Surprise, surprise …

Not very long ago, during the annual meltdown into the pleasantly torpid stasis that is the great Aussie January holiday time, Peter van Onselen zapped out this Tweet:

From van Onselen, that was quite, well, shocking. More especially because just two days before he had tweeted:

Peter van Onselen…@vanOnselenP

The way the government has kept faith with voters up until now should give them the political capital they need to sell the Medicare cuts... 13 January 2015

While the Tweeps suggested he was in ‘irony font’ with that one (no, I don’t believe ‘PvO’ can ‘do’ irony either), in between the two tweets, Peter had dashed off a few others:

Peter van Onselen @vanOnselenP Jan 13

The govt start 2015 with a move putting the focus on health...consistently polled as a Labor strength. Plus the new minister is on holidays

Peter van Onselen @vanOnselenP Jan 14

What is wrong with this government, it is like watching a circus...

Peter van Onselen @vanOnselenP Jan 14

Yesterday the PM was explaining why the Medicare rebate cut is necessary, today they are backing down on it. They are SO incompetent...

Peter van Onselen @vanOnselenP Jan 14

Me: "what's going on?" (re Medicare rebate). Liberal MP: "How would I know, I'm only a minister". Adults in charge...

And two days after his ‘concern’ that he hadn’t made his apparent position on the government ‘clear’, came these:

Peter van Onselen @vanOnselen Jan 17

Yep this is what happened. Others didn't want to make the damaging change, PM insisted. He was warned, didn't listen.

Peter van Onselen @vanOnselenP Jan 17

There is a staggering amount of discontent with the PM amongst his colleagues. Day one back at work and hitting the phones...not pretty!

There’s general agreement in the Twitterverse, at least from more progressively minded Tweeps, that van Onselen is the weathervane, the cut-tin mainstream media rooster perched on the roof peak of Australia’s fourth-estate political commentary. Indeed, van Onselen oscillates on his rooftop so rapidly that it seems the only way to determine his ‘speaking position’ is unfailingly to remind ourselves of upon whose rooftop he roosts (Rupert’s of course: Sky, The Australian, the Sunday Times).

Take a look, though, at just a few of the columns van Onselen had written for The Australian during December and January and one just might suspect that van Onselen had ‘turned’:

    • December 3, 2014 ‘Respect the only answer for Abbott’: ‘Only a popular and well respected prime minister can mount a recovery for the government now, given the dire state of the polls.’
    • December 13, 2014 ‘Peta Credlin has become the story and that’s bad news for Tony Abbott’: ‘The volunteer firefighter, surf lifesaver and pollie pedalling fundraiser, who could almost always win over anyone he met, now seems to be living in a prime ministerial bubble …’
    • December 23, 201: ‘Tony Abbott’s reshuffle a rebuke for Julie Bishop’: ‘The Bishop slight within Abbott’s reshuffle didn’t end there ... Make no mistake, this was a deeply politically calculated and calibrated reshuffle …’
Well, almost suspect a turning — until you read this consummate bit of van Onselen sleight-of-hand: ‘ALP needs big-picture manifesto, not small-target strategy’, which, along with his sage advice to the ALP, includes these kinds of statements:

However dysfunctional Abbott’s team has been and continues to be, it pales into insignificance alongside what occurred under Rudd-Gillard-Rudd …

Bowen’s knowledge of financial issues and governance combined with Leigh’s outside-the-box thinking just might lift Labor’s economic credibility …

Really? Pales into insignificance?

Really? Lift Labor’s economic credibility? Not evidenced-based statements, these.

Van Onselen has been, and I think still is, a cake-and-eat-it academic who plays at journalism, or perhaps vice versa. His journalism, so-called, has always been and remains biased towards the LNP and its ideology, positions and policies. But he writes and speaks from a pose of academic distance. This translates into the false-prophet scourge of political journalism today — assuming that a position of so-called journalistic objectivity is achieved by putting the all-omnipotent boot into one’s own side, when perceived as needed, while measuring out in teaspoonfuls sage advice on how that home side can improve. Like the prime minister whose advisor he once was (when Abbott was Workplace Relations Minister in the Howard government), van Onselen is, while taking on the role of providing professional and fair reportage or commentary, the spinning weathercock incapable of offering his own political position for scrutiny, incapable of acknowledging that he is, indeed and inevitably, partisan. And that way reader distrust must inevitably lie.

Van Onselen’s almost naive posture of objective commentary could never hide his inevitable, default-position wish for a successful conservative government — even though he’s been pretty busy throwing Tony under a bus for quite some months. No, van Onselen hasn’t turned, but like a number of the fourth estate who gave Abbott and the LNP an unexamined free ride into power and the people a federal government not worth the examining, let alone the living with, he seems, variously of course, open-mouthed in surprise at what collusion in deceiving a citizenry and changing a government has wrought and, apparently, he has been fearful enough to show it. But not responsible, of course. Never that.

The 19th of January this year marked the 500th day of the Abbottian era of federal politics and political journalism.

While Peter van Onselen was spinning away, how have other political journalists fared in the now 500-plus days? In Peter Hartcher and Mark Kenny — two Fairfax journalists who in this first half of the Abbottian reign assumed that a calm, consistent, steady and above all ‘adult’ period of governance had been ushered in on the 7th September 2013 — we can spy a reluctant shift becoming more emphatic over time.


In ‘Abbott’s in, now what?’ (November 30 2013):

The Abbott government has been quietly putting in place processes for a substantial agenda of economic reform. But none of that is yet showing results. In the interim, the news is full of Abbott's poorly managed events and Pyne's broken promise.

