Middle Australia: a new narrative for Labor?


Tucked away in one of the last Fairfax-Nielsen public opinion polls in mid-July is the intriguing fact that although the ALP was leading on a two party preferred basis, and Bill Shorten was preferred as Prime Minister to Tony Abbott, Abbott was ‘way ahead of Mr Shorten on the issue of “vision for Australia's future'’, leading 54 to 38 per cent’. It’s an odd finding in the sense that while voters appeared to think Abbott has a vision, a good number of them don’t seem to like it. It’s a worrying finding in that many voters don’t think Labor has a vision. A similar problem dogged Julia Gillard as Prime Minister: journalists said she didn’t have a ‘narrative’, a story that linked together Labor’s policies into a coherent vision.

I find this a bit surprising, because I’ve always assumed Labor does have a vision that has been summed up as a ‘fair go’. But apparently this vision either doesn’t resonate with voters or isn’t being adequately communicated. Or maybe Labor isn’t being true to it?

I can’t really comment on what appeals to voters; after all, they voted for Tony Abbott. A small but significant number of them have since changed their minds, at least for the time being, perhaps having seen in Joe Hockey’s budget just what vision the LNP actually has for Australia — free markets, small government and burgeoning inequality. It’s worth noting, however, that even when public opinion polls were looking dire for Labor before the last election, many of the policies of the Labor government were actually quite popular. Essential polling suggested that a majority of people would be prepared to pay more taxes for better government services, and spending on health and education, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the NBN all attracted majority support. More recently, polls suggest that a significant majority support putting a price on carbon. So there’s at least some evidence that voters approve of policies whereby government intervenes in the free market to even up the playing field, or to require polluters to pay for their pollution.

The result of the last election is therefore proof positive that Labor isn’t adequately communicating its message. Of course it was difficult for the party to do this when the Murdoch-owned print media was solidly — ridiculously, extravagantly — against them. Then there were the negatives: the changes of leadership, the disunity, the sense that the government was somehow not legitimate. Abbott’s relentless negativity was allowed to dominate the debate, leaving little free air for a more positive message from the government. Labor policy was suffocated in the public mind, partly by clever tactics by their enemies. But maybe the message wasn’t clear enough. It’s unfortunately not good enough to make logical arguments in favour of sensible policies; you have to grab the public imagination as well.

It’s hard to judge how Labor in opposition is selling its policies. At this point in the electoral cycle, conventional wisdom dictates that an opposition is not required to present alternatives to government proposals: their role is supposed to be to critique what the government puts forward. Anything they do say is unlikely to be given prominence in the mainstream media. Furthermore, Bill Shorten has said that the first year in opposition should be spent reforming the party; new policy development should follow on from this, the assumption being that new members should be able to contribute through reformed structures to what the party decides. I don’t entirely buy this. The party needs some basis on which to offer criticism; what they say is wrong with the government’s proposals should reflect Labor’s vision. Specific policy proposals can possibly wait until nearer the next election, but everything Labor members say — in parliament, in press conferences, in their electorates — should reflect Labor’s vision. So it’s worth being clear what that is.

There are also obviously some areas where the problem is not lack of stated vision, but failure to live up to it. The most glaring example is Labor’s policy on asylum seekers — check out this bitter cartoon showing Julia Gillard putting out ‘the light on the hill’ because ‘it attracts the boats’. Labor will struggle to present itself as a party that believes in a fair go, however expressed, while it continues to defend off-shore processing on Manus Island and Nauru. There is no easy solution to the asylum seeker dilemma, but the present position is poisoning any attempt by the party to portray itself as caring about people.

They aren’t safe on economic and social policy either. Labor in office faced the same budget realities that Joe Hockey is dealing so poorly with now and, if re-elected, would face them again if they continue to accept the prevailing economic doctrines. The revenue side of the budget is in crisis, with receipts falling below spending, even if, as under Wayne Swan, spending is also cut back. Think of the reaction to the Gillard government’s placing of single mothers on Newstart after their youngest child turned 8, even though this was already policy for new entrants into the scheme. Labor tried to run the line that being in work is better than being on welfare, and so it is, but this means creating more jobs, and government has only limited capacity to influence employment these days. Even if Labor can resist the pressure to promise balanced budgets, it will likely make cuts to existing entitlements, and while there is room for reduction of welfare for the well off, such as changes to superannuation, on past evidence there could be problems with fairness in selling a message either promising cuts or, much more justified but harder, increasing taxation.

I think, however, the problem with Labor’s vision is deeper than asylum seekers, or single mothers, or any other group they might in the future fail to treat fairly. Labor is, like most centre-left parties the world over, still wedded to a neo-liberal understanding of economics. After all, they were the government under Paul Keating that did most to usher in the era of the floating dollar, reduced tariffs, privatisation of public assets, lower taxation and spending cuts. At the heart of this set of policies is the belief that because wealth trickles down, measures that promote equality are only achieved at the expense of greater national prosperity. You can have a safety net, but only if you can afford it. Look at the whole thrust of the Hockey budget, with its narrative that welfare spending is out of control. It’s all very well to say that Australia is a rich country and can afford proper welfare but even when times are good it’s hard to convince people that they should give up something for someone else. It’s the old ‘you’re working to pay someone else’s welfare’ lifters and leaners line that Hockey is still using. Neo-cons can use the language of fairness too, when the trickle-down paradigm remains unchallenged.

