The guru of prediction strikes again

Prediction is difficult, prophesy is often wrong, but being wrong again and again does not deter gurus of the calibre of Glenn Milne from making yet another foray into telling us what’s going to happen and giving us his interpretation of what’s already transpired.  In Poodle's bite may yet wound the government in yesterday’s edition of The Australian he pulled out all the predictive stops and turned up the interpretive volume to fortissimo. [more]

In the printed paper’s subheading, but curiously not in the online version, our guru has officially pronounced “Kevin Rudd’s honeymoon has ended, presenting a chance for the opposition, if it can grasp it.”  No ifs or buts, no qualifying words, no poll data showing a crash in support for Rudd to sustain such a conclusion – the honeymoon has ended.  Kevin, please note this historic day in your diary.  Ignore yesterday’s Essential Research Report figures that show the Government’s position improving to a TPP of 60/40 and the Reuters Trend Poll for August a steady 57/43 (it opens as a Word file).

As our intrepid Glenn likes collecting things, as you’ll see later, let’s collect Glenn’s predictions one by one, just for the record.

Milnean Prophesy One – Rudd’s honeymoon is over

He states his reason for asserting this: “You just got the feeling that by the end of last week we were close to, if not at, two tipping points in federal politics.  Now if Glenn has a feeling, we’d better listen, if only to record what else he might have gotten wrong.  He continues: “One concerned Julia Gillard. But it was not exclusively about her. The other was about Malcolm Turnbull. But it wasn't only about him either.”  Cryptic!  So he explains: “Let's get started in order. In political terms Gillard went too far on Friday. Her sin was to try to pass off a $1.5 billion blowout in her Pyongyang-inspired Building the Education Revolution program as ‘a bump in the road’.”  Gillard has gone too far, has sinned, Pyongyang-style.  Now if you’re wondering how ‘Pyongyang’ got into the picture, you’ll have to wait.  But once he uses that word, the tone of the rest of his piece is predictable.

So her sin was not so much the $1.5 billion ‘blowout’, (note it was not an unexpected demand, or a cost over-run, or excess cost or extra expense or a budget underestimate, it was a ‘blowout’; let’s not go with anything less dramatic); her sin was that she tried to pass it off as ‘a bump in the road’.  Julia should have known that Glenn would be onto her in an instant.

Milnean Prophesy Two – Julia Gillard has reached a tipping point; presumably it’s all downhill from here

Then he claims: “For the first time in a long time in the period of the Rudd government the media called it for what it was; self-serving spin of the kind that sees the wheels turn furiously while nothing actually happens.”  So while Glenn has been on the Government’s case, the rest of the media has been slack, until now.  In looking to see how well the rest had done, I couldn’t find much at all in the online or print media.  Malcolm Farr had a piece in The Daily Telegraph, Don’t provoke a cranky poodle that recalled Julia Gillard’s preference for a Doberman over a poodle, and Christopher Pyne’s recent accusations against her.  As usual it was a humorous and balanced piece.  There wasn’t much else on the subject that so enchanted Milne – looks like the media is still dragging its feet.  When will they ever catch up to our Glenn?

Note that ‘self-serving spin’ leads to spinning wheels – simple physics.

Milnean Prophesy Three – the media is about to wake up to the Rudd Government

Then Milne insisted that Gillard was “nailed when her opposite number, Christopher Pyne, got a hearing from the media he deserved”, but informs us that “the $1.5bn blowout was the big thing. Then there was the little thing; they're the ones that always get you in politics.  More stunning insights from Glenn – watch the little things.  What was ‘the little thing’? It was Gillard’s requirement that all schools “maintain a grateful sign out the front acknowledging the contribution of the government's stimulus package to their new hall.”  Clearly that’s what will sink her –‘the grateful sign’, one that continues until 11 March 2011 – imagine the audacity of that.  Obviously the Government should hand out money for schools so quietly nobody ever gets to know about it – we need a little modesty here.

Milnean Prophesy Four – it’s the little things that will always get you in politics

Then he reveals the origin of his Pyongyang reference: “All of which prompted Pyne to re-badge Kevin Rudd and Gillard as ‘Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader’.”   If it’s good enough for Pyne, it’s fine for Milne.

He goes over the ‘mincing poodle’ story but assures us that “Pyne has been coming after Gillard and he won't stop. But don't be mistaken: it's with a clear-eyed intent. As much as he might want to, he won't let his feelings drive his agenda.”  Watch out Julia for Pyne's passionless premeditated pursuit.

