Tag Archives: carbon tax

The Greens’ great moral challenge

15 Jul

I keep coming across comments such as this one from Zareh Ghazarian, Monash School of Political and Social Inquiry, in a piece in The Conversation today on the carbon tax legislation:

Indeed, even if Mr Abbott was to win the next election his government would presumably have to negotiate with the Greens in the Senate to dismantle the policy. At the moment, this would appear to be an almost impossible outcome.

The situation is that should Abbott attempt to dismantle the carbon tax policy and the Senate twice resist these attempts, Abbott has threatened a double dissolution. Bob Brown has already given a “rolled gold guarantee” that  the Greens will oppose any attempts by the Coalition to rescind the legislation, so a double dissolution looks likely.

In the event of such an outcome, all Senate seats are up for grabs. What are the chances of the Greens re-gaining the balance of power in a double dissolution election? I’m no expert but gut feelings say I doubt it.

What a moral challenge for the Greens! To capitulate to Abbott’s demands to rescind the carbon tax, avoid an election and thus maintain their balance of power, or to thwart Abbott’s will and risk losing Senate seats.

And then there’s this statement in the same post:

While the government has been down in the opinion polls, there are two years until the next election is due. Time is on the government’s side.

Well, yes, as long as there aren’t any by-elections. The government can’t afford to rest in the belief that time is in on its side. It may very well not be. The government can’t afford to plan as if it has two full years in which to persuade the public to accept the carbon tax. It may very well not have, in the event of adverse circumstances.

Beware the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune!

While Kevin Rudd apparently lacked the bottle to call a double dissolution in 2010, it’s a safe bet that Abbott won’t be as timid. We can only keep our fingers crossed that the angels are watching over the government, that all misfortune is held at bay, and that nobody does anything stupid and has to resign.

Brown’s “rolled gold guarantee” has pretty much committed his party to a course of action that could well see them undone. Unless they do a backflip like everyone else does, and then they really will have come of age in Australian politics.

It’s all about Julia. Nostalgia, trust and fear

15 Jul

There’s a member of our household we affectionately call Mrs Chook, for reasons none of us now remember. Mrs Chook is central to everybody’s emotional well being as she is generally unfailingly just and fair, and takes a reasoned position on matters some of us might get rather too het up about. She’s also broadly supportive of the Carbon Tax, and is gently critical of my attitude to Julia Gillard.

So imagine my astonishment when last night watching the ABC news clip of Julia’s speech at the Press Club, the bit where she got all choked up, Mrs Chook yelled: “For God’s sake, it’s not all about you!”

We have two dogs visiting while their humans are overseas. These dogs leapt up from their fireside spots in anger and fear at the tone in her voice, as did the Dog who lives here all the time. I stared at Mrs Chook until I could manage a feeble “What?”

“I’m sick of it,” she yelled, getting up off the couch with great energy, and striding into the kitchen.

“Sick of what? Sick of what, tell me, tell me,” I begged as a scurried after her, my world rocked.

“Haven’t you ever noticed? She always says ‘I.’ I have done this, I have done that I will do this, I will do that! Right back when she took over what did she say then?”

I opened my mouth but Mrs Chook wasn’t interested.

“She said ‘I have taken over,’ I I I. What about the bloody government? What about everybody else, all those people, some of them actually good, who do so much bloody hard work and it’s always I! She isn’t a bloody President! What has she got against saying ‘we?’  Or ‘The government?’ Why is it always about her?”

I take this outburst as a bad omen for the government. If someone as fair and rational as Mrs Chook gets this fed up, anything can happen.

Julia became nostalgic at the Press Club for where she came from, the school she attended, and her first win when working at the law firm Slater and Gordon. I’ve noticed that when things in the present are difficult and testing it’s a fairly normal human reaction to become nostalgic, and yearn for a time that in retrospect, and compared with the shit field one is currently attempting to negotiate, looks rosy and comforting and is one to which one longs to return.

The ABC rather cruelly titled their clip “Real Julia.” However, we did get a glimpse of the real Julia in that emotional slip. Unfortunately, and this is what so aggravated Mrs Chook it seems, the emotion was all about her.

Tony Abbott is very good at manufacturing fear, he learnt it from John Howard who learnt it from Goebbels. Yo! Godwin’s Law already!

