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Looking down from the grandstand - where the experts are

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Monday, 20 June 2011 10:40 by Ad astra
We are in a vast grandstand looking down on a match between traditional rivals. There are rusted on supporters for both teams who could never barrack for anyone else, and who urge their teams on and loudly abuse the other, no matter how well the opponents play; they can do no good. The umpires – the independents – get their share of abuse from the rusted on when they give decisions against their team. Then there are those who support neither team but have come along to see a good contest. They can swing to support one side or the other. Each spectator has his own ideas about what is fair play and what is foul and what ought to be done to win the game. These ideas are based on experience, entrenched attitudes and the moral imperatives they have grown to embrace.

Latter day football games are complex. There is much team planning, specialized coaching, selection of the fittest and the most talented, and carefully selected strategies to counter the strengths and exploit the weaknesses of the opponents. The team going down is subject to much advice and abuse, with blame being heaped upon selectors, coaches, all who have prepared the team, the captain, the leadership group, and on individual players. The grandstand is full of experts who would have done better had they been on the coaching staff or in the team itself. They are quick to condemn, quick to dismiss, quick to insist that the team/coach/staff have lost their football compass.

Football is a simple sport compared with politics, yet most of the ‘experts’ in the grandstand do not understand even its most modest complexities. Why did they do this or not do that when it was so obvious that was the ‘right’ thing to do? Why hasn’t the team had more goal-kicking practice? Why hasn’t the team had more wet weather experience? Why did they play three ruckmen or too few tall forwards?  Whey did they play X because everyone can see he’s slowing up? Why did they play someone with a niggling injury – only a fool would risk that? And so on it goes. There is seldom any doubt expressed about the validity of their assertions, they feel no need to back them with facts; they just know they are right.

Since we are all familiar with grandstand experts, and because politics is portrayed as a sport, it is but a small conceptual step to perceive how spectators in the political grandstand believe they are experts who are entitled to voice opinions and make value judgements about the players. And the players believe they too are entitled to make judgements about their opponents, their own team and about those in between. They all have their own views formed out of their experience, background, a sense of what is right and wrong, and sadly in many instances out of expediency.

This piece builds on the last: Is your moral compass better than mine, and attempts to tease out why there is so much diversity of opinion, which leads to much of the rancour and conflict in politics. This piece addresses what I believe are two of the central elements of political endeavour that contribute to that conflict – complexity and morality.

The complexity of politics

Perhaps the most important element of politics is complexity. Virtually almost everything that politicians have to manage is complex, multifacetted and nuanced. There are many layers of complexity, many factors that interact with each other in a cybernetic tangle that is almost impossible to unravel. Push here, and there is a reaction over there. Ignore this aspect and it will jump up to bite. Forget to consult here and all hell will break loose. Offend a section of the population and the polls will dip. Overlook an aspect no matter how minor and some expert will take you to task in a condescending manner. Fail to notify someone who considers himself important, and the snub becomes angrily public. Fail to consult widely enough before finalizing a plan and be labeled dictatorial; consult widely before finalizing it and be labeled as going off half-cocked. Keep it under wraps until the details are finalized, as many experts recommend, and be accused of making ‘secret deals’. No matter what steps are taken or not taken, opponents in the parliament and in the media can turn any one of them into a negative.

In medicine the problem of complexity looms every day. Very little is straightforward. Even comparatively innocuous complaints have an overlay that derives from the patient’s personality, genetics, past history and experience of illness, family and work environment, mental state, relationship with carers, geography, employment, and so on it goes. No two illnesses are the same because they are manifest in unique individuals. Perhaps the greatest challenge for doctors, especially generalists, is managing this complexity. It is so much easier to focus on just one or two aspects, as those in specialist practice are often able to do. Attempting to embrace the whole picture and the myriad of interacting factors is complex, demanding, time consuming and fraught.

It is so in politics. Those who are elected to govern have to take into account the inherent complexity of what they are attempting to achieve if they are to reach a solution that is effective and has wide appeal. In contrast, those who are in opposition can, and usually do ignore the complexities and go for the simple, even if meaningless three-word slogans, no matter how disingenuous they might be. We have seen this played out endlessly by Tony Abbott and his Coalition. So it ought not come as a surprise to anyone that it is infinitely easier to ‘cut through’ with simple negative slogans oft repeated, than it is to explain to a largely disinterested electorate afflicted with a diminishing attention span, the complexities of, for example, placing a price on carbon.

Yet the critics expect the Government to ‘cut through’ in a few words that capture the enormous complexities of its reforms, and seem not to understand how the Government can’t match Tony Abbott's simple mantras. This seems to escape many experienced journalists who see Abbott as better at communicating and more in touch with middle Australia, and therefore ‘winning’ what they like to portray as some sort of game, without acknowledging that he is playing an entirely different game – one of destroying the Government, while the Government is playing the game of building Australia’s future via a complex set of legislative reforms. The Government is trying to build an edifice; the Opposition is swinging a wrecking ball trying to knock down every brick, every wall the Government is so painstakingly building. That’s not a fair contest; but then is there anything fair in politics. But we ought to be able to expect our political commentators to see what’s going on and explain that to the electorate. The fact that most don’t can be put down to incompetence or malfeasance, or both.

To illustrate the complexity of politics, let’s take the asylum seeker issue as a case in point. Consider these factors that condition politicians’ and people’s thinking:

- Refugee advocates, the Greens (on whom the Government relies for its survival) and many in the electorate believe in an open-armed approach and community-based processing of claims for refugee status instead of detention until processing is complete, and reject any form of offshore processing, which they consider cruel and inhumane.

- Many voters, particularly in Queensland, Western Australia and Western Sydney, do not want asylum seekers here at all, and polling suggests that were the Government to adopt an open, no detention, community-based processing approach, it would loose more seats in these places and lose Government.

- There is support in the region for a regional solution of what is a regional refugee problem, not just one for Australia. Malaysia, New Guinea and Thailand have expressed interest.

- A regional arrangement is being negotiated now with Malaysia, which seems ready to participate, but appear to be playing hardball, subject as it is to its own political imperatives.

- As keeping negotiations with Malaysia secret was not an option, the announcement of the commencement of them was necessary before the final details could be available, leading to accusations of going off half-baked.

- Eight hundred arrivals after the announcement date will be sent to Malaysia for processing, something strongly opposed by a majority in parliament and many in the electorate.

- Unaccompanied minors, and asylum seekers who already have family granted refugee status, are to be included in those sent to Malaysia (although some individual exceptions seem possible), something about which there is even wider disagreement.

- There is now a High Court challenge to removing two arrivals that have family in Australia, and there could be a legal challenge to the entire Malaysia arrangement.

- The return of arrivals is designed to stop or markedly reduce the people smuggler trade, which most Australians seem to want stopped, even those sympathetic to asylum seekers. Most want to stop people getting on small, poorly serviced boats, thereby risking their lives.

- Another aspect of the Malaysia arrangement (that gets little emphasis) is to take 4000 people already categorized as refugees by the UNHCR in Malaysia and re-settle them in Australia, thereby transforming their lives from detention to freedom.

- The Opposition has run a campaign of disparagement of every move the Government has made to manage the issue of asylum seekers arriving by small boats, and sees only one remedy – transfer to Nauru and TPVs.

- The MSM has been complicit in supporting the Opposition’s campaign of misinformation and deception.

This YouTube clip to advertise the program: Go back to where you come from that is programmed for feature on SBS 1 on Tuesday 21 June at 8.30 pm and the following two nights, gives a short glimpse into the diverse attitudes of those who participated.

No doubt readers could list other aspects, as Feral Skeleton did so pointedly in her last post on the previous piece, but the above list is long enough to demonstrate the extraordinary complexity of just this one issue, complexity with which Government has to grapple and reach a resolution that solves the people smuggler problem, gives genuine refugees the refuge they seek, and satisfies all sectors of the population, something that is likely not possible, and places itself in a position where it is likely to achieve what all governments want – re-election.

Governments must take all the factors into account. Special pleading minorities have no need to do that – they simply pursue their narrow agenda without bothering to take into account the views of others. How could, for example, the Greens persuade those who are totally opposed to taking asylum seekers to adopt an open-armed approach? And if these opponents were in the majority and threatened to vote the Greens out, would they adapt their approach? Likewise, how would those who insist no asylum seekers are wanted here placate the Greens? My point is simply that those in power have to grapple with all the factors, and the way they interact with each other, while those on the sidelines of power insist on promoting their own idiosyncratic views, and expect others to follow.

The secret of success is compromise, regarded by many as the art of politics. The Greens, not having been in Government, have still to learn this. As Patricia WA pointed out in a comment on a previous post, some Greens, despite their talent, lack this art. Without naming them, one exhibits “a 'holier than thou' attitude which permeates her whole demeanour, colours her language and lessens the impact of her message”...another “has a similar intransigence of attitude but with a colder and more judgemental style”, while still another seems unable to “get across the same message without preachiness or moral condemnation”.

While some look down their noses at compromise as the refuge of the morally bankrupt, without a degree of it, stalemate results and nothing happens. We saw this when the Greens refused to compromise on the initial CPRS. They still argue it was for them a bridge too far, but the result was nothing at all, and the present struggle to introduce a price on carbon one of the outcomes. It takes strong leadership to compromise. One definition Wikipedia gives for effective leadership “…is the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals."  Note: “successfully integrate and maximize available resources” and “within the internal and external environment”, in this instance the political, social and economic environment, and “for the attainment of organizational or societal goals." Doesn’t that fit the political scene accurately?

Commentators insist that what is needed is ‘leadership’ or more stridently ‘strong and courageous leadership’, assuming as they do that we all have the same understanding of the meaning of the word. ‘Leadership’ is a linguistic label a bit like ‘moral compass’, fine sounding but variously understood. To me an essential element of leadership is the capacity to engender collaboration, which so often requires compromise. Of course there’s more to it than that – having a vision of a finer future, creating a narrative for that vision and a plan to acomplish it, and working tirelessly, determinedly and courageously to achieve it. But compromise is nearly always an essential ingredient of the latter.

In summary, politics is beset with great complexity, which those in government have to unravel so they can address the numerous interacting factors. Opponents are able simply to focus on the one factor or two they choose to make their case, which is thereby distorted. As there is no one perfect solution to any issue, those in power have to compromise. Those who are in opposition generally choose not to. Compromise and engendering collaboration requires courageous and determined leadership.

The ‘experts’ in the media grandstand pontificate on matters political as if problems were simple, solutions easy to define, and the way forward obvious. We saw a classic example of this on Insiders this week, where Piers Akerman, Fran Kelly and Malcolm Farr pontificated on the past and current state of Federal Labor politics despite Barrie Cassidy’s best efforts to challenge their unsupported assertions. They were, like the football crowd in the grandstand, all knowing, all prescient, omnipotent in their opinions, and certain of their position. If you need convincing of that take a look Insiders: and particularly at One year in for Gillard and Government struggling in parliament and Gillard ‘running away’ from problems.  

Insiders is simply a vignette that reflects almost the entire media scene, with just a few notable exceptions. This is what is dished up day after day as expert opinion for a gullible public to swallow. It’s shameful, but with the Murdoch media at least, seemingly unstoppable.

Margaret Simons of Crikey is right: "What the media should do, is stop being 'Insiders'."

Next let’s consider the moral issues that beset politics.

Morality in politics

This is the issue of what is right and wrong, the moral imperative. This was canvassed in the last piece: Is your moral compass better than mine?

Morality can be ‘descriptive’“describing morality in this way is not making a claim about what is objectively right or wrong, but only referring to what is considered right or wrong by an individual or some group of people”. Or morality can be said to be ‘normative’ – describing “what is right and wrong, regardless of what specific individuals think.” (Wikipedia)  It seems as if we expect our politicians to operate in a ‘normative’ way where morality is absolute (according to our standards, whatever they are), and chastise them when they act in a ‘descriptive’ way where right and wrong is conditioned or moderated by an external group of people, namely the stakeholders or the electorate. It seems the latter often applies and politicians get caned for going that way.

On the last piece janice said: “When people use phrases such as 'lost his/her/their moral compass' they should be challenged as to their definition of such a phrase and to give examples of where the accused has ‘lost’ it… The word ‘morals’ has a wide-ranging meaning that changes according to the context in which it is used. Its synonyms are many, including: dutiful, ethical, excellent, faithful, good, honest, just and pious. Add ‘compass’ to the word, we then have a broad meaning of the direction in which society (or government, religious groups, people generally) should be, or are, moving.”

Because politicians come from different ideological, religious and philosophical positions, their moral compasses point in different directions. The True North of one may be in a place different from that of others. Talk Turkey asserts that it is the Pole, (the True North), rather than the compass that has been lost. It’s the direction of the Pole that is in dispute. So to accuse a politician of having ‘lost his or her moral compass’ is to imply that he or she knows where True North is but has abandoned moving towards it, or that the politician’s True North is not True at all because it is in a place different from that of the accuser’s. Talk Turkey suggests we could do worse than adopt the universal maxim: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Individuals assume that their moral compass is calibrated toward Truth, towards what is right and proper, and that those who disagree with them have lost their way, their moral compass. NormanK says: “Any attempt to say that Australia and Australians have a universally agreed set of morals is as silly as trying to say that Australia has a culture that can be defined. Any attempt to define what Australia's mainstream moral compass is comprised of, would be firstly subjective and ultimately inaccurate because it is so mercurial.” D Mick Weir says: “Can a country have a moral compass? I would hope so, and it would be enshrined in its constitution. I haven't dusted off my copy but I suggest that Australia's Constitution is a bit lacking in moral guidance.” 2353 says: “Isn't ‘losing your moral compass’ really shorthand for ‘I think you have taken the wrong action on this particular occasion - not for any practical reason but rather the action offends MY morals’?”

The uncertainty about what is and is not moral is a major source of disagreement and misunderstanding among politicians, and between them and the public. National leaders, who must take decisions for the good of the nation rather than for sectional interests, understand this moral dilemma only too well.

Let’s use the climate change issue to illustrate just some of the numerous ‘moralities’ that the players embrace.

- There are those who believe that global warming is a myth and that weather patterns are no different to what they have always been. These deniers, some high profile, travel the world advocating their position. Some even believe that those who insist the planet is warming and that radical action must be taken to reduce carbon pollution are part of an international conspiracy to de-industrialize the world, and thereby bring ruin and distress to the world’s people. To these people the advocates of action on global warming are immoral.

