the truth be known, however, the flight might not have happened. Earlier, the pilot, who hadn’t been paid for a few weeks, got all bolshie and threatened to go on strike. However, he soon changed his tune when Rupes told him if he didn’t “get in that goddam cockpit”, he would be flying Black Hawks over Somalia again (and on WorkChoices), before he could say “Karl Freakin’ Marx”!

As they watch the two down-under trouble-shooters walk up to the Unadax front door, Rupes and Jen hug each other, in anticipation of their photocopier getting fixed. However, they can’t also help but feel a tinge of apprehension as they notice the lack of growth in the untended flower-beds adjacent to the ranch building.

Coming back to reality, however, Jen then leaves Rupes’ office and walks down to the front door to welcome her two erstwhile colleagues. She ushers them quickly into the building and escorts them immediately up to Rupes’ office.

However, upon entering, Moss and Roy notice a few things that are a bit on the queer side. Firstly, Rupes is on the phone. Nothing strange about that, except he is holding an old kitchen tap to his ear. Sensing their puzzlement, Jen whispers to the lads.

Jen: Erm...its not really a phone, y’know...Actually, since the price of his shares dropped, he hasn’t paid the bill, so they cut him off...Therefore, we gave him the tap and tell him, every now and then, the famous private detective, Jim Rockford is on the line, wanting some instructions about whose phone he wants him to tap next...He’s actually only talking to himself...sad, really...

[Rupes delivers a gob-full of four-letter expletives down the tap, castigating “Jim” for not being successful at tapping Barack Obama’s phone, and recording him admitting he goes to bed in a burqa nightie.]

Moss (whispering): Jeeze...all that swearing...he’d make Tony Abbott sound like a Trappist monk during Lent...

Jen: Nah...he’s harmless...he’s happiest when he’s sledging anyway...

[The lads also notice something else strange in Rupes’ office. There are boxes and boxes of Royal Doulton stacked ceiling-high against one of the walls.]

Roy (also whispering): Pssttt...Jen...what gives with all the Royal Doulton...I thought you said the old guy was on the bones of his arse...

Jen: Yeah, but they’re only cheap, Hong Kong fakes...he got them for next to nothing on E-Bay, from a bloke called Arthur...

Moss: But...but...but...what does he need all that crockery for?

Jen: Oh, we pass it off as the real stuff...It’s bribes, really...for the Royal Protection Officers to tell us if the corgis have done their number two’s that day...our readers find that sort of information really interesting, for some reason...

[Suddenly, Rupes bangs the tap down on the desk, luckily just missing the little snow globe poised precariously on the edge.]

Rupes: Well, well, well...if it isn’t the two geeks from The IT Crowd...I hope you two are up to the task of fixing my photocopier, so that Jen can get my business back on an even keel, and the Page Three Girls get paid...

Roy (indignantly): Huh...fixing a mangy photocopier is nothing! We’re the brains behind the NBN in Australia, I’ll have you know...

[At the mention of the hated phrase, “NBN”, a mist redder than Tony Abbott’s budgie smugglers descends upon Rupes. He pulls a shotgun out from under his desk, brandishing it menacingly.]

Rupes (hysterically): Why, you dirty commo layabouts...That f***ing NBN is going to bankrupt me completely, y’know...I’ll show you how we deal with commo leftie upstarts around here...

[Before Rupes can take aim and send the two cyber nerds back to Australia in little pieces, Jen thankfully intervenes by plonking herself on Rupes’ knee and, simultaneously, sucking like blazes on her thumb.]

Jen: Oh, Daddykins...don’t be angry...the two nice boys are here to help us...remember the broken photocopier and how we are unable to take copies of the nudies to send to The Sun for page three?

[By this stage, Moss and Roy are so shit scared, they feel like they have swallowed a whole crate of Senocot tablets, washed down by a couple of litres of prune juice.]

Moss (grovellingly): Erm...yeah...and the NBN we work for isn’t that nasty one you’re thinking of, sir...in fact, its a totally different NBN we work for – the Nice Boobs News, in fact, sir...

Rupes: Oh, that’s different then...you three need to get cracking and fix my photocopier...And by the way, Jen...I wish you wouldn’t sit on my knee and suck your thumb like that...It isn’t hygienic...and anyway, you’re squishing my willy...

[Jen is livid. She can’t believe this guy has insinuated she’s fat! She jumps up off Rupes’ knee, beckoning the much-relieved geeks to join her. They rapidly high-tail it out of Rupes’ office and proceed to the photocopier room. The two boyos get to it and, at the same time, rib Jen about her lack of knowledge about computers and such like. But she knows it’s all harmless banter and, for the moment, she forgets she has overdosed, thanks to Rupes, on her angry pills and all the fond memories of her time at Reinhold Industries (Australia) come flooding back.]

Jen (laughing): Do you guys remember the time when that sleaze from Accounts...Declan Stephenson, I think his name was...was stalking me and...I think it was you, Roy...pulled up your tee-shirt...tee...hee...leaned over the photocopier...and then sent the picture to his email address, saying it was my bare chest...He certainly stopped following me after that, I can tell you...haw...haw...

[Jen is nearly wetting herself laughing when, eventually, she notices the two geeks aren’t joining in with the hilarity, and are in fact looking a bit sheepish.]

Moss: Erm...Jen...I hate to tell you this...but...ahhh...that photocopy we sent Declan...erm...well...do you remember our IT Section’s Christmas party when you got pissed and insisted on boasting to everyone how good you were at using the photocopier...

[Jen pauses for a moment or two to think.]

Jen: Nah! I wouldn’t have...Tell me I didn’t, guys...

[The two larrikins burst out laughing, putting Jen back at ease, and proceed to fix the machine. For tech-heads of their calibre, it is a walk in the park. Soon, Roy is reliving old memories by pulling up his tee-shirt and testing out the machine by copying his chest.

However, whilst the boys were fixing the machine, Jen got to thinking. After a long pensive pause, she can’t help but blurt out.]

Jen: I’ve made up my mind guys...I’m getting out of here...There’s no way I’m gonna put up with old misery guts any longer...I’m flying back to Oz with you...I could start off at the bottom again...Do you think the editor of the Woop Woop Weekly Warbler would give me a job?

[The two lads look awkwardly at each other.]

Maurice: Listen! The pilot’s revving the engines – we better get on board...

[Meanwhile, back in Rupes’ office, he is on the tap again. This time, it’s Bob Brown who’s copping it for daring to suggest a Senate Inquiry into the media in Australia. Eventually, he slams down the tap and stares out the window. He notices his private jet taking off. “Great”, he thinks to himself, “those two fair dinkum Aussie boys must have fixed the photocopier and gone home”.]

Rupes drags his weary body into the copier room. Unfortunately, he has left his glasses on the desk, but manages a quick squiz at a few pikkies in the out-tray.]

Rupes (shouting in ecstasy): Brilliant, Jen! You can fax these off to The Sun immediately...

[Rupes’ entreaties to Jen are but pearls thrown to swine...the empty, forbidding edifice of his soulless ranch throws them back, mockingly, in his wizened face.]

Rupes: Hurry up there, lass! I think we’ve turned the corner...Where are you, Jen? If you don’t get in here quick, we’ll miss the page three deadline...

[On the high, drought-stricken plains of Arizona, the unrelenting winds sift the shallow soils interminably. Here, there’ll be no roses budding for a while...if ever...]

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Disclaimer:

No life-threatening injuries were inflicted upon the pigeon in forcing it to reveal details of events upon which this report is founded. Needless to say, however, it will no longer be able to participate in supersonic flights to Australia.

Update:

A private jet, en route to Australia, was impounded by authorities at Heathrow Airport, where it had stopped for re-fuelling. It is alleged that the pilot and three passengers had attempted to do a runner without paying for the fuel. After establishing the identity of the ringleader, a 43-year-old female known only as “Jen”, police have also charged her with multiple counts of photocopier abuse. The other two passengers have been released on bail and are reported to have gone feral and are working as illegal aliens in a shady internet cafe in the notorious Soho district.

Keep tuned in for further developments on these unfolding stories. Readers are encouraged to add any other tit-bits, true or not, they have heard, in the space below.

The Tour de Nile

The Coalition’s adverse reaction to spelling out its policies, and accurately costing them, has caused them to enter, as another stunt and diversion, the Tour de Nile cycle race.



However, Tony “Holy Moses” Abbott, Andrew “Aaron” Robb and the rest of the Coalition Chosen People peloton have taken a wrong turn and are a bit lost in the wilderness, somewhere near Mt Sinai.

Unfortunately, their supplies of caviar-on-manna and quails’ eggs have run out and everyone is so pissed off, they stop at the foot of the sacred mountain and refuse to go any further until Moses and Aaron sort out, once and for all, the lack of policies, and grub, situations. So, the dynamic duo decide that, for self-preservation purposes, they need to get away for a while. They swap their racers for a pair of mountain-bikes and head up the holy hill, shouting back to the disgruntled throng that they will be back as soon as possible with some solutions to their problems. As usual, Moses is wearing his trade-mark budgie smugglers.

As Moses and Aaron wind their way up Mt Sinai, Moses’ superior fitness levels come to the fore and he approaches the summit on his own, with Aaron struggling a bit on a treacherous goat-track further below.

