Home > Oz Politics > Who wants Abbott PM?

Who wants Abbott PM?

February 18th, 2013

We’ve had quite a few debates here about the Labor leadership. While there are plenty of issues, there is one that, at this point in the cycle, trumps all the others. Of the two serious contenders, who is more likely to save Australia from the disaster of an Abbott-led coalition government? The answer to this question is so clear-cut that I find it impossible to believe anyone would dispute it: Julia Gillard has almost no chance of victory at this point, while Kevin Rudd has a chance. There’s certainly room for debate about how good Rudd’s chances are, but none, I think, as regards Gillard’s. And, whatever the stylistic differences, in substantive terms Gillard’s agenda is the one she inherited from Rudd.

The question now is whether we will have another three years to implement that agenda, or whether we have a Newman-style slash and burn assault on the public sector, the environment, science, women’s rights and, of course, the working class. The only thing likely to stop that is an immediate change of leadership.

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  1. February 19th, 2013 at 22:49 | #1

    The mentality of the Labor functionaries is troubling. Thrashing the Greens represents a failure to think long term. Does anybody want people like that in Government? “Economic growth” is code for climate change denial, is it not?

  2. Edumak8
    February 19th, 2013 at 22:57 | #2

    @Alan
    Because NOW those who marked their ballots for LNP/Lib, Coalition conservative Parties are living the nightmare of being governed by non-consultative razor gangs intent on spending as little as possible on infrastructure & decimating any laws which hinder the almighty $$$ flowing into (but never out of) State Treasury coffers. A progressive and socially just society with a conscience about the Future cannot & will not exist under such governments. The Lib/LNP POLICIES are non-existent, but no one seems to care about anything but a Big Brother style media leadership stoush…and most of all it’s the media feeding this dross which is passing as genuine political debate. QLD & NSW are reeling in the wake of continued sackings & their repercussions. Hopefully this will make voters consider extremely carefully where they put their mark on 14 September.

  3. February 19th, 2013 at 23:08 | #3

    @nottrampis The EU ETS is achieving nothing useful because the price has dropped too low to achieve anything. The price of our ETS is going to be linked to the EU price. It would be a bit hard for the ALP to defend their ETS under these circumstances.
    If Labor is obsessed with emission trading schemes it could actually do something with Australia’s quite achiever, the RET emission trading scheme. boosting the 2020 target to 50% might help convince climate action supporters that the ALP was getting serious. Problem is that the RET is a Howard scheme and I am not sure that many parliamentarians understand the advantages of off-set credit trading schemes.
    If Labor really wants to be taken seriously on climate action it should support a Snowy Mountains type scheme up to get us to zero emission power over the next 10 yrs.

  4. Alan
    February 20th, 2013 at 01:34 | #4

    @Edumak8

    That’s true in Queensland but the O’Farrell government in NSW has been more moderate and has alienated far fewer voters. By contrast NSW Labor is bleeding to death on the floor of the ICAC hearings. It would be unkind to mention that the people in the witness box are part of faction/union alliance that put Julia Gillard in power. Winning every winnable seat in Queensland is not going to makeup the deficit in Western Sydney alone. There are other vulnerable seats across NSW and if Labor loses them they lose government without anything else happening in Tasmania or Western Australia. There are just not enough winnable seats in Queensland to cancel the catastrophe in NSW. Labor is already pretty much at maximum in Victoria and South Australia. There are no new seats to win there. There are more losable seats in Tasmania and Western Australia.

    Assume then that Labor takes every marginal seat in Queensland. Assume for the sake of argument there are no losses outside NSW. Labor is still looking at a catastrophic defeat because of NSW losses alone.

  5. February 20th, 2013 at 03:22 | #5

    Alan, I am not so sure about the alienation of voters of the NSW Government. They are causing disquiet by their policies of opening National Parks to shooters, including the use of bows and arrows by children, purportedly due to a new found urgency to manage feral animal populations.

    Secondly, there is the confused policy relating to Coal Steam Gas exploration, which apparently Barry had given an ironclad policy not to introduce. This opposition is community-based. Who know, who cares, what the ALP policies might be.

    As you say, then there is ICAC.

  6. Hermit
    February 20th, 2013 at 05:02 | #6

    @John D
    Have to disagree that the RET is achieving a lot besides increasing the cost of electricity, one estimate being that we will pay $25bn too much in power bills to 2030. Still waiting to see if our official 2012 emissions are much different to those of 1990. Some will say say population growth excuses poor results but climate scientists tell us we must cut emissions 80% by 2050. We’re not on track for that and it’s hard to see the public accepting even higher power bills from increased renewables targets. If renewables work out cheaper anyway due to high fuel prices then they don’t need quotas.

