There is a world market for maybe five computers …*

As has been true since 2010, our aspiring leaders seem to be determined to outdo each other in silliness this week. Since Julia Gillard will (with 90 per cent probability) be nothing more than a bad memory in a year’s time, while Tony Abbott will be an unavoidable reality, I’m going to ignore Gillard’s “Rob Peter to Pay Paul” aprroach to funding Gonski and talk about the National Broadband Network.

The Abbott-Turnbull proposal for a cutprice NBN has been an amazing success in clarifying issues that previously seemed too complex to be resolved. Until now, it’s been far from obvious how to assess the NBN – the complaint that we didn’t have a benefit cost analysis was obviously silly in the absence of any easy way of quantifying the benefits. But now that we’ve seen the alternative – a 25MBps network, dependent on Telstra’s failing copper network and non-existent goodwill, it’s obvious that the NBN is the only option that gives us any hope of keeping up with the steady growth in demand for information. The claim that individual subscribers can choose to upgrade to fibre-to-the-premises appears to have collapsed in the face of expert scrutiny. Instead, it seems, we’ll end up with lots of street-corner boxes, which will have to be ripped out and replaced wholesale when their inadequacy becomes apparent.

Given that he is going to win the coming election anyway, Abbott could greatly improve his chances of re-election in 2016 by admitting his mistake and going with the existing NBN plan, maybe with some cosmetic tweaks. As a bonus, from Abbott’s POV, Turnbull would have to eat a lot of humble pie.

The same is true for the other slogans on which he’s relied so far, like “Stop the Boats’ and “Axe the Tax”. Thanks to Labor’s implosion, he can afford to dump them now, and replace them with something more realistic – there’s no shame in changing policies before an election.

I don’t expect Abbott to take this unsolicited advice, but he could look at the cautionary lesson provided by Bligh, Gillard and NSW Labor among others, and consider carefully whether it’s better to take a few lumps now, or gain office on the basis of commitments that will prove a millstone, whether they are abandoned or adhered to.

[Comments are closed]

* I know, this quote attributed to Thomas J Watson is apocryphal, as is a similar one attributed to Bill Gates, but lots of similar statements have been made in reality, and they’ve all proved to be silly. For example, I can remember people saying in the early 80s that 8-bit address space of 64k (a double octet) were all we would ever need. Many more people said, well into the 1990s, that graphical interfaces were an unnecessary luxury and that personal computers would always start with a C:> prompt.

201 thoughts on “There is a world market for maybe five computers …*

  1. Governments are not very good at investing in sunrise industries.

    There is business cycle theory based on dark fibre. Based on buildind too far ahead of demand. Also used railroads and danals in the 19th century as examples

  2. Some random numbers;
    Max download speed: 25x Mbps.
    Total internet data (approx) when NBN finished, early 2020s: 10x ZB.
    Time to download entire internet: approx 10 million years.
    With Labor you’ll trim that time down to only 2.5 million years.

    Before NBN completes, broader issues; quality over quantity, big-data analysis by all, emergent ai.

    I’d say better to err on side of quality, but agree with Jim about our abilities in predicting what we may be needing next decade.

  3. What will save Labour and kill the current Liberal “vision” is the ability to upgrade the fibre terminations. Both in the day-to-day “I want more internets” so you buy a 1GB terminator, and the more important sense that over time they will roll out faster terminations for everyone. The Liberals will be stuck paying to install more boxes in the street then pull them back out again starting about the time they finish rolling out their network. If not before then.

    For Abbott, he’s a bit stuck behind the “changing your mind makes you a liar” barricade he’s built. Although possibly once Turnbulls head actually explodes he will get a tech advisor that he can listen to and maybe he will pull it out and turn around.

  4. I’m amazed by how many times Gillard can score an own goal, even without any pressure from the opposition. I’d like to know from anyone with a good handle on opinion polls whether there is any evidence pointing to strong support for coalition policies or whether the main focus is on a rejection of Gillard’s leadership. Is it still too late to hope for a leadership change? It’s about time someone called BS on all these bogus cost/benefit analyses, where only fools believe there is sufficient insight into the future to be accurate calculations.

  5. I think this anti-Gillard thing is a Murdoch/Fairfax beat up that has convinced a few bloggers that the public don’t like Gillard. I loathed Big Kev.

    I note that Simon Crean is now being used as a spearhead by Murdoch. It is all very undignified. I find Crean’s and Kev Rudd’s actions and attitudes creepy. Why anyone would want any of the opposition or the creepy coup faction is beyond me.

