Home > Oz Politics > Don’t blame me: I voted for Kodos

Don’t blame me: I voted for Kodos

March 6th, 2014

Former Queensland Transport Minister Rachel Nolan (whose argument for privatisation I discussed here) has a piece in the Brisbane Times attacking the Electrical Trades Union (disclosure: I produced a report on electricity privatisation for the Victorian branch of the union). The headline is “The ETU is nobody’s friend“, and that pretty much sums up the article – Nolan’s complaint is that the ETU has had the temerity to attack both the previous Labor government and the current LNP government over the same issues, broken promises and support for asset sales.

As Nolan admits, Labor suffered from a

a widely perceived breach of trust – the fact that Labor went to the 2009 election on a slogan of “Jobs, not cuts” and then announced a program of asset sales seemingly as soon as the result was declared

With the exception of the weasel words “widely perceived” and “seemingly”, this is spot on. And the voters reacted long before the ETU had a chance to mount a campaign. Labor’s support plummeted in the polls and, with the exception of a brief blip after the 2011 floods, never recovered.

Now, Nolan complains, the ETU is doing the same thing to the LNP government whose victory they assisted by campaigning against the asset sales. Why? Well,

LNP members’ willingness to stand by the ETU[1], hands on hearts telling us they didn’t believe in Labor’s asset sales, is an act of breathtaking hypocrisy – perhaps bettered only by the pre-election reassurances they gave public servants – with which they now have to live.

So, the crime of the ETU is not to criticise asset sales or dishonesty. It would be fine, according to Nolan, if they made these criticisms of one side (preferably the LNP) and ignored similar actions by the other. But to attack both sides indiscriminately is to undermine the very foundations of the two-party system.

All of this makes sense in Nolan’s world view. As she says in her Monthly article “ Australians have little philosophical grasp of the (rightful) diminution of governmental power which deregulation has brought”. Hence, it is necessary for the two major political parties to lie at election time, in order to secure office and implement the policies on which they both agree. A good friend, in Nolan’s world is a person who picks one of the interchangeable teams, and sticks to it.

And finally, there’s this little gem where Nolan (Ipswich Girls Grammar and UQ alumna) makes clear her contempt for ordinary workers, and for hard-won working conditions, abundantly clear

It might be fun for the bruvvers to chant on their RDO before heading off for a few beers but most people aren’t just troglodytes who are opposed to everything – they do not share the distorted world view of the ETU.

Perhaps if she rechecked the results of the last election, she might conclude that “most people” with whom she mixes are not a particularly representative sample of the Queensland public, and that the “bruvvers” are actually a bit closer.

fn1. As far as I can tell, the claim of “standing by the ETU” is bogus. To the best of my knowledge, the ETU never gave the LNP any support or expressed any faith in their promises. But, thanks to the two-party system, attacking one party is seen as equivalent to supporting the other.

fn2. Thanks for alerts on this from my wife Nancy and from commenter Megan.


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  1. Megan
    March 6th, 2014 at 19:04 | #1

    I’ll repeat my conclusion from the privatisation thread:

    This is in a nutshell the ALP across Australia – “We know you don’t want us to do this, but we’re going to anyway and you should still vote for us because otherwise you’ll get the LNP.”

  2. Michael S.
    March 6th, 2014 at 19:07 | #2


  3. Megan
    March 6th, 2014 at 19:17 | #3

    Tim Nichols has just issued a press release refering to Nolan’s column.

    He concludes:

    I couldn’t agree more

    Yes, that is rather the point.

  4. Fran Barlow
    March 6th, 2014 at 19:32 | #4

    There’s a similar theme in a South Park episode


    Giant douche or turd sandwich for school mascot? You decide!

  5. Fran Barlow
    March 6th, 2014 at 19:34 | #5


    [Tim Nichols has just issued a press release refering to Nolan’s column.
    He concludes:
    I couldn’t agree more

    Yes, that is rather the point.]

    Given that ‘the other side’ agrees, Doesn’t that show Nolan is ‘fair minded’?


  6. Michael
    March 6th, 2014 at 20:53 | #6

    This is so depressing, but possibly the only way the ALP can be forced to represent those it pretends to is if it loses the opportunity of governing in it’s own right.

  7. March 6th, 2014 at 22:08 | #7

    The unhinged, uniquely ALP, ‘logic’ here made me think of something else.

    Nolan denigrates the ETU, and by extension anyone who wants to make themselves heard through protest or other direct action. She lectures dissenters to take their place silently:

    What’s needed then is not a partisan and anti-democratic legal framework … it is, as ever, an informed and constructive debate.