    The appalling thing is that Abbott will expand the carbon farming boondoggle presumably to fudge the figures. That will appear to be doing something at the same time appealing to his conservative constituents. Seemingly all the shackles will be removed from coal. How things have changed from Kevin07 and the moral challenge of our time.

  7. February 20th, 2013 at 06:39 | #7

    if Gillard is replaced then it will not be Rudd.

    The alleged reasons why Rudd was replaced remind me of the alleged reasons what Iraq was invaded.

  8. Wolfgang
    February 20th, 2013 at 07:23 | #8

    @MNJ
    MNJ, (having read most of the posts here) I can’t believe the blind (almost religious fervour) belief (pro Labor/left – anti Liberal/TA) of the postors.
    Absolutely no concern about the deplorable mis-management of- the economy, major projects, the lies/deceit, the BLATANTLY corrupt associations with (all & sundry), the mis-use of power (I could go on & on).
    AND, constantly complain about & bag the Libs/Tony Abbott for what they/he might do, which I will concede wont be pretty, because the damage Labor has wreaked will be terrible.

  9. Will
    February 20th, 2013 at 07:33 | #9

    Wolfgang :
    @MNJ
    MNJ, (having read most of the posts here) I can’t believe the blind (almost religious fervour) belief (pro Labor/left – anti Liberal/TA) of the postors.
    Absolutely no concern about the deplorable mis-management of- the economy, major projects, the lies/deceit, the BLATANTLY corrupt associations with (all & sundry), the mis-use of power (I could go on & on).
    AND, constantly complain about & bag the Libs/Tony Abbott for what they/he might do, which I will concede wont be pretty, because the damage Labor has wreaked will be terrible.

    It’s posts like this that make me wonder exactly what reality you mob live in. I don’t know where on Earth you live, but unemployment is low at about 5.5%; inflation is low; and the government ran a marginal deficit. And the loonies are raving about an imminent economic collapse and catastrophic mismanagement! Just quit with the hyperbole already, jeez.

  10. Ron E Joggles
    February 20th, 2013 at 07:58 | #10

    @Wolfgang
    What nonsense! The Gillard govt has manifestly not mismanaged the economy, nor is it corrupt.

    But sadly, JQ is too optimistic about a Rudd comeback – it would seem desperate, and is unlikely to win back nervous and sceptical voters – Labor MPs know this and therefore it won’t happen.

    We usually get the govt we deserve, and Australians increasingly are anxious about the future, and the initial response for many is denial of the problems we face, nationally and globally, and a yearning for the sureties of the past – these will deliver govt to Abbott.

    For me the questions are:
    For how long will Abbott be able to maintain the pretence that he has any idea of how to deal with the challenges of the future?
    How will he deal with climate change, for instance, when business/bureaucratic/scientific leaders are urging him to take it seriously despite the denialism of most of his electoral support?
    How will he deal with asylum seekers when the boats just keep on coming?
    How will the electorate feel about his conservative social authoritarianism after 3 years?

    We live in interesting times.

  11. Alan
    February 20th, 2013 at 08:24 | #11

    @wmmbb

    The O’Farrell government has problems, but is not showing anything like the slide in electoral standing suffered by the Newman government.

    Historically NSW was the ALP heartland. There have been extended periods when NSW was the sole Labor state and, as in 1976, at times of coast-to-coast Coalition government, NSW has tended to be the first state to go Labor. I’m not sure any of that applies anymore.

  12. Fran Barlow
    February 20th, 2013 at 08:37 | #12

    @Wolfgang

    I could go on & on

    Technically, no, you couldn’t. In practice you’d simply be copying and pasting Piers or Blot. Someone else would be going on and on and you’d be doing it on their behalf.

  13. Geoff Andrews
    February 20th, 2013 at 08:43 | #13

    @MNJ
    “We should Marshall our forces to face the greatest threat of all. The red left of labour.”

    Tried looking under your bed?

    What do they look like – blood dripping from their fangs or bounding off, yeti-like, into the scrub with the limp body of a bloated capitalist? Are they in the parliament already – oh! you don’t mean Doug Cameron, that bloke with the Russian accent, do you?