However, unknown to the Coalition, the CSIRO (“Crappy Scientists Involved with Rooting us Over”) had secretly set up, on the summit of Mt Sinai, a clandestine testing station, to see if their newly-invented fire retardant spray would work. In effect, the CSIRO project was prompted by a recent surge of fire-bugging in the Australian bush and their ingenious solution involved spraying the specially-designed liquid over a bush, which, even when set alight, wouldn’t stop the vegetation form burning, but would at least prevent it from being consumed, so that even in spite of the fire, it would live to fight another day and thereby soak up some more of that nasty CO2.

But, due to budget cuts, the so-called “testing facility”, comprising a hammer and chisel (for the researcher to create a hole to do his/her business in) plus a hand-pump for them to re-inflate the tyres on their bike for the return trip down the mountain, is somewhat limited. Also, the remote overseas location of Sinai was chosen to avoid scrutiny and claims from the Opposition of another “debacle” by the Gillard government.

Anyway, Pharaoh Julia was so intrigued by the whole idea of protecting the bush from evil, match-wielding vandals, she ordered the Climate Change Minister himself, Gregory of Combet, to personally conduct the experiment.

Fortunately for the smooth operation of Pharaoh Julia’s plan, just before the Coalition Chosen People had arrived at the foot of Mt Sinai, Greg had made his way up there on his bike and was busily spraying an unsuspecting bush he found at the summit. He is just about to set fire to it, to see the result, when he spots Moses just below the summit, head-down, lathered in grime and sweat, trying to stand on the pedals, in a super-human attempt to cycle all the way to the top. “Heh...heh...” Greg chuckles to himself. “I think I’m going to have some fun here”. He sets fire to the bush and secrets himself behind it, out of Moses’ view.

Moses: Whew! Jeeze, that was tough! Well, I suppose this training is worth it – think of how fast I’ll be able to cycle away from press conferences when they ask me how long into my first term of office it will be before I wind the Tax Free Allowance back again to $6000...hee...hee...

[Then, out of the side of his weary eye, Moses notices a strange and wondrous sight – a bush is burning and it doesn’t seem to be getting burnt out! He props his bike up against a rock and gingerly approaches, trying to make out what scam, akin to global warming itself, is going on here. “Hmmm...” Moses says to himself. “Maybe this is where the lefties store all their surplus pink batts, and the bloody buggers have self-ignited...heh...heh...”

Suddenly, however, Moses is stopped in his tracks by the sound of a booming voice that appears to emanate from within this strange burning bush.]

Voice: STOP THE APPROACHING!!! YOU ARE ON SACRED GROUND HERE!!! IT IS I, THE LORD, WHO SPEAKS...AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, REMOVE YOUR BICYCLE CLIPS!!!

[Moses, awe-struck and fear-smitten by this seemingly other-worldly vision, reaches down very slowly to remove his non-pc bicycle clips.]

The LORD: AND WHY ARE YOU WEARING BICYCLE CLIPS ANYWAY, YOU MAGGOT – HAVEN’T YOU NOTICED YOU ARE CLOTHED ONLY IN SKIMPY SWIMMING ATTIRE?

Moses: Erm...it’s really only through force of habit, O Great One...you see, as Leader of the Opposition, I’m never sure when goddam shit is going to happen next...

[Greg seizes another opportunity to play with Moses’ mind, or body to be more exact. He takes up the bicycle pump supplied by the CSIRO and delivers a blast of air through the burning bush, sending a flaming jet at Moses, singeing the hairs on his feet. As Moses is so hairy, making his ancestor, Esau, look like a billiard ball in comparison, it takes a while for him the douse the flames on his unfortunate plates of meat. Eventually, he manages to extinguish the conflagration on his poor trotters and angrily confronts this sadist of a sage-bush.]

Moses: Hey, what was that for?

The LORD: WHY, YOU USED THE S-WORD IN MY PRESENCE, YOU DISRESPECTFUL WRETCH – THAT CONTRAVENES ONE OF MY TEN COMMANDMENTS – THE ONE THAT SAYS “THOU SHALT NOT PUT THE NUMBER ONE LORD THY GOD ON A PAR WITH NUMBER TWO’S”...

[For his sins, Moses receives another blast of flames, this time singeing the copious amounts of hair on his legs. He quickly rolls in the dirt to extinguish them. However, in a pathetic and obsequious attempt to escape any further servings of the LORD’s wrath, Moses prattles on sycophantically.]

Moses: Erm...O Great One...now that you mention the Ten Commandments, are you going to give me a set – that mutinous lot down at the bottom of the hill could do with something to make them pull up their socks...

The LORD: NAH, TOO LATE MATE...I COPYRIGHTED THE TEN COMMANDMENTS A WHILE AGO TO ANOTHER BLOKE...

Moses: Huh...that wouldn’t stop Julie Bishop...hee...hee...Or that old pointy-proboscis Pharaoh Gillard – she broke copyright on Bono’s UN speech, y’know!

The LORD: BLASPHEMER!!! YOU HAVE JUST BROKEN ANOTHER OF MY TEN COMMANDMENTS – “THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THE PHARAOH!!”

Moses: But...but...but...it’s not false witness – it’s as obvious as the nose on her face...hee...hee...

[Again, Moses’ inability to keep his trap shut incurs The LORD’s almighty wrath – he receives another blast, courtesy of the bicycle pump, this time singing his hairs on his chest. To put out the flames, he rolls over the rocks so many times, he looks like he is doing an Elvis impersonation.

Then, to change the subject, Moses, who hasn’t seen his family for a while due to his incessant bike-riding, asks The LORD about the welfare of his father-in-law, Jethro Howard, the goat-herder.]

The LORD: WHY, THAT LOSER!! THE LAST I SAW OF HIM, HE WAS PADDLING ACROSS THE NILE IN A LEAKY VESSEL, WITH HIS FLOCK OF ADULT AND BABY GOATS ON BOARD...

Moses: So, what happened, LORD...did he not get a good price for them on the other side?

The LORD: NAH, IT WAS WORSE THAN THAT – HE DECIDED THE HEAP OF JUNK WASN’T GOING TO MAKE IT TO THE OTHER SIDE, SO HE DITCHED SOME OF HIS CARGO...

Moses: You...you...you...don’t mean...he threw the kids overboard!!??

The LORD: GOT IT IN ONE!! OH, AND BY THE WAY, MOSES, I WANT YOU TO USE YOUR INFLUENCE WITH THE AUSTRALIAN TO GET REBEKAH A POSITION...

Moses: Wow!! Rebekah Brooks!! It would be my pleasure, LORD!! She’s a real good loyal girl and would fit in well at the OZ...and, wink, wink, she’s a bit of a looker, as well, LORD...heh...heh...

The LORD: SINNER!!! HOW DARE YOU BREAK ANOTHER OF MY TEN COMMANDMENTS – “THOU SHALT NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOUR, RUBERT’S, TROUBLE AND STRIFE!!”

[For his troubles, Moses cops another blast, this time removing all that’s left of the hair on his head. He sticks his nearly dead, buried and cremated cranium in a nearby rabbit-hole to extinguish the flames. By this stage, moreover, Moses has had a gut-full of this crazy flame-throwing cactus. He verbally lets fly.]

Moses (angrily): Right, you...I’ve just about had it up to here with this treatment...I’m just gonna get on my bike and cycle outta here...you know just what you can do with your bloody Ten Commandments...

The LORD: NOW, NOW MOSES...DON’T BE SO HASTY...AS I SAID, I GAVE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS TO SOME OTHER JOKER...SO, JUST HANG AROUND FOR ANOTHER WHILE AND I’LL HAVE SOMETHING EVEN BETTER FOR YOU...

[Immediately, Moses hears, from the burning bush, the sound of a hammer and chisel working away. Then, after a while, a tablet of stone, with some writing on it, is blithely chucked over. Luckily, Moses catches it before it hits the deck and smashes. He has a read: “Hmmm...THE 40 POLICIES”. Moses, however, just counts the policies, without reading them.]

Moses: Hey, LORD...there’s only 20 here...where’s the others?

[Without further delay, another stone tablet is chucked over, completing the set. “Yippee”, says Moses to himself, “I can now go down to the Coalition Forgotten Family at the bottom of the mountain and pretend I came up with these all by myself! But, I can also tell them The LORD inspired me, which will lend them more gravitas than Paul Kelly pours over his meat and three veg...heh...heh...”

Then, just at that moment, Andrew “Aaron” Robb breathlessly appears at the top of the mountain. He had pushed his bike up the last few hundred metres.]

Aaron: Whew!! I thought I’d never make it!! And, by jove, I’m starving into the bargain...I could do with a feed after that energy-sapping ascent...

[Aaron has a look around and spots, in front of a ready-made barbeque, what he thinks is something to cook. He grabs it, only for “it” to emit an unholy host of four-letter-word expletives.]

Moses: WTF!!! Aaron, you dork!!! Can’t you see it’s me?

