What a Y-Frontery!

According to the promotional blurbs sent out to advertise his new TV show, Y-Frontsline, Tony “Mike Moore” Abbott is such a hit as the Leader of the Opposition, he can afford to share out a bit of his presence by also entertaining the TV masses while he’s at it.

To be truthful, however, Tones is simply moonlighting so that he can meet the repayments of his great big fat mortgage.

So, he has done a few practice interviews and they are simply devastating.

And the story behind the name of his new TV program, Y-Frontsline? Well, he reckoned he got a lot of mileage out of his budgie smugglers motif, so why not trade on the old tried and tested Y-Fronts label as well?

So, at the Sydney studios, Tones is getting ready for his first pre-recorded interview at 11.00 am with a high-flying guest. The latter is visiting from the USA and is called Stevie Ray Finklestein Jr, III. He is one of the directors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Therefore, he is a greenie. And Tones hates greenies, so he’s gonna show up this nerdy, warmist geek big time!

That morning, Tones is at a production meeting to discuss how the upcoming interview should go. Also present are his fellow-reporters (and big rivals), Julie “Brooke Vandenberg” Bishop, and Malcolm “Marty di Stasio” Turnbull, plus the Executive Producer, Rupie “Prowsey” Murdoch. It is 10.00 am.

Rupie: Right, you lot...we gotta make this inaugural interview of Tones work, or it’ll be the second-most humblest day of my life...And, as for you, Tones, you better be a lot more effective as a studio interviewer than you are as Leader of the Opposition – why, that bloody NBN is gonna kill us...

Tones: Erm...your trust is well-placed in my hands, Mr Murdoch – I won’t let you down...

[Malcolm whispers out of the side of his mouth to Julie.]

Mal: Huh...I hope for his sake his guests don’t walk out after two questions, just like he does...heh...heh...

Rupie: What was that, Mal?

Mal: Erm...nothing, Mr Murdoch...I was just saying to Julie that as far as the interviews are concerned, Tones here is going to walk all over them...

Rupie: And rightly so...ratings are all that matter here...and, speaking of ratings, we need to ensure that Y-Frontsline gets more than its market share, and destroys its main rivals...

Tones (sycophantically): Erm...Mr Murdoch, sir...who would our main rivals be at this moment in time?

[Julie “Brooke Vandenberg” Bishop butts in.]

Julie: Erm...if I could just add something at this juncture, Mr Murdoch...in regards to our rivals, I think their identities are staring us in the face...

[Everyone tries to suppress their sly sniggers.]

Julie: And...as I was saying...I reckon that Sophie Mirabella’s new gig over at the ABC is our biggest threat...

Tones: Yeah, I heard The Collectors has got a reprieve and Sophie will be fronting it...

Mal: Yeah...she’ll be inviting all the oldies to send in their valuables to display on her show...

Julie: Yeah, and she has no intention of sending them back...bwah-ha-ha-ha...

[The production team nearly falls off their chairs laughing at Sophie’s expense. After a few minutes, Mal wipes the tears of laughter from his cheeks.]

Mal: Oh...and I reckon Swannie’s new gong from Euromoney Magazine, as the universe’s best tax-collector, was the impetus for him taking over from Alan Kohler on Inside Business...

Tones: Nah...don’t worry about Swannie!!! I’ll have him for breakfast – there’s more economic nous down the front of my Y-Fronts than there is in Swannie’s whole body...

[This time the others do indeed fall off their chairs in paroxysms of laughter. As they roll around on the carpet, making the three hyenas in The Lion King look like Gerald Henderson, Warren Truss and Niki Savva at a WorkChoices cremation and wake, Tones looks from one to the other, wondering what it was he said that was the cause of such uproarious merriment. Eventually, he gives up and exits the meeting. It is now 10.15 am.

So, Tones wanders down the corridor and pops his head into the office of Ban “Elliot Rhodes” Morrison, the “Friday Night Funnyman”, who will perform the musical skits summarising the main political events of the week.

However, Tones hates Ban, as he has the potential to upstage him towards the end of his show.]

Ban: Oh, hi Tones...I’m really looking forward to singing on your new Y-Frontsline show...

Tones: Erm, Ban...there’s only one way to tell you this, but you’re fired...we just had a production meeting, and it was our unanimous decision to give you the boot...so, clear your desk and rack off...

Ban: But...but...but...I thought I was an integral part of the team, Tones...

Tones: Yeah, you were...until, in rehearsals, you came up with that stupid song about me filling in the back of my Y-fronts when I heard about the High Court putting the kibosh on Nauru...What was that quaint little ditty called again – “I thought Nauru was a dump, til I had a look at Tony’s Y-Fronts”...Well, chum, just keep singing it as you waltz out the door...buonanotte...heh...heh...

[Tones turns on his heel and marches on down the corridor. He enters the office of Barnaby “Geoffrey Salter” Joyce, the TV station’s weatherman. However, if the truth be known, Barnaby hasn’t got a clue about meteorology. Initially, he had applied for the job of company accountant, but, as he failed the adding test at the interview, he remarked to the panel that he would love to move to Sydney, as he was sick and tired of driving into flooded creeks in Queensland. However, as they had no other applicants, the Panel offered the vacant position of weatherman to Barnaby instead.]

Tones: Hi Barnaby...did you hear that global warming has caused the oceans to rise by four feet?

Barnaby: No, get away, Tones! Oh, I get it...it’s another one of your jokes...Well, what about the sea level rising by four feet because of global warming?

Tones: Well, it means that Sophie is down at Bondi, treading water as we speak...bwah-ha-ha-ha...

[The two friends are wetting themselves laughing, but, after a few moments, Barnaby stops. Noticing that Barnanby has stopped kacking himself, Tones also desists.]

Tones (incredulously): What’s the matter, Barnaby – don’t you think my joke’s rip-roaringly funny?

Barnaby: Erm...to be truthful, Tones...I don’t get it...can you explain it to me...please?

[Not for the first time, Tones is disgusted at Barnaby’s inability to get his jokes. Again, he turns on his heel and marches off down the corridor. He pops his head into the office of Peter “Hugh Tabbath” Dutton, the chain-smoking video-editor. Pete is a very loyal servant of the Company, keen to inform everyone that he smokes three packs an hour, so that the Company can maintain its sponsorship deal with Big Tobacco.

The atmosphere in Pete’s office, therefore, is so polluted, it would make the air around Krakatoa in 1883 look like the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve got their marching orders.]

Pete: Hi, Tones...[cough, cough]...Wanna fag, mate?

Tones: Nah, mate...gotta bike ride this arvo...must keep the old lungs in good working order...[cough, cough]...

[Tones notices Pete’s half-empty packet of coffin-nails on his desk.]

Tones: Jeeze, mate...haven’t you seen the disgusting pictures of diseased lungs on the front of your pack...[cough, cough]...Don’t images like that put you off smoking for good, mate?

Pet: Wow! I didn’t...[cough, cough]...realise those pictures were of smokers’ lungs, mate...I always thought they were snaps of nature-strips after Gillard’s NBN had its evil way with them...hee...hee...[cough, cough]...

[Tones can’t endure the atmosphere in Pete’s office any longer, so high-tails it before he becomes just another statistic of industrial manslaughter. He strolls down the corridor and spots Annabel “Domenica” Crabb, the company receptionist, at the front desk. Everybody knows that Annabel has the hots for Tones, but it isn’t reciprocated. Tones, however, likes to chat to Annabel as she has the great knack of being able to stroke his enormous ego.]

Annabel (gushingly): Oh, hi Tones-babes!! And how’s my favourite TV personality today? I bet that pert little butt of yours is feeling very comfy inside those sexy Y-Fronts you wear...So, if they’re slipping down a tad, just let me know, and I’ll help you to pull them up nice and tight...Whaddya reckon, big boy?

[Tones can’t help blushing, but is keen to get Annabel to inform him, as if he doesn’t know it already, of his schedule for the rest of the day. She reminds him that he is doing a pre-recorded interview with Mr Finkelstein (of the IPCC) in twenty minutes time at 11.00 am. Just then, however, and prompted by Annabel’s interest in his nether regions, Tones excuses himself, saying he needs to spend a penny. He marches off to the gents, enters the cubicle and sits himself down on the dunny.

However, he has no sooner finished, when his mobile rings. Tones answers it and it is Annabel on the line, informing him that “Mr Finklestein is in reception”. “Crap!” says Tones to himself, “what is it with these bloody greenies – haven’t they heard of watches! He’s fifteen minutes early, ffs!”

However, Tones has a brainwave. “I’ll teach this leftie warmist bastard a lesson...heh...heh...” He tells Annabel to keep him in reception for a couple of minutes and then send him to meet him in the gents.

So, in the reception area, Mr Finklestein makes himself comfortable, leafing through the Y-Frontsline catalogue which he found on the coffee table. He is so taken by one picture in particular, that he can’t resist the temptation to rip it out and put it in his pocket.

Meanwhile, Tones jumps off the dunny, without flushing it, grabs the toilet rolls and hides them in the cupboard, and turns the thermostat on the wash-handbasin’s water-heater right down to freezing. He then races up the back stairs to Barnaby’s office, grabs something off the bookshelf and skates back down again to the gents, just before Mr Finkelstein arrives, carrying a clip-board.]

Mr Finklestein: Aha! You must be Mr Abbott...But, I must say, I am finding it very unusual to be directed to the male toilets to meet you...very unusual protocols, to say the least, my good man...

[Mr Finkelstein proceeds to record something on his clip-board. Tones, however, is intrigued that this greenie Yank has suddenly developed an Australian accent, but, then, what do you expect from these subversive mongrels who are trying to impose their primitive, tofu-munching ideology on normal people like him.]

Mr Finkelstein: But, before we go any further, Mr Abbott, I must say I haven’t completed my ablutions today, so I will utilise yonder cubicle, if you don’t mind...

[Mr Finkelstein enters the cubicle and locks the door. Immediately, however, Tones hears a gasp of disgust emanating from within.]

Mr Finkelstein: Euwww! Good gracious! How disgusting! The last person in here didn’t flush the toilet!

Tones (dismissively): Don’t fret yourself, mate...shit happens...heh...heh...

[Tones can hear Mr Finkelstein scribbling frantically on his trusty clip-board. Then the toilet is flushed, followed by the sound of Mr Finklestein unzipping his flies. After another few moments, another anguished cry emanates form within the cubicle.]

Mr Finkelstein: I don’t believe it! There’s no toilet paper in here!

[Again, Tones hears the tell-tale sounds of Mr Finkelstein writing on his clip-board. So, Tones fires under the door the big book he had grabbed off Barnaby’s book-shelf.]

Tones: Oh, stop your whinging! Here’s a copy of the latest report from your greenie mates at the Productivity Commission – if it’s good enough for Barnaby to use as toilet-paper, it’s good enough for you...haw...haw...

[After a few moments, Tones hears the toilet being flushed and a very irate Mr Finkelstein, still scribbling furiously on his clip-board, emerges. Totally speechless with rage, he puts down the clip-board and runs the water in the wash-hand basin. After an eternity, the water is still stone-cold!]

Mr Finkelstein (rhetorically): I don’t believe this, Mr Abbott! Don’t you know that, for hygiene reasons, hot water should be provided in wash-hand basins?

[Again, Mr Finkelstein writes something on his clip-board.]

Tones: Look, mate...the water used to be hot, but because of global cooling, its temperature seems to have gone down a notch or two...heh...heh...

[Then, as Mr Finkelstein continues to record on his clip-board, Tones’ mobile goes off.]

Tones: Hallo? Oh, hi Domenica...Who? What do you mean there’s another Mr Finkelstein in reception? You...you...you are saying this one’s got an American accent and is here to be interviewed by me on global warming!

[Tones looks at this very irate Mr Finklestein and the penny starts to drop.]

Tones (barely audibly): Erm...you’re not Mr Finkelstein from the IPCC, are you?

Mr Finkelstein (sternly): No, I’m not! I happen to be Mr Ray Finkelstein, chairman of the Inquiry into the Australian Media ...and, Mr Abbott, after I write my report, and if the terms of reference are widened to include dubious programs like yours, I think your career in the TV interviewing business will be somewhat stillborn...

Tones: But...but...but...what about my big mortgage? I need the extra dosh from this little earner to help meet the repayments!

Mr Finklestein: Well, if you need the extra money, Mr Abbott, maybe you can give some consideration to applying for a male model’s position, advertising your company’s wares...I think this image I got from your Y-Frontsline catalogue suits you to a tee...hee...hee...

Holy Rollin’ Politics, Batman!


In the 21st century, contemporary Conservatism has surrendered to a virulent, dystopian and pathologically hyper-individualist state of mind and populist Right Wing ideology.

From the proclamations and intimations by Conservative politicians that the unemployed are poor because they lack drive. An Orwellian political vocabulary of 'job creators' and 'non-productive citizens'; opining that poor people have it relatively easy, thus we have a right and a duty to make their lives harder by forcing them out of their homes and on the road around the country to take whatever work is going in areas seeking unskilled labour to work for small reward or satisfaction, in back-breaking jobs, because it will be good for their souls, for wages barely above the Unemployment benefit they have been forced off. So has modern Conservatism transformed itself away from its traditional 'Liberal' roots supporting a Social Safety Net to a virtual enactment of the Protestant Work Ethic as policy?

The fact is, the Conservative political movement has intertwined itself with the Conservative Christian movement, to the extent that we have had a virtual takeover of one by the other and thus we should now really refer to them as Conservative Christian political parties. The secular nature of most Conservative political parties is fast evaporating in the heat of this hot and heavy takeover by the Religious Right, and thus they have started to manifest as policy stances many positions which only blind faith in religion encompasses.

It's up to the secular, Progressive side of politics to start calling them out as such, to point out the inconsistencies when their stated positions contradict the Christian principles they say they espouse, and the 'Faith-Based' policies that they are trying to insert into government and make the law of the land. Such that they are humiliated by their hypocrisy or they have to come out from behind the facade that they are not what they in fact are, as they try to foist themselves upon the electorate. So that the electorate sees them as the Devils in a Blue Tie that they are, as a result of the contradictory and unchristian principles they also espouse at one and the same time as they proclaim their angelic godliness.

It is because I have begun to wonder lately where the Christian Conservatism of Tony Abbott has taken his party-even further into territory originally colonised in the 'God Under Howard' era of politics we have only just recently slipped the bonds of, that I thought I would tackle this subject. Thus, as a natural extension of those thoughts, where would Tony Abbott's brand of Religious Right Conservatism take Australia and also what does that equate to in a philosophical sense?

Of course, there are links and parallels with the Religious Right in other countries, and most notably the Republican Party in the USA.