Labor needs to come out decisively with a new story. Small government, tax cuts for the rich, competition in health and education are all recipes for greater wealth inequality — Labor must unequivocally reject all elements of such policies. To their credit, some Labor figures, such as Andrew Leigh and Jim Chalmers, are talking about wealth inequality and the destructive effects it has on communities. But the party as a whole still uses the language of ‘the fair go’ in ways that are compatible with the trickle-down theory. The ‘fair go’ addresses the people who lose out under neo-liberal capitalism, but doesn’t look at the rich — those who benefit completely disproportionately from the current economic arrangements. We need a story that values the real wealth producers in society.

Economists’ views, even in the mainstream, are changing. Many now agree that trickle-down economics doesn’t work for the public good. And a significant number are now arguing that prosperity and greater equality aren’t alternatives; in fact you can’t have one without the other. Rich people do not generate most of the jobs in society — small business and middle class consumers do. My consumption fuels your business; the more people in a position to consume, the more profitable your business. Instead of top-down economics, we need ‘middle-out’ economic policies.

According to Eric Liu & Nick Hanauer, its foremost proponents, ‘middle-out’ economics offers a new, or at least revived, explanation of where prosperity comes from — ‘a "circle of life"-like feedback loop between consumers and businesses’ that creates conditions ‘that allow both middle-class consumers and the businesses that depend on them to thrive in a virtuous cycle of increasing prosperity for all.’ This means that a prosperous economy revolves not around a tiny number of the very rich but around a great and growing number of middle-class consumers and small businesspeople. It follows from this, Liu and Hanauer argue, that:

  • Demand from the middle class — not tax cuts for the wealthy — is what drives a virtuous cycle of job growth and prosperity.
  • Rich business people are not the primary job creators; middle-class customers are. The more the middle class can buy, the more jobs we'll create.
  • A nation has the right and the responsibility to decide where the jobs created by its middle class will be located — here or off-shore.
  • Trickle-down has given us deficits and a decimated middle class.
  • Middle-out economics means investing in the health, education, infrastructure, and purchasing power of the middle class.
  • Middle-out economics marks the difference between what is good for capitalism broadly versus what protects the vested interests of a select group of capitalists narrowly — and it invests in the former.
You can read further explanation of this term here, and see what sort of policies arise from this view of how the economy actually works best for the community. Unsurprisingly, they include creating a truly progressive tax system, investing in the skills and health of the middle class, pushing for a fairer and more equitable split between workers and owners of the value created by enterprises, and investing strategically in the industries of the future.

Labor already has policies in most of these areas — though it needs to do more. But even more important, it needs a message that isn’t just about improving welfare, or even levelling up the growing inequality that arises from the unregulated free market. It needs a message that can’t be derailed by the cry of class war — however spurious that cry is. It’s not just about a fair go, and greater equality of opportunity. These messages will fail if the electorate thinks the Liberals are better economic managers, that fairness is unaffordable, and that wealth will, as they claim, trickle down. Labor needs to tie its policies into a narrative that embraces ‘middle-out’ economics — a narrative that values ordinary people as workers, consumers and taxpayers, who together create the wealth of our society.

What do you think?



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TPS Team

14/09/2014This week we are very happy to present another thought-provoking article from guest author, Kay Rollison. Kay is well known and well respected around the blogs as a political commentator, book reviewer and writer. You can find more of her work on the AIMN (http://theaimn.com/), no fibs (http://nofibs.com.au/) and What Book to Read? (http://whatbooktoread.com/) amongst others. Enjoy.

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14/09/2014Kay Rollison You have written an important and fitting piece. Your conclusions are correct. Labor [b]has[/b] to develop a strategy for informing the electorate that the economic model that our government is using is no longer appropriate. It takes only a cursory glance at the thrust of the Abbott/Hockey/Cormann budget to realize that it has been built on the principle of coming down hard on the middle classes, lower income earners and welfare recipients, all under the spurious pretext that there was a ‘budget crisis’ that needed emergency treatment, while giving the highest earners an easy go. They believe that giving advantages to the wealthy and to well-heeled industrialists and businessmen will encourage them to create jobs and expand the economy. They believe in the wholly discredited theory of trickle-down economics: increasing wealth at the top trickles down to those at the bottom. As indeed it does, but the amount that reaches there is proportionately much less than what trickles up. A more descriptive term is horse and sparrow economics – if you feed a horse enough oats, what ends up on the road feeds the sparrows. Joseph Stiglitz, and more recently Thomas Piketty, have both shown that trickle-down results in increasing inequality, with all the social evils it brings in its wake, and that it is [b]not[/b] associated with strong economic growth. Labor needs to get across to the voters that increasing the prosperity of the middle class will do more to drive the economy than pandering to the upper classes. I hope the term [b]‘middle-out economics’[/b] takes off and can be incorporated into a sharp, appealing, and memorable catchphrase. The middle class would prefer to be regarded as drivers of the economy than lead in the saddlebag holding it back. It strikes me as astonishing that businesspeople seem reluctant to endorse the notion that the better off the middle and lower classes are, the more they will spend buying the goods and services that business and industry create, the better off [b]they themselves[/b] will be, and the faster the economy will grow. The notion of middle-out economics is consistent with Barack Obama’s advocacy of a higher basic wage for workers in the US. Business and industry routinely wail that higher wages would bankrupt them, or certainly would result in a loss of jobs. How often have we heard that cry? Yet the data show that in US cities where the basic wage is higher – Seattle is an example – there is greater prosperity and higher economic growth. The reason is not too difficult to see. The more money in the pockets of lower income earners, the more they will spend. Your article elegantly makes this point. The middle class is where economic activity ought to be focussed. They are vast in numbers, and powerful in driving growth provided they are endowed with the wherewithal to buy what business and industry offer: housing, transport, consumer goods, professional services, and tourism. Of course, we realize that not only is the government’s addiction to trickle down economics driving its agenda, but also its intention to look after its masters – the captains of the fossil fuel and mining industries – while stifling the renewables industry. The electricity generating industries are fearful of losing their grip as they see demand for electricity generated from fossil fuels declining, demand for clean energy rising, and their profits falling. They care not for the health of the planet – all that concerns them is maintaining profit margins. I trust that your timely piece will stimulate a change in focus from trickle-down to middle-out economics. Hope springs eternal, but the reality is that although middle-out economics promotes the common good, the common weal, a wholly desirable state of affairs for the majority, the self-interest of the minority, the rich and the powerful, usually trumps the common good. We in the Fifth Estate will again be left to publicize and promote what the Fourth Estate can’t or won’t, curtailed as it so often is by self-interest. The Fourth Estate is on the side of trickle-down economics, as are many economists who live their lives in the straight-jackets in which they were placed during their economic upbringing, incapable of adopting a model with which they are unfamiliar, or which is incongruent with their entrenched beliefs. [b]So once more, it’s over to us.[/b]

