Home > Oz Politics > Time to terminate Cormann

Time to terminate Cormann

October 19th, 2014

The flap about Mathias Cormann’s Schwarzeneggerian description of Bill Shorten as a “girlie man” isn’t too significant in itself. But in the context of other developments, it suggests a couple of patterns that represent big problems for the Abbott government.

First, Cormann has joined Joe Hockey and Arthur Sinodinos in making an idiot of himself. There’s now no-one among the key economic ministers who has any real credibility left. Add to that the hopelessness of the key spending ministers (Andrews, Dutton and Pyne) and it becomes clear that the Budget fiasco was, as they say, no accident.

At this point, it’s hard to see how the government can turn the economic debate around, even given a radical reshuffle of the existing team. Their best hope is probably that attention will remain focused on foreign policy.

Second, coming on the heels of a string of similarly disastrous statements from prominent rightwing figures (Barry Spurr, Alan Moran, Aaron Lane) it’s a pretty clear indication of how the Australian right talks when they think no one is listening, or forget that they are on record, and how far out of touch they are with today’s social mores.

Essentially, they are living in a bubble where they imagine that media figures like Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones represent the views of the majority of right-thinking people. In reality (most obviously in the case of Jones, but equally true of Bolt and Devine) these are people who make a good living by taking the views of the most bigoted 10 per cent or so of the Australian population (AFAICT, Australia is no better or worse than most other countries in terms of the prevalence of bigotry), and reflecting them back to the same audience in a more-or-less coherent form.

Except in rare and much resented cases like libelling people on account of their race, the Bolts and Devines are protected by the rules of free speech and the fact that they serve the interests of the Murdoch press. But that’s not true for politicians, thinktankers or participants in public inquiries. In these venues, as I know from my own experience, anything you say can and will be used against you. Unfortunately, for the Australian right, the racist, sexist and generally nasty stuff that goes down a treat at Young Liberal meetings and similar can no longer be laughed off when it gets out in public.

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  1. Robert (not from UK)
    October 19th, 2014 at 19:46 | #1

    It’s true that in terms of oratorical skills or even etiquette, Cormann is not exactly faced with competition in the Everett Dirksen, let alone Disraeli, league; but he always struck me as having a marginally greater competence in spoken English than the cabinet’s obvious bogans, beginning with the Dear Leader himself. (So he can hardly defend his “girly man” stuff through pleading ignorance of linguistic nuances.)

    Having consulted Wikipedia, I now attribute Cormann’s more-or-less-adequate stringing together of English sentences to the fact that he is, um, Belgian:


    Cormann’s alma mater, the University of Louvain/Leuven, is/was a weird sort of place. I don’t know details of what it was like in Cormann’s day. But during the Vietnam conflict it had a bad reputation for Berkeley-style shenanigans, aggravated by (a) its low-level civil war between Francophones and Flemings, (b) its magnet-like attractiveness to draft-dodging Catholic-in-name-only students, kicking against what remained of the pre-Vatican-II goads.

    But before that, Louvain/Leuven used to give degrees to polymaths like Fulton Sheen, who was fluent in at least six languages. From Sheen to Cormann in the space of less than a century … such is, ahem, progress.

  2. Florence nee Fedup
    October 19th, 2014 at 19:53 | #2

    Are we going to wake up and find we have been living a nightmare,. Has to be an explanation.

  3. Ikonoclast
    October 19th, 2014 at 20:12 | #3

    Cormann and Pyne are doubling the wager and defending Cormann’s statement. I am quite happy that after shooting himself in one foot, Cormann wants to shoot himself in the other foot… with Pyne’s support. Hmmm, maybe Christopher wants his portfolio.

  4. bjb
    October 19th, 2014 at 20:24 | #4

    JQ – in that triumvirate mentioned, you missed the egregious Janet Albrechtsen.

    David Marr on Insiders a month or so ago made the observation that the Liberals oft stated claim of being the better economic managers was looking decidedly shaky. If the average punter starts to no longer believe this to be true (despite the commentary from those mentioned), then what have the Liberals left to offer the electorate ?

  5. Megan
    October 19th, 2014 at 21:10 | #5

    There were by elections in WA and NT yesterday. Leaving aside all the usual stuff about swings against governing parties and State/Territory elections’ relevance to the federal mood…

    In WA it was Troy Buswell’s vacated seat of “Vasse”. Historically an ultra-safe Liberal seat. The Nationals contested it in a three-way with the Greens – the ALP were either too ashamed or sensible to run, depending on your point of view.

    Last year Buswell won it with a 21% majority. Yesterday the Liberals won it but with a 17.8% swing against them (it was roughly 53% Liberal to 47% National, after preferences).

    The Greens got 18% of the primary vote and were ahead of the Nationals in 6 out of the 13 polling booths.

    In the NT it was the electorate of “Casuarina” (previously ALP by 9.3%). Again, a “safe” ALP seat. They held it but had a swing against them of 4.1%. The Greens got 11% of the first preferences.

    All info thanks to Antony Green from the ABC.

  6. kevin1
    October 19th, 2014 at 21:17 | #6

    Does he say these things about Shorten because he sees himself as a core man?

  7. Ikonoclast
    October 19th, 2014 at 21:32 | #7


    J.Q. should have titled this thread, “Time to terminate Cormann the Barbarian.”

    Is Cormann making a “Last Stand” before attempting a “Total Recall” on the gaffe that might “Sabotage” his career?

  8. Fran Barlow
    October 19th, 2014 at 22:00 | #8


    If the average punter starts to no longer believe this to be true (despite the commentary from those mentioned), then what have the Liberals left to offer the electorate ?

    Culture war …

  9. Mr T
    October 19th, 2014 at 22:03 | #9

    Anyone who thinks that economic decisions should be made in terms of the masculinity of the maker of the decision should not be let within a mile of the levers of power.

    Unless Cormann possesses martial arts skills I am unaware of, I would back Shorten in any altercation between Cormann and Shorten.

  10. October 19th, 2014 at 22:06 | #10

    Pr Q said:

    Except in rare and much resented cases like libeling people on account of their race, the Bolts and Devines are protected by the rules of free speech and the fact that they serve the interests of the Murdoch press. But that’s not true for politicians, thinktankers or participants in public inquiries. In these venues, as I know from my own experience, anything you say can and will be used against you. Unfortunately, for the Australian right, the racist, sexist and generally nasty stuff that goes down a treat at Young Liberal meetings and similar can no longer be laughed off when it gets out in public.

    Ahh who can forget the way that Pr Q’s professional career was ruined, he was banned from campus and publicly disgraced after his personal emails, in which he was unwise enough to let off steam about the current scene, were illegally intercepted and “got out in public”. Oh wait a minute, thats in Bizarro World. In reality I dont think Pr Q has suffered greatly for his personal attitudes or political beliefs.

    BTW nice use of the passive voice to describe the crime of email hacking which Pr Q spent the better part of a year denouncing when it adversely affected his side of politics. And he has the nerve to denounce “tribalism” on the Right.

    Spurr’s racist and sexist and sizeist rant was childish and offensive but no more than harmless venting of a grumpy old man to an old friend. Also it was not aired in a “public inquiry”, a lecture room or an official letter-head of the university. So much for “protect[ion]…of the rules of free speech”.

    BTW the main reason the l’affaire Spurr has gottens so much traction is because the educational bureaucracy is desperate to undermine the conservative reappraisal of education curriculum. It all boils down to turf protection in our rent-seeking society.

    But the witch hunters sniffed blood and are out in force, brandishing pitchforks and alofting torches. George Orwell and Arthur Miller were so right about the pack mentality of thought police. So a scalp must be produced, as it was in the case of Murray, Summers, Watson. Kazanawa, Richwine, Drew Fraser et al, Notice a pattern? The phrase “permanent purge” is the one that comes to mind.