Even as a fervent believer in the Separation of Church and State, and as a secular atheist, I nevertheless feel that to ignore the presence of these people in our polity in the hope and belief that the strength of our arguments will prevail in the court of public opinion over the obvious weakness of the ideological world of Christian politics that they inhabit, as we see it from the outside, and while we keep our metaphorical fingers in our ears and our eyes screwed shut ignoring them, in an attempt to deny them any legitimacy, is foolish at worst and negligent at best.

So I'll attempt to explain it as I see it. Which does not make me right and them wrong, as they do what they do and believe in why they are doing and what the philosophical reasons that underpin their lives and their politics are, for reasons best known to them. I just think that we should seek to understand them before we make a decision about them at the ballot box.

Suffice to say I see them as a threat to good governance of this country, especially in their most extreme iterations. On the other hand, you might agree that in the guise of a Christian Moderate politician, such as Kevin Rudd, that these sort of politicians can be well-meaning and effective governors of our country. You could almost argue that is fair enough when combined with social democratic politics particularly. You might almost be able to call it the politics of the Good Samaritan.

However, I can also see that modern Conservative political parties have melded with Conservative Christian religious adherents and have become, almost, religions themselves to their followers.

Let me explain.

Traditional Conservatism, well that which came after Universal Suffrage and the Mercantilists and Landholders lost their grip on it and had been kicked to the curb by the Conservative movement's embrace of Small Businessmen and Women, has been governed by a basic tenet which stressed the importance of continuity and economic and social stability. Those who supported them did so, in the main because they knew what Conservatives stood for, as exemplified by Menzies 26 years in power in Australia, as opposed to Progressive political ideology and its supporters, who advocate social change and policy adventurism as the means to the end of improving society.

However, lately, you'd have to ask yourself whether the tables have turned and it has become the Conservatives that have become the radicals, advocating that society change away from what has become settled public policy, agreed upon by successive generations in the broad and by most democracies since the time of The Great Depression and World War 2. Basic tenets such as the Social Safety Net. A change typified by Ayn Rand Libertarian economic acolytes from Right Wing Think Tanks, such as The Institute for Public Affairs and The Centre for Independent Studies in Australia, and The Heritage Foundation, Americans For Prosperity, and The Cato Institute, and others too numerous to mention ('cause that's where all the tax dollars they dodge paying to government have gone), in the USA. Who appear to want to go back to the time before The Great Depression and The New Deal, when the Oligarchs ruled the roost, having learnt or not caring about, the history they are dooming us to painfully repeat, to live and die an early death by, all over again. And, if you have been listening to the Republican Party Debates to pick a Presidential contender, you will know what I mean by that.

These people, who are well educated, have discovered the means by which they can co-opt that class of people, and voters, who formerly voted for Social Democratic and Workers Parties.

This they have done by infiltrating religion back into the mainstream of people's lives, and the unquestioning obedience that goes hand-in-hand with that, and a Utopian ideal for them to subscribe to, which they can strive for, as members, not of the Ruling Class, that's for a very select few, but as members of the Aspirational Class.

However they are also the Kindermenschen to the Ubermenschen Conservative elites. Often Small Business Owners and Self-Funded Retirees, who have had some small degree of success in their lives, based on not much by way of an education which would enlighten them either.

These people are easily recognised as they wave misspelled signs at demonstrations, organised by the exploiters of their easily-aroused passions. These demonstrations need to be numerous to keep them on the boil, energised and angry; and their opposition, the Labor party, destabilised, demoralised and constantly antagonised.

This has the twin benefits of making it always seem as though Progressive governments, in whatever country, are doing something wrong and are incompetent, or else why would people be so agitated? Plus, it blocks the good news getting out about the good things the government is doing, and thus maybe seeping into people's consciences in place of the FUD. Aided and abetted by a conspiratorially compliant media it becomes an easy fait accompli.

A bit like religion, really. Constant brainwashing becomes the basis of their reality. Such that you could almost make the case that modern 'backlash' Conservatism has become akin to a religious faith, so reliant is it now, not on provable realities but dogma and doggerel delivered by demi-godlike leaders of political parties deeply grounded in the tricks of the Preacher/Priest trade...Like ex-Seminarian, Tony Abbott. They have brought along fellow travellers who see themselves now as Conservative Christian Warriors for the political parties they follow...Like Anders Behring Breivik in Norway.

I'll just offer this quote from:
'Has American-Style Conservatism Become A Religion?' to explain the concept:

'Ideology is grounded in the real world. It offers us a philosophical lens through which we can efficiently process what's happening in the world around us. Religion is different. It's a fixed belief system based on faith, and it is immune to-or at least highly resistant to-challenges mounted by objective reality.'

...Like the Manicheans-adherants of one of the world's great religions at one point in history-they tend to see a world, in stark relief, in black and white terms, defined by a conflict between the forces of light and darkness, good and bad.'

The forces of good are decent, conservative, 'real', Australian/Americans-mostly White, married, Christians, but with exceptions made for others who keep the faith.'  

Anyway, every movement needs it's foot soldiers. And these people have slotted nicely into the role for the Conservatives as they launch their fight back to power.

They stand immovably opposed to a wide array of diabolical figures (and, don't forget, El Diablo is another name for you know who), such as 'liberals', gays, Muslims, 'Socialists', and, essentially, anyone who disagrees with them.

Like Climate Scientists.

Here is the most pure example of the cross-fertilisation between religion and politics. No one group has been so demonised recently, and as thoroughly as they have.

Look at how it works.

The Climate Scientists have produced an overwhelming body of scientific evidence to prove the existence of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

The Oligarchs who fund and provide direction for the latter-day Conservative movement are recalcitrants when it comes to agreeing to do anything about Global Warming and Climate Change, for to do so would have a negative effect on their bottom line and may cause some of their businesses to have to abandon least cost methods of production, and those who emit the most pollution in their businesses would have to pay a compensatory fee to do so.

So, they decide to fund the least cost method of push back. They fund a few scientists, well past the prime of their careers and suffering Attention Deficit Syndrome and a hole in their retirement savings, to carry out some ethically and scientifically-questionable research for them. They find holes in the research done by the reputable scientists, and attempt to poison the well of public goodwill towards the science.

The Oligarchs empower the politicians that they fund to put their message into the public domain. Many of these politicians are themselves Christian Conservatives, well practised in the art of proselytising, and who are pre-Copernican scientific sceptics, as an article of their Faith, and are antagonistic to any theory which flies in the face of Church doctrine.

Thus the virtuous circle is achieved. Christians + Capitalists, working hand-in-glove to defeat Science, by befuddling and brainwashing the uninformed masses.

Just like Religion does.

So, the next part of this story has to involve an exploration of what exactly will the modern Conservative Movement, infused with religious fervour and the fevered style of Holy Rollin' politics, which has been brought to the political stage, manifest as when it comes to policies on the ground?

We already know that Tony Abbott is vehemently opposed to 'The Morning After Pill', RU486. I have no doubt that he would bring that issue back to the floor of parliament, plus others, such as a Doctor's and Pharmacist's 'right' to choose whether they prescribe and dispense Birth Control for women, based upon their religious faith. Not to mention whether the State should fund Abortions through Medicare, or whether a woman will have to pay for one herself if she wants an abortion, which, as a matter of course makes it doubly-hard for poorer women, those most likely to need one for economic reasons, as well as the myriad of other reasons women have. Thus emasculating, and I use that word deliberately, a Woman's Right to Choose.

Not only that, but we are all well-aware of Tony Abbott's anachronistic belief that women are to be the home-makers, while men are to be the protectors and providers, and the god-given head of the household, who has the authority and the last word in the house. I find it no coincidence at all that Tony Abbott's wife, Margie, works with children. This is a clear reflection of the not-so-extreme end of the Christian Patriarchy Movement, which dictates that, if women are to have a job outside of the home, after child-rearing duties are complete. I mean it is entirely plausible that, even with his greater than average salary as a Member of Parliament, the reason that Tony Abbott is still paying off a Second Mortgage, is that his wife was not a member of the workforce until the children had grown up. The Second Mortgage being taken out to set her up in a Business that accords with his religious beliefs.

So, Nurse, Teacher and Child Care Provider are allowed because the traditional Christian Conservative male believes that women nurse, educate (if you take it to extremes and Home School), and care for the children, and raise them up to be evangelists for the faith and to produce more warriors for Christ, equipped to take back the culture from the godless 'liberals', and restore it to it's Christian foundations.

If all this sounds too extraordinary and extreme a fact to contemplate, let's just reflect on who Tony Abbott's Right Hand man in parliament is. Cory Bernardi-a self-professed Christian Soldier.

What do you think?

Rugby World Cup Wobblies

The Rugby World Cup is in full swing in New Zealand and all the spectators, global TV viewers and radio listeners are having a ball.

And, keen to get some political mileage from the event, in Australia Julia Gillard has organised a PM’s XV to play an exhibition game at the Woop Woop “Stimpac” Stadium, against an Opposition XV.

Tony Abbott has gladly accepted the challenge, as, due to the pressure of his big mortgage, he could badly do with his match fee.

The game is close to getting underway and the co-commentators for the radio broadcast are Dennis “Shanners” Shanahan and Mike “Carlo” Carlton.

Shanners: G’day listeners...and welcome to our commentary on the big game which will start pretty soon...But, Carlo, it really was a stupid idea to refurbish this old ramshackle place, in such an out-of-the-way location, wasn’t it?

Carlo: G’day from me also, listeners...And no, I don’t agree, Shanners...You know I’m a big fan of Kevin Rudd, so his Stimpac Plan was fine by me...I’m not going to knock it, so just let’s keep politics out of sport for once, shall we?

Shanners: Oh, I agree totally, Carlo – you know how objective I am on political matters...heh...heh...

[The friendly banter between Shanners and Carlo is interrupted by the response of a particular segment of the crowd to the on-field entry of, firstly, the PM’s XV.]

Shanners (deadpan): Yes...typically, these one-eyed true believers have given their team a rousing reception...But, Carlo, I notice the cheer-squad, led by Mary Jo Fisher and Melissa Clarke, turned their backs on the lefties and treated them with the contempt they deserved...

Carlo: But, what do you expect, Shanners, from shills like those two...and look...see what I mean – the Opposition XV is now coming out and Mary Jo is doing the hokey pokey, whilst Melissa is manically waving her pom-poms and jumping for joy...sheesh!

[Shanners wears a smirk that Peter Costello would have been proud of, but decides it’s better to change the subject.]

Shanners: Now, listeners...it’s clear that Tony Abbott, the captain of the Opposition XV is truly a multi-skilled character...I’ve heard that he’s doubled up today as groundsman and painted the lines on the field with some guano that he brought back from Nauru...

Carlo: Huh...I heard he had to moonlight as a groundsman to help meet his big mortgage payments...hee...hee...But, Shanners, moving right along...is there any information you can give our listeners on the make-up of the teams today?

Shanners: Funny you should say that, Carlo, but I’ve got a summary right here in front of me...I’ve heard that, due to his recent heart operation, your mate Kev will start on the bench...And, for the Opposition, Barnaby Joyce is a sure starter on the wing – in fact, I hear he’s really pumped up to make a big impression...

Carlo: Huh...I hear he wants to finish as the top point-scorer, cos the sponsors have put up an amphibious four-wheel-drive as the prize...heh...heh...But, what’s this I hear about Rupie Murdoch, Shanners – is it true he’s not playing?

Shanners: Yeah, I’m afraid you’re right, Carlo...it seems he’s gotta front the Tribunal in London for some dodgy business he allegedly got up to on the Opposition XV’s last tour of the Old Dart...

Carlo: Pity that, Shanners...haw...haw...But, what about the Opposition’s key player in the front row of the scrum?

Shanners: Oh, you mean Joe Hockey?

Carlo: Yeah, the one with the great big black hole – you sure gotta feel sorry for the poor bastards who are packing down behind him – euwwwww!

Shanners: Oh, very droll, Carlo...Now, can you give our listeners any ideas on some of the crucial match-ups from both sides?

Carlo: Yes, Shans...I see a good prospect of biffo happening between Stephen Conroy and Malcolm Turnbull, over who’s wearing the widest Broadband across their foreheads...And another strong stoush is likely between David Johnston and Stephen Smith as to which pack will have the strongest Defence...

Shanners: Okay, thanks Carlo for that heads-up...Now, let’s go down, listeners, to pitch-side and hear something from our roving reporter down there, Chris Uhlmann...

Chris: Yeah, thanks guys...Well, there’s been a lot happening pre-match down here, while you were chewing the fat in the commentary box...First, the Opposition’s official witch-doctor, Phil Ruddock, has been spreading his Juju all over the paddock, ensuring, we hope, a great Opposition victory...And then we had an explosive incident when one of the Opposition squad, Sophie Mirabella, questioned the referee over the bona fides of the PM’s XV’s captain, Julia Gillard herself...I’ll just play you a tape of the altercation...

Sophie: Hey, Ref!! I reckon this player here is a ring-in!! On the team-sheet she says she’s Julia Gillard...but I reckon she looks more like Col Gadaffi...heh...heh...

Carlo: Oh, it looks like the mind games have started already, Chris...

Chris: They sure have, Carlo...And I also had an opportunity earlier to interview the Opposition captain, Tony Abbott, and this is what he had to say in answer to my question about their likely over-physical approach to the game...

Tones: Look, Chris, I know we’ve got a reputation of being a pack of mongrels who are lower than a snake’s belly, but, in all honesty, today we’ll be going in very fairly – utilising a kinder, gentler polity, so to speak...

Chris: WTF!! You’ve gotta be kidding, Tones – how can a leopard change its spots that quickly?

Tones: Erm...don’t worry, Chris…it’s just another one of my unscripted remarks…hee...hee...

Shanners: Thanks, Chris...Now, while you were playing us that tape, it appears the two teams are ready for the kick-off, and the Opposition are doing their unique version of the All Blacks’ Haka...Talk us through it, Chris...

Chris: Okay...First, Tones calls it the Whacka...So, the Opposition players have lined up across the paddock, facing the PM’s players, nodding and staring bizarrely, shit-happens-style, each brandishing menacingly above their heads a shovel borrowed from Kathy Jackson’s shed...

Shanners: Jeeze, Chris, I’m packing it and I’m way up here out of harm’s way! What must the PM players be feeling at the moment...heh...heh...

Chris: But...but...but...there seems to be a surprising innovation introduced by the Leader of the Opposition team at this juncture...Yes, Tony Abbott has just pulled down his budgie smugglers and is brown-eying the other tream! But, what’s that on his bum...hmmmm...it looks like a tattoo of sorts...