    Just like the pointlessly ineffective “Community Consultation” favoured by our ALP/LNP rulers.

    What I was reminded of was the tone. Recently Jessica Rudd wrote a Fairfax column that had the same tone. But this time it was telling us to shut up about the inhumane ALP/LNP refugee cruelty policies:

    In a democracy, we must to do more than yell at our leaders to change their policies, because our political system requires those leaders to follow if they want to remain in a position to make a difference.

    Therefore, the burden falls to us. We must lead. We must reach out to and include, not alienate, the people our leaders follow.

    Same thing.

  8. Jordan
    March 6th, 2014 at 22:20 | #8

    ” but possibly the only way the ALP can be forced to represent those it pretends to is if it loses the opportunity of governing in it’s own right.”

    Making representatives to represent voters is not going to work by punishing the party by getting them out of power, since individual persons from the party feel no liability.
    The same problem is with corporations, corps take liability while individuals deciding on wrong actions rarely are liable. Many CEOs destroy workers or the environment but only shareholders pay through corp liability, there is no personal liability for such wrong decisions.
    Party as a whole will incur liability and loose the power trone but individuals will keep going with wrong decisions since they personaly get to benefit on a much larger scale if they keep going with wrong decisions for the party and for citizens.

    That is the point of limited liability of persons making decisions in a party or in a corporation.

  9. March 7th, 2014 at 00:23 | #9


    I’ve wondered why, if corporations are legally “people”, we can’t put them in jail.

  10. Fran Barlow
    March 7th, 2014 at 07:00 | #10

    Megan quoted baby Rudd:

    Therefore, the burden falls to us. We must lead. We must reach out to and include, not alienate, the people our leaders follow.

    I wouldn’t be reaching out to Murdoch and Twiggy …

    Maybe she means follow in a twiitter sense … ;-)

  11. Michael
    March 7th, 2014 at 07:56 | #11

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating support for their “opponents” the LNP – that would be ridiculous. They are far to close for that to be valid. I’m advocating support for real alternatives, with preferences to the ALP ahead of the LNP. They may still get the vote in the end but there won’t be any delusions that their neo-liberal policies are popular.
    I’m in favour of keeping the LNP out of power but prefer the ALP to have to rely on the support of the Greens or other more representative parties to form government. The ALP have comprehensively demonstrated they really don’t have a clue.

  12. Ikonoclast
    March 7th, 2014 at 08:33 | #12

    The whole point is that both parties, LNP and Labor, are now the servants of corporate capital. This is late stage capitalism folks. This is what it does. Get used to it. Capital gets to run our entire society and both major parties. Nothing will change unless you change the system. Stop bleating about it unless you are willing to identify the root cause and declare against capitalism.

  13. jungney
    March 7th, 2014 at 09:19 | #13

    Agreed Ikonoklast. Time to get off the keyboard on on our feet:



  14. Lt. Fred
    March 7th, 2014 at 09:57 | #14

    I always wondered at the voting pattern of Queenslanders. You vote AGAINST Labor because you hate privatisation of state assets. That’s fine. So who do you vote for? You vote for Katter, the Greens, One Nation or some independent, surely? If you hate privatisation, there’s a broad ideological range of parties that hate it, too.

    Except, no, you vote Tory.

  15. Ikonoclast
    March 7th, 2014 at 10:13 | #15

    @Lt. Fred

    Primary votes for coalition in the House of Reps last Federal election:

    NSW 47.3%
    VIC 42.7%
    QLD 45.7%
    WA 51.2%
    SA 44.9%
    TAS 40.3%
    ACT 34.6%
    NT 41.7%

    Does this support “(Qld) you vote Tory” more than other states? In the narrow sense (Tory = LNP), it does not support this. In the broad sense (Labor and LNP are all Tories now) it does not support it either, except perhaps for the poor Green vote in Qld. This might be what you mean Lt. Fred so on that basis you might have a point.

    The nationwide problem is that people won’t desert LNP and Labor as they should if they actually want a change in this country. The LNP-Labor super-coalition is one giant neoliberal party with two wings (in functional essence).

  16. Megan
    March 7th, 2014 at 10:21 | #16

    @Lt. Fred

    We have a uni-cameral parliament (no upper house), and a powerful entrenched duopoly of “brands”.

    Because it’s a winner take all system the best we can hope for in the short term is minority government such as when Beattie had to rely on the independent Peter Wellington (that worked OK until the ALP shafted Wellington and got absolute power again).

    The non-ALP/LNP vote is rising, eg: one Palmer and one Green in the Federal Senate.