    FWIW I loathe and despise the way political debate is no conducted on both sides of politics, with so-called “liberals” all falling over themselves to proclaim the virtues of free speech in theory. But never missing a chance to pervert free speech in practice: speech codes on the Left and commercial-in-confidence codes on the Right.

    More and more the general gotcha vibe of Australian political culture reminds me of the squalid scene portrayed by “The Lives of Others” when Stasi snitches played the critical role in protecting the ruling ideology, with the main aim of assisting the jockeying for position in the Politiburo. I sorely miss the old Australia when dobbers and snitches were ostracised. But thats what happens when mateship goes, replaced by a society of boot-lickers, crawlers and holier-than-thouers with a keen eye for the main chance.

    The Stasi analogy is not rhetorical hyperbole. The GDR was not run as hard totalitarianism like Stalins purges. It was soft totalitarianism, well described by Anne Applebaum. Most of the pressure to conform was professional, not political. Officials steamed open mail to hunt down deviations from party orthodoxy. If you dont cooperate you will be passed over for promotion, lose a place in a uni course or a lease on an apartment.

    AFAIK not one single AUS media-academia figure has come out for the rights of men to say what they like in private. Isnt all the fuss Pr Q was making about the NSA hoovering up peoples digital correspondence based on fear of the plausible scenario where authorities can use intrusively obtained sensitive personal information, relayed in private, to blackmail or pressure inconvenient figures? But who needs Big Brother when so many Little Brothers are prepared to act as unpaid Junior Auxiliary Thought Police.

    Nearly 70 years ago Pastor Niemoller denounced the cowardice of German media-academia for its supine attitude towards the Nazi regime. But German intellectuals at least had a good excuse in that the Gestapo really would put you in a camp if you spoke out against Nazi invasions of liberty. But no AUS media-academia figure would lose their job if they spoke out for free speech and privacy in this case. Yet they are all silent when it is politically inconvenient. Pastor Niemoller would not be surprised:


    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

  11. Pete Moran
    October 19th, 2014 at 22:19 | #11

    The LNP have literally run out of arguments.

    It may be a key point in time: the moment when it become impossible to simply claim Labor were/are incompetent.

  12. rog
    October 19th, 2014 at 23:00 | #12

    I think the govt have dropped the economic debate, popped it into the too hard basket, preferring to wrestle with foreign affairs. That’s a fairly safe tactic used by both sides of govt.

    Abbotts reaction to Barry Spur was to dumb it down to his own level, which isn’t too high.

  13. October 19th, 2014 at 23:50 | #13

    If the emails really were hacked I condemn that, as I condemn the “climategate” hacking. I’m guessing Professor Q feels the same. However, given that some of these emails were sent to quite a few people it seems to me far more credible that someone decided they were over being spammed with this stuff by Spur.

    If you don’t like the Spur example, look at all the candidates the LNP have had to dump for somewhat milder versions of the same views, not to mention the words leading figures in the young Liberals put on their open access Facebook pages.

  14. Fran Barlow
    October 20th, 2014 at 00:06 | #14

    Plainly, the meaning of words, phrases and of course by extension, whole bodies of text is derived from an examination of the interaction of typical usages and their context. Context includes audience, the way a specific person or group of people have used words before, events and phenomena know to the group using the words which may hail them in a specific way.

    The phrase ‘suppository of wisdom’ would until recently have been simply an an amusing malapropism. Now it has a context bound up with the Abbott narrative, and someone here using it might be taken not as someone speaking in ignorance but making an ironic reference. Uttered in the UK or the US to an audience unfamiliar with this context it would still be simply an amusing malapropism.

    I confess, I always feel a little uncomfortable when I hear a woman self-describe as being ‘a bit of a b|tch’. The woman is probably saying that she is often very prescriptive about some matter, and intolerant of breaches. Context is a guide here. Yet for me, the hyperbolic term cannot be separated entirely from its life as a term of misogynist abuse. Yes, it’s a handy metaphor which in a sense rejects the misogynist construction that women should be passive and ‘feminine’ rather than assertive ‘harradins’. And yet, should women ever suffer the term? I’d say not. I feel much the same about the ‘sl*t walk’ stuff. Their assertion of their humanity is beyond reproach, and one can admire their desire to rattle the chains that bind, but as long as males remain privileged and in a position to shape the identities of women, these chains remain an offence rather than a a symbol of courage.

    So even if Spurr really did think he was being ‘ironic’ or ‘whimsical’ I’d be bothered at his trade. The terms he chose only have lexical force because of the mountains of barbarous coercion attached to them. Without this, they’d just be arbitrary signs. I’ve also seen nothing at all to suggest that Spurr was in any sense critical of the provenance of these terms. Unlike the ‘sl#t walk’ crowd who are very publicly challenging and trying to redefine the context in which the term is used, it seems that the provenance of Spurr’s ‘whimsy’ is in challenges to his privileges as a European. It’s an uninhibited attempt to blow of steam generated by existential angst. Spurr undoubtedly knew he couldn’t do this in public, and accordingly, I presume, chose consenting adults, but underlying this, we may infer, was a desire for solace and comfort from others similarly troubled. That’s the salient context. That’s not ironic. It’s simply unguarded.

    Spurr’s feelings are of course his right. His desire to unburden himself to fellow travellers is also a right. In this limited sense, Brandis is right — one does have a right to be a bigot. Had he done all of his ‘relief’ bigotry in private with consenting partners but otherwise conducted himself according to professional norms it really would be none of our business.

    It seems though that this was not the case, and not merely because we know his public views on indigenous culture, but because his expatiations have entered the public domain, and accordingly, have now acquired new meaning, whatever Spurr intended at the time. He has lost control of these words and their history in public discourse is not merely implicit but explicit. A public institution charged with the duty of nurturing insight and fostering inclusion now has to declare, in effect, whether it endorses Spurr’s commentary as a valid contribution to its mission. Spurr threatens to redefine the ethics of the institution and its claims about its mission.

    This simply cannot stand. Spurr’s position is untenable, and would be whatever his intent at the time he composed the offending emails. Spurr may not accept that context defines terms — though even for an fundamentalist empiricist, if he is one, that seems implausible here. Poetry is figurative. The audience is key. His audience is now everyone.

    USYD needs to act in an exemplary way in this matter. They ought to sack him and robustly defend any counterclaim for unfair dismissal, should it arise.

    PS: the comparison with the theft of emails at UEA is simply silly. Firstly, those emails evidently breached no UEA policy or agreement, nor did they in anyway invite suspicion about the professionalism of those involved.

    Not so Professor Spurr.

  15. Megan
    October 20th, 2014 at 00:08 | #15

    @Jack Strocchi

    His emails were hacked?

    Well that throws the a whole new light on the affair. I agree with you about hacking, spying and particularly I share your hatred of this partisan tribalism.

    I hadn’t heard the ‘hacking’ angle, so I searched the internet for about 10 seconds.

    You got that from those notorious liars, tribalists and phone-hacking scum at News Ltd, didn’t you?

    Anyway, Newmatilda says, in part:

    One more time, for the record. The information technology policy of the University of Sydney – of which all staff are explicitly warned – is that their university emails are not private. It is a public institution.

    Generally speaking, New Matilda does not comment on issues related to sources and leaked documents. However, Ms Markson’s story – and the allegations leveled within it – are demonstrably false, and the public record requires correction.

    The first error is a suggestion that Professor Spurr’s email account was ‘hacked’. This is false. It did not occur. Neither New Matilda nor the source in the story hacked Professor Spurr’s account.

    The second error relates to a suggestion in Ms Markson’s article that the source was motivated by “payback” for Professor Spurr’s involvement in the National School Curriculum review. This is also false.

    While the source was broadly aware of Professor Spurr’s involvement in the review, the source was unaware of the contents of Professor Spurr’s submissions. What motivated the source to come forward was two specific email exchanges.

    One of those exchanges relates to Professor Spurr’s views about a matter of substantial public importance. At this stage, New Matilda has decided not to divulge the contents of this email. The comments, however, are extreme and reinforced the view of the source that Professor Spurr’s involvement in the National Curriculum Review was a matter of substantial public interest.