Carlo: Yes, I’m looking at it through the binos, Chris...it says, “arse for sale – big mortgage owed”...

[As the President of Tony Abbott’s fan-club, Chris quickly decides to change the subject. However, before doing so, he hands out clip-on mics to the main players, so that Shanners’ and Carlo’s commentary during the game can be spiced up a bit.

The game starts, but, unfortunately at the first maul, Bronny Bishop comes a cropper and has to be carted off.]

Shanners: Oh, that’s a bad stroke of luck for the Opposition XV, Chris...can you throw any light on what happened?

Chris: Well, Shans...the PM’s people say that one of their players mistook Bronny’s beehive for the ball, and nearly wrenched her scone off her shoulders...but I don’t think it was done accidentally at all...the bastards...grrrrrr...

Carlo: Hey, Chris – does that mean Bronny’s off for an early kero bath...heh...heh...

[The Opposition side bring on a sub but, within a short while, it’s the PM’s side which has to make a change of its own.]

Shanners: Chris, it looks like Mark Arbib got dragged by the coach – I didn’t think he was playing that badly...what’s your take on the issue?

Chris: Yeah, he wasn’t playing that badly at all, Shanners...However, he was playing the wrong code, the silly bugger...He thought he was a quarterback in American Football and kept getting pinged for chucking the ball up the field!

Shanners: Erm, sorry to interrupt you there, Chris, but the Opposition team have scored a try, and it was by their speedy right-winger, Scott “Ban the Boats” Morrison...But...but...but...what is he doing now? My-oh-my, he’s doing a most unusual post-try celebration...he’s down on all fours, sniffing the guano line, Robbie Fowler-style...Jeeze, doesn’t he just love that guano stuff!


[Play re-starts and the Opposition’s rough-house tactics are very evident. One of the PM team’s players catches a “stray” fist in the nuts, but, heroically, keeps on running.]

Shanners: Ouch! That must have hurt!

Carlo: Nah, he’ll be alright – he’s got his Doug on...

Shanners: Erm...what’s a “Doug” when you’re writing home, mate?

Carlo: Why, his jock-strap – his Doug Cameron!

[Shanners notices a bit of sledging going on off the ball between Penny Wong and Andrew Robb. He switches on their clip-on mics to get a first-hand delivery of what’s being said. It seems that Penny had just been charging up and down the field and is totally knackered.]

Penny: Phew! Wheeze!

Andrew: Huh...you sound like you’re practicing the breathing instructions you’re gonna give your partner whenever she’s trying to pop her sprog...heh..heh...

Shanners (interrupting): And it’s another try for the Opposition XV! And this time it’s scored by Glenn Milne...He went on one of his trademark weaving runs and crashed over the line...

Carlo: Yeah, he seems to have re-discovered his old Walkley Awards form...heh...heh...

[After the re-start, the Opposition’s onslaught continues apace. They have obviously been working on their rolling maul in training, as they are carrying the ball forward like it was a lump of weightless coal.

Then, Tones is given a pass just in front of the other team’s posts and he clinically slots over one of his specialities – a “guided democracy” drop-goal.

But, every time Jooles touches the ball, the Revolting People in the Forgotten Families enclosure boo her roundly and wave their chaff bags at her. The half-time whistle can’t come quick enough for the dejected PM’s XV, and, in the safety of the change-rooms, Jooles decides on a radical strategy – she’ll bring off the bench three of the Indo substitutes, hoping they’ll spark a reaction that’ll bring her team back into the game.

The second half starts and, almost immediately, the introduction of “Kaboom” Katter, “Towering” Oakeshott, and “Whippet” Windsor appears to be working.

Firstly, at an Opposition put-in scrum, just before their scrum-half, Greg Hunt, delivers the ball in, Jooles, on the other side of the scrum, pulls a Jesters’ pie out of her pocket and chucks it in. Joe Hockey, the Opposition hooker, drops his bind and dives on it immediately, just before the ball enters. Wayne Swann, the PM team’s hooker, takes advantage of Joe’s lack of discipline and wins one against the head, and feeds the ball back to his No. 8, “Towering” Oakeshott, who peels off the rear of the scrum, and delivers the ball to his backs who expertly engineer a well-worked try.]

Carlo: Nice one! Well played, the PM’s team! Yes listeners, that was a great CO2-induced move – the Opposition didn’t even get to within a sniff of it...heh...heh...

[Then, shortly afterwards, the grief being suddenly being felt by the Opposition side only exacerbates. George Brandis (SCum) has to retire hurt, after blaming Robert McClelland for embracing his Brandy Balls in a sly squirrel-grip in a scrum.

And next a poodle runs on to the ground. Shanners turns on Christopher Pyne’s mic, so that the audience can listen in.]

Chris: Hey, Jooles...here’s your identical twin coming – another back-alley bitch...heh...heh...

[However, the poodle by-passes Jooles and climbs on Pyney instead, vigorously humping his leg.]

Carlo: Heh...heh...it looks like it takes one to know one...

[And things are not going too well for the Opposition in the line-out either. The ball is thrown into the channel by Swannie and Penny Wong springs up like a cat, expertly catching it and delivering it to her scrum-half. Meanwhile, dejectedly, the Opposition lock, David Bushby, can only meekly retort a pitiful “miow” in response.

Shortly afterwards, in another ruck in front of his posts, John Alexander pulls Jooles by the ear-lobes, causing the ruck to collapse. The ref, Harry Jenkins, blows immediately for a penalty. Gleefully, Carlo switches on John’s mic.]

John: Shit! When we get into power, we’ll bring in a rule change and outlaw these bloody penalty rates! Sheesh!

[Subsequently, for the PM’s team, it’s a bit of a cake-walk. They turn on the style, scoring try after try. Whilst their delirious supporters mockingly chant “ole”, they expertly carry out, with military precision, all their training-ground-rehearsed party tricks, including the NBN (“Nice Ball-handling Numbers”), and the BER (“Barnstorming Explosive Runs”), and the PPL (“Perfect Pinch at the Lineout”), and MRRT (“Marvellous Rip-Roaring Tries”), and finally the mighty HIS (“Heaving Impetus at the Scrum”).

The final whistle goes and the Opposition team dejectedly mills around the centre, hoping that the post-game presentations will be as short as possible.

As the winning captain, Jooles is presented with a nice bouquet of flowers, whilst Tones is chucked a wreath, which he promptly drops on the ground, storming off petulantly to the change-rooms.]

Jooles: Oh, poor petal...heh...heh...

[No sooner has Tones entered the change-rooms, than an almighty racket can be heard, making a bull in a china-shop sound like a meditating Zen Buddhist monk.]

Jooles: Huh...sounds like he’s wrecking the place...Oh, well, it looks like paying his big mortgage won’t be the only financial outgoing he’ll have to wear...heh...heh...

[Meanwhile, up in the commentary-box, Shanners is ready to do a runner.]

Carlo: Leaving already, Shanners? I thought you and Chris would be hanging round for a few slices of humble pie...heh...heh...

Shanners: Erm...can’t really stay, old boy...Must get back to the office toot sweet...I’ve got a few previous editorials to shred before the witch can start that bloody media inquiry...Ciao!

Mr Abbott and the Five Concerned Liberals

The Leader of the Opposition graciously granted an audience to some life-long Liberal voters: three gentlemen and two ladies. They asked to see him because they felt concerned about some of his policies and needed clarification; they also wanted reassurance about some of his actions and a better understanding of his strategy for the next election.

This is what they said to each other on a recent cold, but sunny Canberra day:

Concerned Liberal 1: We’d like to thank you Mr Abbott for making your valuable time available to us. You know, we’ve always voted Liberal and were great fans of Mr Howard; in fact we wish he were still PM. We know you were close to him, and so I imagine you feel the same. We know too how much he depended on you when he needed to rough up a Labor shadow minister – you were very good at savaging anyone who disagreed with Mr Howard. And we see you haven’t lost any of your bite since you took over as Leader.

We hope that there’ll soon be an election to get rid of that awful Julia Gillard and her incompetent bunch of ministers. Really, they can’t get anything right. There are a lot of Liberal voters in our electorates that want to arm themselves, so that whenever the election is held, they will have all the answers. They intend to organize meetings to urge a vote for the Coalition.

Mr Abbott: It’s very good you’re organizing some meetings, but have you ever thought of a rally? We’ve had some beauties with lots of placards and angry people; you know – genuine honest-to-God Aussies – protesting against Ju-liar - what a great label Jonesy thought up.

Concerned Liberal 2: Well, we really had in mind something less rowdy; you know most of us come from electorates in the eastern suburbs of Sydney – I’m from Mr Turnbull’s – and we feel something dignified would be more suitable.

Mr Abbott: OK… but remember rallies get on the TV. The journos are hungry for that sort of news – lots of colour, movement, and hopping mad voters baying for blood – terrific on the 6 o’clock news.

Concerned Liberal 3: I realize that rallies give you a great boost, and you find them exhilarating, but we feel the folks in our electorates would prefer a quieter discussion that will help them understand your policies better. You know they’re a thoughtful lot, not easily lead by the nose.

Mr Abbott: OK, if you want a debate, that’s your choice, but I prefer not to get into too much detail. It just confuses people. I like simple slogans like the ones we used last time – you remember them? Just three words that everyone learnt by heart.

Concerned Liberal 1: I know that’s your preference Mr Abbott, but our folk ask questions and don’t find slogans helpful in answering them. We can’t front them with just a few short slogans. They ask questions that we can’t answer; that’s why we wanted to see you to get the good oil, so to speak.

Mr Abbott: OK, have it your way, but you know I’m not a policy wonk, so I might not have all the answers at my fingertips. Shoot!

Concerned Liberal 1: As the carbon tax debate has started in Parliament, can we start there? There seems to be a lot of confusion about your Direct Action Plan.

Mr Abbott: I don’t know what’s confusing; it’s all laid out, fully costed - $3.2 billion over the forward estimates, and capped!

Concerned Liberal 2: Yes, we heard you saying that, but can we go back to the basics. As we understand it, you have the same mitigation target as Labor – 5% by 2020 – but you plan to reach it by planting lots of trees and burying carbon in the soil. We know trees are carbon sinks so that’s a good move, but we wondered how you plan to plant enough of them to do the job.

According to Tony Windsor it would require something like 28 million hectares of trees to be planted to soak up the five per cent that you have as a target, and we have only 26 million hectares of food-producing arable land.

Mr Abbott: But, but, but…

Concerned Liberal 2: May I finish please. According to the Australia Institute, to reach your 5% target it would be necessary to reduce emissions by 160 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020, which would require planting trees over an area of 265,600 square kilometres, which is more than the size of Victoria if that was your only action, but even the 15 million tonnes reduction you plan from planting trees would require an area of 25,000 square kilometres and over 9,000 gigalitres of water every year, two and a half times the amount of water proposed to be bought back by the Murray Darling Basin Plan. How would you achieve that?

Mr Abbott: Well you seem to be a full bottle. As I said, I’m not a policy wonk; I’m sure Greg Hunt can answer your questions. It’s all been worked out. And by the way, don’t believe everything Tony Windsor says – remember he’s a renegade.

Concerned Liberal 2: Does that mean you can’t explain how you will find enough suitable land to plant the trees and enough water to grow them?

Mr Abbott: Well, well, I can’t tell you that off the top of my head, but it’s all been worked out. You’ll have to speak with Greg.

Concerned Liberal 3: We had hoped you would be able to fill us in, but can you tell us who will plant the trees – it’s an awful lot of trees, and where will you find land to plant them that’s not in use for growing food?

Mr Abbott: My Green Army will do that – 15,000 workers.

Concerned Liberal 3: The Green Army sounds impressive, but where will you get the 15,000? We seem to have a shortage of workers at present and with unemployment around 5% won’t it be difficult to find enough to plant those millions of trees?

Mr Abbott: We’ll call for volunteers – you know youngsters that want to get out into the wide-open spaces.

Concerned Liberal 2: But if you can’t get them… And how much will they cost? And how do you disperse them around the country, and house and feed them?

Mr Abbott: Don’t you worry about that – just tell your people it’s all been worked out; it’s all under control. It will work.

Concerned Liberal 4: OK Mr Abbott, we’ll just have to take your word for it. But could you tell us about this soil carbon – we hear that there will need to be lots of processing plants built to produce the char for plowing into the soil. We’ve been told it’s a good idea, but we wondered how many farmers might take it up and how char would be produced in sufficient quantities.

Mr Abbott: Now you’re getting a bit technical; I’m not a tech-head you know. You’d better ask Greg. Anyway tell your people it’s all been worked out. Our full Direct Action Plan will be out well before the election, like all our other policies.

Concerned Liberal 4: We have read it already Mr Abbott, but our people still have a lot of queries; we still don’t understand how you are going to make it work.

Concerned Liberal 2: If I could ask another question Mr Abbott: you say that the cost is $3.2 billion over four years, but my member, Mr Turnbull, wrote on his blog that meeting your 80 per cent cut by 2050 with the Direct Action Plan would place an annual cost of $18 billion on the budget. That’s a lot of money.

Mr Abbott: Well of course Mr Turnbull has his own ideas – after all he wanted to go along with Rudd’s CPRS – so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

Concerned Liberal 2: But he’s my member, and I do go along with his ideas. He’s pretty smart - what if he’s right – won’t you be up for a lot of money? He seems to think your Direct Action Plan was designed so it could easily be abandoned. We know you’ve got your doubts about climate change – it being absolute crap as you said – so is he right?

Mr Abbott: Look, I’m not going to jeopardize industry just to placate those scaremongers who want something done about climate change. Why should we lead the world when we cause so little pollution?

Concerned Liberal 5: But Mr Abbott we are the highest polluters per person in the world – don’t you think we should pull our weight and behave like a good global citizen?

Mr Abbott: Look, we can’t make much difference so I’m not going to upset business and industry by pushing too hard. They don’t want a carbon tax, and as I said in Parliament last week, for Julia Gillard the carbon tax is ‘the longest political suicide note in Australian history’. I’m not going to commit suicide; in fact the carbon tax will win me the next election.

Concerned Liberal 5: But industry and commerce are asking for certainty and although they would prefer not to pay tax, they find uncertainty unsettling.

Mr Abbott: I’ll give them certainty – I’ll rescind the tax when I get in come 2013.

Concerned Liberal 5: Mr Abbott, I read last week that the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network that represents a swag of mining and manufacturing industries, said it agreed with Treasury that your Direct Action Plan of achieving 5 per cent emission reductions without buying permits overseas, which you said you won’t allow, would at least double the cost to them.

Mr Abbott: Well they’re wrong. As I said, we will spend only $3.2 billion over four years and it’s capped, and we won’t allow international permits.