- There are those who believe that the reality of global warming has been so well established by thousands of climate scientists that to not take action is immoral; to leave a seriously damaged planet for future generations is even more immoral.

Whose morality is right? Whose compass is pointing to True North? Each group points to itself.

- The Government, backed by economists and scientists, insists that a price on carbon followed by a market-based trading scheme is quite the best way to go and is pursuing this. It believes to not do so would be immoral.

- The Opposition disagrees and predicts that a ‘carbon tax’ will bring ruin to many industries, throw countless thousands out of work and create ghost towns. It believes to do this would be immoral.

Whose morality is right? Whose compass is pointing to True North? Each group points to itself.

- Although almost no scientists or economists support it, the Coalition believes its Direct Action Plan will achieve the emission targets, and that any more radical action is unnecessary and damaging. It does not tell the people that the plan requires the use of taxpayers’ money to persuade the polluters to reduce pollution.

- The Government believes that the DAP is grossly inadequate, will not be effective, and will cost much more than the Government plan.

So whose moral compass is pointing to True North? Each believes the other’s compass does not.

- The Government believes that while it is morally wrong to overcompensate the polluters it is equally so to allow industries to perish with inadequate compensation.

- The Greens are opposed to compensation on principle, but concede some is necessary.

- The Opposition considers any carbon tax is immoral and ruinous.

- The miners and manufacturers insist on liberal compensation, predicting doom if they are not assuaged.

Whose moral compass is accurate?

I could further illustrate the great diversity of moral opinion in our community by referring to the angry weekend rallies of animal rights supporters insisting that the live cattle export trade must cease completely and permanently on the grounds of animal cruelty, while cattlemen and their supporters protest that such action would cause unemployment, especially among indigenous people, financial loss, bankruptcy and bring ruin to the cattle industry in the north.

Whose morality is ‘right’?

This piece is already long enough, but I hope sufficient to convince you that making decisions on vexed issues is highly problematic, beset as it is with extreme complexity, the need for compromise, courageous and determined leadership and most of all a sense of direction towards True North and a sound compass to guide to that destination.

Those who sit in the grandstand and purport to be experts who know what ought to be done, whether in the Fourth Estate, the Fifth Estate, in political parties, or among the throng of voters out there, should pause, contemplate the complexity and the morality of each issue, and think before pontificating. Like spectators at the football, it might be, just might be that they are not the experts they think they are.

What do you think?

Comments (131) -

June 20. 2011 11:29 AM


Good Morning Ad

Thankyou for your article this morning.  You asked
"What do you think?"  well I will tell you:  You are
our "King Of the Castle"  absolutely brilliant article
Ad but I will have to go back and read again, before
I can comment on your words.

The  paragraph copied below takes my eye immediately, and I am sure our commenters will provide us with great conversation
regarding all of your article, I salute to you Ad Astra the King of TPS.

he is playing an entirely different game – one of destroying the Government, while the Government is playing the game of building Australia’s future via a complex set of legislative reforms. The Government is trying to build an edifice; the Opposition is swinging a wrecking ball trying to knock down every brick, every wall the Government is so painstakingly building. That’s not a fair contest; but then is there anything fair in politics. But we ought to be able to expect our political commentators to see what’s going on and explain that to the electorate



June 20. 2011 11:54 AM

Ad astra reply

Hi Lyn
Thank you for your always-generous comments.  And today Tony Abbott is swinging his wrecking ball even more recklessly that before in his desperate attempt to dislodge the Government and to smash what it is trying to do to manage the growing menace of climate change.  His irresponsibility knows no bounds.

Ad astra reply

June 20. 2011 12:05 PM


Just saw these quotes on the Brisbane Times Website.

Government leader in the House of Representatives Anthony Albanese dismissed the move as a stunt, saying Mr Abbott still had not accepted the result of the August 2010 election.

"What we are seeing is the longest dummy-spit in Australian political history and an attempt to impose it on the Australian body politic," he said.

Bob Brown isn't happy either.
Greens leader Bob Brown said the move was a "tricky political manoeuvre" by Mr Abbott, and a waste of public money.

He accused the opposition leader of using a double standard and abrogating his responsibilities.

"Why didn’t he have a plebiscite on the invasion of Iraq," he told ABC Radio.

"His government of the time didn’t even ask the people of Australia about that; didn’t ask the parliament."


Finally we might be getting some semi-realistic reporting on the latest Abbott grandstand.

Sorry AA, I'll read you article later as I'm rather busy at the moment.


June 20. 2011 12:54 PM

Patricia WA

I guess I have to thank Ad Astra for again making me have another hard think!

My initial response, after this first reading, is that the choice for me on most of these major issues is not about morality, though I do have a values perspective on all of them.  Rather it is the credibility and motives of those arguing different points of view.  Even apparent inconsistency I can accept when someone concedes a change of heart or direction on policy for particular reasons.  For example I heard Bob Brown this morning saying that the Greens had had to make some concessions on renewables, but they weren't prepared to go all the way with Labor on other detils of the Carbon Tax details.    I don't accept, by the way, that Julia Gillard has 'lied' or been inconsistent in her stand on climate change or an ETS.  She may have been too ready to concede that a 'price on carbon' might as well be called a 'tax' knowing that the Opposition would jump on that immediately anyway.  

You don't have be an Einstein either to understand that circumstances changed dramatically after the election.  Surely young journalists with just limited understanding of parliamentary process would understand that?  Why aren't even experienced members of the Canberra press gallery making that clear to the public?  

Given a choice, AA, I will opt for 'malfeasance' or journalistic malpractice here.  From where I sit it looks to me like the game is fixed.      

Patricia WA

June 20. 2011 01:03 PM


Today's Bad Abbott

(Rolled over from the previous topic so it doesn't get 'lost'.

And even more pertinent now that Tiny Abbott has said he wouldn't be bound by a plebiscite result that came out supporting a government policy of carbon pricing.

Whatever the manifest evidence of his budgie smugglers, has this guy got balls... or what?)

Has any political leader in Australia's history ever before asked the Australian people to vote to make Australia fall behind every other industrialised country in the world?

And not only fall behind, but incrementally, year in, year out, fall further and further behind our economic competitors/partners, to the point where this country will not be able to export just about anything we currently do.

Because foreign importers will place carbon abatement policy imposts they've introduced on Australian products, which will rise each and every year, to the point where Australian products will be too expensive in those countries.

Abbott's plebiscite to deny the introduction of a carbon price in this nation will, if passed, begin a slow-drip decay to the economy of Australia.

We will be uncompetitive in foreign markets, desperately archaic in energy production and thus over-charged for utilities like electricity, gas, and petrol domestically, and continuing to be the highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases, a nation eventually asthmatically strangling in our own dirty cloud.

Abbott's plebiscite, which is nothing more than his favoured (and vicious) 'pragmatic politics', is designed to do nothing for Australia or Australians.

It is meant to do no more than provide him with a soapbox to shout his messages of fear and selfishness.

This is cynical politicking at its most disgusting, because it rests on nothing more than thwarted political ambition put before the health, the well-being, and the economic security of an entire nation's people.

Tony Abbott should hang his head in shame. But I doubt he even understands the word.



June 20. 2011 01:10 PM


Hi Jason

Thankyou for your link on the last thread at 11.01.

Absolutely breathtaking, Mr Abbott wants a plebiscite
but only the Government is bound by the result,
maybe this could be the undoing of Abbott stunts.

June 20. 2011 11:01 AM

10.10am Tony Abbott says the Opposition won't adopt the Government's carbon pricing scheme if it was put to a plebiscite and passed.

The Opposition Leader indicated today only the Government would be bound by the result.

"I would still think a carbon tax was bad," he told news.com.au when asked his position should a carbon price be accepted at a plebiscite

Read more: www.news.com.au/.../story-e6frfkvr-1226078143201


Cheers SmileSmile


June 20. 2011 01:16 PM


Hi Michael

Thankyou for bringing your comment over, as I said
a brilliant report by you as always.

Quote from Michael's Bad Abbott report:

And even more pertinent now that Tiny Abbott has said he wouldn't be bound by a plebiscite result that came out supporting a government policy of carbon pricing

Whatever the manifest evidence of his budgie smugglers, has this guy got balls... or what?)


Cheers  SmileSmileSmile


June 20. 2011 01:53 PM


Sorry, off-topic, rolled over from previous thread.
It is in response to D Mick Weir's comment @ June 20. 2011 11:09 AM and Ad astra's follow-up.

D Mick Weir
We need to keep a few things in perspective before we totally condemn Australia's refugee policy.
A bit of what I am going to say is contentious so I will choose my words as carefully as possible and I ask that they be read with a degree of charity.

Those refugees who are fleeing to Lampedusa and Italy more generally would almost certainly be keen to return to their homeland if peace broke out. This is largely a temporary problem similar to the one on the border of Turkey where that country is doing all that it can to accommodate refugees until such time as they can return home. Refugees coming to Australia are not seeking protection for the duration of the conflict in their homeland but are seeking to flee forever. Nothing wrong with that but it is different from some of the other hotspots around the world so any comparison is more emotive than factual.

Ad astra made the point that mandatory detention is punitive and meant to act as a deterrent. This is a commonly held belief among the human rights organisations, ably promulgated by the conservative side of politics and never questioned by our completely useless media.
When the Keating Government brought in mandatory detention it was not meant to be a punishment but was done (as I understand it) in response to 10% of asylum seekers not complying with their responsibilities to report to authorities after they had been released into the community. In the long-term this can lead to the creation of an underclass such as is seen in the United States and Europe.

Stateless people with no papers who are then forced to undertake low-paid work, possibly in dubious conditions and who have no access to our safety nets for health, education and so on. Those who can't find 'legitimate' work may well fall to criminal activity in order to survive or find themselves on the streets struggling to get by and unable to seek mainstream charitable assistance.

This has many bad consequences for our society. We would truly have 'forgotten families'; workers who are prepared (obliged even) to undermine the workers' rights which have taken generations to put in place; exploitation by unscrupulous individuals which might include at the extremes people trafficking and sex slavery; and a genuine sub-culture which feeds into the present paranoia of enclaves and criminal gangs and an apparent unwillingness to integrate.

If some asylum seekers are now willing to self-harm and stage violent protests when their applications are rejected, do we seriously believe that they would not just disappear into the community if they could do so rather than be deported? Bear in mind that a significant proportion of those seeking asylum here are found to not be genuine refugees.

I am not expressing xenophobia here. An underclass of people without papers is bad for Australia and bad for the individuals involved.
If your blood pressure is peaking, let me try to release it a bit. I am completely in favour of refugees having the right to seek asylum here. They should be processed in a timely manner and have their human rights respected regardless of whether they are ultimately shown to be economic refugees rather than humanitarian. This is equally true regardless of their method of arrival.

This is a highly complex problem but we can't throw the doors open and just allow in anybody who can afford an airline ticket and a visa. Not because we will be over-run by 'them' but because we will be over-run full-stop. We must have a degree of control over our immigration numbers and mandatory detention is part of this control.
What Labor is attempting to do is to dissuade refugees from jumping on a leaky old fishing boat and taking an unreasonable risk with their lives. Labor is not turning its back on refugees in general regardless of the memes in the media, surely the significant increase in our in-take is indication of that.

I have to confess that I don't understand how Manus Island fits in with the current thinking. It strikes me as being purely punitive but until I know more I will hold fire on that one.


June 20. 2011 02:01 PM


Lyn said
"Absolutely breathtaking, Mr Abbott wants a plebiscite
but only the Government is bound by the result,
maybe this could be the undoing of Abbott stunts."

YES!!! I agree!

How can he take this position!

WTF are the journos going to do about it eh?

Abbortt is off his rocker. I have said ever since the election that he would bring himself undone, that he was doomed. He's done plenty to do that - Shit happens, nodding-head, revolting people, Mad Bad Abbortts every day as Ad astra says. But the media never never holds him to account, as they didn't with his idol Lying Rodent Howard before him.

But this is the best. Can the media gloss over it?

Imagine if Labor initiated such a plebiscite and said they'd only take notice of it if the results were as they wished!


June 20. 2011 02:33 PM

Ad astra reply

Patricia WA
You draw an important distinction between genuine moral beliefs and the motives of those arguing a particular case.  While it is possible to acknowledge and accept another’s moral position without necessarily agreeing to it, too often we are being asked to accept a position that is motivated purely and simply by political expediency. To give an example, does Tony Abbott have a genuine moral objection to a tax on carbon, or is his opposition simply for political advantage?  

Those who demand consistency and condemn what appears to them to be inconsistency, too often fail to take into account any change in the context in which consistency is demanded.  As you say, Julia Gillard’s preference has consistently been an ETS rather than a carbon tax, but when the context changed and she had to deal with a ‘hung’ parliament, part of the compromise necessary to attract support was to precede an ETS with a tax on carbon.  Of course Tony Abbott was bound to represent this as a breaking a pre-election promise, thereby labeling her as a ‘liar’.  He has hammered her relentlessly with this about face ever since.  

I agree with your diagnosis of journalistic malfeasance.

Ad astra reply

June 20. 2011 02:37 PM


Hi Talk Turkey

But this is the best. Can the media gloss over it?

Going to be a very interesting 4 days, last sitting of
this senate on Thursday.  Has anyone ever seen such
sheer desperation by Mr Abbott. I think this will overshadow any other stunts performed by bad Abbott. We will watch the
the events unfold, with the twists and turns nodding and bobbing by bad Abbott.

Latest from the ABC wesite:

Key independents put paid to plebiscite plan, Jeremy Thomson, ABC

Mr Windsor says he is rejecting it because he thinks it is "a stunt" and because no carbon price legislation has been agreed to in the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee.

Fellow MP Mr Oakeshott says the bill is "a bit of a Monday surprise" and will not support it because proper parliamentary processes have not been followed.

Mr Wilkie says he will not make a decision until he gets advice on whether the $80 million spend is a money bill

Greens leader Bob Brown also dismissed the call, saying his party would not be backing the plebiscite, which he described as a "sideshow", "tricky" and a "huge waste of taxpayers' money".


