Dog bites man: also, high income earners vote LNP

To read political commentary recently, in Australia and elsewhere, one would imagine that working-class voters have deserted Labor and other left parties en masse, and that these parties now depend on the votes of wealthy inhabitants of the inner city.

The Oz (not linked) has just down a breakdown of recent newspolls, which shows this to be pretty much the exact opposite of the the truth. Of course, being the Oz, this is given the negative spin that “Labor fails to win back the middle” (remember that in Ozspeak, and most political commentary, “middle” means “top”[1]. It’s also important to note that most of the discussion compares Labor to the sum of the Liberal and National Parties. This count the Greens, who are effectively part of a fractious left coalition, as well as centrist and right wing minor parties.

The key finding

The greatest margin in favour of the Coalition was among those with household incomes of between $100,000 and $150,000, with a split of 50 per cent to 28 per cent.

There was a similar picture among higher-income earners targeted by Labor’s class war on the wealthy — those earning household income of more than $150,000 — with the government holding a 21-point lead, 50 per cent to 29 per cent.

Under normal circumstances, this would be the ultimate “dog bites man” story. But, given the absurd state of political commentary, particularly from the Murdoch Press, it will come as a shock to many.

An unsurprising implication, given that high income earners tend to live close to the central business district is that the Liberal party holds most seats in these areas (archetypal examples are Kooyong and Higgins in Melbourne and Wentworth and Bennelong in Sydney, but the pattern extends to through the Eastern suburbs in both cities and the North Shore in Sydney). The exceptions are a handful of seats in formerly working class areas very close to the CBD, where a combination of gentrifying young professionals and the remainder of the old working class population vote for either Labor or the Greens (Albanese’s seat of Grayndler for example).

Again, for anyone who paid attention to the outcome of the election rather than the spin put out by (for example), Blue Labor, there would be no surprises here.

Burning the surplus

Scott Morrison’s total paralysis in the face of the bushfire emergency gave rise to the most convincing excuse for his recent disappearance – he wasn’t doing anything anyway, so why shouldn’t he go?

Part of his problem is that any serious discussion of the problem involves climate change, and even one pull on that thread would risk unravelling the shroud of deception he and the rest of the right are sheltering beneath.

But surely Scotty from Marketing could come up with a campaign that appeared to take action on the bushfires themselves without doing anything about the underlying cause. There’s another factor that hasn’t been mentioned, as far as I can see.

What credibility the government has is tied to its claim that this is the year we will return to surplus for good. The mid-year outlook makes this pretty shaky, projecting a $5 billion surplus this year and $6 billion next year.

The economic impact of the fires is going to be at least as big as that, and the cost of a comprehensive program to respond to them even more. Property damage must be well into the billions (for comparison, the 2011 floods in Queensland were estimated to cost $10 billion), and the loss of business, particularly in tourism, much more than that.

Think of what would be needed for a basic program responding to the new normal (that is, normal, until things get even worse in the future). That includes payment of volunteer firefighters, massive new purchases of firefighting equipment, reequipping the defence forces to make them more useful in emergencies like this, and replacing damaged public infrastructure. It’s obvious that $5 billion a year would be little more than a down payment.

Until this particular element of reality penetrates Scott and Josh’s bubble, nothing serious will be done.

Open forum for climate denialism

Following some recent discussions, I decided to relax my usual policy of banning climate denialists. So, I’m opening a forum where anyone who thinks they have something useful to contribute on the topic. Some rules

  • Real names only, no pseudonyms. If you have something to say on this topic, own it.
  • If your point is on this list, don’t bother making it.
  • For the moment, only climate science arguments, not policy claims like “Australia only contributes 1 per cent”.

Initially, at least I’d prefer to leave the field open to sceptics/deniers. The rest of us can have our say a bit later.

To prevent spam/trolling etc all posts from new contributors will be moderated.

Mainstream media remains quiet on Scott Morrison's untimely holiday

That’s the title of my latest column in Independent Australia, which came out on Thursday. The news has just come in that Morrison is to curtail his trip and return home. Strikingly, it was the lead headline on news outlets, including the ABC, Guardian, and Fairfax/Nine that failed to report Morrison’s absence for days, then buried the news in stories leading with other topics.

All of that led me to some ill-tempered Twitter exchanges (the usual kind of Twitter exchange, I guess) with a variety of journos, including Lenore Taylor and Katharine Murphy, who gave equivocal denials that the PM’s Office had ordered their papers not to report to the trip, before closing the discussion, and declining further comment.

The core of the problem, I think, is that I’ve given up on Labor. Hoping for the Greens to replace them as the major left party may be forlorn, but it’s more likely, in my view, than that Labor will propose a policy remotely appropriate to the crisis we face.

But that’s not a tenable position of you want to be a political correspondent for a major newspaper. You can back one or other of the major parties, or be neutral between them, but you can’t suggest an alternative to the existing system. This piece by Katharine Murphy makes the best of the case for pushing Labor to improve, but it doesn’t convince me.

It’s already been stated that Labor won’t proposed anything to limit coal exports, which are Australia’s biggest contribution to the global climate disaster. Even achieving a 45 per cent reduction on 2005 emissions, as proposed in the last campaign will require much sharper policies than could have been applied if Labor had won, especially if we rule out accounting cheats.

A hypothetical Albanese government will be starting in 2022, with three more years of rising emissions outside the electricity sector. We’ll need organised shutdown of coal-fired power, a massive investment in renewables, reforestation of land cleared under Coalition lawa a government-driven electrification of the coal fleet. Does that sound like Albo to you.

About the only way this could happen is if the Greens somehow give Labor such a scare that they stop worrying about a handful of seats in coal-mining areas and start worrying about losing the great mass of their supporters. Giving Labor the benefit of the doubt is the worst thing we can do,

Total failure

The country is on fire. And:

  • The PM disappears overseas. His supporters spin the fact that it’s only his second overseas holiday this year (not second holiday, or second largely recreational OS trip)
  • The media are ordered not to report the fact, or even that we have an acting PM. Compliance is near-total until Twitter outrage puts the issue into the international press
  • Tory-fighter Albanese gives Morrison a free pass. Still hasn’t pushed the government on link to climate change. Would rather bash the Greens over ancient history disputes.

If there has ever been a more comprehensive failure of our political class, I’m not aware of it.

The system works, now and then

Among other activities, I write or sign on to, lots of emails to business leaders and others, protesting against environmental failures, abuses of workers rights and so on. Occasionally that contributes to a win, but hardly ever do I get reply.

I recently wrote to the CEO of Siemens, , protesting against the decision of the Australian branch of the business to work with Adani on rail signalling systems for the rail line to the destructive Carmichael mine. I was quite surprise to get a response, as follows:

Dear all,

Thank you for your mails addressing your concerns on Siemens delivering rail infrastructure for the Adani project in Australia.
I have not been aware of the matter until most recently. Likely given the relatively very small number of the rail signaling business associated with it. But maybe I should have. 
I take your concerns seriously and will look into the matter diligently. This may or may not change Siemens’ view and decision, but all of you who have respectfully spoken up on the matter deserve at least an answer and an explanation.

I will get back to you in due time.
Thank you again for speaking up.

Sincerely,
Joe Kaeser 

I was quite surprised to see a global business like Siemens risking its reputation for such a small deal, especially given the high probability that the deal will fall through, either because the whole project is abandoned or because Adani repeats the longstanding pattern of stiffing its partners. I plan to point this out in a return email.