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An undeserving alternative PM

September 3rd, 2013

Unless there’s a sudden turnaround in the polls, Tony Abbott will become Prime Minister of Australia. This will be the third time in my life that a Federal Labor government has been defeated, the other two occasions being 1975 and 1996. On both those occasions, despite substantial and enduring accomplishments, the government had made a mess of macroeconomic management, and the electorate, unsurprisingly, wanted to punish them. And, despite my strong disagreements with them (and with the way Fraser came to office), the incoming Prime Ministers had serious views on how best Australia’s future could be managed. Fraser has only improved since leaving office, making valuable contributions on the national and global stage. My evaluation of Howard, following his defeat, starts with the observation that he was ‘the most substantial figure produced by the Liberal party since the party itself was created by Menzies’.

Nothing of the sort can be said this time. The case put forward by the LNP is based entirely on lies and myths. These include the claims that
* Labor has mismanaged the economy and piled up unnecessary debt and deficits
* Australian families are ‘doing it tough’ because of a soaring cost of living
* The carbon tax/price is a ‘wrecking ball’, destroying economic activity
* The arrival of refugees represents a ‘national emergency’

None of these claims stands up to even momentary scrutiny.

Then there’s Abbott himself. After 20 years in politics, I can’t point to any substantial accomplishments on his part, or even any coherent political philosophy. For example, I’m not as critical of his parental leave scheme as some, but it’s totally inconsistent with his general political line, a fact that his supporters in business have been keen to point out. On climate change, he’s held every position possible and is now promising, in effect, to do nothing. His refusal to reveal policy costings until the second-last day of the campaign debases an already appalling process. He treated budget surplus as a holy grail until it became inconvenient, and has now become carefully vague on the topic.

Obviously, the fact that such a party and such a leader can be on the verge of victory implies that the Labor side has done something dreadfully wrong. It’s the oldest cliche in politics for the losing side to claim that the problem is not the policies but inability to get the message across. In this case, however, I think it’s true. Gillard lost the voters early on with stunts like the consultative assembly, and never managed to get them to listen to her for any length of time. Rudd was doing well in communicating his vision from his return to the leadership until he called the election. He then wasted three weeks on small-bore stuff apparently aimed at Katter party preferences. He seems finally to have rediscovered his voice, with the launch speech and his Q&A appearance, but I fear it’s too late.

Still, in the unlikely event that any undecided voters are reading this, I urge you to take a serious look at the alternative government, and place the LNP last on your ballot in both houses of Parliament.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:
  1. Catching Up
    September 3rd, 2013 at 15:07 | #1

    Why? Why? Why?

  2. kevin1
    September 3rd, 2013 at 15:23 | #2

    Lib candidates were no-shows at local forums today in Dunkley, McEwen and Port Adelaide. This looks like a tactic to shut down debate by hiding from local scrutiny. Disgraceful.

  3. IC
    September 3rd, 2013 at 15:42 | #3

    The ALP have also gotten in on the ‘battler’ rhetoric, ‘feeling the pain’ of the average voter whose standard of living, and wages have increased in the last 6 years whilst taxes have decreased. It seems that nobody, except maybe the Greens, has the balls to stand up and say that perhaps higher taxes could do the country well if spent on worthwhile meaningful programs. The only message I have gotten is that we need to grow the pie, collect less taxes, and yet somehow implement programs that are basic necessities. Will this ever change?

  4. Will
    September 3rd, 2013 at 15:58 | #4

    It appears to be a universal truth through the Western world that the leftmost political party is appalling at marketing and branding and ultimately getting their message out. The right-leaning parties have very simple positions repeated over and over in different ways: “government spending bad”, “taxes are too high”, “free-spending fiscally irresponsible lefties”, and so on. Heck, when I got the Coalition Five Point Plan in the mail I guessed the first three before I opened the letter (missed immigration policy and the national infrastructure scheme for those playing at home)! Compare that to vague values statements from their counterparts! It is no contest, and very disappointing.

  5. hc
    September 3rd, 2013 at 16:07 | #5

    It will be unfortunate if Abbott does believe his own exaggerations with respect to the macroeconomy. Severe fiscal cutbacks coupled with the declining terms of trade that we do face will really do damage to the economy.

    Labor has told less convincing exaggerations than the Coalition. We will end up with a very mediocre government whose outlook imperils Australia’s future.

  6. Newtownian
    September 3rd, 2013 at 16:22 | #6

    I had hopes that during his time in the wilderness Rudd would have learnt from his mistakes, developed a grand election winning strategy and future vision to be shared and discussed with his close supporters – and then been off like a rocket after his palace coup succeeded.

    Instead what we seem to have got is the same old clayton’s L’Etat C’est Moi of 2010 – “the Australian people elected ‘ME'” (I thought we had a Westminster System?) and actions to the effect “I am going to cement MY position not by demonstrating my true depth but by changing the rules so I cant be voted out so easily or until I want to go”.

    So while Murdoch is certainly helping Labor’s demise I cant help but feel they are also going to lose because Rudd thinks he is another Whitlam, Hawke or Keating at their peaks when in reality he is a middle level SES manager who isn’t stupid but is no Hero or man for all seasons – put another way he’s the Arthur Calwell of our age.

    I’ll still be voting Green/Wiki/Labor etc. (love our preferential system) next Saturday because Abbot is just too hideous to contemplate for the reasons JQ summarizes. But even if they get in, Labor will be hampered by their ongoing lack of ‘the Vision thing’ which I fear they will take a long time to rediscover if ever now.

  7. wilful
    September 3rd, 2013 at 16:28 | #7

    Last? Hell no, I always give that spot to the CEC.

    But without being an echo chamber, can anyone please point to a solid reason to vote for Abbott and his mob? There are a few conservatives who post here, that I’m sure can provide a rationale for supporting the LNP that doesn’t revolve around a tribal hatred of Labor, can’t they? I’m pretty middle-of-the-road, economically conservative, would consider voting for a rational conservative party, but I really don’t understand what the Libs have to offer that is so appealing to the electorate.

  8. john phillips
    September 3rd, 2013 at 16:30 | #8

    I realize I am repeating myself, but here I go again
    TA brought in this ridiculous idea of Paid Parental leave scheme it seems Libs are going exactly the same way as Labor with wasting tax payers money (welfare should only be for those in need). Not that Im against support for families, its just the stupidly high amount that its going to be; absolutely crazy

    please get TA to reverse it whereby he will regain some credibility

    Also is this true about $2.5K to give someone who gets a job and stays in it for a year then gets more again when in it for 2 years. Thats just as stupid; they need that support before they get a job to assist in finding one (not when they are receiving good income anyway) ??

    liberal policy is to pay Paid Parental Leave the amount is up to $150K per year. Beleaguered small business and tax payers in general should not be saddled with such onerous burdens. If a person (male or female as not being sexist here) is to receive up to $3K per week, then its basically not just middle class welfare its millionaire and billionaire class welfare for example, someone like Gail Kelly (CEO Westpac) could receive it (should be less than $300 per week !) frankly I think that would be a shocking state of affairs and grossly unsupportable by any degree of consideration. I cannot in all honesty vote Liberal when things like this are going to happen

  9. Michael
    September 3rd, 2013 at 16:52 | #9

    I don’t think they are voting for Tony Abbott in particular. If Abbott wins it will mostly be because the swinging voters think it’s time for a change and because Labor have been so effective at losing.
    It’s going to be an interesting government, especially if it claims a right-wing mandate and starts catering to it’s loony base too much. Then again if it doesn’t cater to it’s loony base then we can expect a period of infighting to develop once the initial business of settling in is over. Abbott is a pragmatist but he isn’t particularly popular even in his own party so I don’t think he will be a three term leader like Howard.

