I have resigned from my role as Associate Professor at Deakin University. I am no longer employed by the University.
I will not be making any further public comment.
I have resigned from my role as Associate Professor at Deakin University. I am no longer employed by the University.
I will not be making any further public comment.
All the pundits have been banging on about how most of us don’t make up our minds about who we’ll vote for in an election until a few days, or even hours, before we enter the little booth to leave our mark on democracy.
Well, I don’t know about you but I pretty much made up my mind at birth; I could never vote for a Tory and my class loyalty comes first.
And it’s too close to call (maybe), Labor is going to take some seats of the Coalition, a handful of Greens and independents will sit in the lower house and the Senate will be another dog’s breakfast.
So for me the least troublesome option for voting on 2 July is the simple four-word slogan that I have been hashtagging and tweeting for weeks now: #PutTheLiberalsLast.
This makes it relatively easy in most lower house seats, if the main enemy is a National, not a Liberal then a simple substitution works seamlessly.
Putting the coalition last is not such a simple matter in the Senate. It’s a smorgasbord of filth with lashings of stupids all desperate for a one issue shot at the title and a comfy spot on the red leather cross benches. If it’s a choice between putting the Liberals last or the anti-vaxxers where do you you go?
How do you make a principled decision on your senate vote when so many dribblejaws are vying for your very last vote.
You could always just follow the ‘How-to-vote’ of your number one choice (socialists, Greens, Labor), but then (as we know) you lose all control over where your preferences get directed.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not giving up my rights to a bunch of faceless party bureaucrats who do deals with the Devil in order to secure as much red leather acreage as they can. So working from 1 to 100+ in your state Senate ballot takes a bit of thinking, planning, plotting and the ability to count beyond your fingers and toes. My advice, if you read no futher, start with the highest number at the top of the column you want to put last (remember to vote below the line). Work backwards making sure you keep track of every number.
Vote backwards example:
If you want to put the Liberals last in the Senate start numbering their number one candidate with your highest number (in Victoria it’s 116). If there’s nine Lib candidates you would get to 108 at the bottom of the list and you then start on your second column with 107 at the top, etc.
This is simple if you keep track of the numbers and don’t rush it.
The Senate race always tends to attract the real crazies of Australian politics and 2016 is no exception.
The Health Australia Party is the Trojan horse for the anti-vaxxers and alternative medicine types, but it has the number one spot on the NSW Senate ballot paper. In Victoria the leading HAP candidate, believes in natural immunisations “homeoprohalaxis”. Their general policies are nothing to write home about either, a boilerplate cut and paste text about “free enterprise” not being held up by “big business, big unions and big paperwork”.
if you’re worried about economic plans and competetent budget management, don’t vote for these folks.
But what do you do when the anti-vaxxers are a “least-worst” option? Well, my advice is start at the bottom with the highest number and work backwards.
I’m going to start by putting all the real hard racist numbnucks right at the bottom. My example is from Victoria, but you can apply the formula and the principles in your own state or territory race.
So working from the principle of #PuttheLiberalsLast we have a difficult voting choice in the Senate.
It’s a hard choice, both RUA and ALA are Islamophobes, Homophobes, Misogynists and general all-round bigots. Local variations my arise, for example Pauline Hanson’s One Nation group has again raised its ugly redhead. There are lots of out-and-out racists clamouring for attention this time round, but in Queensland where Hanson herself is a candidate, putting her on the very bottom of your ballot paper might be the strategically sound move.
In Victoria One Nation is perhaps less relevant than RUA and ALA who have been active in several Islamophobic anti-Mosque actions around Melbourne.
We have some high profile Senate hopefuls in Victoria, including the Human Headline. He’s a pompous, arrogant git so is perfect for a spot on the long leather bench, but what does Derryn Hinch stand for? One word: ‘Justice’. If you are into meaningless slogans and like hairy ex-convicts with feral facial hair Hinchy is the one for you.
Personally I’m going to put Ricky Muir of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party well ahead of Mr Hinch and the libertarian goon squads. Ricky the poo-chucker has actually been a good senator. He won’t let the coalition sprinkle bulldust in his eyes and he’s grown into the role. He’s also less racist than many of the others and, as far as I know, not an anti-Vaxxer.
If the basic principle is put the most racist candidates in your state last, followed by the coalition, what do you do with your precious top 12 votes?
The choices are really between Labor, the Greens and one or two socialists here and there.
My personal preference is to vote for the most left-wing candidates, in this election that is the team from Socialist Alliance, then for me Green or ALP is up to you. My class instinct says vote Labor, but having Greens in the Senate is not such a bad thing.
This blog is a modest little endeavour. It has been neglected for some time. The reasons for that are many and frankly, none of your business.
However, occasionally it has a spike in popularity.
Take for example the time I posted about Amy Winehouse.
It was because of a link to this pic of Amy
That was back in the day when I had more time and more spirit to deal with the lighter side of this blog, which has always been about the enjoyment of martinis and music.
My best ever was in October 2013 for a post called We can no longer take these ‘journalists’ seriously.
It is interesting to follow the careers of the people now.
Journalism academics and social media
The issue of journalism academics’ use of social media to discuss issues, institutions and individuals has attracted media attention recently.
The Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) supports freedom of expression and opinion that complies with limitations concerning defamation, sub judice, discrimination, incitement to violence, and similar matters.
As the professional association for journalism academics, JERAA also supports adherence to the principles espoused in the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance Journalists’ Code of Ethics.
In cases where universities and other academic institutions need to investigate complaints about comments made by academics, we urge management to follow proper processes and complete investigations in an impartial, transparent and timely manner.
