The Rudd years

As the Rudd Government begins its third year, it seems an appropriate time to review its first two.  As a mental exercise let’s imagine the words or phrases that might best describe the progress of the Government towards its stated goals, and similarly those that characterize the performance of the Opposition.

For me, the words that reflect the Government’s progress are ‘complexity’, ‘cautious and careful planning’ and ‘effective emergency action’.  Regrettably the words that come to mind for the Opposition are ‘denial’, ‘chaos’, ‘division and dysfunction’, ’lack of due diligence’ andoppose everything’..

The Rudd Government

During election campaigns general principles and aspirations are promoted; detail is avoided.  Kevin Rudd advanced the need to address climate change, “...the great moral challenge of our generation”, and as part of that, the restoration of the distressed Murray-Darling river system; he spoke of the need to review the ailing health care system and troubled federal-state relationships; he promoted himself as an ‘economic conservative’ committed to prudent spending and surplus budgets, but conscious of the need to overcome ‘infrastructure bottlenecks’ that had accumulated over the previous decade, aware of the requirement for a national broadband network and mindful of the need to lift productivity; he elevated to top priority education at all levels, from preschool to university, the so-called ‘education revolution’, and he promised to reform industrial relations and eliminate WorkChoices.  He said he would ratify the Kyoto protocol and say ‘sorry’ to the indigenous people.  There were other aspirations, but these dominated the election campaign.

Complexity
Tackling these tasks in Government has exposed the enormous complexity of almost every one of them.  In each there are countless people involved; a plethora of different opinions, instincts and values; self interest and conflicts of interest; many areas of turf to be protected or enlarged; power brokers determined to advance their position or those they represent even at the expense of the national interest; and a mountain of data, some of it incomplete, inaccurate or of uncertain validity.  There has not been much acknowledgement of the need for collaboration in the national interest.  This is systems theory in action, in all its chaotic complexity.  Few are oriented to such complexity or equipped to understand and manage it.  Most prefer simple, linear, cause-effect thinking, despite the fact that it is incapable of explaining the intricacies of complex adaptive systems, or managing their inherent complexity.

Cautious careful planning
It is in recognition of this complexity that the Rudd Government has undertaken several reviews, something that has attracted trenchant criticism from the Opposition and unthinking journalists who take the simplistic view that as Rudd said he would ‘fix’ these problems he should just get on with ‘fixing’ them, as if that was as simple as fixing a broken-down car.  As the reviews have unfolded, the extraordinary complexity of the issues have emerged and slowed the process of resolution.  This is why there has been such cautious, careful planning in addressing, for example, such complex issues as climate change and all its sequelae for human health, families, agriculture, industry, business and employment.  There was the Garnaut Report, the Green and White Papers and the CPRS legislation, developed over several years, but to date with an outcome frustrated by a hostile Senate. 

Since in the health field similar levels of complexity exist, the Government has carried out an extensive review via the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission.  The Commission has reported and has made over one hundred recommendations that the Government is considering.  Impatient Opposition health spokespeople and journalists want immediate action, but should rapid action result in unfavourable outcomes, the Government would be accused of rushing in and bungling.

The same caution has been applied to federal-state relationships where fiefdoms so often act in their own, rather than the national interest.  Progress is occurring but slowly, too slowly for the critics, who want the problem fixed at once.  ‘Abolish the states’, ‘place decision making close to the action’, ‘drastically cut the number of bureaucrats’ – are just a few of the simplistic solutions offered by armchair experts who themselves don’t carry the responsibility for the outcomes.

Since the election, the Henry Review, a comprehensive review of the tax and transfer system, a recommendation of the 2020 Summit, has been undertaken.  Its recommendations will be more far reaching than the tax changes arising from the GST, and will be implemented over several years.  There has also been a defence review and a Defence White Paper that is for implementation provided sufficient funding is available.

So not surprisingly, complexity and cautious planning have characterized much of the Rudd Government’s first two years.

In my view, the inexcusable paucity of understanding of complexity is one of the greatest impediments to good governance and the critiquing of government action.  I despair that commentators will ever come to grips with the reality of complexity in so much of what government does.

Effective emergency action
It may have come as a surprise to those who criticized the Government so roundly for ‘hitting the ground reviewing’, that it acted so unfalteringly, or to use the Government’s favourite word, ‘decisively’, in managing the global financial crisis with all its forbidding momentum.  The bank guarantee, the stimulus package starting with cash bonuses (which almost all journalists delighted in calling ‘the cash splash’ or ‘splurge’) and the first home owners’ grant extension; the ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure, mainly in the schools program; and finally big ticket infrastructure items – road, rail, ports and the NBN, much of which is still in planning.    The Government’s fiscal policy worked in tandem with the Reserve Bank’s monetary policy to produce the outcome we saw.

The Government was criticized at every turn by the ‘experts’, the economists and the economics correspondents, who always found some fatal flaw, predicted calamity, and advised a different, and of course more rational course of action.  The fact that most of them were consistently wrong in their predictions and advice never deterred them from unremitting criticism.  Indeed some, such as Michael Stutchbury and Warwick McKibbin, still persist with their censure of the stimulus package despite the fact that most economists, reinforced by the IMF, have lauded it as the principal reason why Australia avoided recession.  The Australian mounted a fierce campaign of denigration of the schools program notwithstanding the fact that most of the 24,000 projects in 9,500 schools were carried out without complaint.  This has now fizzled.

