Dear Malcolm

Now that the tumultuous last week of parliamentary sitting is behind you, I suppose it’s a time for reflection.  Time for you to ask: ‘How am I doing?’  Time to check the compass, time to contemplate how to achieve better outcomes – unless of course you’re quite satisfied with your direction and your progress.  Which you may well be.  With a reputed ego as large as yours and with the superabundant self-confidence you’re said to have, you may consider improvement unnecessary, except of course at the edges. More...

The power of one

Steve Fielding has one vote, which he has the right to exercise, although he could hardly claim to ‘represent’ Victorians, having garnered less than 2% of the Senate vote.  Yesterday saw him exercise that vote against the alcopops legislation, thereby sinking it by one vote.  This man is the mouthpiece for Family First, and says he acts in the interests of families.  So the conundrum is how voting down this measure, which was supported by medical and alcohol and drug groups, along with the $50 million of health funding measures to cut alcohol abuse and mandatory warning labels on bottles and cans is ‘family first’.  Teenagers, along with Brendan Nelson’s ‘ute men’, will now be able to buy alcopops without the 70% tax added.  More...

The Turnbull Twist

Asked by a viewer last Sunday on Channel Ten’s Meet The Press why the Government and the Opposition could not work together collaboratively to manage the nation’s response to the GFC, Agriculture Minister Tony Burke responded by pointing out that “Mr Turnbull changes his position almost every day”, presumably rendering cooperation out of the question. Government ministers express the same sentiment repeatedly; in Question Time today Kevin Rudd accused the Coalition of rank inconsistency and flip-flopping.  Malcolm Turnbull’s changeability was addressed also on the previous Sunday by Laurie Oakes on Channel Nine. He presented him with a catalogue of changed positions over the last year or two.  Turnbull blustered and fumbled his answers; some of his explanations lacked plausibility.  While all politicians are entitled to change their positions as circumstances change, there seems to be little doubt that Turnbull does often change his position.  Why?

This piece proposes that it is because forces within his party regularly pull and push him away from his own considered opinion.  As he dances to others’ tune, we see him sometimes gyrating violently, sometimes swaying gently, and sometimes lurching precipitously – this is the ‘Turnbull Twist’. More...

Silly questions

Media people yearn for the scoop, the breaking story they get to first.  They dream of being ahead of the pack, of upstaging their competitors.  They pursue their dreams every day.  But today’s politicians watch every word they utter, fearful of saying something that will come back to haunt them, as it can so easily with today’s instantaneous communications technology.  They worry about spilling the beans about party machinations, about what has been said behind closed party doors.  There are of course a few exceptions; some enjoy backgrounding, leaking and sabotage.  But more than anything else they are nervous about letting slip party strategy and tactics. 

Herein resides the conflict between the media and the politicians.  They are in constant battle – the media intent on drawing out of the politicians what the politicians do not want to reveal, and the politicians determined to thwart them.  This is the basis of the charade we see played out daily on TV and radio.  The media personalities that indulge in this line of questioning seem to enjoy the joust, the politicians themselves may sometimes enjoy it too but usually look uncomfortable, whereas those forced to witness the contest usually end up frustrated, annoyed or plain bored.  This is the ‘silly questions syndrome’.  A few contemporary examples illustrate the several forms it takes.  More...