Gday again Martin,Hope you’re enjoying as good a day as is possible in the circumstances, with or without some caffeinated or alcoholic refreshments!Here are a few thoughts on an appeal from someone who is not a lawyer! I think it entirely unreasonable that you were dismissed over comparatively trivial exclamations and even if you want to leave Deakin, I think you should have the option of resigning (with package!).Hopefully Deakin conflated the issues so that they do not need to be addressed separately as it’s better to aim at one target than 3 or 4.When an institution (more so than an individual) seeks to use its power to dismiss an employee (and likely permanently damage future career prospects given the ubiquity of internet news stories), I would see it as a denial of natural justice that you were not (as I understand it) told who your accuser was, the specifics of their accusation and the date of the accusation. On this point alone, it seems to me, Deakin’s procedure was not legitimate.To my mind, this links directly to a freedom of political communication as implied in the Constitution in that any condition less than this (ie. the naming of an accuser in an exchange with a journalist during an election campaign), starts to seed a political atmosphere in which anonymous accusations can be hurled with impunity and without accountability, as occurred during the Cultural Revolution. On this, I would think that any Workplace Conditions would be voided if they were found to be not in accord with the Constitution of Australia and implied readings of it.Were you invited to personally present a defense at a formal hearing (with legal representation) as anything less might leave an outsider (ie. the taxpayer who largely funds Deakin) with an impression that the method of investigation and deliberation was truncated, expedited, compromised, tainted, unprofessional, inept or prejudiced.Free speech must include the vulgar (as distinct from the offensive or discriminatory) and Australian political life has a long history of such examples, even by Prime Ministers such as Keating and also Hawke and Rudd, at times too. As institutions, it is surely part of the implied role of universities to promote all aspects of free speech (including the tolerance of vulgarities) and act as a leader in democratic societies for it.While your tweets were published, it appears that the ones referring to the Sky News were reactive (not proactive), very short, general in nature and not specifically addressed to any one person. More broadly, if the ratings figures you quote are correct, then the total audience of your tweets who may have been offended would amount to 0.0009% (Sky’s audience share of the total population) of your 2,100 followers (I note your replies were not hashtagged for a wider audience).So, perhaps it is reasonable to say that 2-3 people of your total followers who subscribe to Sky (and were on Twitter when you tweeted) were actually offended? This is not a big audience (!) and I wonder if Deakin took this into account? Deakin is also obliged to consider your case at the date of the formal complaint only and so I would think that any reputational damage that Deakin may perceive is largely the result of their own publicity of this matter (did they release a media release?).For me, their reputational damage has come with this decision as I, for one, now have no interest whatsoever in applying for a PhD in journalism there, if supervisors may be dismissed for such minor indiscretions and given that such action is likely to discourage potential supervisors into assisting me with a completely open heart.
On this, if the specifics of the allegation against you are not conveyed to you then how can you be sure anyone at all complained about an earlier tweet showing your beanie? If they did not, then have Deakin found you guilty of an offense where no formal complaint was made? I also question Deakin’s apparent inclusion of an historic incident in their deliberations for the same reason.As for the student studying commerce, is there any way you could have known this student was enrolled at Deakin? (was this students enrollment actually confirmed in writing to you?). Do all lecturers have access to enrolment details for all students in all faculties? If not, this student could be from anywhere in the world and on twitter, given the high prevalence of false identities, it’s not unreasonable to assume that he/she may not even be a student at all.
I think your reply (and not a proactive tweet) was understandable to the extent that the student was clearing questioning your professional capacities and when I first saw this tweet, I read your reply to be a droll rejoinder that the student would fail because they were intimating they had a closed mind and didn’t want to ever take on board the thoughts of someone with a PhD qualification.
It also defies reasonable belief that you were threatening the academic progress of the student as he/she stated they were from another faculty (and, on the balance of probabilities, I would presume from another university – is it in their profile, even today?) and I find it inconceivable that any person at any university (but especially someone outside the Commerce faculty) could influence colleagues or the Dean of Commerce to illegally mark down the final results of a specific student (and especially when that academic did not have any enrolment supervision over that student). While your tweet here may have been intemperate and unbecoming (on a worst interpretation), I think it a very harsh overreaction that it should form part of the reason for your dismissal. This seems especially the case as it is open to various interpretations.OK, that’s perhaps enough of the unsolicited, unqualified ramblings but I hope they assist the thought process.Cheers,Xxxxxxx
by Dr Mark Hayes
Whose ‘water’ let him down badly on the probable outcome of the Queensland election, and begins to explain why below.
I freely admit it.
I got the Queensland election outcome wrong, and even my ‘water’ let me down.
I was expecting a significant swing to the ALP, of the order of about 9% – 11% two party preferred state wide, with some ‘traditional’ Labor seats returning to the fold, possibly some interesting tussles over local issues such as coal seam gas and new coal mines planned for agricultural land, but with the LNP returned, minus Campbell Newman, with a much reduced, but workable, majority, so it could implement its Strong Choices neo-liberal revolution.
I was expecting the usual faux contrition from LNP heavyweights about ‘listening more to the people’, and ‘we’ll do better in the future’, but also resolution to press ahead with Strong Choices.
But none of the mainstream polls or analysts got the election result anywhere near right either.
The first indication something was seriously afoot surfaced on Channel 9’s Galaxy Exit Poll, promoted by an apparently stunned Shane Doherty about 4.15pm. He didn’t Tweet any details, but what he’d seen was enough to get me to watch commercial TV news at 5.00pm. Hadn’t watched commercial TV news for anything for many years, but this was serious…
And then, of course, the ABC fired up from South Bank at 6.00pm, with an enthusiastic Matt Wordsworth welcoming viewers from outside, and walking in to the Election Night set in the foyer, all the while explaining what was going to happen, and this viewer willing him not to trip or walk into something or somebody as he did so. Brave man doing this kind of lengthy walking welcome Live on national television too.