Aaron (disappointedly): Oh, it’s only you, Moses...And there was I thinking I had a well-plucked turkey for dinner...But, never mind, brother...I’ll just pull this old, yellowed, dog-eared envelope from my pocket and I’ll write you out 40 policies on the back of it, for you to bring down to those ungrateful drongos... 

Moses (elatedly): There’s no need for that, Aaron...I’ve already got them on these two tablets of stone here...

[The two now-pumped-up Patriarchs re-inflate their tyres and, each with a stone tablet under an arm, head off at a rate of knots down Mt Sinai. However, they took off in such haste, they didn’t hear the mocking laughter emanating from the still-burning bush.

Upon reaching the bottom, Moses and Aaron witness the sight of an even worse rabble than what they remembered before they went up the sacred mountain. Neither of the patriarchs can believe their eyes. The Coalition Chosen People are bowing down and worshipping a statue of Malcolm “Mammon” Turnbull!

Moses grabs the other tablet off Aaron, ready to read The 40 Policies to the back-sliders and get them back on the straight and narrow, when he suddenly hesitates. He has just read the first Policy: “We will bring back a version of WorkChoices, so draconian, it would make the conditions of the Prodigal Son in the pig-sty look like the Garden of friggin’ Eden”. Moses lets out a wail of anguish, even more heart-rending than that of the Egyptians after the Angel of Death passed over. He throws the tablets to the ground, smashing them to bits, and shakes his fist angrily at the summit of Mt Sinai. He then turns to the assembled Mammon-worshippers.]

Moses: Why, you ungrateful wretches!! Here I am ready to lead you to the Promised Land of Canaanberra, with our 40 Policies, and you betray me by worshipping Mammon Malcolm...sheesh!!

[A voice from the Mammon worshippers pipes up.]

Voice: If we’re ever gonna get to Canaanberra, Moses, we think we stand a better chance under Mammon Malcolm...so just rack off!!

[Moses sadly ambles over to his racing bike and mounts it.]

Moses: Righto, then guys...You coming, Aaron?

Aaron: Erm...I don’t think so, brother...I think I’ll just take my chances with Mammon’s mob...

Moses (sarcastically): Fine, thanks “brother”! Looks like I’m back in contention for winning first place in the Tour de Nile, then...

Has the political influence of the Murdoch media reached its nadir?

There is no need to mount an argument to support the view that all over the world, the Murdoch media has exercised an influence over politics. We all know it and countless journalists have borne testimony to it and have written and broadcast about it. Recent events portend a radical change that must and will occur.

Only Rupert Murdoch can really know what motivates his business activities. My guess is that making money is his prime objective, as it is for many a successful businessman. The extreme alternative is bankruptcy. But for successful businessmen making a profit is seldom the only motivator; the acquisition of power often parallels the quest for riches and commercial success. In the case of Murdoch, power over the political process seems to be one of his prime objectives. Because much of his empire is subject to government regulation, to achieve his aims of more and more media ownership, he needs to have governments onside, so that regulations are fashioned to suit, rather than obstruct his ambitions. As conservative governments are by their very ideology more likely to enable him to get what he wants, his recent strong preference is for them. We have seen this in the US, the UK and here in this country.

Wikipedia has an account of Rupert Murdoch’s career.  

Murdoch likes to back political parties and their leaders, to be a kingmaker. He has backed both sides of politics. He backed John McEwen, leader of the Country Party in the Menzies era, creating tensions in the Coalition, then briefly backed Gough Whitlam. The relationship between his media empire and Kevin Rudd was impaired by the OzCar episode when Rudd criticized The Australian for publishing poorly documented claims, and by the leaking of comments allegedly made by George W Bush in a telephone call during a private dinner party at Kirribilli attended by the paper’s editor Chris Mitchell. A previously close relationship between the two men turned into what looked like a vendetta by The Australian against Rudd, which has morphed into a similarly nasty campaign against Julia Gillard.

Murdoch backed Tony Blair but abandoned Labor in favour of David Cameron prior to the last election. He has met every US President from Harry Truman on, backed Barack Obama via his New York Post and secretly met Stephen Harper, Conservative Canadian PM at a time when Murdoch was interested in taking Fox News to Canada, a move that seems to have been aborted by Canada’s strict ‘truth in the media’ rules.

Clearly, for whatever reason, Murdoch sees it as to his advantage to liaise with national leaders, and they in turn see it to their advantage to cosy up to him, given his enormous media power and through it his capacity to make or break political leaders and their parties. What has emerged from the recent News International phone hacking scandal is that leaders have been fearful of what Murdoch could do to them politically if they did not curry his favour. This state of affairs resulted in a senior News International executive Andy Coulson, who resigned from the News of the World over the phone hacking scandal, being engaged by David Cameron after his election on the assurance of Murdoch. Cameron now seems to regret this. It has been reported that Murdoch had even offered Tony Blair a position after his retirement.

It is this relationship between Murdoch and the politicians he favours that is so pernicious as it advantages them and disadvantages their opponents, all on the say so of Murdoch via his media outlets. While Murdoch claims that he does not influence his editors, whom he insists have editorial freedom, when all but one of his 160 plus newspapers editorialized in favour of the Iraq war, it became hard to accept the reality of that. All editors know what Uncle Rupert wants.

In the US he has a vast network with many newspapers and magazines, and Fox Broadcasting Company that operates Fox News, his TV flagship. On that outlet he uses a strategy that favours the Republican Party. They use the likes of the divisive Rush Limbaugh who bullies his way through interviews aggressively insinuating his opinion into the debate. There is not space here to detail how these operatives work, but a look at a piece by Ezra Grant on blogsite EzKool: Rush Limbaugh Continues Without Missing A Beat, an account of his treatment of the Tucson Arizona shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, gives some insight.  

The same aggressive strategies have carried to Australia and we have seen them whenever Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman appear on TV.

The phone hacking scandal is spreading its contagion far and wide. Overnight there was bipartisan support in the House of Commons for Murdoch to withdraw his bid for BSkyB, which would have given him unparalleled satellite power, but he preempted the vote by withdrawing before it was taken. Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, has called for an enquiry in the US about whether Murdoch operatives have tapped the phones of 9/11 victims, which if proved would be a criminal offence.

Here in Australia, News Limited CEO John Hartigan has reissued the company’s code of journalistic ethics, insists he has no evidence of phone hacking here, but has ordered an enquiry into all payments to third parties that could indicate such activities. Clearly News Limited here is worried, not just about any implication that it too may be into phone hacking, but also about the consequences of that for the Sky News Australia bid to take over the Australia Network from the ABC. Today it ran a story criticizing ABC MD Mark Scott for what it termed ‘inappropriate contact with Federal Ministers’ about this issue.

What does all the turmoil in the Murdoch empire mean for the state of politics in Australia?

Some commentators see the empire crumbling with a spate of criminal convictions likely in the UK and perhaps in the US too. Some predict Murdoch may sell some of his UK newspapers as their stock market value falls. Some see Murdoch as retiring and handing over to his family in a further act of nepotism. Others doubt if he will ever give up voluntarily. But what will be the outcome in Australia?

If Bob Brown has his way, the Murdoch outfit here will be subject to scrutiny, and the issue of ownership reopened. Already Murdoch owns around 70% of newspapers here and vast slab of TV outlets.

According to a piece in The Canberra Times: No good News for Gillard by Jack Waterford, the vendetta against the Gillard Government will continue. He concludes: “But she should not imagine that anything much is going to change for her unless she lifts her Government's performance. Her unpopularity is not a Murdoch artefact.” The cartoon accompanying that piece is telling.

So will News Limited take a more moderate approach to politics in Australia by targeting Labor less and putting the Coalition under more scrutiny? If Murdoch retires will that make any difference? Or will Chris Mitchell’s campaign against Labor and The Greens perpetrated through The Australian continue unabated? Have we any prospect of Labor getting fairer treatment? We hope it might, but we ought not to hold our breath.

What do you think?

The negativity syndrome infects the ABC

I wonder how many were as dismayed as I was at the tenor of this Sunday’s Insiders? With so many journalists in the carbon tax lockup, I suppose Barrie Cassidy was scraping the bottom of the barrel when he enlisted Niki Savva and Glenn Milne as panelists, but he must have known that this would result in unremitting negativity towards PM Gillard and her Government. Even the usually balanced Laura Tingle was drawn into negativity; she was no counter for the other two.

Why just two hours before one of the most important announcements in our nation’s history where all the details of the largest reform since the GST were to be provided, did Our ABC enable such negativity? These two panellists virtually canned a favourable outcome for the event and went on to can almost everything else the Government has been doing. According to this pair, the Government has done nothing right, the people have stopped listening, and selling anything to this skeptical public, let alone a complex carbon tax, will be nigh on impossible.

This morning as I listened to AM, I wondered if Insiders was just part of an affliction spreading in epidemic proportions through the ABC – the negativity syndrome.

Since the acerbic Lyndal Curtis seems to have moved to ABC 24, Sabra Lane has taken over her role on AM of wielding the knife, but only towards those to whom she has a negative attitude.

I was appalled to hear not only the words she used, but her tone of voice as she interviewed Wayne Swan this morning. The transcript is in italics; my comments are in bold. The transcript is here.  

SABRA LANE: Mr Swan, good morning. This is do or die for the Government. If you can't sell this, the Government will be tossed out at the next election, won't it?