Ken

14/09/2014Kay Your main premise is exciting for Labor. It does need to adopt a new approach to the economy. But as you say: [quote]It’s unfortunately not good enough to make logical arguments in favour of sensible policies; you have to grab the public imagination as well. [/quote] Unfortunately that is a reality of modern politics: I wish it wasn't but we do have to live in the real world. Ad has previously spoken about 'framing' and this new approach will need to be framed as offering a way forward that increases government revenue and the general well-being of society. And given the reality of current politics (or perhaps that should be media-politics) it will need to be able to be reduced to a sound bite. Not easy but, to be effective, Labor has to try. You also suggest that people are reluctant to give up something for someone else but I think they will if the purpose is clear. Australians accepted the Medicare levy back in the '70s, and have accepted the gun buy-back levy and the flood levy without major dissent. They are less compliant when funds disappear into consolidated revenue. So there is a case that a good purpose, properly explained, will be accepted. Again not easy but a challenge Labor needs to take up.

jaycee

14/09/2014As a tradesman, I'm somewhat enthralled in this concept of "earn / pay" economics..as in who does the earning and who does the paying? Working for your living has never been a choice for me and many of my class. Coming from a very impoverished family, one falls into trade as a matter of course..and in working for an age in that trade, one meets and exchanges by barter favours "in kind". This works very well in the case of housing construction and fitting out...it works well in a number of allied and non-allied situations...as a matter of fact,with careful "networking", one can weave through life with the rewards of give and take so that the costs of the big things in life , eg..housing, holidays, vehicle purchase and maintenance even raw food-stuffs can be bought and sold for the cost of "in kind" labour. This way of life was once quite normal and familiar to our class and was very fulfilling and successful...until..the economic managers (who spurned physical labour as vulgar) manufactured the false construct that contract labour would be more "competitive" than the PAYE-taxed employee. This broke up many large employment utilities and construction companies and saw the rise of the "subbie". The consequence of the rise of the self-employed subbie was the rise in the cash economy.."And per mei??" became the bargaining chip for "mates rates". This had to be expected and what we see with the "individual contract" hire system is a war by the middle-class against the working class..attacking the most vulnerable...it cannot win the war, because the one perfect reality, a reality known in the heart of our class and which can be reborn at a moments notice when the needs arise, is that with our learned trade skills and our readiness to apply our hands to labour in exchange "in kind" we can quickly form networks to supply and sustain a certain level of comfort if required..in short, we can do without the middle classes..but can they do without us? Withdraw collective labour and see how quickly the troops come out!!

jaycee

14/09/2014As for Labor "differentiating " itself and having a "vision"..I would presume if some of the more "focused grouped" thinkers camped for a while in some of the more "hungry" suburbs, they could learn that sometimes the simplest things in life can solve the most complex problems...something quite simple like retaining medicare for every body..like retaining free education for everybody..like re-owning the essential utilities of power, water and public transport and taking on for training many more apprenticeships to keep the nation well supplied with the skills needed to allow continued growth...and regulate, regulate , regulate the greedy bastards...regulate them till it hurts!

Bacchus

14/09/2014jaycee, I feel the creative, intuitive, incisive juices flowing through your bones - you're on fire! Can this translate to another amazing full-on article for [i]TPS[/i]? ;-)

2353`

15/09/2014Thanks Kay - a brilliant piece of writing. There seems to be a theme developing here promoting change to the way the economy works. "Trickle down" economics is certainly not all it was meant to be and Rudd's $900 cheques were really a test to see if there was a better way. Hopefully the MSM will eventually pick up the ball and run with it although it might take a few years - look what has happened with the Ashby/Slipper thing as well as the HSU saga. Thsoe that read the Australian blog sites are now telling those that only read Newscorp or Fairfax that the 'relevations' are old news. P.S. Jaycee - I'm with Bacchus. I'd love to see another piece from you too.