    Just ignore those voices you keep hearing: the Gillard cabinet would sit quite happily with Menzies or Gorton.
    As for the uncontrollable rolling of the eyes; it’s normal in the company you keep.

  14. Wolfgang
    February 20th, 2013 at 09:07 | #14

    @Fran Barlow
    Fran,
    So, You (and others) are truly implying that the mis-management points I indicated to, or that I didn’t want to go ‘on & on’, or because I didn’t actually state actual details/dates/amounts (& just because none of the print/broadcast MSM refuse to report on) re the real wreckage this gov has/is caused, it is ALL on my own behalf (so far in my lifetime been round the world 3+ times, lived on 4 continents, also been around Australia, and I DO know what’s what, the lights are on & everyone’s home.

  15. David Irving (no relation)
    February 20th, 2013 at 10:07 | #15

    Wolfgang has obviously been paying far too much attention to Larry Pickering’s spittle-flecked rants.

    I get sent some of them by a couple of the blokes I served with – nice enough blokes, but a bit one-eyed.

  16. February 20th, 2013 at 10:32 | #16

    Wolfgang,

    Is it possible to spell out some specifics rather than talking about banal generalities?

  17. Fran Barlow
    February 20th, 2013 at 10:48 | #17

    @David Irving (no relation)

    Wolfgang’s post is a just barely intelligible stream of rightwing ‘consciousness’. I get the sentiment but there are no obvious causal connections between claims or any specific thing one might examine.

    Perhaps English is not his first language or maybe he is only semi-literate — or perhaps he’s just one of those people who gets a laugh out of posting stuff that will attract flames. In the old days of usenet, posting incoherent but offensive nonsense was a great way of ensuring that anyone offended would respond and make the troll the centre of attention.

    I’m not sure what he’s about but I’m passing on further references to him.

  18. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    February 20th, 2013 at 11:02 | #18

    “We should Marshall our forces to face the greatest threat of all. The red left of labour.”

    Six drops of essence of terror
    Five drops of sinister sauce
    “When the stirring’s done may I lick the spoon?”
    Of course! A ha! Of course!
    Now for the tincture of tenderness
    But I must add only a touch
    For without a touch of tenderness
    It might destroy me – oops, too much!
    Better hold your breath, it’s starting to tick
    “Better hold my hand, I’m feeling sick!”
    WHAT HAVE I DONE???!!!
    “I’m Red Left, your brightest son!”

  19. Wolfgang
    February 20th, 2013 at 11:37 | #19

    @Fran Barlow
    Fran et tal,
    Well, I’ve had a peek over the ‘fence’ at your playground (J Quiggin & social-democratic ground) and can deduct that ‘playing the man, not the ball’ is the go here. So I will henceforth spectate only, perhaps take the odd screen shot of the postings now&then, (which is a worthwhile exercise to check back on in the future).
    Hey, no hard feelings at all, democratic debates/exchanges are enlightening.

  20. February 20th, 2013 at 14:29 | #20

    Fran was right.

    It was a very simple question Wolfgang and you wimp on that!

  21. Jim Rose
    February 20th, 2013 at 16:11 | #21

    On further reflection, the greens will lose the balance of power in the senate.

    The best they can hope for is a 38:38 tie if the Libs only win only one more senate seat. up one to 35 Libs plus Katter’s senator, Madigan, and Xenophon. Katter’s mob got 11% in the state election. Xenophon got 14% in 2007. the DLP guy is not up for re-election.

    If the Libs need to win a third seat in both Tassie and South Australia, Katter’s senator, Madigan and Xenophon must vote together to get to 39.

    Any one of Katter’s man, Madigan and Xenophon can block by siding with the ALP and greens rump for a 38:38 tie.

  22. paul walter
    February 20th, 2013 at 20:24 | #22

    I think the People WILL elect a dreadful Abbott CanDo type sado-economic government, because that’s the best their deficient wits will allow of them

  23. February 20th, 2013 at 21:35 | #23

    Prof Q,

    Have you ever seen “Thelma & Louise”?

    Were you paying any attention to the ALP extreme right’s destruction of any substance that party may have had in NSW (landslide to LNP), or Qld (landslide to LNP)?

    I’m astonished to think that anyone can still think the ALP is somehow different from LNP either federally or at state level.

    They are so nearly identical that a “change is as good as a holiday”.

