Vale Ken Wolff

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our close colleague and dear friend, Ken Wolff. His last published article at The Political Sword was What to watch for in 2017: his sudden death was not what we anticipated.

Ken joined the team at The Political Sword in September 2013 at a time when its future was uncertain. Keeping a political blog site vibrant over a long period takes a lot of effort. Those who contribute to it come and go. It was just when we wondered how the site could be sustained that Ken joined us.

At that time Jan Mahyuddin (@j4gypsy) was deeply involved in the reorganization of the site, and in establishing a protocol for editing. Ken contributed much sound advice about how The Political Sword could be managed by a team. Then it was but a small team, comprising Ken, Bacchus, who codes pieces for the site, 2353NM, who writes pieces regularly, Jan Mahyuddin who at that time assisted with editing, Casablanca, who took up Lyn’s role of posting links in a segment titled ‘Casablanca’s Cache’, Web Monkey, who keeps the site running behind the scene, and updates it regularly, and Ad Astra, who created the site in 2008. Ken quickly became an enthusiastic writer of penetrating articles that contributed so much to the vibrancy and appeal of The Political Sword.

Here is a selection of Ken’s outstanding pieces, from the last six months:

The barbie bigot looks back on the year 
The buck stops where? 
The rise of political staffers: how people disappeared from policy advice
Statistics are people too
All hail the mighty banks
An economy without people
Modern economics has lost sight of people
A once and future Senate
The election in numbers
The election in numbers 2: minor parties and independents
The democratization of opinion
The Liberals are dreaming
The Liberal lie continues
Turnbull’s Medicare backflip – or is it?
Time for a new economic model
What economic plan?

This selection of just a sample of Ken’s writings illustrates his versatility, the depth of his knowledge, the variety of his offerings, his expertise in economics, his persuasiveness, and his skill with the pen.

Ken was incisive in his policy analysis and evaluation of the current issues in our polity. This was an innate ability and intelligence further developed and honed during many years as a senior federal public servant. Here is an excerpt from his bio:
Ken is a retired federal public servant who worked for 30 years in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, mainly in policy areas. That background gives him an understanding of socio-economic issues. An Honours degree in social anthropology also influences his thinking on our society. His politics was moulded in the western suburbs of Sydney where he grew up and where Jack Lang was a local hero.
In addition to his writing role, Ken undertook the responsibility of Production Manager, following the initial re-organisation of the site by Jan Mahyuddin. He was responsible for scheduling pieces for publication on The Political Sword and our companion site TPS Extra. The schedule was documented on TPS Sandpit a separate WordPress site, established by Jan.

His editing of others’ writing was inspired, never putting the author down but providing gentle encouragement and providing that little bit of magic that has made The Political Sword a social commentary site that other blog sites regularly re-publish.

When Ken’s health made it difficult for him to write, he continued as Production Manager, even though undergoing a tough regime of chemotherapy.

We shall be forever indebted to Ken for all he has given to The Political Sword over a long period. He was dedicated to the site and to its mission of holding accountable our politicians and political commentators. So often they let us down through poor decisions and faulty communication. Ken was always ready to call them to account, and to point the way towards better decision-making and more honest communication.

Ken will be irreplaceable. His unique style, his honesty, and his dedication will remain with us as happy memories of a remarkable gentleman who gave so much, even as illness affected his capacity to contribute as he would have wished. He was consistently cheerful, collaborative and helpful; his articles were always very lucid, thought provoking, and constructive.

The team here at The Political Sword extend deepest sympathy to Ken’s wife Gillian, and his family, his extended family, and his friends.

Vale dear Ken. We shall miss you. You are a precious friend and colleague who gave so much so cheerfully despite your long illness. We shall always remember you for the wonderful person you are.

The TPS Team

Ken's service will be held in the Chapel at Norwood Park Crematorium, Sandford Street, Mitchell, ACT on Monday 27 March 2017 at 12:00 noon.

Rest in Peace dear Ken

Farewell 2015 — you could have been worse


It is common at this time of the year to reflect on what was, what could have been and how it all manages to fit into the ‘scheme of things’. This article is the 50th piece posted to The Political Sword in 2015 — and, if we didn’t have enough to do, late in January we changed the look and feel of our website as well as commencing a second site TPS Extra, where the concept is for shorter ad-hoc articles on issues of the day. Given that each Political Sword article runs for somewhere between 1500 and 2500 words, somewhere around 100,000 words have been written, coded and presented for you to think about. At the time of writing 45 articles have appeared on the Extra site — of varying lengths to address a current issue.