Note the words: “do or die” and “tossed out” and won’t it?” Already the pattern is set. The knife is out. Yet she is addressing the Treasurer and Deputy PM.

WAYNE SWAN: Well, Sabra it is not about the politics. It is about the policy. It is about doing the right thing by our environment but also the right thing by our national economy. This is a fundamental environmental and economic reform because what we've got to do is put a price on carbon pollution. The big polluters have gotten away with polluting our environment for free for far too long.

SABRA LANE: But if you can't sell this, you're out?

Sabra is not going to let this go, so she pushes the knife further with the impertinent “you’re out”.

WAYNE SWAN: Well, Sabra as I've said before, what we are on about here is a fundamental reform. Look, Sabra what would I say to my children or grandchildren in 20 or 30 years time if we don't put a price on carbon now and they are living with the impact on the Great Barrier Reef, the Murray-Darling Basin, Kakadu and so on.

Note how the rationale for the carbon tax is explained, but that is of no interest to Sabra – she has other negative fish to fry.

SABRA LANE: There is mixed reaction in the papers this morning. The Herald Sun says working families will pay the price. Some families will be worse off, won't they?

See how she goes straight to the negative, the ten percent who will be worse off.

WAYNE SWAN: Well, what we've said is that nine out of ten households will receive additional assistance. No doubt about that. The average price impact will be covered for six million households. Some households will receive partial assistance and some households will receive no assistance, Sabra.

SABRA LANE: How many households will be worse off?

Presumably Sabra learned simple arithmetic at primary school and could calculate in a second that if nine out of ten households would be better off, one in ten might be worse off. But no, she wanted a number from the Treasurer.

WAYNE SWAN: Well, in terms of no assistance, something like 700,000 households but six million households will be covered for the entire average price impact and there are something like nine million households in Australia.

She got her number, but she wanted to drive the knife deeper by evoking the so-called ‘politics of envy’.

SABRA LANE: Is your message to those families then, you're rich, you can afford it.

WAYNE SWAN: No, my message is that we've got to do the right thing by the environment; we've got to do the right thing by our economy. We have got to put in place a range of assistance that is affordable over time and we've got to target our assistance to those who need it most. 

Sabra, we're in the Labor Party. We absolutely believe in looking after people on low and middle incomes. This is a package I think which provides support to people on low and middle incomes, recognises the financial pressures that they are under and puts in place fundamental tax reform. Another million people are removed from the tax system altogether. This is a very, very big reform to our tax system in lifting the tax free threshold so high, up to $18,000.

Not satisfied that it is only the better off that would not receive support and would therefore pay more, she gives the knife another twist, referring to that impeccable source of reliable information – ‘some newspapers’.

SABRA LANE: Some newspapers say though that working families will be worse off. Do you agree?

WAYNE SWAN: Well, certainly there was some people who will not be covered for the entire impact of these price rises but bear this in mind, the price rises are very modest, very modest, less than 1 per cent. The fact is that this price on carbon will be paid by the 500 largest polluters. Yes that will be passed on by some businesses and yes, there will be an impact on prices but that will be modest and what we've done through the assistance packages here is recognise that but also at the same time, put in place some fundamental tax reform. I notice Mr Abbott was going around yesterday promising tax cuts with no means of funding them whilst at the same time putting forward a policy which will cost households $720 per year. 

The fact is, you can't run around the country claiming that you are concerned about cost of living pressures and have a policy which is going to increase the burden on households by $720 a year and not necessarily produce any impact on the environment.

Now you can be certain that Sabra will ignore the reference to Tony Abbott’s $720 a year burden on every household, and overlook the fact that the Government’s increases in costs to the well off are modest. (I notice that Greg in his piece in Grog’s Gamut shows that in the worst case scenario of a family with dual income (50-50 split) of $200,000 and children 8-13 and 13-17 years will be out of pocket by $19.69 per week). 

SABRA LANE: Mr Swan, your scheme won't start for another 12 months. With all the tax changes that are tacked onto it, some families won't actually know whether they are ahead or not until they do their tax probably around August 2013, that is about the time of the next election.

The point of this question is obscure. But she promotes the idea of ‘being ahead’, as if that was the whole idea of a carbon tax. Isn’t the idea of the carbon tax to save the environment, to give our successors a decent planet on which to live?

WAYNE SWAN: Well, I think there will be a pretty thorough debate, Sabra, about all of these issues in the next 12 months and I think everybody in Australia will understand a very clear choice - fundamental tax reform here, additional assistance to families. That will be clearly outlined by the Government. 

Mr Abbott is the one who has got the problem here because he is running around the place saying he will give tax cuts. He can't say how he will fund them. The fact is that Mr Abbott has a policy which is going to be much more costly for Australian families and not produce the environmental outcome that we all require.

That should have given Sabra a cue for her interview with Tony Abbott. But as there was no joy there for Sabra, she tries another tack – small business.

SABRA LANE: There is no leg up here for small businesses. They are the engine room for the country. They're going to cop it, aren't they?

Note the words “leg up” and ‘cop it’.

WAYNE SWAN: Well, small businesses are very important in our economy and that is one of the reasons why we increased the instant asset write-off in this package recognising that many small businesses will want to make additional investments in energy efficiency and the other reason that we've put in place the household assistance package because households will have the capacity when some cost increases are passed on, to pay for those cost increases.

No joy for her there either, so she tries the ‘budget neutral’ story.

SABRA LANE: This won't be budget neutral as you've promised. Suddenly now it is going to cost $4 billion. You will rake some of that back in cuts to the fuel excise rebate but where will you cut spending elsewhere to keep your promise that the budget will return to surplus in 2012/2013?

Note ‘won't be budget neutral as you've promised’ and ‘rake’.

WAYNE SWAN: Well, first of all Sabra, there is an up-front cost. There always is an up-front cost with these very big reforms …

Sabra is determined to nail him on this one – note her impatience.

SABRA LANE: Just one moment, just one moment there Mr Swan but you've promised for a long time that this would be budget neutral. Not that there would be an up-front cost.

Sabra seems unable to reconcile an upfront cost with budget neutrality, even although she must know that budget neutrality is over the forward estimates, not year by year; this is too good a point to be obscured by fiscal facts.

WAYNE SWAN: And it is broadly budget neutral over the forward estimates. Sabra, we budget over the forward estimates. When you put in place a very big change like this, then there are up-front costs but over the forward estimates, the costs are relatively modest and of course, we will account for all of that when we produce MYEFO (Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook) towards the end of the year. A relatively modest charge on the surplus as we go through the surplus years, we will bring the budget back to surplus in 2012/13 and our fiscal rules still apply.

SABRA LANE: I think many economists will doubt that $4 billion equals budget neutral. They would really question that. Doesn't this become an issue of trust? What you say and do are again very different when you deliver the policy.

The knife plunges deeper as ‘trust’ raises its ugly head.

WAYNE SWAN: Absolutely not, Sabra. Our record of applying our fiscal rules is second to none. What we have produced here is first class economic and social policy, Sabra and I am really proud of it. It is Labor to the bootstraps.

Sabra is getting desperate for a gotcha. So she switches to emissions mitigation.

SABRA LANE: Hand on your heart, will this scheme definitely cut emissions by 5 per cent by 2020?

Can you believe it: ‘hand on your heart’?

WAYNE SWAN: There is no doubt that this scheme is very effective, very credible and will take 160 million tonnes out of the atmosphere. We can all be proud of that because what this is all about is to keep our economy growing strongly while we reduce carbon pollution in the atmosphere.

Now more Sabra rudeness.

SABRA LANE: But you haven't answered my question, will it cut emissions by 5 per cent?

WAYNE SWAN: Well, that's the target that we are implementing and that is what all of the modelling shows.

He answers her question but she’s still not satisfied, so she gives the knife another twist with: is it ‘yes or no’?

SABRA LANE: Yes or no, will it cut emissions of 5 per cent?

WAYNE SWAN: Of course we will meet our target in this scheme. That is why we have designed it.

I hope Sabra remembers that simple fact. Only time stopped her attack.

SABRA LANE: Mr Swan, thanks for your time...

It was not just the words; it was her pejorative tone of voice that made the words even more cutting. You can listen to it here.  

Now for Sabra’s interview of the one who would-be PM.

SABRA LANE: Tony Abbott, welcome. This scheme will get through Parliament and when it does and when people are compensated, aren't they going to think what was all the fuss about?

So Abbott gets a ‘welcome’ and a Dorothy Dixer.

TONY ABBOTT: I don't think you can assume it will get through the Parliament, Sabra. There are a lot of Labor members who are very unhappy, members in mining seats, steel-making seats, motor manufacturing seats. I think one of the reasons why the Prime Minister didn't want to announce this in a sitting week is because she didn't want to face the caucus. 

Let's face it, this was a package designed by the Greens. It wasn't a package that was designed by Labor and it certainly wasn't a package that Labor members of Parliament had any real input to.

SABRA LANE: You've said that you'll rescind this tax in government; will you roll back all the tax cuts and all the additional welfare payments too?

No provocation here – just a simple question, for which she already knows the answer.