    By comparison, a political leader our shiite media likes to denigrate as “populist”, “leftist” and “socialist” – Rafael Correa, won a thumping 62% in democratic elections this week, not in a “landslide”/”bloodbath”/”wipeout” – but by getting re-elected by the citizens.

    Nobody wants Abbott as PM more than the faceless-pie-faces running the ALP, to answer your question.

    As a genuinely non-partisan voter – I can tell you (as my record from this blog shows with the Bligh debacle in Qld) that everything that happens from the time Abbott wins the election will be the fault of Gillard/Rudd and the extreme right ALP machine.

    Nobody in the world is stupid enough to not learn from the experience of ‘Keneally’/'Beattie – Bligh’ that they would somehow accidently do it again now with ‘Rudd-Gillard’.

    Some refugees on Nauru have sewn their lips together in the last few days in protest about their treatment at the hands of the Howard Government. Or Gillard Government.

    Getting the picture ALP idiots?

  24. rog
    February 21st, 2013 at 04:26 | #24

    @David Irving (no relation) I was also subject to Pickering’s political porn until I took action; invariably forwarded on to me by otherwise nice professional conservative types who have no critical faculties when it comes to political issues.

  25. derrida derider
    February 21st, 2013 at 11:28 | #25

    @John Quiggin
    The odds are against Gillard winning but its a two-horse race and, to quote Damon Ranyon, “no contest between humans is ever more than seven to one against”.

    He was talking about boxing, but politics is even less certain. Much stranger things have in fact happened in Oz politics.

  26. February 21st, 2013 at 11:59 | #26

    yes DD it occured not long ago actually.

  27. Alan
    February 21st, 2013 at 12:06 | #27

    Truly, it’s wonderful to see Gillard defenders producing numbers and consequences out of thin air (leadership change is always negative) and then arguing that everything’s just fine and dandy because she may, according to Damon Runyon, have odds that are not worse than 7 to 1 against. This bizarre combination of fatalism and magical thinking is fascinating to watch but I’m not sure it has a lot to do with political analysis.

  28. February 21st, 2013 at 12:36 | #28

    Alan, as usual you are having reading troubles

  29. Edumak8
    February 21st, 2013 at 18:49 | #29

    The sad truth is that to most voters it will come down to who and which Party looks worst on the day in the media – fact or fiction, hype & hysteria, beat-up & bullsh*t – won’t matter…and very, very sadly it looks like policies will lose out to personalities.

  30. Jim Rose
    February 21st, 2013 at 20:41 | #30

    derrida derider, see http://www.marketeconomics.com.au/2331-election-betting-coalition-better-than-bank-interest

    7 betting agencies offering odds for the 2013 election. The best for the Coalition is $1.17; best for Labor $4.85. A week or so ago, Coalition were $1.28 and Labor $3.65.

    I am not sure how these operate as prediction markets.

  31. Fran Barlow
    February 21st, 2013 at 21:20 | #31

    Projecting forward to the election as a Green, it’s inevitable that I have mixed feelings.

    On the one hand it is very clear to me that a victory for the ALP is not going to deliver anything closely resembling a path to societies that are more socially just, more engaged with protecting the environment, more outward looking or more inclined to support peaceable resolutions of conflicts between states. At best it may forestall public policies being implelemented that aggressively subvert such aspirations — but even here, there is no ‘free lunch’. That forestalling will be done in a way that leaves the forces pressing actively for subversion of equity culturally unchallenged rather than repudiated with the triumphant ALP standing on substantially similar ground. The two parties are as one in opposing humane treatment of asylum seekers, gay marriage, substantial taxes on mining profits, freedom of the media to troll government with impunity, surplus fetishism, live exports of animals, mining in wilderness areas, minimal carbon pricing, fighting the USA’s wars, enabling Israel and several other matters that will spring to mind after I hit the Post comment button.

    That all said, I know that if the Coalition wins, I will be seriously irked — scandalised really. It seems utterly wrong that a party that has refused through two elections to submit a properly costed policy and has spent its entire period in opposition simply barefaced and recklessly lying and otherwise making it up as they go along in a cynical attempt to recruit every angst-ridden conservative to the cause of ejecting what they say without foundation is the ‘worst government ever’ can even be in the contest — leave aside favourites to win. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that if the polls are roughly correct, Australia has far more inordinately gullible, ignorant and malign people than one might have imagined at the turn of the millennium. That’s an extremely distressing thing to have to accept. In a way, perhaps the strongest criticism of the ALP may well be that rather than trying to nudge people towards reason and civic engagement, it has pandered to their very worst impulses in an attempt to win on the cheap. It’s hardly surprising that the LNP has simply lowered the bar and behaved in an even more squalid way than the ALP — trading on the ALP’s dereliction.