His government wants Australians to go to their Boxing Day barbecues remarking on how the new government is in charge, and looking after things that matter to ordinary people. They have a lot of work to do.

In ‘Tony Abbott choked by lack of vision, not ideology’ (June 21 2014):

… it was Hewson’s negative model of politics – how to lose an election by telling the people the truth – that had a greater impact on his apprentice than any of his positive lessons. Abbott so far has resisted the urge to utter a word of criticism of his former employer …

Besides, Abbott is not taking a vindictive approach to critics from his own side of politics.

In ‘Abbott unmasked: ideological warrior marches to the right’ (September 6 2014):

Abbott has set out to resume the Thatcher-Reagan revolution where Howard left off. He intends to advance it to a new apogee … To date, he has failed to take the country with him. But he has only just begun.

In ‘Tony Abbott’s national security address a siren call to the nation’ (February 26 2015):

By choosing to foster fear and division, by failing to embrace truly meaningful security recommendations such as a gun crackdown, Abbott has inadvertently exposed his weakness, not his strength. If we withdraw the benefit of the doubt, we see a failing leader merely posturing on national security in a sad effort to hold his job.

In ‘PM Tony Abbott’s “positive” poll shows he’s a dead man walking’ (March 2 2015):

Tony Abbott's supporters will claim today's poll as proof that there is life in his prime ministership yet.

Only a superficial reading can support this conclusion. In truth, it shows that it is already dead.


In ‘Abbott is a new man, but the left can’t see it’ (September 14 2013):

The truth is, Abbott in government is likely to be populist, political and pragmatic, rather than right-wing, reactionary and regressive.

In ‘Abbott in China shows skills beyond his years’ (April 10 2014):

But Abbott has spent a political career surprising those who underestimate the power of his intelligence, his people skills (funnily enough), and perhaps most importantly, his directness.

In ‘Abbott weak on home front, but a lion abroad’ (September 26 2014):

Despite his promise of smaller government and a smaller country, it has been Abbott's face-to-face relationship building and his deft leverage of Australia's Security Council presence, that has defined his administration's greatest heights – such as they are.

In ‘Abbott’s choice: change or face the axe’ (January 30 2015):

In a succession of dud decisions, their PM's gone quietly rogue, unburdened by the normal checks against gross error built into the system.

It’s the surprise at a failing Abbott, but even more the gravitas of the now-constant admonishing from some political journalists who before the 2013 Federal election failed to examine the kind of Abbottian government we were likely to get that … well … surprises. Never mind ‘don’t write crap.’ I just want to holler: ‘How in the name of every billion words poured onto the hapless heads of the previous Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government, not to mention on the heads of the Independent seers Windsor and Oakeshott, who detailed so fully what would come with an Abbott-led government, could YOU not see this coming?!!

I said to a mate recently that I was trying a look at whether and, if so, how Australian political journalists had managed to see through their own bias ‘for’ the Abbottian government and question its people and policy directions across its thus far brief era of custody. The mate’s response was that I should also consider ‘who cares?’ (implying himself).

So let’s consider who does care. Who cares whether political journalists and especially the press gallery, with noses pressed so closely to the ever-murkier glass of the chamber where the House of Reps sits, might have come to any realisation of what many have called their pre-election years of collusion or complicity or betrayal — or even treason?

Well I do.

And so, probably, do you, and every person who reads online blogs in Oz analysing the political state of the nation from a ‘progressive-ish’ point of view.

And every person of any and all ages and demographics who hit the streets, often for the first time in their lives, in the countless citizen protests, marches, demonstrations, sit-ins, vigils, lock-ins and lock-downs that erupted within three months of the Abbott government’s election and ceaselessly continue. Jonathan Green, host of ABC RN’s Sunday Extra, on the 14th December 2014 and in his last program for the year, ‘The Year That Was’, introduced a discussion segment with Melbourne-based playwright, activist and Guardian Australia columnist Van Badham this way:

There's a booming protest culture in Australia with almost as many people taking to the streets as the Vietnam protests of the sixties.

Green begins the segment suggesting that one way 2014 could be described is as ‘The year of protest’. Van Badham, in a brief but startlingly complete overview of protest activity across Australia in 2014, describes that parade of protest as a ‘carnival’ and pinpoints the use of social media as its vital and growing resource. (The Green and Badham discussion runs from 1 min 50 sec to 7 min 16 sec.)

Add, too, to those who care, every person who has been picking up in ever-increasing numbers on independent and ‘citizen’ online media outlets as they have grown ever-more dissatisfied with the fourth estate, this phenomenon being tracked especially by Margo Kingston’s No Fibs and David Donovan’s Independent Australia. (Very worthwhile reading lies at both links.)

Then add some well-known commentators on the state of Australian media.

Andrew Elder cares. Elder has been continuing his severe school for the serious reconstruction of recalcitrant political journalists all through the Abbottian era, handing out praise when considering it due and biting off those typing fingers considered fiddling about with irrelevance when not. Or savaging those media organisations, especially Fairfax (and no doubt soon the ABC), whom he considers have sunk to hiring the inept and avoiding the oncoming ‘brightest and best’ of future political journalism.

Tim Dunlop, eminently accessible as commentator on the media, cares, recently offering in ‘Is media objectivity an outdated mode?’, quite the most readable re-expression of the debate on the consequences of so-called objectivity and balance that has raged for decades across western journalism.