At the end of 2014, we started our annual reflection with the following:
It was a year in which we saw Abbott and his cronies trying to destroy the country and make us a paradise for the neo-liberals, the neo-cons and the economists that support them — and, of course, big business. We saw the worst budget in living memory and have, so far, only been saved from its full ramifications by the senate. We saw Clive Palmer appear with Al Gore to talk about the importance of climate change but, at the same time, cave in to support the repeal of the carbon price. We have seen Abbott, more through luck than design, deflect the budget issue and ‘bask’ in the glory of the world stage, taking on the Russian bear and alienating our closest Asian neighbour. He has ‘stopped the boats’ but also stopped government transparency in the process. He is undertaking more privatisation of government services and encouraging the states to do the same. Without openly saying so, he is pursuing a neo-liberal and economic rationalist agenda backed to the hilt by the IPA (and, as others have noted, he is, to a significant extent, following its ‘hit list’).
The criticism of Abbott started early this year on The Political Sword. By the time January was over we had looked back at 2012 where our esteemed blog master Ad Astra had correctly deduced Abbott’s character; and Ken offered to refund his assisted passage to Australia
He arrived here as a £10 pom and I will willingly refund his £10 (or $20 in real Australian money) if he takes the next boat home — perhaps we can spare him an orange life boat for the journey.
— as well as looking at his negativity, questioning if it was the right ‘sales pitch’ for someone who was supposed to be demonstrating that his government was a safe pair of hands.

During February, Abbott faced a leadership spill (as no one actually challenged him). The reality is that close to 40% of the members of his political caucus effectively ticked the ‘anyone but Abbott’ box by voting for a spill. Ken soon after assembled a catalogue of (lets be nice here — it is Christmas) exaggerations over the deficit that Abbott and Hockey claim they inherited from the Rudd/Gillard years, followed by 2353 looking at tax reform here and here.

During March, Ken looked at the reality of the ‘Presidential style’ of Australian leadership and suggested the ‘people voted for me’ claim that Abbott (as well as Rudd a few years earlier) was making was in fact bollocks. Jan Mahyuddin pondered why a number of political reporters were then publicly discussing Abbott’s character flaws, rather than before the election when the Australian people could have done something about it.

During March, the government released the fourth Intergenerational Report — which is a document that is supposed to look a few decades into the future, scan the risks and determine what plans we as a society need to have in place now to manage the transition. The Hockey intergenerational report was a complete farce, which you may remember Dr Karl Kruszelnicki later publically suggested he should have read prior to agreeing to advertise the document.

As the year went on we looked at the second Abbott/Hockey budget and determined that while it was somewhat softer than the 2014 version, the ideology behind it was the same. 2353 looked at the discussion on marriage equity in June, discussing the manoeuvres that Abbott was making to defer the process: followed a week later by Ken discussing the reality behind the ‘national security/terrorism’ concerns that Abbott frequently identified as his prime concern and found that Abbott was the one behaving like a terrorist by deliberately generating fear.

During August, we discussed the ‘concept’ of an increase in the GST rate, as floated by Mike Baird (NSW Premier) at the COAG Meeting, while suggesting that ‘we told you so’ (again) back in April when we published ‘Beware, there is a plan’. The government’s lack of ‘love’ for effective action to address climate change or progressive taxation (where everyone pays a fair percentage of their income) rounded out the month.

A traditional operating method for conservative governments is to hide their actions behind a cloak of secrecy or layer the whole process in quantities of red tape. Early in September, 2353 asked why is this so and determined that it was something to do with the conservative mindset. We also looked at how various governments had failed Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander Australians and how Abbott was never going to rectify the damage; as well as the increasing trend for people such as Abbott (a Catholic) to reduce the distance between state and religion, solely to push their own agendas. September was also the month that Abbott was defeated in a leadership challenge. Given that Menzies was overthrown in a leadership challenge in 1941 and Gorton voted himself out of office in the early 1970’s, you would think that there would be considerable ‘corporate experience’ in the Liberal Party for how the vanquished should act and behave. After giving Abbott around a month to demonstrate he meant the ‘right things’ he said; and finding he didn’t, The Political Sword discussed (here, here as well as here) the problems newly minted Prime Minister Turnbull would have in stamping his authority on the position while appeasing the ultra-conservatives who were being attracted to the lightning rod of Abbott, then sitting on the back bench. Turnbull is still attempting to find a path through the forest of competing claims and ideologies.

A lot can change in twelve months. Abbott’s removal as prime minister in late 2015 was bookended by Queenslanders taking back ultra-conservative Premier Newman’s large majority in January and Canadians removing ultra-conservative Stephen Harper from their prime ministership in October. The replacement leader in Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, and in Canada, Justin Trudeau, were both considered to be write-offs only months prior to the election results and both seem to have chosen methods miles apart from the ‘traditional’ loud, nasty politics to gain and retain leadership. While the Conservative’s David Cameron was re-elected in the UK election, subsequently the UK Labour Party (in a democratic process) chose a new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is (in the words of Yes Minister) ‘courageous’ and has stated he wants to take the UK Labour Party back to the days of a kinder and gentler society.

Palaszczuk, Turnbull, Corbyn and Trudeau seem to demonstrate a need for a ‘kinder and gentler’ politics and as a result there is certainly less intensity in the political discussion. Maybe we all do get sick of ‘he said/she said’ and those with the loudest or most outrageous voices winning. As a US General Election and an Australian Federal Election are both due in 2016, it could be interesting to see how the ‘kinder and gentler’ pans out.

Life does not revolve completely around politics and during the year The Political Sword took a look at some issues that at times begged the question why won’t our politicians do this as well and at other times had little to do with current politics at all.