Concerned Liberal 5: They’re businessmen and seem pretty sure of themselves. Don’t you think it would be a pity to get them offside?

Mr Abbott: Look, we’ve done the sums…

Concerned Liberal 5: Because you won’t allow international permits Treasury is saying it will cost every household $1300 a year more for your Direct Action Plan. It was going to be over $700 anyway, but without those permits it will double. People will not be too happy about that. How should we explain that to our folk?

Mr Abbott: I don’t agree with those figures. Look, just tell them it’s all been worked out. Tell them to read the document – it’s all there.

Concerned Liberal 3: Mr Abbott, in your Plan you intend to use taxpayer’s money to pay the polluters to encourage them to reduce their emissions. Why is that, and what if they don’t?

Mr Abbott: We reckon if we offer them enough money they will voluntarily reduce emissions. If they don’t they will lose the money. Businesses love money so they’ll comply.

Concerned Liberal 3: But if they don’t reduce pollution, because they reckon it’s not worth their while, how will you meet your targets?

Mr Abbott: Don’t you worry about that – they will come on board.

Concerned Liberal 3: Mr Abbott, I thought you were a free marketeer who believes the market always knows best – wouldn’t a market based scheme that sets a price on carbon work better – just about every economist thinks so, and almost none favour your Direct Action Plan.

Mr Abbott: I don’t think much of economists; they’re a pretty unreliable bunch. Anyway, we not going with a market based scheme – Gillard and the Greens are, so we won’t, and Malcolm Turnbull wanted that and the party chucked him out of office for it.

Concerned Liberal 5: Mr Abbott, can I ask you one more thing: you said if the Gillard Government passed the carbon bills, you will rescind them in Government. How will you do that? The Government says that the money it raises with its carbon tax will be paid to pensioners and nine out of ten households to cover the increased cost of electricity and household items that result from the carbon tax – how will you claw back what’s already being paid out, and paid for over a year? We reckon Liberal voters will be angry at having money taken off them, and pensioners will scream blue murder.

Mr Abbott: Well if there’s no tax on them, they don’t need the compensation…

Concerned Liberal 5: But Mr Abbott they are never going to pay the tax, the polluters are. It’s the ordinary folk who will be getting a cash benefit and won’t want to have it taken from them.

Mr Abbott: Well, we’ll just have to explain that to them – no tax, no compensation…

Concerned Liberal 5: That might sound logical Mr Abbott, but I wouldn’t like the job of selling it, I wouldn’t like to tell pensioners that their pension will be going down…

Mr Abbott: You’ll have to leave that to me – don’t you worry about that…

Concerned Liberal 3: Mr Abbott, I don’t think we’re going to get any further on this subject – I’m not sure I understand any better how I’m going to persuade my people that your Direct Action Plan is the goods – I’ve read the policy document from beginning to end – I guess I’ll have to read it again, and get in touch with Greg Hunt to fill in the gaps.

And by the way, the people I talk to are worried about global warming and want serious action taken now; quite a lot are ‘doctors’ wives’ you know – I’m not sure that I’ll be able to reassure them that you feel the same. I had hoped you might have reassured me. Never mind.

Concerned Liberal 1: Mr Abbott, before we leave the carbon tax, you say that you will rescind it in government, but with the Greens having the balance of power in the Senate, how will you get them to vote to rescind it? They are the ones so strongly in favour of the tax; in fact I reckon they would have liked a higher price on carbon.

Mr Abbott: Look, there are ways and means. When they see the people have voted us in, and I’ll make sure the election is a referendum on this toxic tax, how could they obstruct us doing what the people want – which is to get rid of the tax?

Concerned Liberal 1: Well I wonder can you rely on that! The Greens are convinced that global warming is a serious threat and that the tax and the ETS are vital to counteract it. So why would they let you rescind it?

Mr Abbott: Well if they get obstreperous, I’ll threaten them with a double dissolution that will wipe them out.

Concerned Liberal 1: I reckon they might call your bluff.

Mr Abbott: We’ll see…

Concerned Liberal 1: Anyway, all this will take ages and by then don’t you think the voters might have realized that the carbon tax is not killing them like you said? And if the tax hasn’t upset them much, and they’re happily living with it, they might not be too enthusiastic for another election, and it might not go your way. Don’t you think that’s a risk?

Mr Abbott: No. We’re going to win this one. The tax must go and I’ll make sure it does while there is still energy left in my body.

Now is there anything else?

Concerned Liberal 3: Sorry Mr Abbott, we’ve taken a lot of your time and we haven’t got beyond the carbon tax. Can we spend what time we’ve got left talking about your asylum seeker policy?

Mr Abbott: Sure, we’ve got that taped – we’ll just go back to processing on Nauru, temporary protection visas and towing back boats when it’s safe.

Concerned Liberal 3: That sounds pretty simple, but I’ve got a few questions.

First, I thought that towing boats back was out of order – where would you tow them to now that Indonesia says it won’t take them back. And if there was another tragedy, that wouldn’t look good.

Mr Abbott. We’ll work that out at the time, and we’ll tow them only if it’s safe.

Concerned Liberal 3: But what if they set fire to their boats?

Mr Abbott: We’ll work that out at the time; anything else?

Concerned Liberal 2: Are you sure the Nauru plan will work second time around? It seems that there are an awful lot of people out there that want to come here.

Mr Abbott: If it worked for John Howard, it will work for me.

Concerned Liberal 3: I’m glad you’re so confident. But what about the High Court ruling? The constitutional QCs seem to think it knocks out Nauru as much as Malaysia, in fact all offshore processing. So there will need to be a change to the migration laws to allow any offshore processing at all.

Mr Abbott: I disagree; our lawyers, George Brandis and Co, say Nauru will be OK.

Concerned Liberal 3: But if you try Nauru again, don’t you think the refugee lawyers will mount another challenge, like they did for the Malaysia swap?

Mr Abbott: They might try, but Brandis says we’ll be OK.

Concerned Liberal 3: But if Mr Brandis is wrong, you’ll need a change to the migration laws, just like Gillard needs. And if you knock her back now and refuse to back her changes, ones that will give any government the go ahead for offshore processing, will she be likely to back you?

Mr Abbott: Well, I’ll worry about that when the time comes. But I’m determined not to help Gillard get her Malaysia swap deal through – it’s bad policy, and what’s more it will sink her. There will be lots more boats arriving and the detention facilities will collapse under the strain. It’s a winner for me, and another nail in her coffin.

Concerned Liberal 4: But Mr Abbott, if she plays her cards well, might she not blame you for all the new arrivals. Won’t she argue that the boats would have stopped if you had let her Malaysia swap deal through, and that every new boat is your fault? As each one arrives I can hear her saying: ‘Thank you Mr Abbott – now we have another batch to process because you blocked the migration law changes’. It could turn people against you, you know those people who hate these boat people. It would be a pity that in trying to wedge Gillard, she managed to wedge you!

Mr Abbott: But, but, but… well, I’m so high in the polls, I suppose I can afford to lose some skin…anyway I’m not going to help that bitc…

Concerned Liberal 1: I guess you’ll just say No – again!

Mr Abbott, we’ve taken such a lot of your time, and I see you looking at your watch, so I guess we had better let you get on with your busy schedule. You’ve been very generous with your time.

We had quite a lot of other questions our people wanted answered: about whether you’re going to look at WorkChoices again; how you intend to demolish the NBN when its half built and how you will cope with those who miss out; how you’re going to rescind the minerals tax; how you’re going to find the $70 billion of savings you promised to return the budget to a surplus; how you’re going to run your Green Army after you’ve disbanded the climate change department; what you’re intending to do in the health field; and whether you’re going ahead with your own PPL scheme. There were other things too, but we’re out of time.

Mr Abbott: I’m glad you’ve got the answers you were looking for.

Concerned Liberal 2: I guess we’ll need to think about what you’ve told us and distill it for our people. I can see we’ll have to tell them that the things we talked about have all been worked out and that they have to take you at your word that all will be explained well before the election. They were a bit unnerved when you told Kerry O’Brien in that nasty interview on the 7.30 Report that not everything you say is absolutely correct, but we’ll tell them that you were very sure of yourself and that they need to trust you.

If they have more questions, can we come again some time?

Mr Abbott: Sure, sure, do come again!!!

Concerned Liberal 1: Thank you so much Mr Abbott.

Concerned Liberal 1 to the rest outside: Well there it is!!!!! Are you any the wiser? Don’t tell me we’re going to see another round of those mindless three-word slogans. Oh dear! We’d better get our thinking caps on before we front our people.

Concerned Liberal 3: Should we get in touch with Greg Hunt?

Concerned Liberal 4: And get nothing but gobbledygook? Have you ever heard him talk?

Concerned Liberal 5: Gibberish, I’d call it…

Concerned Liberal 2: Why don’t we talk to Malcolm Turnbull; I could arrange a meeting. At least he makes sense! Why did they ever ditch him?

Scarecrow Scamps

Fans of the quirky “Worzel Gummidge” TV series, featuring the rascally scarecrow, will know that he has different heads for various occasions.

However, more recently, in the absence of his Creator, The Crowman, Worzel has got into even more strife than usual. You see, The Crowman has gone on a European tour, giving talks to packed audiences on how to make scarecrows. Sometimes, however, The Crowman is not a very good judge of character, and has left the matter of scarecrow management, in the area around Scatterbrook Farm, in the dodgy hands of someone who turned out to be a faux-Crowman – Rupie Murdoch.

Once the real Crowman departed, Rupie created a new head for Worzel – one that was by far the most obnoxious, most foul-mouthed scarecrow-head in the whole district – the Tony Abbott Head!

Also, Rupie hid all of Worzel’s usual heads, leaving him to don only the Tony Head for the foreseeable future. But if this obnoxious head made Worzel different from his normal persona, what remained consistent were his pathetic attempts to get Aunt Sally (Sarah Hanson-Young), to marry him.

But, as usual, Worzel’s advances come to naught and the feisty Aunt Sally just strings him along and then dumps him like a sack of far-from-weightless coal.

Worzel: Hey, Aunt Sally...are we goin’ to be one of them Forgotten Families for ever, or are you goin’ to marry me...or do I have to give you one of those judo chops and wreck the place...

Aunt Sally: Huh...by the look of this crappy barn, you’ve wrecked the place already...And, anyway, why would I marry you – you’ve been kissing fish again and you stink...Why, you smell even worse than CO2...So, if you don’t do something about it, I’ll get Rupie to chuck you on the compost heap...

[And so the bickering between Worzel and Aunt Sally goes on and on. Then, one day, as Worzel is again lounging in the barn, instead of manning his post and scaring rooks in Ten Acre Field, and still trying to convince Aunt Sally to marry him, the two kids from Scatterbrook Farm, Sue and John call in to see him, bearing a letter.

Worzel: Huh...what do you three pair want? An’ don’t forget I aren’t into pairs these days...heh...heh...An’ can’t you see I’m tryin’ to form one of those coal...coal...coalickey thingies with my Aunt Sally here? Now push off!

Aunt Sally: A coalickey! A coalickey with you, you dumb scarecrow! Why, I wouldn’t have a coalickey with you for all the wind-farms in the Windward Islands! You know, I’ve been to the Windward Islands...didn’t work out as I planned, unfortunately...

Sue (anguished): Oh, that’s awful, Aunt Sally – whatever happened?

Aunt Sally: Huh...they said they wanted me to come out and give some talks on how I was the bestest greenie in all the world...But when I got there, they took one look at my initials and, instead, put me in the local coconut-shy and chucked balls at me...bastards...

Worzel: My, my, my, Aunt Sally! That’s a tale and a quarter-half as I’ve ever heard...I’ll be bum-squizzled...

Aunt Sally: Bum-squizzled! Bum-squizzled! Have you been selling your arse again, you cretinous bag of straw...

[Even though they are well used to it by now, Sue and John roll their eyes at another unedifying spectacle of Worzel and Aunt Sally bickering. As John said on numerous occasions, they make Itchy and Scratchy look like Androclus and the Lion, after they have shared a bong in a hippy commune.]

John: Oh, for Pete’s sake you two...Why don’t you give over...Just read your letter, Worzel – by the postmark, it’s from Australia!

Worzel: Huh...I hope it’s not from that Craig Thomson bloke, inviting me to be present at his wife’s delivery instead of him, cos I aren’t that stupid...But, whoever it’s from, they better not expect an answer, cos old Worzel here isn’t into any of those carefully prepared scripted remarks...heh...heh...

[John, Sue and Aunt Sally stare at Worzel and their heads begin to nod bizarrely. As Rupie the fauz-Crowman has hidden his Reading Head, Worzel asks Sue to read it for him. After listening to Sue read the letter aloud, Worzel yelps with delight.]

Worzel: Bozzy McCoo!!! It’s from Cousin Cobber!!! So, he’s got some long-service-leave from his paddock at Woop Woop Wheatfarm and he wants me to come out and share a few Violent Crumble Bars and ginger beers with him...Whaddya think, Aunt Sally – wanna come? We can get into one of those coalickey thingies and live happily ever after in Cousin Cobber’s barn...

[True to form, Aunt Sally has less intention of marrying this decrepit heap of straw than she has of donning a burqa and offering herself up for target practice for an elite Taliban stone-the-infidel squad. However, at the thought of a couple of free Violent Crumble Bars, her mouth begins to water.]

Aunt Sally (fluttering her eye-lids): Emm...Worzel...I’m not saying I will or I won’t marry you...but, Australia is a long way away...so, I’ll just come with you to make sure you find your way...

Worzel: Righto, Aunt Sally...let’s go and find the boat Saucy Nancy’s the figurehead of – that’ll take us to Australia quicker than you can shake shit off a shovel, that will...

[Aunt Sally gives Worzel one of her looks, as she can’t abide his foul language. Then they head off to the pier, leaving Sue and John again amazed at how stupid Worzel is, by even entertaining the thought of going to Australia with Aunt Sally.

Suddenly, however, Sue and John hear the fluttering of a dove’s wings in the loft above, as it takes off through a hole in the old barn’s roof. “Hmmm...”, John says to himself, “I think The Crowman is going to hear about this”.

Anyway, Worzel and Aunt Sally sail off in Saucy Nancy’s boat, but the voyage is definitely one to forget. Not only were Worzel and Aunt Sally bickering non-stop, but Saucy Nancy and Aunt Sally were carrying on like two cats that had their tails tied together.

So, when they reached Australia, Saucy Nancy was glad to get some peace and quiet whilst Worzel and Aunt Sally saunter off in the direction of Woop Woop to see Cousin Cobber.