Then it was On, with the redoubtable Antony Green and his large touch screen, Wayne Swann and Tim Nichols having at each other, and Jessica Van Vonderen, calmness and control personified, anchoring the gig. What’s an Election Night Special without Kerry O’Brian anchoring, one might have wondered beforehand, but Jess and Co didn’t need him or his gravitas.
As entirely expected, the ABC and ABC Queensland in particular, demonstrated yet again how to do this kind of broadcast properly. And a Shout Out too to the bunch of QUT Journalism students tucked away to one side monitoring social media on the night and feeding their efforts into ABC Radio’s parallel broadcast.
The usual padding, palaver, sober projections generated on SFA votes counted, Antony Green gesturing and tapping on his large screen as he explained trends and bellwether seats, and what not.
Then the Serious Data started to come in, and by about 7.30pm, Channel 9’s Galaxy Exit Poll seemed to be vindicated, and Antony Green’s machines started behaving like the computer on Apollo 11’s Lunar Lander as Neil Armstrong neared touchdown, both being broadcast live. The ABC TV producer must have been feeling like Buzz Aldrin, trying to make sense of ‘dose blinkin’ lights, machines goin’ pHut, and calling on the backroom geeks to fix it fast.
Mr Green’s data, based on Electoral Commission feeds, was being crunched in his machines according to pre-programmed expectations, and they just weren’t coping with the numbers pouring in.
Something unprecedented, beyond extraordinary, was in play, and Mr Green and his machines, as well as Wayne Swann, increasingly buoyant then delighted, and Tim Nichols, digging himself further into disbelief and then denial, struggled to respond and make sense of it all. At moments, the machines just gave up and sulked, leaving Mr Green and his laptop to press ahead and very capably wing it.
You can look up the data on Mr Green’s Elections Site, and check out some early good analysis too, from New Matilda’s Ben Eltham and this brief comment from UQ’s Professor John Quiggin, and this audio comment from Professor Brian Costar. The Guardian has a good collated and curated wrap page too.
Where I’m pretty sure I got it wrong was in underestimating the depths of loathing in Queensland at the all but explicit neo-liberal imposition of Strong Choices by the arrogant and hubristic Newman Government, especially in its first two years, and the authoritarian, pugnacious, methods they used to try to force their Grand Future upon the state. Voters clearly saw through the bullshit post-modernist rubbish about 99 year asset leases as being only asset leases.
And the Courier-Mail has some serious credibility questions to answer about how and why some of its recent front pages, linking the ALP to bikie gangs, were plastered literally for tens of meters along fences outside many polling places as part of LNP propaganda calculated to scare voters into only voting 1 (for them) when Queensland has optional preferential voting.
What I also think has been overlooked and neglected has been the role of what’s been dismissed as ‘electronic graffiti’, social media, a crucial component of Professor John Keane’s conception of monitory democracy, something I know scholars at QUT’s Creative Industries Faculty have been closely studying during the campaign.
Citizen journalism site, No Fibs, has been doing an excellent job of curating and aggregating social media feeds and commentary throughout the campaign. Well worth a good burrow around.
To their credit, though, the Courier-Mail re-published this excellent profile of Annastacia Palaszczuk, a name every journalist had better know how to spell and pronounce properly ‘cos she’ll be a major player for a long time to come. The ABC also has a profile of Ms Palaszczuk too.
This election outcome deserves some very careful thought and analysis indeed, and not just for the fairly immediate Federal implications.
More in due course.
by Dr Mark Hayes
Who, in his spare time, likes nothing better than grappling with some obscure and erudite tome of often European-origin high social theory and really does know where and how Habermas got it wrong. On his groaning shelves awaiting some grappling are Axel Honneth’s Freedom’s Right The Social Foundations of Democratic Life, Frank Lovett’s A General Theory of Domination and Justice, and John Keane’s Democracy and Media Decadence. He’s also a fan of Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity theory too.
Once upon a time, Dr Hayes worked for the ABC’s then weeknight state based current affairs programme, The 7.30 Report, and helped report on, among many other stories and issues, the Fitzgerald Inquiry and its immediate aftermath.
He’s been having something of a Déjà vu rush for months but merging it with some High Theory.
Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.
Some noteworthy Updates (access the usual sources for the minute by minute cut and thrusts, which really don’t matter now unless somebody significant goes completely buggo or drops dead from exhaustion). ~
Professor Brian Costar casts an experienced Oracle’s eye over Queensland from the remove of Melbourne, and I think he’s pretty well on the money as far as my water’s telling me. Though a deeper understanding of Liquid Modernity and what it means for Queensland 25+ years after Joh and all that would assist him and others too, IMHO.
And Jason Wilson draws a parallel between the recent Greek election result and Queensland’s looming neo-liberal ‘everything privatized’ Strong Choices paradise, arguing that people don’t like austerity even when they’re told it’s good for them.
Here’s a good wrap on mainstream media coverage of the election campaign, from Griffith Uni’s Professor Anne Tiernan, on ABC RN’s Media Report.
Originally Posted on Thursday afternoon, January 29, 2015 ~
It’s almost gratuitous to be writing this Post after watching Tony Fitzgerald’s interview on ABC TV’s 7.30 on Wednesday evening.
Watch it, or watch it again if you saw it, read the transcript, and if you really understand what he was warning about in the Queensland context you should be very, very worried indeed.
He appears to have added to his commentary on Thursday, January 29, too.
Mr Newman attempted to turn Mr Fitzgerald’s words into an attack on the Labor Party.