Dunlop compares two articles ‘reporting’ on Abbott’s Monday 23 February speech on national security (in front of six Australian flags): one by Michele Grattan and the other by Lenore Taylor.

About these he states:

… you could argue I am comparing chalk and cheese in that Taylor's piece is labelled analysis while Grattan's specifically isn't, and that's fair enough.

The bigger point, though, is: what even is the point of the sort of “straight” reporting Grattan has produced?

By striving to be "objective" her article is actually biased towards Mr Abbott's position. How does that help anyone? Except Mr Abbott, of course.

The bottom line is that governments and parties and various interests groups spend vast fortunes finding ways to manipulate information and public opinion. (All those flags behind Mr Abbott on Monday didn't appear by accident.)

Worse, the media is too often complicit in the manipulation.

Well, of course.

(And by the way, Hartcher’s pieces are labelled ‘analysis’ and Kenny’s ‘comment’. You spot the difference.)

Dunlop concludes by arguing that now social media can be the ‘journalist’s friend’ if they can bravely ‘own their own positions’ because ‘engagement with the audience is the new objectivity’. How? Because on social media a reader can demand the contexting of facts which, when only merely reported, can be intrinsically biased towards one side of politics or the other.

Last words to van Onselen:

Peter van Onselen @vanOnselenP March 3

I have to say, Tony Abbott is doing a good job of showing contrition on the GP copayment. Taking blame himself for the lack of consultation

Peter van Onselen @vanOnselenP March 3

.@MjrElvisNewton can I hire you to work your way through the right who slam me as a leftie to tell them all I'm actually one of them?

No, still don’t think Peter can do irony.

So, can we smell chunks of the political fourth estate on the run?

Or is it the scent of those who refused to see but — surprise, surprise — are now open-eyed and so very disappointed?

Are some turning?

What do you think?

About @j4gypsy

We hope you enjoy Jan's excellent piece on the changing media approach to Tony Abbott. Has the media turned against him or are the journalists, as Jan suggests, just 'surprised' and now frustrated that he has not turned out as they had hoped? Please let us know what you think. We know you won't be surprised but why are the journalists?

Next week we continue the media theme with 2353 examining the question 'Does social media influence politics?'

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15/03/2015Jan What a pleasure it is see you back in print on [i]TPS[/i]. You delight us with your account of ‘the turning’ of several prominent journalists, prominent not because of their outstanding journalistic talent, but because of their likeness to weather vanes. Their ‘turning’ then might be fleeting, as they swing in one direction, then another, at times in rapid succession, as the political winds blow in their characteristically flukey way. What is behind this? Are they genuinely surprised about how this grown-up, adult Abbott government and its leader have turned out in just over a year? If that were so, the only explanation would be that their eyes and ears were closed all through those years Abbott was in opposition; indeed during all through those years since Abbott entered university politics in his youth. That explanation is plausible, but would portray a blindness and deafness that no respectable journalist would be comfortable to wear. More likely, their dislike for the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments was such that they wished for relief from what the deemed to be a chaotic administration. They believed Abbott’s rhetoric about how he would provide a government that was competent and trustworthy. They ignored the overt signs of Abbott’s disingenuousness and lack of competence to manage a $1.5 trillion economy. The signs were there, but overlooked. Many of us wrote warnings about Abbott’s unsuitability for government because all he knew about was the strategies for opposition. The warnings were ignored. Now they are seeing their predictions fail and are realizing their man as a dud. Some will continue to talk up any small sign of an Abbott recovery, but will find it is evanescent. Disappointment will pile upon disappointment until the inevitability of Abbott’s removal is starkly staring them down. Only them will they turn on him with a vengeance.


15/03/2015Greetings Comrades, Sorry about my long absence. I really have lost my mojo for writing over the last while, since the end of my epic and inevitably doomed search for my friend Seth in Hawaii ... It has seemed just so sad, his dying alone and unnoticed, while his brilliant website shone on for a while, until it went down for non-payment ... Fortunately we were able to pay the Service Provider to get it back up, and the man Seth and I both wanted to "inherit" the site has been able to do so, so Seth's work lives on through it and the site will flourish and expand into an indefinite future. So it's not all bad, but it still seems very sad to me, made me think of the futility of Life ... And there is the infinitely sad situation of people on Death Row everywhere, made poignant by the two Australians in Indonesia. And it's the thinking of those many who support and applaud the death penalty, even here in Australia, that horrifies me. And the unspeakable attacks by Israeli forces on the people of Gaza, and their unquestioning support by the mighty United States ... The eternal conflict between factions of people everywhere ... the preoccupation with war, that means that Submarines will cost us scores of billions while aid for Vanuatu is to be just $5 millions - and the world's resources are raped to feed the military madness that I thought in the 70s would be tamed by the end of the millennium. The stupidity and cupidity of our kind, wilfully destroying the only world our future generations will ever have ... And it's all because of the misinformation and disinformation and spin and pure crap that the Murdoch-compliant Media feed the people of the world, instead of real educational information that would mean that Australia in particular would be in sane hands. The world would be realistically addressing climate change. Collapse of resources. Population control. Scientific achievement would rank beyond sporting prowess in popular acclaim. The spirit at rallies would not just go home and dissipate, it would organise and clench its fist and if necessary STRIKE against the dismantling of NBN & Gonski & workers' rights. Well Comrades you can see how likely that is! Yes Jan, this Puffesser Van Nonselen, he is right at the middle of it. I have crossed swords with him in times past for the very sort of weathercockery to which you refer. Totally self-righteous, runs with hare and hunts with hounds, pretensions to expertise and that's about what they are too. He and his ilk will never admit their disgraceful complicity in bringing down *J*U*L*I*A* and now seem to be bumbling about not knowing what line they should be taking - for like the Abborrrtt Government they seem to have thought everything would come out all right when the Born-to-Rule Liberals got in. So Abborrrtt hasn't a clue, neither do MSM. My mood will improve, I'm sure, as the next Federal election approaches, provided that the Labor leadership gingers up the argument. Foley's good. But Oh how the Media suckhole Baird. Come on Labor NSW. VENCEREMOS!