Milne now makes his killer contention: “Put together, the $1.5bn bump in the road and the schools signs episode brought the Rudd government this week to a point of reckoning. Two-thirds into their first term in government they are beginning to be called to account. Budget blowouts can no longer be blown off. Self-interested slickness as demonstrated by the Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader signs will no longer be missed.”  Oh dear!

Milnean Prophesy Five – the Government has come to the point of reckoning

Glenn explains some more physics: “as with most tipping points there's been a slow build to the balance mark on the fulcrum.” 

Then he catalogues the Government’s misdemeanours as he see them (in list form here):
- The $1.5 billion blowout in the Building the Education Revolution program
- Trying to pass this off as ‘a bump in the road’
- The requirement that all schools maintain a ‘grateful sign’ for building additions
- The $1.4bn blowout in the Computers in Schools program
- The trades training centres in every school that turned into one in every 10 schools
- The ‘humiliating backflip’ on youth allowances
- The failure of FuelWatch  - not a failure Glenn, it was blocked in the Senate
- The failure of GroceryWatch – yes, it failed as the data required from retailers could/would not be provided
- The broken ‘promise’ to take Japanese whalers to the international courts
- The broken ‘promise’ to take to court President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on incitement to genocide charges
- Junking the climate-saving program of pink batts for renters
- Junking the banning of plastic shopping bags
- Delay in the start date of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme
- The ‘windback’ of the private health insurance rebate
- Deferring the implementing a federal takeover of the state hospitals system for at least a year
- The five-year program to bring 7750 nurses back into the workforce that has recruited only 541 so far
- The 30,000 people who've dropped out of the government's $2bn Productivity Places program
- The botched jobseekers scheme.

You can see he’s keeping a careful tally.  We’ll see this list over and again, extended each time.

Milne adds: “The point being that sooner or later a government's failure to deliver catches up with it. For Gillard that moment happened last week. And if it's happened for her, smart and savvy as she is, can a number of her colleagues be far behind?”

Milnean Prophesy Six – the failure to deliver will catch up with the government sooner or later, and has already caught up with Gillard

Milnean Prophesy Seven – a number of Gillard’s colleagues (unnamed) will soon suffer the same fate

But what about the recession that the Government seems to have avoided?  What about the lower-than-expected unemployment?  What about the indicators of early recovery?  What about the rising confidence ratings?  What about the comments of the Reserve Bank, Treasury and the IMF about the positive effects of the stimulus packages?  Are they worth a tick?  Well our Glenn is generous – he devotes a whole sentence to that achievement.  After reminding us that: “The fact is the momentum of failed promise has been gathering across government for some time.”, he concedes: “While Rudd has so far delivered on the macroeconomics of avoiding a recession - no mean feat – ”  but unable to resist the caveats, adds: “we are yet to grasp the final cost in terms of debt and deficit. Indeed, the political ill winds of interest rate rises are already gathering on the horizon.”  A dozen words of grudging acknowledgement, a damning with faint praise, but of course qualified by the old mantras: ‘debt and deficit’ and interest rate rises.  It’s surprising he didn’t add ‘tax hikes’, in true Liberal fashion.

Finally he turns to Malcolm Turnbull: “This week, however, one got the impression that the seemingly endless destabilisation of Turnbull has eased. Not for any better reason than, absent a viable alternative, it has simply run out of puff.”  Turnbull must be mightily relieved that Glenn has declared that he has reached a tipping point, and is now on the way up.  No evidence is advanced – Glenn’s ‘impressions’ are sufficient.

Milnean Prophesy Eight – Malcolm Turnbull is at last on the up

Milne then offers the Liberals some of his precious gratuitous advice: “...the Liberal Party might finally be able to get back to focusing its attention where it ought to be. On Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader. Pyne has demonstrated it's not a bad strategy.”

Milnean Prophesy Nine – the Liberals will now get back to focussing on the Government

So there you have it – another Milnean exposé, jam-packed with strident interpretations and insightful predictions.  Or would ‘wishful thinking’ be more appropriate for anything Milne writes about the Government and the Opposition?

Let’s see how many of his nine prophesies come to pass.  If past performance is any guide, don’t bet your shirt on them.

A regular on The Political Sword, Bushfire Bill, has similar feelings about the Milne piece.  If you can access the Crikey site, you can read his stylish rebuttal of it on Poll Bludger.  Click here and scroll down to comment 2265.

What do you think?


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1/09/2009Do daddy Rupe and son Jimmy [?] seriously expect us to pay for this crap?