    What scares me even more than the creepy people is the idea that Gillard may ultimately fall in line with Murdoch under this continuous pressure of nonsense leadership challenges he has created out of straw men.

  6. Hoping for any good from an Abbott government is to go light years beyond astoundingly optimistic. The election of an Abbott government will pretty much seal our fate. There will be no way back from the mess he creates. Australia’s chances will be finished. Mind you, Gillard is so stupid, perverse and right wing she could probably wreck us nearly as thoroughly as Abbott.

  7. I would still assert that graphical interfaces are an unnecessary luxury and that Real Computers should always start a user’s session with a $ shell prompt.

  8. I, for one, don’t believe that MT dislikes the NBN. His attacks have been pretty weak and sporadic all along; I think he just had to go along with the Abbot line of oppose everything and the toadies at News Ltd simply complied with it. So for MT to do an about face would not be that hard and even maybe a relief.
    There are reason for attacking the NBN but this would be political suicide for the coalition – the most stupid point is to cover 93% of households with fiber when the figure should be closer to 70%, that is, the capital cities and major population centres. That would cut the cost enormously. Since rural australia never votes for the Labor party I never understood why they had to be favoured by the NBN.
    Can Abbot change his mind? Maybe, after all he confessed that if he had not written a signed statement then he could not be held to it. A closer look at his character would simply say that he has no interest in technology so do whatever (hence changed his mind) but when it comes to what Pell/Rineherat/Murdoch advises him then he will remain resolute.

  9. It’s a curious policy, this Liberal Clayton’s NBN. Two thirds of the cost of the Labor NBN, yet it delivers a far inferior service to an extra two thirds of the voting public. How Turnbott can claim it is value for money with a straight face I do not know. It fails any comparative CBA with Labor’s version at face value.

    Has Sinodinos been mothballed due to the Obeid stink? Where is Liberal policy development at right now? If this sort of worst-of-both-worlds policy which costs too much and delivers too little is the sort of thing we’re going to expect out of Abbott from now on, I’d say that 10% chance that the Prof gives Gillard is lowballing it a tad. The full horror of the prospect of an Abbott government, combining the ineffective profligacy of Baillieu with the wacky irresponsibility of Newman, will become more apparent to the electorate with every new policy announcement.

  10. @Sheila Newman

    Rather than saying that the anti-Gillard thing is a media beatup, how about a substantive defence of her policies? Do you think cutting uni and TAFE funding (but not payments to wealthy private schools) to pay for school funding is a good idea? If so, make the case.

    Similarly with 457-baiting, cuts for single parents, equal marriage, Afghanistan war, US deputy sheriff, citizens assembly, cash for clunkers etc etc – Murdoch and Fairfax didn’t make these up.

  11. ‘I’m going to ignore Gillard’s “Rob Peter to Pay Paul” aprroach to funding Gonski …’

    Except that she has given the next government a rolled gold opportunity to cut funding to higher education and claim bipartisan support for it.

    I remember Ross Gittins writing in 2007 that it didn’t much matter who won the pending election, because both parties would be obliged to follow the policy direction established by the Howard Government. Wise man that Gittins … I wonder how much longer Gina will tolerate his presence.

  12. @m0nty until the Gonski thing I was hoping that growing recognition of Abbott’s flaws would at least prevent a rout. Now I doubt it

  13. @John Quiggin Gillard is on the box talking of how she is changing school funding ‘for all time’. Yesterday’s higher education funding changes were once in a generation changes.

    nothing of substance has changed since Rudd and his great moral challenge of our time left the building. all sound and fury.

  14. They gave a big hint as to why they wanted to build a deliberately bad network by holding the launch at Foxtel studios.

  15. Some random numbers;
    Max download speed: 25x Mbps.
    Total internet data (approx) when NBN finished, early 2020s: 10x ZB.
    Time to download entire internet: approx 10 million years.
    With Labor you’ll trim that time down to only 2.5 million years.

    It’s worth pointing out that these comparisons between copper and fibre are based on current modem standards and not the wires’ actual capacity for data transmission, which is practically limitless for fibre.

    The idea that the Coalition’s plan is 25% as fast as Labor’s plan (while being 75% as expensive – what a steal!) is based on comparing the maximum speeds you’ll get with copper against the minimum speeds you’ll get with fibre.

    By the time the network is actually completed the difference could likely be something more like 40:1 than 4:1, and in fifty years time – who knows.