    For now our big problem is that elections here are largely an unpopularity contest between the two big brands, which the ALP won by a historic margin in 2012 and looks set to do again next time.

  17. J-D
    March 7th, 2014 at 11:57 | #17

    In January Antony Green posted on his blog a table showing the percentage of the primary vote at Federal elections (for the House of Representatives) going to independents and candidates of ‘minor’ parties (that is, neither Labor nor Coalition).

    ‘The table shows’, he wrote, ‘a slow decline in traditional two-party politics in Australia, but does not portend its imminent demise.’

    I commented there:

    ‘Your tabulation of the percentage of the total (primary) vote that went to minor parties shows a big one-time jump up between 1987 and 1990, but since then more of an oscillation with only a slow average upward trend. If it doesn’t move up faster than that in the future, it will be a very long time before it disrupts the effective long-term duopoly of government.

    ‘(Of course in the future it’s possible it will do anything — even turn down again — but I’m talking about the currently observable trend.)

    ‘If all (or nearly all) of that minor-party vote consolidated on just one third-party or third-force challenger, it would be different, but that too is not a currently observable trend.’

    If you’re right that elections are largely an unpopularity contest between two big brands, then there’s no sign yet of that changing soon.

  18. iain
    March 7th, 2014 at 12:00 | #18

    “Take a look at your beloved candidates. They’re nothing but hideous space reptiles.”

  19. March 7th, 2014 at 12:47 | #19

    Now Brisbane Times has a piece (the bulk of which is just a rehash of Nolan’s column) quoting the ETU response:

    Secretary Peter Simpson said the union was simply “upholding ALP policy then and we are still upholding ALP policy now”.

    “Ms Nolan’s opinions are consistent with the bitter and twisted view of the world,” he said in response to Ms Nolan’s opinion piece.

    “If she had bothered to read and abide by the policy platform of the ALP, which specifically said they couldn’t sell assets, she would probably still be the member for Ipswich.

    “Because she and others decided to apply Liberal Party policy, Labor voters and workers threw her out.”

  20. iain
    March 7th, 2014 at 14:28 | #20

    “I don’t understand why we have to build a ray gun to aim at a planet I’ve never even heard of.”

  21. John Goss
    March 7th, 2014 at 17:55 | #21

    Any day now I expect to hear that the IPA have hired Rachel Nolan. It didn’t take long for Gary Johns to join the IPA after he lost his seat as the Labor member for Petrie in 1996. He started as a Fellow with the IPA in 1997.
    My theory as to why the ALP harbours these extreme right wingers is that they develop their ideas while arguing against the Left of the party. You can see this in Bob Carr’s biography. His intellectual development in his 20s and 30s came through his debates with the Left. He didn’t end up as extreme right wing, but his first instinct when the Left suggested an idea was to oppose it.
    This problem is one of the unacknowledged problems of the Labor faction system.

  22. March 7th, 2014 at 21:06 | #22

    Many Australians are making themselves heard over the refugee detention gulags.

    People keep referring to “60% of Australians want refugees treated badly”, but nobody can link to the UMR poll. The best they can do is media references to the poll from November 2013.

    UMR Research is an ALP linked outfit.

    There has been some action against the Sydney Biennale (founded and sponsored by Transfield) because of Transfield’s contracts for running the gulags. As a result of that attention, Transfield has dropped its sponsorship of the arts event. Of course dropping their profiteering from human misery would have been a better outcome.

    This is “on topic” because the Transfield heir also resigned as patron of the festival (he could have divested his 12% share in the gulag operator instead, perhaps).

    In his statement he said:

    One could argue that last year’s popular election vindicates this detention policy as supported by the majority of Australians.

    One could argue no such thing. There was no choice offered to the electorate other than to get rid of the party that was elected in a landslide on that very issue, closed the offshore gulags, dumped its leader and brought back the policy, then in the ultimate ‘lurch to the Right on refugees’ re-installed the first guy who promptly lurched to the right of the LNP.

    The election was a thorough rejection of such a shameless and hollow bunch of scoundrels.

    I would like to support “MarchInMarch” but it stinks of the ALP, so I may have to make my own way. I wish them luck, if they are serious, but focusing only on the LNP isn’t a convincing look.

  23. March 7th, 2014 at 22:01 | #23

    Having searched far and wide at the time and drawn nothing but blanks – I now can find the elusive “UMR Research” poll (pdf).

    Put “W”s then: umr.com.au/expertise/reports/item/90-dec-2013-umr-report-attitudes-to-asylum-seekers-and-mining

    Remember, this is the source of the widely quoted “research shows 60% of Australians want refugees treated MORE harshly”.

