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Are conservatives irrelevant in the 21st century?

1 Feb

irrelevantThe extraordinary Queensland election result saw former LNP Premier Campbell Newman lose his seat, and the ALP chuck an unprecedented Lazarus and rise, as gobsmacked as was anybody looking on, from its cold political grave. Newman’s government lasted just one term, after the largest win in political history by his party left the Queensland ALP with just seven seats. Now the voters have seriously turned. You could not make this stuff up.

In November, Victorians threw out their LNP government, also after only one term, and returned the ALP to power.

In NSW we have an election in March, and LNP Premier Mike Baird is likely apprehensive.

It’s early days, but what seems apparent at first blush is that increasingly, Australians don’t care for the conservative method of governance. In general, we don’t take to entitled, privileged bullies fattening themselves and their besties at the taxpayer trough while simultaneously stripping us of public assets, and grinding into the dirt those who can least afford any further grinding. Unrestrained self-interest does not go down well with the Australian public, it would seem.

Neither do we take to blatant liars in our governments, nor to arrogant, dismissive leaders who think power means they never have to explain, and account for their actions.

As all of the above traits are endemic in the current conservative personality, and as the voters aren’t willing to tolerate them for longer than one term, the LNP state and federal may well be looking at some time in the wilderness of opposition, having had a brief and turbulent taste of their utter lack of relevance to 21st century Australians.

The ALP ought not to become over-confident. All too often the party has shown an alarming tendency to go along with what are essentially conservative ideas, to the point where many of us have fallen prey to  a chronic despair that has expressed itself in the phrase “There’s no bloody difference between the two major parties.” There’d better be a bloody difference, and if ALP politicians state and federal have any sense, they will be taking a good look at resurrecting the party’s core values, and listening hard to what voters are telling them.

Increasingly, voters appear to be willing to give governments only one chance. Till very recently, our attitude was to give them a second go in a second term. We seem to be on the cusp of a significant change in that attitude. This may well have to do with retribution. If our major parties don’t give so many of us a fair go, why the bloody hell should we extend that generosity to them?

For mine, it would be a great advancement if politicians were as a first principle capable of remembering their job is to serve the people, and not the other way round. I don’t know how many arses need to get hit by the door on the way out before they grasp that fundamental article of their job description.

 

 

 

The Credlin thing.

29 Jan

Credlin & Abbott Two

 

I don’t get all this Murdoch-inspired hoo haa about Peta Credlin, the Prime Minister’s embattled Chief of Staff.

Ms Credlin has been in the spotlight ever since her boss was Opposition Leader.

Remember how her IVF journey was so thoroughly manipulated as to become “evidence” for Abbott’s “compassion” for women?  Ms Credlin gave generous media interviews about this most personal of experiences, and never once mentioned her partner in the journey, her husband, Brian Loughnane. Instead, it was entirely about how her boss was helping her by keeping her eggs in his fridge. I can’t think of any other situation that compares, in which a Chief of Staff so publicly reveals her or his private life for the sole purpose of  helping her or his boss win an election.

It was Abbott’s apparent unpopularity with women voters that provoked the Credlin IVF pieces. It was intended to portray him as a softie with the ladies, as was hauling out his three daughters who giggled on cue about their lovely churchy dad.

I may have a limited imagination, but I find it hard to visualise a male chief of staff being so forthcoming as was Credlin  about his personal life, in order to make his boss more popular with the voters.

It therefore makes a kind of bizarre sense that when things go as badly wrong as they have for Abbott, ridding himself of Credlin is seen as the first move that might lead to some kind of improvement. It won’t, of course, because the man is beyond all help, but they have to try something as they aren’t ready to replace him. Yet. May they continue not to be. He is the ALP’s best asset.

As far as Ms Credlin is concerned, the situation sucks. She obviously isn’t responsible for the numerous outstandingly appalling decisions the Abbott government has attempted to inflict on an electorate that trusted them to behave in entirely different ways. It is, of course, impossible to know what her input has been into these decisions, nevertheless, Abbott has taken them, and being above Ms Credlin in the chain of command, is entirely responsible for them. With great power cometh great responsibility.