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15/09/2014jaycee I too hope you will soon turn your hand to writing to tell us of your life's experiences and your unique solutions to the economic problems we face.

Catching up

15/09/2014Maybe they who say that Abbott has a vision for Australia, can tell mew what it is. While they are at it, maybe they can tell me what they believe the role of government is in a democracy. Do they believe, as Abbott does, they are there to meet the needs of big corporations, that people should be left to look after themselves. We have learnt, from the Hockey budget, the great wasteful spending on Labor, is welfare. Yes, money spent to assist the weak and vulnerable in society. Do they really believe that all should be user pay, that governments, and by extension they corporate world have no role in providing the educated and skilled workforce this land needs.

jaycee

16/09/2014"I too hope you will soon turn your hand to writing to tell us of your life's experiences and your unique solutions to the economic problems we face." Jeesus, AA. don't half want much!...shall I create a life or two as well?? :)

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16/09/2014jaycee If you are able to create a life or two, make sure that Labor is the beneficiary. Today's [i]Essential Report[/i] shows the Coalition is in free-fall. http://essentialvision.com.au/category/essentialreport Let's not waste any of your lives on the moribund. [i]Crikey's[/i] Bernard Keane writes: [i]"The government is again falling further behind Labor as voters lose faith in the government’s capacity to deal with the key issues that influence votes, today’s Essential Report shows. It suggests the government’s focus on terrorism and national security matters is, for the moment, failing to cut through -- and may in fact exacerbate -- the electorate’s negative view of the Abbott government."[/i] Sounds moribund to me. http://media.crikey.com.au/dm/newsletter/dailymail_4b41fb9ec0436395347d09dfeeadce70.html#article_31517

Casablanca

17/09/2014Excellent interview: [b]Australia should provide additional places for Iraqi and Syrian refugees[/b] Julia Baird. 16 Sep 2014. (Video 11min 11sec) Julia Baird speaks to former Assistant High Commissioner of the United Nations Refugee Agency http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-16/australia-should-provide-additional-places-for/5748354

Catching up

17/09/2014Additional places is the pointy. Not taking away from the miserable 13700 now take. Still no explanation why Morrison reduced the number from 20000. Why not do as Labor proposed, take it to 30000. The plan, I believe was take more from this region, who have been in camps a decade or more. We can afford it. Many are tertiary educated. Not cruel enough for this government, I suspect.

Catching up

17/09/2014I suspect many on Manus and Christmas Islands, are fleeing from this conflict. Many are Kurds, Christians or minority sects.

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17/09/2014Casablanca I saw that Julia Baird interview. It was memorable. Bill Shorten has listened, but has Tony Abbott, has Scott Morrison?

jaycee

17/09/2014What I think has happened with "middle Australia", is that there has been shifting of centres with sections of all classes moving into a higher status...sort of like if you have three boxes outlined on your page, one above the other and in those boxes, from the top ;"upper-middle class then down to middle class then to working class...with the rise of the "tradie-class" into a sort of self-employed "professional", a section of the working class has "aspired" into the middle-class...like-wise, the once middle-class professional (doctors, lawyers, academics ceo's etc.) have elevated themselves into the upper-middle class so that what were once distinct "loyalty lines" have now become blurred and we see blue-collar tradies siding with the LNP. because they believe they are now "small-businessmen" and they are looking for tax breaks and want their interests protected.

Casablanca

17/09/2014 [b]The Chicken Little-in-Chief’s Big Scare[/b] Bob Ellis 13 September 2014 Dare we call this excessive? Deluded? Hyperbolic? Demented? Wasteful of, ho ho, the taxpayers’ money?...More Australians have died from backyard pool drownings in the last five years than ‘terrorism’ in the last hundred, on our soil. Fifty times as many from funnel-web spider bites. Twenty times as many, each day, from cigarettes. Four times as many, each week, from road accidents...What you have to do in Big Scare politics is make the people believe you. Believe you, Tony Abbott. And one of the ways you do that is behaving as if you yourself believe it. And unless there are full-body searches of every foreigner at the Crown Casino, or The King And I, or the Melbourne Cup, or the corridors outside ICAC, no-one will believe you believe it. http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-chicken-little-in-chiefs-big-scare,6892

TalkTurkey

18/09/2014Greetings Comrades Poor Victoria Rollison! She reminds me of Robin Hood in one of his best moments. He's competing for the Sheriff of Nottingham's Archery Prize (it's a trick of course) but among the contestants - unknown to either of them beforehand - is Robin's Dad, who is of course superb with the bow himself. Well the Old Man has his shot, Wow, dead-centre bullseye! So Robin can't do any better because his Dad's is perfect, well you know the rest, he bloody SPLITS his Dad's arrow would you believe! Well that's like poor Victoria Rollison see? No matter how well she writes (and she writes brilliantly) she'll never better her Mum. Others in this thread have said pretty much everything I could have contributed to a discussion of possible Labor directions. Truth to tell I am a bit despairing of Labor's disinclination to FIGHT this Tea-party mob, we just seem to tag along like Abborrrrtt's puppies and I'm really dismayed by that. So here we are in another war. A bit like a sporting event it seems. No discussion with the People, just Hey Ho Hey Ho and off to war we go. Anyway at least I made Jason laugh the other day with one of my little songs. (That's a first, he usually makessome snide comment.) This one, for those who live under a rock near Uluru, relates to golfer Greg Norman's having nearly cut his hand off with a chain saw. For those who live on the far side of Pluto, Greg Norman is nicknamed Great White Shark on account of his dazzling array of pearlywhites. Oh the Shark has lovely teeth Dear And he shows them pearly white But a chainsaw too has teeth Dear OMG those teeth can bite! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsxXEhC5eA4

Casablanca

18/09/2014TT Witty Wordsmith!