They walk for ages, and approaching at last the outskirts of Woop Woop, they keep their eyes peeled for any signs of Cousin Cobber waving to them, brandished bars of Violent Crumble and bottles of fizzy ginger beer. However, as they pass a field, chockers with a flock of feasting galahs, plus an empty scarecrow frame, they notice a prone figure lying close-by.]

Worzel: Why, by all that’s evil in my Tony Abbott Head, I believe that’s Cousin Cobber!

[Worzel and Aunt Sally amble over and can’t believe their eyes. There are empty ginger beer bottles and Violent Crumble wrappers strewn everywhere – and Cousin Cobber is snoring away, obviously having a siesta after his Bacchus-like feast.]

Aunt Sally (screaming): The bastard’s eaten all the chockies and drank all the ginger beer! But, what’s worse – look at the state of the environment! It would make Bhopal and Chernobyl look like Mrs Braithwaite’s well-tended flower-beds back at Scatterbrook Farm! As a card-carrying greenie, I’m not stopping around here for one minute longer!

[Aunt Sally turns on her heel and strikes out in the direction of Woop Woop’s main street.]

Worzel: But...but...but...Aunt Sally – don’t leave me...I thought we was to get married here in Australia?

Aunt Sally: Huh...with relatives like your freak Cousin Cobber here, there’s no way I’m going to risk sharing your crappy gene-pool, Worzel Gummidge...I’m off to find myself a proper husband...

[So after a few minutes walking, Aunt Sally reaches the main street of Woop Woop, and notices a sign on one of the buildings – “Antique Figure Museum”. “Hmmm...”, thinks Aunt Sally to herself, “I love aunty-queues – maybe I’ll get a husband in here who’ll provide me for the rest of my life with lots of Violent Crumble Bars and cups of tea and slices of cake...” She walks inside, announces her intentions to all the exhibits, and starts to survey all the figures on display. The nearest one, resplendent in his tutu and fishnet stockings is Dolly Clothes-Peg Downer.]

Dolly: Oh...pick me...pick me, Aunt Sally...I know I’m a bit rusty, but experience has gotta count for something...

Aunt Sally (sniffing in derision): Huh...Mate, I may be a refugee from a caring and sharing greenie commune, but there’s no way I’m going to get hitched to someone who’s gonna be pinching my knickers to wear...

[Aunt Sally passes on and the next exhibit is Barnaby “Dafthead” Joyce.]

Dafthead: Whadda ‘bout me, Aunt Sally...If you’re looking for a husband, you know you can count on me...

Aunt Sally: Huh...You gotta be kidding, Dafthead – I wouldn’t be seen dead with a nincompoop like you...Why, compared to you, the Count in Sesame Street looks like Albert Bloody Einstein...

[Aunt Sally again moves along, and comes across Joe “Sergeant Beetroot” Hockey.]

Aunt Sally: Hi Beetroot – I see you’re still red-faced after your great big black holes debacles...heh...heh...

Beetroot: Oh, hi Aunt Sally...If you marry me, I’ll make sure you get a nice crisp beetroot for your tea every day – whaddya say?

Aunt Sally: A beetroot! A measly, worm-eaten beetroot! Why, my man, when I get married, I’ll be stuffing my face with cakes, and meringues, and trifle, and violent Crumble Bars, and lamingtons, and TimTams...and...

Beetroot: Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong, Aunt Sally...Y’see, all those goodies will be for me – I’ve got my figure to think of, y’know...

[Just then, and just in time to save Beetroot from a physical and verbal onslaught from Aunt Sally that would make the pillages of Eric the Red look like a Hagar the Horrible sleep-in, Worzel sticks his head around the front door, again begging Aunt Sally to marry him. However, at this point, Aunt Sally realises, in the next exhibit, that she has finally found the man of her dreams – surely this is the one she has been searching for...

On a pedestal, claiming pride of place amongst the other exhibits in the Antique Figures Museum is the imposing spectacle of Ned Kelly’s helmet and body armour.] Ned: Ah...Begorrah! There you are, Aunt Sally...me morning star...the apple of me eye...the one I wrote me Jerilderie Love Letter to...Just come along with me, Aunt Sally, and don’t be waylaid by this parcel of big, fat, ugly, fat-necked, wombat-headed, big-bellied, magpie-legged, narrow-hipped, splay-footed sons of you-know-what’s...Sure, they’ve only got heads like turnips...Tell ‘em they may as well be mustering mosquitoes and boiling them down for their fat than to think they can get one over me in winning your hand...Let us be Moving Forward!

[By this stage of Ned’s wooing of her, Aunt Sally’s eyes are fluttering so much, her false eye-lashes are just about to fly off. Gushing that she will surely go into one of those coalickies with him, Aunt Sally throws her arms around Ned and they quickly exit the museum, ready to start married life together. In their haste on their way out, they nearly knock over The Crowman, who has made a sudden and surprise appearance, with his arm around a very dejected Worzel.]

The Crowman: Look, Worzel, you’ll have to stop building your hopes up, thinking Aunt Sally is going to marry you...It’s never going to happen...Now, you’re lucky one of my doves overheard your silly plan and came to tell me...So, take that horrible Tony Abbott Head off and put on your usual one that I’ve brought with me...We need to go home, so that you can start scaring the rooks in Ten Acre Field again...

Worzel (snivelling): Just as you say, your eminence...But, whatever you do, don’t allow me to put that nasty Tony Abbottt Head on ever again...

The Crowman: Oh, I won’t allow that to happen, Worzel...In fact, I’m going to make sure it can’t happen again, as I’m going to leave it here as an exhibit in this museum...

Worzel: What are you going to call the head, your magnificence?

The Crowman: Oh, I think we’ll put a sign on it saying it’s a Dick Head, Worzel...Now, let’s go home...

Is Julia Gillard entitled to a fair go?

There are a gathering number of columnists who are writing off Julia Gillard as PM, and the Labor party as terminal. Even previous Labor parliamentarians such as Graham Richardson (Richo) have not just dumped her, but in most derogatory terms; an old Labor stalwart in Phillip Adams is telling her to resign so that his mate Kevin can return; Mungo MacCallum has chimed in, and bloggers who previously have been supportive of her and Labor have joined the ‘she’s finished’ chorus. This phenomenon is either an opinion based on measured political judgement, or more likely an example of groupthink, where the smart operators, who place great store on their reputations, don’t want to be the odd ones out. So like punters always wanting to back winners, they are sizing up the odds and judging that they are so adverse to PM Gillard and her Government that they will place their bets elsewhere.

There are few who give Julia Gillard any chance of surviving until the next election, let alone win it. But Ben Eltham was one. He wrote in New Matilda on 6 September: Can Labor Win? YES THEY CAN!  After giving his well-argued reasons for backing Labor he concludes: “All this sounds like castles in the sky. Perhaps it is. But if someone told you in mid-2008 that in two years time, Kevin Rudd would no longer be prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull would not be the opposition leader, and that Tony Abbott would be on the verge of winning office from Julia Gillard, would you have believed them?” Exactly!

Why is it that two years out from the scheduled date of the next election PM Gillard and Labor is being written off by so many with such certainty? I suppose the very poor polls with record low primary vote and almost record low popularity of the PM give commentators the feeling that recovery is impossible. What a poor memory they have. Do they remember the 1989 Bulletin magazine cover: “Mr 18 per cent. Why does this man bother?” Howard was Opposition leader at the time, and like Premier Jeff Kennett, who was also a bottom dweller in the popularity polls, needed another term to elevate himself. Just two years ago, after the OzCar Grech affair Malcolm Turnbull enjoyed similar dismal polls. Of course, all of these politicians were ‘written off’ by the ‘pundits’. Didn’t Howard describe himself as ‘Lazarus with a triple bypass’ and use ‘Lazarus Rising’ as a subtitle to his memoirs?

Julia Gillard was down to 23% satisfaction rating in the 6 September Newspoll; pretty awful, but not quite down to John Howard’s level (18%) or Paul Keating’s (17%).

So why are so many commentators and political journalists hastening to write her off? Are they suffering amnesia, or is this just the usual rush into spicy speculation, which after all makes such marvellous copy, exciting stories, and juicy headlines for sub-editors? Or are they making a death wish? Or casting a spell that might bring about their editors’ or proprietors’ deepest wish for PM Gillard’s political demise?

Why is it they seem unprepared to give her a ‘fair go’?

This piece boldly makes the case that despite what the opinion polls suggest, the Gillard Government is worthy of the electorate’s support in its quest to reform this nation in a way that will place it in a strong position as it moves into the decades ahead, decades that will see vast technological and economic changes around the globe and in this huge country. A Government that did not prepare the nation for the ever-changing economic, social, geopolitical and physical environment would be negligent in the extreme. Placing the Government’s program of reform against that of the Coalition serves to expose the conceptual and policy barrenness of the alternative government.

Robert Manne, on his new blog on The Monthly: Left, Right, Left on 12 September recalls the reforms that occurred during the time of the much-reviled Whitlam Government with these words: “…in those three years it did more to make Australia a better country than most other governments have been able to achieve in ten. What is vital to understand is that Whitlam and his Ministers only managed to achieve all this because their eyes were focussed not on the opinion polls but on their goal of making Australia a more decent, more humane, more civilised country.”

Before proceeding, let’s get out of the way the performance of PM Gillard and her Government, which the Coalition and many in the media, notably shock jocks and top megaphones such as Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and Ray Hadley, cast as incompetent in the extreme, without hope of redemption, and therefore deserving of being cast into outer darkness as soon as possible.

No one in their right mind would give Julia Gillard or her Government top marks, but can her Government’s performance be as bad as these adversaries insist? That would scarcely be possible, no matter how hard the Government tried to stuff up. But Tony Abbott and his Coalition members, by creating the slogan: ‘the most incompetent government since Federation’, and repeating it so often and with such conviction, soon had a compliant media echoing it, mindlessly and unquestioningly, and in time the slogan and the belief was embraced by much of the electorate.

So let’s put the record straight.

Climate change
I’m sure Julia Gillard wishes that she had used some other form of words than: “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.” Mind you she meant it and it was only the unique circumstances of a minority Government that forced a change to first placing a price on carbon for a short time until her preferred option, an ETS, came into effect, a scheme she endorsed throughout the election campaign. These eleven words have been played endlessly on radio and TV, and have led to the infamous Jones label ‘Ju-liar’. Accusations of lying over this matter have dogged her in parliament, in public forums, in rallies and in the media, until now it has become received wisdom, political folklore. She lied they say, and must be extruded via a new election called immediately. Her adversaries have been very successful in promoting the ‘liar’ tag and it will continue to haunt her. In contrast, the fact that Tony Abbott lies almost every day, says one thing today and the opposite the next, escapes the wrath of the shock jocks. They will not berate him because they want him in The Lodge despite his habitually lying, deception and mendaciousness. So let’s put her ‘carbon tax’ statement down as a mistake.

The previous history of Labor action on climate change too is unedifying. Kevin Rudd’s deferral of his beloved CPRS is considered by many to mark the acceleration of his decline.

But when all is said and done, climate change science demands that polluters be required to reduce their carbon emissions so as to meet the nation’s carbon mitigation targets. There is also an urgent need to convert our economy to a lower carbon one and thereby boost investment in the renewable energy sector so that Australia can be at the forefront of the clean energy movement around the world. To do less will leave us floundering, uncompetitive among an array of global competitors. In the face of a mountain of negative rhetoric against the ‘carbon tax’, the Gillard Government deserves huge credit for its persistence with an ETS preceded by a price on carbon, now being legislated in parliament.

Asylum policy
PM Gillard’s asylum policy has brought her into conflict not just with the Opposition, which has lambasted her mercilessly, but also the Greens, refugee advocates, many Labor voters, even some in her own party room, and some who blog here who otherwise support Labor. She and the Immigration Department are convinced that boats will arrive in large numbers now that the Malaysia arrangement has been ruled invalid, with the people smugglers thereby deciding who comes to this country, rather than the Australian Government. The western suburbs of Sydney, and in WA and Queensland, where Labor needs to retain and gain seats, are the areas where the greatest antagonism to people smugglers and boat people exists. It seems unlikely that the recent wave of support for asylum seekers could outweigh the antipathy present in those areas. Perhaps this explains in part PM Gillard’s persistence with a regional solution and specifically the Malaysia arrangement. She also knows that an Abbott government will equally want a regional solution, but with just one option.

Although there seems to be general agreement among regional neighbours that regional processing might be a solution to unauthorized arrivals, a problem affecting many nearby nations, the history of attempts to achieve this – East Timor, then Malaysia, and more recently and tentatively Manus Island in PNG – has been beset with difficulties and false starts. Of course those who wish to berate the Government’s efforts make light of the enormous difficulties that accompany negotiations with other governments over such a contentious problem, and sneer at the failure of the Malaysia agreement to pass muster in the High Court, a failure that is blithely attributed to poor preparation by the Government. That the interpretation of the relevant law might have changed since previous judgements were handed down is dismissed as the reason for failure in favour of ‘an incompetent inadequately prepared Government and minister’, who according to the pundits – other lawyers, journalists and the Opposition, should have known better.

It has not been a glorious chapter in the Government’s undertakings, and just when it seemed that the Malaysia arrangement might have stemmed the flow of boats and afforded asylum to some 4000 that would otherwise have continued their wait in Malaysia, it was struck down unexpectedly by the High Court. Opinions now vary from ‘admit all who come and process their claims to asylum onshore, preferably in the community’; to those who, annoyed that people smugglers ostensibly are now set to call the shots, echo John Howard’s 2001 avowal: “We will decide who comes to this country, and the circumstances in which they come.”

What happens next is problematic. Tony Abbott’s simplistic ‘return to the Howard Pacific solution and reopen Nauru’ seems likely to founder too, as I suspect Abbott realizes. That is why he is willing to cooperate with the Government to change the law, but only if it enables Nauru and not Malaysia. We will watch this space with interest and anxiety.

Home Insulation Plan
The insulation program was very successful. Yet the moment ‘pink batts’ is mentioned, a snigger emerges on many people’s face, so successful has been the Coalition’s and the media’s derision of this program. Apart from giving employment to vast numbers and keeping many a small business afloat, it insulated a million ceilings with all the benefits that has brought with lower energy costs, less pollution and increased household comfort. But of course everyone remembers the four workplace deaths (due to OH&S deficits), the shonky operators, the rorts and the poor and expensive administration of the plan by a department not equipped to handle such a massive plan. So the Government must be marked down for the administration of the plan but deserves high marks for its overall benefit. But this is not how the media assessed it – only as an abject failure, disaster, debacle, catastrophe – pick your preferred noun. So while it is depicted as a big negative, in fact the HIP was a big positive.