2353 went ethical early in February (a recurring affliction for which we are assured he is getting help), looking at some of the research into why people treat those with differences as physical and intellectual inferiors. In March, he was questioning if social media influences politics and by April was discussing the fallacy of the ‘trickle-down effect’ as popularised by US President Reagan, British Prime Minister Thatcher and of course Australian Prime Minister Abbott.

Ken discussed the change in perception within Australia from helping those less fortunate to economic rationalism, asked if the budget papers are just a waste of paper and tried to justify claiming the term ‘budget trickery’ from Bill Shorten after the federal budget.

Around the same time as the Australian Budget was handed down (giving little to those that need a hand), 2353 looked at the experience in Utah where a Republican (conservative) governor authorised a long term plan to help banish poverty from his state; including literally giving the homeless a home. The social benefits have been overwhelming, as those who have a fixed address find it is easier to interact with government departments, employers and other aid groups, they feel part of a community and sooner or later, most of them are (to use Joe Hockey’s misadvised words) lifters, not leaners on society.

2353’s ethical meme surfaced again when he discussed why our immigration policies over the past couple of centuries seemed to reflect our prosperity as a nation as well as discussing the ethics of profit over human suffering, and why successive Australian governments have supported the apparent inhumanity experienced by those who are transported to Christmas Island, Manus Island and Nauru.

At the same time, Ken gave us a few valuable history lessons with his mini- series on the Westminster System (Part 1 and Part 2), health funding (Part 1 and Part 2), neo-liberalism and discussing the politics of water availability in Australia.

So 2015 really wasn’t that bad. This time last year we were hoping that Abbott didn’t ‘destroy the joint’ before he was evicted kicking and screaming from Kirribilli House; some other ultra-conservatives have been voted out; and we now have some optimism that kinder and gentler politics is possible across the world with a recognition that the environment and society is important.

In the spirit of optimism that seems to have broken out across the UK, Canada and Australia, please enjoy this (non-festive season) music clip as a final comment on 2015



What do you think?
Our publication schedule over the break is an article scheduled for New Year's Day and potentially one in mid-January. The site will remain open and moderated throughout the period. Apart from that, the people behind The Political Sword hope you enjoy your ‘Christmas break’ in the way in which you feel comfortable. Have a safe and happy holiday period, look after yourself, your families and those around you.


Enjoy a new era at The Political Sword


On Saturday, 13 September 2008 Ad astra wrote: ‘This is the first posting of The Political Sword blog. Its focus is Australian politics. It is intended to give expression to those who have opinions about contemporary political events. In particular it will provide a forum for exposing deception among politicians, bureaucrats and commentators.

‘The people deserve to know the truth about political decisions, how and why they were made, and about those who made them. They are entitled to know if political commentators are truthfully representing the situations they are reporting, and that they make clear what is fact, and what is opinion. They owe it to their readers to validate the facts they report and reveal their source.

‘By challenging politicians and commentators to stick to the truth and to justify their words and actions, it is possible that the quality of political discourse in this country might improve. The Internet provides ordinary citizens with the opportunity to influence political behaviour between elections, rather than only at election time.

‘Politicians, journalists and academics read political blogs - they are bound to be influenced by them, at least to some extent.

‘Al Gore said that political blogs have become a significant new force in political debate and decision making in the US. The same opportunity exists in this country to put politicians and commentators to the verbal political sword
.’

Over six years later, the words apply even more than when they were written. Blogs and social media now do impinge on politicians; sometimes the politicians do hear what the ordinary person says and sometimes they do respond. But their honesty and their transparency has not improved; indeed it seems to have deteriorated, most noticeably since the 2013 election.

When in September 2013, at the same time as Lyn, who provided TPS users with comprehensive links to political material day after day for many years, Ad astra decided to step back from TPS, Janet (jan@j4gypsy), not wanting to see it disappear, moved in and organised a team that has maintained the site ever since. In Ad astra’s words: “Her organisational skill, and the dedication of TPS team members have been outstanding. They have authored, sought other authors, reviewed, edited, and coded countless pieces that have appeared week after week on TPS.”

Over time the nature of our author contributions has evolved. In recent months, the emphasis of most pieces has been on the philosophical aspects of politics, with a focus on economics. The pieces have been learned treatises on the chosen subject, well researched and referenced with many links, fascinating and valuable reading that has evoked reflection and deep thought about the matters that influence politics profoundly. Because these matters are seldom addressed by politicians in their discourse with the public, and are usually neglected by mainstream media journalists, the electorate has been left to flounder in a sea of inconsequential superficiality, devoid of thoughtful consideration of the central issues that influence, and indeed mould our democracy. So important have these pieces been, that it is planned that such contributions shall continue to be the solid base upon which TPS will continue in 2015. You can look forward to more of such pieces from our talented authors.

Casablanca took over from Lyn, and since then has supplied a continual stream of links to important material from the media. Her dedication and perspicacity in selecting relevant items is deeply appreciated. You can look forward to her contributions in 2015.

As we enter a new year and contemplate the 2016 election in about eighteen months, as the substandard performance of the Abbott government continues, and as its leader’s performance declines by the day and his public approval sinks to greater depths, the need has become more and more pressing for incisive commentary on the government, its leader and its ministers, as well as on what the other parties are doing.