  10. sunshine
    September 3rd, 2013 at 17:29 | #10

    Loads of people dont care or trust politics much, think greed is good , and ,think Labor cant balance books. As long as things arent stuffing up much they wont look into it any more than that. But Abbott will find his ‘back to Howard’ idea hard given its not raining gold bars anymore . Then ,if real hardship comes our way ,and tea party/neo-lib/conservative policy doesnt fix it ,there is 2 generations of generally apathetic voters that may start caring and turn on to a different message .By then another generation of mainly conservative oldies will be gone. Get ready to play the waiting game -you outlasted Howard you can do it again !

    There is an idea out there that Abbott wont make many economic changes but his main agenda will be cultural change .

  11. David Allen
    September 3rd, 2013 at 18:44 | #11

    Surprised personally that there’s not a backlash from the self-funded retirees out there getting slugged $1.5B to (partially) fund a gold plated ppl scheme. I’m p*ssed on that for a start.

    The biggest disaster of an Abbott government will be their trashing of the NBN. Fibre to the premises could have ushered in a new golden age for Aus. A tremendous cash cow that would boost gov coffers. The health benefits for an aging population alone would pay for it easily.

  12. Jim Rose
    September 3rd, 2013 at 21:11 | #12

    Rudd has had a west wing moment.

    Running down a winner makes the loser look even worse.

    The key to comebacks is knowing why you lost the last election.

  13. TerjeP
    September 3rd, 2013 at 21:58 | #13

    Obviously, the fact that such a party and such a leader can be on the verge of victory implies that the Labor side has done something dreadfully wrong.

    The political mistakes are too numerous to mention. Most of the policy mistakes we won’t agree on. But one lesson the ALP really should learn from this election is that they will vote for you if they believe you are a fiscal conservative but they won’t if they don’t.

  14. Michael
    September 3rd, 2013 at 22:42 | #14

    The operative word here is “believe”. The term fiscal conservative is devoid of any meaning in relation to good economic management, mostly it means cutting services to the needy, delaying investment in the future so the savings can be channelled into upper-middle class welfare.

  15. Flann O’Brien
    September 3rd, 2013 at 22:49 | #15

    Tony Abbott put a price on the ‘wrecking ball’ effect of the carbon tax at the Liberal Party launch and in his debate with Kevin Rudd at Rooty Hill. He said every household will be $550 a year better off if the Coalition scraps the carbon tax. The ABC Fact Checker called him on it and said the impact would be $134 a year (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-28/abbott-using-outdated-figure-on-carbon-tax-cost/4912726)

    Even the exaggerated figure undermines the ‘wrecking ball’ claim.

    $550 a year = $1.51 a day per household or 58 cents a day per person (average household = 2.6 people, ABS).

    On the fact-checked ABC figures the cost per household is 36 cents a day and the cost per person 14 cents a day.

    Or. put it another way, 27.5% per cent of a digital subscription to The Australian. ($487.60 a year)

  16. Graham White
    September 3rd, 2013 at 23:29 | #16

    Its depressing. Its also depressing that Cameron won in the UK despite abysmal economic performance.
    Good performance gets punished poor performance gets rewarded. I believe that’s called a moral hazard

  17. Robert in UK
    September 4th, 2013 at 00:07 | #17

    Needless to say, I really hope that Labor opposition give Abbott the kind of treatment he gave them and that, in particular, they don’t roll over and let him repeal the CPRS.

  18. Michael
    September 4th, 2013 at 01:17 | #18

    On the upside, Tony will be making his daughters special ministers of state.

  19. Jordan
    September 4th, 2013 at 01:58 | #19

    Terje is not able to understand how is that operationaly posibble, especially this part

    delaying investment in the future so the savings can be channelled into upper-middle class

    So he still believes in the need for some notion of fiscal responsibility that people are tied by and that same applies to orporations or states which is not true.

    Terje, this is possible due to the nature of retirement scheme within social contract.
    The social contract by all society to provide survival to all members of the society and maybe a decent living no matter in what condition they find themselves in.
    Terje, what really matters is real value which is goods and services, money is only a way to distribute real value to all that needs it. Distribution of money is accounting method to distribute goods and services.

    By paying taxes, productive members are forefeiting part of their earned real value for those that need it in order to survive. If those taxes are imedietly distributed as in national retierment scheme there is no leakage and productive capacity is kept on the level by redistributing demand for its services.
    If those taxes are “saved” for later as in private retirement schemes, it delays demand for such services creating less of demand on productive capacities and economy underperforms.

    Just as credit is pulling demand from future ability, saving for retirenment is equal to putting demand in the future from present. But the question is: will there be capacities developed enough to provide for demand that future retirees will need if capacities of today are underutilised.
    By managing such delayed retirement scheme as in private retirement, managers are taking away part of what workers of the present gave away to present needs of old and invalid.

    “Investment in future” as Michael writes is keeping up productive capacities at the level it is needed for future retires so that new generations (that will come and which will be producing what retired of their time i.e. us, will need,) are left with productive capacities we have build.

    We will enjoy that much of retirement as much we are able to organize and establish new technologies and productive capacities that will our kids operate and provide for us.
    Social contract is something like whole country as a familly structure. We build something that will give to kids to feed us when we can not or do not need to work anymore. That is “investment in our future”, no savings in money which nobody knows the value of in the future and it is not important.

    Simple truth that you conservatives/libertarians do not consider and constantly corode Social Contract binds.

  20. Jordan
    September 4th, 2013 at 02:43 | #20

    It seems that such description of retirement social contract should be part of every State Constitution so that people do not forget what is the reality. Maybe even among first sentences in a Constitution.

  21. TerjeP
    September 4th, 2013 at 05:49 | #21


    In practice and for the sake or this discussion I think it means balancing the budget more often than not. And only introducing new taxes to pay for the removal of old taxes.

    But what do you think the ALP should learn if they lose on Saturday?

  22. Robert in UK
    September 4th, 2013 at 06:28 | #22

    Great question. And something all of us on the left of politics need to think about. Of course, the voters don’t always get it right.

  23. Ikonoclast
    September 4th, 2013 at 06:48 | #23

    There seem to be three key processes going on in the world economy. Tony Abbott does not understand any of them so it is hard to see how he will manage the economy appropriately. The key processes are;

    (1) The world economy is coming up against the hard limits to growth.
    (2) Consumption and production continue to shift proportionally from the developed world to the developing world.
    (3) Pro-cyclical economic policy (so-called “austerity”) is failing wherever it is tried.

    If you combine the implications of 1 and 2 above you could conclude that developed world economic decline must accelerate to permit continued developing world growth. Another possibility is that developing world growth will stall too. Points 1 and 2 also indicate that Keynesian or MMT type stimulus (which I routinely advocate) could be difficult or impossible to effect if real resource shortages limit attempts to stimulate aggregate demand.

    We are entering new territory. Just as generals are prone “to fight the last war” economists, pundits and self-appointed blog “experts” (like me) are prone to prescribe fixes related to the general conditions pertaining to the last crisis not for the general conditions (impending resource scarcity) pertaining to this crisis.

    Even if you know what’s happening in broad terms it’s hard to know what to do or what can feasibly be done. Power (political, security and military power) will play as a large a role in what happens as will mere economics.

  24. TerjeP
    September 4th, 2013 at 07:21 | #24

    Of course, the voters don’t always get it right.

    Mostly because they don’t always have good options.

  25. Ikonoclast
    September 4th, 2013 at 07:37 | #25


    There is no such thing as a balanced budget. A “balanced” budget currently (meaning one that looked balanced when you framed it) would be a contractionary budget. As the economy contracted over the subsequent 12 months, tax receipts would go down, welfare spending would go up (more people on unemployment benefit) and at the end of the year your precious balanced budget would no longer be balanced but in deficit. These automatic effects (sans legislated changes to taxes and expenditure) are called the “automatic stabilisers”.

