#AusVotes2019: Are we there yet?

April 23, 2019

As a rule, I don’t mind election campaigns but this one already feels like stale pizza sitting in the bottom of the fridge. I’m hungry, but I really don’t want to eat it.

So, we got through the first couple of the of five election campaign weeks relatively unscathed. Good Friday provided a respite day even though we still got footage of a smirking Prime Minister bothering God and small children.

Bill Shorten went to Luna Park in Melbourne, an apt metaphor for the swings and round-abouts of campaigning and the roller-coaster ride of chaos that has characterised federal politics over the last four years.

Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 9.00.29 am

The ‘circus’ analogy gets over-used, but if it’s OK for Michelle Grattan to double-down on it, who am I to be picky.

We may have had a short break from the campaign over Easter, but are we any closer to having a clear front-runner for the only poll that counts on 18 May?

Well, I thought it was pretty clear from the last gazillion Newspoll results that the ALP was going to win the election in a canter.

However, Michelle Grattan (no, I’m not picking on her) reckons it was a “scratchy” first week for Shorten because of a small gaffe on superannuation and because he’s “vulnerable” on Labor’s ambitious carbon emission reduction policies.

Well, I’m Okay with that because at least the ALP has some policies to quibble about. The Liberals, on the other hand, are in such confusion they don’t even know what their own policies are – like on electric cars, for example.

But some scribes even reckon Morrison is somehow making a comeback.

That’s like saying a man on life-support in a palliative care ward is going to make a full recovery.

I’m really not sure how they reach such fanciful conclusions.

Ah well, I suppose anything is possible inside the Canberra “bubble”.

So how is Morrison going to stage this political miracle?

Well he is, after all,  Scott the “disruptor” according the Katharine Murphy writing in The Guardian:

Scott Morrison’s strategy is to run over the top of the trench firing bullets every which way, in an effort to disrupt Shorten’s rhythm.

Well, he has to, doesn’t he?

Morrison has no choice but to act like a demented and stupid-brave World War One sapper high on the fumes of battle. There is nothing else there.

The Liberal Party has been totally devoid of ideas, imagination, initiative and innovation ever since Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott were running the country after trashing the joint in the 2013 election.

Turnbull had nothing in 2016 and only just hung on because Labor started from a long way behind after the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd omnishambles and the deceitful ‘carbon tax’ campaigning masterminded by the discredited Credlin.

Three years later and Morrison has had a chance to prove to the Australian public that he’s an empty vessel. Well, not exactly empty, he’s actually full to overflowing with bombastic populism, smug ego and meaningless fury.

Let’s take the electric cars policy as an example.

The COALition began the campaign bagging Labor’s pledge to have 50 per cent of all new car sales converted to electric vehicles by 2030. That’s a whopping decade away and its only half of the average 1.1 million new cars sold each year, according to industry figures.

So that’s 500,000 electric vehicles added to the national fleet, on average from 2030 onwards.

It is an ambitious policy given that there are less than 10,000 electric vehicles currently on Australian roads, including about 4000 Tesla models. This is about 0.3 per cent of the total number of cars on the road.

So, it seems that the Liberals might have been right to poke holes in Labor’s policy. The only problem was, the COALition had an almost identical policy on the books.

Morrison and his ministerial colleagues looked stupid when they were warning Australian petrol-heads that Bill Shorten was coming for their petrol utes and big-engined cars, in a bid to wreck their enjoyment of the traditional Aussie weekend pursuits, like boat and caravan towing and driving illegally off the beaten track through national parks.

Morrison looked stupid, but then Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor stepped up and gave Scotty their beers.

Peter Dutton is on a knife-edge margin in his Queensland electorate of Dickson, so he made the excellent decision to attack his Labor opponent for not living in the electorate.

Fair enough, if you conveniently forget that Dutton owns several luxurious multi-million dollar properties outside of Dickson himself.

But the attack focused on Ali France’s disability. She has a prosthetic leg because of a horrific car accident. She lives close to Dickson in a home she spent over $100,000 on to modify in order to make it convenient for her.

So what did Dutton do? Well, he’s well-known for his sensitivity to less-fortunate people and promised us when challenging Turnbull that we would see more of his engaging human side.

Thanks Peter, you’re doing well.

He said – in an engaging and human way – that Ms France was milking her disability in order to win the sympathy vote in Dickson. His grovelling apology was equally engaging and human.

I guess we should also not be surprised that this story was first run in The Australian. The Murdoch media is going all out to help the coalition.

Senior kool-aid dispenser Piers Akerman was photographed out on a door-knocking campaign walk with Tony Abbott in Warringah. He looked really happy to be there just standing “in the background”, but the candid snap confirmed what we have been saying all along.