The Government was advised by Treasury to ‘go early, go hard, and go households’.  It did and the result is there for all to see – recession avoided, unemployment restrained, retail activity sustained, business and consumer confidence rising, school infrastructure in place.  Even Joe Hockey had to admit its success, although he has four other and presumably more cogent reasons for the outcome.  The debate has shifted to how the stimulus should be wound down, a subject that still gives columnists something to write about with misplaced authority.  The ‘debt and deficit’ mantra, the ‘$315 billion Labor debt bomb’ trumpeted so loudly by Malcolm Turnbull, and carted around on his ‘debt truck’, has faded as the debit and deficit promises to be much lower than so direly predicted.

So for those who labelled the Rudd Government as indecisive, ‘all talk no action’, ‘all spin no substance’, its handling of the GFC confounded this characterization.  Only those whose mouth is set to automatic still utter these tired, inappropriate mantras.

The Opposition

Denial
TPS has commented many times about the denial that afflicts the Opposition, the chief purveyor of which is the current leader, Tony Abbott, who has always maintained that ‘the Howard Government was such a good government’, and did not deserve to be removed.  This belief has been reinforced recently with Abbott’s return to some of Howard’s IR precepts and border protection policies, and his appointment of previous Howard ministers to his Shadow Cabinet.  He is determined to return to Howard policies – because they were good – determined to preserve the Howard legacy. 

No better evidence need be advanced to support the attitude of denial.

Chaos
There is no need to look beyond the regular change of leader – Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and now Tony Abbott, with Joe Hockey waiting in the wings for Abbott to implode – to see the chaos that has afflicted the Coalition since it surprisingly elected Nelson instead of Turnbull in the first place.  The conservative elements were covertly instrumental in that outcome as they were overtly in Turnbull’s downfall.  Add to that the dissonance in the Coalition between the Nationals and the Liberals, particularly over climate change, and you have another layer of chaos.

Surely no one would challenge the ‘chaos’ label.

Division and dysfunction
This is the product of chaos.  The Nationals and the Liberals are divided.  Some Liberals are divided from other Liberals, over issues such as climate change, immigration policy and the ‘alcopops’ legislation.  As a result, the Coalition is dysfunctional.  The conservatives are in a power struggle with the small ‘l’ liberals and are now in the ascendancy.  Turnbull is threatening to disrupt the Coalition with his verbal interventions, particularly about climate change issues, and just might consider forming a breakaway grouping.

There is no debate about the savage divisions that simmer just below the surface, always ready to  erupt damagingly, and the consequent dysfunction that so cripples the Coalition.

Lack of due diligence
The Grech OzCar affair exposed Turnbull’s lack of due diligence, something not to be expected from a past barrister.  But it was consistent with his impetuous character, and his ‘crash through or crash’ approach.  He crashed and put paid to his leadership, finally destroyed by his support for the Rudd CPRS, an anathema to the conservatives.

Could there have been a more convincing exhibition of lack of due diligence?

Oppose everything
Tony Abbott quotes Randolph Churchill who said ‘Oppositions should oppose everything, suggest nothing and kick the government out.’  That is precisely what Abbott is saying he will do, as the last post The pugilistic politician argues.  He talks of creating alternative policies and has promised one on climate change mitigation by February, but I note already he is making noises that cast doubt on whether we will really see a policy that can be readily dissected and appraised.   He intends to ‘give the Government the fright of its life’, and ‘take the fight right up to the Government’.  So far every utterance is consistent with that intent, but whether anyone in the Government or for that matter anyone in the public is listening is speculative.  The latest Morgan face-to-face at 59/41 suggests not too many are.

‘Oppose everything’ looks like being the Coalition pattern while Abbott remains leader.

In summary, these last two years have been ones that have shown what this Government can do, what it is made of, how it operates, and what future it is likely to have.  2010 is likely to be a year of implementation of recommendations of several of the reviews now underway or completed.  Substance will replace the words, hopefully to the long term benefit of the nation.  The stated intent of the Government is to be a reforming government; 2010 will provide it that opportunity in abundance.

It would be better for our democracy if one could record that the Opposition, while holding the Government to account, which is its responsibility, produced a profusion of attractive alternative policies, collaborated with Government when that was in the national interest, and opposed only when it honestly believed the proposed legislation seriously needed amendment, instead of opportunistically opposing simply for the sake of opposing.  Idealists may wish for this, but shouldn’t hold their breath hoping.

What do you think?

This is my last post on TPS for 2009.  I will post again in early February when parliament resumes.  You will be delighted to know that during January, Bushfire Bill, one of the most admired contributors to The Political Sword, The Poll Bludger and other blog sites, will make guest posts on TPS.   Watch for them.

May I take this opportunity of thanking the many visitors to this site and the regular contributors who enrich this site immeasurably with their thoughtful, insightful and often humorous posts.  I look forward to your company again in 2010.

In the meantime I wish you the compliments of the season and a restful end-of-year break from the tumult of federal politics; there will be plenty more next year. 

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Rx

20/12/2009The long and short of it for me, is that Labor 'does' government very competently, and the Coalition 'do' Opposition appallingly. They 'do' Opposition so poorly that they're doomed to stay there for a long time. Which is just as it should be. ... Compliments of the Season to Ad Astra and all readers and contributors. It's been a great year! Looking forward to Bushfire Bill's articulate, insightful posts over the Summer break.