    But what is certain is that the copper will be replaced with fibre eventually; either it’s done now under the current Labor plan, or it will be pointlessly delayed for a decade or two – at enormous cost – under the Coalition’s plan – the cost being the cost of maintaining a decrepit copper network and the costs of building thousands of stupid, energy-wasting street-corner boxes to transform fast fibre signals into slow copper signals (not to mention the costs to the wider economy of having a strangulated internet based on obsolete technology as the IT revolution continues on its exponential course).

    So their “faster” and “quicker” plan for a FTTN network actually just means a slower and MUCH more expensive plan for the FTTP network that will ultimately be built anyway.

  16. I wrote several drafts on this topic, but gave up on it. All I’ll add is that I saw some of Alan Kohler’s “Inside Business” (ABC) interview with Malcolm Turnbull, concerning the opposition party’s arguments against the NBN, and the Liberal’s national communications policy. Once it is online, I suggest listening to it, or reading the transcript. Malcolm’s responses to Alan’s questions felt like so much blowing of smoke, quite frankly. Very disappointing, in my opinion (the responses, that is).

  17. We had the argument over coffee this morning with a nice guy of the Liberal persuasion. He argued that you do a basic NBN now, and increase the capacity as needed. I’d believe him, but I’m pretty sure that when he built his house he didn’t adopt this approach.

    Anyway, I remember 14kbs dial-up. Why would you ever need more than that?

  18. @Sheila Newman

    What I find creepy is the Gillard defence that assumes people do not know enough to make their own decisions. It varies from Jill Rush’s recent claim that criticism of Gillard is sexism to your own that criticism of Gillard is an artefact of a hostile media.

    The weakness in both your arguments is that you do not engage with anyone questioning Gillard’s extraordinary conservatism, her extraordinary opportunism, or her mediocre political skills. I submit the media bias and sexism arguments are being pushed by the ALP, the PMO in particular, because they are actually the only arguments they have. These two arguments also have the additional advantage of being inarguable.

  19. Like you Professor Quiggin, I am convinced that if an election was held this weekend Abbott would win, however I am NOT convinced that Abbott will win in 5 months time. I don’t think recent announcements by Gillard have done her any favours but the race isn’t over yet.

    On the NBN FTTN is a band aid compared to FTTP, better to do it right the first time. If its a matter of cost, we are all familiar with money is worth more today than tomorrow so the Coalition plan fails on both counts.

  20. @Ken_L Yes the “rob Peter to pay Paul” is a clear sign of weakness from the Gillard govt. They have been rolled on important reforms like media, super and mining tax so pick on the defenseless eg single mothers, asylum seekers and uni students. This is classic Liberal party policy.