The Liberal Party is a subsidiary of NewsCorpse.

And what about poor old Angus Taylor. Taylor is the Energy Minister in Morrison’s government and he has previous form as a nasty, spiteful dickhead. He was famously sacked by British Tory knob, Boris Johnson, while he was mayor of London.

In that instance Taylor was accused of making insensitive racist comments. He’s right at home in the modern Liberal Party where he has languished for the last five years.

Taylor must have been thinking that the Liberal campaign could do with a boost in the past week, so he thought it the right time to grab the headlines with a poorly-timed and ill-conceived threat of legal action against two independent journalists over their retweet of a now infamous Twitter thread on the minister’s involvement in the snowballing water scandal that brewing away nicely in the background.

There is no better way to draw the spotlight onto yourself and your possibly dodgy dealings than issuing threatening legal letters to journalists who don’t have a lot to lose.

Given Mr Taylor’s propensity to launch his lawyers at anyone suggesting he acted with impropriety we are making no comment on the water sales issue, but we can’t help but think that firing off a defamation threat in the middle of an election campaign is a distraction Scott Morrison could do without.

As an aside, we can note that the other senior COALition figure allegedly in the centre of the water sales scandal is the delightful family man and member for New England, Barnaby Joyce.

It’s a short week this week with the Easter Monday and ANZAC Day holidays. Both Morrison and Shorten have said they won’t officially campaign on those two days, but we can be sure that their faces will grace the nightly news and dominate the front pages because it’s much easier for the journalists to just follow the leaders than attempt to cover actual policies.

Burn of the campaign – so far

The false war over electric cars made for some interesting door stops and prompted several car manufacturers to publicly critique the COALition’s scare-mongering.

My favourite burn moment of the campaign so far has been the start of a television advertising campaign for the global launch of the all-electric Hyundai Kona, a compact SUV that will retail for around $37,500.

This is an affordable and smart-looking option for people wanting to go into the EV market.

It may not be deliberate, but the Hyundai advert feels like a giant FU to the Liberals this week.

It’s quite funny to think that the COALition might get run down by a fleet of electric cars.


How to sell a television documentary: Al Jazeera, One Nation and media ethics

March 27, 2019

Like many people I was fascinated by Al Jazeera’s investigation, “How to sell a massacre“, into the relationship between Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the American gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association.

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The story broke in Australia with several teasers from the Al Jazeera program, which is screening in two parts. As I am writing this on Wednesday 27 March 2019, the second installment is not available in Australia via the Al Jazeera website, so my comments are qualified by the disclosure that I’ve only seen part 1.

Never-the-less, as one of the unwitting ‘stars’ of the documentary.PHON fixer James Ashby claimed, a shit storm would erupted if news of his visit to Washington DC ever became public.

Indeed it has. PHON chief strategist and Hanson’s latest Svengali (or perhaps Rasputin), James Ashby, has been anxiously trying to play down the significance of the revelations in the Al Jazeera film.

It is important to nail down exactly what these revelations are, or could be, because the investigation has also raised a number of important questions and issues about journalism ethics.

Does “How to sell a massacre” pass the public interest test?

Public interest here is the key. We’re not just talking about the voyeur’s delight we might feel in watching two PHON honchos make total fuckwits of themselves. Sure, there is pleasure in that, but it is not a strong enough justification for the deception that was perpetrated in the name of pubic interest and disclosure.

In particular, when is an undercover sting operation, like the one at the centre of this story, justified by the public interest in getting “facts” out into the public domain. Read the rest of this entry »


Is the Wentworth by-election result the middle of the beginning of the end for Skid?

October 21, 2018

I woke up this morning with a slight headache. Maybe it was the blackbird singing outside my bedroom well before dawn; maybe it was a disturbed sleep because the cat kept jumping on my head.

Nah, it was the celebration of the middle of the beginning of the end of  Scott Morrison’s interim occupation of the Prime Minister’s comfy leather couch.

 

I admit it. I probably had too much to drink, but who didn’t?

COALition supporters were either drowning their sorrows or drinking angrily whilst plotting revenge against someone — anyone really — on the other side of the factional fence.

Labor supporters were celebrating their guy losing so convincingly in a winning kind of way; while the Greens will find an excuse to drink at any time.

Kerryn Phelps deserves to nurse her own hangover this morning too. She has woken up to the aftermath of a political tsunami that rose up out of Double Bay on Saturday morning and came crashing down along the sandy coastline from Bronte to the Sydney Heads in the evening twilight.

It feels delicious to write this morning that Skid has led his tory scum to their worst EVER defeat in a by-election. It is historic and has captured attention from the international media.