“Well, look,” he said, clearing his throat.
“I was asked about Mr Fitzgerald during [Friday’s] debate and I reflected that I had the utmost respect for him in the past, but I reject those comments.
“And I say to you the real issue of transparency that continues to actually haunt this campaign for the Labor Party is the lack of transparency and accountability when it comes to policies, costings and a vision for the future of this state.”
Mr Newman was asked if he still respected Mr Fitzgerald but he would not elaborate, again shifting focus to his opposition.
“I have had the greatest respect for him in the past, but I reject his comments,” he said.
“And I point to the lack of transparency and openness and accountability we have seen from the Labor Party from their failure to deliver a proper, comprehensive vision for this state. We have such a vision, the Labor Party do not.”
So there you have it. Nothing to see here. We’ve moved beyond all that now. You’re living in the past. Move along now. The ALP etc and so forth… Little wonder many people have stopped listening to them.
But we need to be reminded, in some detail, about the Newman Government’s activities, and New Matilda’s Ben Eltham helps out on that rather well. As does Greg Jericho, running his skeptical economist’s eye over the state of the Queensland economy (this is a Must Read, IMHO, and meshes with what I touch on below too).
Ok, Ok, We haven’t had many laughs at all during this election, but Mr First Dog has explained the whole thing, so we can all rest easy knowing what’s really going on.
But I’ll also plough on, trying to add some further insights or depth to contextualize the matter.
Read the Fitzgerald Report
If you haven’t read the Fitzgerald Report, you really should. (4 Meg PDF) If only to see what many Queenslanders are on about when we mention that crucial period in our history.
It’s a masterpiece of its kind, still setting the standards about how a Commission of Inquiry should go about its work, gather, analyze and evaluate its evidence, and produce a document still being discussed and debated almost 26 years after its release. And not just by various commentators and journalists, many of whom were in primary school, or even younger, if not even born, when the Inquiry was in session. (Makes me feel old, it does, fronting journalism classes with students who look blankly at me when I mention the Fitzgerald Inquiry.)
Serious scholars in many fields still reference and interrogate the Fitzgerald Report as an exemplar of its kind, excoriating in the many instances of police and official corruption it uncovered, but, far more importantly, making governance recommendations to eradicate the political and administrative failings which provided fertile grounds for corruption to flourish.
The Fitzgerald Report is also a gripping read, not the least because, as one of the innovations Mr Fitzgerald pioneered, he seconded The Age’s reporter, Margaret Simons, from the media bench inside the Inquiry offices to help write the Report, smoothing the turgid legalese into almost flowing and certainly readily understandable prose.
Do Not Forget Queensland History
To get a feeling for the background and context of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, start with Matthew Condon’s two books, Three Crooked Kings and then Jacks and Jokers, with the eagerly awaited third book in the trilogy due later in 2015. Mr Condon’s interviews on his two books give ample sense of the territory traversed (on Three Crooked Kings and Jacks and Jokers). (And, though I lived through the years covered by Jacks and Jokers, and was steeped in Queensland affairs, or thought I was, reading Jacks and Jokers scared the living daylights out of me as I recalled what I experienced, and thought I knew was going on at the time. It was far, far worse.)
You can still watch Chris Masters’ 4 Corners exposé The Moonlight State, which, in the apt description of eminent investigative journalist, Evan Whitton, ‘detonated’ on Monday evening, 11 May, 1987, and, together with steady exposés by The Courier-Mail’s Phil Dickie, and years of growing unease that ‘things weren’t right’ in the Sunshine State, coalesced into provoking Acting Premier and Police Minister, Bill Gunn, into mounting a Commission of Inquiry into, initially at least, the 4 Corners and Courier-Mail claims, headed by almost unknown legal identity, Tony Fitzgerald. Interestingly, one of the 50 signatories to the Open Letter calling on all Queensland Political Parties to agree to some basic principles of accountability, endorsed by Mr Fitzgerald, was Greg Chamberlin, the editor of The Courier-Mail between 1987 and 1991.
The day after the Fitzgerald Report was handed to then Queensland Premier, Mike Ahern, and Deputy Premier, Bill Gunn, on July 3, 1989, and we were sitting around in the ABC’s Toowong television newsroom basking in what would be acknowledged as our previous night’s award winning national coverage of the release wondering, ‘What’s Next?’, I remarked to Quentin Dempster that ‘We’d better revisit that Report and read it like the next bunch of bent coppers, dodgy politicians, and greedy businessmen are already reading it’.
He didn’t quite get what I was on about because, no doubt he was, as we all were, exhausted after our efforts over eighteen months of often genuinely dramatic daily reportage culminating in the previous evening’s nationally broadcast effort, and fair enough too. Then we had to keep reporting on the fallout from the Inquiry’s release, including a State election.
My point to Quentin was the very high probability that, as usually happens, almost immediately after a major Inquiry or Report is delivered, and its recommendations begin to be implemented, ‘Lock, Stock and Barrel’, as Premier Ahern strongly asserted would occur, the ‘forces of darkness’ would pick the report to pieces, looking for ‘ways to get around this’.
If we were to continue to do our jobs effectively, as public service broadcasters and journalists generally, we had to remain ever vigilant to attempts at push back, erosion, watering down, deflecting, and getting around the Fitzgerald Inquiry’s recommendations.
On the Separation of the Powers
One important way to do that was sort of what Quentin and I often did when he had a major political interview lined up, which was to role play or rehearse the interview, with me playing the interviewee, and him interrogating me in role ~ we were so across the major players, so ‘into them’, that I could convincingly respond to his questions like Mike Ahern, Liberal leader, Angus Innes, or ALP leader Wayne Goss would almost certainly do. Quentin had also honed his interviewing skills from years of court, parliament, and inquiry reporting experience, watching lawyers having at each other and at witnesses, and from studying cross-examination texts also studied by lawyers.