    The second email, which also reinforced this view related to Professor Spurr’s comments in relation to the sexual assault of a woman.

    I’m calling ‘concern troll’ on you Jack.

  16. James Wimberley
    October 20th, 2014 at 01:16 | #16

    @Robert (not from UK)
    Louvain University split into two in 1968, a Dutch-speaking and a French-speaking university. Probably made it less lively.

  17. paul walter
    October 20th, 2014 at 05:06 | #17

    Regrettably, must AGAIN concur with a Fran Barlow corrollary.

    There is nothing in the individuation of people like the ones Prof. Quiggin has mentioned that makes any allowance whatsever for genuine consciousness and self reflexivity..it is all reactive and subjective with these unfortunates, so we are left in a dark age for yet more generations.

  18. J-D
    October 20th, 2014 at 06:44 | #18

    @Jack Strocchi

    Martin Niemöller was imprisoned in a concentration camp.

    Barry Spurr has not been imprisoned in a concentration camp.

    Is the distinction too subtle for you?

  19. Fran Barlow
    October 20th, 2014 at 06:59 | #19


    Yes, but the Godwin is the glittering prize at the end of the most impressive slippery slope.

  20. Julie Thomas
    October 20th, 2014 at 07:03 | #20

    @Jack Strocchi

    “Spurr’s racist and sexist and sizeist rant was childish and offensive but no more than harmless venting of a grumpy old man to an old friend.”

    Seriously? Why would you go to the effort of trying to justify the behaviour of a man who thinks in a ‘childish and offensive’ way and from his position of power – which was quite probably unearned – old boys networks and all that – feels a need and a right to express these childish and offensive judgements of other people?

    So many old academics like Spurr are the product of the old boys network and simply not ‘superior’ in any way. For sure you can argue that one has a right to be a bigot but clearly a superior man would understand that there is a responsibility to not be a bigot.

    And childishness is definitely not harmless in a man with power.

    Childishness of thought is not limited to one area. This man cannot compartmentalise his thinking and only use the ‘childish’ thought patterns when he is talking to his appreciative friend. The attitudes that he expresses are are not trivial and do negatively affect his behaviour toward those of us who are being spoken of with such disrespect and disdain.

    Grumpy old men who want to vent should retire, find a Men’s Shed and learn to use power tools.

    And….. from my perspective here in the regional areas, the “main reason the l’affaire Spurr has gottens so much traction is because” it makes clear to the ordinary person, however they vote, that the old men we are supposed to look up to are really just silly old farts and no better than the rest of us.

    He is a laughing stock among the LNP voting conservatives in my town; the women of all political persuasions are bonding over this further example of old men behaving badly.

  21. John Quiggin
    October 20th, 2014 at 07:22 | #21

    Jack, nothing more from you on this thread please. To others, no further response to Jack

    Just to state my views on the privacy issue, if one of the recipients of Spurr’s appalling messages republished them, then he has no legitimate grievance. If, as the Oz claimed and NM denied, his email was hacked, that’s a criminal offence. There’s a grey area between these two which may or may not be clarified over time.

    More generally, Julie is spot-on. Spurr is noteworthy because he is so typical of this country’s old rightwing male elite. As they say in the US, born on third base (private school, then Sydney Uni which has looked after him ever since) and thinks he hit a triple.

  22. October 20th, 2014 at 07:58 | #22

    So, you join a select bunch of left wing luminaries who see it as Politically Incorrect to draw attention to ISIS murdering people and to a peasant family murdering its daughter because they were shamed she had been brutally raped by a Holy Man.

    Maybe there is no link between these people’s actions and an interpretation of Islam which seems to be shared by significant numbers of people. It is certainly worth drawing attention to the appalling crimes and to ensure universal condemnation form those claiming to speak for Islam or any other creed and political party.

    To recap, the tweets you find objectionable were as follows.

    The first retweeted a report that an Afghan peasant family had “honour killed” their 10 year old daughter following her being raped by an imam and used the words “Even ordinary Muslim families are infected by evil” (Note it did not say ALL muslims).

    The second retweeted a report that ISIS was beheading children and rhetorically asked, “Is there ever anything but evil coming from Islam?”

  23. Fran Barlow
    October 20th, 2014 at 08:16 | #23

    @Alan Moran

    Both tweets sound like a rallying cry to vent at Muslims to me, Alan. I’d object.

  24. October 20th, 2014 at 08:24 | #24

    A view that many following this blog would share but you are hardly impartial

  25. snuh
    October 20th, 2014 at 08:43 | #25

    mate, statements like “Even ordinary Muslim families are infected by evil” and “Is there ever anything but evil coming from Islam?” vilify muslims. if you can’t see that, then i don’t know what to tell you (except that you’re the last person who should be accusing someone else of being “hardly impartial”).

  26. patrickb
    October 20th, 2014 at 08:43 | #26

    @Alan Moran
    Impartial? You’re not impartial either so it seems ridiculous to mention it. Why don’t you address the point. The behaviour of one group of people is being used to insite loathing against a majority, would you regard all catholic priests as criminals because of the actions of a few and the subsequent attempts by the church to hide the crimes?

  27. Ikonoclast
    October 20th, 2014 at 08:45 | #27

    Derogatory speech is largely about two things. It’s about rehearsing and recruiting. Persons speaking in a derogatory manner are rehearsing in words what they wish to see acted out by themselves or supporters. Such language also seeks to gather recruits to the point of view for concerted acting out.

    In reply to Alan Moran, where is your outrage about the fact that Saudi Arabia regularly executes people by decapitation by sword and the USA regularly executes innocent parties (sometimes wedding parties) by drone missile attack?

  28. Fran Barlow
    October 20th, 2014 at 08:45 | #28

    @Alan Moran

    A view that many following this blog would share but you are hardly impartial

    That’s a vacuous objection. I’m entirely unsympathetic to religion and it’s in that sense that I have a salient predisposition on the matter. My other predisposition is to regard every human being as having an equal claim to the respect of his or her fellows.

    This goes to the ordinary meaning of the words cited in the tweets.

    In the first, you describe “evil” as a disease that is endemic in Muslim communities. That’s a basis for suggesting that Muslims generally should be shunned (for fear of either catching it or becoming a victim of it). Your disclaimer, that you didn’t say “all muslims” is unimpressive and entirely subverted by “even ordinary Muslim families”. The claim is clearly generic.

    The second asks rhetorically if anything but evil coming from Islam — but unless you’re saying that a host of recent Noble prizewinners, for example, including Malala Yousufzai (sp?) are instantiations of evil, the rhetorical question is answered. You invite those who see Islam as a disease to sound off about their own perceptions.

    Your commentary is clearly vituperative in relation to about 1 in seven of the world’s populace, and encourages others to deal with them with suspicion.

  29. Western Red
    October 20th, 2014 at 08:57 | #29

    Now in government they seem to have lost their filters. I reckon Cormann had a long lunch where they asked him to do his Arnie party trick and he so liked the reaction that he used it on Sky TV.

    Before the election it’s all ‘Of course, Fran, I’m not a right wing nut job’, and now it’s ‘Of course, Speersie , I love coal, hate renewables, and the budget cuts will only affect the poor and our political enemies. Let’s bomb Iraq!’

  30. October 20th, 2014 at 09:25 | #30

    I am disappointed but hardly surprised that people on this blog fail to understand context

  31. Ikonoclast
    October 20th, 2014 at 09:32 | #31

    How old is Prof. Spurr? I mean I am 60 and his views seem antediluvian to me! He is hankering for the days of White Australia when the Queen’s photo portrait looked down on us from its gilt-edged frame in glass protected majesty. I can remember those days (just) as a young primary school student. The thing is at that age you don’t really cathect (invest emotional energy) with such things. At that age, they are just the strange props of adult rituals and beliefs which remain alien, arbitrary and incomprehensible to a young child.