1/09/2009Glen completely ignored, just like everyone in the Eastern states, the fact the the Murray River is being bled to death by over allocation for irrigation. While the locks are in place the river will always look like there is plenty of water to anyone upstream. This is a failure of the Rudd government and all the Labor state governments despite the BS about a new deal and new cooperation between the states - stopping the blame game. Choice was only days away from releasing their Grocery Choices website when it was canned. They believed that they would be able to get the data so you can't use that excuse. It was a failure of the Rudd government. They were elected on the platform of reducing the cost to the average punter and so far they have failed. From what I hear in the work place, heavily unionised by the way, K Rudd is in trouble. The workers are not happy with him. Forget the polls, the chatter is where the action is.


1/09/2009Great vision as usual. This has become my favourite blog. One question though why waste your time on the empty men (milne, akerman, bolt etc). The people now see the truth. The election showed that, the polls continue to show same. Come out of the trenches my friend now is the time to enjoy the peace and plan a real future.

Bushfire Bill

1/09/2009Brent above (channeling Milne) tells us from his "heavily unionised" workplace (just so we didn't get the wrong idea that he was biased or anything... I mean click on his link and see for yourselves) that Rudd is gone for all money. The polls don't matter, the success of the Stimpac doesn't matter, Brent's mates tell him they're upset. I'm quaking with fear, really I am. Milne's article had an interesting selection of comments didn't it? They were either of the sarcastic variety telling Glen to get a life, or (in slightly more equal measure) were full of praise... not for the article's logic and message... [i]but for Glen himself[/i]. Glen is the hero who tells it like it is. Glen dares to go where other journalists sit in fear. Glen is brave enough to tell us the truth... and so on. Sounds to me like Glen has some serious self esteem and relevance problems. Can the full breakdown be far behind?

Just Me

1/09/2009[i]From what I hear in the work place, heavily unionised by the way,[/i] Anecdote. Unverifiable data. [i]K Rudd is in trouble.[/i] Again? [i]The workers are not happy with him.[/i] We never are, with any bosses. There is always something to bitch about. [i]Forget the polls, the chatter is where the action is. [/i] Not if you can't measure it in the polls it isn't. Until then it is just anonymous, anecdote based claims.


2/09/2009Just don't mention the polls, I did but I think I got away with it in you go Polly ( with apologies to Faulty Tower's) the Murdoch press is really the pits

Ad astra reply

2/09/2009fred An apt comment. If News Limited is expecting people to pay for its online news, it will have to engage better journalists than Glenn Milne. Brent I think this is your first comment on [i]TPS[/i]. I’m sure if Milne had thought of it he would have added ‘water’ to his ‘failed’ list. It is a complex issue, and all too easy to attribute blame to the Rudd Government and state Labor governments. The latter certainly over-allocated water rights, but while there was plenty of rain and water flowing this was not seen as too much of a problem. Now there is climate change and drought, and very large stations such as Cubby hoarding vast amounts of water. There is waste from inefficient conduits, now being corrected in the Goulburn catchment. On top of that there is state politics where the prime task seems to be to placate the many and varied state stakeholders, who show unwillingness to give up entitlements for the good of the river system. This complex mix of state and federal politics takes time to sort out after a decade of the system running awry; you’ll recall that it was only near the end of Howard’s incumbency that he introduced his $10 billion water plan. There are no simple remedies, but I expect Rudd, with his usual thoroughness, will eventually resolve the water issue. But the drought and climate change will continue no matter what is done. The [i]Grocery Choice[/i] story remains a mystery. I know [i]Choice[/i] said it was almost ready to go, but Craig Emerson pulled the plug on the grounds that [quote]"Major grocery retailers had indicated that they would not be providing the information to Choice."[/quote] There was talk of another scheme, but that seems to have died. The Government said it would try to give people better information about grocery prices; it tried and failed. Not everything works. It doesn’t surprise me that that your co-workers in your heavily-unionized workplace are not happy with Rudd. The unions had hoped for more after supporting the election of the Rudd Government, but as we hear endlessly, the Government is seeking to ‘get the balance right’ between competing forces, in this case unions and business, and when that happens both sides are unlikely to be totally satisfied. Compromise is required and that means both sides have to give somewhat. While anecdotal evidence is not to be ignored, it cannot compete with regular national surveys of over one thousand people by four well-established pollsters that show individually and in aggregate that Rudd and his Government are consistently miles ahead of Turnbull and the Opposition. The polls correctly predicted the outcome of the 2007 election, including John Howard losing his seat. So while you may feel ‘K Rudd is in trouble’, the polls shout the reverse. Of course that could change. I see you run a website: [i]Group Hug[/i] with the tag line – [i]Just a collection of ideas, ravings, comments on events etc. Possibly not important or even useful.[/i] Judging from the item listed yesterday [quote]” $50 billion Gas Deal with China or just more BS from Kevin? I another case of inflated self importance and rubbery figures it seems that the Australian Labor Party is still running on fluff and bubbles with no substance.”[/quote] you are not a Labor man. Finally, are you saying that your co-workers, despite their unhappiness with Rudd, would prefer Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition in government, and would vote for that? madman I think this is your first comment. Thank you for your kind remarks; I’m glad you enjoy the site. I agree that the likes of Akerman, Bolt and Milne are hardly worth a comment. I’ve given up on the first two, but when Milne writes for what purports to be a serious paper, [i]The Australian[/i], that calls itself ‘The Heart of the Nation’, and believes it is the top newspaper in the country, I still feel inclined to challenge his outrageous assertions and predictions. BB Glenn craves attention; you see it when he’s on [i]Insiders[/i]; he likes to be the one with the inside information; he’s the easy go-to man when someone wants a story out there. Was Christopher Pyne involved in putting this story together? It certainly highlighted him in a favourable way – the angry but clear-eyed poodle fighting back, taking on the heavily armoured Julia. If I wrote like Milne, I’d be embarrassed, but he seems to have no shame. I guess that’s an essential attribute for anyone who writes such stuff. Just Me I agree fully. Bilko A clever reference to Faulty Towers.