Abbott has fertile ground – in general Australians have become (have always been?) a fearful people, controlled by catastrophic expectations that create a free floating and irrational anxiety about what could happen to us if…

This fear of catastrophe is apparently unassailable. Reason and logic stand no chance against it. It dominates the public and private  imagination, and people look to governments to protect them and assuage their fears.

The public doesn’t want governments offering challenging vision and the excitement of change.  The public wants things safe and ordinary.

In general we live in a mindset of scarcity, rather than abundance. No matter how good things are for us in comparison with the rest of the world,  we worry that it might get worse soon. This causes an inability to empathise with anyone who is not in our immediate circle of concern. That circle can be very small, and as fear takes hold it will inevitably shrink further.

We live in a culture of constructed vulnerability and this creates a diminished sense of agency. There are experts in every aspect of human life, telling us what we should do and how we should do it. Even the most common sense matters must be subjected to expert research in order to be validated, in fact common sense has been so thoroughly discredited as a human value it barely counts any more.

As a consequence we increasingly perceive ourselves as passive subjects who must be protected from walking too close to the edge of a cliff as we are incapable of judging for ourselves when we’re in danger. Somebody in authority has to tell us and put up a fence. This constructed powerlessness makes us angry, frustrated and incompetent. We can’t trust ourselves, the dominant culture tells us. We must be regulated for our own good not to take risks.

Enter the LNP. Only too happy to tell us the danger we are in, and only too happy to offer us the solutions. Abbott and his cronies are whipping up a perfect storm. The government’s popularity is in the death zone. Gillard has a major trust issue with the public, and has ever since she took over the leadership. Abbott would not be nearly so successful if the ALP had a leader the public trusted a good deal more than it trusts Gillard. In this sense, the ALP did the groundwork for Abbott, and he’s used classic propaganda techniques to run with it. The public is ready and waiting, prepped by learned helplessness to follow the one who apparently offers security and freedom from fear.

“It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success,” Goebbels wrote, and Howard, with his propaganda war on asylum seekers that led to his re-election, brilliantly demonstrated this. Abbott watched and learned.

This is not the time for the PM to get personal with us about herself. That moment is long gone. Mrs Chook has a point. There is an entire government there. We need to be hearing from many more members of it. Gillard will do herself no favours getting emotional about her personal history at this point. Abbott is conducting a vigorous propaganda campaign against her and against the government, and he’s succeeding. While it’s two years till the next election, there could be a by election at any time. The government doesn’t have the luxury of thinking it’s got time on its side. The threat of an Abbott-led government is constant.

Now there’s a catastrophic expectation, if anybody’s looking for one.

“From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

Would you buy a carbon tax from this woman?

12 Jul

Back when we were friends

With a primary vote of 27% in today’s Newspoll, the ALP with Julia Gillard at the helm is sinking faster than a leaky SIEV. The poll was taken before the carbon tax roadshow began in earnest on Sunday, and we have yet to discover whether that will make things better or worse.

Gillard’s promise to keep on  explaining for as long as it takes struck terror into my heart, but when I remembered that I’m still the boss of the remote I felt better.

A new tax must be the hardest thing for any government to sell to the electorate, but when you’re a government with figures in the death zone, you’re well and truly up against it.

I watched a little of Q&A last night, with Gillard as the sole panelist. I did note that the PM appears to have taken some criticisms of her vocal style to heart: the trademark drone seemed less likely to induce narcolepsy in the listener, and that unfortunate habit of repeating a few words over and over and over and over and over and over…well, that wasn’t quite as in evidence, though I admit I only watched for ten minutes or so.

So with those improvements why did I still switch off?

There’s no logical answer to that. It’s visceral. I cannot listen to or watch this woman, anymore than I could listen to and watch that rabid anti pornographer Gail Dines, albeit for different reasons. Gillard come to us with a dark history, one that does not necessarily reflect on the substance of the current carbon tax, but one that seriously reflects on the morality (or lack of it) that has dogged this debate within the ALP. Then there’s the wider circumstances of Gillard’s ascension to the leadership.