    The first question is:

    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

    “Most asylum seekers who arrive by boat are genuine refugees.”

    59% disagreed with this statement of fact.

    Remember that when someone tells you “60% of Australians want refugees treated worse”.

    It is based on a lie which comes from ALP linked research which was skewed by a Fairfax journalist (Philip Dorling – shame!).

  24. Crispin Bennett
    March 8th, 2014 at 06:58 | #24

    @Megan: Doubtless there’s an excess of commercially-motivated disinformation out there. But there’s plenty of truth available also. It’s not just an *accident* that folk take their views from the former (motivated reasoning). To anyone who spends any time at all outside of the progressive bubble, it’s manifest that current AS policy reflects real views. Australians are, in large part, a pretty unpleasant, materially-obsessed, prejudiced bunch. The fed government is the leadership ‘we’ deserve.

  25. Paul Norton
    March 8th, 2014 at 09:37 | #25

    John Goss @21, what you’re onto with your perceptive comment is the phenomenon that I have termed “From little finks big finks grow”.

  26. Ivor
    March 8th, 2014 at 10:02 | #26
  27. Fran Barlow
    March 8th, 2014 at 13:01 | #27


    To anyone who spends any time at all outside of the progressive bubble, it’s manifest that current AS policy reflects real views.

    I can only guess at what you intend by the term ‘real’ here. Perhaps you mean ‘deeply held’ or possibly “authentic” in that the views are held by plebeians rather than the erudite. In either case, I’m not grasping why this is significant for you.

  28. Crispin Bennett
    March 8th, 2014 at 13:25 | #28

    Fran Barlow :
    I can only guess at what you intend by the term ‘real’ here. Perhaps you mean ‘deeply held’ or possibly “authentic” in that the views are held by plebeians rather than the erudite. In either case, I’m not grasping why this is significant for you.

    “Real” meaning in this context no more than that the racism driving current AS policy is actually a characteristic of mainstream Australian culture. It’s not a misleading artifact of two party politics, nor an imposition of the MSM, nor any of the other theodicies that the left tend to construct in the attempt to to square their (justifiable) disgust with their (automatic and thoughtless) fetishisisation of the demos.

  29. March 9th, 2014 at 01:21 | #29

    @Crispin Bennett

    Do you understand that the:

    “60% of Australians want refugees treated more harshly”,

    is based on a survey where 59% also believe that “Most asylum seekers are not ‘genuine refugees’”?

    And presumably you understand that >90% of asylum seekers are accepted for refugee status?

    Ignorance of this fact is certainly due to the political duopoly/establishment media (MSM) telling lies – not to put too fine a point on it.

    The racism resides entirely in the establishment political parties and media. Not with the citizens upon whom they project it.

  30. kevin1
    March 9th, 2014 at 01:33 | #30

    I take it Kodos is a reference to the Simpsons version of the C19th Tweedledum/Tweedledee Lewis Carroll characters. Tony Burke’s email to ALP supporters this week gave a few examples of this on the Coalition side:

    “It would simply be a waste of time and political energy” to change the Qantas Sales Act. – Deputy PM Warren Truss, 05 December 2013.
    “Loss of effective Australian control could leave Australia without an airline primarily committed to our interests.” – Deputy PM Warren Truss, 16 December 2009.
    “I’m very concerned about any dilution of Australian control of Qantas… Our experience has been that when companies have majority foreign ownership or majority foreign control then it actually has had an impact on the social responsibility.” – Treasurer Joe Hockey, 16 December 2009.
    “There is significant community benefit in having a national carrier.” – Treasurer Joe Hockey, 28 November 2013.

  31. March 9th, 2014 at 01:51 | #31


    So the ALP lies about everything just as much as the LNP does!

    Terrific, a duopoly of liars.

    And the ALP wants us to believe 60% of Australians hate refugees, which is – unsurprisingly – yet another lie, designed to cover the fact that the ALP is as extremely right wing as the LNP could ever hope to be.

    I see today Bill Shorten is proposing that the ALP should be an authoritarian dictatorship under which all members, unions and supporters should fall in “lock-step” behind his decisions.

  32. paul walter
    March 9th, 2014 at 02:04 | #32

    Megan said it in the very first comment and it really demonstrates the awesome chasm in thinking between the brainwashed white collar neolib core that comprises the ALP leadership and its own roots and with the public; between expediency and the real world common sense of the people (or least the ones not brainwashed).

    It is a contemptible article, not fit for spitting on and Prof Quiggin has dissected it in the manner it deserves.

    Nolan must be very ignorant indeed of the processes and purposes of globalisation over the last thirty years,
    or pathologically and maliciously dishonest.