Just Me

2/09/2009It's [i]Fawlty[/i] Towers, folks. ;)


2/09/2009"Just me" oops mind you the way the OG paints it could be filthy towers, "AA" however sad to see that Paul Kelly is now towing the party line when in an earlier blog we considered him a reasonable chap not quite one of ours but almost decent.


2/09/2009Hey Brent, Better Grocery Choice (even if, for whatever reason, it didn't proceed) than WorkNOchoices, which would dump your grandkids right into the same working-life hell on earth that the coolies of Bangladesh, Vietnam and West Africa suffer. While those places are (we hope) struggling to make better lives for their people, here you are, in this country, supporting the political party that would make virtual slaves of your own offspring. I've heard of desperate Untouchables selling their kids into slavery, but this is ridiculous. Surely you aren't THAT desperate that you'd sell your own offspring down the river for the sake of making a political point? You do them a mighty disservice with your support for the Liberals and their Miserable agenda, and you do so knowingly, because there's now no excuse for not knowing.

Ad astra reply

2/09/2009Bilko I slipped up too. How could we misspell 'Fawlty'? I noted the Paul Kelly piece [i]Labor’s character test[/i],25197,26014152-7583,00.html and wondered what was going through his mind. I’ve always felt ‘profundity’ is the word our Paul would like most to be applied to his writings. Today’s piece reinforced that view. I doubt if he would bend to editorial direction, but even the smallest child knows what Daddy and Mummy want. He began [quote]“The Rudd government has entered a new phase where it is being judged by its own pledges, benchmarks and expectations: witness the documented defects in the Aboriginal remote housing program, a pledge that goes to the legitimacy of Kevin Rudd's February 2008 apology. The government seems mired in corrections, concessions and clarifications on a weekly basis.”[/quote] I’m not sure what he was expecting – that the Government would get everything absolutely right first time. If the Government showed no ability or willingness to fine tune its policies as it implemented them and uncovered unanticipated difficulties, Kelly would jump all over it, accusing it of inflexibility or stubbornness or vanity. After passing reference to other ‘mirings’, he homed in on the NT housing program about which Jenny Macklin seems as frustrated as many others. Working through what seems to be an incompetent dilettante NT bureaucracy has proved to be extremely difficult – thus her threat to take over. Sheeting home the blame to Macklin or the Rudd Government is to miss the real source of the problem. The Howard Government didn’t have any more success dealing with the NT bureaucracy. His flight into profundity came about halfway through: [quote]“ The Rudd government has three character traits now coming into play as defects: it has created too many expectations that are undeliverable; its philosophy of more government intervention, control and public stimulus spending opens greater scope for blunders as government pledges to do more; and Labor is running into huge administrative burdens in the delivery phase of its agendas, a situation compounded by incompetent governments in Sydney and Darwin, lacklustre state administrations and some problem departments in Canberra.”[/quote] It wasn’t long ago he was playing the ‘all spin no substance’ tune; now it's too much, too soon, too inefficient. Paul is something of a chameleon. He’s just as likely to come onto [i]Insiders[/i] on Sunday extolling the Rudd Government for the fine GDP outcome of its stimulus spending and the quality of its economic management. Rx Despite working in a highly-unionized environment, Brent comes across as a blue-blood Liberal supporter, which of course he’s entitled to be. Political orientation does affect our views; Brent is no exception.