    Either Prof. Spurr is a lot older than I am or he has somehow invested a lot more emotional energy in hankering for a vanished past than dealing with a vibrant, ever-evolving present. He is either old or old before his time. Emeritus disease seems a fair possibility too. Poor fellow, put him out to pasture to graze on his fond delusive memories of yesteryear.

  32. snuh
    October 20th, 2014 at 09:49 | #32

    so, what is the context in which “Is there ever anything but evil coming from Islam?” is not a hateful and gross generalisation? do tell.

  33. Ikonoclast
    October 20th, 2014 at 09:56 | #33

    Alan Moran links to his page “Regulation Economics” from which I assume he is proud of and stands by everything on this site.

    “18 years and no warming – Sunday October 12, 2014

    Michael McLaren speaks with Alan Moran from Regulation Economics, who discusses the case of the missing warming.”

    So, here we have a climate change denialist. Little wonder he is also an “ethnic and sexist insults” denialist ie. denying that ethnic and sexist insults have occurred or if they occurred that they mean anything.

    Maybe we should try the “Defence Dept. test.” Given what has happened in the Defence Dept. would such emails from an officer to several fellow officers be ignored now? No? So, we are expected to have a lower standard for a place of learning than for the Defence Dept.?

  34. patrickb
    October 20th, 2014 at 10:08 | #34

    “I am disappointed but hardly surprised that people on this blog fail to understand context”
    You really don’t know how to construct a cogent argument do you? Fran has gone to the trouble of providing a comprehensive and elegant take down to which you seem ill equipped to respond. It is the case that, and I use the term with Spurrsian intent, you are, in fact, a rhetorical ‘girlie man’?
    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

  35. Ikonoclast
    October 20th, 2014 at 10:30 | #35


    Not a good idea. Don’t adopt their lamentable standards and epithets, even in jest.

  36. patrickb
    October 20th, 2014 at 11:22 | #36

    Yes but, we of the left don’t want to be accused of having the same irony deficit that the grey men of the right display so, er, unironically. Having entered the term into Hansard, as it were, I think it’s fair to beat them with their own stick. In addition, it was such an utter bizarre and juvenile thing for a grown man in such a responsible position to say that it has lost any real meaning. It, and the utterer, are a figure of fun, ridicule even.

  37. Fran Barlow
    October 20th, 2014 at 12:10 | #37

    @Alan Moran

    I am disappointed but hardly surprised that people on this blog fail to understand context

    Speaking as a teacher, I see no evidence that you have the capacity to read contextually, and have the standing to make such a generalisation.

    Is there some unappreciated “context” that would lend a different interpretation than I have asserted in relation to the tweets cited above? That last post of yours would have been an excellent opportunity to advance it, making your point substantively rather than through snark. Perhaps, having had time to reflect on it, you will offer it now.

    I hope so. Better late than never.

  38. October 20th, 2014 at 12:47 | #38

    Jack, take a month off commenting

  39. jungney
    October 20th, 2014 at 13:38 | #39

    No, it is not time to ditch Cormann. Now is the time to keep him firmly in place, on maximum display, where he can do the most damage. He must be forced to explin what he means by “girly man” so that his gender attitudes can be deconstructed and left dangling in the breeze like animal intestines, drying in the sun, bringing all sorts of dirt into the open.

    The same applies to the execrable Professor of Poetry, whose name should never be mentioned in company or public again.

    There appears to be no end to the depravity of the right in Australia; it’s members expose themselves as the true carpet biting loonies of Australian history and culture. The ghost of Bjelke Peterson and Sir Henry Bolte, the last state leader in Australia to approve a hanging, have embedded themselves in the psyche of the reactionary right, forever. Just when it all ought to be proceeding to plan some emotionally scarred and socially impaired dolt opens his mouth and spews filth all over everyone present all the while nudging and winking at his mates and pretending to hide his glee.

    So, I want more from the whole lot of them, from the mining magnates, Clive and Lambi, Pyne and whatever happened to Barnyard Joyce? to the media clowns, and I want more of their nastiness to be exposed because we can force feed the whole damn mess of them back down the throats of the roughly one in two Australians who put this shower of shite in office.

    Reading others’ mail is unbefitting? Tell that to the NSA and the spooks. Hey, maybe it was someone with a security clearance who uncovered the hateful emails!

  40. John Quiggin
    October 20th, 2014 at 13:45 | #40

    @Alan Moran

    I don’t understand why you are making this objection here. It was the IPA, not anyone at this blog, who decided your position was untenable following the publication of your tweets. If they were taken out of context, or otherwise misrepresented, your grievance should be with them. And if anyone has joined a group of “luminaries who see it as Politically Incorrect to draw attention to ISIS murdering people” it is your former employers, allegedly for the mercenary reason that they feared the loss of donations from the Muslim community (Oz article, no link)

    AFAICT you have made no public criticism of the IPA’s decision on this matter, which the post above simply reported. If you think that decision was unfair, you should say so now. Otherwise, you should cop it sweet, and stay silent.

  41. calyptorhynchus
    October 20th, 2014 at 14:13 | #41

    Nobody seems to have commented on the fact that Barry Spurr is a professor of poetry. Shouldn’t all his views, therefore, be charming and uplifting?

  42. J-D
    October 20th, 2014 at 14:27 | #42

    @Alan Moran

    The two statements

    ‘There is a link between these people’s actions and an interpretation of Islam which seems to be shared by significant numbers of people’


    ‘There is never anything but evil coming from Islam’

    are not equivalent. They aren’t even roughly equivalent. They aren’t rhetorically equivalent, either. The first is reasonable. The second isn’t.

    Nor is it reasonable to expect that every time an appalling crime is committed it will be condemned by every representative of a religion or a political party. There are, unfortunately, far too many appalling crimes for that.

  43. J-D
    October 20th, 2014 at 14:35 | #43


    How old is Barry Spurr? The website of the University of Sydney discloses that he was first appointed to a lectureship in 1976. That makes it highly likely, I should say, that he is over 60, and fairly likely that he is under 70.

  44. John Quiggin
    October 20th, 2014 at 14:41 | #44

    I saw a bio saying that he came to Sydney as an undergrad in 1970 (ex Canberra Grammar), which would put him about 62.

  45. jungney
    October 20th, 2014 at 14:42 | #45

    I found a series of photos of Barry Spurrstanding with some Australians or South Asian and Asian students. The backdrop appears to Aboriginal artwork. So it is good to see that he didn’t let his prejudices get in the way of official duties. Or did he? That’s the question. The university has no choice but to dismiss him.

  46. sunshine
    October 20th, 2014 at 15:13 | #46

    Aren’t the Klu Klux Klan Christians ? I wouldn’t like to think all Christians must be tainted by their actions.

    For a professor of poetry Spurrs prose shows a distinct lack of imagination. He simply relies on the same old worn out labels and phrases.

  47. October 20th, 2014 at 15:47 | #47

    @John Quiggin
    So you think I should not comment when you say, “disastrous statements from prominent rightwing figures (Barry Spur and Alan Moran, Alan (sic)Lane) it’s a pretty clear indication of how the Australian right talks when they think no one is listening, or forget that they are on record, and how far out of touch they are with today’s social mores”.

    IPA has not made such a statement. It is your statement I am addressing. You are saying that I was making public tweets when I thought no one is listening and accuse me of being out of touch with today’s social mores. It is your own political correctness that is archaic – we now face serious security threats that should not survive the paternalistic double standard of treating one form of extremism with empathy.

  48. Ikonoclast
    October 20th, 2014 at 15:57 | #48

    @John Quiggin

    Interesting. His views seem more like those of a generation that would now be about 92 y.o. or of that vintage.* I mean brought up much more within the beliefs of the British Empire, God is a White Man and the White Australia policy. This is not so much a case of retarded socio-cultural development but of retrograde socio-cultural development. Interesting too that it afflicts a large sub-group of a whole class – propertied, right wing males over 50.