How's that you have been right all along Talk Turkey:

Abbortt is off his rocker. I have said ever since the election that he would bring himself undone, that he was doomed. He's done plenty to do that - Shit happens, nodding-head, revolting people, Mad Bad Abbortts every day

Cheers SmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmile


June 20. 2011 03:12 PM

Feral Skeleton

        Hear! Hear! But do you think there will be any agreement and consensus with the government when they hand down the results of their deal with Malaysia to actually bring more refugees to Australia and seek an end to the People Smuggling enterprise? Not plurry likely. Instead we have the two polar opposite ends of politics, the Coalition and the Greens cynically joining hands to defeat even the slightest prospect of success in this instance. All of a sudden they are both concerned about caning of illegal immigrants in Malaysia. Even when it has been confirmed that the 800 sent back will never be caned because they will not be recognised by Malaysia as illegal immigrants. However, do you think the Australian media will call them out on that basic and pivotal fact? Nope. They'd rather jump on the bandwagon with them and report on their disingenuous antics.

   Not only that but today's Essential Report shows that, yet again, the electorate is swallowing the Blue Green bait hook, line and sinker with a vast majority of people asked against the putative Malaysian solution because those that we send back may get caned!

   I don't know. What can you do when the media don't even report the truth anymore and what they do report, tirelessly and relentlessly, becomes the truth in people's minds and they react according to that truth as they believe it?

Feral Skeleton

June 20. 2011 03:14 PM

Patricia WA

Norman K, thanks for reminding us why Keating introduced mandatory detention originally.   He has been verballed as heartless and immoral on the issue ever since by refugee activists and the Greens.  No doubt he was being 'pragmatic' and 'political' but it's easy to see how impractical, in fact hopelessly idealistic it would be to allow unfettered access to our shores.  Quite apart from the increase in casualties and deaths at sea and the huge cost to our coastal search and rescue services, the social upheaval would be enormous as you describe.  And the political impact would be huge.  Even the slight softening of policy by Labor has given the Coalition a huge advantage to push for what could be frighteningly ferocious regulation.  

Patricia WA

June 20. 2011 03:45 PM


Lyn I hear you but suspect this is a cry for relevance in the Parliament post July 1 by the LNP.  If the "vote" doesn't happen, the LNP has the perfect opportunity to repeat for the duration that they are the only party that will stop a Carbon Tax or acknowledge that climate change does not exist yarda yarda yarda.

No doubt there is some support for the position the LNP is trying for.  Considering the FUD campaign that has been undertaken, reasonably successfully at that, the Greens and ALP in reality have about 6 months to sort and implement the CPRS and MRRT, allowing time for the neutralising of the LNP's actions prior to the next election.  The LNP doesn't seem to have a difficulty with changing it's message to suit the circumstances.  

Lets face it, the GST was not popular when introduced by the time Howard was held to account for it's introduction, even the ALP wouldn't even campaign on rolling it back.

It's interesting to compare Federal and Queensland politics at present.  In Queensland any announcement by Can't Do Newman - "leader in waiting" of the LNP Queensland (or as Channel 7 & ABC Queensland politely calls him "the former Lord Mayor of Brisbane) that doesn't have a policy, facts and costings attached on announcement is rightly condemned by the media on air or in print.  Are the morals of the respective press galleries deetermined by the closeness thay have with the respective poiticians or is there some other force at work?  Both Newman & Abbott gained the leadership by rolling theie predecessors, both have a "popular" image and both seem to change their tune to suit the circumstances so there should be the same level of respect for each player.

It's certainly interesting sitting in Queensland comparing the different media treatment for two leadership wannabes from the same treatment and wondering why the media fawns Abbott and calls out Newman.


June 20. 2011 03:47 PM


D'oh - The last paragraph should have read ". . .wannabes from the same political tribe and wondering . . ."


June 20. 2011 03:50 PM


Patricia WA
You touched on something which is never talked about by any side in the so-called border control debate. That is that unless we commit some enormous fraction of the annual budget to patrolling our shores we will never be confident that we are detecting all of the irregular maritime arrivals - drug smugglers, insurgents, asylum seekers, wildlife smugglers and so on.

In the Kafkaesque world of Tony Abbott I'm surprised that he hasn't used this stick to beat the government about the head and shoulders but perhaps this is one subject which he knows will come back to haunt him if he drags it into the public domain. He hints at it with his 'lost control of our borders' rhetoric but even he must know that an island as big as Australia will never have sufficient surveillance to be able to promise that every kilometre of our coast is secure.

I know we spend a lot of time here bagging Abbott but how can we not when each week it seems he comes out with a gob-smacking stunt or statement which is more outrageous than the previous one.

'Pragmatic politics winning out over policy purity' should have been enough to sink any hopes he may have had of leading this country.

Images of ramshackle buildings in disrepair or currently under different use which he describes as 'good to go' should have dealt his credibility a mortal blow.

Demanding a plebiscite which he will uphold if it falls his way but dismiss and ignore if it doesn't is surely the act of a dictator not a democratic leader. What is he saying here? That he will continue to go back to the people for their verdict (at $70 million+ per go) until such time as they deliver the verdict he wants?
Guided democracy anyone?

Ad astra
The gerbils have pleaded for more time to think about your current article. It is very well put and deserves a considered response.


June 20. 2011 04:16 PM

Feral Skeleton

  Good point from News.com website:
MDG Posted at 1:04 PM Today

   Jaga and Mark- in the 1998 election, Labor won the majority of the TPP vote. In other words, the majority of the electorate voted against the GST. Not much of a mandate there for the GST. We got it anyway because PM Howard brokered a deal with the crossbenches...any of this sounding familiar? As for Mr. Abbott, what a joke. Not only is he submitting his expensive stunt for approval to an expiring Senate instead of waiting for the Senate that Australians most recently elected, but he's said that he'll ignore any result he doesn't like. Yeah, he's a real friend of democracy.

Read more: www.news.com.au/.../story-e6frfkvr-1226078143201

Feral Skeleton

June 20. 2011 04:19 PM

Feral Skeleton

  My brain hurts after reading this post from Ad Astra. I'm going to have to come back later to the fray about it as well. Smile

Feral Skeleton

June 20. 2011 04:23 PM

Feral Skeleton

        Tony Abbott, from behind the scenes, effectively derailed Pauline Hanson's little caboose off the rails, even as it was powering full-speed ahead. So, I will never be surprised at the lengths he will go to in order to derail the government.

Feral Skeleton

June 20. 2011 04:23 PM

Ad astra reply

I find myself in agreement with what you have said about asylum seekers.  Any person arriving in our country needs to have authorization.  Often this is in the form of visa, or reciprocal arrangement with the country of origin.  Otherwise arrivals need to be subject to identification and security and health checks, which is the function of assessing officers in detention centres.  I doubt if even those sympathetic to asylum seekers would see that as unnecessary; I suspect most ordinary folk would want a check done to identify and exclude criminals, and to treat those with dangerous infectious diseases.  It is the assessment of whether or not the individual is a genuine refugee that seems to take so long, and often that is because some arriving on boats have no documentation.

So I agree detention is necessary for security and health reasons, which are some of the reasons it was introduced, as you say, by a Labor Government.  

But attitudes in the community hardened during the Howard years as he demonized asylum seekers, especially at the time of Tampa, and used detention as punishment, to wit Nauru, so that now punitive detention is accepted as the norm by many citizens (although a segment of the population vigorously disagree).  It is an example of how politicians can reset True North for much of the electorate so that they have now come to loathe and fear boat arrivals, want them stopped, and tolerate detention as necessary to cope with these unwanted people.

It is sad state of affairs, all the more so because it is the product of political opportunism that has reset the direction in which the moral compass of many people points.

I look forward NormanK to your response to this piece.

Ad astra reply

June 20. 2011 04:44 PM

Patricia WA

I'm leaving the folly of Abbott's comment that he wouldn't necessarily accept a Yes vote for a carbon tax if a plebiscite were held to become clear out there in voter land.

Meanwhile I am working on improving a few lines which sprang to mind as soon I heard 'plebiscite' mentioned on the radio.  I rushed to post them on our previous thread at www.thepoliticalsword.com/.../...by-a-seance-.aspx at 11.25 am.  

Am I right about there being two possible pronunciations?  TT will see the enormous potential of either, but having both to play with presents endless fun.

My own sense is that it rhymes with 'fit' but I haven't seen that in black and 'white'.   Can anyone help?

Let's reach consensus and not fight over it!

Patricia WA

June 20. 2011 04:51 PM


Patricia WA
Oxford English Dictionary has a bob each way on 'plebiscite'. The marvellous digital version that I now have even gives audio samples of pronunciation - bliss.
I'm an 'ite' (as in 'white') person myself although neither of the voice samples clanged on my ear..


June 20. 2011 04:54 PM


Hi Patricia

I carried you post over here for you:

June 20. 2011 11:25 AM

Thought I'd write a pome about the plebiscite.
Problem is I can't determine the best rhymes for it.
Some authorities suggest one word only - parasite.
Others offer alternatives like nitwit, unfit, and git.
What a wealth of choices there! but try as I might
I can't be bothered - the proposal is a load of shit.
Some of you might disagree. OK then. It's just a load of shite.
Patricia WA

Cheers SmileSmileSmile


June 20. 2011 05:33 PM

Ad astra reply

I seem to have overdone the intensity of this piece if I have caused your brain to hurt.

What I would like to have is visitors’ response to the issue of complexity.  I found that in medicine when I introduced the subject of complexity and its operational model, systems theory, it was hard to sustain interest.  The reason seemed to be that grappling with complexity is complex, is difficult, is fraught, is a headache!  Instead of trying to keep in the air the numerous balls that go to make up a patient problem, it is easier to decide to deal with just the red ball or the green, but certainly not all the balls at once.  As a result, management of patient problems is sometimes inadequate, or inefficient, or sometimes just plain incorrect.  The balls that are not considered often turn out to be the critical ones.  Case conferences involving a variety of healthcare personnel can better get to grips with complexity as individual carers bring different aspects to the table.

In politics for most issues there are multiple balls.  Special pleaders concentrate on the favourite ball, the blue one or the yellow, and to hell with the rest.  Good governments need to keep all the balls in the air until a resolution or compromise is reached.  That is difficult.  Oppositions take the easy option and concentrate on the one black ball – GBNT – and hammer that until the electorate is convinced.  As DMW pointed out in his Harford reference, experts often find the complexity just too difficult to cope with, but surely we can expect our leaders to come to grips with at least most of the balls and come up with the best-fit solution.  The Gillard Government seems to be going down this path, but distracted continually by Abbott stunts, distractions and a one-ball focus.

Ad astra reply

June 20. 2011 05:35 PM


AA, your last posting opens a whole range of questions.  The ones that I can spot include "what is a compassionate refugee position?", "are the press gallery too close to the politicians?" - been co-opted onto the field as substitutions in effect, "what are the morals and ethics (from both the press & politicians) of this closeness?" and how can the Australia make the best decision.  I'm sure I've missed some as well.

I'm afraid that I don't think anyone can make an absolute judgement on these issues but will bow out for the moment with two bits of pop "wisdom":

1. The easiest way to assume someone is treating all sides with a reasonable amount of consideration is if everyone is complaining the answer should be better.  (Tough to get re-elected on this basis however - although the ALP might be on the right track here).

2. Most sports have a number of players, and double that number in instructors.  (Everyone seems to be an instant expert and knows how it *should* be done.)

So it it both tribes in the current Parliament are clueless and the LNP is more "fun" according to the media, or the LNP is playing the cheap popularist card and the ALP is lining up the ducks ready to fire?  I dunno - but all both tribes seem to be doing at the moment is racing to the bottom.  The Greens aren't much better - living and dying on all of your ideals might keep your membership happy, but it doesn't do much to decide the weighty issues of the CPRS, MRRT and refugees now or in the future.


June 20. 2011 06:18 PM

Feral Skeleton

  The Liberals already think they have the next election in the bag it seems and are fighting already over the spoils of office and which direction the Coalition government will head in:

Feral Skeleton

June 20. 2011 08:35 PM

Ad astra reply

It is hard to know how well the Gillard Government is doing with so many issues in train.  By year end we should know if the Malaysia arrangement is negotiated and working, the price on carbon in place and understood, the MRRT finalized and industry on side, plain cigarette packaging passed, and health reforms progressing.  If all are operational the Government will look good and the Coalition impotent.  I suspect Tony Abbott’s plebiscite push was his last desperate throw of the dice, which looks like being a dud; the independents are not supporting him and even the media is skeptical.

Ad astra reply

June 20. 2011 08:36 PM

Ad astra reply

I'm off to enjoy ABC TV Monday night style.  Back in the morning.

Ad astra reply

June 20. 2011 09:05 PM


Patricia WA

I never heard the -ite in plebiscite pronounced as 'it',
But say it 'it' or say it 'yte' it matters not a whit:
For Abbott's plebiscyte rhymes fine with shyteful troglodyte,
While if you say it plebiscit, there's shitty hypocrite!  


June 21. 2011 12:36 AM

D Mick Weir

thanks for a great post, and yes, my head hurts just a little trying to wrap my brain around it all. Like others I will have to read it again to get a better understanding of it all.

Your use of the analogy of football is clever and shows well that it easy to be an armchair expert and that they are 'a dime a dozen'. It doesn't need pointing out, but I will anyway, that blogs have caused an exponential growth in armchair experts on all manner of subjects. I wonder sometimes if I, as the armchair expert that I often am, am more part of the problem than the solution.

You have covered the complexity aspect in some detail and used contemporary example to illustrate in a way that even a systems theorist may stuggle to better. There are possibly some armchair experts in the field who may know a better way to explain it but it would be hard to better your take on it.

I don't know if there is such a thing as organised or disorganised complexity and if there is how to describe the difference simply but a possible example of organised complexity would be the motor car whereas a crowd on a beach on a hot day could be an example of disorganised complexity.

Virtually almost everything that politicians have to manage is complex, multifacetted and nuanced.

How true, and we elect our politicians to manage the complexities on our behalf. Part of the problem may well be that people expect the government to manage the complexity like a well oiled machine or, as organised complexity, whereas the reality may be that governing is about managing disorganised complexity. To make government run like a well oiled machine our politicians would need to micro manage the disorganised chaos of the crowd on the beach when someone yells shark.

I am out of depth here and will need think further on this but I hope I have added something to the discussion.

D Mick Weir

June 21. 2011 12:49 AM

D Mick Weir

NormanK @ June 20. 2011 01:53 PM
I read your comment on the previous post before I bolted out for the day and pondered it as I went round the traps.