16/03/2015Jan It is unbelievable how the MSM ignored Abbott's behaviour when he was OL. All the gaffes he made during the election were overlooked, although he had a past history of gaffes, and has continued since. The media played three-wise monkeys and now that they can't help but 'see and hear', they are at last having to speak. Everything they dismissed has simply been repeated again and again. I think they are not turning against Abbott as disappointed in him. Whether they believed all his talk that he would change, that he was sorry, we don't know but if they did they are too gullible to wear the title 'journalist'.


16/03/2015On another issue, I was talking with my doctor today and she said the 'co-payment' was a diversion. The real issue (and the real money-saver for the government) is the freeze on the Medicare Benefits Schedule which Abbott has now extended to July 2018. The history of it appears to go something like this. The last indexation rise for scheduled fees and benefits was in November 2012. In the 2013-14 budget, Swan announced that indexation would be moved from November to July but the next rise would be July 2014, not 2013 (a 20 month freeze). But in May 2014 the Hockey budget, as well as announcing the $7 co-payment, extended the scheduled fee and benefit freeze until July 2016. And then in December last year when the abandonment of the co-payment was announced there was one little sentence in the press release put out by Abbott and Dutton: [quote]Additionally Medicare fees for all services rovided by GPs, medical specialists, allied health practitioners, optometrists and others will remain at their current level until July 2018.[/quote] So there is now in place a 5 year and 8 month freeze on any increases in the Medicare benefits. No doubt intended to force all doctors (not just GPs) to move away from bulk-billing.

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17/03/2015Folks If you had any residual doubts about whether Joe Hockey was up to the job of federal Treasurer, they would have been resolved had you watched Q&A last night. If you missed it, read Peter Martin’s article in the [i]SMH: Joe Hockey outclassed on Q&A, by an economist.[/i] Considering that he is federal Treasurer, Hockey’s performance was lamentable. Compared with the other panelists, notably John Daley, Director of the Grattan Institute; and ACOSS CEO, Cassandra Goldie; Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen; and CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kate Carnell, all of whom performed admirably, Hockey’s answers were confused and confusing, his factual understandings were flawed, and his demeanour was of a man under great pressure and out of his depth. Joe is clearly not up to the job of federal Treasurer. Here are some Twitter comments made during the session:

Florence nee fed up

17/03/2015Must see, recording todays Press Club. Ged Kearney and Kate Carnell.

Florence nee fed up

17/03/2015Disastrous for this mob, following on last night's Four Corners and Q&A


18/03/20151. Beyond Green Plans To Disrupt Tony Abbott's Kirribilli House 'Lifestyle Choice' Chris Graham. 17 Mar 2015 The activist group that crashed George Brandis’ email has Tony Abbott in their sights, after he pledged support for moving First Nations people off their homelands. 2. Here's How Hardcore Right Wing Groups Campaign For Tony Abbott: Now you can too. Mark Di Stefano. March 17, 2015, at 8:00 a.m. A right wing group has admitted to deluging Liberal party MPs with tens of thousands of emails in a sustained effort to show prime minister Tony Abbott has support among the party’s traditional, conservative “base”. The emails were sent through an easy-to-use tool[b]*[/b] on the website of the pro-Christian, anti-gay marriage pressure group, Australian Family Association. It is available to anyone and lets people send identical messages to dozens of Liberal politicians at once. [b]*[/b] 3. Government can’t read the crossbench, or the people: higher ed changes fail again Geoffrey Robinson, Deakin University The defeat of the Abbott government’s higher education reform package in the Senate adds another line to its long list of policy failures. 4. Pyne Playing Poor Politics John Kelly March 15, 2015 Really, there are times when I cannot believe what I am hearing from various members of our federal government. Never did I suspect that the present level of stupidity and incompetence could be so endemic within this extraordinary collection of misfits and idiots. 5. Christopher Pyne facing rumblings of dissent in home state of SA Mark Kenny, Matthew Knott. March 17, 2015 - 7:02PM A legislative slap in the face on university reform may be the least of Christopher Pyne's problems with voters in his home state of South Australia threatening to truncate his career as a Liberal MP. 6. Abbott's lifestyle choice jibe — no gaffe Laurence Keim 17 March 2015, 3:30pm To call Prime Minister Tony Abbott's "lifestyle choice" comment another gaffe ignores the operating system under which his Government runs.,7490 7. Baird on the wire: Why no-one likes privatisation Bob Ellis. 17 March 2015 Keating, Kennett, Kerin, Keneally, Bligh, Napthine and Newman all lost office because they privatised things, or proposed to, and it now seems Baird might do so too, if the recent polling is accurate. It is worth asking why this is so.,7488 8. The start of a #VoteWomen campaign Georgina Dent. Mar 17, 2015 9:32AM Why is the inequality of 51% of Australians treated as a side issue? It is a pressing social and economic concern that is continually overlooked by mainstream politics. It’s time to change this, starting with the upcoming NSW election.


