How good is compassion and concern!

You may have seen recently that Dick Smith was somewhat flummoxed when he noticed that the Australian Taxation legislation is configured in such a way that he received $0.5 million in franking credits in a financial year. While it would be easy to suggest to Smith and (probably) others with similar levels of ‘windfall gains’ what they should do with the money, the better option is to talk about what Smith could be attempting to do— initiate a discussion on fairness.

The Hawke Government in 1987 made a determination that allowing franking credits to taxpayers made sense as the alternative, taxing companies on their profits then taxing company shareholders on the profits returned as dividends after payment of taxes, was taxing an income stream twice. On the face of it, the policy makes sense and is a logical outcome from government (both sides of politics have determined the practice has benefit as they both have supported it when in power). Even though the ALP discussed removing some franking credit concessions introduced by Howard at the last federal election, there was no discussion on ceasing the practice completely.

However, Australian Governments of various political persuasions have made policy that is far less compassionate to parts of our community. Keeping refugees and asylum seekers in detention camps off shore, politicising climate change, retaining a number of social security benefits at a level that is not commensurate with the funding required to live in current society, chasing social security recipients for small debts while treating the crimes of business who underpay millions in wages to staff with significantly greater leniency — and the list goes on.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was recently in Melbourne to meet with Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. While Ardern was here, she gave an address at Melbourne Town Hall on why good government matters. According to The Guardian, the theme of Ardern's speech was
politicians should not be stoking a climate of fear and hate.

“We have choices as politicians in a political environment, you can either choose to capitalise on that fear, stoke it and politically benefit from it,” she said. “Or you can run a counter-narrative, you can talk about hope.”

During the address she reflected on the importance of building consensus in politics.

“To be truly transformational in government you have to build consensus. People have to actually decide what you’ve done should stick, otherwise it’s gone,” Ardern said, adding she hopes her government can build a lasting legacy on reducing child poverty and action on climate change
Earlier this year, Ardern received a lot of notice worldwide due to her seemingly implicit compassion and concern to those affected by the Christchurch terrorist attack, including an article on The Political Sword comparing her actions favourably to Morrison’s (and others). The Guardian reported Ardern was asked about the reaction to her behaviour while delivering her recent Melbourne speech
She brushed off the international attention her behaviour garnered, telling the audience, it was a very Kiwi response and she was mirroring exactly what was happening all over the country.

“I was saddened by it, it shouldn’t have been noteworthy,” she said.
And that's the point. Compassion and concern should not be noteworthy behaviour by a leader in the community — it should be a natural reaction.

You could argue that Ardern's response wasn't ‘Kiwi’ specific, Australians are also very generous in pledging time, effort and financial support when responding to natural disasters such as the ongoing drought, floods, bushfires and so on when they occur across our nation. Morrison's recent appearance at Hillsong Church's annual conference where he prayed for resolution of a number of issues facing Australia shows that he does attempt to demonstrate (in his own way) compassion and concern for issues facing all of us. It seems that generally Australians, like those over the ditch in New Zealand, do give a damn about the community they live in during times of crisis and ill fortune.

Why is it that political compassion and concern evaporates soon after the event? Partly it is due to membership and marketing to their supporters. If a 'rusted-on' group of supporters is the pool from where office holders and candidates for elected office is available, it stands to reason that the outcomes delivered will reflect the views and lived experiences of the supporters in the first place. The rest of us then look at politicians ‘looking after their mates’ and disengage, allowing the ‘rusted-on’ to expect greater benefits be delivered with no effective alternatives being discussed. Obviously it stands to reason that Morrison understands the tenets of Pentecostal churches and the Liberal Party to a far greater extent than he understands atheists or the Australian Greens. However all of these groups (and many others as well) have the ability to bring rational suggestions and beliefs to the table.

We can fix this. It touches on all of us having a voice and using it like Smith does. While Australians don't have a legislated 'freedom of speech' or 'freedom of religion', there is an implied acceptance that both freedoms are enjoyed. Also implied in the concept of freedom is the ability for others to completely disagree with the stated point of view. We need to listen and respect the views of others. That is consensus as demonstrated by the practices of the Ardern Government in New Zealand and Hawke’s Government in the 1980s. While Ardern, like Hawke & Keating in the 1980s, manages to get people from all points of view into a room and gain consensus, current Australian political leadership seems to be deficient in comparison. Even conservative political leaders past and present acknowledged the ground-breaking work of Hawke when discussing his legacy recently. There should be a big difference between a disagreement over a point of view and a total repudiation of all the person or group who holds a differing view stands for (with the likelihood of a free character assassination thrown in). Sadly and frequently, there isn’t.

Which is where those flying kites looking for ‘freedom’ legislation have a problem. If you have the legislated freedom to express your love of heavy metal music, a brand of appliance, a political viewpoint or a religion, others have the right under the same legislation to disagree with your viewpoint. No, you shouldn’t be persecuted for loving heavy metal, but others shouldn’t be persecuted because they prefer classical music. It’s the same with politics, the brand of kitchen appliance you choose or your religion (or for that matter, your right to not believe in the teachings of a religion). Those bashing the ’freedom’ drum frequently forget this inconvenient fact, expecting us to immediately see the fundamental error of our ways and adopt their particular point of view.