Bilko

20/12/2009Ad An excellent post it should be sent to every Coalition MP & Senator as a wake up call. From my earliest comments to now, I have maintained that the Coalition and the Murdoch media have been in total denial mode and that 24/11 like 9/11 should never have happened. The real world continues on as normal but the dinosaurs within those two organizations lumber around lost, like Littlefoot and Sara's parents in (Land Before Time 1-13), or closer to home that would be the yellow brick road to that other OZ. 59/41 gets rid of another 25+ coalition members in the reps, I am not sure how that equates to the senate but hopefully the Govt can get more legislation through after the election. Hockey is a dead duck and would lose his seat on these figures. I for one do not think Kevin will force an early DD election. No matter what the mad monk spouts, a normal election with its half senate scenario as per Antony Green's comments will provide the desired result. After Abbott fails but retains his seat and possible becomes a lamer duck leader temporarily, I cannot identify a viable substitute to lead them so the often mentioned comment ‘that the next Coalition PM is not yet in parliament’ gains merit in my estimation. Whatever, the outcome the Senate balance will be more conducive to labor after July 2011 Mind you I have been known to be wrong "once before" so my OH tells me, but I think I sorted that out. Merry Christmas to all.

Michael Cusack

20/12/2009While I can't say I agree with all they have done over the past two years, there is no denying that the Govt has been methodical, thoughtfull and relatively rigorous in living up to it's proclaimed status as a reformist Govt. It has also been quick to fulfill election promises. The opposition have fallen into every trap available to new oppositions, and invented some new traps for good measure. Their mantra seems to be "elect us, we are exactly what you refused to elect two years ago, and we refuse to adjust to the passing circumstances". I don't see it working. Happy Christmas and a wonderfull New Year to you AA, you have provided a tremendous asset to we who are interested in society and I look forward to reading you views on a crucial year ahead. A happy Christmas and New Year to all your correspondents who have put icing on a very tasty cake over the past year. I look forward to the wit and wisdom of the great Bushfire Bill during your break.

Sir Ian Crisp

20/12/2009How do we sum up the Rudd Government’s third year? Bitter disappointment. Mr Rudd has performed a handful of miracles but the Vatican remains unimpressed. The Vatican has passed him over in favour of some obscure person by the name of Mary MacKillop. The poor lass is only up to miracle number 2 yet Mr Rudd must be up to miracle number 8 or 9. What does he have to do to get the Vatican’s attention? I’ll bet it’s connected to Mr Rudd turning away from traditional religion in favour of the church of AGW. What’s wrong with a bit of healthy competition?

lyn1

20/12/2009Hi Ad Thankyou Ad , once again excellent post, I will read it in depth tomorrow. Next year should be very interesting, a wild ride with the Coalition Circus. The Rudd Government has not set one foot wrong since they were elected. The Coalition more tha chaos,Oppose everything’ Division and dysfunction, Lack of due diligence well said Ad. How good is this :- Bushfire Bill, one of the most admired contributors (hear hear) to The Political Sword, The Poll Bludger and other blog sites, will make guest posts on TPS. Watch for them. Thankyou Ad for making these blog sites available here for us will will be watching for sure. Hooray for Ad, three cheers for The Political Sword. Merry Xmas Ad and a Happy New Year to you and your family. Thankyou Ad for all the work you do in keeping this blog alive, we very much appreciate your work, as a matter of fact "YOU MAKE MY DAY". Merry Xmas and Happy New year to all my friends on Ad's "The Political Sword blogg".

john

21/12/2009This post exposes one of the problems with our system of govt - the complexity involved and the expectation of policy from oppositions. I've worked as a public servant and completely agree with the comments about complexity and the need for large scale reviews. But that puts oppositions in a very difficult spot because if the say "we will review x" then that's not much of a policy, and gets denigrated as a weak, small target approach. But if they say "we will do y" then they get the government using all of its resources to show why that's not a good idea. The opposition struggles to refute this because it just does not have the resources or the information to provide the level of policy detail that they need to do their job effectively. The nation would be better off if there was a massive increase in research and information gathering resources for oppositions at both state and federal level.

Michael Cusack

21/12/2009John above. I agree heartily with your point. I have long believed that the Parliamentary Library or a similar body set up for the purpose should be available on a bigger scale to do policy research for all members and Senators. I don't think it would save us from the idiocies of Barnaby or Fielding (you can lead a horse to water .....), but at least there would no excuse.