18/03/2015Craig Emerson tweeted last night that Pyne & Ciobo were incorrect when they claimed in Parliament that he supported their de-regulation proposals. Below is an article link (#9) from January where Dr Emerson, a former Minister for Higher Education, argues his case 9. Another, more rigorous path to uni reform Craig Emerson. January 5, 2015 It does not follow that what is good for universities as also good for students as consumers of higher education... Supporters of the federal government's bill to deregulate university fees are branding opponents a bunch of political opportunists. Reform, according to the government and its allies in the Group of Eight sandstone universities, necessarily entails allowing universities to set their own fees; no alternative pathway to reform exists. 10. Drawing positives from negatives: looking back at the higher education reforms Stephen Parker. 18 March 2015, 6.37am AEDT During the entire fiasco, the package was amended in ways which would make the proposed system more expensive to the taxpayer than the current system. This revealed that, at their core, the measures were about ideology and not budget savings. They were about strengthening competition and private markets in higher education. 11. Universities need to reform, but Christopher Pyne's compromise is way off the mark George Morgan. March 18, 2015 - 9:13AM Politics can be a nasty old can of worms, as Chris Pyne has discovered. His original higher education reforms were slated to cut $3 billion from the deficit but the bill rejected by the Senate on Tuesday night would, if passed, have cost the public purse $1.3 million. So much for fiscal rectitude: it was far more important to save face. But even this last-ditch compromise failed and when he declared "You couldn't kill me with an axe" we found it hard to believe him. 12. The Abbott Government remains set in the old, broken ways of doing politics Dennis Atkins. March 18, 2015 12:00AM While Pyne’s ability to declare black is white and any dissent from that view is not his problem is without peer in national politics, his chutzpah this week is a perfect case study of the core problem in the way we run Australia.... Politics is more tribal and shows no signs of moving back to the sensible centre. Debate is a “with me or against me” shouting match, conducted with vacuous slogans and repetitive talking points.


18/03/201513. Focus should now be uni funding certainty Andrew Norton 17 March, 2015. 12:08pm Splitting the higher education bill is the right strategy, but with the fee deregulation legislation now doomed in the Senate, the government should defer it, hold an inquiry, and make certainty in university funding levels the priority. 14. What are the greatest challenges facing Australia? Kaye Lee. March 17, 2015 What are the greatest challenges facing Australia? When allocating limited resources to best satisfy unlimited needs and wants, this is the question we must ask. Is ISIS a greater threat than climate change?


18/03/201515. Will there be grit in the new Abbott gravy? Jack Waterford. March 17, 2015 - 8:18PM It is hard to see how the intergenerational report, given its impact so far, or a tax reform paper due at the end of the month can set a completely new strategy in motion. Or that some new polarising front, say on industrial relations, could make for a new start. Or make it successful, given that it must somehow galvanise ministers who failed to sell any idea of austerity last time, and inspire a backbench that has had few grounds to support fresh risk-taking. Or to terrify and intimidate obdurate senators. Or to woo back a generally unimpressed, and by now very cynical, electorate. 16. Balance of cognitive, social and emotional skills needed to succeed Ross Gittins. March 18, 2015 - 11:25AM My job brings me into regular contact with the econocrats at the top of the Reserve Bank, Treasury and other departments. Let me tell you, they're the brightest of the bright. I have to keep telling myself this as I struggle to keep up with them. All of them could hold down jobs as professors, or earn a lot more money in business.... These days, most have PhDs - though it's disturbing that, so far in his time as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has relinquished the services of five economist department secretaries: Dr Martin Parkinson, Dr Don Russell, Blair Comley, Dr Ian Watt and now Dr Paul Grimes. Not sure we have that many brains to spare.


18/03/201517. Tony Abbott: A leadership crisis or a leadership vacuum? Georgina Dent. March 18, 2015 9:45AM Beating opponents is one thing in politics, and a patently important thing come election time. But, leading a government and a nation, is another thing entirely. Tony Abbott’s fixation on the former was pointed out by Liberal MP Dennis Jensen who openly questioned Abbott’s leadership ahead of the spill. 18. TPP could expose Australia to massive health costs, negotiator says ABC AM. 18 March, 2015 Dr Ruth Lopert says if Australia concedes, it will cost tens, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars to the government....The taxpayer will be paying more and ultimately if this affects the long-term sustainability of the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) that will likely be pushed onto consumers through higher co-payments. 19. Trans-Pacific Partnership: Trade deal could force Australian Government to spend millions to subsidise medicines, expert warns Michael Vincent. 18 March, 2015 Australians value the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and they are prepared to fight for it... Dr Ruth Lopert is now an adjunct Professor at George Washington University's Department of Public Health and has warned a new trade deal being negotiated in secret – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – could force the Australian Government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidise medicines. The TPP covers the US, Australia and 10 other countries making up 40 per cent of the world's economy. "The objective is to prolong monopolies on medicines and thereby maintain prices. While the medicine has a monopoly in the market the price can be determined by the seller," Dr Lopert said.