Consensus is a shared understanding that we don’t all have to agree on everything, that different opinions are valued and worthy, such as Smith’s observations on franking credits. Compassion is assessing the alternate viewpoints with the belief there is something in there that will make the policy more robust and relevant to more Australians. While you can and should argue the case for your opinion, it doesn’t mean that others must be forced to agree with you. The sooner we remember that, the better off we’ll all be.

What do you think?

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Lawrence Winder


Hmmmm.... with the influx of IPA fellow travelers into the Ruling Rabble and other young turks of "aspirational bent" I wouldn't be holding my breath waiting for a more reasoned approach to anything... they have learnt well that fear works and that they will not be held to account for any corrupt or malfeaseant behaviour see Timmy Wilson's Franking crerdits shenanigans or the Murray Darling farce... the cancer is spreading and needs excision.



Yes Lawrence it does need excision. That's why you, I and everyone else needs to call out the cancers as we see them occur. We all have the ability to expose the fear campaigns. Although we don't have the same platform as the fear-mongers, we do have the ability to talk with people in our community and influence opinion. It's an election winning strategy. Just ask Annastacia Palaszczuk or Daniel Andrews.



Thanks 2353, Hi Ad astra et al,

I must say the very existence of Jacinda Ardern rubs salt into the unhealing wounds of the last election.

When I first stated writing here, around the time of the 2010 election, we were so hopeful, so proud of our new PM *J*U*L*I*A*, and we led the world in many ways.

Less than nine years later, and six of those under this accursed Coalition, all that is gone. We can never be a decent nation again. And it is our own people who have damned us.

We could have been New Zealand but we are more apartheid South Africa. I see no way of uncurdling this rancid society. 

Anyway when I started thinking of all this I went back to the pome I wrote recording the dramatic outcome of that election, and simultaneously inadvertently betrayed my own hopeful naivety. There it is in The Political Sword's stupendous Archive. I was quite proud of it, and it has actually stood up pretty well to the ravages of History I think. Easy to find, but the format has been corrupted by the changes in the Sword itself so it is all in a continuous paragraph. I've half-corrected it all below, so each single paragraph contains one verse, but it's not in its line-by-line format.

But Oh it makes me sad to look at what we have lost.  You don't have to read it. But I can't write that any more.   

Here's the whole post:

12/10/2010 HiHo Swordsfolk, I been away in the Flinders, looking at my State Floral Emblems, the fantastickest flower of all, Sturt Desert Peas, BRILLIANT! No Optus Wireless of course, so I spent some time recording in feelgood verse the drama of the election. I really did it for you jj, hope you love it. heh heh. The Lass From Yarralumla A Parody on A.B. Banjo Paterson’s “The Man From Snowy River”

                                                       The Lass From Yarralumla

There was panic in the parties as the poll results came down, For Left and Right dead-heated on that day; The Government’s survival stood on very slippery ground, And the hacks and experts all had heaps to say.

All the journalists and politicians came from near and far To add their sound and fury to the fight, And all you heard on ABC was Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah While the Murdoch Press screamed Right is Right is Right!

There were Liberals Joe Hockey, a fat and lazy blob, Who had fallen at the first jump when he’d tried, Malcolm Turnbull, once-and-wanna-be, and poor old Andrew Robb, While Phony Tony Abbott ran and lied.

There was an effete mincing poodle, known as Whining Chrissie Pyne, Creepy Kevin Andrews, washed-out Warren Entsch; Token female Julie Bishop, who thinks plagiarism fine; That about exhausts the Liberals’ front bench.

They were confident of victory, and hubris they suffused, And they claimed that they’d won power by a nose; They squealed that they weren’t guilty of what Treasury accused: Multi-Billion Dollar Holes, and things those.

They claimed they had the better of the pan-Australian vote; They called themselves the Government-in-Waiting; They said they’d stop invasion of Australia by boat, While the Media pitched in with Labor-baiting.

And on the Left was Kevin Rudd, who’d won the last time ’round, But fallen at a hurdle months before, With Wayne Swan on Economy, a stayer well-renowned, And of Labor fancied runners, many more.

Stephen Smith, Nicola Roxon, Combet, Albanese, Crean, The list was long of talents deep and broad: They were clever and committed, and experienced and keen: A well-matched team compared with Abbott’s horde.

And one was there, Our Ranga Lass, of feisty fighting breed, a Queen Boadicea, well-advised, Flashing wit and Gaelic glamour, with Crow-Eater in her creed, And Makybe Diva fire in her eyes.

She had led the charge for Labor, but she’d very nearly failed, Though equally, she’d very nearly won, But Julia Gillard held her nerve while lesser beings quailed, And stayed the course while Abbott made his run.

There was one Sandgroper National, a new bloke, Tony Crook, And no-one really knew which way he’d vote, But he seems so undetermined, even bookies won’t make book, Though he’s travelling in the Coalition’s float.