Just how much this bloody history will interfere with Gillard’s selling of the carbon tax remains to be seen, but it’s not looking good. In what sounded a little too much like desperation, Bob Brown the other day acknowledged that the PM is a “brilliant negotiater.” This may well be so, but those skills are not evident in public, so aren’t going to do her much good. Selling is not negotiating, and requires a different skill set if it’s going to be successful.

Gillard hasn’t successfully sold herself as a credible leader. Her party didn’t manage a mandate. What she apparently does have in spades is a blind determination to keep going no matter what. This is not always a positive attribute. As the wise ones tells us, real wisdom is knowing when to fight and when to lay down arms and accept that it’s over. There is little more pathetic than someone who does not recognise when their time is up. John Howard is a good example of overstaying one’s welcome, when at the end of his reign he just would not go, no matter who begged him to bugger off.

Granted, for the ALP to change leaders again at this point would seem on the face of it suicidal. But perhaps it could just work, if Gillard co-operated and graciously stood down and no blood was spilt. What have they got to lose, one wonders? Gillard signifies nothing positive or good. And that’s the problem. What she signifies cannot be overcome by any amount of negotiating talent or selling skills.

All political parties should take note: short term measures that seem like a good idea at the time, such as dumping the PM overnight without warning anybody, can have long term and disastrous effects.

It is an elementary fallacy that to conclude that because in a democracy politicians represent the people therefore politicians are representative people. The closed-off life of the typical politician is much like life in a military caste, or in the Mafia, or in Kurosawa’s bandit gangs. One commences one’s career at the bottom of the ladder, running errands and spying; when one has proved one’s loyalty and obedience and readiness to endure ritual humiliations, one is blooded into the gang proper; thereafter one’s first duty is to the gang leader. J.M.Coetzee, Diary of a Bad Year.

Gillard is a politician and nothing else. She doesn’t represent anything non-politicians can identify with. We can’t connect with her in any real human way. This isn’t to say she isn’t human and humane, but those aspects of her character are obliterated by her carefully contrived  political persona. Hence the “real” Julia campaign, doomed to failure from the start because anyone who says they’re being real now when they weren’t before has a profound credibility problem that isn’t going to go away.

Gillard’s had a “closed-off life,” and she isn’t representative of anyone outside of the political arena. But where she so dramatically breaks away from Coetzee’s depressing assessment of politicians is that she abandoned her first duty to her gang leader and overthrew him. The combination of the closed-off life and treachery at that level is a killer. The childish wish to put those unfortunate events behind her and move forward has not been granted. No matter what else she does, she will always be remembered first for the night she took down Kevin Rudd.

For Gillard, like so many of our politicians on all sides,it’s all about them and it’s all about their party allegiances. It’s not about us. It’s not about the people they’re elected to represent. Coetzee’s right. Representative democracy is an elementary fallacy, and nobody demonstrates that as well as Julia Gillard.




Rudd cancels party; pot calls kettle black, and it’s all good for the mad monk

20 Jun

This time last year, freshly ousted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised a “first anniversary of my knifing” party for his then staffers.

As the anniversary looms there’s entirely unsurprising and rabid media interest in the proposed gathering, causing the now Foreign Minister to cancel the event for fear of damage to his front lawn, and because of former staffers’ natural reluctance to run the gauntlet of television lights and media exposure to celebrate the occasion with Kev.

However, there should be some formal acknowledgement of this anniversary. After all, the circumstances were unprecedented and historic. Never before have we seen a first term PM chucked out by his party. While insiders may have been aware that something was going down, the event seems to have taken the majority of the media and most of the general population entirely by surprise.

Ever since that spectacle Rudd, a solitary essence, has  haunted the ALP and parliament, inconsolable and unforgiving as the undead. To the degree that we now have such ex luminaries as former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie calling for Rudd to move quietly to the back benches, and then quietly disappear.

This is further proof, if further proof was required, of the ALP’s endemic weakness for magical thinking. The “Rudd fading into obscurity ship” has long since sailed, if indeed, it ever got off the slips.

There have also been calls for Gillard to sack Rudd. But on what grounds? The man is performing well in his job. While his undermining of the Gillard government is as effective as a tribe of white ants secretly gnawing away at the timbers of a Queenslander house, Rudd’s mission is accomplished through innuendo, not the kind of direct attack that could be used as a justification for throwing him out.