    * Actually some of this generation were far less benighted than Prof. Spurr so it’s not fair to point at them all.

  49. J-D
    October 20th, 2014 at 16:00 | #49

    @Alan Moran

    The probability of my being murdered by a religious extremist is less than the probability of my being killed by a car running me down on a pedestrian crossing. I actually have been knocked down by a car on a pedestrian crossing (although obviously not killed) and yet I continue to cross the road, even at exactly the same pedestrian crossing, accepting that risk, as people mostly do — and reasonably so.

    What’s more, the probability of my being murdered by a religious extremist will not be reduced by people saying bad things about Islam. You are not helping.

  50. Ikonoclast
    October 20th, 2014 at 16:11 | #50


    Yes, for a supposed Prof. of Poetry to be a reactionary is a great contradiction IMO. How could a reactionary even begin to understand the true radical nature of poetry?

  51. Ikonoclast
  52. Julie Thomas
    October 20th, 2014 at 18:24 | #52

    @Alan Moran

    So if it is political correctness that leads to “treating one form of extremism with empathy” it could be that Amanda Vanstone and her guest on today’s program, Theodore Dalrymple have become politically correct.

    I listened to an interview on Counterpoint just a few hours ago in which these two beacons of good and common sense found that they both could rustle up some understanding of the reasons that young muslim men – in Britain particularly but not France – are so disgusted with Western Civilization that they would want to destroy it and establish another type of civilization.

    They sounded very empathic to me; apparently there are things about our Western Civilization that they don’t like. Who woulda thought?

    Did you ever think that there could be some things that might need ‘critiquing’ about Western Civilization?

    Of course as is politically correct on the biased ABC, the left did get blamed for everything wrong about the debate in Australia in another interview on today’s program. Apparently the problem is that “some people simply don’t want to talk about it at all, either for fear of being culturally ‘insensitive’, or stoking a ‘white backlash’.”

    So foolish all this being sensitive stuff.

    But apparently Amanda has noticed that “we (are) treating Islam as a strange exotic religion which sits outside the mainstream of Australian society,” and that “it is a major Australian religion, with an established community of some forty years’ standing”.

  53. jungney
    October 20th, 2014 at 18:26 | #53

    Kyol Blakeney is Aboriginal, BTW. My son has participated in this minor but significant revolt against what I can only describe as “old privilege”. All power to them. Here’s a scalp worth taking. The leftdd’s misplaced sense of gentility around the political classes, has forgotten how to take scalps. This is a good scalp to take. The establishment, should it choose to circle the wagons, is on a hiding to nothing. Nothing outrages the young so much as the mere scintilla of a hint of exclusion on grounds of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, class or by whatever identifier you can imagine. Neoliberalism promised radical and equalitarian forms of inclusion within the market and the agora. Whenever it fails the test of inclusion, as it does routinely, it is judged accordingly. Not long to go now before these kids assert a new politics.

  54. Paul Norton
    October 20th, 2014 at 18:40 | #54

    Julie Thomas @52, your comment reminds me of a column by Angela Shanahan (written and published pre-9/11, of course) that looked optimistically at the prospects of an alliance between Catholic and Muslim conservatives against the baleful influence of secular feminism. This theme of a Catholislamic alliance against secular feminism, abortion, contraception, lesbianism, population stabilisation, etc., was regularly reprised in various quarters during the 1990s.

  55. jungney
    October 20th, 2014 at 19:13 | #55

    Warning: rant ahead.

    Cormann’s comments about “girly men” are a direct attack on subordinate masulinity. They are an attack on al those men who don’t conform, don’t subscribe or are alienated from the dominant, hegemonic model of masculinity. There are, however, more of us than there are of them. I think that JQ’s insight, which is that they are occupying the populist high points, is correct. Cormann’s words are really scraping the bottom of the barrel. They’ve nowhere else to go but down.

    I apologize to all for misunderstanding the nature of the attack on Julia Gillard, which was gendered. Now I see it in full light, the gendered attack, against Shorten’s masculinity. Sorry to women. I acknowledge a fail, big time. We need to defend women and “girl men” by creating a solid front between women, who live in the conditions of a war against women, by men, and we need to form a common front between women and “girly men”.

    La lotta continua.

  56. J-D
    October 20th, 2014 at 20:43 | #56

    @John Quiggin

    The relevant official policy of the University of Sydney says:

    ‘The University’s ICT Resources exist and are maintained to support the work of the organisation. The University reserves the right to monitor the use of its ICT Resources and to deal appropriately with Users who use its ICT Resources in ways contrary to the conditions of use set out in this policy.’

    It expands on that by saying:

    ‘Limited minor and incidental personal use may be allowed, but it is a privilege and must not interfere with the operation of ICT resources, burden the University with incremental costs, interfere with the User’s employment or other obligations to the University and is subject to compliance with University policies. Users should be aware that personal use of the University’s ICT Resources may result in the University holding personal information about the User and/or others which may then be accessed and used by the University to ensure compliance with this, and other policies.

    ‘Use of ICT Resources is not considered private. Users of ICT Resources should be aware that they do not have the same rights as they would using personally owned equipment through commercial service providers.

    ‘The University’s electronic communication systems generate detailed logs of all transactions and use. All Users should be aware that the University has the ability to access these records and any backups. In addition, system administrators have the ability to access the content of electronic communications and files sent and stored using the University’s equipment.’

    So it seems to me that Barry Spurr can’t argue that fair warning wasn’t given; and the policy also says:

    ‘The University will not tolerate its ICT Resources being used in a manner that is harassing, discriminatory, abusive, rude, insulting, threatening, obscene or otherwise inappropriate.’

    If he thinks that nothing he wrote was rude or otherwise inappropriate — well, I suppose he’ll have the chance (it should certainly be offered) to argue that case to the official university investigation.

    On the other hand, the corresponding policy of the University of Queensland seems not to go into all those details with equal thoroughness, so if you choose to use your official university email account to be rude about people, your university may have more difficulty mounting a case against you for it. Credit where credit’s due: in this area I think it’s the University of Sydney that has done the better job of policy-writing. I await the results of the official university investigation with interest.

  57. October 20th, 2014 at 21:00 | #57

    Oh dear. I went off to New Matilda to read young Barry’s emails. Wow. It is hard to believe that people like him exist.

  58. rog
    October 20th, 2014 at 21:05 | #58

    Cormanns pejorative implies that he isn’t a girlie man. I would say that considering his funny haircut, petulant delivery and penchant for placing large cylindrical objects in his mouth, he has become the object of his derision.

  59. Florence nee Fed up
    October 20th, 2014 at 21:55 | #59

    Bully boy versus girlie man????

  60. David Allen
    October 21st, 2014 at 05:51 | #60

    Julie Thomas :
    I listened to an interview on Counterpoint just a few hours ago in which these two beacons of good and common sense found that they both could rustle up some understanding of the reasons that young muslim men – in Britain particularly but not France – are so disgusted with Western Civilization that they would want to destroy it and establish another type of civilization.

    lol, ah counterpoint and the lovely Amanda V. I need to be out in the car between 4 & 5pm. It’s wonderful listening to Phillip A. Tue – Fri but Mondays are radio off. Can’t stand the barely concealed bile from Amanda V. A lot of pollies revert to decent sensible people when they leave politics. Amanda not so much.

  61. Julie Thomas
    October 21st, 2014 at 06:09 | #61

    @Paul Norton

    Paul there was no mention of the dreaded feminism and how it has ruined society, but there was a bit where both of the old people, and you could hear the gears creaking as they pondered the ramifications, noticed that the images that the dreadful leftist media use to illustrate stories on Muslims, are always of young women who are not necessarily representative of real Islam and ….. this was a concern, these images of Islam were always of attractive women. Oh no! That can’t be right.

    Send them off to the Magdalen Laundries, those attractive young women who are way too clever for their own good.