    Thank heavens the automatic stabilisers exist. To some extent they save us from ourselves in this era of anti-deficit fetishism.

    As always, simplistic ideological prescriptions (like the neo-conservative balanced budget fetish) fail the test of dealing with the real world which is complex, messy and fully interconnected with flow-on effects and feedbacks (everything affects everything else).

  26. J-D
    September 4th, 2013 at 07:56 | #26

    If the ALP loses the election, it should learn:
    1. Not to get trapped inside a bubble where some established set of opinions and attitudes are endlessly recycled and it’s extremely difficult for new information or analyses to be absorbed and, as a sub-branch of that, not to overweight your parliamentary representation and leadership with people from just a very limited set of backgrounds
    2. Not to get too impressed by the past successes and/or present strategies of the other side and, as a sub-branch of that, not to get suckered into choosing to fight on ground that favours the other side
    3. Not to appoint somebody as Treasurer who, if he made a speech saying that one plus one equals two, would sound as if he wasn’t fully convinced of it himself

  27. September 4th, 2013 at 08:19 | #27

    @Catching Up
    Some time ago I wrote on this blog that the exaggerated slagging off of Julia Gillard and the government on this blog and other supposedly left wing sites, was unfair, sexist and likely to contribute to the rise of Tony Abbott.
    Before people start saying ‘but we had to get Rudd back/ save the furniture’ etc, I would like to suggest again that what all those voices did was contribute to a false impression of incompetence (building on a deep rooted sexism in the Australian population that suspects women aren’t really competent anyway) that underlies all the points made by ProfQ above.
    If only there could have been balance : yes it’s a generally competent government, but they have made some mistakes and taken some morally wrong positions. But no, it had to be incompetent, deceitful, nightmare etc etc.
    Why, why, why indeed.
    Also as I’ve pointed out on the war and pacifism thread, there don’t seem to be many women commenting on this blog. As others have said, you can’t always tell from user names, but that’s what it looks like. Maybe it’s worth looking into? I know I’ve been a reluctant to comment here since then, after being told I was a concern troll and general idiot (not by PQ I have to say).

  28. J-D
    September 4th, 2013 at 08:37 | #28

    If I had to guess (although it would be no more than a guess), I would guess that the majority of commenters on this blog are male.

    If that is so, I don’t know why it’s so, and am unable to suggest what might be done about it.

  29. Michael
    September 4th, 2013 at 08:51 | #29

    They should learn that pandering to hot-button issues and playing to the media make you look like a bunch of spineless creeps. The LNP already has a lock on the kind of morons that this kind of politics appeals to. I certainly don’t applaud everything the Rudd/Gillard government have done but they were responsible for the only sizeable investment in state school education in living memory with the wonderful school halls that have transformed some desperately under-resourced state schools – an achievement that was opposed and denigrated by the Murdoch press. Putting any price on carbon is also noteworthy. I don’t look forward to anything positive from an Abbott government.

  30. Troy Prideaux
    September 4th, 2013 at 09:53 | #30

    There’s been a brain drain in oz-federal politics since 2005 on both sides – that’s the saddest thing in my opinion.

  31. Ikonoclast
    September 4th, 2013 at 09:57 | #31


    When you take the pre-determined position that even any valid and well-supported criticism of a female (in a political or leadership role) is still and always sexism and sexism only then you lose all credibilty and alienate people very fast. Feel free to take that position but you will never get any traction.

    The Julia Gillard episode was a big mistake for Labor. Julia Gillard (like many or even most of her male colleagues and opponents in this country ) suffered from these serious political defects;

    (1) Disloyalty.
    (2) Opportunism.
    (3) No understanding of Political Economy.

    Apparently, you think it is OK for a deputy leader of the Labor Party to conspire with Mining Magnates and various corrupt, male, right wing union officials to dump a popular Prime Minister, cave in on taxing plutocratic interests properly and betray the working class. Perhaps you think that is OK. I don’t.

    None of this is to indicate I think Rudd if OK. I don’t. He is a huge disappointment and it would take an essay to enumerate everything. At the same time, the parliamentary Labor Party failed badly. They had a popular PM, Rudd, who had lots of back-room faults (including being a nasty bully) and they failed to pull him into line; to stand up to him, pull him into line, get him on track and keep him and the ship steady. It was a collective failure. Backing a class traitor, disloyal opportunist and shallow political and economic thinker like Gillard was a stupid act and it destroyed this Labor cycle. That is what has handed Abbott such an apparent dream run to power this time round.

  32. iain
    September 4th, 2013 at 10:00 | #32

    -This is pretty much the death of a progressive left, at least for a long, long time.
    -Shorten has gotten rid of Rudd and Gillard, and now has just his union mates standing with him.
    -Greens are a shambles under Milne.
    -vote 1 – SOL (senator on line), put representative democracy last on your ballot

  33. sunshine
    September 4th, 2013 at 10:29 | #33

    Its interesting that the Liberal failure to produce costings/cuts seems irrelivent to the electorate .The Aust people know Abbott has a chainsaw under the desk . The narritive was established long ago -Labors(let alone the Greens) caring attitude is economically unrealistic and tough love is the only way. Labor havent managed to shift this perception.

    Is it fair to say Howard only made one big economic reform in 11 years -the GST ? and that once Abbott undoes the carbon and mining taxes he wont have any either .He wont try workchoices and has agreed to gonski and ndis .Then things will be pretty much as conservatives like them anyway .He will just try to balance the budget with cuts. Howards big success was in changing our culture and Abbott will persue the culture wars as a way of setting up future Conservative electoral success .

    I know it seems pointless to raise His name again but i agree with share holder activist Stephen Maine that if Rupe was campaigning against the Coalition Labor would win.

  34. Val
    September 4th, 2013 at 10:37 | #34

    You are the absolute perfect triple AAA example of what I’m talking about. In your unbalanced criticism of Julia Gillard you are effectively bagging and undermining the whole labor government, but you can’t see it because of your irrational desire to see Gillard a certain way. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again – I know her, I’ve worked with her, she is not like that. I know she is human and I certainly think she has made some serious mistakes, but she is not the evil creature of your imagination. FFS get it through your head!
    If other people on this site can’t see the problem here, then I give up.

  35. sunshine
    September 4th, 2013 at 10:56 | #35

    Val – I think what you say did happen in the wider community -without doubt (history will sum up her time thus) ,but I would hesitate to say that there was much of that on this blog . Also I feel her being unmarried ,childfree and athiest didnt help (maybe just as much for each one). Does it provide some consolitation that, as you say ,it is hard to tell if people here are male or female from their username and comments ? For example at first I thought Iko was probably female (until one day he provided a detailed physical description !). For the record- I have a doodle, and I did 5 or 6 womens studies subjects at uni (does that excuse my doodle a bit?).

  36. Sean
    September 4th, 2013 at 10:58 | #36

    I can see what you mean Val

  37. Dave
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:07 | #37

    Abbott has spoken about a “trust deficit” and their campaign “real solutions” pamphlet says that they will restore a “strong, stable and accountable government”.

    The LNP has said nothing, in their pamphlet or anywhere else, on what policy measures they will introduce to improve trust and accountability in government. Given the Howard government record on transparency and accountability you shouldn’t be surprised if more secrecy returns and accountability goes backward. This is going to be a “no excuses, no surprises” government after all.

  38. Ikonoclast
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:08 | #38


    It’s you Val that can’t see the problem. You know, have worked with and like JG. Clearly, your judgement is biased by personal feelings. Of course she is human. Every human is human. It’s axiomatic. And if you are speaking metaphorically rather than literally then you mean she is humane, concerned, sympathetic, empathetic and so on on. This will indeed be true to a greater or lesser extent of all people in the broadly normal personality range. Only psyhcopaths and the like are totally cold. However, her understanding of political economy is poor or at least her applied understanding of it is poor.