TPS Extra

To this end, TPS has added another component to its repertoire: TPS Extra. Older readers will remember how curbside paperboys in another era shouted: ‘Extra, Extra, read all about it’ as they spruiked editions of their newspaper that contained startling news. TPS Extra is TPS’s attempt to bring you the startling — in political commentary. We will not be generating news; there are countless news generators, and we don’t have the resources anyway. What we will be doing is dissecting the contemporary news from many sources, analyzing it, looking for meaning in the events, and interpreting what they might imply. We will provide links to the news sources and will often quote from them. The pieces will therefore be opinion pieces. They will reflect the opinion of the author, and they will invite your opinion.

It is our intention to post such opinion pieces on TPS Extra. There may be several in one week, or none at all, depending on what is happening politically. You will be able to read these by switching from the main site, The Political Sword, to TPS Extra. 'Buttons' have been provided on each site to enable you to switch from one to the other and back again as often as you wish.

Our Webmaster, who goes by the nickname Web Monkey, has skillfully designed the new site and the transit buttons. We are deeply indebted to him for his stylish design.

TPS Extra is now live at http://www.tpsextra.com.au. There are several posts there: four prepared last week to trial the new site, and one added this week that comments on Australia Day . You may wish to read them, comment upon them, and rate them. Commenting and rating are done just as on the main TPS site.

We suggest you make the original TPS site your default, and switch to TPS Extra as the desire takes you.

We trust you will enjoy the variety now offered by The Political Sword in its two forms.

While the main TPS site will continue to focus on more in-depth analysis of political and social issues, we are also making some minor changes in our approach for 2015.

A call to authors

The Political Sword will be accepting shorter pieces from authors for posting. Last year, our posts were usually around 2000 words (give or take 200‒300 words) but this year we will accept shorter pieces, anything from 400 to 1000 words. So if you have been reading our posts thinking you couldn’t write longer pieces like that, now you don’t have to. When we receive shorter pieces, we will attempt to put pieces addressing the same topic together and post them together: so instead of a single article constituting a post, we may have two, three or four articles.

To help you, we now also have a list of themes. This doesn’t mean that they are the only things we will post about but we do hope to address a number of them during the year and your pieces, both short and long, will help.

Our current themes are:

  • education
  • health
  • environment/climate change
  • immigration/asylum seekers
  • economy
  • social equity
  • tax
  • finance
  • work and the labour force in the 21st century
  • welfare
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs
  • science, research and innovation
In addressing the themes, we will not only be looking for critiques of the current approach taken by the government but alternative approaches that may actually help improve the situation or approaches that you think Labor could take into the next election. Of course, some of the themes can overlap.

And, given our authors’ statement of beliefs (see below), there is also scope to ask them to expand on some of those beliefs and explain how they see our society achieving the ideals they have listed.

About our authors

We are also introducing a new feature: ‘About our authors’, for both TPS and TPS Extra. We all have our beliefs, our vision of the sort of country in which we want to live, and of course our biases. So that you can see where our authors are coming from as they write, a short bio and a longer statement of beliefs will be provided for you to read about each of them, all at the click of your mouse. To read about our authors, click ‘About our authors’ which you will see in the left panel immediately below ‘AA's Top Political Websites’.

During the year, each author will be asked to provide a short ‘bio’ and a statement of beliefs. A short ‘bio’ from each author will be necessary, but the statement of beliefs is optional, although we do think it adds to our readers’ understanding of the author’s position and approach.

As always, your feedback will be welcome as regards both TPS Extra and the approach on TPS.

The TPS Team

Be sure to come back on Sunday evening for our first main post of the year: ‘We’re all in this together’ by 2353.


And that was . . . 2014


Welcome to 2015. Happy New Year from The TPS Team.

Traditionally The Political Sword tends to avoid too much politics and media bashing in January as in reality Australians are more interested in the beach, cricket, being with friends and complaining about how hot/cold/unusual the weather is. While it would be easy to write a piece about the less than impressive record of the Abbott Government, there are other sites already expending much effort on this — some examples are here and here — and in any event Ad Astra foretold the reality in 2012 but boasting of TPS’s past achievements in the first post of the year is not a good look! However we digress.

It’s often said that a week is a long time in politics. While the daily news cycle gets faster and less detailed, let’s look back at 2014 and see if there really was that much change in Australian politics during the year.

The newly minted Abbott Government came to power late in 2013 in part by pointing out that the leader of the other side of politics was either a liar or so controlling his supporters had to sack him. The federal government opened 2014 having to put out a minor bushfire over who was really running the country, the elected politicians or the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin.

Senator Abetz told a Senate estimates hearing last week: "At the end of the day it was decided by the Prime Minister as to who would be appointed to my ministerial staff and to the staff of my ministerial colleagues,"

As revealed by Fairfax, Ms Credlin has insisted that all 420 government staff appointments right down to junior electorate officers are approved by the panel.