You make some good points though some may be contestable but for the moment I will claim a tired and overworked brain and come back at it at another time.

D Mick Weir

June 21. 2011 01:00 AM

D Mick Weir

Before I toddle off to find my place of repose my quick take on the plebiscite thing'

The proposal is a cop out. Would Mr Abbott govern by plebiscite? It appears to me he is suggesting that anytime a slightly contentious or difficult item comes before a government they would have to conduct a plebiscite. We might as well spend all our Saturdays at the polling booth voting on how the government should govern.

I don't think I could handle that many sausage sizzle sandwiches that I would feel obliged to purchase.

D Mick Weir

June 21. 2011 07:36 AM



Democracy as a Stunt, Greg Jericho, Grog's Gamut
noted earlier this year that Abbott never utters a word without a political intent. Even when the occasion is bipartisan and calls for statesmen like words, Abbott can’t help himself.

The Empty Checkpoint, Mr Denmore, The Failed Estate
In the absence of a strong media and with the government depending on a handful of independents to remain in power, powerful vested interests are succeeding in ensuring
that 'news' is whatever they want it to be

A Binding Waste of Money, Neil Cook, The Bannerman
That media will promote this plebiscite nonsense, but only government can order it. This is only a stunt, but it's another in a long, long line of media sponsored, 'three-word-sl
A censure motion by any other name. Ash, Ash's Machiavellian Bloggery
What you are seeing here is nothing but a nation wide censure motion. The polls are in his favour and he needed something to grab the headlines so he ran with this and News Limited came to the rescue.

Crocodile compassion on a sea of hypocrisy, Mungo MacCallum, The Drum
They no longer attempt to appeal to the broad population of the cities they serve but increasingly reflect the narrow interests of those who would shut down any argument that does not accord with their prejudices.

Labor needs to shut up, but it can’t stop talking,Bernard Keane, Crikey
The obsession of many in the gallery with personalities is not new; if anything it’s a defining characteristic of Australian political journalism. If journalism is the first draft of history,

ERRONEOUS ANUS: Stern Bernard Keane causes a stink, Stephen Mayne & Eric Beecher , Vex News
falsely accused News Limited’s Samantha Maiden of writing an attack on beloved lefty-artiste Cate Blanchett, who once
attended the much-lamented 2020 summit of then PM Rudd,  

Abbott wants plebiscite on govt’s carbon tax, David Twomey, Eco News
But Mr Abbott said the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, should not try to “sneak” draft laws through a parliament that had no mandate for a carbon tax.

Asylum seekers in Australia - time for Labor to change the tune, rather than play Abbott's whistle!,  Mark Thompson, Seeking Asylum Down Under
Get the troops out to bash Labor on every issue that panders to our darkest fears. Set up the straw dog to fear,
find someone or some group to blame & punish and then put yourself forward as the saviour of the day.

Whose Side Is Twiggy On?, Sarah Burnside, New Matilda
Writing in the Financial Review last Friday, Laura Tingle noted that Forrest had been "utterly silent" about
the WA government’s recent decision to increase mining royalties, which would "hit the core of his business".

Rudd cancels party; pot calls kettle black, and it’s all good for the mad monk, No Place for Sheep
The man has too much public sympathy. They might as well have him cast in bronze as a holy martyr,while the mad monk becomes more and more convinced of his divine right to rule.

   On the receiving end of bias, Simon Tatz, Unleashed
  we can all watch the same program or interview and come away with totally different interpretations and understandings.
The Australian is no more biased than New Matilda, depending on your politics.

'Carbon Tax' plebiscite' Jeez Louise, whose dumb idea was that? Petering Time, North Coast Voices
insist that the Gillard Government contract the Australian Electoral Commission to run a “carbon tax” plebiscite costing somewhere between $69 million and hundreds of millions?

Weekly Open Thread, 20-24 June 2011, Jeremy Sear, Pure Poison
Tony Abbott’s asinine “plebiscite” demands (we need the people to vote again before they see the reality of the carbon
price and realise how absolutely deranged our scaremongering ha

Balance or What, David Havyatt, Anything Goes
one commentator, me, has been saying that it is right to subject the NBN to intense scrutiny - but the scrutiny needs to be focussed on what NBN Co is doing now,

Analysis of Telstra's cloud coup, Paul Budde, BuddeBlog
Australia will be unique in that it will be among the first countries in the world to have a robust network (NBN) that
will provide all the essentials needed for cloud computing. The NBN will also be a test-bed for cloud computing
(and other services and applications)

Stop looking at South Korea, says Turnbull, Richard Chirgwin, The Register
In this article, Turnbull points out a worrying datum: the number of subscribers to 100 Mbps services in South Korea
is actually falling, he writes. Between January 2010 and April 2011, carrier KT shed about tens of thousands of subscribers

You wouldn’t read about!, Patriciawa, Cafe Whispers
here at Cafe Whispers and then a trip to The Political Sword to read any new post and comments there as well as following up on LYNS-DAILY-LINKS. So there’s plenty to think about as I  get on with the routine of daily life

My enemy’s enemy, David Horton, The Watermelon Blog
Greens have a great fear of hierarchy, Labor has a great fear of anarchy – but being faced with an Abbott government lasting longer than that of John Howard might concentrate some minds wonderfully


Abbott's plebiscite 'absurd, unhelpful' , Joe Kelly, The Australian
Tony Abbott's bid for a plebiscite on Labor's carbon tax -- costing taxpayers up to $80 million -- has been scorned by leading constitutional and electoral experts

National plebiscite on carbon tax an expensive, bad idea , George Williams, SMH
he has no chance of securing this after July 1, when the make-up of the Senate changes to produce a house controlled
by the government and the Greens. Even if Abbott succeeds in having Parliament support a plebiscite before July 1, there is still the problem


June 21. 2011 08:20 AM


Ad astra,

The secret of success is compromise,

Those few words are at the heart of good goverance and allow for everyone to keep his/her moral compass intact.  "compromise" is also at the very heart of democracy because without it we end up with dictatorship where everyone is compelled to follow and be satisfied with whatever the dictator deems to be right and just.

In coming to terms with morality, compromise and complexity,one needs to think outside the square and evaluate what effect a decision will have on the whole populace rather than on a group or two.  This is what leadership is about - the ability to recognise the wide range of diverse opinion within society, to be willing and able to compromise in order to reach a consensus and then be able to deal with the complexity of an issue by taking it apart and giving due consideration to each aspect.

If compromise is at the forefront, then morality more or less takes care of itself.

Well, that is how I judge a good government.  I dismiss the shallow lines that a leader is wishy-washy (or stands for nothing) because he/she is willing to compromise and govern for all rather than only his/her political supporters.


June 21. 2011 08:32 AM

Ad astra reply

LYN'S DAILY LINKS updated: www.thepoliticalsword.com/.../...-DAILY-LINKS.aspx

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 08:36 AM

Ad astra reply

D Mick Weir, janice
Thank you for your thought provoking comments.  They deserve a considered response, which will take me a while to write.  So I’ll come back later this morning.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 09:12 AM


TONY Abbott's parliamentary bid for a plebiscite on a carbon tax is dead after the Opposition Leader failed to win the backing of a key crossbench senator.
Family First senator Steve Fielding is refusing to back legislation for what he labelled "a glorified opinion poll".



June 21. 2011 09:38 AM


Of all the stunts Abbott has indulged in since he became LOTO, the plebicite has to be the best.  And he topped it off with a thick layer of sour icing when he made it known that such a vote would only be binding on the government so that if the result went against him, he would still rescind it when/if he got to hold the reins of power.

He has got away with his 3-word slogans and a raft of disceptions and outright lies, but this time he has effectively rung the warning bells himself to highlight his shortcomings as a leader and how much of a malignant cancer he would be if ever he was inflicted upon us to actually govern.


June 21. 2011 09:47 AM

Feral Skeleton

Here's a lovely little blog journal I have come across via comments on Grog's blog(the post is about Toxic Tony's latest stunt manouver):

Feral Skeleton

June 21. 2011 09:53 AM

Feral Skeleton

    Here's another blog which is doing us all the great service of proving how destructive was over a decade of rule by the Howard government on our nation's youth:

Feral Skeleton

June 21. 2011 10:04 AM

D Mick Weir

thanks for pointing oou Fieldings comment "a glorified opinion poll"

It has only taken six years for him to come up with an intelligent comment.

Still we shouldn't be to harsh some of our elected reps take a lot longer and some don't succeed even after they retire.

D Mick Weir

June 21. 2011 10:07 AM


Today's Bad Abbott

Greg Jericho's already nailed this one over here:


talking about Abbott's politicising EVERYTHING he says, but just in case you missed it, and Grog's Gamut is not a regular pitstop for you (which it should be)...

Tiny Abbott essentially insulted a Head of Government in addressing Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand's support for an already operating Emissions Trading Scheme in that country.

He said Key had inherited it and watered it down (which clearly makes Key 'weaker' than Shouldabeen, who of course points out this 'fact' by declaring that he would have, and will, in government, rescind totally any similarly 'inherited' policy), and utterly ignored the New Zealand PM's positive comments upon the effect of the policy in his country.

On the 'weaker than me' dig, Tiny also queried Key's commitment to physical exercise, which, apparently, in Shouldabeen's mind, is the measurement of a man's (gender specificity intended) suitability for national leadership. Which would make Vladimir Putin the Prime Ministerial yardstick, I suppose.

Nice role model, Tiny. Keep it up.


June 21. 2011 10:15 AM


I would like to add to the football analogy by using a football example. In Canberra the Raiders had a young star with a terrible alcohol problem, it continued to the point he was sacked and banned from the game for a year. After that period he got a contract with a premier Sydney team. Well the Sydney MSM could not but praise and excuse his "past" behaviour, it was never a personal problem. A few minor "discrepancies" but they were all excused, he was the new Hero for the Sydnay MSM.  Then this year a few more problems, no longer the hero.
As in politics the MSM was more interested in their opinions, the agents opinions or the  football club's business decision, then what is basically a "personal" problem of the individual.
There was no investigation of the issue just a good attempt at a fairytale that sold a lot of issues for the Sydney paper.

So for politics and the MSM a "stunt" a day is a good way to sell papers.


June 21. 2011 10:19 AM

Patricia WA

Very well said, Janice!  That pretty wsell sums it up.  Lord Macaulay The essence of politics is compromise.would agrees with you and everything else that Ad Astra has asked us to consider above.

Amazingly we have a leader who is able to cope with that complexity and can achieve a compromise through negotiation with various parties.   She is also able to hold her nerve in the face of constant criticism, even downright defamation from those who claim that her compromises are evidence of dishonesty.

When I see her smiling at public occasions and even laughing off the negative triviality of journalists I am amazed that she is holding up  so well, let alone achieving so much behind the scenes of parliament where she is an outstanding performer.
Astonishingly the MSM have come up with no disgruntled backbenchers, staffers or public servants leaking stories about her high-handedness.  

How does she do it?    Apart from her abilities and temperament, which she herself describes as calm, her parents must have taught her well that very hard to learn lesson about sticks and stones breaking bones, but words alone not hurting.

Patricia WA

June 21. 2011 11:01 AM


Ad Astra

Like most others say you have given us a gigantic hamburger to chew over.  Do we have onions, or pineapple or beetroot, or the whole lot, but which ingredient should we leave out to please everyone.  Whew, there is a lot to think about.  I do love the way you write.

I got your medical analogy easily after the last six months that I have gone through.   My visit to the doctor yesterday again proved the faith I have in him because he consulted with other doctors and they, over time and research, are starting to maybe find some good answers.

That is exactly how I like the government to work.  Consult, advise, research.........it all takes time but hopefully in the end a result that helps me and others with the same problem.

On the latest with Abbott calling for a plebiscite, my first thought that he realised that once a price on carbon had been passed he has lost that argument, just as he has lost the argument (almost) on the Malaysian deal regarding Stop the Boats slogan as the boats have slowed down to almost a standstill.

As for the media, well saying I despair at their attitude is just to simplistic.  I do know one thing that if a Labor opposition acted like Abbott does it would be hounded to the ends of the earth and ridiculed like you wouldn't believe.  I have never known a politician to get away with what he does, if it wasn't happening before my eyes and ears I wouldn't believe it.


June 21. 2011 11:09 AM



I still hold hope that when push comes to shove, the electorate will come to the realisation that we have an amazing, intelligent, honest and caring Prime Minister.  It would indeed be a calamity for this country if people discarded such a Prime Minister in favour of a shallow weathervane with schizophrenic tendencies.  The thing that worries me is that often humans are prone to getting their brain into gear only after they've lost the pot of gold.


June 21. 2011 11:13 AM

Feral Skeleton

  How about everyone has a go filling this in? So far the Cons have had a field day:

Feral Skeleton

June 21. 2011 12:04 PM

Ad astra reply

D Mick Weir, janice
I shall attempt to address your comments together.

DMW, you make the astute observation that there is a distinction between organized complexity (a motor car) and disorganized complexity (a crowd on a beach on a hot day).  I suppose the extremes of disorganized complexity might come under the definition of ‘chaos’, as in chaos theory.  Wikipedia has helpful, albeit complicated information about chaos theory at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory

Abbreviated, it reads: ”Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics that studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions… The theory is applied in many scientific disciplines: mathematics, programming, microbiology, biology, computer science, economics, engineering, finance, philosophy, physics, politics, population dynamics, psychology, robotics, and meteorology.

“Sensitivity to initial conditions is popularly known as the ‘butterfly effect’, so called because of the title of a paper given by Edward Lorenz in 1972 to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. entitled Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas? The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale phenomena. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different.”

Your example DMW of what might happen on a crowded beach when someone shouts ‘shark’, points cleverly to the dynamics of chaos theory.  