TONY ABBOTT: Look, this is a bad tax and we are against it. We say that you can't fix it, you've just got to fight it.

More of the same tired old slogans, which Sabra will not dare to challenge, but she feels she must persist a bit.

SABRA LANE: Will you roll back the tax payments and the additional welfare payments?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, look what I've said and I'm very happy to keep saying it is that under the Coalition, there will be a tax cut without a carbon tax. Under the Coalition there will be a fair go for pensioners, a fair go without a carbon tax.

She's still looking for a gotcha.

SABRA LANE: So you'll roll it all back?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, as I said, we haven't seen the legislation.

Feeling she’s being fobbed off, which she is, she tries again with a daring riposte.

SABRA LANE: You're being very tricky.

TONY ABBOTT: No, I'm not being tricky I am just telling you our position. Our position is that there will be a tax cut without a carbon tax and there'll be a fair go for pensioners because there won't be a carbon tax.

She could hardly avoid asking the next question, but does so benignly.

SABRA LANE: Well, how will you pay for all of that?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, as I said many times before, Sabra, let me repeat it again on your program, in good time before the next election, we will announce our fiscal position and we will pay for tax cuts out of spending reductions and the thing is Sabra that a tax cut that is paid for by tax increase, it is not a cut. It is a con. These are mirage tax cuts.

Not ready to challenge this deceptive nonsense, she tries another slap with a wet lettuce. Her knife is in its scabbard.

SABRA LANE: Given that this tax package is dove-tailed with tax reform, your job of rolling it back has been made pretty difficult, hasn't it?

TONY ABBOTT: Look, Sabra, it is myth to describe this as tax reform. This is the first time in a generation that marginal tax rates have been increased. The 15 per cent rate goes up to 19 per cent; the 30 per cent rate goes up to 33 per cent. Low and middle income earners face an increase in their marginal tax rates. That is not reform. This is a big tax retrospect-a-scope. That is what it is. Bob Hawke and Paul Keating would be appalled to see this done to the kind of tax reform that they supported.

Unable to counter this Abbott-speak, she offers another wet lettuce statement that is not a question.

SABRA LANE: But some economists say that lifting the tax free threshold is pretty significant.

TONY ABBOTT: I have supported lifting the tax free threshold. What I haven't supported and wouldn't support is an increase in marginal tax rates. That is going backwards. That is reducing the work incentives for low and middle income earners. This is an attack on aspiration. This is an attack on the aspirational classes of our country. That's why it is not fair dinkum reform.

So she tries another gentle statement.

SABRA LANE: The Treasury modelling shows that the price impacts on families will be quite minimal. At the supermarkets milk will go up by about a cent, eggs two cents.

TONY ABBOTT: Um, this tax is just going to go up and up and up Sabra. The carbon price is going to be $29 a tonne in 2020 and that is in 2010 dollars. The carbon price is going to be $131 a tonne in 2050 and that's in 2010 dollars. So look, this price is just going to go up and up and up and I don't think believe this Government. Even on the Government's own figuring, more than three million households are going to be worse off. A single income family with one child under five, on average weekly earnings, is going to be worse off and that's even on the Government's own modelling.

SABRA LANE: You say that you don't trust these figures but they've come from Treasury, the same mob that modelled your GST.

Note the word ‘mob’; she doesn’t have much regard for Treasury.

TONY ABBOTT: As I said, I don't think people are going to believe this Government. I mean why is the Prime Minister any more believable now than she was six days before the last election when she said …

SABRA LANE: But you don't trust the figures, they haven't …

TONY ABBOTT: Let me finish Sabra, when she said six days before the last election there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.

She is willing to listen to Abbott’s slogans, but unwilling to challenge them or pursue them any further.

SABRA LANE: You are going to travel the nation now, much like the Prime Minister, will you visit any steel mills, will you visit Whyalla? You said Whyalla would be wiped off the face of the Earth.

Another Dorothy Dixer.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, that was the Australian Workers Union and does anyone think for a second, Sabra, that there wouldn't be a steel package had I not been out there fighting for the steel industry, day after day after day. Does anyone not think that if the steel industry was safe the Government would have announced this straight away? No, no, no, I am very pleased to have helped bring about what is a better outcome for the steel industry but I think everyone in the steel industry understands, this is a stay of execution. It is not a permanently good deal.

No challenge of the Abbott assertion by Sabra! So more wet lettuce.

SABRA LANE: Well, Blue Scope and OneSteel both say that are pretty happy with the package.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, let's wait and see what happens to employment at Whyalla and Port Kembla.

SABRA LANE: So I take it you won't be visiting steel mills?

What sort of a question is that?

TONY ABBOTT: Oh look, I will be visiting the workers of this country and letting them know that this is a toxic tax. Let's put the boot on the other foot. Will Julia Gillard be going to Whyalla? Will Julia Gillard be going to Port Kembla? I tell you where she'll be going, she'll be going to university campuses, that's where she'll be going. 

She won't be going to the factories and to the mines where the Australian workforce and where traditional Labor voters congregate.

SABRA LANE: The Government will put its additional steel compensation package through Parliament. That will then put the heat on you. Will you pass it?

Another pseudo-challenging question.

TONY ABBOTT: Look, this is a bad deal for the steel industry. At best it is a stay of execution and as I said Sabra, look and see what happens to employment at Whyalla and Port Kembla and that's where we'll discover whether this really is a good package for the steel industry.

SABRA LANE: Tony Abbott, thanks for your time.

Again, listen to her tone of voice speaking with the would-be PM. 

You be the judge of who got the knife and who got the wet lettuce treatment. We can all be biased, but I came a way from these interviews infuriated at the negativity, rudeness and sharpness of Sabra’s interview with Wayne Swan and the limpness of her interview with Tony Abbott. Is this yet another sign of the negativity syndrome that seems to be spreading through Our ABC? 

What do you think?

The Tragic Magic Pudding

It’s been over a year’s hard Labor for Tony Abbott since the Indos went along with Julia Gillard and not him. And to say the least, he’s getting a bit toey. He knows that he needs to swing their support his direction, so as to get into the big chair. But, to make things worse at the moment, he’s suffering from a bad cold that was brought on by cycling too much in the wintry weather. He is coughing and spluttering, and his nose is blocked and running like a tap.

Then, all of a sudden, Tones reckons his luck has turned when he receives an invite to go on MasterChef, where Tony Windsor and co are the judges, and have assured him that, if he wins, the keys to The Lodge are his. The other contestants, he is informed, are a motley crew, comprising of Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan, Christopher Pyne, Bronnie Bishop, David Bushby and Joe Hockey.



So, as everyone knows, the MasterChef format is stretched out over 6 nights and, on the first night – Sunday (CHALLENGE NIGHT) – all the contestants are given the same ingredients in the MYSTERY BOX CHALLENGE.

Unfortunately for Tones, however, he comes second to Jooles on this one and, for the next phase of the competition, the INVENTIONS TEST, she is invited into the pantry by Rob Oakeshott to choose the main ingredient for the next dish. Jooles chooses nuts as the main food item and again beats Tones with her very tasty NBN (“Nice Brazil Nuts”) salad.

Then, the next night, Monday’s PRESSURE TEST, is a big challenge for the bottom three losers from the previous evening. They are Wayne Swan, Christopher Pyne and Joe Hockey. In fact, as the dishes of these three are considered such duds, the whole lot are eliminated. For example, in his planning, Swannie goes way too much into deficit in weighing his ingredients, and ends up with only two peas and a cocktail sausage on his plate. Pynie, meanwhile, has the opposite problem and is disqualified for having too much mince on his. And Joe Hockey is drummed out for scoffing his creation before the judges even get a chance to see it!

Then, on the Tuesday – CELEBRITY CHEF CHALLENGE – Jooles, as winner of the INVENTION TEST on the previous Sunday, has to face off against Gordon Ramsay. Unfortunately for Jooles, Gordon makes more swear words in the alphabet soup dish than her. Gordon later informs the Cooking Correspondent of The Australian that he is relieved he didn’t have to go into a swear-off with Tones, as he knows the Leader of the Opposition is “the f***ing Fr Jack Hackett of the f***ing political swearing world!”

Anyway, the MasterChef bandwagon rolls on and it is now Wednesday night – the OFF-SITE CHALLENGE. Tones is given the job of managing Fawlty Towers for the night, but fails miserably and even makes Basil look like Conrad Hilton. For her part, Jooles is tasked with catering for a wedding and she uses the opportunity to show how she can multi-task by marrying Tim while she is at it.

So, Thursday comes along, with another ELIMINATION. It is hard to believe there are two worse contestants than Tones, after his debacle as Acting-Manager of Fawlty Towers. Nevertheless, Bronwyn Bishop and David Bushby are to compete head-to-head for this dubious honour.

However, Andrew Wilkie and the other judges decide that both are so appallingly bad, each has to go. For her sins, Bronnie nearly sets fire to the studio when she tries to brown the meringue with her kerosene torch, and manages to singe her beehive into the bargain. And, David Bushby is disqualified for trying to pass off some cat-food as tuna morney.