On September 25, 1989, Mike Ahern was ousted by dissident National Party MPs led by his Police Minister, Russell Cooper, that afternoon, Quentin came back to the newsroom having secured an interview with Mr Cooper which was scheduled to go Live in Queensland and the rest of the eastern states from 7.30pm, and we repaired to his desk to role play that night’s interview. Nobody came near us when we were doing these role plays, knowing we were both concentrating and focused.
Roll News closers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart, roll to record elsewhere, Roll The 7.30 Report Opening Titles, which we could see in the Brisbane control room coming back at us via satellite feeds as ours went out, local host’s welcomes, and common-junct to Brisbane.
“Good evening and thanks for joining us, Mr Cooper,” Quentin began.
“What do you understand by the separation of the powers?”
“I beg your pardon,” Mr Cooper replied.
“What do you understand by the separation of powers in the Westminster system of government?”
Russell Cooper, newly installed Queensland Premier, didn’t have a clue.
In the control room, those of us watching struggled not to crack up laughing, or picked our bottom jaws up off the floor where they’d fallen in utter disbelief.
Here was the new Queensland Premier committing political suicide live on national television.
Quentin had hit me upstairs earlier with that straightforward opening question and, because we’d both almost memorized key Fitzgerald Inquiry evidence and incidents, and he’d been there when Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen had completely fumbled the same question, so we’d both assumed that a new Queensland Premier would also have at least some idea about the meaning and purpose of that most fundamental principle of Westminster style governance. I’d fairly adequately responded to Quentin’s role played opening question, so we’d assumed Mr Cooper would be able to do so too.
Imagine then, my Déjà vu hit while watching 7.30 on October 31, 2013, when questions were raised about how well the Newman Government understood the separation of powers doctrine, including a clip from Police State, an ABC docu-drama on the Fitzgerald Inquiry featuring Gerry Connelly as Sir Joh being interrogated on that memorable point.
Never Forget & Remain Vigilant
I was, and remain, haunted by a closing line from Bertolt Brecht’s play, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, an allegory of the rise of Hitler set in 1930s Chicago gangland: “Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again”.
Brecht, no doubt, was directly concerned about the probable rise of future fascist demagogues, and his warning can just as effectively be deployed to any kind of dominator from whatever extreme of the political or ideological spectrum. More generally, Brecht can be interpreted as warning how indefatigable the forces of domination are, and thence how alert folk of goodwill have to be to their incessant efforts at corruption and control, and be ever prepared to resist them.
That was exactly what Mr Fitzgerald was on about when he endorsed the Open Letter on good governance earlier in January, 2015.
He explained his view to Leigh Sales ~
LEIGH SALES: And why did you feel the need to remind politicians what good governance is and what public expectations are?
TONY FITZGERALD: Well, I think, really, public expectations have dropped off those requirements because politicians have ignored them for so long. They’re really requirements of what we call representative democracy, which is a system in which a parliament is elected to represent the people and to govern on behalf of the people. Whereas the political parties of today see it rather as a contest in which whichever one wins does pretty much what it likes. And so I suppose if we’re ever going to get back to the proper representative democracy, it will have to come through pressure from the public to force the parties to acknowledge these requirements and it seemed appropriate in the present circumstances to start that pressure going forward.
We had to re-read the Fitzgerald Inquiry recommendations, I’d said to Quentin 26 years ago, as if we were figuring out how to get around, over, through, or under them, so we’d at least be mentally prepared to detect how ‘the forces of darkness’ would be responding to this major assault on their domination.
Beginning to Really Understand Domination
I’m using ‘domination’ in its technical Hegelian, Weberian, critical theoretical, and republican senses, and I’m very well aware of how each body of theory deals with or nuances this central political and sociological concept. (I hasten to add that American republican thought, as contributed to by Philip Pettit, and his followers, and as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy makes very clear indeed, has almost nothing whatsoever to do with current practical GoP or Tea Party nonsense. It’s indeed a major obstacle that when one encounters ‘American republican thought’ one is initially repelled because it might refer to the ‘Collected Wisdom of Sarah Palin’ or similar. Prof Pettit’s 2014 Alan Saunders Memorial Lecture was a masterly discourse on some key elements of genuine and highly relevant American republican thought. For a shorter taste, go here too.)
The American republican theorist, Frank Lovett, for example, describes people as being dominated when ‘… to the extent that they are dependent on a social relationship in which some other person or group wields arbitrary power over them’ (2010: 119 passim.). Coming from a critical theoretical direction, highly informed by Weber’s lengthy discourse on domination as well as general Marxism’s many approaches to the same issue, I would argue that domination amounts to ‘socially unnecessary constraints on human freedom and the pursuit of human potentials for emancipation and enlightenment’.
In other words, when closely and carefully considering some social phenomenon or trajectory of governance, ask the question, excoriatingly, ‘Do we really, really need this behavior, belief, law, or policy if the point of the exercise is maximizing human potentials for emancipation?’
Yes; as Frank Lovett from his American republican position, and recent critical theorists from their much more Western European perspectives are both respectively very well aware, as am I, the foregoing is decidedly problematic and contestable, particularly when grounded in specific countries, societies, and locations.
And we can bring in Jürgen Habermas at this point by referencing his theory of communicative action to set out the broad terrains and ways in which we ought to wage our debates if we want to do so to arrive at a sustainable and workable outcome. Though he only touches on the matter very briefly in his voluminous and very dense writings, and therein lies a significant weakness in his theory, the clear implication is that Habermas would accept that our discourses about Things That Really Matter must be conducted nonviolently if they are to have sustainable outcomes (see, for example, Between Facts and Norms, Pp. 382 passim.).