Janet (j4gypsy)

18/03/2015Hullo Swordsters. Thank you Ad for your kind welcome back and your comments. I agree wholeheartedly with you on the most plausible reason for the journalistic spinning which is not quite turning, after all: ‘More likely, their dislike for the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments was such that they wished for relief from what the deemed to be a chaotic administration.’ And given that Mark Kenny in particular grabs, even in this last week or two, at the slightest opportunity, despite his fear and disappointment, to repaint Abbott as a ‘possible’ once more, no, I don’t think for one second he’s turned. Yes, TT, a compliant media is a lazy and dangerous element in any political framework. And with, for me, the exceptions of the [i]Guardian[/i] and the very odd journo in the Fairfax and even the Murdoch stable, the danger lies severely in the work of so much Australian media (and just don’t get me started on broadcast journalism in aural and visual mediums). Ken, I agree with you as with Wes: it remains difficult to understand the attraction for some political journalists in aligning so markedly with one party and becoming, eventually, mere propagandists. The changing nature of journalism over many, many decades has something to do with it – and might remain worth a bit of further exploration. Thank you for having me back. :-)


19/03/2015 Abbott - the Magician. It's worth a read. BTW - welcome back Jan ;-)


19/03/2015Many, many happy returns of today Dear Ad astra!


19/03/2015Yesterday in QT Abborrrtt queried to plaintively to Labor, "What would YOU do?" Uhlmann on ABC wound up his report: "Seems like a fair question!" I specifically don't remember anyone in the MSM ever pressing Abborrrtt for details of what he would do if/when they shoehorned him into power. Let alone 18 months out.

Janet (j4gypsy)

19/03/2015Happy Birthday Ad Astra! May there be many more and may you have a lovely celebratory day :-). And yes, TT, I heard the Uhlmann comment at the end of that program too and had exactly the same reaction - partisan much! But never willing to own and declare it.

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19/03/2015Janet (j4gypsy) Thank you for your comments, and your kind words. It’s so good to read one of your stylish pieces again. We hope we will see you here again soon. Like you, and so many others who come here, I am despairing of much of the mainstream media. While articles in [i]The Guardian[/i] and the Fairfax media are more balanced, we still have to suffer the onslaught of the Murdoch media, where even the less strident articles are tinged with innuendo and subtle insults directed towards Labor. The Fifth Estate and the social media are now having a counterbalancing effect. Politicians and the Fourth Estate are listening, with apprehension. And thank you for your birthday greetings. To celebrate, I have just now posted the second in a ‘If I were Bill Shorten’ series: [i]If I were Bill Shorten – on a vision for the nation[/i]. Our country needs an alternative to the appalling Abbott government, which has turned out to be the very antithesis of its promise of a grown up, adult government that is competent and trustworthy.

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19/03/2015TT Thank you dear TT for your birthday greetings. You have fine memory, always remembering my annual advance up the ladder of years. I'm having a quiet day, with a dinner with my beloved M tonight. Kids have been ringing in their greetings since very early.

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19/03/2015TT I too am having difficulty ascertaining where Chris Uhlmann really stands. While he, along with most other journalists, declined to cross-examine Abbott on his agenda when he was in opposition, he is insisting Bill Shorten tell us his. I for one would like him to articulate it now, and stop trying to be a small target, which runs the risk of [i]him[/i] looking pathetically small himself. My views are in the piece I’ve posted just now on [i]TPS Extra[/i]: [i]If I were Bill Shorten – on a vision for the nation[/i].

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19/03/20152353 Abbott is a perfect target for caricature. He's an everlasting gift to satirists.

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19/03/2015Folks In case you missed it, there's a new post in the 'If I were Bill Shorten' series on [i]TPS Extra: If I were Bill Shorten - a vision for the nation[/i].


19/03/2015 Many happy return Ad Astra, may there be many more.

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19/03/2015Khtagh Thank you for your birthday greetings. It's good to see you again on [i]TPS[/i].

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19/03/2015Casablanca You have left us a wonderful spread to enjoy. I'm looking forward to enjoying your links tomorrow.


20/03/2015Now Abbott 'Godwin's' himself. The tradition is that the first to lower themselves to this level - loses the argument.

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20/03/2015Casablanca What great fodder you have provided for my next piece: [i]Does this nation deserve to be led by a buffoon?[/i]. Thank you!


21/03/2015Talk Turkey & Janet Yes, I second your remark about Chris Uhlmann's "seems like a fair question". Not a question, however fair, that was asked of Abbott. The MSM's rediscovery of the notion of opposition accountability is particularly galling to me because of its cynical usage of a real truth. "Oppositions should be examined shouldn't they? Did we forget to do that with Tony? Oh well, never mind now..." I think the media still carries a torch for Abbott. They're bewildered & a bit angry with all this ineptitude on display but stand ready to forgive Their Boy all.

Janet (j4gypsy)

21/03/2015Morning BSA Bob, and Ad. Bob, I think a couple of journos are now getting into that examination. The thing that strikes me about say Laura Tingle's "we actually are being governed by idiots and fools" (in 'Being governed by fools is not funny' ) or Lenore Taylor's 'The Abbott government is now in serious lipstick-on-a-pig mode.' (in Tony Abbott launches 'operation budget success', but it's just lipstick on a pig' ) is the derogatory descriptive terminology they're both prepared to use about the Abbott Govt. And that they seem completely unafraid to use it. Were they initially afraid? Were they so caught up in journalistic notions of balance that they couldn't betray some learned framework until the horror is so upon them. Has someone put something into the Press Gallery tea? Do they still know something we don't know? Who knows. But in some journalistic quarters in the last few days the 'turn' and the 'turn upon' is really becoming marked.