No doubt politicians feel they are enveloped in chaos in the ordinary sense of the word, but the science of chaos theory is clearly applicable in politics.  Politicians are aware that small changes in ‘initial conditions’ can lead to large-scale events. Perhaps an example is the recent instance when a Four Corners program on animal cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs precipitated a vast reaction with public outrage, swift Government action to ban live exports, followed by criticism of its actions (or previous inaction), protests from cattlemen and their supporters, street rallies of both sides, condemnation of the MLA from several quarters, angst among Indonesian politicians, calls for a permanent ban on all live exports and a private bill introduced to this effect, and the reactions to that one program continue to this day.  While some of the reactions might have been predictable, I suspect no one could have predicted all of what actually happened.  Thus politicians are sometimes beset with an unfolding situation, not of their own making, the outcomes of which are only partly predictable: ‘The butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and quite unpredictably a tornado results in Texas’.  This aspect of politics must be agonizing for politicians, involving as it does, unpredictable outcomes.  Yet the people in the grandstand, particularly with the benefit of hindsight, would of course have handled the situation much better.

janice, your comment is so right: “ In coming to terms with morality, compromise and complexity, one needs to think outside the square and evaluate what effect a decision will have on the whole populace rather than on a group or two.  This is what leadership is about - the ability to recognise the wide range of diverse opinion within society, to be willing and able to compromise in order to reach a consensus and then be able to deal with the complexity of an issue by taking it apart and giving due consideration to each aspect. “

As my piece was already long enough, I did not expand on the intricacies of the interactivity of the various aspects of an issue.  Quite apart from the multiplicity of aspects, there is the way each interacts with every other aspect, and also the weight that ought to be applied to each aspect.  The opinion of a small minority group would usually be given less weight than the opinion of the vast majority.  

To represent these dynamics graphically, one can represent each factor as a circle or ‘bubble’ the size of each representing its importance or weight. Each circle is connected by lines to every other circle with arrows pointing both ways.  Such representation makes it easier to conceptualize the issue in a way that many prefer, visually.  You may remember Barry Jones’ famous ‘meat balls and spaghetti’ diagram of the Knowledge Nation in 2001 that drew so much ridicule from Coalition members, either because they were as usual throwing ridicule around, or more likely because they had no understanding of systems theory of which Barry’s diagram was a graphic illustration. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/stories/s324483.htm

The application of systems theory is not easy, but it does at least reduce the complexity of inherently difficult problems, and assist those who have to handle them to get a glimpse of the big picture, as well as the details, which latter often preoccupy thinkers to the detriment of reaching a sensible, comprehensive and acceptable solution.

Thanks to both of you for enabling further exploration of the fascinating but intricate world of complexity.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 12:18 PM

Ad astra reply

Your comment highlights the pernicious influence much of the MSM has on the reporting of political events.  As we have seen, the political dynamic is distorted by the way it is represented by the MSM.  So this Government not only has to grapple with complex issues, but also with a malignant media which, by endlessly repeating Tony Abbott’s disingenuous utterances has turned the public against Julia Gillard and her Government if one can believe the polls.  If she had at least a neutral media how much easier would be the task of governing.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 12:25 PM

Ad astra reply

Patricia WA
I agree with every word you have written, especially “Amazingly we have a leader who is able to cope with that complexity and can achieve a compromise through negotiation with various parties.   She is also able to hold her nerve in the face of constant criticism, even downright defamation from those who claim that her compromises are evidence of dishonesty.”

I can remember my Mum telling me about ‘sticks and stones…’  How apt!

I did enjoy your piece on Cafe Whispers.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 12:41 PM

Ad astra reply

Thank you for your kind comments.  It’s good to see that you are improving and that you have a good doctor.  As you say, governments should work like doctors: ”Consult, advise, research…”

It looks like Tony Abbott’s plebiscite brainstorm has been killed off by Steve Fielding, although Barnaby Jones and Abbott himself are trying to embarrass or bludgeon him into changing his mind.  They really are thugs.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 01:09 PM

Ad astra reply

Another nice Bad Abbott. Greg Jericho nails the plebiscite issue beautifully.   Did Tony Abbott really think that he could ask the people “Are you in favour of a law to impose a carbon tax?’?  No pollster worth his salt could endorse such a loaded question? Why not: “Are you in favour of a law to impose a Great Big New Carbon Tax?”  The man is running amok and the media is applauding, like it does when someone runs onto the cricket field in their budgie smugglers.

I’ve got some other questions that I’d like Tones to put with his question:

Are you in favour of planting 28 million hectares with trees to combat climate change when we have only 26 million hectares of food-producing arable land?

Are you in favour of your taxes being paid to polluters in the hope they will reduce pollution?

Are you agreeable to giving back the compensation the Government will give you to cover the increased costs of a price on carbon, when the Coalition gains office?

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 01:15 PM

Ad astra reply

I couldn't find where to enter the three words to describe Julia Gillard on the ABC site: www.abc.net.au/.../

Why is OUR ABC indulging in this exercise that the cons will be all over like a rash?  Don't they know such polls are invalid?  And what will they do with the results?  Blast them on every news bulletin?

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 01:24 PM

Patricia WA

FS - re. the word cloud on the PM - there doesn't seem anywhere to enter one's three words?  What am I missing?   Or has it closed?

Patricia WA

June 21. 2011 01:27 PM

Patricia WA

Steve Fielding redeems himself on his last lap.  Poor sad little man.   I hope someone is giving him a pat on the back and helping him hold up.

Patricia WA

June 21. 2011 02:21 PM


Hi Ad

Jeremy Sear, Pure Poison has his opinion of the ABC's survey.

That was cathartic. Now let’s do Tony
June 21, 2011 – 1:06 pm, by Jeremy Sear

  The ABC asks Australians “to send three words to describe your views on how Ms Gillard’s minority Government has performed”. With predictable results.

Wish they’d asked us to do that during Howard’s term. I’m sure they’d have had MANY pithy replies. (Except from the present Leader of the Opposition, even though three word insults are his specialty.)

Still, if this is the way we’re assessing leaders, now, ABC – when’s Tony Abbott’s turn? And Bob Brown’s?




June 21. 2011 02:42 PM


What a farce.
Why doesn't King Harry behead a few?

Nevertheless Abbortts' done for.

I love little Albo
His grin is so warm!
Give him half a chance
He'l do Abbort great harm!

Just made that up! Smile


June 21. 2011 03:13 PM

Ad astra reply

Hi Lyn
Won't it be interesting to see if the ABC does the same three word test for Tony - how about 'Great Big Liar'.

You are right about QT. And it's not just a farce - it's a monumental waste of time and taxpayers' money, and an insult to the democratic process.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 03:49 PM


Hi Talk Turkey

You didn't say anything about Ms Bishop's dreadful words.

I thought I heard Bishop say Julia Gillard is trying to
sabotage the economy among some other dreadful words.

They are despeate crazy.  How can this happen? Albo said
the members bill for a plebiscite hasn't been put before
anyone in Parliament.  Watching Abbott I thought, maybe he
thinks he is Paul Keating, minus the  intelligence.



June 21. 2011 04:23 PM


Hi Ad

Maybe nobody will notice no "r" in desperate.

cheers Smile


June 21. 2011 04:51 PM

Patricia WA

Even the hyphens don't make it acceptable!  Ad Astra, please delete.  Too much red wine with a delicious Camembert.  Mea culpa!

Patricia WA

June 21. 2011 04:51 PM


How about a 3 word test for ABC.

how about a 3 word test


June 21. 2011 05:07 PM

Ad astra reply

Patricia WA
Your post and pome deleted at your request. But I did enjoy it while it was there!

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 05:27 PM

Tim Badrick

In reference to a previous article on the
Political Sword about alledged bias on the
part of this blog`s author, i think it is
quite acceptable to be objectively biased
provided such a philosophy is based on
ones idealogy and personal dogmas. There
is a big diffrence between e.g someone
who is left or right biased on the
basis of idealogy and someone who
is biased because of an affiliation
with a certain particular party. To
come out and say you support Gillard
and the present Labor government is
not an indication of bias provided
it is representative of personal
idealogy and not partisan politics.
Bias is the kiss of death for the
reputation of any blogger if they
ever fail to seperate partisan
bias & objective idealogical bias.

Tim Badrick

June 21. 2011 06:25 PM

Ad astra reply

Tim Badrick
Welcome to the TPS family.  Do come again.

Thank you too for your comment, which makes a lot of sense.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 06:29 PM


Abbott's stunt (even Fielding picked it - he finally came out with something useful in his last week!) got swallowed today by the closure of a number of airports due to the ash cloud.

The funny thing is that Ben Sandiland - blogs.crikey.com.au/.../ - reports that the probability of a return visit was predicted (as it turns out) accurately last Sunday night.  So Abbott leaks that he is going to be calling for a $80million waste of public money to the media, doesn't think about the timing and the story gets pushed aside by a genuine news story that the media in general seem to be reporting well.

Not only was the stunt a joke, so was the planning.  Do we really want this man to be LOTO, let alone a possible PM?


June 21. 2011 06:47 PM



Support innovative news media by contributing to a fund to set up Australia, Daily.
Just click the link to find out what we are about.


June 21. 2011 07:15 PM


I've been sitting in the grandstand watching the game. I'm about halfway up and because they are close to the toilets, the bar and the hotdog stand, very near the stairs. I'm in a comfortable place.

While the game is fascinating it's the two captains who intrigue me the most.

The captain of the red team, while being continually tagged, blocked, abused and hit behind the play by the opposition, just seems to get up, takes deep breathe and gets on with it. If anything, I think the red team captain plays a harder, more focused and relentless game every time that happens. Since the initial bouncedown the red captain appears to be working to a long range game plan and seems to be bringing developing players more into the action and trusting their individual judgement.

The captain of the blue team is very different. He doesn't get tagged as much. Once he was hit behind the play and, fair dinkum, he spent 80 odd seconds gasping like a mullet on the riverbank. It was a very sobering sight and the demeanour of his players toward him changed perceptively. Although they have hidden it well. The red captains attitude towards the umpires is, If anything, bordering on the bizarre. Before they made the decision to bounce the ball and start the match he was all over them like a rash. Couldn't do enough for them apparently. Offers of this, offers of that. Nothing was too much. Anything they wanted was theirs. The umpires didn't accept his offers. They realised he would only call for the game to be played on another day. And so began the greatest dummyspit in football history and will probably continue well into the next couple of seasons.

As we haven't reached halftime yet the tactics at the quarter time break were illuminating. The umpires quite rightly stuck to themselves. Though they did listen to and answer some questions from the red captain. I assume on some aspect of their interpretation of the rules.

The red captain addressed the troops calmly and rationally, took the time to listen to advisors and relaxed for a minute or two. Undoubtedly planning the next phase of the game. It was all very calm and considered.

The blue team captain sucked on a lemon, patted the sycophants on the arse and glared at the rest. Then, strangely, walked over to an odd assortment of bods on the boundary line. That they treat him great deference was expected. I believe the blue captain has the patronage of a wizened one from a galaxy other than ours. They listened thoughtfully to what the blue captain had to say, nodded at the sagacity of the words and kept the eye rolling to a minimum. One of the strange bods bottom dentures ended up in the second row of the grandstand so hard did he try to hide his smirk. I have since found out that the strange assortment of bods are referred to as " a sewerage of reporters"........thanks FDOTM@crikey.

Anyhow, having had 1 pee, 3 beers, 2hotdogs and another pee I have to get back to the match.

I will furnish a match report sometime in 2013.


June 21. 2011 08:17 PM

Ad astra reply

What clever and pointed satire!  I hope we might get an update though before 2013!

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 08:32 PM

Ad astra reply

I'm off now to watch Go back to where you come from on SBS 1.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 08:45 PM

D Mick Weir

In response to NormanK @ June 20. 2011 01:53 PM

'We need to keep a few things in perspective before we totally condemn Australia's refugee policy. A bit of what I am going to say is contentious so I will choose my words as carefully ... '  (NK)

NK you chose your words careully and wisely and presented the case in very balanced way without resorting to emotionalism or ranting. Well Done.

In my response I hope to emulate and not get too emotional etc.

The whole issue is complex and subject to many over simplifications and mythconceptions.

Firstly we need some clarification:
What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee?
There is a great deal of confusion about the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee and often the terms are used interchangeably or incorrectly. An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. In contrast, a refugee is someone who has been recognised under the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees to be a refugee.

Parliamentary Library Background Note - Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts? - Updated 14 January 2011

This background note is well worth the read and it would be very helpful if some of our elected representatives took note of the contents.

How temporary the situation in Lampedusa is is open to debate but with our intake of refugees at around 13,500 pa it means we take in one refugee for every six people already here. By numerical comparison we do not have a 'big' problem. I am in no way suggesting that we should reverse the numbers (e.g. 5 refugees for every resident) or that we increase our intake dramatically only that we understand our refugee 'problem' is small.

At the end of 2009 there were an estimated 43.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 15.2 million refugees, ...  See the Parliamentary Library Note.

'Refugees coming to Australia are not seeking protection for the duration of the conflict in their homeland but are seeking to flee forever.'  (NK)

I can't source figures on how many refugees depart Australia and the number may not be big however even though the intention may be to flee forever some do return to thier former homelands. I can't recall where I read this, and therefore cannot provide a source but the evidence has shown that of those kept in 'community detention' more return home compared to those kept in detention facilities. I will continue to search that post out.

When the Keating Government brought in mandatory detention it was not meant to be a punishment ...the creation of an underclass such as is seen in the United States and Europe.  (NK)

While the policies of the Hawke and Keating governments may not of created an underclass various actions helped create ethnic enclaves particularly in Sydney that helped create the angst that has bred and fed the anti immigrant sentiment that successive governments and oppositions have pandered to.

'An equally drastic situation in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to expedient tough policy action on the part of the Hawke and Keating governments, ...  Lax administration of the family reunion programme under right wing Ministers like Mick Young and Clyde Holding in the 1980s contributed to the growth of  large and rapidly growing ethnic Lebanese and Vietnamese enclaves in south-western and western Sydney. Then a sudden influx of boat arrivals from around 1989, consisting predominantly of Sino-Vietnamese and then Cambodian asylum seekers, prompted Hawke to appoint left faction head kicker Gerry Hand to the Immigration portfolio.  Hand quickly adopted a punitive policy of mandatory detention of all boat people asylum seekers combined with drastically restricting their access to the Australian court system.  This remains the core of Australia’s practical response to the challenge of boat people arrivals.  All Howard and Ruddock did later was to reinforce it.

Bring back the Pacific Solution? - Ken Parish - 15 Oct 2009

Also note this:
Charging detainees for the cost of their detention was a Labor policy, brought in at the same time as mandatory detention. Its aim was — if you believed the Labor spin at the time — to reduce the costs to the Australian Government of its new detention policy.
Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash is probably more on the money when she commented after the second reading of the bill in the Senate this week that "it was intended by the Keating government, when it first introduced it, to represent an additional deterrent to potential illegal immigrants and was designed to send a strong, clear signal to the rest of the world that people who attempt to enter Australia unlawfully are unwelcome."