  62. Julie Thomas
    October 21st, 2014 at 06:13 | #62

    There was one of those old men who think they are the high point of evolution on the teaching staff at the Institute of Advanced Education that was turned into a University during the time I was there as an undergrad in the psychology dept. He used to turn up in the morning, open his office and then leaving his office door open he would leave the Uni grounds to attend to more important business; he was on a large number of boards in the town apparently.

    Students and lecturers in the know about this man’s behavior would warn naive students who would wait outside the open door to see him. The teaching institutes had a much more relaxed policy back in the 1990’s about contact between staff and students and waiting outside the door to talk to the lecturers was quite common and did lead to some quite wonderful interactions in most cases.

    The teaching staff at this institute that became a university were terrific and I can’t thank them enough for their dedication and hard work and the interest they took in students. I really wish my son who is doing a psych degree there now was able to have the same experience.

    But there was this one lecturer and the problem that I saw was that all the dedicated and wonderful staff did all they could to avoid acting on the valid complaints that students made about this staff member. Complaints that I heard about were that he called a ‘mature aged’ female student “girlie” and another “dearie”, and that he had not updated his course material for so long that the text book was out of print when I did the course.

    Photocopies were made available for those who could not find a second hand copy.

  63. Julie Thomas
    October 21st, 2014 at 06:57 | #63

    @David Allen

    I agree about the usual barely concealed bile that is the usual vibe from Amanda Vanstone and the guests she chooses, but it seems to me that there has been a change of attitude there. It is more a resigned sort of approach to the left, and there even seemed to be some sort of attempt to justify her failure to understand the complexity of the problems she and they have been ignoring and denying.

    Not that she or any of her usual suspect type guests are able to put these ‘feelings’ they are having, into a coherent or structured argument.

    I check out Counterpoint regularly since it started. I was quite startled to hear Michael Duffy on my RN and understanding that Libertarianism was actually a thing that some people believed in was what motivated me to take an interest in politics; I hadn’t even registered to vote before then.

    But poor Amanda, it can’t be easy for conservative women to find any self-respect or realise that they have been collaborating with the alpha males to the detriment of all other types of human beings.

  64. Rob Banks
    October 21st, 2014 at 08:45 | #64

    A couple of thoughts. Firstly re the “Girly Man”, there are interesting studies on the characteristics of countries including things like their degree of consensualism in decision-making, individuality v collectivist thinking (see https://www.google.com.au/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=geert+hofstede), and something loosely describable as dgree of maleness/femaleness. In many of the characteristics evaluated Australia typically occupies a position midway between the countries of NW Europe (more consensual, less overtly “male”) and the US. It is tempting to see people like Corman and indeed Abetz as relishing the greater apparent maleness and individuality of Australia, without the risk of personal failure involved in trying it out in the US.
    Secondly, one of the many ways one could characterise governments or management regimes generally is on a 2-dimensional matrix where the dimensions are – nasty/humane/kind, and incompetent/harmless/competent. A position combining nasty and incompetent is I think rare, but we are learning about it.

  65. BilB
    October 21st, 2014 at 08:47 | #65

    JulieT, thanks for that reference to the Magdalene Laundries, I knew nothing of that. The Catholic Church has so much to answer for. If Jesus Christ were alive today and knew what had been done in his name he would be horrified and condemn the whole organisation, from Tony Abbott to the Pope.

  66. October 21st, 2014 at 08:56 | #66

    Jungney – are you serious in what you said @ 5 above? I will reply on the assumption that you are.

    First of all your apology is welcome. I in turn will apologise properly for telling you to F off back on LP. I think I did a sort of kind of apology there, but I will do a real one now. Sorry, I over reacted and was rude.

    With courtesies observed, I’d now like to say I’m glad that you see that gender played a significant part in the attacks on Julia Gillard (from both the left and the right). But I’m kind of a little – dismayed (you’ll notice that I’ve learnt to be polite online these days) – that it seems you realised it when a male politician was denigrated as “girlie”. Anyway not to worry, there is more rejoicing over the whatsiname lamb (lamb?) etc. (I’m sure someone here will be able to correct me on that quotation)

    And on the general subject, I have concerns about the first sentence in JQ’s post:

    The flap about Mathias Cormann’s Schwarzeneggerian description of Bill Shorten as a “girlie man” isn’t too significant in itself. But in the context of other developments, it suggests a couple of patterns that represent big problems for the Abbott government.

    Does that mean that using “girlie” to insult someone “isn’t too significant”? Or does it mean something else?

    (One of these days you guys will all realise how incredibly patient and fair I have really been, considering the circumstances)

  67. October 21st, 2014 at 08:57 | #67

    Damn – I can usually do block quotes but messed it up this time. The last part is of course from me.

  68. jungney
    October 21st, 2014 at 11:39 | #68

    Val, my recollection of old discussions is of one where I argued that it was both possible to be critical of Gillard at the same time time as offering solidarity against misogynist attacks. Sadly, as I state above, I think that was incorrect. I always took the view that Gillard could look after herself and saw her @I won’t be lectured on sexism by that [email protected] as evidence of her capability. However, I now acknowledge that attacks on her were attacks on all women.

    So, my alarm at the use of this phrase “girly men” isn’t so much a new development as just me burring up at yet another example, a supremely crude one at that, of hegemonic masculinity ascribing secondary status to men who are peripheral to the dominant model and, of course, to women as well.

    Cormann is a jackpot of gender stupidity. Long may he remain under public scrutiny.

  69. BilB
    October 21st, 2014 at 11:56 | #69

    Nice succinct use of words, “jackpot of gender stupidity”, it is the kind of elegant economy that Corman aspires to but just cannot achieve.

  70. sunshine
    October 21st, 2014 at 12:13 | #70

    I think Cormans comment is at the lower end of sexist insult but it certainly is one ,and people in positions of power like him carry extra responsibility to behave properly. He should at least apologise to the girls and women of our nation.

    While I see problems with gender relations in the Islamic world ,and at the risk of sounding like a terrorist sympathiser ,I also think the Western gendered setup is clearly dysfunctional. For the record -I think the problems (ours and theirs) are overwhelmingly cultural ,probably built on a base of some biological differences. This gives me hope for the future .

  71. ZM
    October 21st, 2014 at 12:44 | #71


    “”The flap about Mathias Cormann’s Schwarzeneggerian description of Bill Shorten as a “girlie man” isn’t too significant in itself. But in the context of other developments, it suggests a couple of patterns that represent big problems for the Abbott government.”

    Does that mean that using “girlie” to insult someone “isn’t too significant”? Or does it mean something else?”

    I agree, it is not good ‘girlie’ being an insult. Penny Wong’s comments were good I thought:
    “I just think if we use girl as an insult what are we telling our sons and our daughters about being a girl? You’re saying it’s somehow less confident, weak, whatever the imputation – I just don’t think that’s sensible. Imagine if we used any racial term in the way it was used. I think we would all be outraged for the same reasons.”

    It is interesting that Cormann used a similar excuse to Spurr in that he argued that by using ‘girlie man’ he was not saying anything about girls?!? APparently ‘girlies’ is a completely separate word from ‘girls’ (I would be interested if he ws made to give a definition of the word ‘girlrlies’ to see how he manages to come up with a definition that is not gender-specific):
    “I am not talking about girls. I am talking about economic girlie men,’’ the minister told News Corp’s Sunday papers. “I don’t think there’s anything gender-specific here. Not girls, girlies; it’s very different. I hope you are not going to say I am a sexist misogynist.’’

    He also said he was referring to Bill Shorten being ‘too weak to repair the budget’ – thus seeming to demonstrate that he was connecting ‘girlieness’ with ‘weakness’ – both of which he seems to equate with having a decent wellfare system. If it wasn’t so dismaying it would almost be funny imagining the discussions among the treasury –
    Public Servant Trasury Official : ‘Maybe only giving under 25s income support for 6 months of the year is a bit cruel and could have bad results increasing crime and sex work, perhaps we could fix the budget in a less unfair way’
    Matthias Cormann and Joe Hockey : “Aaargh – girl germs! Stay away from us with all your economic girlie germs”

    On Julia Gillard, I think it was quite hard for the public at the time, especially since a lot of the reasons about replacing Rudd were not given until well after the event, and it is still a bit hard to wortk out what is true. I thought how the prime ministers changed without a proper debate and vote in parliament was very improper. But the gendered nature of the attacks on Julia Gillard was also very apparent – I think in some ways it shows how our public discourse is not in a very good state – there is more making and reporting of offensive invective, and less proper discussion and argument.