21/03/2015Janet, welcome back I think that the press gallery are waking up that sooner or later people will start asking serious questions of how did we get lumped with such a fool as Abbott as PM?. Pack mentality will soon reach black hole proportions as more & more Journalists get sucked into professional preservation statements like "we all knew, he was like this". As journalists start to demand "Bill tell us your plans & how you will fund them", some might actually ask why weren't the same questions asked of Abbott prior to the 2013 election, why didn't the so called journalist do their jobs? why are they now suddenly waking up to what their jobs are(when it suits them). The tide is really turning against Abbott, we know it is always group think with this lot so very few will stand by Abbott. Interesting times are afoot, just after the NSW elections would be my guess for serious rumblings to start.


21/03/2015A time for just one thing ! I have to say I was somewhat angered last night, when I saw Bob Hawke say that since Gough had forgiven Fraser, we ought to do the same…Now..I thought that a tad patronising to us citizens from one of the ‘elite” political class…The insult of the dismissal may have been made to Whitlam, but it was directed straight and true to us citizens of the state. It was not wholly and solely Whitlam’s feelings to assuage…and I would like to add that on that fateful day, when it was ‘touch and go’ whether there would be any kind of rioting on the streets…I think, in retrospect, that Whitlam made a mistake to ameliorate the rising outrage…I would go further to say that in my opinion, it was almost his sovereign duty to raise the ire of the masses to attack the Liberal party some of it’s more prominent members and overthrow that regime of “born to rule” tyranny. For in stopping that purge, he gave tacit approval to the resultant behaviour and hubris of all the leaders and policies of the LNP. to this day…Remembrance day , 1975, was the day this nation had a chance to politically “come of age”. The betrayal of social convention by Fraser , the undignified manner in which it was done, by the undignified people involved, did lay the foundation of knowledge within the right-wing of politics as to how far the public can be manipulated…how much pain can be applied to the body politic..and how the MSM. can be allied to it’s political propaganda..and we saw it with Tampa..with Iraq, Afganistan and all the refugees..and more locally, with the slandering and humiliation , once again , of a Labor leader in Julia Gillard. It was not Gough’s ‘insult” to be was the insult to the nation. This pattern of ‘half the job done’ can be seen through our history…with Eureka, the nose of the tyrant was only bloodied..resulting in a more militarised governance…with Ned Kelly, who conspired for a failed local uprising, which resulted in a closer tie of the Victorian police force to the political arm of governance…a problem Victoria has inherited to this day! has several other states…witness the Dunstan era and the surveillance of police commissioner Salisbury.. witness the “planted stooges” in many protest marches who would try to provoke the marchers into outrage so the police squads could then move in. So that day when Whitlam stood on the steps of Parliament House and said those witty lines and held his head high, when he gained a place immortal for the urbane language he used, he perhaps ought to instead had spoken some blunt words of revolution. For while we of the left talk reason and conciliation, the right-wing conspires and cooperates with the power of the international corporate / military to wage war and death and then despair on millions of citizens…of whose blood we see not a drop..of whose suffering the MSM. reports a confected glimpse..of whose refugees we now hear only a smuggled picture of despair…yet done with such arrogance of “right”, of “soverignty”, the glare of the exploding ordinance on those lost souls reflects back badly on our citizen body..we, the people of this lucky nation, have through the mendacious machinations of the LNP. and it’s mainstream media arm, been sold into the world of opportunist military adventurers…we now supply the arms and bullets that do unto others what we dread will one day be done unto us. Yes..Whitlam ought to have called for a rising of the people, because sadly, as history has shown so many times, by such action only, can a tyranny of one class over another be removed..and it indeed is known and accepted that only by “bleeding” does one comes “of age”. It is a tragic pity that all the bleeding this nation’s youth have done has been in the service of another national power, over another nation’s agenda, in another country far away.


21/03/2015Janet Thanks for the reply. I think Laura & Lenore are & have been pretty good at calling out Abbott. In the months prior to the 2013 election I used to think the LT girls were about the only mainstream journos worth reading. The media's attitude is changing, even they have to report on the government's actions & their consequences, at least a bit. But I still reckon they hold out a hope for some sort of recovery from Abbott. Then they can justify their earlier behaviour- "just a few teensy problems at the start but he's hit his stride now...".