There was a period in which Ms Credlin and Mr Abbott were photographed so frequently together on occasions when one would have expected Mrs Abbott to be at her husband’s side rather than his Chief of Staff, that prurient speculation as to the nature of their relationship was rife. It has today been suggested that Mr Abbott is “psychologically dependent” on Ms Credlin. (That link may be paywalled, but it may not. I did my best). Psychological dependency on another person can be a problem, especially for a political leader. It can cloud his or her judgement, and lead him or her to become deafened to other points of view.

We cannot, of course, escape the gender issue in this latest government drama. Is Ms Credlin easier to scapegoat because she’s a woman? It was her gender that was exploited in Abbott’s election campaign, and nobody much complained about it then, least of all Ms Credlin. Female gender was exploited to gain Abbott votes. Female gender will be exploited again if it is considered to be a factor in losing Abbott votes.

When a man is an idiot, blaming the woman behind and beside him is a common default position. There is in our culture a pervasive belief that women are responsible for controlling men in almost every situation one can think of, and this belief could well be at work in the Credlin situation. Of course, we women aren’t and can’t be responsible for what men do, and the sooner we all divest ourselves of that mythology the better.

I have suddenly remembered footage of Wendi Deng hurling herself in front of her then husband Rupert Murdoch at the News of the World hacking hearings, when somebody attempted to assault him with a cream pie. Sometimes we ladies are our own worst enemies.

 

 

 

 

 

Abbott admits he’s wasting 4.3 million taxpayer dollars.

26 Jan

 

 

Abbott on frugality

 

This, today from a Prime Minister who spends 4.3 million of taxpayer dollars monitoring social media, and employing spin doctors to “offer strategic communications advice” from the information gleaned:

I’ll leave social media to its own devices [said Abbott today]. Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media,” Mr Abbott said. You wouldn’t report what’s sprayed up on the walls of buildings…

In spite of that 4.3 million taxpayer dollars’ worth of strategic communication advice, in spite of the iron control reportedly exerted over the PM by Chief of Staff Peta Credlin, Abbott continues to make the most astounding, cringe-worthy gaffes that stretch all credulity, and nobody wants him anywhere near them.

So it would seem the spin doctors and Ms Credlin are catastrophically useless at their jobs, because just when you think Abbott can’t get anymore bizarre, he goes and smashes all his previous records of stupid.

If Credlin and the strategic communications advisors were employed by anyone other than the LNP government they’d be sacked. I wonder how any of them will ever find alternative employment, given their unbroken record of spectacular failure with the Prime Minister.

Please do leave social media to its own devices, Mr Abbott, and stop wasting our money on monitoring it to see what it’s saying about you. It’s never anything good, you can be sure of that. How many millions of our dollars do you need to spend to find out what an absolute fool we think you are?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. No matter how many dollars and spin doctors  you throw at it, you just can’t. A pig’s ear is a pig’s ear and right now, on Australia Day 2015, we have a pig’s ear in charge.

(I suppose I should say sorry to pigs, who are really pretty smart animals.)

(Which Tony Abbott is not. A smart animal, that is.)

Pigs can fly

Family Violence. Where’s THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN?

26 Jan

I can’t help wondering what Prime Minister Tony Abbott, also known as THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN, thought and felt when he announced as Australian of the Year the most outstanding advocate for women and children I’ve heard in a very long time, Rosie Batty.

Ms Batty’s son Luke was brutally murdered by his father, a man with history of serious violence towards his family. Their story is at the worst end of the family violence continuum, as are many others.

That we even have the phrase “family violence” in our lexicon, with the most appalling statistics to justify its existence, ought to be a matter of serious concern for THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN, whose responsibility it surely is to give political backup and practical support to people like Rosie Batty, who shouldn’t have to work as she has without a word of encouragement from the LEADER OF THIS GREAT NATION AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN, TONY ABBOTT.

Somehow, in the brief time since Luke was murdered by his father, Ms Batty has garnered the strength and courage to campaign with vigour and a resounding authenticity, against family violence. No voice could be more convincing than hers on this topic at this point in time.