Building the Education Revolution
This is another initiative that is depicted by the media as a gross example of the Government’s ‘waste and mismanagement’, particularly by The Australian that ran a strident anti-BER campaign from the outset. On this week’s Q&A, News Limited blogger Joe Hildebrand reflexly echoed that same tired old slogan. That there was some is beyond dispute, particularly in NSW where the rollout was fastest. There were cost overruns due to insufficiently supervised builders, fraudsters and shonky operators who over-quoted, and there was insufficient consultation in some instances. There was some waste and mismanagement. But that is all the Coalition and the media talk about. Yet three Orgill Reports showed a 97% satisfaction rate among schools that received buildings under the BER, an ageing school infrastructure has been updated, and thousands of new buildings that will serve children long into the future have been added to our 9,600 schools. On top of that the building industry was saved from collapse during the GFC and many thousands kept in employment that otherwise would have lost their jobs and gone on unemployment benefits.

The BER was an outstanding success in many ways, yet its relatively small failures were what filled the pages of the MSM and the news bulletins. It is a classic example of how a success can be turned into a lamentable failure via slogans and a hostile media that found adverse stories more newsworthy than good news stories. And of course we know that this was part of an overall campaign to demean and eventually bring down the Government.

The BER deserves a big tick of approval, no matter what is said to the contrary.

Response to the Global Financial Crisis
Of all the actions the Labor Government has taken, its response to the looming disaster of the GFC was the most commendable, one deserving of high praise. Yet we still have the Coalition insisting that the stimulus was too large and the debt incurred too high, and some economics correspondents, such as Michael Stutchbury of the The Australian, continue to rail against this Keynesian approach, despite all the evidence of its efficacy. Free marketers abhor Keynesian economics.

Despite all the ‘debt and deficit’ rhetoric, Australia’s debt position is miniscule, a fraction of GDP (22%), and less by a country mile than any other developed country. And the promise to bring the budget to surplus in 2012/13 remains a strong undertaking, despite adverse economic circumstances and a heap of skepticism from the Opposition.  

As has been pointed out by Wayne Swan over and again, Australia's post-GFC position is the envy of all other developed nations. Yet the media gives little credit. When did you hear a comment along the lines that we should be grateful for the prompt and ‘decisive’ suite of actions the Government took, and that we can thank it for unemployment around 5% and a booming economy? We know it has ‘two speeds’ with minerals overpowering manufacturing, but the latter is in strife largely because of the high value of the AUD over the USD. We know too that the Government is acting to support manufacturing while avoiding protectionism.

A tax summit is in train that promises to bring about much needed changes to the tax and transfer system, one that is sought by business, industry and community groups. Rationalization of the complex array of taxes is needed to reduce the complexities that encumber business. The issue of middle class welfare needs to be tackled, as well as tax arrangements for the wealthy.

So let all good men and women give the Government a big tick for its GFC actions and its proposed tax summit.

Little needs to be said about this. After an abortive start following inadequate consultation by the Rudd Government with stakeholders about the RSPT, and a fierce campaign against it by the miners, Julia Gillard negotiated a package with the three large miners shortly after her taking over as PM, much to the chagrin of the smaller ones. It will net significant income that is to be used to reduce company tax, increase superannuation from 9% to 12% and ease tax form filling procedures for ordinary citizens. Although not as much as the previous RSPT would have netted, it will provide an income that will also assist the struggling manufacturing industry, crippled by the high value of the Australian dollar.

Health reforms
The Gillard Government has put in place fundamental health reforms after an abortive start by the Rudd Government, one stymied by Colin Barnett, WA Premier. We now have agreement at COAG for increased Federal funding of hospitals and community health services, control vested in local boards representing their communities, and a body to monitor costs to achieve best value for money.

Mental health reforms have been introduced by the Gillard Government, and welcomed by those working in the field and by the community. Disability insurance measures have also been introduced recently that promise to revolutionize the support provided to those with disabilities, sometimes arising from other than motor or industrial accidents, to bring benefits in line with those afforded motor crash victims. A better dental scheme is needed when funds are available.

Paid Parental Leave
A scheme that is modestly generous yet affordable is now in place and much appreciated.

The rollout of this most significant piece of infrastructure, akin to the Snowy Mountains Scheme, is proceeding well, with enthusiastic uptakes and competition for early connection. Far from the $43 billion cost to Government touted by the Opposition (some estimates topped $50 billion) the Government contribution is $36 billion, and the NBN Co. believes it will turn a profit as the project approaches completion. The costs involved will be greatly outweighed by the benefits to education, health, business and agriculture; indeed it is now estimated that the cost savings and benefits to health alone will outweigh the costs. The Coalition’s opposition to it and Tony Abbott’s threat to ‘demolish’ it, is one of the more stupid stands taken by the Opposition among many similar decisions.

It will be an outstanding success, and in contrast to the negative slant taken by The Australian, amplified by its fierce denigration of the NBN CEO, Mike Quigley, the NBN will be hailed as one of the finest achievements of the Gillard Government. It deserves highest commendation.

Media inquiry
As this piece is written, an inquiry into the media has been announced by the Government. With the Murdoch empire controlling 70% of newspapers in this country, and with its unremitting and vicious attacks on the elected Government, there is a need to ask how one man can have so much capacity to influence public opinion towards his political ends. His influence is widely known and discussed. An article in Bloomberg: Murdoch Makes no Retreat from Scandals with Attack on Australia Government by Gemma Daley and Robert Fenner states: “The phone hacking scandal in the U.K. hasn’t muzzled Rupert Murdoch in his native Australia, where his newspaper empire is doing more than any other to undermine Prime Minister Julia Gillard…

“News Ltd. has been more emboldened than other media outlets, and the fact they have the majority of ownership in this country means they will have an impact on the way people think,” said Andrew Hughes, a professor who does research on political branding and marketing at the Australian National University in Canberra. “The Murdoch press has its feet on the throat of a government that’s already on the ropes.”…

“It’s not surprising at all that Murdoch is at it again in Australia while the UK phone-hacking scandal is still fresh,” said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at the University of Sussex and the author of “The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron.” “He tries to use his economic power to get political influence. It’s part of his business model.”

Although denied vigorously by News Limited staff, the truth of the matter seems clear: Murdoch is pushing hard for ‘regime change’ through his media outlets. He wants to decide who this nation’s PM and Government will be, and is using every means at his disposal to this end.

It is to be hoped that the terms of reference of the media enquiry enable a thorough inspection of the whole media in this country.

The Gillard Government deserves commendation for the courage it has shown in initiating this enquiry.

Legislative accomplishments
This piece could be twice as long if all the Government’s achievements were catalogued. Despite being in a minority situation that PM Gillard negotiated with the Greens and Independents, the Government has passed over 190 pieces of legislation without one failure, more by far than in the first year of the Howard Government. And it has done this despite the fiercest opposition from the Coalition and strident hostility from the media.

It has shown its capacity to grapple with the enormous complexities that beset national governments. As Mr Denmore says in his piece on The Failed Estate: Double Fault: “Journalists…cannot see that global issues such as the unregulated mass movement of people across borders, man-made climate change and systemic issues in financial markets are at a level of complexity beyond the ability of mere individual states to resolve.” How right he is. Ought we not commend the Government for tackling some of this nation’s most complex and intractable problems, and doing a sound job despite obstinate opposition and trenchant criticism? Instead, all we hear are accusations of incompetence and ineptitude, as if resolving these complexities was child’s play.

Despite some shortcomings, the Gillard Government has many fine achievements to its credit. It does not deserve the vociferous criticism directed toward it, and PM Gillard does not deserve the vicious demonization to which she has been subject day after day, week after week. Has there ever been a more reviled PM? Has there ever been more disrespect shown to our nation’s Prime Minister?

Julia Gillard has shown herself to be a self-assured, confident and competent parliamentarian and PM, one with well-developed negotiating skills, and with the admirable personal attributes of decency, friendliness, the ability to relate to all sectors of our society, together with persistence in the face of opposition and adversity, and outstanding courage.

Further, she has a vision for this country despite journalists regularly asking: ‘What does she stand for?’ and ‘What is her narrative?’. It’s noteworthy that on this day three years ago, I posted the first definitive piece on The Political Sword – it was titled: In search of the political Holy Grail – the Rudd Government narrative. The same old question is still being asked; cannot the journalists see, or do they choose not to. Julia Gillard has stated her vision often enough as detailed in What Julia Gillard DOES stand for.  

In a nutshell, she has a vision of a land of opportunity, for a great education leading to satisfying and rewarding work for all who can, for fair and equitable working conditions, for a strong economy with surplus budgets and prosperity for all, for infrastructure to support a growing economy, for social security that supports the disabled yet encourages people to work if they can, for a fair taxation system that taxes those best able to pay and supports those in need, for a plan to reduce carbon pollution and prepare the nation for a low carbon economy, for an efficient, effective and affordable healthcare system, for secure borders coupled with a welcome for those genuinely seeking asylum, and a skilled immigration program to support growing, yet labour-strapped industries.

There is no lack of vision, no lack of narrative.

So where has the Aussie ‘fair go’ gone? Why is PM Gillard not entitled to that same fair go? It seems that the outrageously vile attacks that have been made on her by the Coalition, venomous shock jocks, News Limited media, and many others who ought to know better, have taken their toll as reflected in the opinion polls. Is the ‘pecked chook’ syndrome to continue until Julia Gillard lies politically bleeding and moribund, or will the generosity of heart that characterizes Aussies reverse this noxious attack on our national leader, about which we ought to be horrified and ashamed?

What do you think?

It’s time for the Government to play a game of Musical Chairs

Finally, an issue that stirred up the juices again. Something that I felt I could write about for you here.

Now, recently I have speculated, as have others in the media and blog diaspora, upon the fact of whether it would be a good time for a Spring Clean of the Ministry by the Prime Minister, especially in light of the appearance that a few of her Ministers aren't performing up to scratch. Nasking had a go at suggesting a few changes, and so I thought, well, why don't I give it a go as well and open it up for debate here? So what follows is my humble opinion. Feel free to weigh in.

Well, obviously, Stephen Smith is doing a good job in Defence, and, as one of the government's Senior Ministers he can virtually pick any job he likes to do. However, it is my belief that now he has got his teeth stuck into Defence's derriere, he won't let go until he sees the changes he has made through to their conclusion.

Now, Jason Clare, Minister for Defence Materiel, although he is proving to be capable should obviously step aside for Dr Mike Kelly. Also, as Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney is having trouble finding a winnable spot on the ALP Senate ticket in Victoria, Mike could take that on as well. Mike Kelly in Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry is the wrong place for his talents. Which leaves his portfolio for Jason Clare maybe and especially with the Coalition State governments amping up their efforts to wind back environmental protection via introducing Commercial Fishing to what were once Marine Parks, Agriculture and Forestry is set to play an important role in the implementation of the Emissions Trading Scheme, it may well be a good place for a telegenic up and comer to expand on his Ministerial CV.

OK, here's a controversial one. How about swapping out Wayne Swan and Bill Shorten? It's still within the PM's gift to tell MPs who's going to get what, and I think it's about time Bill Shorten was allowed to 'Put up, or Shut up'. Wayne Swan, whilst he has been a more than capable Treasurer, is no star performer in the job, in the mould of a Keating or a Costello, seeking to take the batting on at the other end to the PM.

Kevin Rudd, Craig Emerson, Simon Crean, Peter Garrett, and Jenny Macklin, I'd leave where they are. Although I have my doubts about Jenny Macklin, she appears to be wading through Indigenous and Family Affairs capably in what is a tough gig.

If the rumours about the Attorney General's office that we heard on Insiders are true, that is, a Minister poorly-served by his department, I'd have to say that the buck stops with the Minister on that one and he should have to pay with his job for the poor advice that came to the government over the Malaysian policy regarding Asylum Seekers. Which allows the PM to move Mark Dreyfus, a far better lawyer by far than Rob McLelland, into that job.

The best friend the Miners have got in the government, Martin Ferguson, should stay in Resources in order to put out any brushfires after the MRRT gets out into the world.

Nick Sherry seems to be doing OK in Small Business, as in I haven't heard Small Business complain much except for the obvious call for the power to hire and fire at will again and pay their staff peanuts for working at any time of the day or night. Plus ca change there I suppose.

Penny Wong appears happy and is doing a good job in Finance and I wouldn't want to upset a Mum-to-be.

I'd split Tourism away from Martin Ferguson, though, and bring in a talented backbencher like Melissa Parke. I think that, like Manufacturing, with the Resources Boom we need someone who can devote all their energy and talent to finding a way through the Tourism morass as it stands.

Tanya Plibersek in Human Services, I'm not sure about. She is a spirited advocate for the government but I'm not sure how good a job she is doing in her portfolio with Social Housing. I just saw a story on 7.30 NSW about some Women’s Crisis Accommodation, which has gone nowhere over the last year. However, that may be just a combination of old NSW State ALP government, and new Coalition government both stuffing things up. Still, if I were federal Minister overseeing a shemozzle I'd be putting a rocket up them regularly to get the job done ASAP.

Greg Combet has to stick around and bed down the ETS for the moment. However, next term I'd make sure he got a Senior Economic portfolio like Trade.

Actually, as Joe Ludwig is Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, now that I think about it, and Mike Kelly only Parliamentary Secretary Assisting, he should go after the Live Cattle imbroglio and be given Justice. He could still keep the Queensland Flood Recovery gig.

Mark Arbib just simply needs to be disendorsed for the Senate at the next election. He may have a Masters in Political Science, and is a master of political intrigues, but he's proven to be a hopeless Minister in any portfolio he has been given. I mean the Minister for Sport in a Labor government giving a photo opportunity free kick to Tony Abbott to reprise his goofy-footed Tennis schtick from the last election for the cameras? He totally blotted out Mark Arbib, and it sums up his realpolitik skills in one for mine.

As far as a new Minister for Sport goes, I'd draught Andrew Demetriou. Everyone knows he wants to get into politics for the ALP, so I'd put the weights on him to make up his mind and dangle the Ministry of Sport job in front of him like a carrot to get him over the line. Mark Arbib could go back to doing what he does best, being a faceless man.

Kim Carr is holding the line against the new Protectionist forces well in Science, Industry, Innovation and Research. So I'd leave him alone to keep fighting the good fight.

Brendan O'Connor is in Home Affairs and Justice. Well, as I said, I'd take Justice out and make it a separate portfolio. He comes across as capable in Home Affairs, and, if we revert back to needing to keep Australia strong from within its borders, instead of using the Howard Government 'Fortress Australia' model which incorporates the strong border protection model that sees Asylum Seeker boats towed out to sea and the SAS and Navy used to antagonistically threaten the people on the boats and fire shots across their bows and associated hairy-chested palaver, then Brendan might be the man for that job.