    At the local level this is not so bad, there is still a bit of name-calling , but generally being so offensive to others in the local community is considered very bad manners by most people and discouraged. Macedon Ranges Council had an interesting episode earlier this year where some male councillors were seen as being quite sexist and dismissive and not listening to women – but there was a lot of letters and complaints made about it, so there was a lot of public pressure for the council to address sexism. This does not seem to work at the Federal level at all, where they do seem really quite out of step with mainstream acceptable community views.

  72. BilB
    October 21st, 2014 at 12:57 | #72

    What a horrible mishmash this


    It is way past time that after declaring allegiance to the Queen, they declare their responsibility to serve the interests of all Australians for the betterment and well being of the community.

    Properly invested the Corman effect should never arise.

  73. asdsa
    October 21st, 2014 at 16:38 | #73

    So true about the Young Liberals, Professor. They come out with outrageous stuff and seem to have little or even no idea of how out of touch they are.

  74. jungney
    October 21st, 2014 at 16:58 | #74

    Oh well, inspirited by Gough’s death I’m minded to retell a tale about the days when the Austrlianment government was a parliament during which one of parliamentary sessions Fred Daly put the question to parliament that “the Labour Party has a youth wing, known as the Young Labs, and the Liberal Party has a youth wing known as the Libs, and therefore Mr Speaker, I want to ask is it true that the Country Party has a youth wing, and if so are they known as …”. I’m pretty sure that uproar ensued.

    A sad day but one on which to note that the time for talking is over.

  75. Tim Macknay
    October 21st, 2014 at 18:40 | #75

    I’m told there was also an occasion when a particular Country Party member was giving his valedictorian speech, which he closed with the words “and I’ll alway be a country member!”, to which Whitlam responded “I remember”.

  76. Robert (not from UK)
    October 21st, 2014 at 20:21 | #76

    I’ve just noticed that Professor Quiggin’s original post mis-spells Barry Spurr’s name as “Spur.” A small point, but might be worth correcting it, no? Fixed now, thanks, and I realised I also had Aaron Lane’s first name as “Alan”

  77. Megan
    October 21st, 2014 at 21:33 | #77

    Now he’s got an injunction:

    The Sydney University professor suspended over racist emails has taken legal action against the website that published them.

    The Federal Court has ordered online magazine New Matilda not to publish further details about Barry Spurr’s leaked emails,

    Lawyers for Professor Spurr argued the publication of the emails breached the Privacy Act, and the court granted an injunction preventing publication of any more details before another court hearing on Thursday.

    New Matilda editor Chris Graham said Professor Spurr’s legal team was also fighting to have the emails returned, the articles deleted and the source of the leak revealed.

    “Hell will freeze over before the last bit happens,” Graham said.

    “There’s no way I will ever reveal the source, regardless of how it proceeds. Obviously, ethically, I can’t do it.”

    As an aside, one thing that comes out from the emails and related commentary is that this fellow is very adamant about demanding respect for his position and for him personally from others. But, he obviously has no qualms about showing disrespect for others – that is, those he considers undeserving of respect.

    Something about respect being earned not something one can demand comes to mind.

  78. paul walter
    October 22nd, 2014 at 04:02 | #78

    Speaking of impartiality, just tried to get to New Matilda to update on this litigation thing and the site seems to be jammed.

  79. Fran Barlow
    October 22nd, 2014 at 06:53 | #79

    @Tim Macknay

    That was a famous one. Clever, though perhaps a little outside of our currently inclusive lexicon if uttered.

    Still, it’s a much better candidate for what may come to be known as the Spurr Defence.


  80. calyptorhynchus
    October 22nd, 2014 at 07:09 | #80

    The problem with calling for Cormann to be sacked is that there is no one to replace him. The scary about this government is that the front-bench, however disasterous they are, really are the best people in the parliamentary Liberal Party.

  81. Fran Barlow
    October 22nd, 2014 at 07:17 | #81


    Relevance to the call?

  82. Ikonoclast
    October 22nd, 2014 at 07:46 | #82


    Time for the GG to throw them out then and call another election! 😉

  83. Jim
    October 22nd, 2014 at 11:26 | #83

    The problem is that if the Coalition (rightly) got rid of Hockey, Corman, Sinodinos, Payne, Dutton and Andrews for being incompetent, Malcolm Turnbull will need to be the Minister for Just About Everything. Unless of course the Coalition are hiding their true talent on the back bench.

  84. Tim Macknay
    October 22nd, 2014 at 11:52 | #84

    @Fran Barlow

    Clever, though perhaps a little outside of our currently inclusive lexicon if uttered.

    Yes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after I posted the comment that I registered the implicit sexism of the insult. It diminishes the enjoyment of the wit considerably.

  85. Fran Barlow
    October 22nd, 2014 at 12:29 | #85

    @Tim Macknay

    My response too, though as someone who admires lexical dexterity, I admired the effort. That it’s clever doesn’t acquit it of misogyny but if you were a writer of, say, poetry, one might offer the plea.


  86. Fran Barlow
    October 22nd, 2014 at 12:36 | #86

    Incidentally, this was not the only exemplar of this trade by EGW. He once apparently asked in parliament, given that Young Labor was called Young Labs, and the Young Liberals, Young Libs, what the youth wing of the Country Party might be called.

    Plainly, it was prominent in his thinking. It was a different era of course, when issues associated with gender were just beginning to be explored. I recall reading somewhere that the term ‘homophobia’ wasn’t coined until about 1967 … and I daresay that while misogyny would be of much longer standing, it too would not have been something even those in power sympathetic to equal dealing would have much considered.

  87. Fran Barlow
    October 22nd, 2014 at 12:43 | #87


    That’s scarcely our problem. If the incompetents in the ministry — and I’d include Turnbull in that — can only be replaced with others of doubtful competence, that’s not a reason for retaining the incompetents. Doubtful competence is preferable to proven ineptitude. If these prove also to be as inept, let them acknowledge that they really are unfit to govern and hold an election.

    Failing that, let them allow the public to draw their own conclusions. Any damage they do in the interim would be worth wearing to get a better government.

    Of course, it’s moot because they aren’t going to sack all their incompetents. They are simply going to pretend that this is what competence looks like, and Murdoch will back them in this assertion.

  88. Fran Barlow
    October 23rd, 2014 at 07:09 | #88

    Robbie Buck, all purpose airhead, was putting about the idea this morning that in NSW there’s talk at government level about smoothing the path to random culling of fruit bats. Apparently the Minister for Destroying the Environment, Greg Hunt is already tossing about the term ‘One-Stop Shop’.

    Doubtless people randomly shooting at fruit bats will have to show they can distinguish Lissa-virus carrying fruit bats from lissa-free ones. Either that, or they will have to use those bullets developed since the latest Iraq campaign that can do the same. It seems that having done ‘Stop the boats’ we’re dropping a vowel and doing ‘Stop the bats’. It goes well with stop the sharks, stop the muslims, capture the metadata, run away from ebola, swallow the coal, ignore the climate and use subs as suppositories of wisdom.

    All jokes aside, this big epidemiological challenge in this country is the emergence of acute stupidity, irrational fear and hatred amidst officialdom — and they are hoping to spread it more widely.

  89. BilB
    October 23rd, 2014 at 07:40 | #89

    I doubt that Greg Hunt gas the foggiest clue as to how many bats there are. If he did HIS natural response would be to ring bark every tree in Australia, while at the same time continuing with the plant 2 million trees to comply with Kyoto targets.