Casablanca

18/09/2014[b]The recidivism of our gnarled conservatism[/b] Jonathan Green. 18 Sep 2014 Is there something about Australia, the recidivism of its gnarled conservatism, that makes leaving seem the only option to a culture that seems incapable of escaping itself?...Perhaps the bolder thing to do is to stay. The next generation of Clives, Germaines, Bobs and Barries might at last propel some sort of change for the better, or at least an end to the constant reversals of reform. A final and lasting embrace of hope and the new. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-18/green-the-recidivism-of-our-gnarled-conservatism/5752052

TalkTurkey

18/09/2014Casablanca That's not worthily wordsmithery. It's more like bending a wire coathanger to look a bit like a shark. :) Bit funny about him being the Shark on account of his fangs though. Not all that funny for him! My brother Gordon had a bad accident with a chainsaw too. He was at the time one of Gough Whitlam's very personal staff - Gough was Foreign Affairs Minister as well as PM, and Gordon was his Liaison Officer to the Foreign Affairs Department. (Wow.) Anyway Gordon owned his own house in Canberra, and one day he started to lop a biggish tree which had grown close to the house. Not clever! Heavy branch fell on him, rode him (+ chainsaw still going) to a stone wall, and knocked Gordon into a coma! Nobody knew if he'd ever come out. While he was out cold in Intensive Care, Australia's greatest man ever came to visit him. But regardless of Gough's godlike presence, Gordon didn't instantly regain consciousness, he just remained in his coma. So Gough wrote one of Gordon's most treasured notes, so deeply, sincerely sympathetic it was, and left it for him whenever he might regain consciousness. Four days later. A verse by Hilaire Belloc: [i]Lord Finchley tried to mend the Electric Light Himself. It struck him dead: And serve him right! It is the business of the wealthy man To give employment to the artisan.[/i] Gough. Simply the Best.

Casablanca

19/09/2014Kay Rollison Thank you for your article. Labor to my mind cannot even begin to re-build it's support until it broadens it's definition of 'worker' to fully embrace the white collar workforce. John Howard had the canniness to enfold the aspirational voters and they kept him in power for a long period. Although they dropped their support for the LNP in 2007 they have not fully transferred their allegiance back to the ALP. Labor has many archaic rules and attitudes which alienate workers who have prospered and moved into the professions or become small business operators/Contractors. The Greens have also benefited from the disenchantment of the Left with Labor's move to the Right on so many issues. Michael Taylor's piece [b]Let’s tell Bill Shorten a few cold, hard truths[/b] dovetails nicely with your piece in drawing attention to the forthcoming opportunity to join Bill Shorten in a video call next Tuesday 23 September to chat about how we need to rebuild and win. http://theaimn.com/lets-tell-bill-shorten-cold-hard-truths/ Jonathon Biggins reminded us on Q&A recently that Labor Governments are never as good as we want them to be and the Liberals are never as bad as we expect them to be. The Polls are reflecting this at the moment. Here are the links to 2 more recent articles that fit well with the theme of a new narrative for Labor? [b]What Should Shorten Do?[/b] John Lord. 18 Sep 2014 Releasing policy is considered precarious until the election campaign begins. The media focus on the incumbent and often a 10 second grab on the nightly news is about all one can expect. Often you are damned if you support something with bi-partisan intent or damned if you don’t. Your followers have a “why doesn’t he stick it up ‘em” mentality that is laced with an unrealistic desire to win every argument along the way. http://theaimn.com/shorten/ [b]Nothing Like Talk Of A War To Silence A Small Target Opposition Leader[/b] Ben Eltham The Labor Party's small target strategy has condemned them to approval or silence while the 'War on Terror' plays out... In the party political sense – and, like it or not, parliamentary major party politics remains the single most important driver of change in our society – initiative means the freedom of politicians to act: to define the agenda, to move freely across political terrain, to lead rather than follow. https://newmatilda.com//2014/09/18/nothing-talk-war-silence-small-target-opposition-leader

jaycee

19/09/2014You can kiss all the above conversation goodbye...If you notice, all Abbott had to do was one brush-stroke on a blank canvas..the MSM filled in the rest!..and will continue to do so...no doubt you have read Cassidy's panegyric to Morrison on The Drum?....(chunder-bag required)..history tells me that once momentum on these sort of things builds, it takes a lot of slewing and a lot of slaying to bring the ship back on course. I have suspicions that the propagandist's conversation and attention will soon swing toward social media...it being the "source of the spread of insidious literature against the free democracies of the world"...it MUST be censored.