Which brings me to Immigration. Chris Bowen appears to have taken the bit between his teeth again after the Malaysian operation fell over. As he said on Insiders, the concept of a Regional Hub and spoke approach via the Bali Process was essentially a good one when it came to putting some sort of order and process into Irregular Migration into our region. So I wouldn't give the Opposition the body they and the media are baying for, I'd leave him there to get on with the job of crafting a new deal for Asylum Seekers who arrive by boat. I would hope he'd call a spade a shovel on the BS that the Opposition come out with, using their diarrhoea-esque imagery when they bleat about continuously: "The country has lost control of its borders", instead seeking to continue to find a way to elbow the People Movers out of the equation. There is a solution there to be found and I hope he finds it.

Also I'd put Chris Evans, Minister for Industrial Relations, Skills and Tertiary Education out to pasture. He doesn't have cut-through, and if IR is again to become a battleground for the next election I think you need someone with useful and youthful enthusiasm to take that fight up to Tony Abbott and the Coalition. I'd swap out Chris Evans for Mark Butler. Mark Butler has done an amazing job in Mental Health but the time has come for him to move on up to bigger and better things. Maybe Chris Evans could oversee the implementation of the Mental Health policy.

The Minister for the NBN, Stephen Conroy, of course has to stay put. He knows the portfolio like the back of his hand and everyone in the industry on a first name basis, and he is doing a good job to boot.

Gary Gray has always had my appreciation as someone who has cut-through in the media whenever he is heard and is more than capable of doing a good job in his portfolio of Special Minister of State, Public Service and Integrity (though I do wish he'd closely scrutinize Tony Abbott's Travel Allowance spending for his book tour to promote 'Battlelines'). I would also add another feather to his cap, therefore, and give him 'Freedom of Information and Privacy'. I think there is a battle going on there with regard to the media, who are using FOI as a Fishing ground for anti-government sensationalism, and whilst I believe in open and transparent government, I think the concept is being abused to no small extent by the media, and some tweaks along the lines that John Faulkner was considering, need to be revisited by the government, and Gary Gray is the man for that job. Not Brendan O'Connor.

Anthony Albanese must stay in Infrastructure. It is a very important part of the government's story that they must tell at the next election about how they are so different from the Coalition.

Finally, Kate Ellis in Child Care is a no-brainer, really.

Well, that's about it.

Here's the full Ministerial List so you can mull over it yourselves.

What do you think?

Dastardly Deeds in Diagon Alley

Tony Abbott has been increasingly expressing his disquiet at the double life Julia Gillard has been leading.

He is saying that her effectiveness in performing the role of Prime Minister is being massively curtailed by her constant gallivanting down Diagon Alley dressed as a witch.

But, in spite of the Carbon Tax wiping out Whyalla and every sign of life within a thousand-kilometre radius, commercial activity in Diagon Alley has never been busier.

And No. 93 – Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes – is still a veritable gold-mine. As you’ll remember from the Harry Potter series, No. 93 Diagon Alley is the address of the practical joke shop opened by the Weasley twins, George and Fred.

However, tragically, Fred had subsequently been killed by the dark forces of Lord Voldemort at the Battle of Hogwarts, and now George runs it on his own.

So, this day in particular, Witchy Gillard is paying another visit to No. 93, intent on buying Christmas presents for a few “special” people in her life – and she has a particular present in mind for one of her favourite persons at the moment – Glenn Milne. She is on the lookout for one of George’s Self-Exploding Quills!

George: Good morning, madam...the Self-Exploding Quill? Yes...one of the best-selling items in our “Half-Blood Prince” range...I’m sure the object of your revenge...errr...best wishes...will surely get the message...heh...heh...

[George continues with describing and exhibiting a number of other items that the late Fred and he had produced in the Half-Blood Prince book.]

George: Again, madam...can I interest you in another piece from this exquisite range – like this U-No-Poo potion which cures constipation...Though I heard that when you were told about the High Court decision on the Malaysian Solution, you certainly didn’t need any such cure...hee...hee...

[To say that Jooles doesn’t need reminding of Frenchie and his follies is like reminding Tony Abbott of the time he fronted up at a Tea Party rally with his budgie smugglers g-string on back-to-front. Jooles fixes George with an icy stare that even Julie Bishop would be proud of.]

Jooles: George...old chap...See this wand? Now, you have two choices – one...I will use it to turn you into a first-thing-in-the-morning Bronny Bishop look-a-like...or...two...I will ram it so far up your Kyber, you’ll feel worse than Andrew Bolt did when Possum inserted his calculator...Now...which is it?

[George swallows deeply and quickly proceeds with his tour of the shop.]

George: Errr...righto, madam...and still in the bountiful Half-Blood Prince range, we have...ummm...let’s see...yes...our famous packets of Instant Darkness Powder...

Jooles: Rather! Yes, I’ll definitely have some more of that...it was a real hit when I threw some over Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb and made them come up with their great new big black holes debacles...heh...heh...

George: Wonderful, madam...I’ll just put a few packets into your trolley...And now, what about some of our quick-acting Nosebleed Nougat?

Jooles: Yes, what a great idea! Tones is notorious for having a sweet tooth, so I’ll give him some and then tell everybody I whacked him with one of Paul Keating’s judo chops...heh...heh...

[Jooles curtails her witch-like cackling for a moment and asks George about another product in the Half-Blood Prince range.]

George: Oh, those, madam...Yes...we call those our Patented Daydream Charms – when one is taken, the recipient experiences a 30-minute period of escape from their mundane existence and goes into a pleasant fantasy world...

Jooles: Oh, yes, I’ll have some of those...I’ll give them to Tones as well, to make him think he’s in the Lodge for a while...hee...hee...

[George can’t believe his luck that he’s sold so many products to the one customer, so he carries on with the sales palaver.]

George: And, here, madam, we have our world-famous Punching Telescope...In fact, you might remember in the Half-Blood Prince, Hermoine was tricked into looking through one and she got such a shiner, she looked worse than Gai Waterhouse and Nikki Savva after their cat-fight over which of them was the biggest bitch at dissing your wardrobe...

Jooles: Oh, my! I’ll have two, please...One for each of the cows, and they can use them regularly to keep up appearances...hee...hee...

George: Erm, sorry, madam...I believe this is the only one left in stock...You see, a famous member of the British aristocracy...a Lord Monckton, I believe...bought all our stock of this particular item, bar this one...

Jooles: Really? Why did he want so many?

George: Oh, he mentioned something about “giving one in the eye to each of those lefty climate alarmists in the CSIRO”...He seemed a bit strange...but, then, never knock back a sale, I always say...

[George by now has exhausted all of the examples in the Half-Blood Prince range, so maneuvours Jooles and her now-bulging trolley towards the Goblet of Fire collection.]

George: And now, madam, you might recognise some of our most famous jokes and tricks that we introduced in the Goblet of Fire story...

Jooles: Sounds good...and what are these packets of powdery stuff...they look a bit familiar...

George: Oh, they’re from our Jelly-Legs Jinx line...If you can get someone to ingest a sample, their legs turn to jelly and they can hardly walk...

Jooles: Oh yes, I remember that stuff now! I bought a packet in 2006, and at the Walkley Awards, I sprinkled some in Glenn Milne’s fruit-juice before he went up on the stage to say g’day to his mate, Stephen Mayne...hee...hee...

George: Oh how droll, madam...and now, what about something else from our Goblet of Fire range – the Ton-Tongue Toffees, for example...When you give one to your victim, their tongue swells up so much, it gets bigger than Gina Reinhart’s bank-balance...

Jooles: Yeah...I bought a box of those before, and left them on Joe’s spot on the Opposition Front Bench...He was as skinny as Andrew Robb’s Book of Coalition Policies then...But he scoffed them all down in one go and now look at him...heh...heh...

[And on and on George goes with the sales pitch. But, to tell the truth, Jooles is far from being the hapless victim. She knows that the contents of this particular trolley of tricks will later cause severe mayhem in the Opposition ranks when she unleashes them.

George then shows her a few more items which she readily adds to her burgeoning collection. Items like the spray-cans of Garrotting Gas (from the Order of the Phoenix range) which, in future debates, she intends using on the opposition instead of calling for the guillotine. And the Extendable Ears for eavesdropping on shadow cabinet meetings (George was going to ask Jooles if she wanted the ones with the humungous ear-lobes, but thought better of it). And more of the Fever Fudge that Jooles had given to Mary Jo Fisher before she did the hockey-pokey. Next time she plans to give her an even bigger helping, hoping she does something from Saturday Night Fever and makes an even bigger fool of herself.

Eventually, Jooles asks George can he arrange for all her purchases to be transported via a portkey to Australia, as there isn’t enough space in the boot of her broomstick. However, this reminds George of something.]

George: Oh, that reminds me, madam...talking of Down Under, our HR Department has just recently employed another one of your countrymen, who is providing us with the essential ingredient in our latest product – the Shit Happens Stink Bomb...

Jooles: Oh, he sounds interesting...I may as well say hallo to him – just in case he’s one of my constituents and I can cajole him into voting for me...heh...heh...

[George leads Jooles down a rickety set of stairs to the basement of No. 93. Soon, they are facing a heavy, hermetically-sealed door that obviously leads to the production room for the top-secret Shit Happens Stink Bombs. George pulls out his wand, recites the requisite spell, and the huge door creaks slowly open. He leads Jooles in, and her eyes immediately encounter a sweat-lathered individual, dressed only in his red budgie smugglers, on an exercise bike, peddling along for all he’s worth. However, the surrealism of this scene is only compounded by the fact that he has got a plastic tube up his bum with the other end attached to a tank, with has a sign affixed, saying: “DANGER – HIGHLY TOXIC”

Jooles walks around to see what this strange Australian looks like, but, upon doing so, gets such a shock, she would have dropped her handbag, if she had one, on her toe.]

Jooles (incredulously): Tony Abbott!!! Well, I never!!! You’ve got a bloody nerve criticising me for wasting time on my shopping trips, and here you are moonlighting in Diagon Alley, creating the raw material for George’s new product...Now, that’s what I call a stinking hypocrisy!!!

Tones (sheepishly): Erm...don’t be so harsh, Jooles...I know I said to Tony Windsor the only thing I wouldn’t do is sell my arse...well, a guy has to pay off his big mortgage somehow...

[Jooles dismissively turns on her heel and exits the stink-bomb room. Outside, George closes the door and they ascend the rickety stairs again. George, however, is wearing a sly smirk, which Jooles can’t help remarking upon.]

George: Oh, he thinks he’s going to get paid for selling his arse, does he...heh...heh...Well, I’ve got news for him...We’ve got Wizard’s WorkChoices round here and we pay the likes of him in Leprechaun Gold – you know, the stuff that disappears in the morning...heh...heh...

Jooles: Wow! That’s what I call karma...tee...hee...

The media, the polls and the Labor brand

In recent times there has been a confluence of three interacting factors: the escalating influence of the media on political discourse, a plethora of opinion polls on politics, and more lately, diminution of the Labor ‘brand’. This piece attempts to dissect out these interactions.

Despite emphatic and indignant denials from News Limited executives and editors that they have no plan to drive PM Gillard and her Government from office through their stories, there seems no doubt in the minds of many in the media that this game plan does exist. Articles on the ABC website, and in the Fairfax press and in Crikey, insist that this is so, over and again. This push for ‘regime change’ is talked about at a governmental level and on dozens of blog sites in the Fifth Estate. The Herald Sun banner headline last week: Tick, Tick, Tick, could hardly be a clearer sign that this is News Limited’s intention. The thrust of this piece rests on the premise that this is the case. People who really believe that this is not the case will find nothing much to interest them here.

For years now News Limited media have published stories adverse to the Gillard Government. They defend their right to expose the true state of affairs in federal politics, which right of course they have. But that involves giving a true picture of all the relevant facts, set out fairly in a way that enables voters to examine and assess the facts for themselves. The media also has the right, and sometimes the responsibility in complex matters, to analyse and appraise the facts and draw conclusions, and at times it has the right to offer an opinion, so long as it is clear that it is only the journalist’s or the outlet’s opinion. Yet this is not what we see. New Limited tabloids, and even its much vaunted flagship, The Australian, have consistently distorted the facts by using only those that suit its case through cherry picking, by deliberate omission, by misinformation and sometimes by telling downright lies. We saw the latter flagrantly on display in the Milne article last week, an article that not only contained proven lies, but sought to smear our PM with innuendo about her long past personal life and connect this in people’s minds with the contemporary saga of Craig Thomson. Anyone who is prepared to whitewash all this malfeasance should read no further.

I could fill several paragraphs with evidence to support my view of News Limited, but that would bore readers who have heard it all before. Suffice is it to point out the way in which the BER was berated systematically by The Australian despite 97% satisfaction documented in the schools where improvements were installed; its consistent attacks on the NBN and personal attacks on Mike Quigley, CEO of NBN Co.; and its unremitting assault on putting a price on carbon, despite every reputable economist supporting the market based mechanism that will follow, and the lack of even one reputable economist who supports the alternative Direct Action Plan of the Opposition. Moreover, even when the Government achieves a legislative success, this is usually relegated to the back pages or the small columns of News Limited papers. The good news is blurred, diluted or buried while anything that can be turned into a bad news story takes precedence. Ugly, demeaning cartoons of the PM embellish these unpleasant stories.

Given that News Limited is hell-bent on discrediting the PM and the Gillard Government, how does that play into the opinion polls and the public’s view of Labor?

Clearly, such behaviour, together with Tony Abbott’s and the Coalition’s incessant damnation of everything the Government does or attempts, has led to a view among the public that the Government is incompetent and unworthy of support, evidenced week after week by its continued poor showing in the opinion polls. And these oft repeated polls feed into one another so that now the Labor ‘brand’ is damaged not just at a Federal level, but also in NSW, Queensland, WA and Tasmania and is now being damaged in Victoria, a strong Labor state, and SA.

Reflect on just last week – how many times did we hear Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Scott Morrison insist that the Government can’t get anything right, is incompetent, and according to Hockey simply doesn’t know how to govern. They incessantly paint a picture of Labor as bumbling, error-prone, inept and hopeless, in contrast to the Coalition, which does know how to govern and will always do it better than Labor.

Yet this flies in the face of the successful passage of 185 pieces of legislation with no failures in a ‘hung parliament’. It flies in the face of the progress the Government has made with crucial reforms on climate change, health, mental health and disability, education, IR, the NBN, amongst many, many others.

It also curiously flies in the face of opinions expressed in a poll carried out by Essential Research among 1,043 respondents on 29 August. The table below is so germane to this piece that it is reproduced in full for your examination.  