Andrew Wilkie, Independent, and young Adam Bandt, a Green Pledged on certain terms to join with Gillard’s crew, And not bring down the Government, for both of them were keen Not to support a Coalition coup.

And the way that Gillard wooed them was a credit to them both, From decent forthright dealings to a mutual binding oath; So though Abbott now claimed 73, Gillard had 74 - But she really needed 76 – She had to score two more!

There were three more Independents, no-one knew how they might jump; Robert Oakeshott, Tony Windsor, and Bob Katter: And the way the hurdles tumbled, all the Force was with that rump, And the Fourth Estate was full of Twitter twatter.

Those three were ex-Nat mavericks, from effin’ FNQ, brumbies weird as unicorns abound: Would they jump together? - Left or Right? - Split 2-1? Or, 1-2? This whole race was on entirely unknown ground!

Then from the Murdoch ss all the hustlers made their run: They were breathing fire and brimstone every breath: That Labor’s illegitimate, that Abbott’s mob had won, And that any tryst with Brown and Greens was Death.

Bloated with his self-importance was conniving Laurie Oakes, And Piers Ackermann, most bigoted of all, And the first one to throw stones, that loathsome, hateful Alan Jones: They’re three key bricks in the Murdochratic Wall.

There was Andrew “Anal” Bolt , and that Glenn Milne, the drunken thug, Grabbing sleazily at any sleazy grab, And that ABC lickspittle, Chris Uhlmann, smooth and smug, And Annabel, the slyly-sidling Crabb.

There was sour Red Kez O’Brien, seemingly forever trying To skewer Julia with some cunning stab; And Tony “Look-Me” Jones, interrupting her in tones That show he thinks he holds sole Royal Right of Gab.

There was Fran "Ms Jelly” Kelly, Michelle Grattan lacking teeth, And Miss Trivia, Virginia Trioli, And that smartarse Barrie Cassidy, with snide asides and acidy, In ABC alliances unholy.

So Our Ranga Lass was targeted by jibes and sexist jokes: Her Titian locks were tweaked, her finely-chiselled nose took pokes From those of the moral wee-ness of a teensy flaccid penis – And unkindest cut of all came from that wimp-out by Megalogenis!

Thus was Julia besieged: just Laura Tingle stood her friend, And challenged Abbott on her comments page; In chivalry and courage she was loyal to the end: The one fair Australian journo of The Age.

But still the Fascist minions, led by Phony Tony Abbott, Went a-raging and a-fulminating on: How they’d really won the Government, and they were gonna grab it, Until many in the Left feared we were gone.

But while Abbott fumed and fretted, bumbling bully through and through, Trying bribery and histrionic threats, In attempts to win the Indies and he needed at least two, Julia Gillard was as subtle as it gets.

She was thoughtful, diplomatic, in conciliatory tone, And the Indies saw that what she says she means, Until even weird Bob Katter, mad as Alice’s mad Hatter, Said he’d found some common values with the Greens!

So we waited, hopeful, fearful, as the weights were counted in: Were we losers, were we winners? Would we wince, or would we grin? We were hanging on the numbers, on the comments, on the hints - If not a gleeful grin, then an excruciating wince!

But throughout 16 long days, while all us Aussies held our breath, Our Ranga Lass ne’er wilted from the hate: She fought to win the issue as if it were life or death: It was grand to see that Lass negotiate!

But still, no-one knew the outcome, until on Day Seventeen, When Bob Katter called a conference at one: And when he did, he voted as some said they had foreseen, With Abbott – Just one more seat, we’d be done!

For the parties now were neck-and-neck, three-score-and-14 all: The margin must be minimally thin; If those last two Independents split, the Government must fall, For Labor needed both of them to win.

Now all the weight of government was held in two men’s hands, And never had the balance been so fine; Would they take a national view, or yield to parish-pump demands? We held our breath, and waited for a sign.

And at last just two hours later, those two last men made their move: Our hearts in trepidation wildly throbbed: One party would be jubilant, as winners they would prove, While the losers all would scream that they was robbed!

First to speak was Tony Windsor, and he gave his solemn word He’d faithfully support the Labor side; Effectively he said that Tony Abbott was absurd - The Coalition cause was now denied!

But that still left Robert Oakeshott: if he went the other way, The parties would be deadlocked, which would mean There would have to be a new election, and without delay, The s of which this land had never seen.

So still we waited, heart in mouth, while Oakeshott took his timeTo explain in full his reasons for his vote; Though the media was furious, as if it were a crime They had to listen first before they wrote.

And seventeen minutes later, as the almanac will show He gave Julia the seat she sorely craved; And after all the arguments, at long last now we know: - HOORAY! The Labor Government is SAVED!

Now up at Yarralumla, the diplomats may raise Their glasses of Chateau Lafitte on high, the chandeliers of crystal through the frosty evenings blaze, And the VIP jets streak the azure sky,

And around the Parliament the votes of aye or nay Decide the laws by which we must abide, The Maid of Yarralumla holds the Vandal hordes at bay, And we Lefties hail Our Ranga Lass with pride.

I have two politicians and add 17 clowns and 14 chimpanzees; how many clowns are there?