    So what would I have happen on September 14? Discarding mere whimsy, it would be a relatively good thing if something very much like the 43rd Parliament were returned. This would be a sharp repudiation of the prior three years of ugly trolling by the worst reactionaries, and also repudiate the idea that there is something in principle wrong with minority government. In some ways, the radio shock jocks would probably hate this result even more than a clear win for the ALP — with its apparent return to the post-War norm (pun intended). Everything they said they hated — most especially the Green-Indy-ALP alliance would still be in place.

    Likewise, the vacuous, indolenet and typically pro-Coalition media would also have been rebuked. Folks like Michelle Grattan and Fran Kelly and Peter Hartcher and Laurie Oakes would have been given a long overdue metaphorical uppercut. Clearly, their pompous airheaded self-important maundering would have been revealed as so much cant. That alone would justify this result. Finally, there might be a basis for doing some serious work in media reform — including of course within theirABC.

    Oh … and one last thing on the wishlist. It would be extremely satisfying if one of the political casualties of all this were Kevin Bl%#dy Rudd. Speaking personally, I’ve seen and heard far more about him than I ever wanted to, even when I was modestly impressed with him — as I was in the few months either side of November 2007. If the ALP, led by Gillard, were to find themselves on September 15th leading a government dependent on the votes of relatively non-conservative people but without Rudd there, then while I’d still retain all my objections above to their course and conduct, I’d probably open a bottle or two of non-alcoholic cider and breathe a sigh of qualified relief.

    No, it would still not be a good government, but at least the worst people would not have been rewarded.

  32. Hal9000
    February 21st, 2013 at 21:46 | #32

    @Fran Barlow
    I actually think that’s the most likely result, Fran. With the exception of Rudd losing – that is most unlikely, as he’s an assiduous and popular local member and his voters understand, post Newman, what an Abbott government would entail.

    Far too much attention is paid to polls taken of a disengaged electorate asked about a hypothetical election they know is not happening. As the election approaches, a number of things are likely to go Gillard’s way. The MRRT receipts for the March quarter are likely to be substantial – this will cause focus to be shifted to Abbott’s policy to give the money back to the miners. The compensation money flowing from the carbon tax will also fuel a justified fear campaign about Abbott’s plans to take it all back. Abbott’s lack of serious policies will also give voters pause. The ALP will likely lose seats in NSW, but pick some up in Qld and Victoria. Much depends on the vote for independents and the Katter party and how preferences flow from these wild cards.

    I absolutely agree about the credibility of Grattan, Kelly and the rest of them. However, I think it most unlikely they’ll be self-reflective enough to perceive what lazy prats they’ve been.

  33. Alan
    February 21st, 2013 at 22:20 | #33

    @Fran

    Antony Green projects (audio) a loss of 2 seats in Tasmania and 11 seats in New South Wales. Finding 13 seats for Labor to win in Queensland and Victoria, even assuming no further losses in Western Australia is a challenge, Like a whole lot of what is coming out of the Gillard leadership, ‘Defend in New South Wales, attack in Queensland’ is no more than a vapid fantasy.

    Like you my preference would be for another balanced parliament where the Green/Independent members are decisive. I just cannot see it happening, no matter how much I might wish it. The electorate is indeed disengaged, but the polls actually have a reasonably good predictive record.

  34. rog
    February 21st, 2013 at 22:48 | #34

    @Hal9000 The original Q: who wants Abbott as PM? may well be Gillards only meaningful card, Howard successfully played that one against Latham and Beazeley.

  35. February 22nd, 2013 at 09:36 | #35

    This has made it!!

  36. tgs
    February 22nd, 2013 at 10:14 | #36

    Fran Barlow :It’s hard to escape the conclusion that if the polls are roughly correct, Australia has far more inordinately gullible, ignorant and malign people than one might have imagined at the turn of the millennium. That’s an extremely distressing thing to have to accept.

    Yes, the only conceivable explanation for the majority of the country holding different voting intentions to yourself is that they are guillible, ignorant, malign or some combination of the three…

  37. Will
    February 22nd, 2013 at 11:42 | #37

    tgs :

    Fran Barlow :It’s hard to escape the conclusion that if the polls are roughly correct, Australia has far more inordinately gullible, ignorant and malign people than one might have imagined at the turn of the millennium. That’s an extremely distressing thing to have to accept.