Macca

21/12/2009Thanks for the year AA. See you in2010

Ad astra reply

21/12/2009Rx, Bilko, Michael, Lyn1, janice, Macca Thank you for your generous remarks and good wishes. They are very heart-warming. 2010 will be a crucial year for the Rudd Government as it comes to the sharp end of its many reviews and shapes implementation strategies. With the Abbott Opposition poised to oppose everything the Government attempts to do, it will be difficult going. If the manner in which the Opposition has opposed so many of the Government’s initiatives, particularly the ETS, is any guide, it will be a struggle to get any new policy proposal through. The CPRS will be particularly problematic now that Copenhagen has declined to adopt targets and methods of achieving them. The Government’s task will be to educate the public more fully about the CPRS and make compelling the case that early action will be to Australia’s advantage, not the opposite. To be a leader in developing alternative energy sources could net Australia a large economic advantage. Let’s talk about the positives instead of harping on the negatives. Sir Ian, It is disappointing that Kevin Rudd has not yet achieved sainthood. These things take time. If he manages to get his legislative agenda past the obstructive Tony Abbott that should count for several miracles, so maybe by next Christmas we’ll have our own Saint Kevin. Actually several influential journalists have already so dubbed him, so he’s well on his way. Keep up the cryptic comments Sir Ian, they give us cause to put on a wry smile. john, Michael Your comments are germane. It is just when information is lacking, when inadequate research has allowed ignorance to prevail, when thoughtful reasoning through a problem has been lacking, when consultation with stakeholders and sources of knowledge has been limited, that off-the-cuff, back-of-the-envelope, poorly designed policy emerges. It not only confuses the issue but generates discord, argument and heated debate, where so often people resort to stereotypical behaviour in place of informed discourse. I agree that all our legislators should have access to the best of information, the cream of learned opinion, and the resources to use these to formulate sound policy initiatives. Sadly, our adversarial system of politics makes such a thing virtually impossible; all governments seek to disadvantage oppositions as much as they can. So much for ‘governing in the national interest’! What a magnificent gesture it would be to legislate for such an arrangement. As you say Michael, it would not save us from the likes of Joyce and Fielding, but it would give balanced politicians the chance to do their job more productively.

monica

21/12/2009I don't know if you've been following the contributions on The Drum, Ad. I've had a look from time to time and I must say I much prefer what what you have to say or The Piping Shrike or Andrew Elder or Possum to just about anything being written there. Annabel Crabb is amusing but hardly earth shattering in her analysis. I recall the piece you wrote on groupthink among the MSM and it seems it has largely just migrated to The Drum. Enjoy your holiday and come back with all neurones firing for what will no doubt be a cracker of a year. Merry Xmas to you, your family and those who contribute here.

Ad astra reply

21/12/2009monica Annabelle Crabb’s quest for cleverness sometimes seems to displace her reasoning. Today’s effort on [i]The Drum: Rudd's year of living B-minus[/i] is an example of the triumph of cleverness over reason. She is entitled to give her learned opinion of how Rudd has scored in each of his legislative endeavours, no matter how arguable they might be, but to somehow believe these scores can simply be added to derive a B-minus is reminiscent of what Julia Gillard has been up against with the pedagogues in her quest to evaluate schools around Australia. It’s not that simple Annabelle, as Julia knows. The scores she gives are based on opinion, not sound assessment. She advances little or no evidence to support her conclusions. In the case of Rudd’s C minus for his climate change efforts which she marks as a ‘fail’, she does not go on to analyse why he failed. It’s like a football coach saying to a player – you played an awful game, go home – yet providing no feedback on his performance. All critics know that feedback is the food of champions. In this instance failure to get the legislation through was the result of deniers, sceptics and political opportunists in the Coalition blocking it, the Greens blocking it for the opposite reason – it didn’t go far enough – and the Independents blocking it for their own inscrutable reasons. One could argue that Rudd and Wong failed to be sufficiently persuasive, but we know that is not the case, the opponents were running their own agendas. So Rudd’s ‘failure’ and his consequent C minus was the work of others. Being failed is one thing, but being failed because someone else stuffed up seems somewhat unfair. But as we all know: ‘all’s fair in love and war’ and in politics, and in political journalism, as long as it’s entertaining. Annabelle is capable of good journalism – her [i]Quarterly Essay[/i] on Malcolm Turnbull [i]Stop at Nothing[/i] was well researched, well written and informative. Her efforts on [i]The Drum[/i] are more entertainment that serious journalistic analysis. It’s a pity the ABC has fashioned [i]The Drum[/i] in this way as a competitor to other populist blog sites. In this forum Annabelle is unlikely to depart substantially from the views held by her colleagues, a manifestation of groupthink, as you point out. Thank you for your good wishes. I’ll enjoy the break in anticipation of the ‘cracker year’ you predict.

Ebenezer

22/12/2009In a nutshell, Labor = good / Liberal = bad, or in its current form, very bad. Thanks Ad for providing one of the best sites on the net. To you and all my fellow posters here, and lurkers alike, have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Cheers Eb. :)

BH

22/12/2009Thanks AA to you and your contributors for compelling reading throughout the year. With the MSM seemingly pushing the barrow for the Opposition we will need your thoughts to get us through 2010. Compliments of the Season to All.

You must be kidding

22/12/2009There are none so blind as those that cannot see ... What a bunch of left thinking intellectuals on this site that have commented. It seems the Howard years were the worst in our history ... we apparently lost our identity and now through the good graciousness of Krudd we are now the fols we have always wanted to be. What a bunch of ignorant folks who are wrapped in some sense of denial. I'm sorry ... one of the best performing countres in the last decade is who? And why is that pray tell? You most likely forget the angst and betrayal of the Keating Government and the debt left behind ... you no doubt celebrate in the debt we now have to leave to future generations which I suspect you don't care about ... just so long as you got the $900 to pay off your credit card ... taxpayers paying someone else's debt ... you don't see anything wrong with that? Just exactly ... list them ... what has Krudd done? What did he promise and what has he done. He said unelmployment would get to 8.5% and that is the reason we needed to spend ... mind you we had and still have a skill shortgae, we haven't gone greater than 5.8% and yet we continue to spend ... I suspect that should give you some pride ... What else has he done? Sure he has travelled overseas more than any other ... sure he abuses people ... yes he uses words that no one understands ... sure he spins everything .... but what has he done? He will win the next election ... history says he will ... but he will be gone before the next one, the comrades will see to that. He will go done is history and actually compete with McMahon and Fraser and the worst Prime Minister since the modern two party system. Love is blind and so folks are you ... get some balance into your politics not bias.