    It was also clear from a watching a particular ABC documentary on JG (I forget the title) which allowed JQ to reveal herself over time by her own utterences that she was a complete opportunist politically who would utter whatever at the time she thought would garner her advancement in politics. It was clear the she stood for nothing concrete or lasting in terms of her ideological or political economy positioning. Now, I have emphasised in my posts that many (actually most) male politicians today are exactly the same as this, unfortunately. I am not particualrly singling JG out on this score. It seems to be the spirit of our times and it is related to issues like late stage capitalism, the dominance of corporatism over democratism, the emergence of managerialism and the general submerging of all other values under the values of capital and the money nexus.

    However, to cut to the chase. It is clear that you regard me as a AAA sexist simply because I have the independence of mind and grasp of political economy analysis to not share your glowing assessment of JG as a great and good politician. You seem to skate over other class issues (working class, plutocratic class etc.) to pursue an exclusivist agenda that sex is the only class distinction that matters. Your position is untenable nonsense.

  39. Val
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:08 | #39

    Look I don’t have anything against men as individuals – it’s misogyny and sexism that I hate.

  40. Tim Macknay
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:19 | #40

    Greens are a shambles under Milne

    I don’t think this is true, however it is true that Milne has less public appeal outside the Greens’ base than Brown did. The rise in economic insecurity since 2008 (real or perceived), and the breakdown of political consensus on climate change policy since 2010, have also reduced public interest in environmental matters, which are the Greens’ core issues.

  41. iain
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:21 | #41

    Tim, yeah, I guess it is meant as – Milne not as popular and connected in a representative democracy context than Brown. I actually prefer Milne to Brown, and am a long time greens voter.

  42. Val
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:29 | #42

    The invisible woman you are arguing with thinks –

    Julia Gillard is a “great and good politician”
    “sex is the only class distinction that matters”

    I hope you find her sometime, because she isn’t me. Bye

  43. Val
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:34 | #43

    thanks Sean

  44. sunshine
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:37 | #44

    Val you have my full support in your questioning .We must remain ever vigilant .If it were up to me they would have stuck with Julia even if the electoral result may have been worse that way.

  45. Val
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:40 | #45

    I have a comment in moderation – because I swore in it – which said

    If John Quiggin as administrator did something about the misogyny on this site it might help [without the swearing].

    Good thing it was moderated really because although I think it’s right, it might sound as if I’m angry with you, which I’m not.

  46. Val
    September 4th, 2013 at 11:47 | #46

    Yeah it’s a hard call I think. The problem was that by the time the change back to Rudd was made, the Gillard government had been so undermined that they might have had no chance.
    The trouble is that supposedly left wing people (eg sites like this) instead of seeing what was happening – that the LNP/Murdoch forces were using sexism to undermine JG and the government as a whole – and resisting it, bought into it, thereby helping to guarantee its success as a strategy.
    Sad, sad. Anyway I’d better go now. thanks

  47. sunshine
    September 4th, 2013 at 12:20 | #47

    JD – If that is so it might be simply a reflection of the economics profession in general. This is a site with a fairly serious economic bent.

    Misogyny is a question everyone should continually address ,but I think if it is here or in the Left in general then it is to a much lesser degree than just about anywhere else .One of the stylistic differences between Left and Right is Left likes to remain open to question -to embrace doubt – to remain ever vigilent .Its a great strength ,it enables change, progress and helps prevent perpetuating injustice ,but its also a practical debating problem when confronting a Right without that inclination.
    I think people here know what was happening to Julia and I dont think they bought into it. I think generally that the worst that could be said would be that they just thought that in the short time before the election there was nothing that could be done about it . Maybe that is buying into it in order to save the Senate .

  48. John Quiggin
    September 4th, 2013 at 12:24 | #48

    I’d like to call a halt to this side discussion now. Either Gillard or Rudd would be much preferable to Abbott. I hoped switching back to Rudd would work, but it hasn’t.

    Val, I share your concerns about the male-dominated nature of the discussion (though this site is not unusual in that respect). Once the election is over, that’s an item on the agenda we will have to consider in rebuilding. Remind me if you don’t see a post sometime soonish.

    To be clear, I’m not closing comments, just closing off Rudd v Gillard and misogyny as topics for this thread.

  49. wilful
    September 4th, 2013 at 12:31 | #49

    Re the distraction of Gillard and her sexism, she said it best herself. It wasn’t everything, but it wasn’t nothing. I didn’t hate Gillard and don’t hate Rudd, they’re both flawed characters with a list of achievements and failures. But I massively prefer Rudd as PM simply because the electorate had completely tuned out to what she was saying. Her position had become completely untenable. Yes Rudd has “saved the furniture” and we won’t have a conservative Senate (I hope), and that can almost entirely be pinned to the return of Rudd. So hooray for that.

    As to the issue of misogyny on this site, well there’s a LOT in the eye of the beholder, just like with race debates. As a white male with a university degree, I know that I’m speaking from a position of privilege and can’t necessarily see what others can, but if this blog is considered a hostile man-space, then I wonder what your experience is on the web generally.

  50. wilful
    September 4th, 2013 at 12:33 | #50

    Sorry Prof, I didn’t see the note before I posted.

  51. Val
    September 4th, 2013 at 12:54 | #51

    @John Quiggin
    Fair enough. For something different can I put in a plug for @WePublicHealth (citizen journalism project by Croakey) where we’re trying to get #climate&health on the agenda?
    Given that Abbott is prepared to even abandon the 5% emissions reduction target, (as well as all the other concerns above) should all be doing what we can rather than arguing I agree!

  52. Nathan
    September 4th, 2013 at 13:12 | #52

    Can you be specific about what the problem actually is? From your first post I gather it’s ‘unbalanced’ criticism. You seem willing to concede that the government at various points made serious mistakes and was morally in the wrong. To me that sounds like reasonable synonyms for incompetent and deceitful, so I don’t follow why these are unbalanced criticisms of policy. It might be unbalanced if there were never any discussion of policies that are to the governments credit but a quick perusal of this blog shows that’s not the case.

    Alternatively it might be unbalanced if it were only the JG government as opposed to Rudd Labor or the Coalition that was criticised in this manner, but that’s not the case either. In particular, AFAICT the Coalition comes in for far more criticism than either Labour government, both on this blog and in progressive circles generally, so I cannot see how any reader would come away with the idea that Abbott was *more* competent or trustworthy.

    Finally, on the subject of balanced criticism I’m also very confused by some of the accusations you make. For instance, you seem happy to accept the validity of all of the reasons that Ikonoclast gives for his criticism but call him irrational anyway. But more generally these comments seem to imply that critical left-wing commentators should somehow bear more responsibility for the probably Abbott government than Labor itself.

  53. Jim Groves
    September 4th, 2013 at 13:30 | #53

    Abbott does have a coherent political philosophy. We can discern what it is from the fact of his weekly consultations with Cardinal Pell. However he knows it is political poison and has been remarkably successful at hiding it.

  54. John Quiggin
    September 4th, 2013 at 13:49 | #54

    Since we are over 50 comments, I’ll repeat my request to defer discussions of misogyny and Rudd v Gillard for another thread. Anything I see after this will be deleted.

  55. Donald Oats
    September 4th, 2013 at 14:11 | #55

    Deleted as stated above – JQ

  56. September 4th, 2013 at 14:52 | #56

    I have a practical question on how to vote to attempt to keep the Coalition out on account of how I think the earth looks pretty with icecaps and Bangladeshi people look better when they’re not drowned. I just found out that I’m in the Federal Electorate of Hindmarsh. I admit that it took me ten years of living in the middle of it to find that out, which may seem a bit slack, but at this particular moment I am overflowing with civic virtue and I’d like to use my new knowledge to the benefit of my fellow human beings.