  21. I’ve tried twice to send a long and impassioned plea to stop writing off the Gillard government, and both times I’ve managed to lose it, so here’s hoping it works this time. The gist of it is:
    Yes, the government and Julia Gillard have done things that are politically stupid and ethically wrong.
    Nevertheless there is a problem with way they are being treated, not just by the right, but by people, like so many on this website, who are ostensibly left.
    They are being written off as hopeless even when, as in this post, their policies are seen as better than those of the opposition.
    Implicit in this treatment is an assumption that it’s their (her) own fault, that they (she) are to blame and deserve to be beaten.
    This is related to sexism.
    Why? Because sexism in contemporary society is not usually manifested through direct discrimination, but through bias. Women are judged more harshly than men. That is exactly what is happening on this blog. People are so busy bagging the government and Julia Gillard that they don’t even look at the bigger picture, which is about the alternative – Abbott. Even when you are saying the government is doing something right, like the NBN, you can’t resist ‘yeah but look at all the stupid things they (she) have done’. I read a classic the other day (not on this blog but in the Age) where the writer said that Gillard had an unqualified success in China, but it was ‘too little, too late’ (ie we can forget about it and go back to bagging her).
    I worked with Gillard for almost two years, in the very difficult circumstances of opposition under the Kennett government in Victoria (when she was John Brumby’s chief of staff) and I can tell you, even though I am no longer involved with the Labor party, she is both extreme competent and genuinely kind. I am not surprised that her colleagues support her, or that she was able to form government through negotiation.
    As I said, I don’t agree with a lot that the government has done: for example I am appalled by their – and Julia Gillard’s specifically – position on asylum seekers, sole parents and the dole. I understand why they are doing these things but I also think they are both wrong and incompetent in the way they are handling these issues. I believe it would be ethically and politically better to take social justice positions and lead on these issues. Nevertheless I still recognize that Abbott is worse.
    I can also recognize that on some issues, particularly climate change, the government and Julia Gillard have acted in a historically significant way. For the first time, we are seeing positive action. Emissions from the electricity sector have actually declined and carbon price appears to have contributed to this. There are other factors involved, there’s a lot more needs to be done, and it was the Greens who pushed them into it in this term: nevertheless, Julia Gillard said she wanted to put a price on carbon and a government led by Julia Gillard did it. Now we are in danger of losing all this and going backwards on this and other issues, like Gonski and the NDIS. How many of you have read the IPA manifesto? Because Tony Abbott won’t do all of that, but that is the directions we will go in if he gets in. Yet so many on this blog are still too busy bagging Gillard to think seriously about this. I honestly believe that if Tony Abbott gets in, the responsibility will lie as much with people on the left who could not stop bagging Gillard, as with the Murdoch press.
    For what it is worth, here’s my attempt to explain why some people cant stop bagging Gillard. For Kevin Rudd, and unconsciously for many men (and some women) who identified or sympathised with hi, to be forced to step down in his first term, for a woman who was supposed to be his loyal second in command, was the ultimate humiliation. He could not let go, and he could not hand over graciously (cf Baillieu in Victoria). In these circumstances, many people including many men (and as I say, some women) on the left, simply could not accept her as a legitimate leader. For some, including some commentators on this site, it goes further than that: they can only see her as devious and sneaky. This is a classic response of a dominant group when challenged by those they see as subordinate: they can’t accept that those people have a right to challenge, and they have to see them as devious and sneaky. (Judith Brett wrote very well about this in class terms in Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People).
    I believe that if Abbott gets in, some people on the left are going to look back and be horrified at their part in contributing to this. And I also believe that the reason they can’t stop bagging the Gillard government, even when discussing issues like the NBN, where the government hasn’t done anything wrong, where it’s irrational and likely to lead to outcomes they don’t actually want, is emotional and is related to sexism. I’m sure many wont like this and there will be a tendency to reject it out of hand, but I do implore you to think about it. I’m not saying that you are misogynists or you hate women – I’m just saying maybe you are biased, maybe you judge women in positions of authority more harshly than you do men, and maybe in some cases you, like Kevin Rudd, are clinging to emotional feelings about being betrayed by the kind of person who is supposed to be supportive (and supposed to put men first).

  22. Val did you actually read the post? There is no ‘bagging’ of the government over the NBN – quite the reverse.

    This meme that any criticism of the government is crude sexism started the day after Rudd was replaced as leader. It relies on a completely untestable (and patronising) belief about the motivation of the government’s critics, ignores the fact that many of us were equally critical of Kevin Rudd (and indeed of Kim Beazley, Mark Latham, and a bunch of other Labor heavyweights) and strikes me frankly as a flight of fantasy by people who don’t want to confront the reality of the ALP’s self-destruction.

  23. I see where you are coming from here Val, but I think you are mistaken. The disappointment in Gillard is not related to gender for many of her critics. I should add for me this _is_ real disappointment, I was confused, but hopeful for her when she became prime minister and genuinely pleased to see a first female pm.

    From a policy point of view, I agree 100% with you (I think). I also agree with you that the carbon tax is historically significant. The problem I have with your line of argument is that it was Gillard’s shifting position on the CPRS as deputy and then prime minister that damaged first Rudd’s reputation and then her own and now she is unwilling to make the elementary economic argument against the coallition’s direction action policy. The actions of Gillard, Shorten and Feeney have fatally wounded Labor and for what purpose? While she has achieved much; most of it is the Rudd legacy she inherited. When she differentiated herself from Rudd she has almost consistently made blunders based upon the assumption that the best way to broaden Labors base was to appeal to xenephobia in the suburbs. Rudd didn’t need to do this to be popular. Everyone says Gillard is tough, I don’t disagree, but on arguing for a carbon price she has a long record of absolutely lacking either courage or conviction.

    I am currently very confused, I really want the carbon tax to remain. I also want the factions punished for what they have done, I see labor party reform as extremely important and yet incompatible with a miraculous labor win. There is no contradiction in not wanting an Abbott government and feeling anger at the labor party’s factional system. It is grossly unfair to dismiss opinions of this sort as sexism, in fact the sexist argument has become extremely convenient to labor’s powerbrokers.