The ‘axing’ of the ‘carbon tax’ was a work in progress early in 2014. Despite promising that the repeal of the carbon pricing scheme would be one of the first actions of the Abbott Government, reality hit when it didn’t pass the Senate. Abbott had to wait until the Senate changed to get a ‘watered down’ repeal of the necessary acts of parliament through with the assistance of Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party. Various utilities are now passing back the ‘savings’ that were made by the repeal of the ‘carbon tax’. When Ipswich City Council in Queensland recently announced that a refund to ratepayers would be paid just in time for Christmas and average $14.04, the response was rather underwhelming according to the Queensland Times:

Carla Kompenhans posted: "$14; early Christmas present? Are you serious? I don't know anyone who would be excited about that.

"What part of Christmas will that cover exactly?"

In 2014, Australia was the ‘Chair’ of the G20 Group of Nations; consequently the Finance Ministers’ meeting was held in Cairns and the Heads of State meeting held in Brisbane during the latter part of 2014. The leadership of the Australian government (Prime Minister Abbott) was also keen to keep climate change off the agenda at the G20 meetings — much to the concern of the Europeans. With China and the USA announcing an agreement to actively reduce carbon emissions by up to 28% below 2005 levels on the Wednesday prior to the G20 Heads of State meeting, the subject was never going to go away. Widely reported was Obama’s speech to University of Queensland students in suburban ‘Brisvegas’ where he discussed his, China’s and the United Nations concerns about climate change and carbon emissions.

He then described the impact of climate change on Australia:

Here, a climate that increases in temperature will mean more extreme and frequent storms, more flooding, rising seas that submerge Pacific islands. Here in Australia, it means longer droughts, more wildfires. The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened. Worldwide, this past summer was the hottest on record. No nation is immune, and every nation has a responsibility to do its part.

Obama also called on the country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions:

And you’ll recall at the beginning, I said the United States and Australia have a lot in common. Well, one of the things we have in common is we produce a lot of carbon. Part of it’s this legacy of wide-open spaces and the frontier mentality, and this incredible abundance of resources. And so, historically, we have not been the most energy-efficient of nations, which means we’ve got to step up.

Abbott’s response, as reported on the Mashable website, was less compelling.

In contrast, Abbott told reporters that the U.S. and China have a far greater responsibility to address climate change than Australia does. “China emits some 24% of global carbon dioxide,” Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Nov. 14. “The U.S. emits some 15% of global carbon dioxide. By contrast, Australia’s about 1%. So, I think it’s important that they do get cracking when it comes to this.”

Despite Abbott’s wishes, the final communiqué from the Brisbane G20 included some action on climate change. Turkey is the ‘Chair’ of the G20 in 2015 and has stated support for a number of climate measures in the past.

No recollection on political events within Australia in 2014 would be complete without a reflection on the life of Edward Gough Whitlam. It is claimed that Gough Whitlam made the ALP electable again. Geoffrey Robinson writing on The Conversation website suggested that the claim Whitlam was solely responsible for making Labor electable may be overblown:

The truth is more complex and interesting. Whitlam was a man for his time: his achievements were representative of new and old social movements, including the emerging progressive intelligentsia, feminists, non-Anglo migrants and the working class.

Robinson also observes

Like Keating or Julia Gillard, Whitlam has functioned as what cultural theorists call a “floating signifier” — a symbol whose power and significance is necessarily distantly connected to historical events. “It’s Time”, “the sweetest victory of all” and the “misogyny speech” exist in a world of symbols but are none the less real for this.

While there doesn’t seem to be a 1972 campaign advertisement for the Liberal Party online (if you find one, please post the link below the line), the performance of then Prime Minister McMahon on Mike Willesee’s A Current Affair is a stark contrast to the Labor Party’s ‘It’s Timeelection campaign and probably explains in part why the Liberal Party was not re-elected.

Fast forward to November 2014, and the Victorian state election. The Liberal/National coalition was removed from office after one term by the ALP, led by Daniel Andrews, who came from behind to win the fancy office in Spring Street. The common opinion at the previous election was that the ALP (then led by John Brumby) would retain Government with a reduced margin with the polls for the then state Liberal leader (Ted Ballieu) rising and falling in line with the corresponding falls and rises of Gillard’s ALP government in Canberra. Ballieu had won then but didn’t even last out the four year term as premier, being replaced by Denis Napthine soon after Rudd replaced Gillard. While Newman is still premier of Queensland, there seems to be a concern within the ranks of the LNP that Newman may also lose his seat and the LNP lose Government early in 2015 when the next Queensland election is due. The Abbott government is significantly less popular than the ALP or in fact themselves when elected some 18 months ago:

In opposition, Abbott liked to say that Julia Gillard was the most incompetent and untrustworthy prime minister in Australia's history.

The voters now have decided that they have found one that's more incompetent and just as untrustworthy.

"Only half of people polled said that Abbott is competent," says the Fairfax pollster, Jess Elgood of Ipsos.

"That's lower than for any prime minister we have figures for," a data set starting with Paul Keating in 1995.

Compared to Abbott's 50 per cent, the comparable figure for Gillard four months before she was deposed was 53 per cent.

Not a lot did change in the world of Australian politics in 2014. At the start and end of the year, we have the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff being the news rather than managing the PM’s office. At the end of 2014, there are claims of disagreements with Foreign Minister Bishop and of ruling the government with an ‘iron fist’.