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19/09/2014Casablanca Thank you for the informative links you have offered us on Australian politics. It seems to me that politics here is dilapidated, inefficient and vague about the direction we ought to be pursuing as a nation. What we need is an analysis of the malaise that afflicts Australian politics, a statement of what we need and what direction we should follow, and how we might do better. Paul Kelly thinks he's answered some of those challenges. I will read his tome with interest.

Bacchus

19/09/2014Allow me to disagree jaycee - we don't know where the terror threat will have the conservatives try to take us - their Haneef efforts didn't quite go as planned - but more importantly, an election is due in 2016. Labor MUST have these sorts of discussions now and right up until the election, getting their policies and strategies absolutely spot-on to counter what we know these well-funded actual terrorists* (the Abbott government, that is) will throw at Labor. Perhaps it's even better to carry on these conversations while the MSM is consumed elsewhere... ;-) * I call them [i]terrorists[/i] because that's exactly what they will be attempting to do to the Australian populace - keep 'em as afraid as possible so we can't possibly think of voting out this wonderful "parent-figure" government that is totally responsible for protecting us.

Bacchus

19/09/2014Richard Ackland at The Guardian is a little more sceptical too: "[quote]Journalists were recruited to cover anti-terrorism dawn-raids, and lapped it up with no questions asked – it seems large media organisations are willing to be played like a trout A solitary intercepted phone call, over 800 police bursting into homes in Sydney and Brisbane, hovering helicopters, 15 arrested and detained, four charged. The charge against Omarjan Azari, aged 22, is conspiracy to prepare for a terrorist attack. The prosecution alleges, “there was a clear imperative to commit an act to shock, horrify and terrify the community as a whole”. The plan allegedly involved “random selection of persons to rather gruesomely execute”. Stripped of all the crypto-military flourishes and the connection with Islamic fundamentalism, the charge might have been conspiracy or solicit to murder, under section 26 Crimes Act, NSW. Another man was charged with firearms and ammunition offences and released on bail. Soon, the politicians were on the job. NSW premier Mike Baird, usually a pusillanimous sort of character, adopted George W Bush’s rhetoric: “We will hunt you down.” The prime minister, speaking in the Northern Territory before sending troops off to fight Isis in Iraq, has already found the charged man guilty: “So this is not just suspicion, this is intent.”[/quote] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/19/sydney-dawn-counter-terrorism-raids-why-now-and-why-so-few-answers

jaycee

19/09/2014Bacchus..The conservatives will not take you or I or us on this blog anywhere...but then, we are the vast minority!...they have already taken the general public where they want to take them..and it appears a section of Labor too!...one gets sick and tired of willing up excuses for public indolence...you cannot make a silk purse etc..unfortunately, the great unwashed has a deaf ear to beneficial ideas, but a sharp ear tuned to LNP. propaganda. One has to look back in amazement and wonder at just where and how the Bolsheviks got the numbers to physically overthrow the monarchy, the military, the Church and the oligarchs back in the days of the Russian Revolution when there was minimal direct communication!...it appears that the general public in these times has less concern with social justice and equality than with getting a selfie with Kim Kardashian!... We look to leadership and we get "Me too"..we look for hard-ball critique and we get "Ron...; later on"....I don't intend to lose faith, but I do intend to wait, along with those of good heart, till see the "whites of their eyes" !

jaycee

19/09/2014Here comes the cavalry ! http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-19/jacqui-lambie-calls-for-ban-on-burkas-in-public/5756136

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19/09/2014Mark Kenny ends his article on a more skeptical note than I had anticipated but his main thrust is still [i]'All the way with Tony A'[/i] [b]Prime Minister Tony Abbott's unique challenge as threat exposes divisions[/b] Mark Kenny. September 19, 2014 But it does rather call into question the whole point of the alert system and, for that matter, the extent to which the public should take literally future assurances that no specific threats are being detected. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/prime-minister-tony-abbotts-unique-challenge-as-threat-exposes-divisions-20140918-10iprf.html Comments.(following Kenny's article) Welcome to Tony's Australia: Unfairness - War - Division - Mistrust - Terrorism. 12 months ago we were peaceful and sailing along, then came the disastrous Budget. To pay for a Budget "emergency" Tony unfairly attacked the underprivileged. He then proceeded to divert money blatantly to ideology-driven Big Business policies.[b]Then Diplomatic Tony took over and we started to go downhill fast. He committed us to not one, but three, potential war zones: Japan-China, Ukraine-Russia and The Middle East.[/b] Right now he has committed us to a war against fanatical extremists in Iraq and we are a major player. He told us that this war wouldn't encourage terrorism here at home, but it has. He has placed the citizens of Australia at grave risk. Australia is a multinational country with divided views and we should have stayed neutral in this fight - restricting our assistance to humanitarian aid. But no, Tony had other ideas, and without open discussion, placed Australia in a very dangerous position with no end in sight. We have fallen into this trap before with the US in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan costing Australian lives for no gain. Did we learn anything - well apparently Tony didn't. This man has been a disaster for Australia in 12 short months and the longer he stays the more damage he will do - he has to go! Commenter Darcy. Sydney. September 19, 2014, 8:30AM The incongruity of these clowns saying "keep calm" then making sure the media is there to broadcast every detail , to receive every telegraphed message of what is going to happen highlights just how they are not to be believed. Textbook and shameful dog whistling. nkelly September 19, 2014, 8:31AM Yeah, the important thing here is that the front page of all newspapers is now about the war on terror v 3.0 rather than Abbott’s disastrous handling of the Australian domestic economy. Commenter: QED. September 19, 2014, 8:55AM 23 months or less and Dr No will be resigned to the darkest pages of our history books. It will take a lot longer than that to repair his legacy of economic, ecological and social damage. Commenter: FrankM. September 19, 2014, 9:07AM Must commend Peta though, the Team Captain's tie matches the plane's duco absolutely perfectly. Well done Peta, what a stylist. Commenter: A country gal. September 19, 2014, 8:46AM