Coalition Stays On Message About Refugees - Anna Greer - New Matilda 11Sep 2009

It was Labor that set up the framework that we still have. Sure Howard & co fanned the fear and loathing in the electorate and then pandered to those fears. A change of government has not stopped the pandering.

Labor is not turning its back on refugees in general regardless of the memes in the media, surely the significant increase in our in-take is indication of that.  (NK)

I wasn't aware that there has been a significant increase in numbers.

The Humanitarian Program for 2010–11 is set at 13 750 places and comprises:
    refugees from overseas—6000 places
    other humanitarian—7750 places (this includes places for the SHP and for persons granted protection after arrival in Australia).


The numbers for the last six years or so have been between 13,014 (2007-08) to 14,144 (2005-06).

My view on the whole issue accords with, among others, Paul Barratt who could hardly be described as ranting refugee advocate or bleeding heart. On his Australian Observer he has written some very sane and sensible posts on the subject that I encourage everyone to read. I will leave you with this from one of his posts:

I do not want the Government to do the tough thing or the media savvy thing. I want it to do the right thing. I would like it to show the same political and moral courage that was shown by Malcolm Fraser in relation to Vietnamese boat arrivals in the 1970s, the message that this is not a big deal, and we are quite capable of managing it. I do not want the Government to be defensive about its more humane approach; I want it to explain it and be proud of it. I want it to lead popular opinion on this issue, not follow it.

Asylum seekers: all aboard the bad ship Bigotry

D Mick Weir

June 21. 2011 09:12 PM



Great piece, and a valuable extension to the discussion about "moral compass", the role of the media, and unquestioning acceptance of (self-appointed) media experts.

Like Lyn, I did notice the paragraph (well said, Lyn)
..he is playing an entirely different game – one of destroying the Government, while the Government is playing the game of building Australia’s future..

This is what Oppositions do, some more effectively than others. Making a Government accountable takes a back seat to the pursuit of power. I saw a snippet of Question Time yesterday. Not nearly as funny as with Peter Costello, or Paul Keating, much more abusive & abrasive, but just as useless in terms of quality Parliamentary business.


As for Tony Abbott's plebiscite suggestion, it was just another stunt, and I have commented on my blog at:

I haven't often agreed with Steve Fielding, but this might be the decision for which he becomes best known.


June 21. 2011 09:17 PM



"Amazingly we have a leader who is able to cope with that complexity and can achieve a compromise through negotiation with various parties.   She is also able to hold her nerve in the face of constant criticism, even downright defamation from those who claim that her compromises are evidence of dishonesty. "

That is her problem miss WA, she doesnt seem to have any principles on which she wont negotiate... it feeds into the perception that she stands for nothing.


June 21. 2011 09:35 PM

Ad astra reply

That was very revealing.  There will be another episode tomorrow and the following night.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 09:44 PM

Ad astra reply

D Mick Weir
Thank you for an illuminating account of past policies regarding those seeking asylum.  I have learned a lot from your well-referenced comment.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 09:51 PM

Ad astra reply

Thank you for your kind comment about this piece

You are right - QT was a disgraceful shambles today.  I wonder is Abbott losing it as the Senate is about to change to one where the Greens have the balance of power?  His behaviour is becoming frenetic and desperate.

I enjoyed reading your piece on TruePolitik; thank you for the useful links at the end.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 09:52 PM

D Mick Weir

macca @ 7:15 PM
you comment has been rated @ BB+

Bloody Brilliant plus a good laugh (or three)

D Mick Weir

June 21. 2011 09:53 PM

Ad astra reply

Please tell us if you too stand for nothing, that is apart from bagging PM Gillard.  We know you stand for that.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 09:56 PM


Hi John

Another brilliant article by you John, thankyou as always.

I think we were all surprised by Steve Fielding and
he didn't hold back did he.  Good on Steve.

Tony Abbott was just awful in Question time today, but
what annoyes me is he says anything and everything
nasty, hurtful, hateful, horrible, then can't take
it when it's Julia's  turn to reply.



June 21. 2011 09:59 PM

Feral Skeleton

Heh. Heh. :

Feral Skeleton

June 21. 2011 10:00 PM


Well done SBS! 'GO BACK' is all that I had hoped it might be. This programme should be compulsory viewing.
Sorry, is that a nanny state directive?

Many good quotes will come from this documentary. Tonight's (paraphrased) is :
'I don't want to be made to feel empathy.'

D Mick Weir
A great response worthy of deliberation. I will need time to follow-up your links.
I will also need to find a source but my recollection is that the 4000 refugees who will be accepted as part of the Malaysia deal will be over and above our humanitarian intake.


June 21. 2011 10:04 PM

Ad astra reply

Interesting site - a counter to OUR ABC.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 10:07 PM

Ad astra reply

Time for ABC TV and Lateline.

Ad astra reply

June 21. 2011 10:08 PM

Feral Skeleton


Feral Skeleton

June 21. 2011 11:25 PM



For every person Australia transfers to Malaysia, we will take five refugees from Malaysia - adding an additional 4 000 places to Australia’s humanitarian intake over four years.


Not shoving it in your face, just getting it off my 'to do' list.


June 22. 2011 12:30 AM

D Mick Weir

I have been thinking long and hard about the governments 'solution' to the refugee problem and the deal with Malaysia and in the end I can't bring myself to see it as good policy.

I am still prepared to give it time and see if there is a long game to foster a regional solution that may improve the lot of refugees but I have doubts.

One of the stated reasons for the projects is to kill the people smugglers business model. Good luck with that.

Paul Barratt in his post People smuggling: let’s be honest about who’s under attack  aussieobserver.blogspot.com/.../...nest-about.html  calls out Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard on statements they have made on people smugglers variously calling the smugglers 'evil, the vilest form of human life' and more.

'... Gillard’s attack on people smugglers is a crude dog whistle. Her real target is the asylum seekers themselves.
If Rudd and Gillard were speaking only of the people traffickers who lure young girls into sexual slavery on the fraudulent promise of employment as household help or nannies I would be with them, but as an all-encompassing statement I think the proposition needs to be tested.
let us not fall for the blandishments of the politicians on both sides of the house who rail against people smugglers as a dog-whistle proxy for attacking those seeking asylum.'

Barratt points to this post by John Passant:
In praise of people smugglers  http://enpassant.com.au/?p=7658

... people smuggling has a long and honourable history.  During the Nazi barbarity ordinary people – people smugglers – saved tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Jews. Most did it because they hated what the Nazis were doing; they were decent compassionate human beings.

Oskar Schindler was paid for his people smuggling. Did that make him an evil trader? No. He saved people’s lives. It made him a hero.

Kevin Rudd’s hero Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a people smuggler.

Maybe my problem is that I am pining for the seventies when Fraser and Hayden showed political and moral courage  and led the country into doing the right thing and proved to us we are really open hearted nation that shows common decency and humanity to those who need our help.

Mungo MacCullam's article Crocodile compassion on a sea of hypocrisy  puts it well:
... none of this is to suggest that the Malaysian solution is anything but another stuff up; indeed, it was Labor under Kevin Rudd who first branded the people smugglers as the scum of the Earth who should rot in hell forever - this was part of the so-called "tough but humane" approach which achieved nothing but confusion. Gillard's version simply drops the "humane".'

Sorry NK, FS and others but the time has come to call it as I see it.

Gillard is showing no leadership on this she is pandering to the worst aspects of our nation.

D Mick Weir

June 22. 2011 12:47 AM

D Mick Weir

NK @ June 21. 2011 11:25 PM
... adding an additional 4 000 places to Australia’s humanitarian intake over four years.

By my calculations that implies a minimum intake of 14,750 for each of the next four years. That would be an increase in the order of 7% which is ok. There is no indication that I know of that the 1,000 extra will be achieved by trimming elsewhere.

I can't locate anything on the department website that confirms that sort of figure. We will have to take it on trust.

D Mick Weir

June 22. 2011 01:09 AM

Patricia WA

Please, FS, can you explain to me in words of one syllable what one is supposed to do on that 'Twitme' site?

Patricia WA

June 22. 2011 01:11 AM

Patricia WA

Okay, Norman K and DMW, so what happens if no unauthorised asylum seekers arrive in any given year?

Patricia WA

June 22. 2011 07:40 AM



Consider the lilies., Ash, Ash's Machiavellian Bloggery
if the plebiscite is close either way, the government can still push ahead. And no doubt the opposition can continue to c

I wasn’t born like that, Ash, Ash's Machiavellian Bloggery
Go Back To Where You Came From’ on SBS here in Australia. You can watch the show online as well as check out the fantastic website here.http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/goback

Confronting Australian attitudes to refugees., Jo Coglan, Online Opinion
What happens when six 'ordinary' Australians live with refugees and share their journey for 25 days? SBS television's
Go Back to where you come from? (airing from 21-23 June 2011) is finding out.

Abbott’s Plebiscite Another Stunt , John, True Politik
Tony Abbott has produced a media stunt derived purely from his own political pursuit of power. It would contribute nothing to debate about good policy:

Alert and alarmed: Trivia question: Where have we seen plebiscites used to circumvent parliamentary democracy, Seeking Asylum Downunder
Representatives are demeaned daily by an attempt to censure the government and/or suspend the standing orders
to enable Abbott and his mob to rant & rave about 'lack of legitimacy' and 'dishonest government'. They basically want to engineer a vote of no-confidence in the Government.

Plebiscite a key to making Abbott’s life easier, Bernard Keane, Crikey
The day a carbon pricing scheme is legislated, if it is, life gets harder for Abbott — and harder still on 1 July next year.

Is the two-speed economy official policy? Brian, larvatus Prodeo
The dollar seems to be rising against all countries. Is it the price we pay for low debt and hence low risk? Is there substantive justification for the popularity of the Australian dollar?

"You rigged 'da what?Why electricity charges are climging, Peter Martin
The best-run power companies are the privately-owned ones in Victoria, we want to use them to benchmark the costs and spending in NSW and Queensland," Mr Reeves said.

The Carbon Tax We Really Don't Want, Ben Eltham, New Matilda
The time has long gone when we could expect the Australian political media to report on the substance of policies,
rather that tactics of politics. Not only do they not want to, they don’t know how.

Time to give Telstra the carrot, Rob Burgess, Technology Spectator
Again, the terms of the deal are expected to be reasonably favourable to Telstra. The government has to get this deal done and Cabinet met late last night to consider the final proposal.

Requiem for the sea: State of the Seas report concludes “negative changes” to the oceans exceed IPCCs worst
case scenarios., Watching the Deniers

In July 2010 I started to become deeply alarmed: research indicated that since the 1950s over 40% of the oceans
phytoplankton had died out due to rising temperatures and acidification.

Strange bedfellows, David Horton, The Watermelon Blog
Why can’t these scientists listen to Alan Jones and then they wouldn’t keep saying these things I don’t want to hear. But in the mean time, death threats should make them go silent.

Plebiscite Stunt:

Abbott refuses to accept carbon plebiscite fate, Jeremy
Thompson, ABC

He also provoked uproar in the House when he reminded Ms Gillard that "the principle obligation of national leadership is to tell the truth".

Abbott's carbon tax plebiscite dead, Business Spectator
Senate leader Eric Abetz said he would have expected Senator Fielding to support the coalition bill, describing him as "a vociferous opponent" of anything to do with a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.

Newspapers  Plebiscite Stunt

Abbott's plebiscite call a serious misjudgment , Paul Kelly, The Australian
Abbott may be the most radical leader in Liberal Party history in his instinctive resort to populist tactics and
invoking popular ballots, a contrast with his stereotype as an old fogey infatuated by the Queen and by God and mired in rigid traditionalism.

She'll be apples? STREWTH Graeme Leech , The Australian

if his bill was selected for debate, it couldn't be considered until July 4 at the earliest, but more likely August 16.
Then he would have to get a majority of the crossbenchers. Perhaps stunt is the word;

It's the plebiscite that we don't have to have , The Australian
Mr Abbott could find the public scrutiny of carbon politics leads to some unintended consequences. A long campaign
would reveal the high cost of the opposition's scheme compared with a market-driven emissions trading scheme,

Tony Abbott under fire for plebiscite bungle after Steve Fielding effectively kills bill , James Massola, The Australian
The attack became so intense that Mr Albanese's opposite number, Christopher Pyne, moved to shut down the debate which Mr Abbott had initiated.

Abbott’s plebiscite fails, Australian Politics TV


June 22. 2011 07:53 AM


Good Morning Ad

How's this for being hot of the press, Ash has only just
posted this delightful article.

Add I forgot to tell you. I have had to put a cardigan on
this morning, slight chill in the air, must be our tropical winter starting.

Would you be able to include Ash's link on the special page
for me please Ad.

Thankyou, I  hope you have a lovely day.

Rumours of the PMs demise are greatly over overexaggerated,
Ash, Ash's Machiavellian Bloggery
It is my belief that by having Kevin in parliament, the PM is safe from challenge.  Because he is a reminder to all in caucus who may be getting poll jitters what happened to the ALP the last time they axed a leader.


June 22. 2011 08:23 AM

Feral Skeleton

   Sorry, PatriciaWA! I should have explained that the link was to a Word Cloud which was feeding off Twitterers input into a hashtag #abbottin3, which was a challenge on Twitter to encapsulate Tony Abbott in 3 words. It constantly changes every time you refresh the page. It was just a fun little site I thought people here might be amused by. Smile

Feral Skeleton

June 22. 2011 08:28 AM

Feral Skeleton

    You would be taken aback if you found out what sort of weather Ad is facing today.

   As for us here in Sydney, well, I have a cradigan on too. It just happens to be a very very thick mohair cardigan. Smile

Feral Skeleton

June 22. 2011 08:44 AM


Good Morning Feral

Nice to see out and about on TPS's page full of flighty
energy. Our go go girl flashing that mighty sword, you
need slacks on though your legs look cold & boney.

I looked at your word cloud link, for which I say thankyou, yes it is a nice little bit of light hearted fun.

Yes I do wonder about the weather down south. I see it
is snowing in NSW  cutting of roads etc. Poor Ad ,I shouldn't
have told him about our weather, No yes I should, then they
might move to Hervey Bay do you think.