  24. I’m 100% with Val on this. I think even the left has internalised the relentless media campaign against Gillard and now blames the ALP for the constant misrepresentation and lies the media subjects them to. Do they have some appalling policies? Yes they do and so has every other Labor Government I have known, the Hawke government in particular was far worse – just think what Hawke did to universities. Nonetheless Hawke was generally supported in ways Gillard has not been probably because the sad old men of today could identify with his boozy groper style. They are stricken now not just by the fact that Gillard is a woman but also by the fact that she doesn’t bluster, she demands negotiation and compromise, the very thing they hate about their wives. I suspect they find the success of her extreme pragmatism far more discomforting than the prospect of Abbott’s clown car of a front bench ending up in power.

  25. Thank you for your comments. Ken, you have completely misread what I wrote – can I ask that you read it again more carefully?
    David I felt your comment was much more considered but in some ways it still reinforces what I am saying. For example, rather than blaming Rudd for squibbing on the CPRS, you blame Gillard for his actions. I’m really puzzled as to why you would do that. Do you have some information which is not publicly available? How was she to blame? I think this is another aspect of the sexism I am talking about – she is not only to be blamed for her own mistakes, she can even be blamed for Rudd’s.
    It is insulting and patronizing to dismiss women’s concerns about sexism in the way you did, and it’s actually funny to suggest that the concerns of someone like me would be supported by Labor power brokers – not that you could know but I am more likely to be hated by Labor power brokers. I don’t have anything to do with the Labor party any more and I am certainly not an apologist for it, nor for Julia Gillard. I just know that she has genuine strengths, and has achieved some good things, as well as making some significant blunders. I am just concerned that there are people on the left who are so intent on bagging her that they are effectively assisting Abbott. Your comments about the carbon price are a case in point: you can’t just give her credit for that, you have to assert that she was to blame for Rudd’s version not getting through. I have never heard that from the Greens, who have consistently said that his version was no good and that he would not negotiate. Maybe you could just believe the statements that her colleagues, the Greens and the independents have all consistently made – that she is a good person to deal with in negotiations. I personally suspect (and remember I do actually know her personally), that she sometimes gives away too much in negotiations, but that is a separate and fairly complex issue.
    I really wish that you could take the views of women such as myself, or Marilyn Lake or Anne Summers (and some of the other women commenting on this site) a little more seriously. Is it not possible that there may be something in what we are saying?

  26. David I should also add that I agree from my experience that factionalism is a huge problem in the Labor party – about power and deals and getting your protégées up rather than about ideas and values.

  27. @Val

    Actually the Greens have said the precise opposite, which is why they ended their agreement with the government. Equally Andrew Wilkie does not seem to share your enthusiasm for Gillard after she reneged on gambling reform. Her comments about the agreement with the Greens after it broke down, that she was never really committed to it, does not speak of a person who is a great negotiator. Nor does the whole tactic of springing the media legislation on a cabinet called to consider CSG and then telling the parliament to pass it on ridiculously short notice, without amendments, seem like evidence of great negotiating skills.

    I find the toughness argument as bewildering as the good negotiator argument. Gillard caved to the mining industry, she caved to the ACL, she caved to unjustified popular fears on refugees, she caved to economic conservatives on the surplus, she even caved to the nonsense on 457s. She seems to cave to any conservative group going.

    As it happens I think much of the Hawke/Keating program was deeply retrograde, but at least Hawke and Keating argued it through the party instead of trying to impose it by unilateral decree.

  28. Wow thanks Ian, great stuff. Your comment wasn’t up when I replied before. So cheering. Must stop now and go to sleep, but really hope we can get people away from the ‘lets all blame Gillard and say how much we hate her’ and start focusing on what an Abbott government would do.

  29. at this point besides treating refugees a bit worse and doing a few favours for their rich mates what is Abbott going to do that Gillard already hasn’t.

    At what point does her mindless, ineffective conservatism so damage the labour movement that it becomes indefensible. Her capitulation on refugees has given the liberals complete cover on the issue for years to come, her gutless backdowns on supernnuation, media reform etc etc whilst cutting spending on the poor and relatively powerless does the same.

    This would be bad enough if it was politically effective, but it doesn’t even work and it hasn’t at any point in the last two and a half years. Gillard is driving the labour party even further to the right and the only ‘benefit’ will be a thumping liberal majority. What an utter disgrace

  30. Wow, so now according to some respondents we are implicitly not permitted to criticise any female politician defended by them because that makes us sexist. This is despite the many subtantive proofs that Julia Gillard has folded to the mining oligarchs and has neoconservative policies on any number of major issues.