    The internet tells me that in the last Federal election the votes went Labor 44.5%, Liberal 39%, Greens 12.1%, about 3.5% for little parties, and about 1% informal votes. So in the upcoming election a likely outcome is that neither Labor nor Liberal will gain a majority, which will cause preferences to determine the outcome. In this case, since the Greens get such a large portion of the primary vote, it seems likely that the preferences of the tiny parties would be what determines which party wins and the preferences of those who gave their primary vote to the Greens are unlikely to come into it. So if my goal is to minimize human deaths resulting from climate change, it appears to me that the most effective way I can vote is to give my primary vote to Labour and vote for the Greens in the senate. Does that seem reasonable or is my thinking flawed?

  57. Crispin Bennett
    September 4th, 2013 at 15:39 | #57


    Obviously, the fact that such a party and such a leader can be on the verge of victory implies that the Labor side has done something dreadfully wrong.

    I don’t find this obvious at all. I have no doubt at all that Labor have made many mistakes, of both substance and presentation, but there are one or two potential causal forces besides the behaviour of the major parties.

    How about, for example, the character of the electorate? Mightn’t it have some responsibility in all this? I suspect a lot of motivated quasi-reasoning. Australians know full well that our treatment of Asylum-seekers is disgraceful, and equally that we must tackle the fossil fuel mafia soon, and head-on. The choice to look away from these realities and focus on fictions is just that, a choice, presumably motivated in part by a (common enough) failure of courage. Given Australia’s childish and rigid gaze-averting, there’s little a well-meaning political party can do short of staging a coup.

  58. Michael
    September 4th, 2013 at 16:02 | #58

    I thought Abbott had finally abandoned his ‘human shield’ strategy (ie. his daughters) for a ‘don’t let any candidates speak’ strategy, but apparently the human shields have been invoked by Abbott again today.

  59. may
    September 4th, 2013 at 16:21 | #59

    another letter from my invisible mp.

    says i will be $500:oo better off after they ditch what they call “the carbon tax”.

    it’s all plaque and don’t believe it.

  60. may
  61. J-D
    September 4th, 2013 at 17:09 | #61

    @Ronald Brak
    I think your reasoning is based on an incomplete understanding of how preferential voting works. You write ‘since the Greens get such a large portion of the primary vote … the preferences of those who gave their primary vote to the Greens are unlikely to come into it’. There is no such automatic relationship as would justify that statement.

  62. PJF
    September 4th, 2013 at 20:29 | #62

    I concur with J-D; even assuming that the primary votes exactly matched the previous election (the minors were actually 4.4% in 2010), it’s certainly not true that the Greens votes would not be counted. Until one of the two leading candidates secures an absolute majority (=50% + 1 of the formal votes), preferences continue to be distributed. In fact, the Labor candidate obtained fewer of the preferences of the minors than either the Liberal or the Greens candidates, and was still short of the holy grail, and the distribution of the Greens’ preferences was his ultimate ticket to re-election. If anything, it seems likely Labor will do relatively worse this time, so the Greens’ preferences will certainly be distributed.

    The key to the ultimate effect of your vote is the relative placement of the Labor and Liberal candidates. I note that there are seven candidates in Hindmarsh and what will decide the effect of your vote even if you have Labor 6, Liberal 7 or vice versa, is whether one of the majors is ahead of the other. So given your expressed view (which I share) is a wish to minimise the likelihood of a Liberal victory, or if that is inevitable, to minimise the likelihood of a landslide, you should ensure that the Liberal candidate is placed below his Labor opponent on your ballot (and ensure that you indicate all seven preferences to cast a formal vote).

  63. Fran Barlow
    September 4th, 2013 at 21:54 | #63

    Those of us who said all along that the return of THLV would make no positive difference to the outcome are going to have to resist the urge to say “I told you so.”

    It now seems certain that the ALP’s craven capitulation to Murdoch and its uncritical adoption of a policy as brutal as Howard’s on asylum seekers has been a complete failure. THLV has run the worst campaign I can recall, especially given that he had no challenger white-anting him.

    Although I won’t be casting a formal vote, I’m clearly going to be unhappy at the result, but that’s what happens when both sides try to appeal to the most unworthy of human impulses.

  64. September 4th, 2013 at 23:40 | #64

    J-D and PJF, yes, my thinking does appear to be flawed. While it seems certain that if neither Labor or Liberals get a majority the minor parties will have their second preferences distributed before the Greens do as the Greens will almost certainly get the third largest number of primary votes, but I can’t actually come up with a scenario where this matters. I’m glad I ran this by you. Thank you.

  65. crocodile
    September 4th, 2013 at 23:56 | #65

    If Tony is going to hurt you guys just get ready for a possible celebration on Saturday with two events.

    1. We might beat the Springboks.
    2. The thoroughly obnoxious Sophie Mirabella looks set to get thumped in Indi by a very smart independent.

  66. James
    September 5th, 2013 at 04:46 | #66

    It seems to me that the LNP tap into some zeitgeist on cost of living because of the one item in the basket that no one talks about; the cost of housing. Seriously, my kids have much better jobs than I did at their age, but I would seriously question if their standard of living (after discounting for advances in technology) is much improved due to the huge price they pay for housing.

    As for Mr Rudd, he appears to have adopted his own version of ‘whatever it takes’, which in the end has led to some very silly announcements (like sailing the Navy north, in the middle of an election, please?).

    But what has struck me about this election is the level of economic illiteracy, not from the general public (which possibly may be excused to some extent) but from the media. Most media commentary that is not blatantly partisan (as in we all know whom) has mainly been simplistic reiteration of the promises/deficits meme. In this regard the ABC has been as bad as the rest. At first I thought they were just drifting to the right (for which there is some evidence) but after watching Leigh Sales interview both Mr Rudd and Mr Abbot, it became apparent from her line of questioning that she didn’t know the significance of her own questions, and therefore could not ask relevant follow up questions as she was merely channelling the MSM commentariat. All fluff and no substance.

    But my favourite moment was Fran Kelly on Radio National asking the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank, a person whose sole job it is to peddle excessive debt to households, and a task at which his organisation has been very successful (with household debt at about 140% GDP) whether Australia’s public debt was a disaster (at around 10% of GDP). The irony.

    Unfortunately I have yet to hear from the MSM any serious discussion on unemployment, capacity utilisation, the role government can play through fiscal policy, the role of monetary policy and why QE in the US and UK has been so slow to kick-start their economies, what were the drivers of the GFC, and in which ways are government not like households. Yet everyone keeps saying it is all about the economy.

    I just hope for all our sakes we don’t end up in ‘well, no one saw that coming’ moment.

  67. Ikonoclast
    September 5th, 2013 at 08:00 | #67

    @Fran Barlow

    I am completely baffled. Who or what is THLV? After looking up Google for enlightenment I can only presume you don’t mean;

    Taxe d’habitation sur les logements vacants (THLV).

  68. Ikonoclast
    September 5th, 2013 at 08:36 | #68


    You are right about the level of economic illiteracy. However from my own experience, I can say the attempt to become economically literate from a layperson’s position is very difficult. The difficulties include but are not limited to (as they say);

    (1) Economics, broadly understood, is not a science and can never be a science.
    (2) The subject is properly Political Economy and not Economics in any case.
    (3) Ideology, self interest and sectional interest are always at work.

    From the layperson’s point of view there is the question of authority. Who can the layperson take as a reliable authority on economics? Before the 2008 Financial Crisis, a layperson might have taken the econonomic orthodoxy at that time to be a reliable authority. This would have been especially the case if said layperson was a not a reader of history or academic and philosophical treatises on economics or political economy. In other words, she or he would have formed an opinion based on current news, commentary and public debates.