21/03/2015William Shakespeare in his first play [i]Julius Caesar [/i]had Mark Antony say , "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him; The evil that men do lives after them: the Good is oft interred with their bones." Vale Malcolm Fraser. And I was actually saddened to hear of your death. But media reaction has been so universally fawning to your memory that I feel the need to reflect a little on your less benign influence on Australia, and bring a little "balance" back into perceptions of you. I acknowledge that you did much in your latter years to redeem yourself from the wrong you did to my nation. Some of your utterances indeed were truly truly stirring, bespeaking genuine altruism and, I suppose, penance. But I am remembering Gough: his tempestuous 2 short terms; the relief from the dour and inward-looking decades of Menzies and his dopey successors, from the Vietnam War to which so many of us were so bitterly opposed, from the continuing idiocy and hypocrisy of Australian official attitudes to "Red China", (we traded with them but denied them recognition); free university education and MediBank were hallmarks of his brief tenure. And then came you, Malcolm, in those first few years when egalitarian Australians felt proud of their nationhood. You were not unlike Abborrrtt in your harrying of Gough, and the Media then to him was not unlike the MSM of *J*U*L*I*A*s term. With the connivance of Johannes Bjelke-Petersen in appointing disingenuous "Independent Labor" Senator Field as replacement for a Queensland Labor Senator who had died - and in direct contravention of Parliamentary usage that dead Senators should be replaced with someone in the same Party as the deceased - you managed to gain control of the Senate. Then in further direct contravention of Parliamentary usage, [i]you used that shameful majority in the Senate to deny the elected Government supply,[/i] causing a constitutional crisis. This single act destroyed forever the respect for all Parliamentary usage, and with it essential decency that went with it. Today there are no such gentlemen's agreements, and the Parliament is forever the poorer for that. Then in a plot you hatched with the despicable John Kerr, Governor-General, you conspired to have Gough dismissed on the basis of your manufactured crisis. A trifecta of seditious acts which brought about Gough's demise, amid the most division ever created in Australian society. Then with Murdoch's help you stole the election you nefariously engineered, and with it, legitimacy in Australian politics. And in the following seven years you immeasurably diminished the future of the nation whose Government you usurped. Since then, ill-will has been the hallmark of relations between Left and Right, both within Parliament and throughout the wider community. You inflicted a wound that can never heal. You brought about the end of civility in this nation. Well, I acknowledge, in the years since then, you took up many good causes, changed your public perception. But meanwhile your protege Howard, in the hateful social situation engendered by your actions, was able to move Australian politics so far to the Right that by the end of his reign, you appeared to be positively benign. And in some cases, I'm sure you were genuine too. But good works can never atone for that great wrong you did to my people. And although my sense of rage, - which Gough encouraged, but which needed no encouragement - has weathered to regret, I have never relinquished my resentment at the way in which your born-to-rule sense of privilege, "legitimised" by you, and extended immeasurably under Howard and Abbott, has come to dominate Australian politics to this day. But given your obvious wish to be remembered fondly (or to get to Heaven!), and your adoption of decent attitudes leading to your resignation from the Liberal Party in 2009, and given that the past could never be undone anyway, I think I could have forgiven you outright in these last few years, [i]had you only apologised to Gough and to the People.[/i] Like many others I wrote to you on Twitter, asking you to just say sorry to Gough while he yet lived, but you insisted that you & Gough were friends now and apology wasn't needed. Well it was. Now all that is history; both of you are memories, and the opportunity for apology both to Gough and to the People gone forever. I don't understand why it is so hard for some people to say sorry. But I am myself sorry for you Mal, because for me you have chosen to die unforgiven.


21/03/2015TT.....well true and so damn well said...thanks.

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22/03/2015jaycee, TT You have expressed your views about Malcolm Fraser most eloquently. Many would concur. For him, history shows that while many Labor figures are willing to 'forgive' his behaviour while in government, as many Liberal supporters will [b]not[/b] 'forgive' his behaviour subsequently when he left the Liberal Party and condemned their immigration policies. He leaves mixed feelings in many hearts.

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22/03/2015BSA Bob How good to see you on [i]TPS[/i] again. More and more, journalists are turning against Abbott; some think his position is irredeemable. On [i]Insiders[/i] this morning, Niki Savva, previous press secretary to Peter Costello, left no doubt that the people want to see Abbott gone, and I suspect that she shares that view. Laura Tingle writes in the [i]AFR weekend:Being governed by fools is not funny[/i]. As Janet (j4gypsy) has said so eloquently in this piece, the tide is turning in the MSM. While some Murdoch people will hope for an 'Abbott recovery', and even John Howard thought that possible on [i]Insiders[/i] this morning, more and more realise that he is incapable of leading this nation. He will not, indeed cannot change. As the old saying goes: "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear'.

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22/03/2015Folks I've just now posted on [i]TPS Extra: Does this nation deserve to be led by a buffoon[/i]. Enjoy.

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22/03/2015Janet (j4gy[sy) When you read on [i]TPS Extra: Does this nation deserve to be led by a buffoon[/i], you will see how much your piece and your links have fed into it. Thank you. I had trouble yesterday in accessing Laura Tingle's piece, a retreat from Abbott and his collection of fools if ever I saw one, but I got into it on my iPhone, and hope i can copy some excerpts into comments on this piece.


22/03/2015Ad Thanks for the kind words. The media critique of Abbott has gone from almost non existent- a couple of drops swallowed up by the parched sand- to a torrent it's true. But I think they're still having trouble getting over Abbott, as it means getting over their own performances in the recent past. If that happens then I think we'll see serious criticism indeed. I see a residual willingness to take Abbott's part. Applying the If this were Labor (especially Julia) Test, a government that's reneged on the majority of its promises, can't get a budget passed in 10 months (governments pass budgets, it's what happens), massively increased the public debt etc, etc, the media's cries would be a lot louder than they are. But I don't want to sound curmudgeonly, things are definitely looking up, at least for progressive politics.

Florence nee Fed up

22/03/2015I suspect many did not expect Abbott to change, or be leader. I suspect many thought they could control him. More fool them.

Janet (j4gypsy)

22/03/2015Khtagh: big wave! Nice to catch you again however briefly. Yes, we sure do live in interesting times :-) Ad: I've been watching in delight for quite a while your re-entry into opinion writing: TPS Extra is terrific. And yes, every word in this last piece is one I agree with. I have heard it said that the double dissolution strategy is less idiocy and more another firm kick at the mutineering backbenchers as well as the Senate Independents. Would not surprise me at all.

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22/03/2015Janet (j4gypsy) Thank you for your kind comments. Who can tell what Abbott's motivations are? Maybe even he doesn't know; but I'd be sure Peta does!
T-w-o take away o-n-e equals?