Those polled were asked:

“Thinking about what the Labor Government has done over the last few years, do you approve or disapprove of the following Government actions?"

The scale is at the top, the sub-questions below, and the percentage responses below them. The first two figures are the most important: ‘Total approve’ and ‘Total disapprove’.

Total approve Total disapprove Strongly approve Approve Disapprove Strongly disapprove Don’t know

"Increased funding of health services
89% 5% 42% 47% 3% 2% 6%

Increasing the age pension
78% 14% 34% 44% 8% 6% 8%

Increasing superannuation to 12%
75% 13% 28% 47% 9% 4% 12%

Managing the economy to keep unemployment and interest rates low
70% 21% 21% 49% 12% 9% 10%

Spending on new school buildings
68% 24% 19% 49% 15% 9% 8%

Introducing a national disability insurance scheme
63% 13% 18% 45% 9% 4% 24%

Stimulus spending to tackle the GFC
61% 28% 21% 40% 15% 13% 11%

Paid parental leave
60% 30% 19% 41% 17% 13% 10%

Introducing a tax on large profits of mining companies
58% 29% 27% 31% 16% 13% 13%

Building the NBN (National Broadband Network)
54% 34% 19% 35% 17% 17% 12%

Stopping live cattle exports until welfare concerns were addressed
53% 34% 24% 29% 17% 17% 12%

Abolished WorkChoices
51% 33% 23% 28% 21% 12% 16%

Sending asylum seekers to Malaysia
39% 45% 17% 22% 20% 25% 16%

Introducing a carbon tax to tackle climate change
33% 53% 15% 18% 14% 39% 14%"

The Report noted that: “Government decisions and policies with highest approval were increased funding of health services (89% approve), increasing the age pension (78%) and increasing superannuation to 12% (75%).

“Only two of the actions listed received less than majority approval – sending asylum seekers to Malaysia was 39% approve/45% disapprove and introducing a carbon tax to tackle climate change was 33% approve/53% disapprove.

“Labor voters showed majority approval of all decisions and policies, Greens voters showed majority approval for all except sending asylum seekers to Malaysia (21% approve/63% disapprove).

“Liberal/National voters approved of half the items listed – increased funding of health services (89% approve), increasing the age pension (79%), increasing superannuation to 12% (71%), managing the economy to keep unemployment and interest rates low (54%), spending on new school buildings (54%), introducing a national disability insurance scheme (60%) and paid parental leave (52%).”

These questions cover many of the important areas about which Government action has been taken. The responses point to enthusiastic approval by the majority of voters (over 70%) of the top four items, solid approval (60 - 69%) for the next four and majority approval (50 – 59%) for the next four. Only the last two of the fourteen items show an approval of less than 50%, and they relate to the Malaysian agreement (39% approval, 45% disapproval) and the carbon tax (33%, 53%).

Yet in the self same poll the Coalition was 12 points ahead of Labor in the Two Party Preferred voting intentions, 56/44. 

How can this be so? Have the two negatives for the Government over the Malaysian agreement and the carbon tax so overwhelmed the twelve positives that those polled have weighed them up carefully and given the Government a heavy negative mark of 44 against the Coalition’s 56? This might be so, but it is implausible that those polled have gone through a logical process of weighing the twelve positives against the two negatives and ending with an overall bad negative voting intention mark. A more plausible explanation is that the voting intentions were canvassed first and the questions afterwards. Perhaps some might have wished to change their voting intention after answering the questions, mostly affirmatively, if they had had the chance. 

But in my opinion the most plausible explanation is that there is a marked disconnect between their thoughtfully considered responses to the questions, which were mostly positive, even among Coalition voters, and their almost instinctive aversion to Labor, the Labor ‘brand’, which evoked a strong negative voting intention for that party. 

While this Essential Report provides the best objective evidence to date of this disconnect, we see it in everyday political commentary by journalists. In recent days, to name but two, Barrie Cassidy and Malcolm Farr have on the one hand commented on how much the Government has done, while in the same breath have pointed to its unpopularity, its poor showing in the polls, and the impression in the community of an incompetent Government that can’t get anything right. They also comment that distracting issues, such as the Thomson affair, are ‘sucking oxygen’ from Labor’s efforts to ‘sell its message’, without for a second acknowledging that is the media’s preoccupation with these issue to the exclusion of the crucially important ones, that produces this outcome. How many Government-initiated press conferences on vital matters have been overwhelmed by questions on unrelated but titillating subjects that just happen to interest the media? 

How has the impression of incompetence been generated? Some would say the Government itself generates this because it is incompetent. Yet the more thoughtful journalists, the respondents to the Essential poll, and Independents such as Tony Windsor, Robb Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie see the Government not only as competent but achieving, except in a few contentious areas. 

My thesis is that the Coalition and its media fellow travelers have generated the image of incompetence and has fostered this repeatedly with almost every utterance. 

Last Thursday 2GB’s Ray Hadley began his interview with Tony Abbott about the High Court ruling by asking: “Is there one thing they could possibly not stuff up”. Now we don’t expect anything else from Hadley or his shock jock mate Alan Jones who malevolently berates the Government and PM Gillard at every opportunity. But it does illustrate how easily this impression of incompetence can be promulgated. Of course Abbott quickly picked up on the incompetence theme, as did Joe Hockey on 774 ABC radio Melbourne the same day, something those two, with help from their Coalition mates, have done repeatedly, dating back to the early days of the Rudd Government. 

Moreover, a level of hatred and loathing towards Julia Gillard and her Government, which has reached pathological levels, has been generated not just by Tony Abbott and his Coalition confreres, but also with unparalleled vehemence and vitriol by the shock jocks. Will we ever forget the dressing down Alan Jones gave our PM for being ten minutes late to his infamous show where he called her ‘Ju-liar’? Can we ever erase the sight of him, and of Tony Abbott, with Sophie Mirabella and Bronwyn Bishop, standing in front of the ‘Ditch the Witch’ and ‘Bob Brown’s bitch’ placards at the Canberra rallies? Reflect on the endless images of Jones berating the PM that we have seen repeated on Media Watch. 

These venomous people, and lets add Ray Hadley and Chris Smith to the ugly list, are deliberately fostering a level of hatred, distrust and detestation directed at this nation’s PM, the like of which we have not seen in a long while. This is dangerous. It has led to talk of assassination among the extremists; even Jones on a public broadcast said Julia Gillard and Bob Brown should be put in a hessian bag and dropped out to sea. What sort of talk is this in a peace-loving society? 

We have seen through the ages how anger, hatred and loathing can be whipped up against minorities, against religious and ethnic groups through the continual repetition of disparaging remarks and lies. Joseph Goebbels infamously said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” He went on to say: “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Isn’t this just what we are seeing day after day: lie after lie, not maintained by ‘the State’ but directed at ‘the State’ by the Coalition, the shock jocks and a large chunk of the MSM? They are fomenting these ugly and dangerous emotions among our people, such that they gather at rallies, wave nasty placards and shout obscenities. 

This piece argues that there is a disconnect between what the people think and believe when they take a calm and considered view of what the Government has done, is doing and plans to do, where they largely give it a tick, and what they feel when subjected to a torrent of hate and condemnation from the Coalition, the shock jocks, and a large sector of the MSM, that leads to: 'They are doing quite a good job when you think about it, but I hate Ju-liar and her incompetent bunch of ministers that can’t seem to get anything right, and so I’m not going to vote for Labor'.

Because of this disconnect, the Labor brand has been severely tarnished and seems unlikely to return to its shiny state unless polished over and again with multiple accomplishments, acknowledged honestly through the media. That is the task ahead, but unless the largely hostile MSM changes it direction and attitude, it may prove to be impossible in the remaining two years. 

It’s curious and troubling that because of the unremitting negativity that has been directed at Labor for so long, emotion has over-ridden thought and factual evidence and reigns supreme when pollsters come around seeking voting intentions. The Labor brand lies so tarnished at present that fewer and fewer wish to embrace it. Can logic and truth overcome emotion and restore its lustre? 

What do you think? 

Anthony Abbott’s Anarchist Antics

As wreckers go, Anthony the Anarchist is so bad, he would make Dennis the Menace look like Bob the Builder. In fact, Paul Keating summed up his wretched wreckability quite well (see five minutes into the link below).

As it happens, the High Priest-cum-Chief Executioner, George “Brandy Balls” Brandis, had both the Witch, Gillard, and Craig “Would you credit it” Thomson, in a chaff bag ready to organise their stoning when Anthony and his fellow anarchist acolytes in the assembled mob jumped the gun and spoiled it, fatally for Brandy Balls especially. You see, Anthony claimed he saw John Howard’s trakky-daks peeking out from underneath Brandy Balls’ cassock and shouted, “Rat! Rat!” The ensuing fuselage of lumps of coal promptly ended the Rodent’s and Brandy Balls’ earthly existences and, contemporaneously, put paid to the theory that carbon is weightless.

So, having scored an enormous own-goal with the unfortunate deaths of Brandy Balls and the Rodent, Anthony the Anarchist sets off to make restitution by finding, for the Coalition, the Holy Grail of Australian politics, the keys to the kingdom of Canberra, which the Witch, Gillard, had cunningly concealed.

Now, Anthony’s quest takes him to Fremantle in Western Australia. Having congratulated the local squire, Sir Colin, on being able to raise great new big taxes in the form of stratospheric rises in water and electricity charges, whilst conning the local media into turning a blind eye, Anthony sets up camp on Fremantle wharf and makes plans to search the environs for the whereabouts of the illusive keys to the kingdom of Canberra. His foremost hunch is that they are hidden somewhere within the austere, forbidding walls of the 19th century convict-built Fremantle Prison, which is clearly visible on a height not far from his base-camp on the wharf.

However, his mental planning for his assault on the Prison is interrupted by the shrill cries of one of his sentries, Ban Morrison, who is jumping up and down on the spot, pointing out towards the ocean and screaming, “STOP THE BOATS!” at the top of his voice. The object of Ban’s manic attack is a large liner sailing into the harbour with some old bird standing at the bow waving to all and sundry. Anthony and his anarchist mates assume it is full of illegals, so arm themselves with lumps of coal purloined off a nearby barge and hurl them at the ship, quickly taking out the waving lady. However, they are duly set upon by a horde of handbag-wielding and Union Jack-waving old biddies from Peppermint Grove.

Old dears: You absolute bounders! You’ve brained Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth...Don’t you fools know she was coming to Perth for the CHOGM meeting...You’re nothing but a rat-bag crowd of ne’er-do-well leftie commos – get them girls!

[Anthony quickly decides that discretion is the better part of valour, so falls back on another one of his infamous stunts. He leaves his fellow anarchists to fend off the vicious handbag-wielding amazons and, removing the mighty Shovel of Dobell that he had borrowed from Lady Kathy Jackson, from its scabbard, rushes headlong up the port towards the gates of Fremantle Prison, guessing that the Holy Grail, the keys to the kingdom of Canberra, can be found hidden therein. Unfortunately for Anthony, however, he doesn’t realise that, nowadays, Fremantle Prison isn’t any longer a redoubt to incarcerate hardened English footpads or mutinous Irish rebels. These days, you pay at the gate for a guided tour of the vacant cells, and to view the now-unused whipping frame and gruesome gallows. And, also, today there are a few conferences being held which, as an ardent anarchist, are of no value to Anthony. Now screaming his war-cry, with his fearsome shovel brandished high above his head, Anthony sprints towards the gates of the Prison.]

Ticket clerk: Good afternoon, sir...if you haven’t got a concession card for having a great big fat mortgage, that’ll be five dollars please...

[Anthony, shrieking like a banshee who, before heading out on a date with Frankenstein, discovers a zit on her nose, pummels the unfortunate ticket clerk with the Mighty Shovel of Dobell and races into the interior of the Prison, eyes darting hither and thither, trying to identify the probable location of the keys to The Lodge. He decides that one of the little cells on the top tier is the most likely resting place so, walloping any tourists and primary school students on educational visits, over the head with his formidable shovel, he fights his way up the stairs of the main prison block.

At the top of the first flight of stairs, Anthony notices that the authorities have removed the dividing walls between some of the tiny cells, to form some bigger areas that now function as conference rooms. Anthony storms into the first one and confronts its occupants, four old blokes in cardigans. He cleaves each of their skulls with his deadly Shovel of Dobell and moves on in search of the illusive keys. However, if he had taken time to question them first, he would have discovered that they were in fact on his side – they were the only four economists in Australia who think his Direct Action Plan isn’t worth jack-shit.

Anyhow, Anthony the Anarchist bursts into the next room and, again, sunders the occupants’ skulls from their shoulders with fearsome whacks from the mighty Shovel of Dobell. He then moves on down the corridor, wreaking havoc as he proceeds. However, he is abruptly stopped in his tracks by the fearsome figure of Wilson Tuckey standing in his way on the balcony. Ever since getting the heave-ho at the 2010 election, Iron Bar has been working at the Prison as a security guard.]

Iron Bar: You idiot! You’ve just be-headed Lord Monckton and the only three scientists in Australia who agree with you that global warming is a load of crap!

[For his troubles, Iron Bar gets sconed with Anthony’s shovel, who continues to battle his way through the ever-decreasing throng of tourists, day-trippers and school groups. Anthony is so blinded with frenzy, he even scythes through a table-full of fund-raisers who are trying to solicit donations for mesothelioma sufferers, slashing their banners depicting the face of Bernie Banton.

However, an intrepid group of schoolies pull out their pea-shooters and pepper Anthony so much, he beats a hasty retreat out of the Prison and back into the environs of the port city. By this stage, Anthony has come to the conclusion that the keys aren’t in fact in Western Australia after all, so he decides to hoof it along the Great Eastern Highway and see if the Witch Gillard has in fact hidden the keys to The Lodge somewhere in Adelaide instead.

A few days later, somewhere on the endless straight road that traverses the stark Nullarbor Plain, the weary Anthony looks up from his unforgiving and pitiless perambulation and spots, in the distance coming towards him, what looks like a convoy of trucks.]

Anthony (ecstatically): Yippee! It’s the Orange Convoy of No Confidence returning to Perth after its very successful Crusade against the Gillard infidels...

[Anthony, confidently and imperiously, stands in the middle of the road waving the convoy down. Unfortunately for him, however, it doesn’t stop. Nearby, two hungry crows notice the carnage and hop over to tuck in.]

Crow 1: Huh...don’t you just hate roadkill...It gets squished so much, there’s never much left to feed on...

Crow 2: Yeah...tell me about it...After those CT, MRRT and NBN road-trains finished with this guy, we’ll get more of a feed from the poor bastard’s shovel...sheesh...