So, finally, the Friday match-off comes around and Tones and Jooles are the only two MasterChef contestants left standing. Tones is delighted he has made it this far, in spite of being handicapped by such a heavy cold. Now, with each ensconced in their separate, self-contained kitchens, Tones and Jooles bring out all their Tupperware containers they have brought from home, and plonk them on their respective preparation tables. The camera zooms in on Tones, who is being interviewed by Rob Oakeshott.

Rob: Okay, Tones...you look like you’re loaded with the cold, mate...But, nevertheless, we want you and Jooles to each cook up a pudding. So, what culinary delight will you have in store for us tonight?

Tones: Yeah, mate...can’t seem to get rid of this bloody lurgy...But, anyway mate, shit happens! And yeah, I’m cooking up a Magic Pudding tonight, mate...40 ingredients...no problems, mate...



Rob: Okay, Tones...we’ll leave you to it...I’ll just head over to the PM’s kitchen to see how she’s doing...

[As Rob Oakeshott saunters off, closing Tones’ kitchen door firmly behind him, Tones is left alone in the kitchen. He talks aloud to himself.] Tones: Erm...righto...What’s first? Yeah...half a kilo of good old GUIDED DEMOCRACY gorgonzola...

[Tones fires the ultra-pongy ingredient into the mixing bowl, but, with his blocked nose, can’t smell how bad it is.]

Tones: Now...what about a dollop of ABOLISH THE MINING TAX mustard...heh...heh...

[Tones liberally (what else!) uses his fingers to mix the first two ingredients for his Magic Pudding recipe.]

Tones: Mmmm...lovely...and now for a few slices of DIRECT ACTION durians...and a litre of some ATROCIOUSLY EXPENSIVE PAID PARENTAL LEAVE lemon juice...and, for good measure, half a kilo of CUT BACK GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE NUMBERS giblets...plus...wait for it...a cup of RE-OPEN NAURU guano granules...and 100 grams of self-raising-to-20% GST flour...with a few stalks of ROOTY HILL rhubarb...and a kilo of rancid but...but...butter...hee...hee...

[Even by this stage, and Tones hasn’t finished making his Magic pudding yet, there is such a stench off the pongy ingredients, it would make the Augean Stables, on a hot day, smell like one of Elizabeth Arden’s well-deodorised armpits. However, with his blocked nose, Tones can’t smell a thing.]

Tones: And now for 20 cloves of GOSPEL TRUTH garlic...and a litre of some PACIFIC SOLUTION sour milk...and a handful of crushed-up, over the used-by-date, TEA PARTY pies...plus a container of NATURE STRIPS suet...and 100 grams of DEAD, BURIED AND CREMATED WORKCHOICES wheat-flour...and three tablespoons of PLEBICITE fish-paste...with a cup of NODDING DEATH-STARE noodles and some ECONOMISTS’ guts and SCIENTISTS’ garters – the pointy-headed pricks...heh...heh...

[Tones adds in the remainder of his 40 whiffy ingredients and blithely continues to mash them in the bowl.

Meanwhile, Rob Oakeshott and the other Indo judges have been checking up on Jooles. She is playing her cards close to her chest as to what sort of pudding she is creating, so they give her a preliminary mark for her MasterChef efforts so far. Then, they return to Tones’ kitchen.

Rob opens the door and, like a tumultuous tsunami, the wave of fetid air from Tones’ mixing bowl nearly “bowls” them over.]

Rob (holding his nose): OMG Tones – you call that a Magic Pudding – more like a Tragic Pudding to me! I’m afraid you’ve failed the MasterChef test and lost out on our support for another while, mate...

Tones: But...but...but...it’s a fail-safe 40-ingredients recipe that Robbo gave me! He told me no matter how many times it’s on the nose, the ABC, News Limited and the shock-jocks will ensure it never fails to get on the menu! It’s a Magic Pudding, ffs!!!

[The judges ignore Tones’ protestations and quickly slam the door, heading off to the security and clean air of Jooles’ kitchen.]

Andrew: Okay, Jooles...we don’t think you’ve got any real competition around here at the moment...so, we’ll declare you the winner of this year’s MasterChef competition, and guarantee you our support for another while...

Jooles: Why, thank you gentlemen – it will be my pleasure to continue to work with you – long may it last...

Tony Windsor: Oh, and Jooles...what sort of a pudding did you finally come up with?

Jooles: Oh, it’s just a simple black pudding, Tony...It’s very solid, with no big holes in it whatsoever – unlike the Opposition’s...heh...heh...

Slowing down the blur that is the colour and movement of a Tony Abbott speech

Tony Abbott giving his speech to the 55th Annual Liberal Party Federal Council, 2011









In the perpetual present that politics has become, worldwide, and especially in this country since Tony Abbott became Opposition Leader, where what happened and what was said yesterday is so last week, and as our Opposition Leader churns out speeches like butter to give to whoever will have him on their stage, like the journalist that he is, able to write a new story every day, we usually don't get the opportunity to analyse his words, so quickly do they pass us by in a blur, only to be replaced tomorrow by another set.

The tune remains the same but the words change. There are certain themes that are core but which get changed periodically as the Coalition Caravan moves on.

So I just thought that I would take the time that no one else seems willing or able to, and take one of Mr Abbott's speeches, which contain the 'Gospel Truth' I am to assume as it was written down, and analyse what he really means when he speaks those words.

Or does he? Because, like the journalist he used to be he is able to turn on a dime from one day to the next and write something completely different to what he has written in a previously written piece of work.

So, come with me as we explore the travesty for Australia contained in the speech given by Tony Abbott to the 55th Liberal Federal Council on the 25th of June, 2011.  

I will be starting at the beginning and going line by line through the whole speech adding my comments and pointing out implications of his words which he probably hoped we wouldn't go into too deeply. Which is exactly why I am doing it, because if the media is not willing to apply proper scrutiny to this man who wants to rule our country, who wishes to slide into the highest office in the land, based upon feel-good bromides that disguise a seamy underbelly of intent, and mindless slogans, then I feel honour-bound to do that which they will not.

Tony Abbott speaks with forked tongue, and I want to untangle the snake-tongued one's silkily delivered speeches from now until the next election. I think it will be fun, a worthwhile exercise, and hopefully enlightening for anyone reading it. So, here we go. Tony Abbott’s words are in italics.

“On this weekend exactly a year ago, when we last met, the Labor government was 10 points ahead in the Nielsen poll and Julia Gillard was 21 points ahead as preferred prime minister.

“Some difference a year makes!

Which only goes to prove that opinion polls taken after a year of relentlessly negative posturing by Mr A and the media, which indulges him, do have an effect – on the opinion polls, such that they have begun to feed off each other. Tony Abbott and the opinion polls, that is.

Tony Abbott attacks and launches 'Suspension of Standing Order' motions in order to rail against the government, day after day in parliament, based on very little of real substance, which makes the TV News, the newspapers, and the ABC, which serves to continue to adversely colour people's perception of the government and means that any positive achievements are continually swamped by this never-ending negativity from Australia's 21st century 'Nattering Nabob of Negativism'. Then another poll is taken: by Newspoll, or Nielson, or Morgan, or Galaxy, or Essential, or the plethora of media outlets, and, with no concurrent scrutiny or focus on Mr Abbott, the government again suffers in the polls. Especially when every minor detail of the Prime Minister's demeanour and anatomy is focused on with laser-like intensity, and every sexist slur is gleefully 'reported', and repeated, all the live long day, well, it's no surprise to me then that the polls are bad now for the government.

And yes, I admit, if they had delivered more in the last 12 months maybe things would be better for them in 'the polls'. However, only 1 year into a 3 year term I cannot see as how these polls should be taken as seriously as some, like Mr Abbott, would like them to be. I honestly don't remember the same portentous intensity being visited upon the poll numbers during the first year of any of John Howard's terms of government, and, in fact, I remember a benign indulgence by the media of his government being accorded to him if things had gotten a bit off-kilter for some reason.

Of course, however, it suits Tony Abbott and the media that is running his PR campaign to accord 'the polls' undue importance. Such importance that it was the first cab off the rank in his speech!

“Over the past year, this great party has deprived a first term government of its majority, brought a returned government to its knees, and now has despairing Labor MPs thinking about Kevin 11.”

Even though 'this great party' of Tony Abbott's wasn't able to win the August 2010 election, or convince a couple of Conservative independent MPs to support it to form government in the post-election negotiations. Nor any independent MP, no matter how much money he threw at them.

‘...brought a returned government to its knees.’

Well, obviously Mr A has a very different interpretation of what that is to what I do. I suppose if he calls having a 151 to zero success rate in passing legislation in parliament being 'brought to its knees', then I, um, guess so. However, I think that what he means is that being indulged, facilitated, and enabled by a Conservative-owned media, which also seems to wag the dog of the ABC, such that he is giving the impression of successfully challenging the Minority Gillard government to the public-at-large, when he is, in fact, being entirely ineffectual where it should really count, in the Legislative Chambers of both Houses of Parliament, then, well, I have to agree with him. Let's just see how long he can keep that up for though before the scales start to fall off the eyes of the electorate and reality intrudes on his carefully crafted mirage, that is the All Attack 'Action Man' Abbott political persona. Tick, tick, tick Mr A.

'...and now has despairing MPs thinking about Kevin 11.'