  33. paul walter
    March 9th, 2014 at 02:54 | #33

    @Lt. Fred No, that is not even helpful, let alone sufficient.
    Even Nolan has admitted that people who voted Labor in 2009 voted AGAINST neoliberalism.
    What is it with ALP politicians, from Gary Johns on?

    Why have politicians in successive ALP governments fought so desperately to saddle Australians with these policies; economically and socially worthless, despite the fact that it is clear that Australians have seen through them and said quite specifically they DON’T want them?

    But that is not the real reason for Quiggin’s thread starter- one suspects it is both his own frustrations both with the policy and the perserverence with it, as well as the emotional blackmail involved that Lt. Fred observes, as well as our anger.
    Despite the debacles in NSW and Queensland, also Tasmanian SA and ultimately federally they STILL persist with it.

    It is that they don’t- won’t- learn, even after all this time, in continuing to persevere with something anathema to the public who reject it with good reason for good specific reasons, something destructive and criminally intended; useless at best.

  34. Fran Barlow
    March 9th, 2014 at 06:21 | #34


    I’d agree that in one form or another, racism has shaped the core politics of the major parties. Its inflections however, are an artefact of the low level rivalry between them, keeping in mind that the ALP seeks also to retain the dominant share of the anti-racist demographic, harnessing these to a maintainable defence of the existing order, whereas the LNP seeks to undermine this by wedging the ALP against the rightwing populist and jingoistic portions of its base, to which it pitches most strongly.

  35. Crispin Bennett
    March 9th, 2014 at 07:58 | #35

    @Megan You have the causality precisely the wrong way round. Australians readily believe the worst of unassimilated non-whites, even when it’s obvious tosh, because they don’t consider them fellow travellers. Those of us who do consider all folk equal wouldn’t countenance the mean savagery of Australia’s Pacific gulag *even if* the lies told about ASs were true.

    Racism hasn’t even started to be contested in most of our country, and no amount of information will, at least in the short term, make any difference to this. The Left has absolutely no idea where to go with this issue. Labor by and large understands what the ethical course of action is, but knows enough about the population to dissimulate, and the Greens are in flat-out denial, living in a fantasy Australia where the citizenry is good-hearted but misled

  36. Fran Barlow
    March 9th, 2014 at 08:41 | #36

    @Crispin Bennett

    Speaking as a Green, it has never occurred to me that Australians are any more goodhearted than any other group of comparably educated and privileged folk. In this area of policy, our geography probably predisposes far more xenophobia than would be the case in the old landlocked countries of Europe, who have spent millennia living cheek by jowl with foreigners.

    My party is careful with its pitch, because, fairly obviously, if you know that people are frightened, calling them irrational or bigoted can produce defensive dissembling responses, whereas appealing over their heads to the notion of fairness and solidarity and regard for the underdog can appeal to those parts of populist culture accepted by the angst-ridden constraining impulses to unjust dealing. Politically, you do want to bolster the courage of those who feel guilty at their fears and who know what they ought to think.

    I don’t think you have to believe that most Australians are misled to see an advantage, tactically, in acting as if most if the people to whom you are reaching out in practice are so misled.

    The biggest problem in this policy argument is the willingness of the ALP to implicitly, if not expressly, endorse xenophobia by offering to those feeling conflicted momentarily plausible rationales for setting aside their reservations about unconscionable conduct.

  37. kevin1
    March 9th, 2014 at 09:02 | #37

    Not sure why you reject this 60% disapproval figure towards boat arrivals – because the 59% belief that they are not genuine refugees is wrongly founded? From the Scanlon Foundation (Andrew Markus) “An Inventory of Australian Public Opinion Surveys” this 60% figure is close to what various surveys have reported in recent times. Their “belief” may not be a mistake about the 90% pass at assessment, but a disbelief in the assessment process, which the govt shares and, having taken steps to change the assessment process, it will probably reduce towards the 50% pass rate in Europe. The Refugee Convention 1951 does not allow for asylum seeker claims based on flood, drought, famine, plague, earthquake, tsunami, civil war, or grinding poverty, part of the critique of its relevance by disinterested parties.

    Post election, the complete loss of political urgency for a regional re-settlement process now consigns the issue deep into the “wicked problem” basket. I don’t hear Labor calling for renewed work on this. The political class has abandoned a strategic solution and many Australians will be not be troubled. The Guardian has recently reported (Trafficking of Burma’s Rohingya Muslims shifts to Malaysia) the fate of the Rohingya muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar, with a hostile Malaysia and Thailand as the only place to go, and lots of experts are predicting a lot more Aghans fleeing their part of the world, with not much chance of return of those already displaced.