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19/09/2014 [b]Is Iraq Vietnam revisited?[/b] Clive Williams. September 19, 2014 There are some parallels between the situation facing us in Iraq and the situation that faced us when we first deployed to South Vietnam in 1962. The most obvious ones being a committed enemy (Islamic State/North Vietnamese) that can operate from across a porous border (Syria/Laos), while we have to rely on local allies who are less committed than the enemy and have a poor military capability (the armies of Iraq/South Vietnam). We do however again have some local people we can work with (the Kurds/Montegnards). Given the constraints on military operations, if we seriously expect to contain Islamic State what we are probably facing in Iraq is a decades-long conflict – something the West is clearly not motivated to engage in – particularly when there is little prospect of victory in a conventional sense. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/is-iraq-vietnam-revisited-20140918-10ik72.html#ixzz3Dk8CJDON [b]Seeking calm amid violence, fear and outrage[/b] Waleed Aly. September 19, 2014 ..what can scare or outrage us more than the thought of ISIL within? And it's that thought that perhaps has the most to teach us in Australia. ISIL is not simply a group to be vanquished. It is not a fixed, finite, collection of people we can somehow control or eradicate. For us in Australia, it's most dangerously a symbol: a brand a young man from Sydney can claim for himself; a flag in which he can wrap himself, and his proposed victim. For all its pretensions to statehood, the key thing is that it's anything but. It exists in the mind as much as on land. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/seeking-calm-amid-violence-fear-and-outrage-20140918-10iwud.html#ixzz3Dk8gBdPR [b] Terror a nightmare ‘of our creation’[/b] Jackson Stiles. Sep 18, 2014 Following raids on residences in Sydney and Brisbane, which led to the arrests 15 people and terrorism-related charges against one man, [Monash University's] Global Terrorism Research Centre director Greg Barton said Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War has magnified this threat. This war was “the big mistake of the last few decades,” and there is “no question” the Islamic State (IS) grew out of the ashes of the “bungled” and “foolhardy” invasion... “We are reaping the whirlwind we sowed back in 2003,” Professor Barton said. “To put it in context, we would still have a terror problem if Iraq had never occurred … but the magnitude of the problem we’re facing now is coming directly out of what happened in Iraq.” http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/2014/09/18/terror-threat-nightmare-creation/

Ken

19/09/2014jaycee @ 2.40pm People will listen when an issue rouses them. Look at the Scottish independence vote — it achieved an 85% turn out of voters with non-compulsory voting (not too far below what we get with compulsory voting). I think people will respond but it is difficult in the current economic circumstances. I have mentioned before that I believe the working class is traditionally conservative for economic reasons — if I can survive on what I earn in the current circumstances, I do not want those circumstances to change, else I may have more trouble meeting weekly costs. And weekly costs are becoming a worry as wages are growing slower than inflation (a real decrease in wages), the dollar is going down so that imports will become expensive, meaning workers will be paying more for televisions, computers, ‘cheap’ clothing, even cars now that we no longer have a car industry. More expensive imports can also lead to increases in inflation (as prices rise). The average punter may not fully understand why prices are rising but they will certainly know they are. When they are already going backwards, a further impost may well light the fuse — there will certainly be more pressure for wage rises. Terrorism is a diversion and like almost any diversion, its effect is short term compared to cost of living pressures. We may not get our revolution but I think there will be more industrial activity (mostly not reported since it now takes place mostly at an enterprise level). There will be squeals from the bosses to the government. There will be squeals to the shock jocks from the ‘ordinary’ people they talk to because of the cost of living pressures — and we know this government listens to the shock jocks. When in opposition, Abbott made a lot of noise about the Labor government not listening to the voices expressing those cost of living pressures. Now he is in government and he will have to deal with it as it gets worse over the next 12-24 months (hopefully just in time for the election). People will start to see the cost of letting our manufacturing go to the wall and how it is impacting them directly.

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20/09/2014[b]The voiceless and faceless public[/b] Victoria Rollison. September 18, 2014 Every time the media fails to provide the public good with a face and a voice, they are letting the public down…It’s sad really. Just when we need the ABC to be the public broadcaster, champion of the public good, they are giving a voice only to the very people who plan to destroy them. And the saddest part – why should we have an ABC if they’re just going to take Murdoch’s side anyway? Why fight for them if they won’t fight for us, the public? http://theaimn.com/voiceless-faceless-public/