    The logical analogy of the results of this kind of thinking re Gillard and Abbott is this. We are not allowed to designate poison A as poisonous because it is not as poisonous as poison B, even though both will destroy all hopes for a healthy, productive life.

  31. What’s even more damning is that the whole ‘Vote ALP because we are not as bad as Tony Abbot’ strategy has been tried for the last three years and has spectacularly failed. Tacking on ‘and you’re sexist if you don’t’ doesn’t strike me as a brilliant political strategy.

    Moreover, given the government’s record on refugee and indigenous policy, and on marriage equality, if the same test were applied to racism and homophobia as it is claimed should apply to sexism it would be legitimate to accuse Julia Gillard of racism and homophobia. It would also be legitimate to argue that Gillard may not be aware of her racism and homophobia and has been effected by the constant media drumbeat on the subject.

  32. When she is finally massacred at the election it may even do some good by utterly discrediting her ‘liberal-lite’ approach to governance.

  33. It would be very surprising if gender did not negatively affect perceptions of Gillard because (a) study after study have demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of Westerners have negative implicit attitudes toward woman in power and (b) a number of studies have shown that these attitudes mediate explicit beliefs under a variety of conditions. References available on request.

  34. One of the things that the current polls show clearly is that you can’t be a capitalist party in charge of a capitalist society when the capitalist class is keen on regime change.

    In order to have a chance of winning, you’d have to be willing to challenge explicitly major sections of the boss class and propose a model of arrangements with which the working population could identify strongly, but that would almost certainly disrupt the party’s ability in the longer term to offer itself up as a safe pair of hands for the privileged, and would probably split the party. The boffins fancy they’d prefer to be beaten badly and yet retain credibility as a future boss class regime than be potentially ‘out in the wilderness’.

    Consequently, the party always chooses what for them seems the least unpalatable option — meek submission to the loudest noisemakers from the boss class. Unsurprisingly, most of those not tribally committed to the boss class party and who are not politically engaged of informed quickly attach themselves to the ascendant boss class party. The fact that more people trust the LNP — a party that opposed compulsory super — to look after compulsory super than the party that authored it and prefer the economic credentials of the LNP despite it having not even proposed a clearly specified fiscal policy underlines the reality that the current polling substantially reflects the departure from the ALP side of those low-information voters who are inclined to go with the the team backed by the boss class press.

    In short, the destruction of the comparatively competent but xenophobic and socially conservative populist centre-right regime of Gillard in favour of a slightly more rightwing demagogic xenophobic and socially conservative populist regime of Abbott is really a commentary on the ongoing relative political strength of the boss class, which has the luxury of two governing parties through which to negotiate its interests whereas the working people have none.

  35. @Neil

    I would think most commenters here are aware studies of gender bias in the media. That does not mean that a conservative and mediocre prime minister suddenly becomes a progressive and effective one. Nor do those studies explain why the same gender bias does not effect figures like Julie Bishop, Christine Milne, Anna Bligh, Kristina Keneally, Clare Martin, Lara Giddins, Penny Wong. That is not an exhaustive list.

  36. @Val

    Concern about what an Abbott government will (not “would” unfortunately) do is one of the reasons for wanting to be rid of Gillard. It’s obvious that Labor’s chances of re-election are virtually zero, and that Gillard’s unpopularity is a major reason for this. As you’ve conceded, there are plenty of objective reasons for this unpopularity. Regardless of the cause, though, it’s obvious that if Gillard had stepped aside gracefully, Abbott’s chances of winning would have been greatly reduced. Her toughness would have been exhibited to great effect.

    It’s too late for that now, I think, so all we can do is work out how best to resist Abbott.

  37. I remember hearing Kenneally’s concession speech after the demolition of NSW ALP in 2011.

    After years of neo-liberal policies and lurching further to the right (especially electricity privatisation, in their case) – she essentially blamed “disunity” for the result.

    She started out in what sounded like a promising direction (the people “did not leave us, we left them”) and then spend 15 minutes blaming everyone for not getting unified and supporting widely detested policies.

    Especially in light of LNP now governing in NSW, Vic & Qld – the ramping up of the “Abbott would be worse” meme might be effective as a boogeyman if there was any evidence whatsoever of the ALP in those states having learned anything from their losses (or wipeouts).