And how is it possible to sack an elected representative for giving interviews about how he felt when they threw him out of his job?

Now we have the extraordinary situation of 60% of voters backing Rudd as preferred PM, while a dismal 31% back the woman who replaced him.

Somewhere in the last couple of days I came across an article in which Karl Bitar lamented that at the time of Rudd’s ousting, the ALP did not take sufficient advantage of a golden opportunity to explain to the electorate just how “odd” Rudd is. Had we known Bitar seems to believe we would have been far more accepting of the coup, and joined with Gillard and the faceless men who engineered it, in rejoicing at our liberation from the odd.

Bitar calls Rudd odd? Pot and kettle, anyone?

In the meantime, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott must be overwhelmed by the ammunition regularly supplied to him by the ALP to help him shoot them down. They never disappoint him. They’re always there when he needs them.  Now he wants a $69 million carbon tax plebiscite, telling  ABC’s AM program this morning: “I want the Australian people to have a direct say about the biggest economic change in our history. This is the vote the Prime Minister didn’t allow us to have at the last election. I want this to happen.”

Whether or not Abbott can succeed with his plebiscite proposal is as yet unclear. What he will succeed in immediately achieving is the further aggravation of discontent amongst a great many people who are outraged at the prospect of the carbon tax, especially in view of Gillard’s promise when she took over from Rudd that she wasn’t going to introduce one.

The manner of Gillard’s ascension to the top job caused considerable upheaval in an electorate that might not have been enamoured with Rudd at that particular moment in time, but was certainly not ready to have others chuck him out without consultation. Many of us got off on the wrong foot with Gillard, so to speak. Since then, the ALP has not managed to hold onto any ground they might have initially gained.

This certainly isn’t all down to Rudd. Getting rid of him isn’t going to help, in fact it’s likely to make matters even worse. Rudd is more popular than the PM. Why would anyone in their right minds think that sacking him on what could only be extremely tenuous and dubious grounds, be anything other than another desperate act of self-destruction for the ALP?

The man has too much public sympathy. They might as well have him cast in bronze as a holy martyr, while the mad monk becomes more and more convinced of his divine right to rule.

Gillard’s premature enunciations

17 Jun

The Gillard government’s announcement of its plan to spend 12 million taxpayer dollars on an advertising campaign to sell the carbon tax  beggars belief.

The carbon tax is by no means a done deal. The multi party committee on climate change may not arrive at a consensus. The proposed carbon tax may not progress to the legislative process. The Independents without whom Gillard cannot function are enraged, both by the proposed advertising campaign, and the presumption of their compliance upon which it is based.

Informing these key players just one hour prior to making the plan public would seem to be yet another unwisely arrogant move. While in itself it will probably not affect the Independents’ committment to the negotiations, the move does imply a degree of government contempt for the process, and an assumption that the decision is already in the bag.

Perhaps one of the motives behind this bizarre campaign to sell something that does not yet exist, is a hope that if the public can somehow be convinced by the mere announcement of this campaign that it’s a certainty, the multi party committee will be forced by public opinion to reach the consensus the government wants. Independent Tony Windsor said the advertising decision bordered ”on asking us to endorse publicly funded propaganda”.

This type of tortured magical thinking is quite characteristic of the Gillard government, from the day twelve months ago when it became the Gillard government up until now. Think the East Timor solution, the Malaysia solution, and the carbon tax Gillard was never going to introduce till she changed her mind about it.

Gillard’s assumption that the carbon tax outcome is so certain that the government can already commit 12 million dollars to explaining it is mind-boggling, anyway you look at it, and everyone is scrabbling to find a rational explanation for the move.

Gillard has acquired a reputation for putting the cart before the horse. She did not consult with East Timor before assuming their willingness to take our cast off refugees. The Malaysian solution was announced way before those negotiations were settled, indeed they are on going, and we have no idea what that outcome will be. Now she wants to sell a carbon tax that does not yet exist. Isn’t that false advertising?

Although Gillard appears outwardly calm and in control, her consistently premature and inappropriate announcements reveal an underlying profound anxiety and lack of control. She continues to indulge in premature enunciations that leave everyone embarrassed and unsatisfied.