2/09/2009Ad astra, Milne doesn't carry the name 'the poisoned dwarf' for nothing. I've stopped reading his rubbish. Paul Kelly seems to be inclined to write some odd pieces these days. Maybe he's suffering his age and wandering off the thought process a bit, LOL. As for the NT Housing Programme, I haven't yet come across any journo who has any understanding of the NT. To understand the NT you have to had lived there from the age of reason until at least your middle years, and even then you can be excused if you shake your head in frustration. Jenny Macklin is beating her head against a brick wall and any progress she makes will be in spite of Territorians. For me, I would advise her to take a deep breath and start all over again - she needs to hang onto every cent of the money allocated for indigenous projects, administer it Federally and keep a close eye on who gets the greater benefit. It has always been that it is honest and just to charge at least double to government or the indigenous population. I am an ex-Territorian who spent the first half of my life there. The Territory was not ready for self-government (or the Statehood they wanted) when they won it and they're still not ready.

Ad astra reply

2/09/2009janice Thanks for your insights. It seems most people don't understand the NT, and even those who live there have different views about what to do. It seems that working through the NT government is too difficult; taking over federally seems the best option. As for Paul K, let's see what he says at the weekend. Don't be surprised if it is at variance from today's piece. Maybe your diagnosis is close to the mark.


2/09/2009Can we take it that the Opposition and its hangers-on are now reassured that the election wont take place until November 2010? Two threads appear to me to be reasonable arguments. 1)The current and fairly recent outsurge of toxic comment by many in the media (not only the Oz) based on faulty assumptions and little recall of how things have actually happened under the Rudd government and, 2)the echo I have of John Howard stating that fourteen months out from an election is the time to start upping the ante. (I add to this "muddying the waters so voters are confused as to what is actually happening"). The Toad's role in this is obvious from the above and history. Add to this the seeming inability of journalists to understand the need for them to come to grips with an understanding of government programs and basic economics before sounding off. With regard to Paul Kelly's flip-flopping, sometimes I'm not sure Paul writes all his own columns but sub-lets his byline. As I suspect Michelle Grattan does as well.

Ad astra reply

2/09/2009bilgedigger Welcome to TPS. Our guess is as good as anyone else's - I agree that the election seems most likely late 2010. Journalistic comment seems too influenced by the inbuilt bias of the writer, and often sounds more like wishful thinking. The level of discernment of the Government's intentions is poor and the writing correspondingly so. It's an interesting thesis you advance - that some of Paul Kelly's pieces are ghost-written. I notice that Michelle Grattan often has a co-writer; I've not seen that with Paul Kelly.