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20/09/2014 [b]Get your marching shoes out for Sunday:[/b] Sunday, 21 Sept - world’s largest People’s Climate March. RSVP at http://peoplesclimate.org/australia/#host-iframe … + sign petition: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/100_clean_final/?bCqIcgb&signup=1&cl=5876407504&v=45748 … [b]The People's Climate Mobilisation — your chance to commit to real climate action[/b] Alexander White. 16 September 2014 On Sunday 21 September, tens of thousands of people in Australia will join the global people's march. Find out why... This weekend will see be the biggest public climate event in history. More than 100,000 people will march in New York alone and hundreds of thousands of others will join them on the streets of 150 countries around the world, all calling for climate change action. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/southern-crossroads/2014/sep/16/peoples-climate-march-350-new-york-blair-palese [b]#PeoplesClimate[/b] https://twitter.com/hashtag/PeoplesClimate?src=hash

jaycee

20/09/2014The Muslim community in Australia is now being held hostage as a guarantor against ISIL outrages. This fragmenting of the multicultural community is an attack against our national identity. We are a multicultural nation..any attack against any one of the many ethnic or religious communities is an attack against us all. Labor needs...MUST call Abbott's bluff on these new laws and force him to show his hand and his intent as to where his "govt'" is taking our country. Labor MUST force Abbott and his gang to reveal the iron fist that he is concealing inside the "velvet" glove. It is not a random attack that we ought to fear more than a perfidious law undermining our democracy..Those in authority who have any remaining gumption left in them must challenge these laws or take their good-name to eternity with shame and disgrace.

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21/09/2014 [b]PUBLIC AND GOVERNMENT REPRISALS AGAINST ANY DEFINED GROUP IS PRECISELY WHAT TERRORISTS WANT[/b] [b]Decision to raise national terror level has cost implications[/b] Paul Malone. September 20, 2014 Are all the resources devoted to counter terrorism and raids preventing a sufficient number of terrorist events to justify the expenditure? In many situations, where industry costs are increased by government action, members of the Coalition complain and call for cost/benefit analyses and a cut in the red tape. But no one dares challenge the lift in the security alert. Its cost barely raises a question. So here are some of the direct costs. In 2001, before the September 11 attacks, the Australian Federal Police had 2851 officers, but by June this year it had more than doubled in size, to 6909 members. Of course, not all of these officers are engaged in counterterrorism work, but an additional $18 million has been provided this year for such work. If the AFP has grown, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has ballooned. In 2001, it had 584 staff. Today, at 1904, it has more than tripled, and staff are about to enjoy the benefits of moving into their $680 million, specially built palace on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin... It is impossible to calculate, but it is my guess that if all the extra resources going to the security agencies were put into workplace safety, or road safety, or preventative medicine, many more lives would be saved than will be saved by a further boost to ASIO and the security agencies http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/decision-to-raise-national-terror-level-has-cost-implications-20140917-10i594.html [b]So much for the pivot to Asia[/b] John Blaxland. 19 September, 2014 Australia has been surprisingly front-footed about offering to participate in the US-led coalition far from Australia's shores, citing domestic concerns as a primary motivator for seeking to extinguish the flames of extremism in Iraq. Yet it was in Indonesia, in Bali and Jakarta, where Islamist extremism has most directly affected Australians in the years since the outbreak of the so-called global war on terror - not in Australia. Even those found to have travelled to join up with the extremist co-religionists have been closely monitored by the nation's border and security services - organisations with capabilities today that are far more refined than when the war on terror commenced in 2001. As Australia seeks to deal a blow to violent extremism, perhaps it is appropriate that we ask what Malaysia and Indonesia think is the best thing to do. Perhaps, as modern democracies with a predominantly moderate Muslim electoral base, they might have some pointers for us. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-19/blaxland-so-much-for-the-pivot-to-asia/5755070 [b]Terrorists can be defeated by fighting fear with cooperation[/b] Robert Imre. 19 September, 2014 From anarchists in the 1920s and radical leftists in the 1960s, to fringe, extreme-right Christian bombers or gunmen in the United States in recent decades, or radical Islamists such as Islamic State today, terrorist groups have one thing in common. They seek to shock, while simultaneously portraying themselves as victims. While their beliefs can vary wildly, what they all share is the “propaganda of the deed” in their extreme violent activities. Typically, political violence in the most extreme form – terrorism – usually will see groups fracture in to smaller sub-groups. Once violence is legitimated, it then becomes a way to settle internal disagreements as well. Given that we have seen a number of terrorist groups come and go over the decades, it bears scrutiny how these various groups were successfully stopped, as well as where governments failed. Buying in to media hype actually helps terrorist organisations to create public suspicion, division among groups and eventual social disorder where terrorism can thrive. Whether it is in Iraq, Australia, Britain, or Canada, radical groups will try to draw legitimate political authorities into a violent confrontation of some kind. http://theconversation.com/terrorists-can-be-defeated-by-fighting-fear-with-cooperation-31842

jaycee

21/09/2014The original German families were targetted at the outbreak of the first world war...likewise in the second which saw hundreds, if not thousands interred, along with Italians..some of my relatives suffered the indignity, even thought hey came to this country long before Mussolini came to power...then the communist sympathisers in the fifties, then the slurs and slanders settled on the Greeks, the Slavs, the Vietnamese and now the middle-easterners...When will this WASP. obsession with difference end?...It is not these ethnic groups above that cannot get on with others so much as the bigoted and racist elements in the "Anglo" Europeans!..

2353

21/09/2014Jaycee - agree completely. Australia has a very poor history when it comes to tolerance.
What does two plus 1 equal?