The media is still leading discussion on climate change and how to manage it (with price signals — such as a ‘carbon tax’ being mentioned as an effective mechanism), and that Abbott either is changing or should change his view that ‘climate change is crap’.

Governments in various jurisdictions around the country are still not doing well in polling after they have been accused of lying or not being able to organise themselves — with Victoria changing government; Queensland’s Premier implying he will lose the significant majority won at the 2012 event at the next election; and the Federal Government some 10% behind the opposition after 18 months. Australians are still complaining about the ‘carbon tax’ — this time the small refunds that are gradually making their way onto invoices from its repeal; and the country has lost another ‘person of renown’ in the guise of Gough Whitlam.

Let’s hope that 2015 is another year of civilised discourse on The Political Sword and that the genuine nature of the discussions here spreads to other blog sites, the media and our civilisation in general. Prime Minister Hawke achieved more results through building a consensus than Prime Minister Whitlam did by trying to crash through. Please keep your hatred for the mozzie that bit you at the BBQ last week — we on this site and on this earth genuinely don’t need it.

A bit of housekeeping to conclude this piece. The TPS Team will be reducing our output for January. The ability to comment ‘below the line’ will be open all month and we invite relevant comment as usual. There will be some new commentary posted during January on an irregular schedule (so keep looking). We will return to our weekly (or better) schedule on 1 February 2015. Be aware it’s not all sitting by the pool in the banana lounge for The TPS Team, there is usually one of us sitting near the computer with our finger poised over the ‘delete’ button for those that haven’t yet lost the hatred.

Happy New Year and may all you wish for come to pass. We look forward to your continuing support and comments in 2015.

The TPS Team



A year on TPS: 2014


As we come to the end of another year, please forgive a little self-indulgence as the TPS Team discusses what TPS has achieved in the past 12 months.

It was a year in which we saw Abbott and his cronies trying to destroy the country and make us a paradise for the neo-liberals, the neo-cons and the economists that support them — and, of course, big business. We saw the worst budget in living memory and have, so far, only been saved from its full ramifications by the senate. We saw Clive Palmer appear with Al Gore to talk about the importance of climate change but, at the same time, cave in to support the repeal of the carbon price. We have seen Abbott, more through luck than design, deflect the budget issue and ‘bask’ in the glory of the world stage, taking on the Russian bear and alienating our closest Asian neighbour. He has ‘stopped the boats’ but also stopped government transparency in the process. He is undertaking more privatisation of government services and encouraging the states to do the same. Without openly saying so, he is pursuing a neo-liberal and economic rationalist agenda backed to the hilt by the IPA (and, as others have noted, he is, to a significant extent, following its ‘hit list’).

Talk Turkey has made the point numerous times about the need to keep up the fight against this government and what it is doing.

We believe TPS has been doing that but not always directly. We are not a news site, and with only a few people volunteering their time behind the scenes we could never be, so we do not react to every government announcement, no matter how bad. TPS sometimes takes a longer view, looking at socio-political issues and the political and economic philosophies that underpin this government, as Ad Astra also did at times.

We published 43 pieces during 2014 over 46 weeks: those 43 pieces actually encompassed 48 postings as we had four multi-part pieces and we also posted mid-week on a couple of occasions. We had six ‘guest’ writers during the year, now counting Ad Astra as a guest since he retired from full-time blogging, but 2353 and Ken provided the bulk of our pieces — 35 between them. We haven’t bothered counting the words but, given that most pieces are between 1500 and 2500 words in length, it would be getting towards 100,000 words. Plus all the words our friends have posted in their comments.

We didn’t ignore Abbott in our quest for wider truths and have launched attacks, both directly and with satire. We first asked whether Abbott remembered the twentieth century in his rush to take us back to some halcyon previous age; we wondered whether he was ever meant to be PM as he originally won his position as opposition leader by only one vote; we suggested he was a ‘con artist’ and questioned his Humpty Dumpty words; and James Wight exposed the extent of destruction wrought on our society in just one year. We presented ‘Tiny-er-er O’penmouth’ who morphed into ‘Tiny Napoleon O’penmouth’.

The LNP and the government more broadly were also in the spotlight in David Horton’s piece on LNP electioneering, Ad Astra’s piece on what underlay the budget, the government’s seeming blindness to major issues raised at the World Economic Forum at the start of the year, its links with the IPA, and the way it snuck through changes in its approach to climate policy during the 2013 Christmas/New Year break.

Political ethics were questioned by 2353 in several posts: he questioned the morality of using refugees for political advantage; the ethics of those who legislate hardship for many in the community but accept expensive gifts and high paid jobs requiring little work; their use of slogans and sound bites rather than taking the time actually to address issues; and asked why we allow politicians to regulate donations to their own parties when we have witnessed that self-regulation doesn’t work for industry. Twice 2353 specifically questioned the link between religious and political values asking how politicians could claim to be religious when implementing policies that clearly breach their religious morality. As Ad Astra commented, it is a brave man who addresses the religious link to politics.

