The Political Sword 2009

The Political Sword resumes usual activity today.  With the resumption of Federal Parliament tomorrow, there will be plenty of political activity upon which to comment. 

The prime focus of this site is Federal politics, the reporting of it, and the comments and opinions expressed in the media.  One aim is to critique the media’s contribution to an understanding of, and informed discourse about the political process, with the hope that standards of journalism might be improved.  An article on Crikey’s Content Makers titled How Blogging Changes Journalists suggests that journalists are susceptible to the opinions of bloggers, and as a consequence may change their behaviour.  So there is hope.

The site’s additional features are intended to make it easier for visitors to keep up with political blogs; Blog Watch is updated as new items appear on the main political blog sites.  Government Watch is updated whenever the ALP website is updated and Opposition Watch when the Liberal website is updated.  It is hoped these features will provide an easy way of checking the original media releases, speeches, doorstops and media interviews that are posted on these websites, from which the media derive much of their content.

As the number of items on both Government Watch and Opposition Watch is large, a new page will be started for each at the beginning of each month.  The current month is the one with the month in capitals under ‘site pages’.

In response to a request, the font size used on the site has been increased.  I would appreciate feedback about this change.

I look forward to resuming the dialogue with visitors that began in the second half of 2008.  Suggestions for improvement of the site will be welcome.

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Added features on The Political Sword

I have added two features to Blog Watch Government Watch and Opposition Watch.  They are located in the right margin under 'site pages'.  Despite the ridicule to which the suffix ‘Watch’ has been subjected by the media (it’s almost as gross as adding ‘Gate’ to every scandal), I’ve chosen that term as the most descriptive. 

For Blog Watch, The Political Sword is literally ‘watching’ the commonly visited political blogs and updating Blog Watch regularly with the latest additions to those sites, each item of which (with the exception of Mumble), is linked to the original piece.  I hope visitors find this a time-saving device.

During 2008, the Government was lampooned by the media and the Opposition as being ‘all spin, no substance’, ‘all talk, no action’, and so on it went, thankfully diminishing somewhat as the year progressed as Government actions rolled out.  Anyone looking regularly at the ALP website would have wondered what all this was about, as it poured out hundreds of statements about its actions from the beginning of the year.  So this year The Political Sword, by watching the ALP website, is providing a running update of items appearing on it.  The item titles, linked to the full item, the date of publication, and the person making the statement are listed, together with the nature of the statement.  Almost all are media statements.  To see any item of interest, click the link.  As much of what is reported in the media emanates from these statements, Government Watch gives visitors the opportunity to read the original before the media have had a go at it.  I use the website's RSS feed service to see the latest items posted.

I’ve done the same for the Opposition in Opposition Watch.  The Items there are derived from the Liberal Party of Australia website.  They are in similar form: a linked item title, the date of publication, the author, and a brief description of the substance of the item.  The statements, rather than being mainly media statements, are often doorstops or media interviews.  Again, the idea is to provide information ‘from the horse’s mouth’, and the website's RSS feed provides the latest.

As both Government Watch and Opposition Watch items have turned out to be numerous, I will start a new batch at the beginning of each month.  So far this month Government Watch has added over 80 items; Opposition Watch over 50.

I hope both of these features will prove a useful source of unadulterated information from Government and Opposition sources.  They will be updated each time the websites are updated, with the date and time of the update indicated.

Normal transmission of The Political Sword will recommence on 2 February.

Time for hibernation

The last week before Christmas is upon us.  Let’s hope Kevin 24/7 hasn’t morphed into Kevin 24/365, and that for the sake of his health he takes a long break, and a real one, and gives all we political tragics a spell for a few weeks.

It’s been a long and frantic year.  Despite the ‘all talk but no action’ rhetoric from the Opposition and much of the media, 2008 has been a very busy year for the Government, and even this week the announcements have continued at breakneck speed   The White Paper on the CPRS, the Bradley Report on higher education, and a number of other statements and initiatives, plus a visit by Kevin Rudd to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf to deliver Christmas wishes to our soldiers and sailors, has kept the momentum going.  Many reviews are coming to a conclusion, which will set an even busier agenda for 2009. 