Bushfire Bill

3/09/2009Just on Paul Kelly's article... One of my dirty little excitements in life is to be a 5th column recipient of the bi-weekly Liberal Party spin "newsletter" that they send out by email (titled [i]Liberal HQ[/i]). The latest is based entirely on Kelly's article. It quotes long passages from it, and links to the full article. Implicitly it claims that Kelly's view justify's theirs: that Labour is addicted to debt, is incompetent and a poor economic manager. Now I guess it could be a co-incidence that the two cross-pollinate each other, but it could also be an example of yet another bootstrapper eminating from News Ltd. They both - News and the Libs - are plugging this theme that, because of a few (as Gillard calls them) "bumps in the road" the [i]entire[/i] schools program is a disaster, catastrophe, debacle etc. etc., which of course makes the entire basis of the Rudd government a fraud. An allegedly rorted school hall here or there, an underestimation of demand (surely a sign of success rather than failure?), becomes a blanket condemnation of Rudd's entire approach to the GFC.... without mentioning the actual GFC, of course. If they did that they might remind the punters of just how close a shave we had over the past 12 months. Turnbull this morning went ridiculously out of his way to tie himself in knots over explaining away the 0.6% GDP growth figure. It was all interest rates, or the advantageous position Howard left the economy in, or exports or.... anything but the Stimulus Package. These people are [i]so[/i] negative. They cannot attribute on good idea to the government that their own government didn't think up sooner and better. They are in complete denial that every economic commentator - even "Misery Guts" Stephen Long (although grudgingly) - now admits that the Stimulus Package has been the mainstay of our economy keeping its head above water and, most vitally, of the continued elevation of confidence in the community and in business, [i]particularly[/i] the retail sector. There is always a nit to pick with these doomsayers. Joe Hockey last night was running the line that because there had been a slight overshoot of positive growth, Wayne Swan had gone too far with stimulating the economy. What did Joe want? Exactly 0.0%, and did ayone put this question to him? The answers to those questions are, in order, "We don't know" and "No." Regarding the quality of media questioning... it seems that the ABC interviewers were too busy with pointless gotchas, trying to force Wayne Swan (last night) or Kevin Rudd (this morning) to admit that somewhere, sometime, one worker or one business might be worse off under the current award restructuring process. The more the question was asked, the more Rudd and Swan dug their heels in, presumably trying to avoid the inevitable headline, "Rudd admits likely IR policy failure." Why do either bother? Why bother with the gotcha, and why bother going on the show to have to put up with them? I've come to the conclusion that Australia is below the critical mass required for mature debate in the media. All politics is parish pump, or is at least treated as such. There is no issue worth discussing that is not worth trivializing. Little information is elicited from any political interview in the relentless pursuit of the gotcha (presumably so that journalistic high-5s can be effected at the pub that night). The news today that the electronic media are empirically biased against the government (with ABC TV News the worst offender) comes as no surprise. There is no debate and very little of anything informative eminating from our media. It is an endless pea-and-thimble game, a ceaseless round of trick questions, trophy scalps hanging on walls and lurid scandal. Almost everything is opinionated, agenda-ized and trivialized, reduced at every opportunity to the absurd. It's as if the entire Australian population is out there, like some massive [i]Q&A[/i] partisan audience, ready to pounce on the slightest faux pas, ta minor slip of the tongue, a hesitation, a "refusal to deny" or any other micro gaffe so that they can heckle, applaud or otherwise leave the venue convinced that their view of politics was correct all along. Political coverage has become show business without the talent. Paul Kelly is no exception. The article he wrote yesterday betrayed his bias against the government, not because it disagreed with government policy. That would have been OK, if argued cogently. But it was not argued in such a manner. It was full of omissions, ideology and value judgements with little logic or weight to back any of them up except St. Paul's alleged status as political guru and "editor at large". That these organizations expect the internet public to actually [i]pay[/i] for this kind of coverage is beyond belief. I'm actually looking forward to the day when, even if I am tempted, I'll have no means of sinning against my better judgement by reading this egregious tosh.

Ad astra reply

3/09/2009BB Great post. Agree with you about the Kelly piece, and interested to read that he was widely quoted in [i]Liberal HQ[/i], not surprising I suppose as the Newsletter perceived that his comments matched Liberal spin. Being still in FNQ I'm missing out on much of the radio interviews, but did see jovial Joe on [i]Lateline[/i] last night, in a flight of denial that sounds like what you heard from Turnbull today. I wonder how they can believe that the people will swallow their denial and negativity in the face of the facts presented and the remarks of almost every commentator, including Misery Guts Stephen Long (which I missed), who collectively have attributed much of the strong GDP figures to the stimulus package. If football commentators insisted that the winning score was due not to a well-briefed and talented team with a sound game plan kicking more goals or scoring more tries than its opponents, but rather to the state of the ground, the weather, the splendid state the game had been left in by past teams, the generosity of the umpires, and the barracking of the crowd, we'd laugh them out of town. Why do we have put with this nonsense in political commentary? Bilko It is frustrating when so much misinformation is presented as truth. We bloggers have to persist with our criticism of the media; we can change opinion. Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan do put out regular bulletins, but only to those who subscribe. We don’t know their penetration.