As we have moved from being a ‘society’ to being an ‘economy’, we couldn’t ignore the underlying economic approach of the government and the rising inequality it gives rise to. Piketty’s work on inequality was discussed and was preceded by a piece showing how rising inequality matched the rise of the economic rationalist approach. Finally, Ken suggested that inequality wasn’t an economic question at all but the result of witchcraft (presented as some dark humour to end the year.)

It was also suggested that economic rationalism, after 40 years, may be on the wane: pieces like 2353’s on modern monetary theory and Kay Rollison’s on ‘middle out’ economics reinforced that there are new economic approaches emerging that may, indeed, lead to the demise of economic rationalism.

Kay’s piece was also presented as an alternative approach for Labor. It was one of five pieces that addressed new approaches for Labor, including the speech Ken would like to hear and Ad Astra’s letter that actually was sent to Bill Shorten.

Associated with economics, were pieces on governments’ approach to infrastructure and privatisation.

Ken presented a piece on our understanding of ‘freedom’ which, at first, may have appeared something from left-field, but it was a prelude to his discussion of the lack of freedom in the free market and the loss of social responsibility as the neo-liberal concept of freedom, embracing individual self-interest, took over political thinking.

We also briefly discussed Aboriginal affairs, the role of unions and the role of experts.

We prophesised the future with David Horton’s piece correctly suggesting that conservative governments resort to war in their quest for popularity; Ken’s piece on Abbott’s efforts to take us back in time foreseeing that coal would become more, not less, important in Abbott’s world; and 2353, in ‘The thought thief’, providing a fair reflection of what did eventuate from Pyne’s review of the national curriculum.

The one area we have been lacking this year is putting the media to the sword, other than for Jan’s two-part piece. Perhaps that is because some segments of the media now seem to be doing a better job: Abbott’s broken promises and the down-side of the budget were more widely reported (but still not so much in News Ltd papers). It has been our commenters who have continued to point out the flaws in the media’s approach, including the ABC’s attempts at so-called ‘balance’.

And throughout the year, Casablanca has continued to provide us with numerous links relevant to each post, as well as other news of the day.

We trust we have continued Ad Astra’s tradition by putting the sword to Abbott as prime minister, the government and its policies more generally, its political ethics, its political and economic philosophy, and the approach of the economic rationalists and neo-liberals that support it.

Take the time during the break to revisit some of the pieces that were posted during the year and see what you think now that the year is coming to an end and you can see how the different posts tie together. If you have topics you would like us to address in 2015 please let us know, either in a comment or in a message to the Team (the Contact tab above).

This thread will stay open until 4 January, when another piece will be posted with an extended thread, so please post any new comments and insights you may have. And, as we asked last year, please also feel free to post any video, music video or photo that takes your fancy and that you may wish to share, with a short story as to why you selected it.

Wishing all our lurkers and commenters a happy festive season and looking forward to you being back with us in 2015.

The TPS Team



So that was … 2013

Welcome to 2014!

And we welcome you to your next ‘open thread’, which will run until the 2nd February, when our conversation starters, and Casablanca’s Cache, will return.

It seems to be traditional at this time of the year to reflect on what has been, and to look forward to what is to happen.

To be fair, 2013 wasn’t the greatest of years.

They say the only constant is change. We leave 2013 with our third Prime Minister for the year and the election of a Federal Government of a different political persuasion to the one we started with. After the event, it seems that the newly elected Government’s politicians proposed to honour their promises more in the breach than the observance. If Parliament House had a ‘service desk’, it would be doing a roaring trade in exchanging votes this holiday season – if the polls can be believed.

Around the world, Barack Obama commenced his second term in January 2013 before walking into a ‘Government shutdown’ over Obamacare. Late in the year the world lost Nelson Mandela – one of the greatest identities of our era. (As an aside, Mandela was still on the US Government’s ‘terrorism watch list’ in 2008 and had to apply for special permission to enter the USA – yet US Presidents of the era still attended his funeral.)

The media landscape also changed in Australia during the year with the commencement of an Australian version of The Guardian. According to an online question and answer session with its editor during November, they are ahead of their expectations of success. The Daily Mail will join them by launching an Australian website in 2014. Various News and Fairfax publications erected paywalls during 2013 and seemingly aren’t commenting on the success of the ventures. NewsCorp is still ‘out to get’ the ABC – especially since the ABC and The Guardian teamed up to break the recent story regarding Australia spying on our neighbours.

The Political Sword is also constantly changing. You’ll find details of the level of change that occurred on this site during 2013 in the previous post. So far the response to the changes has been overwhelmingly positive, and the TPS Team are extremely grateful for your continuing support.

If you would like to write a piece in 2014 as a conversation starter for TPS, we’d love to hear from you. TPS is always looking for new voices, whether you’ve ever written a blog post before, or not. Send us an outline, or a rough draft, or a complete piece: we will be happy to work with you to bring your ideas to fruition.

The TPS Team is also looking for some more regular readers and/or commenters to join the team that now ‘manages’ TPS. Many hands make light work for all of us – and most of the present 2013 team have ‘day jobs’.

As you’re probably aware, all pieces submitted to TPS are reviewed. One way to join the TPS Team, but take on an easy task that doesn’t take a lot of time, and that doesn’t have to happen often, is to offer to review – that is, become a TPS reviewer. Reviewing is a bit like getting to comment, but before we actually publish a piece. (Needless to say, your comments ‘below the line’ are always welcome!)