While the “king hitting” of  a handful of young men brings out Abbott’s anger and righteous indignation, as does the threat of terrorism and the horrible, unspeakable, spine chilling crime of asylum seekers breaching the sovereignty of our borders; as the thrilling notion of going to war, some war, somewhere, anywhere, for whatever reason causes the bedraggled budgie in the Prime Minister’s rapidly fraying smugglers to sluggishly stir, the slaughter and suffering of women and children in our own backyard goes unaddressed  by THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN, in fact he NEVER EVEN MENTIONS IT! 

I can’t imagine any other minister NEVER EVEN MENTIONING the topic of his portfolio. Can you?

Rosie Batty. Woman of calibre. Salute.

Rosie and Luke

Rosie and Luke

Australia: a country of vengeful malcontents

24 Jan

 

wall-of-hate

In this piece titled “Manus Island: what will it take to shock us?” Julian Burnside, barrister and refugee advocate, gives a powerful synopsis of the cruelty the Australian public is prepared to tolerate its governments inflicting on asylum seekers, in the crazed collective desire to “stop the boats” and protect the country’s “sovereign borders.”

The answer to Mr Burnside’s question is, of course, that the only thing that will shock anyone at this point is a government that is prepared to cease and desist from using asylum seekers as human fodder in election campaigns. We have reached the stage in this matter where the only possibility for provoking shock is decent behaviour.

The contempt in which the Australian public holds asylum seekers who arrive here by boat is sickening. As has been noted on other occasions, we treat people who are far more threatening to us individually and collectively much better than we treat unarmed people seeking sanctuary who travel here by boat. The unexamined hatred, prejudice, loathing and contempt directed towards asylum seekers, chillingly orchestrated by political leaders of both major parties, is mind numbing, and it has numbed the minds of the Australian public in general to the degree that many believe we aren’t harsh enough. 60% of Australians, according to a poll conducted in September 2014, (see link) believe we are not treating waterborne asylum seekers badly enough.

From a psychological perspective, this leads me to believe that we are a nation of desperately unhappy, dissatisfied people who for many reasons, some of them undeniably sound, live with a sense of profound grievance that has to negatively express itself towards somebody and something. I draw this conclusion because people who are living lives in which they find satisfaction and enjoyment at least some of the time, are not inclined to desire the persecution of others, let alone bay for blood like rabid wolves because a few thousand stateless persons have turned up looking for sanctuary.

Regrettably, it would seem that these miserably vengeful Australians are in the majority, and one has to ask, why is this so? What has gone so awry in this lucky country that so many of us need to take out our apparently endemic discontent on the helpless and the vulnerable? Because it is not only asylum seekers towards whom this loathing is directed, although they are the extreme example of its concrete manifestation at this moment in time. In reality, any individual and group that can be defined as less than what the miserable majority  consider the “norm” are targeted for persecution in some way, and our politicians lead the ranting, bloodthirsty, vengeful pack.

“Fair go” is a principle inherent in the Australian “character?” My arse it is. My arse it ever has been. If it was, we would not have politicians who seek election and re-election on the backs of the most vulnerable in the first place, because it wouldn’t win them votes.

What will it take for us to be shocked? Common sense and decency in our political leaders. That’s what it will take to shock us. Don’t hold your breath. Neither of those things is coming to a marketplace near you anytime soon.

This blog on The Monthly on conditions on Manus as reported by workers there is well worth a read. Thanks to Robyn here for the link.

 

 

Tony Abbott, horses mid stream and musical chairs

23 Jan

Changing horses mid stream

 

I’m most interested to see what the LNP do with Prime Minister Tony Abbott come the next federal election. He’s been conspicuously absent in recent state election campaigns, presumably because nobody thinks he can do them any kind of good with his presence. So what on earth will his party do with its leader when we troop off to vote for our country’s next government?

Abbott subjected himself to some self-harm yesterday as he argued his case for the dangers involved in changing leaders during a government’s first term. Citing the epic game of musical chairs played by the ALP government during the Julia Gillard – Kevin Rudd leadership saga, Abbott expressed the opinion that it’s certain death to switch horses mid-stream. His party has the sense to know this, he believes, and so his leadership is secure. The country can go to the dogs and the less well-off can struggle and starve, but hey, I’m secure in my job, folks.

I know I’ve mixed metaphors, but I sort of like the image of chairs, music, dogs, streams and horses in the middle of them. It makes as much sense as anything else in our politics.