    The economic orthodoxy before the 2008 Financial Crisis was neo-classical and monetarist. It has been the dominant and orthodox position for about 30 or more years. One of the tenets of that faith was that the Great Moderation had occurred. This thesis and several others were blown out of the water by the 2008 Financial Crisis. Without paying close attention, you wouldn’t know this, because much debate has continued on as if the central theses of neo-classical and monetarist economics had not been refuted.

    If you have been paying attention, the message is “don’t trust the orthodoxy”. Then the dilemma is which heterodox theory one should to listen to. As soon as you explore heterodox theories (and older orthodoxies) you just begin to understand how complex and contentious the field is.

    And always the problem is this. Since the field is not a hard science how can any objective truth be determined about economics? Since politics always conditions economics how can economics be studied without reference to politics?

  69. Ikonoclast
    September 5th, 2013 at 08:59 | #69


    And you are also correct to say;

    “Unfortunately I have yet to hear from the MSM any serious discussion on unemployment, capacity utilisation, the role government can play through fiscal policy, the role of monetary policy and why QE in the US and UK has been so slow to kick-start their economies, what were the drivers of the GFC, and in which ways are government not like households. Yet everyone keeps saying it is all about the economy.”

    To determine who is speaking bulldust I always use the heuristic (rule of thumb) that if they only speak about secondary nominal* phenomena (the budget position) and not about primary real phenomena (unemployment, capacity under-utilisation, availability of real resources) then they are talking bull. Of course, these (the real and the nominal) both have to be spoken about but in proper context and relation and with due attention to what is primarily important namely the real and not the notional.

    * Note: An unemployed person is empirically real and so is his/her unemployed condition. Money and budget numbers are not real, they are nominal. Certainly, there is a secondary social reality to money and its operations but primarily in terms of materially measurable ontology it is not real. In its essential nominal aspect, it is not a real material-energetic existent. The very fact that fiat money can be created ex nihilo alerts us to the fact that is not real (it does not obey the law of conservation of matter and energy) and that its quantities are settings chosen by arbitrary or rational or rationalised means.

  70. James
    September 5th, 2013 at 10:16 | #70


    I agree, and as an occasional lay reader in economics I am aware of the disjuncture between orthodox neo-classical (and their recent offshoots, as in JQ’s post on market monetarism) and the more heterodox alternatives, and the confusion this engenders.

    But getting back to the alternative PM, I think the election debate (if it can be so called) makes more sense when subjected to a Foucauldian analyses. The political discourse is primarily about power relationships (in this case a naked accession to government), and the requisite jockeying for authority to both define and proscribe the subject matter through language and content.

    In this matter Abbot has been far more successful than the fractured Labor team, and the lament by JQ that ‘None of these claims stands up to even momentary scrutiny’ while of interest from an academic perspective is almost totally irrelevant (as we will most likely see come Saturday night).

    The broader issue is that the political discourse has no internal impetus to align with rational argument or empirical evidence, and so can continue to produce toxic outcomes as in, for example, the breakdown between wages and productivity growth over the last thirty years, without collapsing from internal contradictions. The distinction here is not between democratic and authoritarian governments, but in the unceasing push for ascendancy by the powerful over the powerless.

    The observation that the left have failed to produce a coherent alternative to neoliberalism largely misses the point, because a coherent alternative must also reframe the political discourse by effectively destroying the current orthodoxy, and we are nowhere near achieving that goal at this point in time. One has only to observe Labor’s failed efforts to sell limited social justice and equity initiatives from within the neoliberal framework. It is little wonder this appears to be both impotent and incompetent in the current discourse, and will most likely be rewarded as such.

  71. wilful
    September 5th, 2013 at 10:20 | #71

    @crocodile Two things that will make me very happy.

    But it’s not enough.

  72. Hermit
    September 5th, 2013 at 10:21 | #72

    I think an Abbott government could implode within a year. Triggers include austerity killing the recent 2.6% economic growth, the public wanting more than lip service on emissions and some kind of detention camp incident. Abbott is too doctrinaire to compromise on these issues. If he did adopt a softer stance for political survival the public may not take it well. Equally if he takes the hard man stance all the way to a double dissolution it could backfire. The LNP could remain in the doldrums for at least two terms. My gut feeling is that Abbott is a oncer.

  73. wilful
    September 5th, 2013 at 10:22 | #73

    Ikonoclast :
    @Fran Barlow
    I am completely baffled. Who or what is THLV? After looking up Google for enlightenment I can only presume you don’t mean;
    Taxe d’habitation sur les logements vacants (THLV).

    Hear hear Ikon. Fran, stop the cute acronyms and call a spade a bloody spade. I assume you’re referring to Rudd. I quite disagree, but I think that you are definitely flouting our host’s request that we don’t talk about our current and previous PMs.

  74. wilful
    September 5th, 2013 at 10:26 | #74

    @Hermit Thankfully Hermit there appear to be clear signals that a Coalition government will not go down the austerity path. Which is a marked break from the right across the globe, but very welcome. I expect that the senior Treasury bureaucrats and the RBA will privately argue in the strongest possible terms against austerity, and Hockey I rate at least as highly as Swan (faint praise). It’s probably my greatest relief, that macro settings probably won’t be tinkered with too much.

  75. Fran Barlow
    September 5th, 2013 at 10:44 | #75


    I am completely baffled. Who or what is THLV?

    The current PM, with whose name I won’t profane this place, at least until he is defeated.

  76. Ikonoclast
    September 5th, 2013 at 10:54 | #76


    I actually agree with your subjecting the debate to a Foucauldian discourse analysis. I consistently reduce political economy analysis to the material and do so in both a Marxist and a biophysical economics sense. It would only be a superficial reading of Marx which said “the (material) base conditions the (ideological) superstructure” and left it at that. The reality is that the conditioning goes both ways in continuous feedback loops and also that the ideological superstructure (as discourse for example) functions to legitimise existing material relations. The discourse also functions to rule some concepts “in court” and other concepts “out of court”.

    You say;

    “The broader issue is that the political discourse has no internal impetus to align with rational argument or empirical evidence, and so can continue to produce toxic outcomes as in, for example, the breakdown between wages and productivity growth over the last thirty years, without collapsing from internal contradictions.”

    I think this statement sums up our dilemma very well. Perhaps I would substitute the words “inequitable and maladaptive” for “toxic” although “toxic” is also literally true when we look at the toxins our production system is releasing into the bioshpere without abatement or remediation.

    Then you go on to say the system can go on doing this without collapsing from internal contradictions. It can do so for a long time (as compared to human life spans) but it cannot do so indefinitely. An internal contradiction is that wages cannot continue to lag productivity indefinitely; not in the sense that wages draw a lesser and lesser share of income compared to profits. This trend has an end-point at the point of revolution and/or the minimum reproductive cost of labour.

    Also, external contradictions exist. That is contradictions between the system and the sustaining environment. Again, we cannot indefintely grow, with ever greater production, consumption and waste.

    Thus while the the political discourse has no internal impetus to ever align with rationality it will at some stage have an impetus to align at least somewhat with empirical evidence and the final conditioning power and primacy of the material base, including the capacities of the biosphere. Even if it takes another 20 years.

  77. Ikonoclast
    September 5th, 2013 at 10:57 | #77

    @Fran Barlow

    But what does THLV stand for?

  78. Fran Barlow
    September 5th, 2013 at 11:37 | #78


    But what does THLV stand for?

    “The Happy Little Vegemite” (He once self-described in these terms). Occasionally, for variety, I’ve called him His Vegemiteness

  79. Fran Barlow
    September 5th, 2013 at 11:43 | #79


    Despite having a political lineage far closer to Marx than Hegel, I find what you’ve written above an interesting application of the Foucauldian paradigm. It’s probably as good a tool as any through which to understand the absurdity of what counts as political in mainstream discourse.