    Good luck ALP supporters, if you can pull it off all power to you – but don’t expect the generally leftish half of the population to blindly give it to you. I suspect they would gladly vote ALP above LNP if they had a couple of reasons to do so (refugees, environment, decent support for the needy etc..), but I doubt yelling at them about Abbott is going to do it.

    The AM version of Kennealy’s speech is here:

    http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2011/s3174760.htm

  38. It’s strange to me that I was just as critical of Keneally and Bligh (not to mention Beazley, Crean, Iemma, and other male ALP leaders) as I have been of Gillard, and no one mentioned the gender issue then

    https://johnquiggin.com/2010/12/24/in-the-name-of-god-go/

    Looking through the archives to the 2005 contest, I find a post please, not Beazley in which I say:

    “Labor isn’t short of options. I favored Rudd last time around, and I think he’s probably the right choice this time. But I’d also be happy with Gillard”

  39. @Alan

    Alan, I was not talking about bias in the media, but in each of us. The overwhelming majority of people – including women – have negativr implicit attitudes toward women. That will affect, in complex and interactive ways, the way we judge identical actions by women and by men, typically to women’s detriment. Of course it explains only some proportion of the variance, both across populations and within individuals; the latter by induction (there is no method to identify the effects at the level of a single individual, though we can certainly measure the implicit attitudes of individuals). None of this is meant as a defence of Gillard or as an attack on John Quggin (or any other poster). Like all of us, John Quiggin is doing his best to assess Gillard policies and actions on their merits (and has the knowledge and skills to do this a lot better than, say, me). Nevertheless it would not be surprising if his assessments are somewhat more negative than they would otherwise have been due to the influence of his implicit attitudes (almost certainly the influence would be too small to change the character of the assessment). I do think it is likely that the poll numbers we see for Gillard are much lower than they would be on the merits of the government alone, because I suspect that most people are more biased by their IAs – and have more negative IAs – than John. Again, I don’t want to pick on John here; my evidence that he has negative IAs toward woman is purely inductive (almost everyone does; therefore it is likely he does). And I have no reason to think these attitudes influence him more than, say, me.

  40. @Fran Barlow

    Fran, that was brilliant; perfectly analysed and perfectly expressed. There is really nothing anyone can add to that analysis. It is a 100% true picture of the situation. It’s tragic for all the oppressed and dispossed classes. They have no hope, no-one to vote for and nowhere to go. Sometimes I wish there were a just god so the rich would be punished. But no, they almost always get away with all of it; the loot, the crimes against humanity and the sanctimoneous, supercilious and triumphal tone which attends their every utterance. Thatcher was a case in point as were Reagan and the Bushes.

  41. Even though I think sexism is a major issue particularly in mainstream commentary and particularly to their shame on the male left who like racists saying “I’m not a racist but …” precede all their supposed supportive statements with some Gillard sledging. But I think it is only part of a different issue, the real issue is the entire bosses culture that is generated by the media (as Fran would probably put it). A hostile culture can override an rational impulses in a society and can usually only be broken by a degree of aggression the ALP seems to lack (and the innately cowardly Rudd certainly lacked). Show that degree of aggression and the 20-30% of voters who simply go whichever way the wind blows will suddenly line up behind you. It is true “not as bad as Abbott” is not much of a campaign slogan but its not helped much by all those supposed supporters who constantly chant the ALP is as bad as Abbott. Its not and the federal ALP is simply not mired in corruption the way NSW was.

  42. @Neil

    It’s patronising and inaccurate to invoke that as an issue in the case of well-educated men (and women) with strong left-wing positions, exposed to and sympathetic to the women’s movement since the 1960s, who give cogent reasons for their rejection of the policies of a female politician (in this case). That phenomenon, true as it is overall, does not affect the substantive left-wing case against the Gillard government’s (she is not solely responsible) egregious neo-conservative policies.

  43. @Ian Milliss

    Modern Labor is gutless, useless and unreformable. We need a real party of the Left. Even the Greens are neocon in economics, rabbiting on about sustainable budgets when they mean keeping the budget out of deficit even if unemployment is 5% and true labour untilisation more like 10%. The Overton Window is so far to the right, Malcolm Fraser ended up a “moderate”… when he could keep his trousers on. Go figure!

  44. @Ian Milliss

    Can you point to any male leftists who fit your bill – that is, criticise Gillard on gendered grounds, while disclaiming sexism? Or are you saying that any criticism of Gillard is automatically sexist?