Erm, no, actually. From all credible reports, a return to Kevin Rudd as Labor leader is the last thing Labor MPs are considering. The truth is, bar a couple of minor niggles, they are happy with Julia Gillard. What made Kevin Rudd crumble, from Tony Abbott, the Coalition camp, and their camp followers in the media, is only making Julia Gillard stronger and more resolute. So, this is just another lie from the lips of TA. They trip off his lips so casually and so easily, don't they?

"And Barry O’Farrell has won the biggest landslide in Australian history campaigning against the carbon tax." 

No. Wrong again, T.A. Barry O'Farrell tacked the 'Anti Carbon Tax campaign' onto the end of the Coalition's NSW State election campaign, almost as an Abbott-directed afterthought, which it was. And that's the actual truth of the matter, isn't it, Mr A.?

Actually, truth be told, and I know that is an alien concept to Mr Abbott, but the venal behaviour of the NSW State Labor government lost them the election and delivered a massive mandate to Barry O'Farrell, who employed the smallest of small targets to face the electorate with, who made much of a gimmicky 'Contract With the People of NSW', wherein he promised to resign as Premier if he broke that contract, and which he already has (break the contract, that is), and which he hasn't done (resign, that is). He broke that contract almost on Day 1 with his retrospective Solar Feed-In Tariff legislation. I'm sure we'll find more examples of that broken contract as Premier O'Farrell goes on without resigning, no doubt. I seem to remember Mr Abbott had one of those 'Contract with the People' thingys too, before the last election.

“If only we’d taken the advice of the pundits!”

Que? What advice? Which pundits, Mr A.? The ones that suit you to reference, no doubt!

“The most positive thing we can do for our country right now is save Australia from a carbon tax; a carbon tax that will destroy jobs and the raise the cost of living for Australia’s forgotten families.”

No, the most mature and adult thing we can do for our country right now is to save Australia from the catastrophic effects upon it of Global Warming and Climate Change, not reduce such an important matter to an argument about tax. A 'Price on Carbon' that will not be paid by the 'Forgotten Families' but the biggest, dirtiest polluters, will not destroy jobs but create them as a result of the Decarbonised Economy and Green Industrial Revolution. Now, what WILL raise the Cost of Living for Australian Families is no jobs from the economic transformation of the future and no decent national income as Mining Boom Mark 2 goes bust as we fail to move with the times and the price for our Coal goes down as other base load power modalities and ways of stoking furnaces are developed and implemented in countries decarbonising their economies. Remember who used to sell lumps of Coal? The poorest of the poor.

“And the best way to stop the carbon tax is to change the government.”

No, the best way to ensure that the sensible moves with respect to Global Warming are made is to NOT change the government to the 'Intelligent Sceptic', and master of Climate Change tokenism, Tony Abbott. Also to resist the world wide push back from the 'Business as Usual' Fossil Fuel industries trying to orchestrate, government by government, failure to take action on Global Warming.

“I thank everyone in this room and Liberals right around Australia for your hard work to expose the faults of a monumentally bad government.”

I think Tony Abbott should be thanking the Murdoch media and their lapdogs in the ABC. They are the ones who continually give credence to Abbott's cockamamie 'policies', such as the 'More money for High Income Earners Paid Parental Leave Scheme', which even members of his own Coalition think is an irresponsible dog. Instead the media echo every condemnatory phrase uttered, generally hypocritically, by the Liberal Party leader, without question, or, if, on the rare occasion that they do try to probe behind the glib facade that Tony Abbott and his minders and handlers have constructed, they then allow the man to treat them with contempt, give them the kiss-off and just walk away from their questioning without a bye nor leave.

“I thank my parliamentary colleagues especially my senior shadow ministers led by Julie Bishop and Joe Hockey.”

Don't. Make. Me. Laugh. Two more lightweight performers, who epitomise the phrase 'All style, no substance', I cannot think of. 'Helpmeet' Bishop and 'Haw Haw' Hockey. Both continually being found out to be fudgers of the first order. Both having only a passing acquaintance with a concept known as 'the Truth'. Bishop by not even being capable of penning her own contributions to Liberal policy debates (and yes, I know, 'Pot Kettle Black', but then I'm not Deputy Leader of a political party, and I'm not a serial offender), or making fundamental errors of fact when she does come up with a few original thoughts, and, last but not least, her idea to get the Coalition's election promises costed by Horwarth's Accounting firm over there in Perth, before the last election. Genius move, Jules. Not. Yes, it hid the $11 Billion Black Hole from the electorate, into which disappeared double counting and counting of things which didn't even exist in the Budget yet, or were 'Off Book', like the NBN, but, in the end, it just served to show her up, yet again, as an entirely unprincipled politician.

And Joe Hockey was the man who hawked it all around the country before the election and since, like some sort of Pyramid Investment Scheme-extolling 'Financial Guru' and carpetbagger. Just like we found out this past week from the 'Go Back to Where You Came From' show on SBS, that the Vice President of the Young Liberals was a Financial Planner. No wonder the Liberal Party fought so hard to get their cosy deal with the public preserved, as it seems they love nothing more than a bit of financial sleight of hand and a shell game to bamboozle the punters/electors.

So, in other words, TA, shonks from the top of the Liberal Party's pyramid, to the bottom. Not particularly fine and upstanding individuals at all. Yes, there are some in the Liberal Party who are, and, may I say, it appears to me they are hanging on by their fingernails, that are worthwhile individual MPs, Dr Mal Washer being one, but not the one's that you have singled out.

“I thank Alan Stockdale for being the kind of president a parliamentary leader can normally only dream of...”

And I bet there was a ton o' political calculation involved in TA's vote for him, which revolved around the fact that Alan is now Tony's man, and he let him know it during the ballot.

“…and Brian Loughnane for being the best political operator in our country.”

Mm, yes, the Coalition HAVE become better at the political operation of late than the ALP. It used to be the other way around, and weren't the Liberals twisted Kimbies a-go-go about that back then? No more, it seems. It's to be worn as a badge of honour now. Of course, Tony. And especially since you became Leader of the Liberal Party and policy became the Cinderella in the Liberal Party 'family'.

Even though, as we all know, playing politics isn't all there is. On the evidence, it seems to be the modus operandi of the Liberal Party to play the politics hardest, scatter a few policies around in general terms and prior to elections to keep the naysayers about the Coalition's empty policy cupboard quieted, and generally hide their true light under a bushel until after they are elected. Whereupon they whip off the masks they have been hiding their true faces behind and, 'Whack!' they begin their Shock and Awe campaign of implementing what they truly believe in but failed to inform the electorate about, except in the most general of terms. A la Barry O'Farrell, Ted Baillieu, Colin Barnett, and no doubt, Isobel Redmond in SA, 'Can Do' can of production line Liberal soup, Campbell Newman in Queensland, and Michael Hodgeman (now, is he an example of Liberal nepotism and birth-right political hegemony, or what?), in Tasmania.

“Most of all I thank the Australian people for keeping their faith that government doesn’t have to be as bad as this.”

Um, TA, it's the Labor Party that is in government and they have some pretty big reforms on the boil, despite your constant cavilling at minor inconsistencies that are thrown up in the dust they leave behind as they 'Move Forward' with their reformist agenda, all of which can be carefully explained and elucidated to the Australian people should the media so desire. Still, you don't really want to give that impression, do you?

“On her first day as Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that the government had lost its way and that she was taking control.”

And after a period of less than 1 year since the last election, Julia Gillard has sought to find a definitive solution to the Asylum Seeker issue which will encompass the entire region; she has modified the RSPT to become the MRRT, which mollified the Miners and their Anti-RSPT campaign, except for Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest and Big Gina Reinhart, whose core motivation appears to be becoming among the richest people in the world off the back of the profits from the resources which belong to all the Australian people and who should thus all benefit from them financially, with increased provision of infrastructure and real tax cuts and superannuation increases for those who need them most. Which doesn't equal Twiggy and Big Gina as it happens.

Julia Gillard has also taken the Climate Change policy bit between her teeth and is on the verge of nutting out the final details of the deal and announcing it to the Australian people. A deal which WILL pass parliament and which WILL actually see Australia, the highest per capita producer of Greenhouse Gases in the world, do its bit to reduce its CO2 emissions and thus force behavioural change upon the community and Industry.

And then there's the structural separation of Telstra and the implementation of the NBN.

Looks like control of a lot of balls in the air to me.

“One year and one day later, the government is dying in a political desert and the transition from Rudd to Gillard has been as effective as changing from Burke to Wills. “

Still, when it comes to glib one-liners, Julia Gillard is no match for Mr Abbott. I have to admit that.

“Some say that this government is the worst since Whitlam, but that’s unfair – to Whitlam – who was utterly incompetent but never sold Labor’s soul to the Greens.”

Um, much as Bob Brown would've liked it, The Greens didn't exist as a representative political entity in Whitlam's time. Did even the Australian Democrats? And actually, if selling one's political soul to The Greens involves compromising with them such that more humane political outcomes are the result, then, 'Bring It On!'. To which I will add that Mr Abbott doesn't have a political soul to lose, having sold it to the devil long since, in my humble opinion, in return for the power to mesmerise the gullible with fine-sounding sentiment. He truly has mastered the dark political art of speaking with a forked tongue. As this speech exemplifies in spades.