    Well done …

  80. Tim Macknay
    September 5th, 2013 at 11:59 | #80

    I think an Abbott government could implode within a year. Triggers include austerity killing the recent 2.6% economic growth, the public wanting more than lip service on emissions and some kind of detention camp incident.

    I’d like to agree but, as wilful says, there doesn’t appear to be much evidence the Coalition will actually go for austerity. In fact, on their current promises, they’ll take a little longer to reach surplus than a returned Labor government would. I’m unconvinced that a detention camp incident would affect public opinion (sadly). Numerous incidents in the past, including hunger strikes, suicides and riots, appear to have made precious little difference to public opinion, so I don’t see much reason to suppose they will in future.

    As for climate policy, it seems very likely that the “direct action” policy (which is deliberately uncosted) is headed for the dustbin. Whether or not the Coalition will come up with some kind of alternative take policy remains to be seen, but it appears to me that public concern about climate change is rather diminished due to the years of partisan stoushing and confusing misinformation, as well as heightened concern over the economy since the GFC. Still, the windback of any substantial policy will ensure that climate change policy is still an arena for dispute and controversy for years to come. However, I doubt it would be enough to make the government implode.

    If Abbott fails to achieve a conservative majority in the Senate, that may actually prove to be a benefit for his government. An inability to repeal the carbon pricing scheme would be unlikely to cause much political damage to his government (since he could blame it on his opponents), and, since the scheme is moderately effective and the price will drop once the ETS component kicks in, public opposition to it will almost certainly diminish substantially over time (as with the GST). A hostile Senate would also remove the ability for the more radical right-wingers in his party to push him to introduce ideological policies which could cause him electoral problems down the track (a la Workchoices). The result could be a relatively moderate Abbott government.

    Of course, the way things are going, there could be a right-wing majority in the Senate.

  81. Tim Macknay
    September 5th, 2013 at 12:00 | #81

    “alternative take policy” was meant to read “alternative token policy”.

  82. Tim Macknay
    September 5th, 2013 at 12:08 | #82

    “The Happy Little Vegemite” (He once self-described in these terms). Occasionally, for variety, I’ve called him His Vegemiteness

    Thanks Fran. I was wondering about that myself. I must say I prefer this to your previous moniker for him.

  83. crocodile
    September 5th, 2013 at 12:39 | #83

    Just a bit of light-hearted banter. I can’t say I’m impressed with either choice so I don’t really think that you can really say that Tony is undeserving. Just reflect a bit on Kevin’s campaign and disect what he has done.
    – Assumed the leadership with “No more negativity” and “A new way”. Didn’t happen.
    – Completely unable to defend his debt and defecit position. Poor salesman
    – Recruits the Obama team to run his campaign
    – Parachutes Peter Beattie into Forde when a sound local was seemingly liked among the locals
    – Parachutes Jason Yat-Sen Li into Bennelong to shore up the asian vote. The local Chinaman around here is a bit smarter than that. See right through it.
    – Unable to defend his carbon pricing regime. Not a single mention of the investment opportunities for the business savvy wanting entry into an emerging market.
    – Could not hold his senior ministry together. They’ve all retired for “personal reasons”

    Can’t be bothered looking for any more.

    Do you really want this buffoon to run the show just because he might be slightly better than Tony. The dearth of quality candidates on both sides is lamentable. What have we done over the last couple of decades to reach this point.

  84. Crispin Bennett
    September 5th, 2013 at 12:44 | #84

    The dearth of quality candidates on both sides is lamentable.

    They may not be up to much, but the electorate cannot by the wildest imaginative stretch be said to be calling them to anything higher. The pollies we deserve, etc.

  85. crocodile
    September 5th, 2013 at 12:59 | #85

    @Crispin Bennett
    Yes Crispin, but why ? What has been done over last twenty years to get to this point. This is not rhetorical, I actually don’t know.

  86. Sad Sam
    September 5th, 2013 at 13:01 | #86

    @Fran Barlow
    But Fran, what do you do when a substantial part of the electorate shows itself (OVER and OVER) to be ignorant and racist, and subject to manipulation by the Liberal Party on that score?

    To save the Australian Government from the Liberal Party’s slash-and-burn Commission of Audit (as in Qld), might it not be necessary to neutralise the refugee issue by appearing just as horrible as the Liberals?

    It has just been SO obvious that the Liberals use refugees as a distraction from their impending cuts. When Tony Abbott was getting asked about costings, he brought out a new refugee policy. When he was copping heat about costs, he proposed buying Indonesian boats.

    It just seems so plain that the Liberals manipulate not only racists but also enlightened people on the Left. The Libs know that they can push certain buttons and the Left (with the best intentions) gets distracted.

    Maybe the Australian Left will one day learn what the East Timorese learnt when Indonesia wanted a civil war in East Timor as an excuse for a full-scale invasion. The East Timorese retreated. The Australian Left seems incapable of doing likewise, and so dooms the Australian Government to the control of people like Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.

  87. Fran Barlow
    September 5th, 2013 at 13:10 | #87


    Do you really want this buffoon to run the show just because he might be slightly better than Tony.

    I’ve decided not. I’m not inclined to the view that he would be slightly better than Tony, at least in qualitative terms. This overpersonalises of course. THLV could be every bit as bad as he is now, but if his party was enacting non-fundamentally objectionable policies and Abbott was enacting such policies, despiute being entirely personable, I’d still prefer the THLV-led ALP. It seems an improbable scenario.

    The dearth of quality candidates on both sides is lamentable. What have we done over the last couple of decades to reach this point?

    Allowed politics to become like sports — a series of sound bytes built around a narrow contest ebtween people pitching at the galleries so that they can enact policies that serve the privileged while kidding us that they want “to govern for all Australians”. Mr Abbott will say that on Saturday night, following an election night tradition, and it will be at least as bogus and self-serving as every previous one.

    It’s not really about the candidates though. It’s about the paradigm of governance we have — and its configuration — which is designed first of all to secure the rights of the best resourced property holders against everyone else. Once you have that as your core system attribute, all else follows. Good, bad or indifferent — it doesn’t matter a jot, because they will be ignored by the executive whenever they can’t reconcile their proposals with that core system attribute. How that maps is mainly specified by the mass broadcast media in this country which is mainly an expression of Murdoch.

    The major parties know this and unsurprisingly factor Murodch’s likely conduct into most of their public policy calculations. In political parlance, this is what they mean when they decide “how a policy will play” or to whom they have to “sell” it.

    It’s little wonder then that few people distinguished by their perspicacity, policy insight and a desire for equity bother with politics in the traditional sense.

  88. Crispin Bennett
    September 5th, 2013 at 13:10 | #88

    @crocodile If I could answer that with any degree of confidence, I’d be writing it up and then nudging my acquaintances to put me up for a Nobel. But I’m heartily bored of politician-blaming.

  89. Fran Barlow
    September 5th, 2013 at 13:19 | #89

    @Sad Sam

    But Fran, what do you do when a substantial part of the electorate shows itself (OVER and OVER) to be ignorant and racist, and subject to manipulation by the Liberal Party on that score?

    Assuming you don’t see these attributes as virtues which you could eventually deploy in favour of the privileged with you as broker …

    You make your number one goal to subvert the dominant paradigm. You specify it in public. You return the attention of the public to that idea at every iteration of policy. You accept that this means that you will often be out of office and are not the natural party of governance because your principal goal is to serve working humanity rather than its enemies.

    You argue for social inclusion and insistently point out every instance where people are bing marginalised — at governance time, in the workplace or wherever it appears. You develop policies that point to an alternative world in which all can be ethical equals.

    You stress the integrity of the journey as much as the goal, and whenever the parties of property win, you hold them accountable rather than apologise for them. If you achieve government you act boldly so that your base has a reason for wanting you to survive.