Wentworth Nightmare

Read the rest of this entry »


Malcolm Turnbull 30 days on #Newspoll death row

April 9, 2018

Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership is safe for now. However, as political editor Dr Martin Hirst reports, he is forever stained by his 30th Newspoll loss in a row.

Published on Independent Australia

MALCOLM TURNBULL increasingly looks like a very worried man.

It’s not surprising really; last weekend he was at an AFL game in Sydney and when his face was projected onto the big screen, the crowd let out a mighty roar.

Well, it was a sustained booing noise really and the Fizza looked very, very uncomfortable.

Today he is looking – and no doubt feeling – a lot more uncomfortable. It’s easy enough to shrug off a few, perhaps light-hearted boos at the footy; it’s a lot harder to ignore your 30th Newspoll loss in a row. Hard indeed, when your initial claim to the prime ministership was that your hapless predecessor had reached that magic number. But that is indeed the precarious position that Malcolm Turnbull finds himself in this week.

This week, Turnbull closed the gap a little on Shorten, but really only within the statistical margin of error. The ALP still holds a four-point lead – 52-48 – over the COALition. The shift in Turnbull’s favour is not enough to overcome the ALP’s substantial two-party preferred lead over the COALition.

He’s safe for now. But, not, perhaps, for much longer. According to reported comments, the main leadership contenders –Peter Dutton and Julie Bishop – have spent the last few days pledging their loyalty.

And we all know what that means … the leadership speculation will continue and so will the internal plotting against Turnbull.

Now, he’s also facing the difficulty of having a formal faction of backbenchers – the so-called Monash Group – who will be meeting regularly to agitate against the Government’s coal and energy policies. It’s not difficult to believe they’ll also be discussing Malcolm’s failures of leadership too.

Je ne regret, rein?

In late 2015 Malcolm Turnbull cited then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s 30 Newspoll losses in a row as one of the reasons he launched his challenge. Now he is rueing the day. In the lead up to his 24th consecutive loss in the poll numbers, Turnbull was widely quoted as saying he regretted making the 30-loss issue so prominent.

“I do regret having said it,” Turnbull admitted today during a live internet radio interview with News Corp columnist Miranda Devine:

“Only because it allowed people to focus on that, rather than the substantive reasons [for my challenge]. The substantive reasons that I stated were related to economic leadership and governance.”

Instead, Turnbull has claimed that his challenge to Abbott was based on the latter’s poor communication practices and his failing economic policies. That was in December last year. Now he has added to his tally of failures and equalled Abbott’s disastrous record.

Read the rest of this entry »


Where is the Australian Jeremy Corbyn hiding?

June 27, 2017

BRITISH LABOUR LEADER Jeremy Corbyn has achieved rock star status in the UK, he gave a radical speech to a crowd of 120,000 cheering music fans and the British ruling class is worried.

One of my Facebook friends described Corbyn’s speech at Glastonbury as the reawakening of English socialism, not seen since the days of Marx and Engels.

That might be a slight exaggeration, but Corbyn has certainly ignited a welcome spark of resistance to austerity, the Tories and capitalism. Now the search has begun to find our local saviour.

I’ve been quite bemused by speculation on the Australian Left about who might be “our” Jeremy Corbyn. A number of names have been put forward, but none of them is a viable contender in my view.

The most obvious nominee to the role is Anthony Albanese of the NSW Labor Left faction. But Albo does not aspire to be our Jeremy. He has publicly said he doesn’t want the job and that he thinks Corbyn is too left wing. Albo is actually totally unsuited to being the Aussie Jeremy. Corbyn has been an activist all his life, even while in Parliament. Albo is a grey suit in a lobby of grey suits who poses as a cool DJ on weekends.

Albo is a dud.

This week another likely candidate popped up but one with even less left credentials than Albanese. Queensland MP Wayne Swan has made vaguely pro-worker statements to the ACTU conference this week, but his rhetoric falls far short of Corbyn’s. Swan has also attempted to boost his standing with the Labor Left by meeting with Bernie Sanders, but he also met International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials on the same trip. Swan’s “revolution”, is really just a fig leaf for more business as usual politics.

If not from Labor then where? Read the rest of this entry at Independent Australia.


Will Turnbull sit in the dark for Earth Hour? I doubt it

March 22, 2017

IT SEEMS LIKE an insignificant, simple thing and detractors say it is nothing more than a tokenistic gesture, but turning off your lights for one hour next Saturday evening, is one small step you can take to show you care about climate change.

Earth Hour started in Sydney in 2007 and now it celebrates its tenth year with events planned in over 170 countries and more than 7,000 cities.

Earth Hour is only one small contribution to saving the planet and it might seem like a “one light-bulb at a time” kind of change, but as with many things, it’s the thought that counts.

All you have to do is switch off your lights for one hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on Saturday 25th of March.