Bushfire Bill

3/09/2009With the suggestion by the ANU Media Bias survey yesterday that much of the positive coverage of the Howard government was tied - at least empirically - to that government's big spend on advertising in the same media, perhaps Rudd ought to commission a billion dollars' worth of ads, praising himself and refilling the coffers of the media at the same time.... LOL. I always thought at the time that the criticism of the Howard government for overspending, to the point of persisting with its counter-productive WorkChoices campaign, was misplaced. Critics were looking for a reason why a government would insist on reinforcing a negatively viewed policy by drawing [i]more[/i] attention to it than absolutely necessary. The answer came up, usually, "stupidity" and "desperation". These may have played a part, but I think the real answer lay with a more direct analysis. Who received the cash? The media of course. Who praised the government's every move? The media of course. The government of the day couldn't just make donations to the newspapers in the form of cash (as the newspapers could in favour of the government). They had to [i]appear[/i] to be getting value for money. So they bought expensive, only slightly discounted advertising space. A direct bribe to the media to play nice with them and their policies. The ANU survey also pointed out that, as a whole, media organizations gave 39% more to the Liberals than to Labor. What better way to launder public money back into party coffers than to purchase phoney (even negatively perceived) advertising and have it turned into party donations? The aim wasn't to influence the public. It was to enrich the Liberal Party and their mates. Anything positive they got from the ads they ran was incidental. But this only deals with [i]public[/i] kickbacks to the political parties. What about the possibility of [i]private baksheesh[/i]? I find it hard to believe that of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the Howard government on media buys that some of it was not quietly put aside, perhaps even for a few years, only to be returned to (what would be by then) private citizens, ex-ministers, flying on commercial flights, living private lives, as they made their way around the sunnier spots of the world's luxury destinations. Very discreet, and completely untraceable, especially if some of the gifts - unlimited stays in media owned resorts, or villas, or houses on a Dubai artificial island mucking in among among the rich and famous, the odd Lear jet here and there - were gifts of the "in kind" variety. There's a rough parallel with the Nigerian scams. Very few of them that garner any response at all actually get to the depositing of a million dollars by the mug. They usually don't progress past the first few thousands, the "let's take a look and see if this is genuine" money. [i]That's all the scammers want![/i] Gather together a few of those "look-see" deposits in the scammer's favour and you're making real money. In the meantime the mug thinks he's outsmarted the scammers by not handing over all that was required! By the same token, if a few million out of [i]thousands of millions[/i] spent on advertising works it way off the corporate books and into a luxury pad or two, a few years down the track, who would ever know? That is where the scam is: not in convincing the public that a creepy policy is really a winner, but that the money spent on flogging the dead horse has been put aside for a rainy day, when everyone's forgotten about the election, the politician, or the expenditure. SCENE: THE LOBBY OF A LUXURY HOTEL ON THE COT D'AZUR. YEAR: 2014. [i]"Isn't that whats-his-name, darling, y'know, that minister for... what was it? ... aaaahhh....I can't remember, but it was in Howard's government? What's [b]he[/b] doing coming out of the Presidential Suite? I thought he'd retired... and is that his wife?"[/i] I base my (admittedly cynical) theory on the known fact of life that where there is a lot of public money spent on something apparently stupid, even on the face of it damaging to the party, then some of it - perhaps a [i]lot[/i] of it, in some for or another - is bound to end up in the pocket of the politician who signed-off on the expense. Lastly, Rudd is not spending anywhere near the amounts on media that his predecessors did. Why would the media therefore want to praise him? Like many of the Liberal-National diaspora, wandering the wilderness of opposition, they hanker for the old days, believing that the Howard government was robbed. Only thing is, it wasn't the Labor Party doing the robbing. So far, the ANU Survey has done nothing to change my mind that this is what actually happened, is still happening, and will be happening for years to come.


3/09/2009Bushfire Bill - you forgot to include the payment of school and HEC fees.

Just Me

3/09/2009As a long time Territorian I completely reject those rather juvenile & ill informed comments above that it is not capable of self-government. Quite the contrary, the Territory has proven itself at least no worse at overall governance than the states. Have to say I am quite disappointed, and a little angry, at those comments. I kinda expected better from the otherwise usually informed and considered folk on this blog.


4/09/2009My apologies Just me. My comments are just the opinion of one who was 'born and bred' there and who hasn't seen much evidence that things have changed much in the thirty or so years since I left. I still have family and friends there.

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4/09/2009BB Thank you for your exposition of the ANU study. Your hypothesis about the connection between the excessive advertising of WorkChoices and the solid media support for the Coalition is plausible. We’ll probably never know the machinations that went on behind the scene. I see bilgedigger goes along with your proposition. Just Me It would be valuable to have your views on the NT situation. janice bases hers on her long period as a resident there. As you too have been a resident, let’s have your opinion on the NT intervention. From a distance it seems a very frustrating exercise. From the outset, no matter what the original motivation for the intervention may have been, there seemed to be lots of goodwill and good intent from John Howard and Mal Brough, and plenty of funds, and that has continued with Kevin Rudd and Jenny Macklin, who seems to be a sincere, caring, hardworking and effective minister. Yet progress has been so slow, beset by disagreement among the recipients about the best way to proceed and administrative inefficiencies at the NT government level that has resulted, so it’s said, in no new housing, although there have been refurbishments. Clearly Macklin is frustrated and is seeking a better way of achieving what everyone seems to want, better living conditions, better education, better employment opportunities, and a viable economy for indigenous people. Nobody seems to have the answers. We would be interested to read your views.