“When a government loses its way, sooner or later the country loses its way too.”

Nope, sorry, TA. I think we're finally headed in the correct direction, not the 'Right' direction. The NBN, Health and Hospital reform, addressing Climate Change, Tasmanian Forest policy, Skills and Training for all our kids and anyone else who wants access to it, not just the ones who can afford to pay for it, combined with importing the rest of the workforce from other countries and paying them wages comparable to the countries they came from in many instances, since uncovered, and eventually dragging our own Unskilled and Semi-skilled workers' wages down with them. A definite 'fiscal drag', you could say, that was occurring under Howard's watch. While, at one and the same time Aussie workers missed out on those jobs. Or, worse still, those jobs were outsourced overseas. As Howard and Abbott, Hockey and Bishop et al, encouraged enthusiastically.

Not to forget the glorious WorkChoices for those who weren't the much-lauded 'Small Business Owners', in that Liberal pantheon of ever-so-humble capitalist greats.

So that's the big N.O. To the assertion that the country has lost its way under Labor. I think that the Gillard government is just getting a head of steam up after heading in the wrong direction under Howard, and going off track and off the reservation under Kevin Rudd. Bless his over-achieving cotton socks.

“That’s Australia’s problem right now.”

No, the problem is that you, Tony Abbott, want to take the country back to where it has just gotten itself away from, by dressing up Howard's tired old tracksuit in a new lycra bag of fruit.”

The next part of the Abbott address gives his expert analysis of the Gillard Government, about which he insists there is “almost nothing right”. You will have to wait until next week for a forensic analysis of this.

Putting the Squeeze on Mr Squiggle

Everybody knows the ABC has gone to the dogs, and it’s not just its News and Current Affairs Department we’re talking about. In fact, their Children’s Programming Section is badly in need of a facelift also. But, at least there, they are trying to do something about it.

The powers-that-be have resurrected the Mr Squiggle Show and invited a hard-hitting cast to take on the roles of the main characters. Julia Gillard is playing the part of Miss Jane, Tony Abbott is the Blackboard, and Mr Squiggle himself is being played by that titled climate change contrarian, Viscount Moncton of Brenchley.





They have already had a rehearsal for the first show of the revived children’s series and, if the truth be known, it didn’t go very well. It is a far more low-budget affair than in the past, with, for example, an aquarium with only rubber boats floating aimlessly on the water but no fish. There is, also, dust all over the place, making Miss Julia sneeze. And, to make matters worse, Blackboard and Mr Squiggle were playing up, making it very hard for Miss Julia to keep them on task.

That rascal Blackboard had been the worst culprit, so Miss Julia, having had to put up with more high jinks than a person could be expected to endure, finally snapped and ordered Mr Squiggle to get into his rocket and skedaddle for the moon, whilst she dealt with the miscreant Blackboard.

So, getting him on his own, Miss Julia made Blackboard wear a specially-designed pair of red budgie smugglers. These she got made from a unique material that, when they were pulled up tightly over the bottom of his blackboard, they covered his mouth. However, what was special about the material was, when Blackboard shouted one of his rude three-word slogans, or used the S-word, the material in the budgie smugglers would constrict, making it very difficult for Blackboard to speak!

So, on the morning of the live broadcast, Miss Julia enters the dark studio, switches on the lights, gazes forlornly at the fish tank with no fish, has a sneezing fit with all the dust, and walks over to the set where Blackboard stands ready for action.

Miss Julia: Aaaaaaaaaaaatishoooooooooo! Uhhh...good morning, Blackboard...

Blackboard: STOP THE SNEEZING!!!! STOP THE BOATS in that bloody excuse for an aquarium!!!! PRIVATISE THE ABC!!!! At least then we’ll be able to afford a couple of vacuum cleaners to get rid of all this friggin’ dust!! Hurry up!! Hurry up!! Or shit’ll happen!!

Miss Julia: That’s quite enough, Blackboard!! I thought I told you at rehearsals you can’t use that sort of language on a children’s program...And where are your special budgie smugglers? If you were wearing them, you wouldn’t be able to mouth off like that...

Blackboard: I gave them to Mr Squiggle...He liked the cut of them, so he’s gone up in his rocket to the changing rooms upstairs to try them on...

[Then, speak of the devil, down comes the rocket, and out steps Mr Squiggle (aka Viscount Monckton), adorned in Blackboard’s red budgie smugglers. However, unlike Blackboard, whose mouth was covered by the aforesaid item of swimming attire, Mr Squiggle is wearing them on the region for which they were designed. “Hmmmm...” Miss Julia thinks to herself, “if Mr Squiggle plays up just like he did at rehearsals, these specially-produced speedos might just curtail his shenanigans somewhat...heh...heh...”]

Miss Julia: Good morning, Viscount...I hope you are ready for the cameras...they’ll be rolling in a minute...

Mr Squiggle (indignantly): Viscount? Bloody Viscount? I’ll have you know I’m a lot more important than a measly viscount! I’m a LORD, I’ll have you know! A member of the British House of Lords, no less...

[Sensing that Mr Squiggle is telling a porkie or making an outrageous ad hominem attack on someone, the specially-designed budgie smugglers constrict, squeezing his nuts so much, his eyes start to protrude.]

Mr Squiggle: Owwwww...ahhhhh...jeeze that hurts!

Miss Julia (whispering): And it’ll hurt a lot more if you continue to muck around...so behave yourself...

[Meanwhile, Mr Squiggle has got used to the extra pressure on his nether regions, and can’t resist the temptation to slag and bag this bitch.]

Mr Squiggle: Hey, Miss Julia...if I do too much drawing this morning, and I wear down my pencil nose, can I use yours – it’s even longer and pointier than mine...hee...hee...

[Mr Squiggle has no sooner tempted fate by asking this insulting, ungracious and silly question when, his stones are given the mangle treatment again by the bathing togs specially designed by Miss Julia. Again, his breath is taken away big time, and his eye balls bulge out even further.]

Mr Squiggle: Eeeeeekkkkk!! Ooooooouch!!

[Just then, onto the studio floor stomps the feet of a group of specially-invited ankle-biters, ready to hand over their semi-completed scribblings for Mr Squiggle to dolly-up. One of the brats stops at the aquarium, staring contemptuously therein.]

Brat: WTF! What’s this – no fish? What sort of an aquarium is this? Huh, I’m off to watch GO! instead – they’re heaps better...

Mr Squiggle: Yeah, just bugger off then! See if I care! Bloody Hitler Youth!

[Again, Mr Squiggle’s bathers do their thing and his eyes are just about ready to pop out. Meanwhile, Miss Julia has collected up all the discarded semi-completed drawings, and choofed the brats out of the studio. She orders the cameras to roll. However, every time Miss Julia puts a new partially-finished drawing on Blackboard for Mr Squiggle to finish, he manages to either insult someone or tell fibs. For example, the specially-invited studio guest star is Ross Garnaut, and Mr Squiggle asks him to comment on the weather today, “from your fascist point of view, of course...hee...hee...”

Then, Mr Squiggle reckons one of the kid’s drawings is so bad, he must be a chronic AIDS sufferer and so should be rounded up and quarantined on Nauru!

And another child’s drawing was so crap, according to Mr Squiggle, it must have been done by another member of the Hitler Youth! So Mr Squiggle finished it by turning it into a NAZI flag!

Then he finished another drawing by sketching it as a satellite crashing into the ground, saying it belonged to NASA, and they had deliberately sabotaged it, as it was sending back information that contradicted their global warming conspiracy!

He also turned one child’s scribbles into a 15th century Chinese armada that, he said, had circumnavigated an ice-free Arctic Ocean, proving that the medieval period was even warmer than today!

He even tried to flog a bottle of his “therapeutic treatment” to Miss Julia, claiming it could cure the common cold and flu, so stopping her dust-allergy sneezing would be a cake walk!

By then, however, Mr Squiggle had delivered so many ad hominem remarks and told so many fibs, his nuts felt like Joe Hockey was standing on them, and his eyes were out on stalks. Miss Julia has had a gutful of this tomfoolery and orders the cameras to cease rolling.] Miss Julia: Righto, Mr Squiggle...I think the ABC’s attempt to resurrect itself has been a dismal failure...and it’s all down to you I’m afraid...

Mr Squiggle (pleadingly): Oh please, please, please Miss Julia...give me one last chance – you know how much I love the ABC...

[Miss Julia hesitates for a moment, but then her eyes light up, indicating a cunning plan is being incubated.]

Miss Julia: Erm...alright Mr Squiggle...I think I have your next career move ready to hit the road...or the water to be more precise...heh...heh...

[Miss Julia picks up Mr Squiggle and plops him in the fish tank.]

Miss Julia: Yep, Mr Squiggle – you can just swim around in there until Sir David Attenborough turns up – I think he’s looking for examples of strange fish for his next aquatic series...hee...hee...

Blackboard: But what about me? What about my next career move?

Miss Julia: Erm...I think you’ve come to the end of the line, chum...nobody uses blackboards anymore – haven’t you heard of the Building Education Revolution...heh...heh...