I think, by the Australian Newspaper links I Posted this
morning, Mr Abbott (desperate people do desperate things)
may just have let down more than some of his loyal cheer squad.   What do you think?.

Have a nice day Feral

Cheers SmileSmileSmileSmileSmile


June 22. 2011 08:50 AM

Ad astra reply

LYN'S DAILY LINKS updated: www.thepoliticalsword.com/.../...-DAILY-LINKS.aspx

Ad astra reply

June 22. 2011 08:55 AM

Ad astra reply

Hi Lyn
What a great collection of links - I look forward to reading them all after breakfast.

I've added in Ash's most recent piece on your special page as requested.

As FS has said, the weather here is not great - 9 degrees C, wet and windy with lots of rain overnight; our heaters are going full blast.

Have a nice day.

Ad astra reply

June 22. 2011 09:03 AM

Feral Skeleton

    Thank you. I do have my Ugg boots on though. Smile

Feral Skeleton

June 22. 2011 09:12 AM


Okay, after reading Lyn's latest links, it looks like even the Australian has seen Abbott's stunt is just a stunt.  So, what is reported on the ABC this morning from 6am?  Something obscure about not having a Quorum in parliament  last night.  No worries that the opposition has been using this tactic for weeks, both in the Upper and Lower house.  Not that it is the opposition that is doing it all the time, no no, it is BOTH parties.

It is times like this that I don't like living in the country with only able to ABC  or right wing radio!

The SBS show last night was much better than I anticipated.  Looking forward to the next two episodes.  


June 22. 2011 09:49 AM


Hi Gravel

Don't get down hearted our lovely friend, looks
like things are improving slightly.

Mr Abbott is heading for a fall big time, read what
Talk Turkey tells us, he has been right hasn't he.

Ally Moore gave Scott Morrison a hard time on Lateline
last night.. She said:

"there's a Malaysian Ambassador in Australia isn't there"
Who's paying for your trip?  answer by Mr Morrison
private sources.
Not usual for an Opposition to be travelling overseas
on Government business.

Just a couple of confronting questions of the top
of my umberella.

Take care Gravel, just tell us if you are worried we
love your comments.

Cheers  SmileSmileSmileSmile


June 22. 2011 10:03 AM


      Despite the fact that Fielding said he will not support the "stunt" Abetz is now trying to suspended standing orders in the senate,to try and push the "plebicite" ,and Fielding has just stood up and said he wont! along with the Greens,Though senator X wants to support it, it will be lost on the vote.


June 22. 2011 10:17 AM


       It was a "tied" vote 34 each, and in the senate a "tie" is a negative!


June 22. 2011 10:37 AM

Feral Skeleton

  People are now looking forward to Senator Fielding's Valedictory Speech, as a result of his growing a spine for the last sitting of the Senate before he retires from it.

   It's also interesting to note that Senator Fielding defied instruction from the head of the Family First Party wrt which way he should vote on Tony Abbott's Wild Rivers/Big Aluminium Mines Bill and Abbott's Plebiscite Stunt Bill. Smile

Feral Skeleton

June 22. 2011 10:43 AM

Feral Skeleton

  I reckon Big Gina and the Little Twig are delving into their pockets stuffed full of the cash that ordinary Australian taxpayers should be benefiting from as a result of a Resource Rent, to pay for the latest Opposition Asylum Seekers stunt.

   Do you know that there are journos that think that even though Tony Abbott's Plebiscite Stunt has been a miserable failure that he will still seek to Suspend Standing Orders today in Question Time for the 14th time this Sitting year???

   The man is shameless, and dangerous, and like Guy Fawkes, he just wants to blow up parliament.

Feral Skeleton

June 22. 2011 11:13 AM


Ad, Macca,

Good to see the Aussie Rules parable gathering currency.

I seem to remember employing it a while back, it was the Coalons v the Guvnors, Blues v Reds, and we were well down, 6 goals or so, in the first 24 minutes, with the umpires - the media in this case - plainly and unremittingly favouring Them. But I cried Courage Comrades, we're not even at quarter time yet! We'll have the wind behind us come the 2nd quarter, and They'll run out of puff. I predicted that we will steadily make ground for the rest of the game. I still think that. Quarter time in 2 days! Smile

I'm not interested much in sport, but Aussie Rules is a great analogue for the political game, and I think it the best of all footy codes, if you're an alpha male like me. (Not!) But it's the only game that uses virtually all manly physical capabilities to the max, don't give me none of your 'Oh soccer's such a skilful game!', I mean specifically, amongst other skills, running dodging leaping kicking punching wrestling bumping bouncing, rolling falling; and perhaps most wondrously clever is the ability to read the bounce of a running elliptical ball, which btw is the most dynamic of all balls, an Australian miracle of design, which, like such artifacts as axe handles and skis, took thousands of years to evolve, can now not be significantly improved further. Aussie Rules has the greatest balls, and that's all.  

AFL players know, they are the all-round fittest of athletes, and they are surely the Greek ideal of physical development, not your bisonbuilt rugby blokes, nor your pantygirl soccer players, I'm talking about ultimacy here. Aussie Rules rules OK?!

Interestingly, I think Aussie Rules Politics rules too, at least in one respect. I think that in the AFL, the Australian Federal Legislature, the government front bench is as sensible and well-informed as any comparable body in the world, with which I am of course completely au fait. Smile There is no room for incompetence in Gillard's government, as there was not in Rudd's before her no matter what the media portrayal. The better Gillard performs the more they hate her, it always happens with the best Labor leaders, I saw it with Rudd and Keating and Whitlam and most especially the magical Don Dunstan whom they viewed as the ultimate traitor to their born-to-rule class. It is a badge of honour that she has angered so many so fast, they needed angering, she has 2 years and 3 months to clip their wings. The resources ranged shamelessly against the Government are daunting, but it will pass all its main agenda, and there is nothing They can do about it.

As the Commodore said to the cabingirl: Suck it up!

(I really hope the Government finds an effective antibiotic to THAT bit of Defence Force 'culture'! Did I hear there have been 1000-odd complaints in the last few days?
Guess what political persuasion predominates in the armed services.)    

Yeah Swordsfolks, never mind the polls, there's one only poll, and that's three quarters of the game away. And Labor will have delivered much by then. I'm getting quite confident now, more so than ever after Abbortt's abortionate plebiscite, his having taken the Coalons so far out on a limb means that they will look very silly when they try to climb down.

I think I just mixed a metaphor.

Is it not the supreme hoot that FIELDING used his last stake to stick into Abbortt's black heart!

I think this plebiscite thing, the fact that Abbortt said he'd only accept a No vote, has done for him. Funny thing is, although Fielding did see the craziness of that position, his primary reason is the $80m price tag; but ironically enough, compared to the importance of carbon reform, that would be actually be a relatively tiny price to pay, IF it would give general agreement - which it wouldn't! Can you imagine, at the end of such a plebiscite, people would be throwing bombs! Abbortt would be all-out to hype them to an insane edge, as has really no precedent in Australian history, and once it became a cancer on out body politic, it would be ineradicable.

??? Mateship ???

What a fool this Abbortt is! He's bloody MAD! He is prepared to do that to the nation, basically to start a civil war to gain power! And up to now the MSM has greased his slithering all the way. And the Coalons behind him have supported him too . . . but never mind, it's nearly popcorn and soda time Folks, just keep your eye on the Coalons' Locker-Cam when the Guvnors have a few more goals on the board! They are going to look like Mr Bean coming down in that transporter beam, wandering lost in a land they never made. And infighting!  Smile  

Just let us just hold our nerve Everyone, this strawman will blow away soon. The best thing we can do is to do the best we can for this blogsite, and make sure the amateur political blogosphere belongs to Us.

Venceremos! No pasaran!  


June 22. 2011 11:24 AM


For Senator X any enquiry of any sort is a good one, especially given his impending loss of importance.
I thought he initially hung out for a plebiscite once all parties had put their cases & the Government had detailed its legislation, is this right? But of course that would've meant it being voted down in the new Senate.
Refer to first sentence.


June 22. 2011 11:32 AM

Feral Skeleton

   Latest Matt Cowgill post:

Feral Skeleton

June 22. 2011 11:32 AM


D Mick Weir

I'm trying to work up a positive response but in the mean time there is this:

Mr Bowen also officially released the new edition of Refugee and Humanitarian Issues: Australia's Response, which includes information on Australia's humanitarian program and recent initiatives developed to assist refugees.

'This publication contains personal stories from former refugees who have come to Australia under the humanitarian program, which the government recently expanded to 14 750 places per year over the next four years,' Mr Bowen said.


I am currently sitting at 60/40 in favour so I hope you are only at the mirror of this (40/60) and still stand a chance of being won over - just as I stand a very real chance of being disappointed.
Thanks for the information in your comment, there was much there that I didn't know. Just another 'grandstand expert'. Smile
It seems neither major party has covered itself in glory over recent decades.

This item might be of interest to you - it reinforces your view but at least offers a potential solution.

Rescue us from this madness by David Day

Neither side of politics has the courage to restore decent Australian values to the debate over asylum seekers.

To his eternal discredit, John Howard took the drum-banging to new heights over the Tampa, when shipwrecked asylum seekers were met by gun-toting members of the SAS.

Instead of fortified camps for mandatory and indefinite detention, we need reception centres where new arrivals can be briefly housed and processed, before being moved quickly into one of the many Australian communities that would welcome them.


The whole article is well worth a read to put some issues unto perspective.

Patricia WA

........ so what happens if no unauthorised asylum seekers arrive in any given year?

That question occurred to me after I posted the quote from Minister Bowen. Logically, if fewer than 800 are sent to Malaysia in the first few years we would still take 1000 per year regardless.
I would like to think the agreement will concretely lock us into 1000 per year irrespective of how many we send their way but I can find no proof of that at this stage.
It would be patently ridiculous to literally swap 5 for 1 on an individual basis i.e. we send 120 in 2012 and take only 600 in return. We will just have to wait for the details I'm afraid.


June 22. 2011 12:23 PM


What would be your own 'solution' to the AS 'problem'?

You would recognize that I'm asking specifically for a thought-through, practicable course of action which is preferable to  a wider section of Australians than what is being proposed, because it must be or it's worse.

Captacha bingo: idisacce influx Smile  


June 22. 2011 12:34 PM


When discussing moral compasses and such there doesn't seem to be any starting or datum point. Morality is very much in the eyes of the beholder.

How do we take a measure on morality?

Is it a general societal consensus?

Is it borne out of personal life experiences?

Is it a combination of both and other external influences?


is there something missing in the national discourse?

IMHO what is missing is that old fashioned concept of honour.

Dr. Samuel Johnson in his "Dictionary of the English Language"..(1755) described honour as;

Nobility of soul,


A scorn of meanness.

Imagine, if you will, a political debate conducted in the spirit of that interpretation.


June 22. 2011 01:15 PM

Patricia WA

Well, TT, here are a few suggestions on how to solve some aspects of 'Asylum Seeker problem'

1. 'Solve the resettlement problem and there will be no people smugglers.' as concluded by  Paul Barratt in the post suggested by DMW aussieobserver.blogspot.com/.../...nest-about.html makes it sound very easy.

2.   'Australia should take more refugees out of the camps in countries of first asylum in that region (.e. Pakistan and Iran) in return for the ability to return those who have sought to advantage their asylum claims through illegal entry to Australia,’ Scott Morrison,  Shadow Minister for  Immigration,  in a speech a few months ago quoted by Ali Moore. www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2011/s3249961.htm

3. Establish world peace. from Patricia WA at www.thepoliticalsword.com/.../...-experts-are.aspx

It seems obvious to me that if Julia Gillard could show true leadership by successfully adopting at least one of these simple proposals she could improve her standing in the polls, perhaps even stand a chance of re-election.  Well, perhaps not the latter, but at least retire from politics with a reputation for trying.  She might even beat Kevin Rudd to the job of Secretary General of the Union Nations.

Patricia WA

June 22. 2011 01:20 PM


Today's Bad Abbott.

We're told Tiny approached Senator Fielding to support the plebiscite with the line "I come to you as a humble man".

Do I need write more?


June 22. 2011 01:33 PM

Ad astra reply

Your questions are apt.  I suspect there would be a variety of answers.  

I did like Samuel Johnson’s definition of Honour: 

Nobility of soul, 


A scorn of meanness.

Is there any of them left in politics?

Ad astra reply

June 22. 2011 01:35 PM


It would be patently ridiculous to literally swap 5 for 1 on an individual basis i.e. we send 120 in 2012 and take only 600 in return. We will just have to wait for the details I'm afraid.

As I understand it, the Malaysian deal is one that extends over 4 years.  Australia can send 800 boaties to Malaysia and there is no stipulation that it has to be consecutive boatloads of arrivals.  In return for Malaysia taking 800 (over 4 years and not 800 in one year) of our boat people arrivals, Australia will accept 4000 (over 4 years) refugees already processed, stuck in Malaysia and awaiting resettlement.

Now Minister Bowen spelled out on numerous occasions that the 4,000 we take from Malaysia will be spread over 4 years. i.e. 1,000 per year which will increase our refugee intake from 12,000 odd to 13,000 odd per year.

The 800 number, as I see it, is purely for deterrent purposes.  If no boats arrive, Australia will still accept the 4,000 already processed refugees from Malaysia.  Australia may, or may not send every boatload that arrives to Malaysia but the deterrent lies in the russian roulette of not knowing which boatload arriving will be sent to Malaysia.


June 22. 2011 01:46 PM


Thank you for your missive, but I refer you back to the central paragraph of my last post.
And the addressee DMW, whose specifically personal view I was seeking.


June 22. 2011 01:57 PM

Ad astra reply

Yes, the plebiscite move was just an Abbott-stunt, and it has become un-stunted.  Although the ABC was into the quorum story this morning, Lyn’s Links show that the newspapers were all over the Abbott-stunt.  It is unusual for The Australian to editorialize against anything Abbott does, but they did so this morning, despite the first sentence describing it as a ‘smart political trick ‘.  Smart is it to spend $80 million asking a loaded question when the outcome is non-binding on the Government and Abbott won’t be bound by it if it goes against him?  Smart is it to disrupt parliament yet again in a bound-to-fail effort to debate it?  Smart was it to not consult the Coalition front bench, to not even check when parliament was sitting, to not check how the independents might vote?  No, editor of The Australian it was not smart, it was dumb and stupid.  When you have someone of Paul Kelly’s gravitas, who would usually support Abbott, writing a headline “Abbott's plebiscite call a serious misjudgment”, there can be little doubt that this move is yet another black mark against this pugilistic politician.