    Crispin, I agree with your latest comment, the party duopoly will reflect rather than lead, so any attitudinal change needs those agin it to be stronger. But there are plenty of people who are open to mobilise for change. I read an incredible article “From penniless prisoner to bionic surgeon” in the Aust Women’s Weekly (hey, it was a doctor’s waiting room), about an Iraqi doctor washed up on a Malaysian beach and now is an international medical leader. I circulated it to friends and at least one passed it on to his network and I got a very positive response. Personal stories of the positive and negative type can get under the skin of many people, but the reactionary attitudes go right back in Aust history.

  38. Crispin Bennett
    March 9th, 2014 at 10:00 | #38

    @Fran Barlow Thanks for that thoughtful outline. I was thinking, for example, of Ludlam’s latest youtube sensation, which I loved, but at the same time found hard to take seriously as a true WA lyric. I was also thinking of rallies where there are constant statements along the lines of ‘The Australian people won’t allow you to .. (X)’, and I find myself thinking “well, of course they will!”.

    Naturally though if you’re actually engaged in politics you need to appeal to strands that you can usefully reel in, rather than just berate people. Personally, as a signed-up misanthropist, I’m content to berate.

  39. Crispin Bennett
    March 9th, 2014 at 10:04 | #39

    @kevin1 Yes, sensitivity to real-life stories is the kernel of truth driving the ‘basically good-hearted’ idea, and I think you’re right that they can have the power to shift attitudes. Clearly those in power think so too, which is why they work so hard to prevent their being told.

  40. Fran Barlow
    March 9th, 2014 at 10:40 | #40

    @Crispin Bennett

    I see it as follows:

    Consent to policy is legitimate when it’s informed and considered. In so far as people are under-informed and have considered too little of a great many questions of import, their consent to existing policy is arguably doubtful, and based substantially on the ‘lizard brain’ rather than anything unalterable in human cognition.

    There is no more important task for anyone respectful of life and the human possibility it permits than to nurture insight in others, and each of us ought to adopt whatever strategies seem most likely to author an intellectually and socially empowered community. One must take people as one finds them and elicit humanity and the passion to understand and learn wherever it lurks in fear of punishment or abuse. Given that I’m a teacher, that attitude probably won’t surprise you. One of the most beautiful things in all animals is the capacity to learn and understand one’s setting, IMO. For left!sts andragogy is a vocation.

    So my party declares as humans might be as often as how they are now. That is no bad thing, because it lies within almost all of us to be more aware of our connections with our fellows and the life systems sustaining us than we are, and thus more rational and consistently generous in our dealings than we are now. If one merely notes the failings of our partial insight and our incoherence, one may miss the path forward to happiness for all.

  41. Megan
    March 9th, 2014 at 11:21 | #41


    A bipartisan policy of deliberate cruelty has been “sold” as simply being what the people want, and then cynically presented as based in concern for refugees’ well-being.

    But just as the “facts were fixed around the policy” for the Iraq war, the “facts” here are fixed around the policy. We’re told that they have to do this cruel thing because of “redneck racists in Western Sydney”, but on closer inspection the 60% figure is based – at the least – on a demonstrably false belief.

    They can’t have it both ways. If the majority of voters are racists, then the politically necessary thing to do is to say: “Vote for me – I am more racist than the other guy.” But instead, they pretend they are not.

    I suggest that is because in fact being honestly and openly racist would, in fact, be a very large vote loser. If that is true, it can only be because a majority of voters do not want racist policy – and by extension are not racists at a policy level.

    We see it in all sorts of policies: neo-con economics, climate action etc.. The “facts” need to be “fixed around the policy”, as an excuse for policies Australians are mostly against.

  42. Megan
    March 9th, 2014 at 11:42 | #42

    And of course, you can’t maintain this state of affairs without an effective propaganda mechanism.

    And here is Murdoch’s Turnbull on Murdoch’s ‘Sky’ this morning:

    “Why do we have a rule that prevents one of the national networks acquiring 100 per cent coverage, why is there a rule that says today that you can’t own print, television and radio in the same market?”

    We are supposed to regulate ownership to preserve the diversity essential for the “informed” electorate Fran mentions. It is essential to a functioning democracy.

  43. Crispin Bennett
    March 9th, 2014 at 11:43 | #43

    @Megan: I think you correctly describe one side of a political anomaly, ie. that open political racism wouldn’t be acceptable to most people. But you are blind to what makes it anomalous, which is that reflexive racism is not only endemic, but hasn’t even begun for the most part to be challenged. You clearly don’t believe this to be the case, which (given its obviousness) I can only take to indicate you haven’t lived in the ‘burbs or worked in blue collar jobs. In my experience most poorly educated Australians (which means most of us) plainly do not see nonwhites as their equals.

