Saving the Senate

Discussion over the Labor leadership, and the government in general, is now academic, in the pejorative sense of the term. Barring a shock on a larger scale than that of 2001, Abbott is going to win the election, whenever it is held, and win it easily. Nothing Labor does or doesn’t do can make any real difference now.

At this point, the only issue to be considered is whether he can be stopped from gaining control of the Senate. Labor and the Greens have 21 seats from 2010, and Labor can be assured of 1 each in the territories (there’s a perennial hope that a Green or independent will win the second ACT seat, but I’m not counting on it. That means they need to win a combined 3 seats in every state for a majority, and can block legislation if they win 3 in at least five states.

Appalling as Labor’s situation is, they should still muster enough support for two senators in each state, but have (AFAICT) no realistic chance of getting three anywhere. So, what’s needed is to elect a Green in every state.

What can be done to achieve this? The first requirement is that the geniuses who run Labor’s preference strategies should not pull the stunts they have in the past, cutting deals with rightwing independents in the futile hope of adding one to their numbers. If anyone reading this has any influence in this respect, they should exercise it now.

The second is to make a positive case for the Greens that will appeal to people who don’t like Abbott, but can no longer justify a vote for Labor. In my view, the Greens are now the real inheritors of the best traditions of Labor, as opposed to the kind of hardhat/HiVizVest posturing that passes for “Labor values” in the ALP. But that case needs to be spelt out for voters who are understandably turned off by the entire political scene.

Suggestions welcome

Learning from my mistakes

If you engage in commentary for an extended time on any issue, but particularly on politics, you’re bound to get things wrong. In such cases, there are a few options. The most common is to double down, grasping at any straw that will justify your original claim. Another is to wait; the world is so changeable that a prediction that seemed laughably wrong at one time may turn out correct after all. But, mostly the best thing is to learn from your mistakes.

I’ve made a few mistakes, but the one that I’ve been picked up on most is my prediction, in 2007, that

The Liberal Party will never again win a federal election.”

Of course, this wasn’t meant to be taken at face value. I went on immediately to say that

This isn’t a prediction of unending Labor rule, rather an observation that the Liberal and National parties are in such dire straits that they can’t continue as they are. They haven’t got enough support, parliamentary representation or ideas for one party, let alone two.

I thought the obvious solution was a merger, as in fact happened in Queensland not long afterwards. But my many friends in the Murdoch Press and the rightwing blogosphere have taken great delight in quoting the first sentence out of context. Given that the Liberals have yet to win their election, I followed the waiting strategy, waiting to see whether the turn of events (and the fact that my characterization of the Libs and Nats remains entirely accurate) might validate the prediction after all. But, after the events of the last week, I think it’s time to admit error.

What lessons should I learn from this?

First, never try to be cute on the Internetz, unless you’re a cat. I could have written a straight post suggesting a merger and it would long since have been forgotten. I knew perfectly well that Newscorp and its allies are shameless liars, and that their readers are utterly gullible (provided that what they are reading confirms their prejudices) and I handed them a stick to beat me with. I’ll avoid paradox in future.

Second, never underestimate the capacity of the Labor Party for suicidal stupidity. At the time I wrote the post, Labor seemed safe for two or more terms everywhere but NSW. Instead we saw
* WA Premier Carpenter revoke the ban on dealings with Brian Burke, leading to immediate disaster
* Privatisation campaigns in both NSW and Queensland
* The dumping of Nathan Rees (NSW Labor’s last hope) in favor of Tripodi-Obeid puppet Kristina Keneally
and, most disastrously of all,
* The coup against Kevin Rudd. The march of folly has continued to the very end, with a majority of the Parliamentary Party confirming, for the second time, that they would rather give Tony Abbott control of both houses of Parliament, and, in many cases, lose their own seats, than break with the failed leadership of Julia Gillard. The many (now former) Labor MPs in Queensland who marched straight over the electoral cliff with Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser seem to have set the pattern here

Auditors, unaudited

The Crime and Misconduct Commission has announced that it does not have jurisdiction to investigate allegations of an undeclared conflict of interest against Peter Costello in relation to the Queensland Commission of Audit. This is an unsatisfactory outcome: the allegations remain neither proven nor refuted, adding to the general miasma of nepotism and jobbery that surrounds the Newman government, and leaving Costello without an opportunity to defend himself against what remain merely anonymous leaks. If the CMC has no jurisdiction on allegations that policy recommendations involving state assets worth billions of dollars are being made by someone with a vested interest, something is seriously wrong. The fact that the Newman government has attacked the CMC (set up because of pervasive corruption under an earlier LNP government) from day one makes this seem even worse.

The Newman’s government’s response to the Audit Commission’s Final report has been similarly inappropriate. It’s not uncommon for a government to sit on a report while it makes up its mind how to deal with the recommendations. I can’t recall, though, a case when the recommendations have been made public, but the report itself remains secret. That suggests a lack of confidence in the quality of the analysis. Given the weakness of the Commission’s Interim Report, and the Commission’s inability to respond effectively to criticism (as an example, my lengthy critique received a one-sentence reply), this lack of confidence is probably wise.

Sceptics and suckers: A look back at Iraq

Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, the disastrous failure of Bush’s war is evident to just about everyone. Here’s the news from the day before the anniversary.

Debates over the case for war in Iraq coincided with the emergence of the political blogosphere and created divisions that have been pretty much set in stone ever since. Those who, for one reason or another, swallowed and repeated the lies used to push the war dug themselves further and further in over subsequent years. Those of us who were sceptical[1] of the claims made by Bush and Blair, and proven right by events, came to realise that the other side inhabited a parallel universe, in which the possibility that prior beliefs might be changed by factual evidence was largely absent.

I want to restate a point that seems to be forgotten a lot, especially by those who went along with the Bush-Blair claims about WMDs. Until December 2002, there was plenty of behavioral evidence to suggest that Saddam had WMDs, namely the fact that he had expelled (or, more precisely, refused to co-operate with) the UN weapons inspection program. Given the benefits from being declared WMD-free, this made little sense unless he had weapons. Equally, Bush and Blair were making statements that they knew what WMDs Saddam had and fairly accurate knowledge of their location. Again, this seemed (to me, at any rate) to make no sense if they were relying on a bluff that Saddam could easily call.

All of that changed, in December 2002, when Saddam readmitted the inspectors and declared that he had no WMDs. At that point, it suddenly became obvious (again, to me, at any rate) that Bush and Blair had been making it up. I naively supposed that it would be equally obvious to everyone else, and that, as a result it would be impossible to mobilise support for war. That was wrong, of course. I was particularly struck by the unanimity with which the pro-war bloggers reproduced the ever-changing propaganda lines of the Administration. No one would be surprised now, but back then, the assumption was that disputes with rightwingers were a matter of honest disagreement.

fn1. It’s striking, in view of the extreme gullibility shown by such people that the overlap with those who call themselves climate “sceptics” is very high.