    On the substantive point, to restate yet again, I’m not saying that Labor under Gillard is as bad as Abbott. I’m saying that Labor will lose under Gillard, whether we like it or not. So, while there was still time, I said they should change leaders*. Now that time has run out, I’m preparing for an Abbott government as best I can.

    * If she stood for something worth fighting for, I’d agree there was a case for sticking to her regardless of the electoral consequences. But, despite repeated requests, none of her supporters her have pointed to anything of this kind.

  45. @Ikonoclast
    Agree entirely about the Greens even though I will end up voting for them and preferencing Labor, the est we can hope for is an ALP that survives purely on Green preferences which push them at least on more progressive social issues.

    @John Quiggin
    I will immediately admit that is anecdotal through my left to centre left social circles where those sort of comments are all pervasive. And my social circle is big but mostly arts/cultural/political. But that also illustrates the Overton Window problem, the fact that any left wing commentary is limited to comparatively small audiences in the social media which so far are not really networked together, or at least not effectively enough to counter the wounded, and therefore even more dangerous, mass media.

  46. @ John Quiggin
    You started a discussion about the NBN by saying that Julia Gillard would be “nothing more than a bad memory” in a year’s time. Of which male Labor Prime Minister have you ever said such a thing? Seriously?
    I and a few other commentators on this thread argue that the Prime Minister who succeeded in getting a price in carbon ( which her predecessor couldn’t do) will not be seen this way by history. Her government also raised the tax free thresh-hold significantly (which is progressive) and reduced the PHI subsidy to higher income earners. They are also trying to improve equity in school funding, start the NDIS, and reduce superannuation subsidies to the very wealthy. From a left point of view, it’s not enough and there have been some blunders and areas where existing inequalities have been reinforced or extended (particularly asylum seekers and sole parents). However as I said, Julia Gillard is a negotiator. From a left wing perspective she has given away too much to the mining industry and right wing ideologues. Right wingers, however, say she has given too much to the greens/left. Either way, she has had some successes (particularly carbon price) where a confrontational approach hadn’t worked.
    To say she will be “nothing more than a bad memory” is not just a rhetorical flourish. It buys directly into the right wing attack that Fran Barlow has discussed, which is my great concern.
    Also BTW it seems that you have been strongly critical of quite a few Labor leaders. Would you agree that structural rather than individual issues may be the core problem?
    @ Fran Barlow
    I agree with your general analysis, though I still think there is a difference between Labor and Liberal – inequity will get worse under the Libs while Labor will at least try to prevent this. I wonder if part of the reason Victorians are more inclined to support Labor is that we experienced Jeff Kennett and we know what a right wing ideologue can do?
    I would suggest however that the reason a lot of people on this site can’t see that it is not just about Gillard as an individual, is because the right wing theme ‘she’s hopeless, she’s incompetent, she can’t do anything right and when she does it’s irrelevant’ buys into their existing unconscious sexism.

  47. @Ikonoclast
    And Oh how we long for a party of the left. But it would need from day one to develop a communication base entirely outside the mass media, in fact as the developing cliche goes it would need to develop a community rather than a party.

  48. @Ikonoclast

    I agree that there is a cogent case to be made against the Gillard government. I think what Fran said above had more than a grain of truth in it (as did you). I also agree with most, perhaps all, of JQ’s arguments against Gillard policies. Nevertheless the evidence is overwhelming that most people have negative implicit attitudes with regard to women, and the scope of most people includes well-educated people. You, for instance (most likely). Me too (I know for a fact). In Dasgupta’s phrase, implicit attitudes are an equal opportunity virus: you pick them up as consequence of living in a sexist environment (where “sexist” just means an environment in which the association between competency and masculinity is often reinforced). The evidence that we have such attitudes is absolutely indisputable. The evidence that they affect our perceptions of, say, policies, is strong, though somewhat weaker than the evidence for the existence of these attitudes. Again, the claim is only that they affect our perceptions, not that we ought to believe that our perceptions are utterly shaped by them.

    I encourage you to do an implicit associate test: they are sobering. If you do not have negative attitudes toward women, I congratulate you!

    https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/takeatest.html

  49. Btw lets clear up one area of apparent confusion. Bias does not mean that you have to criticize Gillard on gender grounds. It means that you are more critical of her than you would be of a male in similar circumstances. As Neil says, evidence that this kind of bias exists has been found through research such as blind testing, eg give people the same piece of writing ostensibly by a male or female author, and the female author gets a lower ranking.

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