Ad astra reply

22/12/2009You must be kidding You seem to be exhibiting the same degree of bias of which you accuse contributors to this blog site. You acknowledge that Kevin Rudd spent money to tackle what he saw as impending unemployment. I presume you thought that was OK. Otherwise you seem to believe he has done nothing else of merit. Yet according to the opinion polls, the public seem to think he’s doing a good job – not perfect, but pretty good. So have the people got it wrong? When you use the tired old tag ‘Krudd’, we know what to expect in the way of comment. We suspect what bias you have, your words confirm it, and we advance our understanding no further. That’s not helpful. We all have our biases and preferences. Instead of criticising our biases simply by exhibiting your own, why not engage us in informed well-reasoned dialogue? We are open to established facts and a rational discourse. You might be surprised that our ‘love’ is not so blind that we can’t accept other views. Why not try us? But please spare us a tirade.

torsten

22/12/2009hey ad, i just want to say thank you for this great news and the best information to this topic!!!!keep it up! and the comments were also very interesting...so thanks for publish this discussion.... merry xmas torsten

Ad astra reply

22/12/2009Folks, I was tempted to post another piece – Lessons from Copenhagen – but as it’s so close to Christmas when people may be too busy to attend to it, I’ll add it to this post, just for the record. [i][b]Lessons from Copenhagen[/i][/b] For every commentator there will be a preferred descriptor for the Copenhagen outcome. At one end of the spectrum there is Tony Abbott who describes it as ‘an unmitigated disaster for Kevin Rudd’ and a ‘rebuff’, notwithstanding the countless warnings that Rudd gave beforehand that we should not expect too much. He knew the going was very tough. If he had confidently painted Copenhagen as the conference that would resolve what to do about AGW, Abbott’s descriptor might have applied, but Rudd didn’t. Disappointment would a more appropriate term – one that Rudd might use himself – although he is now maintaining that about as much was achieved as was possible under the circumstances. Bob Brown was not far behind Abbott in declaring Copenhagen a failure, because it did not endorse his 40% target and immediately set about carbon mitigation. It seems as if assessment of Copenhagen is as dependent on political orientation as anything else. So what lessons might be learned? I won’t repeat the accomplishments of the conference, however modest; they have been well publicized in the MSM. [i]Lesson 1 – There were too many participants[/i] Representatives of 194 countries and their thousands of advisors were highly unlikely to reach consensus, let alone a binding agreement. It seems as if such an outcome was improbable from the start. Ross Garnaut thought so, and wasn’t surprised at the outcome; in fact he was quite positive about what had been achieved. Should there be fewer next time? A forum that has had positive outcomes is the G20. Maybe this was because the focus was on the GFC and the urgent need to do something now; or because the G20 represents the major nations, developed and emerging, but not the undeveloped; or because there was more affinity between representatives. But would it be worthwhile thinking of it as a forum for the next stage, if the UN could be persuaded to give some other forum a go. In the end it was a Barack Obama deal brokered on behalf of the US with just a handful of nations – China, India, Brazil and South Africa – that finally got up, although amidst protest and in the case of some nations with them simply ‘noting’ the deal. [i]Lesson 2 – Smaller forces can hijack a lot of the conference time[/i] The representative of Tuvalu, Queanbeyan environmentalist Ian Fry, had a big say, as did Kemal Djemouai, an Algerian official who led a group of African nations seeking higher targets and compensation. They derailed discussion for a couple of days with their insistent demands and walkouts. Such an occurrence needs to be avoided next time. A smaller group could achieve this. [i]Lesson 3 – The interests of nation states almost always override global interests[/i] In the same way that parochial party interests override the national interest in federal politics here, no matter how small a nation is on the world scene, its interests will always take precedence. Representatives of nations speak to their domestic audiences and cannot commit their nation to anything the party in power, and in turn the people, do not endorse. So how can a binding global agreement ever be reached? [i]Lesson 4 – Two weeks is not enough time to resolve such a complex issue as AGW[/i] Although there had been much preparatory work, the actual time for the conference was insufficient to allow the thousands of delegates to fully discuss with each other the complex issues involved. Trade negotiations, even when simply bilateral, go on for many months. How could it be possible for each party, with its own idiosyncratic agenda, understand that of other parties, in just two weeks? Should discussions preliminary to the next climate change conferences start now? [i]Lesson 5 – The reality of AGW was accepted as a starting point[/i] With the exception of a few deniers who got through the net, the conference delegates did not argue the validity of AGW. This is encouraging, especially in the light of the high level of denial and scepticism that exists in federal politics here, which has seriously distracted from discussions about what to do about it. Tony Abbott seems to be retreating from his denial and scepticism and is talking about the need for doing something about global warming, provided of course we do as little as possible, at as low a cost as possible. There were some positive outcomes, albeit modest, on which to build. Instead of decrying what might have been, or ought to have been, is it not wiser to grab what’s there and construct the follow-up small piece by small. This will be possible provided it is not eroded by more denial, more unrealistic demands, and more opportunistic politics. Hope springs eternal! Will the lessons be learned? I’ve seen little comment about these matters in the MSM. If they are not learned, will the next round simply repeat the mistakes of Copenhagen? What do you think? Are there other lessons we need to learn?