The Fitzgerald Strategy & Its Unraveling
Looking back over Mr Fitzgerald’s Inquiry strategy, it’s clear that while the Inquiry was triggered by media exposures of alleged, and then conclusively proven, police corruption involving so-called massage parlors, much of his Inquiry’s later efforts, and most Recommendations, were aimed at permanently reforming Queensland governance, starting with the notorious gerrymander, and tunneling into how the State was run to clean out nepotism, backroom political deals and influence, and other corrosive activities. Ripping apart the political environment in which corruption could corrosively flourish.
Leaping ahead a generation, Mr Fitzgerald has periodically railed against the Newman Government’s apparent watering down of the principles and even institutions put in place and largely operative intact since 1989. If one carefully traces Mr Fitzgerald’s criticisms of the Newman Government from just after it was elected in March, 2012, a clear pattern emerges of growing alarm at the trajectory this government has taken, culminating on Wednesday evening, January 28.
Starting with a speech at the Queensland State Library on March 30, 2012, criticizing the appointment of former Howard Government treasurer, Peter Costello, to chair the Commission of Audit, which produced the real Newman Government’s policies leading to Strong Choices.
And then a piece on ABC’s The Drum, co-authored with his former Counsel Assisting, Gary Crooke QC, on February 3, 2014.
Then in his Submission to the Newman Government’s review of the Crime and Misconduct Commission, one of his Inquiry’s lasting legacies.
In June, 2014, former Chief Magistrate, Tim Carmody, was appointed Chief Justice, an appointment of which Mr Fitzgerald said, “People whose ambition exceeds their ability aren’t all that unusual,”
“However, it’s deeply troubling that the megalomaniacs currently holding power in Queensland are prepared to damage even fundamental institutions like the Supreme Court and cast doubt on fundamental principles like the independence of the judiciary,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“Queensland is extremely vulnerable to the misuse and abuse of power,” he said in a statement.
“There are almost no constitutional limits on the power of the state’s single house of parliament.
“Unless there is an effective parliamentary opposition to advocate alternative policies, criticise government errors, denounce excesses of power and reflect, inform and influence public opinion, the checks and balances needed for democracy are entirely missing.”
Then on January 8, 2015, The Australia Institute, with advice from Tony Fitzgerald, wrote to all political parties contesting the Queensland election calling on them to agree to some fundamental principles of good governance. The letter, signed by 50 prominent Australians is here (PDF).
The Brisbane Times reported that Mr Fitzgerald was again critical of the LNP:
“It’s disappointing that the LNP apparently continues to yearn for the Bjelke-Petersen era of ethics-free government,” he said.
“The LNP’s failure to commit to these basic and surely uncontroversial principles of good governance, or even to explain why it won’t is capable of only two interpretations.
“It either intends to continue to act inconsistently with good governance, or it considers that the public is not entitled to know how it plans to govern, if elected,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
On Friday, January 23, Mr Fitzgerald wrote on ABC’s The Drum that:
“During its brief term in power, the present government treated the community with contempt.
From behind a populist facade, it engaged in rampant nepotism, sacked, stacked and otherwise reduced the effectiveness of parliamentary committees, subverted and weakened the state’s anti-corruption commission, made unprecedented attacks on the courts and the judiciary, appointed a totally unsuitable Chief Justice, reverted to selecting male judges almost exclusively and, from a position of lofty ignorance, dismissed its critics for their effrontery,” Mr Fitzgerald wrote.
The same day, Gary Crooke, QC, also weighed into what was really a one-sided debate, because the LNP weren’t participating, but he generally savaged the standard of political ethics generally, including ‘pay for access’ to politicians, in which both the ALP and the LNP were indulging.
No More Envelopes of Cash
Five days earlier ABC’s 7.30 programme raised much more serious questions about political donations in Queensland, including deploying file vision from a stunt I participated in while reporting on the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
In December, 1988, while under interrogation at the Inquiry, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen explained how people just mysteriously arrived in his 15th floor George Street Executive Building office with envelopes of cash which was, apparently, laundered through a company called Kaldeal Pty Ltd so Sir Joh could directly fund National Party candidates of his choosing. The then weeknight state based The 7.30 Report ~ Oh! How that’s missed in Queensland right now ~ decided to try doing the same thing, so reporter Anna Reynolds and I got $10,000 cash from the ABC Credit Union and, closely shadowed by an extremely nervous Credit Union employee, put the cash in a briefcase, got one of our actors doing our re-enactments of Inquiry evidence, wired him up with a radio mic, and filmed him trying to get into the Executive Building from across the street. He got no further than the foyer.
This was, and remains, one of the darker aspects of contemporary political activity, though it isn’t done in the crude ways revealed at the Fitzgerald Inquiry, though the ‘bags’ or ‘envelopes of cash’ have gone into popular folklore. It’s almost done in the open, in broad daylight, or at least brightly lit convention centers and pay for attendance dinners.
Nothing should further need to be said by me, but rather from Mr Fitzgerald:
LEIGH SALES: We had a story on this program last week about both the LNP and the Labor Party in Queensland accepting cash for access to senior figures.
TONY FITZGERALD: Yes.
LEIGH SALES: What do you make of that practice?
TONY FITZGERALD: The main thing I make of it in relation to that recent – those recent events is that neither of the major parties seems to understand the meaning of the commitments they gave. That was – I think the third commitment was that people were not to get special access, etc. and I suppose if you pay money and are allowed a visit, you got special access. So I think it’s extraordinary.