Gillard may not believe in God, but she seems to believe in some kind of supernatural force, because from day one, her government appears to have operated on a type of blind faith in itself that has no connection with reality. The arrogant assumptions as to the outcome of the multi party climate change committee negotiations is yet one more example of this excess of self belief, now looking increasingly more desperate in spite of Gillard’s outward efforts to appear calm while the boat lurches sickeningly yet again.

In circumstances such as this, Gillard’s much remarked inability to express appropriate affect becomes a positive advantage.

Magical thinking was intrinsic in the overthrow of Kevin Rudd: who else but those with their heads in fairyland would have believed for one moment that Rudd would just go away?  Instead he’s been a fierce and constant thorn in their side, and will continue to be so, publicly undermining, destabilizing and dividing just by his very existence.

Polls reveal he is considered a better contender for PM than is the woman who deposed him. Anybody could have seen that coming, but not, it appears, those who chucked him out. Actions have consequences, and frequently they aren’t the consequences you hope for. Any first year psychology student could have predicted the consequences of that coup.

“I have taken control” Gillard brayed 12 months ago when she ousted Rudd, claiming that the government under  his control had “lost its way.”

If this is an example of taking control, if this is a government that’s now found its way, beam me up Scotty.

The government’s motives in announcing this ad campaign are unfathomable. The use of public money to fund a campaign about something that does not yet exist is nothing more than a cynical exercise in propaganda. It will backfire, as has much else this government has done so far.

Abbott says Gillard “too precious” about “bitch” word

25 Mar

by Stephen Rowler via flickr


Not content with standing under a banner proclaiming that Julia Gillard is “Bob Brown’s Bitch,” Opposition Leader Tony Abbot (aka the Nope Dope ®!!) said on the 7.30 Report last night that Prime Minister Julia Gillard is getting a bit “too precious” about the signs.

I’m not easily offended – I have to stop myself from scrawling the F word on signs in public parks in Nevada that say “No profanities. Have a nice day.” But I don’t like the signs I saw at yesterday’s Tea Party moment in front of Parliament House.

As others have pointed out, we’ve seen more violent rallies in the past. Then there was that spectacular papier-mâché John Howard as a little dog with its nose up George Bush’s fundament.

I thought that was pretty funny.

But calling a female PM some bloke’s bitch has really got up my nose, and I don’t even care that much for the PM. It’s nothing to do with the dignity of office either, that disappeared as a consideration a long time ago.

The bitch sign is actually no more offensive than portraying Howard as an arse licker, except that’s not a gender specific insult, whereas bitch most certainly is.

If you call a bloke a c**t  that’s a bigger insult than calling him a prick. Some feminists regularly try to insult me by telling me I’ve got a prick in my head, and I should get back in my “man fondling box”, and strangely, I’m not offended by either of those observations. If a woman called me a “c**t I wouldn’t bat an eyelash, but if a man used the same expletive in anger, I’d be a little troubled and keep my distance.

Then there’s those wonderful subversives who reclaim bad words and turn them right back at you. I love to see forbidden language exposed for what it is – words with cultural baggage.

It all comes down to intent – what forces fuel the use of the expletives? Loathing, rage, fear? Affection, humour, joshing? It’s the emotions that give language life  and meaning.

The difference for me between the Gillard bitch placards, and Howard as a bad mannered dog is humour. There was nothing humorous about the bitch placards. They were a little bit scary because of that. Their rage-filled message was unmediated by invitations to laughter.

Though there are groups in which the word is entirely lacking in offense who would have found it funny.

I didn’t like it, but I have to concede that’s an entirely personal preference and I can’t make a moral judgement on whether or not Gillard is “too precious” and Abbott is “sexist” in positioning himself in a manner that endorses the sentiments of the sign. I suspect he wanted to insult the PM, he usually does. And she usually wants to insult him.

We live in a culture of insult, daily faced with the onerous task of decoding the language used by us and around us, making instant judgements abut whether or not the words were intended to offend, and whether or not we’ll agree to be offended.

But what I do intensely dislike, no matter where it comes from, is the distorted, screaming fury (or fake fury that’s even worse) that sets the tone in Parliament and increasingly outside the chamber. It doesn’t matter what they say when they’ve turned themselves into the raging furies, frothing and spitting from faces reddened with outrage, real or fake.

I can’t hear them anymore.
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