Ebenezer

23/12/2009Latest odds on the betting side of things for Mr Abbott don't seem to be backing up the adulation the msm appear to be heaping upon him. I found the following quote from the article telling, [b][quote]"The movement in the market is another sharp reminder that while Mr Abbott is popular and admired in some quarters, he is not the leader to cut into Labor's margin at the ballot box, Mr Evans said."[/quote][/b] I would suggest those quarters to be the liberal faithful and nobody else. Here is the link, http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/odds-of-coalition-election-win-widen-20091222-lb4t.html Cheers Eb. :)

Garry Duong

23/12/2009i prefer quick fixes wherever possible

vote1maxine

23/12/2009Ad Astra Many thanks for providing an informative and thought stimulating political blog. It has my vote for the best such site in 2009! I really appreciate the factual political analysis and insights without the "flame wars" and "attention seeking posts" which unfortunately characterize other sites. Moreover, the fact that you reply to to each post not only adds a warm personal touch but also engenders common courtesy and good manners which are rapidly disappearing in the anonymity of the internet. I'd like this opportunity to wish both you and the other bloggers here a Merry and Safe Christmas and a Happy New Year. I'm looking forward to the insightful posts in the coming election year. It is going to be a corker!! In relation to Lessons from Copenhagen, for me personally the slow pace of change is disappointing. The lesson for me is to take more action on a micro level to reducing the carbon footprint and living even more sustainably. I think action on a micro level needs to be rapidly expanded to a community based "People Power" action to run in parallel to the main stream political process. This has the twofold purpose of putting further pressure on our politicians to act and to relieve some of the frustration many of us are feeling over the the slowness of action. I have some ideas that I'd like to run pass you on this if you'd like to email me. I'd appreciate your feedback.

Ad astra reply

23/12/2009Ebenezer Thanks for the link. The punters are usually spot on when it comes to election result predictions. This week’s [i]Essential Report[/i] shows Abbott’s lack of impact to date. As Possum says in [i]Essential Report – Christmas Edition[/i] http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2009/12/23/essential-report-christmas-edition/ [i]"Abbott continues to make no mark on the vote estimates – during his honeymoon."[/i] Garry Duong Who doesn’t like ‘quick fixes’, so long as they are good fixes. But as ‘quick fixes’ are often slipshod, it’s sensible to wait while the ‘fix’ is being done properly; otherwise it has to be done again. Fixing complex systems like the health care system or the tax system is so complicated that it would be administratively ridiculous to rush. vote1maxine Thank you for your very kind and complimentary remarks and good wishes for Christmas and 2010. You’re right, 2010 will be drama-packed year politically. I agree that ‘People Power’ needs to be applied to AGW. There is much we all can do provided the reality of AGW is accepted and its dire potential recognized. Those into denial, aided and abetted by the likes of Joyce and Minchin, and even Abbott (who knows what he really believes), make recognition of AGW much harder for the general populace, although in the 14 December Essential Report http://www.essentialmedia.com.au/Media/Essential_Report_141209.pdf asked about the importance of the meeting in Copenhagen to discuss climate change 73% said it was important and only 21% said it was not important. However, asked about the likelihood that a global approach to climate change will be agreed in Copenhagen only 19% said likely, while 74% said not likely. So it seems people believe it’s important to take action, but are sceptical about their representatives doing so. I’d welcome your ideas which you can email to me at ad.astra5@bigpond.com

Acerbic Conehead

23/12/2009Just popped in to wish AA, BB and everyone else at TPS a VHC. Keep up the good work, and I look forward to more lurking in 2010. AC.

You must be kidding

23/12/2009Okay Okay ... I am not a fan of the Prime Minister ... but mostly because he promised so much and has delivered nothing. No one is game to identify anything he has done ... so let's just list a few things he hasn't. Health ... no action. IR ... yes workchoices is gone yet so to the Keating government's IR changes Federal Police ... a bit short. Out of Iraq ... we still have a significant presence there Indigenous Affairs ... I think we give that a tick of failure. Plastic Bags ... no tick there Shall we go on ... We had the 2020 summit ... what idea has been implemented. We said sorry to the stolen generation but what have we done in other areas of indigenous need, to the extent we are criticised by UN organisations for lack of action? Perhaps it was the racially motivated withholding of money from of first nation peoples in the NT. New Housing ... what new housing. We have roof insulation being instaled by cowboys and President Obama has thanked us for importing American products ... surely this was supposed to stimulate the Australian economy not the Americans. No new airport in Sydney ... We have assembly halls being built to schools that say they do not need them ... Just exactly what has this government done ... what unpopular thing has this government done? Just exactly what has 'Kevin from Queensland' done? Please enlighten me. The list of non action is long ... pleeease tell me what this government has done ... Debt? Yes give that a tick What do we have to show for this debt? Tell me please ... what are you so happy with? Polls say the government is doing well ... they haven't done anything so why would they be unpopular. List them ... let's tick them off.

bilgedigger

23/12/2009I'd like to extend my appreciation for this site and it's contributors, those who are likeminded and those who so vociferously are not. We need to continue debating issues, hopefully without descending into name-calling and tired myth-making rhetoric. I have enjoyed the posts here throughout the year but for the moment I'm tired of the continued oppositional stance on just about all subjects in this country. I'm looking forward to a break away from the political antics reported in Australia and to enjoy some time catching up with some reading. I've just bought the latest Orhan Pamuk book "The Museum of Innocence" as well as some of his earlier books, along with the just published Orwell Diaries. A loving family, good friends, good books, red wine and excellent cheeses promises a rewarding and relaxing break. I hope all have as pleasant a time.

janice

23/12/2009YOU must be kidding if you think your whining requires people to give up their time to answer your mindless drivel. Your list is nothing but the rubbish spouted by the anti-labor forces who neither could, nor would, ever admit a Labor Government can do anything right. If you want someone to whine to why not go over to the OO and tell it to Janet Albrechtson?