LEIGH SALES: But the parties – the major parties all did agree and sign up to those four principles that we’ve talked about. But how are they actually enforced or how are parties to be held accountable for that?
TONY FITZGERALD: Two different questions. I think to be enforced, they can’t be legally enforced. To be held accountable, they can be held politically accountable. And that’s what I’ve really been urging people to think about in this forthcoming election. I don’t care how people vote; it’s not up to me. But I think it’s terribly important that people take into account not just specific issues – who’s going to get a bridge? Who’s going to get a tunnel and so on and so forth, but who’s going to behave properly? I’d like to see it happen this time, but if not this time, the next time, and if not the next time, the time after, so that we finally get to a situation where we’ve got a parliament that that’s acting on behalf of the people and not on behalf of their own constituents and supporters and rent seekers and chancers of all sorts who tie themselves onto them – the camp followers, if you like.
Serious questions continue to be raised about political donations in Queensland, but they won’t be satisfactorily answered. Too many vested interests have too much at stake to seriously embark on even adequate disclosure, let alone needed reform. Hence, Mr Newman can make claims about the ALP allegedly receiving tainted cash from bikie gangs laundered through unions, and all the ALP can do is vigorously deny it.
Unpacking the Looming Liquid Modern Queensland
Rather, I will now look at the looming Liquid Modern Queensland, which, I am very confident, but with dread shared with Mr Fitzgerald, will emerge once the election fallout starts to settle.
Not that Mr Fitzgerald and his many agreeing commentators use anything like these highfalutin’ terms or descriptions, even in their voluminous scholarly writings. Many are lawyers or legal scholars, so they go for the constitutional or regulatory intricacies of administrative or corruption regulation and control. And Mr Fitzgerald’s reported comments at the launch of the most recent of these tomes (and a well worth reading and considering one it is too) also bear attention.
Indeed, I would argue that the Abbott Government is actually Australia’s first fully formed Liquid Modern Government, but they took many of their operative cues from the Newman Government elected 18 months earlier. Or, perhaps, wily tacticians deep within the then Federal Opposition and their many backers, seized on the unexpected massive majority in Queensland to experiment here before fully deploying their own plans federally. This would fit with a Shock Doctrine scenario too.
Here I also depart from, though not necessarily disagree with, Dr Mark Bahnisch’s very perceptive observations in The Guardian, and The Monthly, probably the most insightful deeper reflective observations during the election campaign, truth be told. He summarized several of his points on Late Night Live on Wednesday evening, including speculating on the probability that Queensland was used as a test bed for later policies from the Abbott Government.
Dr Bahnisch, in part drawing on another insightful essay by Griffith Review’s Professor Julianne Schultz from 2008, maintains that, yes, Queensland is different, but by no means in the tediously clichéd ways deployed by southern observers. You know the ones ~ XXXX is Queensland’s beer ‘cos we can’t spell ‘beer’, pilots flying north warn passengers to set their watches back an hour and their heads back 20 years, and so on (yawn).
Queensland is different because we’re disruptive, in all sorts of ways, as Prof Schultz catalogues.
Welcome to The Future as The Present Already
And we’re going to get even more so once we go fully Liquid Modern.
Knowing I am doing violence to Zygmunt Bauman’s erudite and subtle arguments in Liquid Modernity and several subsequent books, often written as co-authored lengthy exchanges with various interlocutors, I would summarize the concept thus:
The formerly solid, firm, quite readily definable and identifiable concepts, ideas, principles, and even institutions which, over centuries and with monumental, terrible, setbacks ~ I’m writing this the day after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz ~ have built up what we can call and understand as Modernity have gone fluid, slippery, and liquid.
The Modernist principles of good governance, for example, are those advocated by Tony Fitzgerald, grounded and ideally practiced in our peculiar polity of a Westminster derived democratic pluralist society.
It is the confluence of two very broad ideologies, bodies of thought and practice which contribute to Liquid Modernity.
Really understanding either of these is tricky and difficult, as many writers have their own approaches to them, from eagerly endorsing and promoting, to excoriatingly critical and condemning.
Postmodernist Neoliberalism = Liquid Modenity
By no means am I arguing the details of Liquid Modernity, at least as I’m sketching it out here, go uncontested, and that gives one some optimism at times. Witness the Abbott Government’s continuing grief over its 2014 budget, and the implications of that had it been fully passed, and the probably of a major swing against the Newman Government this weekend.
An important feature of the neo-liberal playbook too is the Noble Lie, which I’ve mentioned in earlier posts too. Essentially, because neo-liberal principles and goals are correct, informed by the science of economics and the inexorable logic of the free market ~ did I just hear loud guffaws from most reputable economists including those with Nobel Prizes like Paul Krugman ~ nevertheless implementing them will be difficult because politics is messy, ideologically loaded, contested, and worse. Politics also involves people who just don’t understand the rectitude and rigor of neo-liberal thought. So neo-liberals have to firstly attain, keep, and indeed extend political power in order to implement their correct policies, and thence they have to Nobly Lie about what their real policies are and involve for societies in which they are to be implemented. Quite acceptable from their point of view, and this detachment or disengagement of strong truth claims and ethics in the interests of getting and keeping power conveniently meshes with applied postmodernism.
The Real Abbott & Newman (Seeney, Nichols, whoever’s left standing) Government Policies
I touched on this in my last Post too:
Just as the Abbott Government’s real policies are contained in the Recommendations of the National Commission of Audit, and therein lies the basis of much of the angst and grief, much self-created, being endured by the Abbott Government as it tries to implement at least the less politically toxic parts of those Recommendations, the Newman Government’s real policies are contained in the Costello-chaired Commission of Audit Recommendations.