    It’s not that hard really.

  90. Ikonoclast
    September 5th, 2013 at 13:20 | #90

    Well, we have arrived at this point because Western society is intellectually and emotionally sclerotic (meaning in this case rigid and unresponsive). The world views of our elites and of the propadandised masses have hardened into dogmatic ideology. The dogmatic ideology is that of corporate capitalism which considers itself (eternally) victorious after the fall of the Berlin Wall (a real event with mythology added) and the inaugeration of the Great Moderation (complete mythology).

    A common enough characteristic of victory followed by triumphalist self-congratulation is the belief that an eternally valid and perfect formula for success has been found. Once you believe you have found the perfect formula you don’t believe further investigation and learning or changes (in essential method) are necessary. This is where Western civilization find itself. And it is now incapable of changing from within. It will take exogenous shocks to do it i.e. a shocks from other civilizations and/or shocks from the environment. I suspect a whole battery (no pun intended) of both will occur. (By “whole battery”, I mean a series of battering blows which will destabilise and critically challenge our entire system.)

  91. crocodile
    September 5th, 2013 at 13:21 | #91

    @Crispin Bennett
    I don’t think the politician can be blamed entirely. Something is wrong when both parties are unable to attract sufficient numbers of quality representatives. The ones they have now are the best that they can attract. I’ll have stop scratching my head, keep getting splinters.

  92. Crispin Bennett
    September 5th, 2013 at 13:32 | #92

    @Fran Barlow If you really believe the average corporate-marketing-addled Aussie could be won over by such a strategy, then we must live in different worlds indeed (I do confess to being in benighted Brisbane, where any human activity not involving leaf-blowers or similar fossil fuel-powered items is considered subversive).

  93. Crispin Bennett
    September 5th, 2013 at 13:35 | #93

    @crocodile Well, I think there are a reasonable number of decent and thoughtful people in politics. But many more will reject politics to work in arenas where they’re less subject to democracy.

  94. Sad Sam
    September 5th, 2013 at 13:46 | #94

    @Fran Barlow

    “Subvert the dominant paradigm”?

    You assume that ordinary people are basically good-hearted, but just misguided. I don’t share your optimism and I also must say I find that view somewhat patronising, as if those people aren’t consciously and freely choosing to adopt the view that they do in fact hold.

    It’s not just the suits in the CBD driving the Porsches over the bodies of refugees who are at fault.

    The outer-suburbanites and others who allow the rich Libs to play on their prejudices are also at fault.

    I don’t see why the government should be allowed to be put in the hands of the rich just to accommodate certain crazy people on the outer and at the bottom.

  95. Fran Barlow
    September 5th, 2013 at 15:08 | #95

    @Sad Sam

    Hmm … so much to unpack …

    You assume that ordinary people are basically good-hearted

    I really don’t. I assume that almost all people including the “ordinary” (which I will read as “not especially socially privileged”) are capable of learning. They may learn (or fail to learn) of their own possibility, their connectedness with others, the extent to which they may have common legitimate interests, and where these are likely to part company.

    The elite are far better at calculating where their interests lie, and they also have far more scope to take action likely to advance those interests. Inevitably, given that resources are limited, these advancements will be in substantial part at the expense of the non-privileged. The non-privileged, for their part, infer (not unreasonably) that the resources needed to advance substantially their their material prospects as a class are unlikely to exist and even if they did, that they would not be surrendered. There being nobody apparently willing and capable of leading a struggle for a better division for the class as a whole, they engage in adaptive behaviour — seeking to solve their problem at an individual level through various combinations of cognitive dissonance, a focus on their own minor privileges, manoeuvering for position with those more privileged than they are, anomie and of course misnathropy directed outwards at those less empowered than they are.

    This provides fertile ground for variously atomising those who are socially excluded and co-opting the more articulate of this cohort to support the elite. Key though is the idea that social arrangements can never be just since that is critical if adaptive behaviour is to be elicited. Accordingly, our government officials from both sides sing from fundamentally similar songsheets.

    I also must say I find that view somewhat patronising, as if those people aren’t consciously and freely choosing to adopt the view that they do in fact hold.

    That’s wrong in two ways. Firstly, if it is correct, then it scarcely matters if it is patronising or not. This temptation to avoid telling inconvenient truths merely because “it won’t play well” is one of the more persistent features of political life in western societies. We see some of it at the trivial level with the oft-repeated “cost-of-living-pressures” meme. If people are being hoodwinked or are parties to their own disempowerment, it is a duty to try to get them to understand that and if some suffer hurt pride, then so be it.

    More broadly though what people choose “consciously and freely” is rather debatable. If you hold a figurative gun at people’s heads and give them two poor options, they will choose a poor option. If people come to believe that the world can never be just, if empowerment and equitable dealing simply isn’t possible they will “freely and consciously” choose the form of exclusion and inequity that serves them best, as far as they can grasp it, and repeat the ethical warrant with which they justified this choice to others. Few like to be seen as bad people after all, so they have every reason to borrow the ethical defences offered to them by those in authority. These are massively circulated, ready to hand and used, in their estimation by most others. Some may be troubled by this, but since there’s little they can do to address their doubts, it’s just easier to compartmentalise and move on.

    The outer-suburbanites and others who allow the rich Libs to play on their prejudices are also at fault.

    Very much so. It’s also a form of Stockholm Syndrome. Imprisoned in the system, they begin to identify with their gaolers, picking from amongst them the most congenial to support.

    I don’t see why the government should be allowed to be put in the hands of the rich just to accommodate certain crazy people on the outer and at the bottom.

    It’s already in the hands of the rich. It has never been out of their hands. N_E_V_E_R … One must acknowledge also that it may never be out of their hands. The same processes that allow the privileged to become privileged allow the privileged to remain so. If that is to be undone, it will take an extraodinarily subversive effort on the part of the left to acquaint working humanity with the possibility of something fundamentally better. We will need to find ways of engaging people in activity that undoes their belief that this is as good as it gets and that it’s either this or something much worse.

    If we fail to do that then this really will be as good as it gets.

  96. may
    September 5th, 2013 at 17:57 | #96

    as a slight aside on the discussion and the information people have at their disposal to come to an opinion.
    i was chatting to a lady recently on the electoral system we have here.
    she has recently arrived from Somalia.
    and from somewhere had got it into her head that there were cameras above the polling booths to record every person and how they voted.

    i think i managed to convince her that this is not so,but i’m not sure.

    we in this country,are pretty much in the same position.
    it seems that from “somewhere”we have got it into our heads that things are much worse than they really are .

  97. crocodile
    September 5th, 2013 at 18:11 | #97

    The ALP really must be such profligate spenders after all. I see avuncular Joe has only managed to squeeze out 6 billion, 4.5 from foreign aid. The mind boggles.

  98. Will
    September 5th, 2013 at 19:38 | #98

    Seeing the vast, VAST quantity of misinformed posts on forums/Facebook using the analogy of government spending to a household budget makes me want to bang my head repeatedly on the wall until the hurt goes away. Apart from tiny differences such as scale, scope, form and function, they are absolutely identical. What is a public good? What is a multiplier? What is an automatic stabilizer? One may just as well equate a car to a space shuttle, since, after all, they are both capable of motion.

  99. David Allen
    September 5th, 2013 at 19:45 | #99

    crocodile :
    The ALP really must be such profligate spenders after all. I see avuncular Joe has only managed to squeeze out 6 billion, 4.5 from foreign aid. The mind boggles.

    That’s over 4 years!!!!

  100. Sad Sam
    September 5th, 2013 at 19:48 | #100


    Couldn’t agree more, Will. Couldn’t agree more. And the cock-sure George W Bush certainty with which they insist that governments deficits are always bad, in complete ignorance of macroeconomics 101…

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