Ad astra reply

23/12/2009Acerbic Conehead Thank you for your good wishes. 2010 should be an fascinating year politically. You must be kidding You are certainly well-versed in the ‘Rudd has done nothing’ refrain. I’m not so egotistical as to believe that anything I write in rebuttal will influence your thinking, but I’ll give it a try. Health – the Rudd Government has undertaken the most comprehensive review ever of health and hospitals and has over a hundred recommendations to work through. Does carrying out a major review deserve a tick, or does that fit your category of ‘no action’. And apart from that, Nicola Roxon has introduced many measures in the health field over the last two years – just today she announced a trial of hospital-supported home childbirth. But I suppose that too is nothing. IR – WorkChoices gone – I guess that too is nothing much. A vastly simplified award system, but that’s nothing either. A new tribunal, new laws governing workplace relations, which of course you dismiss as regressive, and no doubt class them all as worse than nothing! Federal police – I don’t know to what you are referring here. We have a new commissioner and the AFP seems to be functioning. Indigeneous affairs – Apart from the apology there has been an enormous amount done – the fact is that accomplishing anything at all in this problematic field with so many conflicting forces, is amazing in itself. You obviously count all Jenny Macklin’s efforts as worth nothing. I’m sure she would be impressed with that assessment of two years of hard toil. New housing – you say ‘what housing’. Haven’t you noticed the hundreds of new and renovated public accommodation that Tanya Plibersek has built? You should pay more attention before saying ‘what new housing’. Insulation – lots of houses and public buildings now have energy-saving insulation. That there were some ‘cowboys’ out there is not disputed, nor is the fact that some insulation was imported because local suppliers could not keep up. Would you have stopped the project because of this? It did stimulate the economy – local installers were kept in work. But I suppose that’s really not worth a tick. New Sydney airport – I don’t recall that being an election promise, but only a couple of days ago an announcement was made about it, so it is still being considered. Of course it’s such a simple endeavour – although it’s one that has defied governments for decades, Rudd should have fixed it pronto. Black mark Kevin. Assembly Halls – could you tell us all, out of the 24,000 projects in 9,500 schools around Australia, how many didn’t want the assembly halls they’ve been offered, or for that matter anything else they have been offered? We’d love to know. Or are you just relying on the complaints listed so stridently in [i]The Oz[/i], about sixty of them, now almost entirely resolved? If you’re looking for unbiased, accurate information, beware of [i]The Oz[/i]. But I guess if it suits your purpose, where else would you go? Debt – now you do give that a big tick. What on earth did we get for the stimulus spending that caused the debt? Did we avoid a recession, high unemployment, falling retail sales, and declining consumer and business confidence consequent on the GFC? Does Rudd deserve a tick for that? Or was that unique outcome entirely due to John Howard, the Reserve Bank, a good banking system, and nothing to do with the actions of Kevin and Wayne? I suspect you might see it that way, although most economists and the IMF give them a big tick. They must be mistaken. The Coalition’s ‘$315 billion Labor debt bomb’, carted around on a ‘debt truck’ seems now to be garaged, because the debt will likely be nowhere near that. Would you have preferred to just ride out the recession, the unemployment, the flagging economy, the failing small businesses, just so debt could be avoided? If so, those who kept their jobs or their small businesses alive as a result might not agree with you. janice has warned me before not to waste my time answering your style of comment, and she’s almost certainly right. I guess I’m a sucker for sticking to the facts and because I find your assertions so preposterous, so stereotypical of what the anti-Labor, anti-Rudd forces perpetuate every day, I felt the need to put the verifiable facts before you, hoping they may modify your views. If you bother to respond, it won’t take me long to ascertain if my efforts were worth the time it took to pen this reply. bilgedigger Thank you for your comments. Like you, I wish we could have a spell from all this acerbic, confrontational, adversarial politics, but with Tony Abbott at the helm, we can expect much more of that than we ever had from Malcolm Turnbull. Enjoy your family, the book, the red wine and the cheese. janice I promise that if ‘You must be kidding’ comes back with the same tirade, I will take your advice, and ignore him or her next time.

mick smetafor

23/12/2009AA,i disagree with janice,i think you should respond to the comments of the likes of 'you must be kidding'as you have a clear and methodical way of answering their stereotypical accusations that others may,allthough knowing they are untrue, do not know how to counter.i enjoy reading your replies.and a happy festivus to all on this site from me and mine.the feats of strength will be cancelled this year due to an attack of flaccidity.

Sir Ian Crisp

23/12/2009You must be kidding, please don’t count me in Mr Rudd’s Praetorian Guard. Australian politicians make me want to vomit. And please don’t label me as Left wing. If you called me pragmatic you would be correct.

Ad astra

23/12/2009mick Thank you for your kind remarks and your season's greetings. It will be interesting to see if 'You must be kidding' replies, whether I have had any impact. Even if I haven't, it gives me some pleasure responding to such outrageous comments, which the evidence shows are largely incorrect or inaccurate, and are simply a mindless mantra that, like so many rituals, serve not to inform, but simply to give the perpetrator pleasure and comfort. Sir Ian Cryptic as ever, By the way, enjoy the end-of-year break, and do come back in 2010.