  90. Florence nee Fed up
    October 23rd, 2014 at 08:36 | #90

    Seems Green army is no longer about planting trees. On the Central Coast, the aim appears to clean up the weeds around Tuggerah Lakes. Well that is what appointed team leader is saying.

  91. Collin Street
    October 23rd, 2014 at 09:34 | #91

    Unless of course the Coalition are hiding their true talent on the back bench.

    Well, Sharman Stone, for one. A lot of the older liberal backbenchers are reasonable and reasonably-well adjusted people.

    Like I’ve said before, it’s an issue of recruitment and development: the liberals have no reliable source for fresh blood beyond the Young Liberals [and the Young Liberals is for cultural reason a lot less effective as a source of talent than the campus labour and greens groups], and having recruited people they have very limited places where they can test them and train them with real-world jobs where failure can be tolerated [unlike, say, the union movement]

    It’s like your football team drafting kids straight out of the wagga thirds and dumping them in the finals. As an _organisation_ the liberal party is completely shot, were it sold in private equity the only thing of value would be the brand-names.

  92. RussellW
    October 23rd, 2014 at 09:57 | #92

    It’s about time the the Governor General sacked the dysfunctional and incompetent Abbott government.

  93. John Quiggin
    October 23rd, 2014 at 11:08 | #93

    @Collin Street

    All of this assumes that the aim is to recruit career politicians. Until relatively recently, the LNP mainly ran candidates who had held real jobs (stereotypically, lawyers, doctors and farmers). Cormann, Hockey, Pyne and Abbott are all career political types, and it shows.

  94. jungney
    October 23rd, 2014 at 15:43 | #94

    @Collin Street
    Teriary campus green networks are extensive, talented, financed and otherwise well organized. I know of one group of graduates who commit to providing service at an annual conference (hosting, housing, feeding, co-ordinating) for the undergraduates. They do this for a couple of years to provide infrastructure and institutional memory.

    God alon knows where the Young Libs recruit from. The residential colleges, I suppose, with a solid background in elite schools. But they all look and sound insane to me. Pyne in particular but otherwise all of the front bench, including Bishop, who will learn one day, as all such people do, that it still matters that two and two still make four. She can pretend all she likes that two and two make five but that is delusional thinking.

    Sorry to psychologize the Coalition, but I think it is the grip of a mass delusion, probably and air born bug that they picked up from the coal and other miners, which manifests as a steely resolve to ignore reality and, best of all, where reality resists your madness, sometimes you can succeed in infecting the public realm with a sort of mass version of a ‘folie à deux’. All utterly, barking effing mad so far as I am concerned.

    What is it that private schools do to create such intellectual and psychological wreckage among a whole class of people?

  95. iain
    October 31st, 2014 at 08:52 | #95

    Cormann today “In fact, arguably, the Palmer United Party has achieved more for the environment in three months than the Greens have in all the years they have been here in the Senate.”

    Is he making a statement of fact, or, just arguing?

  96. Collin Street
    October 31st, 2014 at 09:37 | #96

    What is it that private schools do to create such intellectual and psychological wreckage among a whole class of people?

    I have a theory.
    + lack of any discernable high-level talent [not that they’re bad people or stupid or anything, it’s just that they aren’t smart enough or X enough to “succeed” on that X alone]
    + upper-middle-class upbringing that — because of the proceeding — you can’t replicate through your own efforts, and
    + lack of unconditional love/respect from parents/peers [competitive schooling kicks in here] that means the lower-middle-class lifestyle you’d be bound for is a sign of “failure” and thus unworthiness.
    + a — healthy! — sense of self-worth, that rejects the assessment of you as a failure/worthless, but isn’t coupled with enough insight to see that the success-based assessment you’re judging yourself by is all kindsa screwed up.

    [autism? autism, even mild autism, makes it extremely difficult to do anything with moderate talents, because it’s harder for you to work with others. Worse the autism the more your talents are derated.]

  97. Ikonoclast
    October 31st, 2014 at 10:57 | #97

    @Collin Street

    I have noticed the latitude that elite owners and managers give themselves and their favoured operatives for mistakes compared to the lack of latitude they give to low-level employees for mistakes. The contrast is very stark. If a bigwig makes million dollar mistakes it simply doesn’t matter. Indeed, they continue to get their bonuses after the most egregious series of mistakes. QANTAS chief Alan Joyce is a case in point. He and his board have just about destroyed QANTAS and yet he gets a bigger bonus than ever. Yet if a check-in clerk makes a few mistakes, management will pounce on him or her.

    The supercilious arrogance of the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin in a recent senate enquiry was breath-taking.

    “In a Senate estimates committee in Canberra, the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, was asked about reports that not all weapon drops reach their intended target.

    MARK BINSKIN: They’re airdropped, they’re airdropped in from quite high level, with parachutes. Now that’s actually precision drops, but sometimes, when you’ve got a complex environment like that, you’ve got a front line that may not be defined in Kobane itself, you may find that one might not drop right into the area that it needs to.

    NAOMI WOODLEY: But the CDF then told Labor’s Defence spokesman, Stephen Conroy, that it doesn’t concern him.

    MARK BINSKIN: What I understand that might have happened here is probably one parachute worth of palate (sic) has dropped into an area where ISIL might be. My answer to that is so what? Would you stop doing that to stop supplying the Kurds that are actually defending that town?

    No you wouldn’t, it’s a risk you take and there might have been a palate or whatever that’s gone to the other side – it’s immaterial to be quite honest with you. It’s not something… you would assess why that was the case, tactically you might adjust your drops next time along so you minimise the chance, but you wouldn’t have that affect your ability to go in and keep resupplying these people, these brave fighters that are actually holding ground against these thugs at the moment.”

    When Binskin said “My answer to that is so what?” his voice was dripping with arrogance, scorn and derision for anyone who would question him and his favoured operatives. He did then attempt a “save” and some of his subsequent rationales might indeed have some (partial) validity. However, the indicative and revealing moment was the reflex reply of superior scorn redolent with the flavour of “how dare you question me about anything”.

    This kind of self-serving arrogance, shamelessness and thick-hided ability to shrug of any feeling of responsibility for mistakes is very typical of the ruling class and boss class. Something in their upbringing, education and favoured status instills an impenetrable sense of superiority, privilege and non-accountability.

  98. Florence nee Fed up
    October 31st, 2014 at 21:13 | #98

    What worries me more about this mob, is their reluctance to have legislation scrutinised as it goes through both houses. This is a dangerous procedure for any government., Simply errors are not picked up, mistakes in drafting, especially when the legalisation leads to people being charged and taken to court. We could see terrorist walk, because of poor wording.

    That is what the senate is there to do. Yes, a house of review.

    We know that Brandis has put forward legislation that does not approximately define metadata. Imagine the fun defence lawyers are going to have with that in the courts.

    No one knows how many other errors there are.

    Last night, Cormann whined more than once, he could not see what that DA bill could not go through, Has been more scrutinised than any other bill. Said this in spite that most in the chamber had just seen the bill, along with numerous amendments.

    Cormann kept saying people should know, as it was taken to two elections.

    Sorry since the election, there has been a white and green paper. That only suggests what goes in the legislation. There has been amendments that came from Palmer and independents, The bill is nothing like what was originally put before the house.

    What goes into law, is not green or white papers. Not policies taken to an election.

    It is what is written in the legislation that counts, Yes, every sentence, every word needs to be scrutinised.

    Cormann spent the night, acting as if he was personally affronted because of being asked questions, I did not pick up, as if he was just being difficult, I picked up that is the way he felt. That the Opposition were deliberately making things hard for them. Wasting their time.

    Same seems to be true of this mob from Abbott down. One has to agree in full, otherwise one is an enemy, out to pick on them.

    I cannot understand their attitude.

    I did not find the Opposition unreasonable. Nothing like the behaviour of this government when in Opposition with their theatrics, drama and tears.

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