    Yes, the only conceivable explanation for the majority of the country holding different voting intentions to yourself is that they are guillible, ignorant, malign or some combination of the three…

    I wish you mob could invest in some comprehension lessons. Nowhere did Fran say that. Take your strawman schtick elsewhere.

  38. Fran Barlow
    February 22nd, 2013 at 12:41 | #38

    @tgs

    the only conceivable explanation for the majority of the country holding different voting intentions to yourself is that they are gullible, ignorant, malign or some combination of the three…

    Pretty much, in this case. It’s very clear that nobody who was informed, rational and interested in authentic community could believe that victory to the Liberals would lead us to the best of all possible worlds.

    I’m open to someone showing me how that conclusion might be refuted.

  39. February 22nd, 2013 at 13:17 | #39

    let’s see if it works this works time.

  40. February 22nd, 2013 at 13:58 | #40

    What is about people who put themselves forward as leaders, without the essential attributes?

    I think the qualities that are necessary to high degree are: credibility in relation to vision, ability to connect to the wider population, people management in relation to groups and organizations, and understanding of economic policy. Vision I would describe as the ability to act in the present, including the 24 hour news cycle, with a viewer to long term. There is more to be said about these factors, if indeed they are the requirements.

    One of the problems of the ALP Government has been the failure of the PM to be the chief economic spokesperson. That may equally be the case for Tony Abbott if he were to become PM. I would be more confident in somebody like Malcolm Turnbull, despite his background, his faults, and that I would likely as not disagree with him, in that he is a thinking person, he would not for ideological reason tear the social fabric apart, and has a sense of the social diversity.

    One of the failures especially of the Labor Party is the failure to give a authentic role to their branch members in the selection of candidates. The effect is, once seats are lost, the connection with the electorate is broken. Then elections become media campaigns. There needs to be a balance centralization and decentralization. Unions, for example, do not encourage membership participation, which does not allow a political party to keep abreast of cultural and social change, as for example the decline of employment in the steel mills in Wollongong.

  41. Fran Barlow
    February 22nd, 2013 at 15:11 | #41

    @wmmbb

    It seems to me that the whole view of a party as a movement pressing for specific goals within a broader ethical and intellectual paradigm no longer has any relevance to the parties that traditionally form governments in most English-speaking countries.

    Certainly, in Australia, I see no real evidence that the branches of the ALP and Liberals have any role to play in developing either overarching ideas or even policy initiatives that could form the basis of any campaign. In effect, they are merely cheerleaders and foot soldiers for the parliamentary wings of the parties that can occasionally can serve to endorse some aspirant for office.

    So really, having a bunch of semi-engaged cheerleaders go through the motions of selecting someone amenable to head office doesn’t seem like an exceptionally productive exercise. And being a cheerleader is pretty boring in between elections — which is why, one suspects, hardly anyone turns up. I read somewhere that there are about 178,000 nominal members of all political parties in Australia, which simple maths tells us is a bit over 1% of people who vote. I doubt the majority of that 1%+ would even turn up to meetings more than three times per year. People work a great many hours these days and giving up a night to pretend you’re doing something with others also pretending isn’t that appealing.

    From the ALP’s POV, whether the power is with the branches or the ‘unions’ (the term is misleading because it really describes the official apparatchiks of the unions) is probably neither here nor there. In effect, a narrow caste of people is offering a service to a much wider public with which it is not actively engaged — the service being “producing candidates for office”. The party itself operates as a kind of career management vehicle for those associated with its activities in a more direct sense. Ideas — in the sense that those who are not career politicians think of them, have almost nothing to do with the party.

    A very long time ago, the ALP really was organically connected to actual union activity. The local union official would actually be an organiser living in a district active in local branches and the party activity was connected with his advocacy for union matters. Those days have long passed.

    It seems to me that it would be better to put parties at arm’s length from elections. Today we have administratively cheap and timely ways for individuals to make their views known on matters of broad public policy. We probably would be better with a process in which people were selected to run for office the way juries are selected for trials — let’s call it #sortition#. People could put their names forward — a short list could be generated at random — these people (if they accepted) could be provided with support in drafting their ideas, undergoing training in the skills required, research assistants to assist them in refining their ideas and so forth. They could then go through a deliberative voting process where electors could evaluate their ideas, their significance for them in policy terms and their confidence in the person and then be given a score which would then determine their chances in a weighted first draw. Candidates could then modify their positions if they saw fit and then at a subsequent draw much closer to the time when the successful candidates would have to take up their seats, a second deliberative vote would occur and this would be added to the first mix and a final selection made.