From these, we got Strong Choices, the Newman Government’s Plan for Queensland, the central part of which are asset sales, err, sorry, 99 year asset leases, which will get Queensland out of debt, restore our AAA credit rating, and fund a future of prosperity and security, and everything.
A point which has been neglected in the campaign, but which bears close interrogation in all the hyperbole about all those jobs being, to be, will be, created, is what the Newman Government regards as ‘real jobs’.
Back on January 8, 2015, which seems almost like ancient history such is the excitement we’ve been having since, Brisbane Times’ Amy Remeikis and others reported Mr Newman as saying: “Real jobs are created in the real economy, in businesses and particularly in small businesses, they are not created by government authorities and Comcos”..
“They are created by business conditions that are conducive and situations where there are long-term plans to support those businesses. That is how you get job creation in Australia and indeed any western free market democracy,” Mr Newman said.
Huh? So people employed in government or state owned or operated workplaces, like public schools, public hospitals, the police force, or even the public service, minus the 14,000 or so Mr Newman sacked during his first year in office, are not working in the ‘real economy’ doing ‘real jobs’. So what the hell are they doing?
From a neo-liberal position, the only ‘Real Jobs’ are those in private enterprise, ideally with ‘flexible’ pay and conditions individually negotiated between employee and employer with no or minimal interference in the free labour market by governments. Feel a Productivity Commission Inquiry into labour market ‘reforms’ coming on?
Doing Postmodern Politics ~ Go Juggle Smoke
The postmodernist methods appear in the often severe difficulty one has in nailing down just what LNP politicians are actually saying when their ‘facts’ and information from which they derive their ‘facts’ are constantly shifting. This goes well beyond the usual complex arrays of spin, dissembles, selective cherry picking of data, we all know and loathe in the daily spin cycles. It’s admittedly initially weird to suggest neo-liberals embrace and deploy postmodernism to further their agendas when many of them are active ‘culture warriors’, railing against ‘Cultural Marxism’ at almost every turn. But they are.
Professor John Keane’s conception of ‘monitory democracy’ intervenes here because, in our highly interconnected world, information literate and capable citizens can and do closely monitor politics, governments, and their truth claims, and are quite capable of finding reliable information, and disseminating it widely. So, if Treasurer Joe Hockey rails about there being a ‘budget emergency’ requiring urgent expenditure surgery, if not near austerity, citizens of our monitory democracy can access the World Bank or the OECD or even the Treasury Department, look up relevant, current data ourselves, make sense of it, draw on reliable commentary likewise, and, at the least, call Mr Hockey out on blogs and social media to greater accountability. Not that he’ll listen much, because he knows he’s correct, doesn’t he.
This is a development on what the Howard Government endorsed when it attempted a version of postmodern conservatism, as described by Australian scholars, Geoff Boucher and Matthew Sharpe in The Times Will Suit Them though, by the time the book was published, Howard had lost the 2007 election.
A Dead, Buried. Cremated Corpse Arises
Of course, Work Choices was straight out of the neo-liberal prescription list for the ‘reform’ of Australian employment conditions, ‘reform’ always now deeply positively encoded to mean ‘better’, ‘improvement’, ‘fixing a problem’, rather than its formerly more neutral dictionary meaning: “The action or process of making changes in an institution, organization, or aspect of social or political life, so as to remove errors, abuses, or other hindrances to proper performance” (OED; emphasis added). And Work Choices seems to be shambling back to life in some reconstructed or resurrected form, even getting past the stake through its heart, next to the sliver bullet holes, coffin scattered with garlic, drenched in sanctified waters.
Depends on how one defines or decides what is a “… hindrance to proper performance” and what that “proper performance should be”. See above bald summary of neo-liberalism.
Because, in postmodernism, there are no ‘absolute’ verifiable, ‘facts’ (i.e., postmodernism has a very weak teleology at best), all ‘facts’ being social creations, postmodernist politics can be described as ‘fact free’, which is not to say there are no facts, because to do so would finally be to embrace nihilism, which is untenable, but rather that “I will decide what the facts are, and I will develop and deploy policy on the basis of what I have decided the ‘facts’ are”. (They don’t quite argue that phenomena like the laws of gravity are socially created and thence contested, but some of the applied implications of strongly verifiable phenomena, such as climate change, are, so one can then see how neo-liberal, even neo-conservative, climate change deniers actually deploy loathed postmodernist methods to try to at least cast doubt on the very strong sciences of climate change.)
The neo-liberalism kicks in when those proposing or arguing for alternative ‘facts’ find their employment status, funding, or regulatory existence being ‘reviewed’, ‘looked at’, ‘reformed’, or just shut down through defunding due to other ‘government priorities’.
Sounds familiar once one reflects back over all those promises made before the Queensland and the Federal elections which have now been abandoned, amended, run through Commissions of Audit which found, Shock Horror!, state and then federal budgets are disaster areas needing fundamental and deep seated ‘reforms’. This is the Shock Doctrine, meaning, find, create, exploit, or concoct a ‘crisis’ ~ Budget Emergency anybody? ~ which can only be fixed by rigorous application of neo-liberal policies and prescriptions. Chaos is the only alternative. (Seen any LNP ads in the last few days?)
I’ll leave this discussion at this point, but will re-visit it during 2015 as I am very well aware I have glossed many issues which really need and deserve much deeper interrogation.
To conclude, my usually most reliable election guide, my water, tells me that the LNP Newman Government, quite possibly minus Newman himself if the latest polls are accurate, will be returned with a very reduced majority, but still a workable one to exercise the mandate they have been given by the Queensland people to continue implementing its Strong Choices.
Welcome to the truly Liquid Modern Queensland.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.