    How then do I explain the anomaly? Well, people and cultures aren’t consistent. Australia may be racist, but it’s also self-consciously moderate. It generally doesn’t cherish extremes, eccentricity, or difference. Men have to be good blokes (which means their behaviour and speech should fall within a narrow range of the acceptable), women should be, well, dull. Most folk don’t like or trust nonwhites (unless they act white enough for their apparent colour to fall away), but they have learned that explicit racism in politics is ‘extreme’, so don’t like that either. They like their politicians like John Howard: racist, but quiet and unthreatening about it. Post-Howard, the LNP has never forgotten this, and Labor has learned to emulate it reasonably well.

  44. Fran Barlow
    March 9th, 2014 at 12:32 | #44

    @Crispin Bennett

    It seems that most people don’t like being regarded as “racist” because that’s seen as axiomatically shameful, so those that are racist but in denial try defining racism in ways that exclude themselves “some of my best friends …” or flat out assertion of the contrary “I hate everyone equally” “I’ll give anyone a go”. They soon slip into justifying racist attitudes “they’ll never integrate”. They are like climate deniers in their methodology.

    It’s almost inevitable that the first response of most people to something that is beyond one’s ken is concern and a desire for the familiar. What marks the best of is is the desire to understand rather than recoil in horror and seek solace amongst the other horrified. That takes a fair amount of personal confidence and amongst the marginalised especially, is often in very short supply. People who are disempowered are in an incipient state of fear and arousal over the potential for their circumstances to worsen, so the broader failure of social policy softens these people up to respond reflexively to apparent external threats conjured by the empowered. It turns out that injustice fosters … more injustice. Imagine that.

  45. kevin1
    March 9th, 2014 at 12:50 | #45


    You’re very charitable towards a lot of people who are conservative, inwardly focused and seek their comfort zone. It’s not that they don’t have the facts, they don’t want to know the facts; surely that’s obvious by now. Self-interest dressed up as honorable intentions is not exclusive to politicians, but to humans and the anti-asylumseeker survey results show across most demographics in Australia. Howard’s “dog whistling” on this issue worked because he didn’t preach racism, just dropped the hints.

    Asylumseekers in boats is certainly not a Western Sydney issue, the Scanlon Foundation results show it is across most demographics. There’s also plenty of historical evidence of old migrants distancing themselves from new migrants too; insiders versus outsiders again.

    Telling the population their facts are wrong is of little use: Andrew Markus’s conclusion at Fact Sheet 4 Asylum Seekers is that “The large measure of consistency of survey findings indicate that attitudes towards asylum seekers correlate with values and outlook on life; values and outlook do not change in the short term. There is a high level of support for the humanitarian program, but not for granting permanent residence to asylum seekers arriving by boat.” Focusing on the electoral and strategic implications of this last sentence is the way to a successful policy dealing with this soft racism, in my opinion. Too many of us salve our consciences by grudgingly endorsing “the absence of death” as govt policy, but balk at refugees getting a “life”.

  46. March 9th, 2014 at 13:04 | #46


    “A lie repeated often enough…”

    If you search for media mentions of the “60% survey” you will find that the fallacy agreed to in the first question is never mentioned.

    There is a reason for that. It wouldn’t suit the desired purpose to have the story headlined:

    “59% of Australians Wrong on ‘Genuine’ Refugees”

    And Crispin: I have spent most of my life in those environs and I can tell you that the patina of racism does not in the majority of cases run deep. Very few act out racism and most live their lives in peaceful coexistence with their ‘non-white’ doctors, cabbies, lawyers, cooks and so on without giving race a second thought.

  47. sunshine
    March 9th, 2014 at 13:21 | #47

    I think about 10- 15% of Australians are self consciously racist and proud of it. A great many more (the majority) are willing to turn a blind eye or even encourage it if it suits them . Abbott falls into that second category ,and the standard of behavior for public office is high so that makes him a racist (and a homophobe). The situation is probably worse in most other countries -but from one of the the richest and most educated countries ,which often claims moral superiority, this is not good enough.

    I know it sounds a bit rant like, but I think the way we are relentlessly encouraged to love our own children obsessively hinders the loving of others . The general message we get is that there is no amount love that is too much for your kids but it is dangerous to care too much beyond the home and your immediate family. A safe message for a leadership which wants a society made up of paranoid isolated little units competing for consumption of resources , rather than a society made of citizens. To me the love of ones own children is amongst the lowest types of love as it is inward looking and does not involve reaching outside yourself .It is almost like loving a part of your own body. If people did not see such a stark difference between their own and others, 90 % of the horrors of history would not have happened.