    The value of this procedure is that it would be pretty much impossible for any party to rig the vote or trade as a career vehicle for office aspirants. The parliament would come to resemble the populace and the populace itself would be far better informed and inured to media trolling — since what was happening on the ground would be far too heterogenous and fragmented to be subject to the media dark arts. Power would be torn from the grasp of the media and the apparatchiks and the contest would be about policy substance.

    The parliament itself could be guided by a national plan devised by the parliament and subjected to a vote — like a referendum. Their job would be to implement it. Everyone would have ownership of it.

    The role of parties in this system would be to suggest policy ideas and campaign for them in between elections — in an attempt to influence the context in which candidates for office formed their ideas. This of course is the proper role for political parties. They might well use the media to perform this function which, rather than being focused on how popular the PM was or was not, would be focused on what needed to be done or resisted. Over time we would get a far more educated and outcomes focused electorate — and one immune to the vacuous nonsense one hears and reads today. Each of us could entertain the thought that with the right arguments and the right pitch, some idea of ours might come to pass. That alone would make civic engagement something worthwhile for many.

  42. tgs
    February 22nd, 2013 at 15:21 | #42

    Fran Barlow :@tgs

    the only conceivable explanation for the majority of the country holding different voting intentions to yourself is that they are gullible, ignorant, malign or some combination of the three…

    Pretty much, in this case. It’s very clear that nobody who was informed, rational and interested in authentic community could believe that victory to the Liberals would lead us to the best of all possible worlds.
    I’m open to someone showing me how that conclusion might be refuted.

    As the person making the claim (namely that anyone who intends to vote for the Coalition is either guillible, ignorant or malign) the onus is on you to prove that your claim is correct.

    Not that you can of course, claiming that someone is malign (really?!) simply by vitue of them holding different political beliefs or desiring different things from government than yourself is not very convincing.

    These sorts of comments strike me as pretty narcissistic and self-deluded.

  43. Jim Rose
    February 22nd, 2013 at 16:11 | #43

    @Fran Barlow Theories of rationally ignorant voters, expressive voting and rationally irrational voting have been around for a time.

    They lead to what Bryan Caplan classed as bone headed biases that should be music to your ears:
    1. the anti-market bias,
    2. the anti-foreign bias,
    3. the make-work bias and
    4. The pessimistic bias.

    The strength of democracy is a small group of concerned and thoughtful citizens can band together and change things by running for office and winning seats at elections.

    That is how new such parties as the ALP, the country party, new DLP, family party and greens changed Australia. One nation even had 15 minutes of fame. Bob Katter’s mob is next. State upper houses have Christian and shooters parties and many independents.

    The ALP immediately won many seats and formed governments a few years later. The agrarian socialists in the country party immediate secured cabinet seats.

    You find democracy frustrating because you cannot win at the ballot box even under proportional representation in state upper houses.

    when complete amateurs such as the shooters party, the family party and DLP re-loaded can win ahead of you, it is time to accept that your message simply does not resonate with the electorate.

  44. ralph
    February 22nd, 2013 at 16:29 | #44

    A key test of an opposition leader is how many ministerial scalps can be delivered. To succeed at this evidence and force of argument are required and a resignation can be achieved even if you do not have the numbers. Abbott’s score against the Gillard government since the last election? Nil! That score has been achieved while the government is in minority and with independents that demanded and obtained an agreement on establishing stable and effective government. That includes as a key principle transparent and accountable government. If there has ever been a time for an opposition leader to pursue in Parliament issues of conduct or maladministration it has been the past two years. Unfortunately,he court of public opinion appears to be unquestioning of any assertion from Abbott.

  45. Fran Barlow
    February 22nd, 2013 at 17:52 | #45

    @Jim Rose

    You find democracy frustrating because you cannot win at the ballot box even under proportional representation in state upper houses.

    petitio principii I don’t find democracy frustrating. I find it missing — if that’s not a paradox. What we have is a caricature of democracy.

    when complete amateurs such as the shooters party, the family party and DLP re-loaded can win ahead of you, it is time to accept that your message simply does not resonate with the electorate.