So don’t be disheartened.  As many have predicted, Abbott will eventually self immolate. He’s burning already.

Ad astra reply

June 22. 2011 02:23 PM

Patricia WA

TT, I thought I was addressing your question in the only way   it could be, in my opinion,  But obviously I have to frame ironic comment in verse form or my point is missed.

PS Re. Ali Moore's quizzing of Scott Morrison I felt it could have been much more searching.  He was able to weasel his way out of that statement I quote above without her once asking him to acknowledge that Julia Gillard's Malaysian Solution so similar to his own for the Cenral Asian region, would at least offer to thousands more registed refugees in camps what he described as 'that very, very precious opportunity of resettlement.' currently possible for less than 1 per cent of the world's refugees.

Patricia WA

June 22. 2011 03:16 PM


Hi Ad

What a fantastic comment in repy you posted to Gravel.

the plebiscite move was just an Abbott-stunt, and it has become un-stunted.  

Smart is it to disrupt parliament yet again in a bound-to-fail effort to debate it?  Smart was it to not consult the Coalition front bench, to not even check when parliament was

As many have predicted, Abbott will eventually self immolate. He’s burning already.

Love your words Ad fabulous, cheers me to my bones.

Cheers  SmileSmile


June 22. 2011 03:48 PM

Ad astra reply

David Horton
I’m responding to what you have written on your blogsite this week.  First you lament that there has not been much response to your piece: My enemy's enemy.  Well I did read it and enjoyed doing so, as I expect many others did, but did not leave a comment.  My own blog stats suggest that many visit but few comment.

However today’s piece Strange bedfellows davidhortonsblog.com/.../ that talks about the Miss USA Beauty Contest contained some alarming facts:  “So the really frightening thing is that 49 of the contestants, either because of their own beliefs, ignorance, or unwillingness to offend the voters, are too frightened to say “teach evolution in schools”. This is what America has come to after decades of battering away by evangelicals, intimidation of teachers, home-schooling. Here is a country, once the most scientifically and technologically advanced in the world, reduced to a state where most of its citizens have beliefs last popular in western countries in 1859. This is what you can achieve if a small bunch of wild-eyed fanatics keep bashing away at the education system.

“Our contestants were grappling with the question of whether to teach the results of 150 years of science research or the mythology of a sheepherder in the middle east 2500 years ago at the same time as the story broke about climate scientists in Australia receiving death threats. Yes, death threats, moved on from the screams of abuse to actual promises of physical harm.

“Slightly different tactic to the US creationists but the same intention – shut these people up. They are saying things I don’t want to hear. They are saying things that go against my beliefs. They are saying things that logically mean a reduction in profits for some big business. Shut them up, We don’t want them saying these things any more, don’t want them reporting their findings, we are sick of science, the shock jocks have told me everything I need to know about global warming. Why can’t these scientists listen to Alan Jones and then they wouldn’t keep saying these things I don’t want to hear. But in the mean time, death threats should make them go silent.

“Beauty contestants and climate scientists – strange bedfellows eh, but both subject to the medieval forces now rampaging through our societies.

How very true.

Here we have the Abbott forces, and he has quite an army, trying to bury the facts about global warming, trying to paint those who want to take the most cost effective option – a price on carbon followed by an ETS – as a plan that will wreck the economy, decimate manufacturing, throw many thousands out of work and create ghost towns, all based on false premises, all designed to scare and intimidate, all designed to poison the electorate against PM Gillard and her Government, and now some of the extremists are malignantly threatening our climate scientists to scare them from giving us the facts.  

The malicious deception about climate change is working, as the campaign against evolution is working in the US.  It is almost unbelievable, but we need to believe that it is happening not just in the US, but here over something much more critical - global warming.  While the debate is over in much of the world, we here in Australia continue clinging to the hope that global warming is not happening or is not dangerous. The threat from the malignant Abbott forces is perilous for us, and the planet.  Coming from a scientific background, I never would have previously believed that ordinary people, even those not versed in evidence-based science, could be persuaded by deceptive slogans and misinformation to not only ignore the science of climate change, but also the strongly supported plan for combating it, and prefer instead to swallow the disingenuous tripe Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt dish up endlessly.  The Goebbels dictum: ‘tell a lie often enough and eventually the people will believe it’, is clearly the operational basis behind the Coalition campaign.

Ad astra reply

June 22. 2011 04:22 PM


Patricia WA

Oh, irony. I really didn't realize that, I wasn't into reading the linked articles, I thought you were saying that was all that had to be done, so easy. My bad, sorry.


June 22. 2011 05:10 PM

Patricia WA

TT,  forgivable!  Irony in this case required you to get to my last para - so,  long winded and clearly not effective.

My implication was that even if Julia Gillard did bring about world peace it wouldn't win her the next election.  Maybe an improvement in opinion polls!  But yes, she might get to be UN General Secretary, pipping Kevin Rudd at the post!  There's a good news story!

PS for DMW and Norman K.  That doesn't mean I didn't take your exchange very seriously and follow up your links.  But in the end I think TT's challenge to DMW proved the irrefutable.   There is no 'final solution' and the best we can hope in the short term is for some sort of cooperation in ameliorating conditions in camps in our own region, bringing to as many people in them as possible the opportunity for re-settlement and a decent life.   With economic development moving apace in SE Asia Australia doesn't have to be the only desirable destination.   With the help of UNHCR this agreement with one country in the region could signal a general shift to a negotiated arrangement of mutual benefit to others. We'll have to wait for full details but if Malaysia becomes more amenable to UN oversight on refugees who could really complain?  Which is why I have little patience with Greens and other activists already crying an ocean on this.  They are playing into the hands of Abbott & Co. who have no interest in any progress towards a solution at all.

Patricia WA

June 22. 2011 07:36 PM

Feral Skeleton

            Exactly. I agree with every word you have written. Also, what makes me even more cynical about the motives of the so-called 'Refugee Advocates' and The Greens, is that I have not heard one approving peep out of any of them, professional bleeding hearts that they are, about the wonderful news that Australia is now going to take 4000 Burmese refugees to live in this wonderful country, that would otherwise have not had the slightest whiff of a possibility in a 100 lifetimes of dodging the Rattan wielders in Malaysia, of coming to our country for a chance at a better life. Not. One. Word.

   Bloody hypocrites. So, PWA, if you come across that obnoxious Ian Rintoul character in Freo, call him a hypocrite, a rascist and an opportunist from me. Also ask him why Middle Eastern Asylum Seekers deserve his sympathy but Burmese refugees don't. Thanks. Smile

Feral Skeleton

June 22. 2011 08:25 PM


An unfortunate truth that we have to face is the fact that,at heart, Australia is a racist nation.

Whether we like it or not. It's fact. And it's not going to be turned around anytime soon.

Racism is profitable.

Racism is ratings

Racism is reactive.

Racism is encouraged Monday to Saturday.

Racism is forgiven during Sunday morning services.

The racists, those who promote and profit from it, have all the bases covered. Need a quick ratings hit in the 6.30 pm time slot? Morning am radio ratings slipping? Want to move the political debate away from your weak policy areas? It's an easy fix. Bash a muslim. Ban a burqua. Your not going to let those muslims build a place of worship in your neighbourhood. Are you?

It's a win win for the promoters and profiteers. Because they know the way the public will react to racist stories. They understand that there will be an outcry at smoko the next morning. They understand that a burqua wearing Islamic woman will be looked at with suspicion. The politician knows he will get maximum media coverage. They know this because that's the way they designed the debate from the get go. For them the more boat arrivals the better. The more division in the community the better. A polarised community means better ratings, more newspapers sold, stronger poll results, bigger profits. They have no truck with the desperate stories those who seek to come here have to tell. Unless those stories serve their purpose.

The architects of this hate have long understood that it easier for an increasingly self absorbed populace to distrust than to think. That it is easier to react. The comfort of the status quo is safer than the excitement of the new. Their understanding and manipulation of the entire debate. Their brutally honest assessment of the Australian phyche. Their willingness to pillory and ridicule those who speak against them is legend. These people have visited evil on our land and poisoned our collective soul. That they should stand shamed is of no consequence to them. Shame is for the weak and the moral.

How can a minority Govt. combat this? They can't beat the evil. At best they can only blunt it. But how?

IMHO the Malaysian plan is about the best way of doing it. Why?

There is every possibility the boat traffic will stop. The traffickers will have nothing to sell.

The detention centres will become transition centres. A starting point to a new life.

These New Australians will be off the radar.

The architects of hate will have to find another divisive and contentious issue to champion.

I know some of you wont agree with me but, in reality, no-one, not you, not me, not a pretty competent Govt. can fight a hatred that is promoted day after day, week in week out. The best we can do is blunt it. For now.

40 yrs ago most Australian suburbs were full Johnsons, Williams, Clarkes etc.

30 yrs ago along came the Italianos, the Zoronichs, The Doulas', the Papadopuolos'.

20 yrs ago came the Ngyun, the Chens, the Luus'.

Is really going to be so bad that, in the next generations time, the Mahohomeds, the Mubaraks and their families settle in the suburb. And our grandchildren play together?


June 22. 2011 08:30 PM

Ad astra reply

I've just posted If you are not scared about the effects of global warming, you ought to be.


Ad astra reply

June 22. 2011 08:37 PM


Ad re your comment at 1.57 "he is already burning"
Here is some disapproval for Abbott from the Oz

Its failure to oppose the measures flies in the face of the Opposition Leader's position the day after the May 10 budget, when he said the government was punishing aspirational Australians


June 22. 2011 08:44 PM

Patricia WA

macca, it's not even that bad now!   I live in a good suburb in Freo and walking the dog around its leafy streets I see quite a few little black,  brown and possibly brindle, kids going to school in the morning with Mum or Dad looking and sounding much the same as the many white kids they seem to be mingling with. With the old 'apartheid' type mind sets of the past being phased out it's hard to see how 'racism' will persist here.  It's no longer acceptable for anyone to be openly racist.  The hooligan 'black bashing' and even the hidden snide and ignorant stuff maybe will persist with some groups, a bit like the criminal underbelly of any society.

Racism related to boat people, I can't understand that, and I feel that FS may be a bit off course with that.  I'm pretty sure the Greens and the activists would have the same impractically idealist response if it were indeed Burmese refugees who were paying people smugglers to get them here.   Just happens they don't have the cash, or the rellies already here to come up with it.

Patricia WA

June 22. 2011 09:41 PM



Tune: Taxman/George Harrison/Beatles

One, two, three, four,
One, two, one two three four!

Let me tell you how it will be:
It's all about no-one but me!

Should my seat numbers be too small,
I'll never accept that at all!
'Cos I'm the Stunt Man!
Yeah, I'm the Stunt Man!

If you say yes then I'll say no!
And I'll say stop when you say go!
You say Giddup then I'll say whoa!
If you say quick then I'll say slow!


'Cos I'm the Stunt Man!
Yeah, I'm the Stunt Man!

Don't ask me what I do that for, (Ah-ha, Julia Gillard)
I'm only gonna do it more! (Ah-ha, Mister Swan)
'Cos I'm the Stunt Man!
Yeah, I'm the Stunt Man!

I'm only gonna tell you once,
I'll never stop my cunning stunts!
'Cos I'm the Stunt Man!
Yeah, I'm the Stunt Man!

And it's all about no-one but me.

Captcha Bingo: willpurge orlddc

They're parasitizing my gerbils I think.


June 22. 2011 10:26 PM

D Mick Weir

NormanK @ June 22. 2011 11:32 AM
thanks for that link to David Day's Rescue us from this madness Good spotting I like it.

Re the link to Bowens statement
'... the government recently expanded to 14 750 places per year over the next four years,'  I am now aware of an increase Smile

The new edition of Refugee and Humanitarian Issues: Australia's Response

umm, sad to say the department is a bit slow on this. When I downloaded the document and started skimming through I came to a photo of Amanda Vanstone and nearly regurgitated my delicious dinner.

D Mick Weir

June 22. 2011 10:30 PM

D Mick Weir

TT @ June 22. 2011 12:23 PM
What would be your own 'solution' to the AS 'problem'?

The short answer: something similar to that suggested in the last para of David Day's Rescue us from this madness that NormanK linked to above.

I will come back later (or maybe a day or two depending on other life intrusions) with a more meaty response.

D Mick Weir

June 22. 2011 10:35 PM

D Mick Weir

Patricia WA,
I haven't had the chance yet to follow he links you provided (that SBS doco/reality show absorbed a fair chunk of time tonight)

You have raised some good points that I will ponder a bit further.

Off to do the washing up and a couple of other chores (groan)

D Mick Weir

June 22. 2011 10:38 PM

D Mick Weir

macca @ June 22. 2011 08:25 PM
whoa I hope you are not right with that assessment but fear you may be.

I am not as cynical as that and do hold some hope that the better side of our nature will win through.

D Mick Weir

June 23. 2011 09:34 AM



I was born and grew up in the Swan Valley. A multicultural area before the term was even coined. In think of all the vignerons who lived there we were one of about 5 families of  Australian descent. Every other family were European/Meditteranian immigrants. All us kids went to the same school....two teachers, two classrooms 50/60 kids. It really was a wonderful childhood. Quite simply, the hate wasn't there. The New Australians, as immigrants were called in those days, were needed to help build a country. And  they did.

What I see now is that the hate media, and their political allies, are deliberately formenting a divisive racism in this country. Not because of strongly held beliefs but to further a political agenda. They have worked out that the percentage of the vote they need to get over the line lies in the inherent racism of middle Australia. It's an insidiuos campaign. A creeping evil, if you will, and it is working. From what I have seen every story seems to end with the statement;

" Well I'm glad you have stopped beating your wife and children.....but?"

People who I know to be intelligent, thoughtful and generous have developed, if not a blind hatred, a harsh indifference, to the plight of refugees. This is plan the hate architects have implemented. It is working. It chills me to the bottom of my soul. That this country has come to this saddens me. We can only blunt the hate.

As we had relatives living in Coogee I have great memories of fish and chips, on the foreshore, from the original Ciccorellos. Never tasted as good...ever.


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