  48. Hermit
    March 9th, 2014 at 13:25 | #48

    If this is the default electricity privatisation thread I think Pr Q has been vindicated by recent events. In Western Australia the generator Verve Energy was re-merged with retailer Synergy and now in Tasmania the network owner Transend is to be re-merged with retailer Aurora Energy making some 170 duplicated jobs redundant.

    The jobs I’m most worried about are those of the bright sparks who thought it was a good idea to split the entities in the first place. Is there a job market for failed micro-economic reformers? In one case a key figure was promoted sideways to a pricing tribunal that guarantees profits to all the new government enterprises he helped create.

  49. kevin1
    March 9th, 2014 at 13:52 | #49


    How can anyone not be disgusted by the Abbott response to the Sri Lankan govt’s obstinacy in investigating war atrocities: “…we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen…Sri Lanka since the end of the war is much more free and prosperous, and has a better future and that’s important for everyone.” Catholic Bishop Pat Power of Canberra said it was a shameful comment.

    Against those who have confidently described Abbott as without economic rectitude, such a calculus is extreme “economic rationalism”. Abbott’s own daughters are obviously important in his life, but his human empathy stops there. Mfg workers losing their jobs shouldn’t expect much from him.

  50. Crispin Bennett
    March 9th, 2014 at 15:28 | #50

    @Fran Barlow I agree with all that. Which is partly why it is such a tragedy that Australia has failed to use its decades of relative affluence and ease to build social capital (for want of a less cliched term). I fear we are poorly-equipped to manage gracefully should times turn genuinely tough, which is on the cards I suspect.

  51. Crispin Bennett
    March 9th, 2014 at 15:34 | #51

    Megan :
    And Crispin: I have spent most of my life in those environs and I can tell you that the patina of racism does not in the majority of cases run deep. Very few act out racism and most live their lives in peaceful coexistence with their ‘non-white’ doctors, cabbies, lawyers, cooks and so on without giving race a second thought.

    Yes, I think that’s true: we are fairly free of the nastier, historically-entrenched ethnic rivalries and hatreds that exist in many places. This perhaps makes our situation relatively tractable to empathetic and intelligent leadership. Not that there’s much of that around.

  52. Fran Barlow
    March 10th, 2014 at 05:09 | #52

    Oh FPS …it seems that Abbott has appointed David Evans, husband of Jo Nova (Codling), 9/11 truther and all purpose climate conspiracy nut as his Climate Change adviser.

    This is surely a lefty Green hoax to make Abbott look like a dangerous post-reality ideologue. Abbott couldn’t really have done this, surely?

  53. Fran Barlow
    March 10th, 2014 at 07:02 | #53

    Hmm … It’s not April 1 but even so I’m beginning to doubt this story of Abbott appointing David Evans as climate adviser as none of the majors are reporting it yet.

    Although I obviously have no sympathy for the regime, I do feel uncomfortable about the regime soiling itself in public and inviting the world’s ridicule upon the country. Perhaps I have a patriotic streak after all. Greg Hunt was bad enough in that infamous post-bushfire interview on BBC. Maybe this story really is someone’s idea of a joke.

  54. kevin1
    March 10th, 2014 at 20:03 | #54


    A bit late getting on board as usual so don’t know if anyone is still talking about this. As they say in Indonesia, anjing mengonggong kapilah kejadian berlalu, the dog barks but things move on. But about changing what I see as entrenched views on asylum seekers in a large minority of Aussies (your view is more kind towards them), IMO we’re never going to change many of them, but the positive is they are essentially a bunch of sheep, and I a higher profile by those with positive views can shut them up. In UK in the 70s-80s, a mass movement of people against racism, Anti Nazi League, Rock against Racism, and standing up where it matters – in the workplace, in the streets, with families and friends – cowed them, and changed the dominant nastiness towards brown and black people.

    I agree with you that focusing on the pale imitations of life in the major parties is a dead end, and therefore not the main game They will jump in response to what their paymasters (electors) will tell them loud and clear. That’s the saving grace of our democracy. And a numerical majority is not required. As Margaret Mead said. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

  55. kevin1
    March 10th, 2014 at 20:20 | #55

    It even put the racist comedian Jim Davidson on the back foot – pretty important in the UK club culture. See The Guardian article of 7 March 2011 “Jim Davidson: ‘If I could say sorry I would’”, though he has relapsed. As Paul Keating said, a dog always returns to its vomit.

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