Malcolm Turnbull and the Opposition have gone quiet, no doubt regrouping for the battle next year, wondering how to play the CPRS and IR legislation.  The Greens will be devising their 2009 strategy, no mean feat if they intend to remain relevant instead of being sidelined as too radical on how to deal with climate change.

The assessments of the Rudd Government’s first year by the journalists have varied from enthusiastic, to grudging acknowledgement, to Dennis Shanahan’s recital of Rudd’s broken promises in this morning’s Australian – his Christmas gift to Rudd supporters.  They’re not really broken promises but promises that have been delayed in implementation, but enough for Shanahan to make a song and dance.  Bernard Keane has given an even-handed analysis of the year in Crikey, 2008: Dashed dreams and mouldy political compromise.

Hopefully next week will be quiet, although one would be unwise to bank on it.  So this is intended to be the last post for 2008, unless something spectacular occurs.

May I thank those of you who have visited The Political Sword, and particularly those who have taken the time to add your comments, among whom are some welcome regulars.  Compared with many other blogs I read, yours are among the most insightful and thoughtful I have read.  I look forward to your participation when The Political Sword resumes in February.

Season's Greetings to you all.

The convoluted politics of climate change

 It started about 18 months ago when Kevin Rudd, with the state premiers, commissioned Ross Garnaut to address climate change.  Yesterday the long-awaited White Paper was launched.  It will form the basis of legislation to be introduced into parliament next year.

The reaction so far has been an interesting sociological event.  It seems as if, at least among those commenting to date, there are two camps with strongly held views.  Just a few commentators seem able to observe the whole picture, all the problems, all the issues, all the forces in play, all the parties affected, and make a balanced assessment.  .

Lenore Taylor, writing in The Australian PM Kevin Rudd steers safe course on carbon reduction scheme and Pragmatism rules in crisis provides examples of balanced writing.  Bernard Keane in Crikey exemplifies the opposite in his piece Rudd's talking out of his mandate.  He writes “This scheme is so badly designed there’s a real question as to whether it is worth establishing.” and concludes “Well done, Mr Rudd -- you’ve invented a scheme that actually punishes low emitters and rewards heavy emitters.”  With his seemingly profound understanding of what to do and how to do it, what a pity it is that he’s not in Government designing the scheme and putting the inept Government right.

Rudd knew he would be strongly criticized from both sides.  He knew the environmentalists would be upset, angry or even incensed.  Their agenda is to save the planet, no matter what the cost.  They argue there can be no more important task.  They have vocal supporters; most talk-back callers were on their side, a couple of online polls showed that 60 per cent to 85 per cent felt the targets were too low, and many bloggers expressed their anger and frustration.  A subset of the environmentalists, the renewable energy advocates, are disappointed their endeavours have not been better supported. The industry representatives too have been vocal although somewhat more muted in their comments, most foreshadowing varying degrees of calamity.  The Minerals Council advocate was particularly aggressive in his condemnation of the effects on his industry.  So we have two strong groups pulling strongly in opposite directions.  The only neutral industry comment I heard came from Heather Ridout.

So how much credence ought we to give to extreme views, where clearly a unique, largely one-sided agenda is being pursued.  To give some examples, how much credence should we give to the extreme environmentalist view that the coal industry should be closed down forthwith irrespective of the effects on the industry, on jobs, on the vast revenue it generates?  How much credence should we give to the view that even with compensation there will be a large loss of jobs and revenue as affected industries move offshore, there to pollute even more heavily?  The views are so extreme as to be seemingly impossible to incorporate into a balanced scheme that preserves the planet without causing major economic dislocation, job loss, and depression.  Yet this is what the Government is expected to do, and when it does not accommodate all views is seen to disappoint, to fail. More...