4/09/2009And pretty well at the same time as Milne was writing that the honeymoon is over etc there comes this from Morgan. ALP 61: COAL 39.


5/09/2009Oh no, Just Me, you read more into my post than was actually there I think. I did not say that NT self government should be revoked. I did say the Territory was not ready for it in the first place though and I think that is still the case today. To understand my view in that regard you would have to go back a long way into the deep, dark past and sift through a mountain of stuff long forgotten or buried that is probably better left where it is. Initially, self government failed abysmally (so far as the indigenous population is concerned) during the years the CLP held the reins and I think this situation continues today. The white population in the Territory exploited the indigenous inhabitants openly and all it took to keep fair-minded candidates from winning elections was just two words 'boong lover' to ripple through the electorate. I am not advocating that self-government should be revoked but I am advocating that Indigenous Affairs be taken over and administered federally. Because there has been little progress in the education of NT Indigenous people, they are still extremely vulnerable to the exploitation that has gone on for generations. How on earth can we expect these people to grasp opportunities, and you're right about these being rather limited, when they're continually thwarted and kicked back into their 'place'? Is it any wonder why these people have chips on their shoulders a mile wide? Have you ever wondered why there are so many part-aboriginals and why so many of these were part of the stolen generation, and why this nation needed to apologise? And you might also consider who benefits most from aboriginal art and who benefits most from federal funds to build houses for them - you can bet the jobs for aboriginal people themselves are few and far between. Yes, Just Me, there are some individuals who do care and do their best but, like Jenny Macklin they are beating their heads against a brick wall as well.

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5/09/2009Just Me I did not interpret janice’s comments as advocating the abolition of self-government in the NT, and in any case that is impossible. Nor did I in my remarks intend to suggest such a move, although my words [i]” It seems that working through the NT government is too difficult; taking over federally seems the best option.”[/i] could be interpreted that way. It was the indigenous housing program that was in my mind, the disappointing progress that has been made over such an extended period, and the frustration being experienced by Jenny Macklin in implementing the program, seemingly due to bureaucratic torpor, inefficiency or obstruction in the relevant NT government department. Many ordinary citizens share her frustration, but have no clear idea of the genesis of the delay, or how to resolve the problem. A natural reaction is to suggest that if the NT bureaucracy can’t or won’t handle the housing task, it might be better handled federally. Who cares who does the job, so long as it’s done? NT Aboriginal MP Alison Anderson repeatedly criticised the NT government and the Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, over the handling of indigenous housing policy, and eventually left the party over this issue. Clearly she too was frustrated. So far from suggesting the NT government be removed and the feds take over, all I intended to suggest was that to get something done about indigenous housing, a better arrangement is needed, and if the feds can do it better and quicker, who would argue against that? Well no doubt some would, but I believe most would go with any arrangement that would achieve the original good intent of the Federal Government. You challenge us to name a more efficient state government in indigenous affairs. I can’t; I simply don’t have enough information. I have read that there are similar administrative problems in the states. But the NT government seems particularly inept, whereas one would hope with its longstanding and large population of indigenous people it would be the best informed about indigenous affairs and the best at managing them. With regard to the UN Commissioner report that accused the Federal and NT Governments of racial discrimination, as I understand it that was about the quarantining of part of the welfare payments for use on food, not about the indigenous housing program. Personally, despite criticisms of Macklin that are voiced by several interest groups, she is industrially and sincerely trying to resolve what have to date been intractable problems. She has had limited success, as did Mal Brough, but who could do better? Criticism is easy; coming up with a better approach is not. She deserves our support, and if one can judge from her facilitative demeanour, she would welcome well-founded advice. Just Me, janice and I are not arguing for the radical changes you suspect we are, we just want to see some real progress in improving the lot of indigenous people.

Acerbic Conehead

5/09/2009I wouldn't worry too much about misspelling "Fawlty Towers". The following variations are from the series itself: Episode 7: "Fawlty Towers" (the "w" and "s" are askew) Episode 8: "Watery Fowls" Episode 9: "Flay Otters" Episode 10: "Fatty Owls" Episode 11: "Flowery Twats" Episode 12: "Farty Towels"

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5/09/2009fred There's a piece by George Megalogenis in today's [i]Australian: Across the genders, voters see Super-Kev[/i] that will not give the Coalition much polling joy. Can't find the article in the online version. If you do, please post the link. Acerbic Conehead Nice list.

Acerbic Conehead

5/09/2009No wucking furries, AA - I pinched it off PickyWeedia anyway.
How many umbrellas are there if I have two in my hand but the wind then blows them away?