We are also looking for one or two additional people who might have had editing experience and who might have time to edit a piece for TPS every now and again.

If you have any interest in writing for TPS or helping out as a reviewer or editor, do email us.

As we are in the middle of a period where cricket, surf reports and families seem to be more important than politics, rather than analyse what politicians said versus what they did – the TPS Team is interested in how you see 2014 panning out.

Will you have a great New Year’s resolution story (giving up smoking, catching the bus to work, travelling Australia)?

Do you think it will be a better year for the world, country or you personally?

Do you think Australian politicians will develop an understanding of the common meaning of the word ‘promise’?


The Political Sword Team wishes all our contributors and readers a wonderful year of discussion and of sharing various points of view.

As always, we look forward to you telling us what you think.



‘Happy Summertime’ from the TPS Team!

From this week The Political Sword goes into recess for the summer period until the 2nd February 2014.

Well, its authors, and Casablanca’s Cache, will have a break, but all of you who love to comment and share links and thoughts and fun on TPS don’t have to do the same.

Comments on this page will stay open until the 1st January 2014. Then, the TPS Team will put up a new page, where comments through January can stay open until the first discussion starter by an author for 2014 goes up on the 2nd February.

This past year, 2013, has been a big one for The Political Sword. It’s not only the change of government; it’s that two stalwart Swordsters, Ad Astra and Lyn Linking, retired from their daily and full-time commitment to this long-term blog. We mourned their loss, and wondered about life with no TPS.

But little by little, The Political Sword found itself renewed and revived as a group effort, with a team that now chuffs along behind the scenes, and with regular team authors Ken Wolff and 2353 mixing it up with guest bloggers. This year we’ve been lucky to have well-known writers Barry Tucker and David Horton guesting, as well as Ad Astra on a guest-spot return, and jaycee, long-time commenter, trying his hand at a discussion starter for the first time.

We thought you might like to know who your TPS Team in these last three months of 2013 has been. We were:

  • Bacchus, who provides all general tech support, as well as email and TPS Twitter account support;
  • Casablanca, who puts together the ever-extraordinary ‘Casablanca’s Cache’;
  • Catching Up: email support and comment moderating;
  • Janet (j4gypsy): editing and Twitter support;
  • Ken Wolff: regular authoring and reviewing, as well as editing support;
  • Pappinbarra Fox: regular reviewing support;
  • Talk Turkey: reviewing and comment moderating support;
  • 2353: regular authoring and reviewing as well as online/html coding support;
  • Ad Astra who, as well as mentoring us all through the process of becoming a team, has acted at different times as editor as well as author, and regular TPS site technical support.
We also thought we could all end the year with some visual moments – anything from a cartoon to YouTube grabs -- that capture any of the lowlights or highlights of the 2013 political year, and in whatever seasons TPS contributors might have celebrated or will celebrate this year.

We invite you to add your visual moment (or two) of the year in a comment below, and tell us why you chose it.

Here’s one, with a ‘why’, to start the ball rolling.


2353 picked this, because, he says:

While this clip is really a commercial it demonstrates that some corporations do have a sense of community and of the greater good. Community and the greater good are two things we all should remember in our own dealings and insist on in others during 2014. From my family to yours: we hope 2014 is everything you want it to be and full of peace and prosperity. Take care over the festive season and throughout the year.

We wish you, from us all, a happy and safe summer holiday season.

The Political Sword is under new management

Two weeks ago TPS’s marvellous political blogger, Ad Astra, wrote Where to from here for The Political Sword?. The wise and compassionate and oh so politically astute Ad Astra advised it was time for him to retire. He also advised that the incredible Lyn, of Lyn’s Links on The Political Sword was retiring.

Oh no!

Was The Political Sword all over?!!

Well, it seems not.

Those of us who have loved, and found enormous solace and advice and companionship and a sense of family and support at TPS, thought ‘no!’ We need TPS. We need the Sword, even more than before the 2013 election. We need the Swordsters. We are not ready to let go!

So, a group, team, collective, board (finding a term to describe us is quite a challenge!) of some 10 Swordsters (regular readers and commenters) have formed the ‘TPS Team’ (with Ad and Lyn’s wonderful mentoring).

The brand new TPS Team is organising, behind the scenes, to continue TPS.

The Political Sword is moving from essentially a single-writer blog to one which can flourish as a forum for many writers.

Within a couple of days the team will post the first piece submitted as a conversation-starter from a writer.

We hope this is just the first of many offerings from many different voices.

Are you someone who believes that progressive political voices need to be heard?

Would you like to submit a piece, essentially from a progressive perspective, for consideration?


You are enthusiastically invited to do so!

But first, read through our brief guidelines for submitting an article. Then do be in touch with the TPS Team .

When Ad Astra wrote his final, and farewell piece, he thanked a great many people, including his loyal readers. There is one person remaining, however, who missed out on being thanked because … well, that’s Ad Astra, himself.

Ad, this is just for you.



And all your grateful readers are singing along.

Ad Astra, we applaud you. Thank you.