It’s hard to imagine that changing leaders could do the LNP government any more harm than staying with the one they’ve got. I suspect many people would be hugely relieved and congratulate them on their common sense if they took that step.

The dangers of succumbing to the idée fixe that because it was so damaging for the ALP to change leaders it will be equally damaging for the LNP, are many. They include an ignorance of the significance of context: the two situations are quite different in the broad perspective, the  perspective that is most apparent to voters. Rudd was an extremely popular leader who was to all appearances ousted unjustly and in a manner that outraged much of the electorate. Practically everyone has some grievance against Abbott, and many just hate him because he is.

There may be similarities in the in-house view, the view apparent to political tragics rather than more broadly, of party discontent with a leader who is perceived as out of touch and chaotic, and perhaps even a tad despotic, if leaks of discontent are anything to go by. There’s an enlightening piece on these matters by Paula Matthewson here.

What we see at the moment is a leader who appears increasingly weakened by strife, both endogenous and exogenous. Tony Abbott never seems less than strained. As we used to say when we lived on Bougainville Island, we have two seasons, wet and wetter and so it is with Abbott, he is strained and more strained, but I don’t believe I’ve seen the man comfortable with himself since his days in opposition when he raged across the table at the Labor government.

For mine, they should let him keep his job. The ALP needs all the help it can get, and Tony Abbott has to be one of the opposition’s best helpers.

If Abbott gave a stuff about anyone other than himself, he’d step down, citing ill -health or some other face-saving gibberish, and give his party a better chance at a second term. Otherwise, come the next election campaign they’re going to have to lock him in a cellar till it’s over, because the man mostly nauseates everyone, as far as I can tell.

 

 

Cruelty is the worst policy

20 Jan

 

Amnesty Poster

 

In general, it’s always seemed to me that when governments or individuals take an increasingly hard, harsh and inhumane stand on an issue it’s a clear signal that they’ve actually lost the battle, and are on their way to losing the war.

In a political sense, I’m thinking of the current situation in detention facilities on Manus Island. New Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is promising to maintain Scott Morrison’s “hard-line” against asylum seekers who have resorted to self-harm and protest, methods which are, in reality, their only means of expression, as the Australian government has virtually denied them access to legal process and natural justice.

This hard-line against asylum seekers protesting their fate began in Woomera and Baxter detention centres in 1999, at the instigation of the Howard LNP government. It was maintained by the ALP governments led by Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. Sixteen years of both major parties taking a hard-line against waterborne asylum seekers has achieved absolutely nothing any of us can be proud of, and it won’t.

Similarly, the hard-line threatened by the Abbott government against the young unemployed that will see them starving and homeless as they are denied benefits for six months will achieve nothing any of us can be proud of, and will ruin lives for a very long time and likely permanently.

Taking a hard-line is very rarely necessary, and very rarely useful. A hard-line shouldn’t be the default position. Instead negotiation, mediation, conversation, and communication are civilised and humane methods of approaching difficulties. When all else fails, by all means try the hard-line, but to do this first is cruel and inhumane, and shows a lack of intelligence, imagination and skill.

Human beings have a tremendous capacity for good will and understanding. It’s a great shame our leaders don’t value this capacity, and instead believe our strength lies in brutality. It doesn’t. It never has and it never will. All cruelty springs from weakness, as the philosopher Seneca noted.

If governments and individuals are too weak and cowardly to sit across a table from other human beings in an effort to resolve difference and difficulty, they will inevitably resort to cruelty of one kind or another. Ignoring another human being in need is just as cruel as taking direct and punitive action against him or her. There are countless stories of asylum seekers achieving success and making considerable contributions to Australian society when they are given the opportunity. Instead we destroy them because our governments believe the destruction of human lives and human potential demonstrates political strength and determination.

Peter Dutton may well congratulate himself for emulating Scott Morrison’s abhorrent tactics against those legally seeking asylum in Australia. But emulating a bully is no great achievement. Australian governments have for sixteen years now proved themselves to be capable only of bullying behaviour towards human beings in the greatest distress and need, be they asylum seekers or their own citizens. Cruelty is not a strength. It is the most appalling, base and destructive weakness.

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