Sir Ian Crisp

23/12/2009Thanks AA. If the multicultural police aren't listening I'd like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a great 2010. Are we still allowed to say Merry Christmas?

Bushfire Bill

24/12/2009Ah yes, the Rudd Years... Out there somewhere there are angry people: angry that not everything has gone according to their plan. Perhaps their superannuation has dipped in value; perhaps the value of their house; perhaps their interest rates have gone up. One of these angry people is sitting atop a self-constructed tower, hunger striking for less tree plantings. Another thinks that the Asylum Seeker issue will spell the end of Rudd after one term. Others may have had a loved one get very sick, or maybe pass away. They're not going to be too impressed with "what Rudd has done for health"". There may be some disgruntled members of the AFP who think there should be more coppers on the beat (by the way, AA, most of You Must Be Kidding's items of complaint have graced the front page of the OZ in the past week... he's just regurgitating "Front Page Scandals Of The Day" from the increasingly Alice-In-Wonderland-like Murdoch flagship). The list could be longer, but let's just agree: lots of angry people. Abbott thinks these are a goldmine for his brand of Angry Politics. He thinks those of them in the middle who are swinging voters will stay angry enough to change their votes. He has a small army of shock-jocks, newspaper opinion writers and viral email senders out there denying everything from the GFC to Climate Change. We had a Rudd Recession with high unemployment, then we had "Recession?: What Recession?" with not much more than a blip in unemployment... which was all down to the brilliant economic management of Howard and Costello, and their government, who were ignominiously sacked by the people for it in a fit of communal insanity. We had Global Warming, about which something had to be done, and Howard had just the policies to do it. This morphed into the "crap" theory of Global Warming, and whatever it was Howard was going to do about it was just a ploy to save votes at the 2007 election, not to be taken seriously; a disposable policy for election purposes only. Abbott has form on this "I had my fingers crossed" style of politics: during the Republic Referendum campaign, Abbott was the politician who told us never to trust a politician when it cam to picking the Head Of State. We should trust John Howard (perhaps the most cynical, certainly the most complete politician of all) to do so instead. Abbott chops. Abbott changes. He says one thing to one audience and the opposite to another. For this he is rewarded with the plaudit: "The Conviction Politician"... you may not agree with Abbott, but you sure know where he stands. The problem is, look away for a half a millisecond and Abbott is standing somewhere else, contradicting what he just told you. You know where Abbott stands, because he stands anywhere there is a vote to be won. Rudd by contrast is shadowed by a posse of right-wing attack dogs who record every nuance of everything he says. When they can't criticise Rudd's words, they criticise the way he utters them (fair shake of a sauce bottle, anyone?). If he is angry, anger was inapproprite. If is not angry, anger [i]is[/i] appropriate. More Rudd failures. Meanwhile Abbott can get away with eating shit sandwiches, calling major issues that concern a large majority of the population "crap" and apply any epithet he deems appropriate to any subject. The pundits praise him for it, contrasting this style with Rudd's "nerdish" ways (except when Rudd is not nerdish, and then he is condemned as "foul mouthed"). Despite all this Rudd soars in the polls. I think it's because many of the angry swinging voters out there, when considering whether they might change back to the Coalition, realise that despite all the noise and thunder coming from "taking the fight up to the government", what they want is relative job security, a prosperous economy, major flaws in certain areas to be first analysed thoroughly and then fixed for good, and most of all they do [i]not[/i] want Abbott's brand of confrontationist politics. These swingers may be angry, but they don't want to stay that way. they're sick of the Coalition's sneering attitude to anything the government does (and in many cases, does not do, or does not even consider doing). They want a resolution to their anger, not more of it. Anger is OK for a while, but it's not a good way to live your life. To be continually told that the electoral decision you made two years ago was wrong, so wrong that it merits the term "incomprehensible" (to Abbott, anyway) is about the worst way to attract disciples to your side of things. Abbott is the angry priest, full of fire and brimstone. Rudd is the calm, collected curate, quietly making sure that things get done. It infuriates Abbott that this is so, which - of course - plays right into Rudd's hands. The downfall of Abbott will be [i]his[/i] anger, as has always been the case with this passionate but flawed politician. Merry Xmas to all and a Happy New Year (and a safe one... remember double-demerit points!). I will be writing a few posts during January and can only hope they approach the quality of AA's fine offerings. He's a hard act to follow. Until soon... Bushfire Bill.

Ad astra

24/12/2009Sir Ian, Lyn1, BB Yes, we are allowed to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I join you in extending my good wishes to all visitors to [i]TPS[/i] and particularly to all of you who have contributed to this site and enriched it so much. vote1maxine Telstra has managed to accidentally disconnect all my email addresses. Although this feat took them only a few seconds, by virtue of its unique brand of bureaucratic torpor, Telstra will take 48 hours to restore them! So I can neither send or receive emails until I'm once again graced with operational email addresses. So I suggest you leave any email message until well after Christmas. Bushfire Bill You have signed off discussion of [i]The Rudd years[/i] with your characteristic flourish. What more needs to be said? Thank you for your unique contributions to [i]TPS[/i] throughout the year. We look forward to your offerings during January. It's Christmas eve - time to give politics a spell for a while, so I'll sign off until 2010.
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?