    These parties trade on preferences from the majors, who fear us a good deal more than them. Naturally, the MBCM always gives the right-wing — and especially its micro-parties — a far more sympathetic run than it would ever give us. They are no threat to the people who fund the media.

    In any event, state elections are not well suited to specifically Green parties. While there are issues around land developments and transport, states don’t really make policy in the major areas of interest to Green-inclined voters. My own view is that we Greens don’t campaign well at state level and often come off as a not quite integrated collection of resident action groups. The fact that we can’t run as a governing party is a big hurdle too.

    I don’t accept the salience of your claim about us ‘accept{ing}’ that our message ‘does not resonat{ing} with the electorate’. Our message is determined by what we regard as apt and in conformity with our principles. What ‘the electorate’ makes of it is really a matter for them. Whether we ‘accept’ that or not, the point is moot, because it can’t affect what is right or wrong.

    The strength of democracy (sic) is a small group of concerned and thoughtful citizens can band together and change things by running for office and winning seats at elections.

    That’s one of the funnier claims (in context) you have made. It’s the Little Golden Book version of ‘democracy’ in Western countries.

  46. Fran Barlow
    February 22nd, 2013 at 18:26 | #46

    @tgs

    I’m open to someone showing me how that conclusion might be refuted.

    As the person making the claim (namely that anyone who intends to vote for the Coalition is either guillible, ignorant or malign) the onus is on you to prove that your claim is correct.

    Not in this case. It’s an inference made from that want of any plausible alternative explanation.

    These sorts of comments strike me as pretty narcissistic and self-deluded.

    I doubt that. You lack a plausible refutation for my initial claim and so your remark is really just standard conservative cant, though I can’t entirely rule out the possibility that you believe it.

    As things stand, the polls seem to suggest that someone who has spent the period since December 2009 declining to specify his policy intent or (still less the vehicles through which his policies might be realised) and being caught repeatedly making it up as he goes along, implying that he can do things that on the face of it are implausible, and generally threatening by inference a serious recession on purely dogmatic grounds, to make the tax system more regressive and to abandon the key carbon abatement policy is favourite to win.

    I submit that only the ignorant, malign or the gullible could conclude that the advocates of such an approach should be allowed a chance to fiddle with government. After all, the vast majority will be materially worse off if they get the chance to try but for the gullible and ignorant, nobody will be able to claim that they were sold a fraud. No questions were asked.

  47. Chris O’Neill
    February 22nd, 2013 at 19:03 | #47

    the disaster of an Abbott-led coalition government

    I recall one Labor MP saying he would rather lose than work under Rudd.

    Looks like he will get what he wished for.

  48. Fran Barlow
    February 22nd, 2013 at 19:55 | #48

    @Chris O’Neill

    I recall one Labor MP saying he would rather lose than work under Rudd.
    Looks like he will get what he wished for.

    Not what he ‘wished for’ but possibly his next but worst preference.

  49. February 23rd, 2013 at 02:07 | #49

    Fran, I appreciate your wider view of party membership across the political spectrum.

    We would all benefit from wider participation in political parties, not least the parties themselves. Perhaps we should make social provision to allow people to directly engage in the political process, as might be imagined as condition for a democratic society.

    Participation has to be effective. The members should be, at minimum, be proposing the local candidates and suggesting policies and policy details, from their direct experience. The democratic ethos needs to be put into practice, so it can be understood to be a skill, or a discipline. From directly listening to people, leadership can a story that encompasses social difference, rather than relying on focus groups, polls, or have media opinion leaders to run the agenda.

    In my opinion there is no clearer example of failure of leadership than the spurious deterrence strategy in relation to refugees. I expect we have not seen anything. The question then is how cruel and violent do we want to get?

  50. Fran Barlow
    February 23rd, 2013 at 07:40 | #50

    @wmmbb

    We would all benefit from wider participation in political parties

    Unless “political parties” were radically different creatures from what they are now, then I don’t agree. Obviously, I participate in The Greens and so in their case, I agree. More generally though, we need new vehicles for political inclusion and political education. It needs to be possible for people to be both engaged with their lives and engaged with politics rather than a choice between the two being forced or people imagining politics as a careeer path.

    Unsurprisingly, I agree with you on ‘deterrence’. Reports today suggest the Thai Navy stranded a boatlaod of Burmese asylum seekers by removing the engine on their craft, with the result that 97 died. This was simply shocking, if true, and I can’t but wonder if Abbott and his band of misanthropes were taking notes.

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