According to WWF Australia CEO, Dermot O’Gorman, Australians should feel proud of the role they’ve played in starting a decade-long, global conversation about climate change. “It’s a great Australian success story,” he says.

“We have seen a huge number of positive steps towards a brighter future in the decade since Earth Hour started, proof that one person can make a difference.” 

The tenth anniversary of Earth Hour is also a useful time to reflect on how far we’ve come.

In 2006, less than 1,000 homes across Australia were using solar panels. Now the number is over 1.5 million and growing. We have quadrupled our use of wind power over the last decade and renewables continue to chip-away at coal as the energy source for electricity generation.

Now, in the wake of blackouts in South Australia and predictions of more to come across the southeast of the country, the pressure is on to turn back to coal and gas. The energy lobby is relentless in its expensive pursuit of influence in Canberra.

However, coal and gas are not so popular with the general public, hence we’ve seen Malcolm Turnbull reach for a major distraction in the past week — a half-baked plan to increase the capacity of hydro-electric power generation in the Snowy Mountains at a cost upwards of $2 billion dollars.

Bill Shorten hasn’t ruled out supporting the scheme, which is currently under feasibility study, but he described the idea as another of the PM’s “thought bubbles” that has not been properly vetted through the policy process.

Both the Victorian and NSW governments were also blind-sided by Turnbull’s announcement, despite being the major shareholders in the current Snowy Mountains hydro generation project.

And Shorten is right, Fizza needed the Snowy announcement to distract media attention from the “chaotic” national electricity market which is so compromised it might now be cheaper for Australia to export gas to japan and buy it back, than to sell gas directly into the Australian market.

Meanwhile, back to Earth Hour and calls for PM Turnbull to switch the lights off in his harbourside mansion for one hour on Saturday night.

Last year, Turnbull refused requests from Earth Hour organisers to switch off the lights. In 2016, Earth Hour manager Sam Webb called out Turnbull and other leading Aussie politicians for “dragging their feet” on renewables and climate change.

At the time, Ms Webb told news.com.au that there “are some very cynical people in the world” on climate issues.

“There are also those who have very closely held interests that are threatened by the move away from fossil fuels onto clean, renewable energy. Sadly, a small number of powerful people make a lot of money from creating the pollution that is causing global warming and they are doing all they can to keep polluting, with no regard for the devastating impact this is having around the world.”

Sadly, we see it is no different this year.

The Government is prepared to subsidise a giant coalmine in Queensland and Malcolm Turnbull still hasn’t pledged to support Earth Hour in 2017.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is hoping to encourage / embarrass Turnbull into sitting in the dark on Saturday evening by crowd-funding an advertising campaign involving large trucks and billboards with the simple message: ‘Dear Mr Turnbull will you switch off for Earth Hour?’

I’ve put in a media request to the PM’s office seeking an answer to this question, I expect to not get a response. I’ll let you know.

Help Earth Hour crowdfund the billboard for Canberra (Image courtesy WWF/Earth Hour)

If you want to get involved in Earth Hour, there is a website devoted to local events, you can either attend one of these, or launch your own.

First published on Independent Australia


Election 2016: Opinion polls, swings, roundabouts and statistics

May 31, 2016

This is not good news [The Australian paywalled] for Malcolm Turnbull.

The Turnbull government is facing the prospect of losing 10 seats in NSW, six in Queensland and three in Western Australia, with a significant slump in support in the key election battlegrounds.

The Australian headlined a six per cent swing against the government according to its own Newspoll data on 30 May.

I wrote this piece the day before [Sunday 29 May], without seeing the Newspoll data. Then in Monday’s Fairfax papers we also saw confirmation that the coalition is in trouble. James Massola wrote that the LNP is likely to lose at least a dozen seats and maybe even more.

Political strategists for both major parties believe the Coalition is on track to lose about 12 seats at the July 2 poll, slashing Malcolm Turnbull’s buffer in the Parliament but returning his government with a reduced second-term majority.

 Seems like I might be on the money with my prediction of a Shorten ALP government after the election.
But the numbers depend almost entirely on who’s doing the counting.
Labor thinks 11 seats in Queensland are in play, but to others the margins in some seem insurmountable.
For example it would take an almost unachievable 6.7 per cent swing to unseat Immigration Minister (and part-time potato model) Peter Dutton in Dickson. But some plucky voters have a strategy to help make it happen on polling day.
Mr Potatohead is suing Sinister Mutton for a breach of copyright

Mr Potatohead is suing Sinister Mutton for a breach of copyright

The key thing is that local factors will influence the national swing and an average swing of around 4 per cent may not be enough to unseat Turnbull if it does not occur in the right electorates (those that the ALP needs to win back and has a realistic chance of winning).

Read the rest of this entry »