Unfinished Business In The ALP

Gillard Wanted To Handball The PM Chair To Combet

I like Greg Combet. He’s the only politician I know of who has admitted to being a fan of Frank Zappa. He’s done now, but while he was around, I had hopes for the man. Perhaps these hopes were misplaced, given that the sort of man who likes Frank Zappa might look at Australian Politics and choose to walk away. I have to respect that as a voter, but it’s still sad. Maybe it got too hard to work in Parliament all week and go home and put on a Frank Zappa record and there is Frank singing “Keep it greasy so it goes down easy“. I’d imagine the cognitive dissonance might become unbearable. And so it is that he left Parliament at the end of his term at the 2013 election.

The news today – more like a non-news really – is that Julia Gillard offered to hand him the Prime Minster’s chair, just to fend off Kevin Rudd. This is pretty bleak material.

An embattled Julia Gillard secretly offered to stand down as Prime Minister in June 2013 and secure the leadership for then Climate Change and Industry minister Greg Combet in order to fend off Kevin Rudd, Mr Combet has revealed.

But dogged by months of ill-health, and unsure that a switch to a third leadership contender so close to an election would improve Labor’s position, Mr Combet declined the chance to be prime minister.

‘‘I was struggling a good deal personally by the time June [2013] came around’’ Mr Combet told Fairfax Media in an interview this week. ‘‘I was in constant pain with the problems that I was having, and the thought of taking on additional responsibility and not being 100 per cent fit to do it, in that febrile environment, it didn’t look easy.’’

This ALP factional infighting is pretty awful stuff. It partly goes with the terrain of the Westminster system, and over the years we’ve been made to be inured to its odd outcomes. The ins and outs of these machinations are way beyond the purview of the electorate, and are subject to influences from such things as the Unions and lobby groups. It’s just difficult to understand how they could have cocked up so many decisions along the way.

He says he remains convinced that former Opposition Leader Kim Beazley would have won the 2007 federal election and become a highly successful Labor Prime Minister if Mr Rudd had not dislodged him.

ACTU polling as part of the Your Rights At Work Campaign in the run up to the 2007 election left him ‘‘completely convinced Beazley would have won’’, which would have resulted in a ‘‘vastly more experienced, mature person as Prime Minister presiding over, for want of a better description, a really grown up government, avoiding all the mistakes’’.

‘‘Neither Julia nor Kevin had had a lot of experience in leadership roles and I think that impacted on their capacity to do the job’’ Mr Combet told Fairfax Media.

So at least we were right all along in 2007, that the Rudd-Gillard leadership was a balls-up waiting to happen. It’s a shame I can’t point to neither Kevin Rudd nor Julia Gillard as the same kinds of leaders as Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and Gough Whitlam before them. The tumultuous six years in government exposed all the problems of the ALP that went unsolved since Keating lost in 1996. The problem is compounded by the fact that neither Kim Beazley nor Simon Crean were able to restructure the party in the way it needed to be restructured, and Mark Latham’s turn was certainly hobbled by the same influences that replaced Beazley twice, that put in Rudd, removed Rudd, removed Gillard and essentially burnt the metaphorical house down.

Oh, and Ms. Gillard, I will never forget the slight you made when you said you were not a social democrat.

Here’s Mark Latham being particularly frank about it.

Faulkner’s reform plan, to be put to State Conference this weekend, is to allow ALP branch members to select the party’s upper house tickets. Having given rank-and-file members a say in the selection of Labor’s federal and state leaders, why shouldn’t they be empowered to preselect upper house candidates? Why doesn’t Clements trust the True Believers who staff the polling booths, who keep their local branches alive, who fight so passionately for the cause of Labor?

Far from restricting rank-and-file union involvement, democratisation encourages it. It says to union members: don’t allow union secretaries doubling up as factional bosses to make all the big decisions. Join your local ALP branch and have a direct say in how the party is run: in picking federal and state leaders, in selecting Labor’s lower and upper house candidates.

This is what Faulkner is trying to achieve: Labor as a membership-based party, rather than a narrow factional-based clique.

Mark Latham’s been made out to be a crazy person by the media which must be galling because he commentates in the media; and once upon a decade ago, he was the guy trying to put together a way back to office, when the party machine had run through both Beazley and Crean and found them wanting. It’s hard to forget those terrible years either, together with the terrible campaign and defeat that followed. And all that time, the likes of Mark Arbib and Paul Howes were fucking shit up from behind the scenes.

It’s really hard to forgive the ALP. Especially if you don’t want to vote for the right.

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Good Grief

‘Partners In Grief’

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks in to mine,” says Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in ‘Casablanca’. The phrase popped into my head because of all the spots in all the troubled places in all the world, MH17 has to get shot down in Ukraine. And this has led, domino-like and contemptuous of our petty (lack of) interest, to a series of events where Tony Abbott is now talking about sending troops to secure the site.

One minute, the who situation in Ukraine was half a world away and somebody else’s problem. When we send our troops in with other aggrieved nations to ‘secure the area’, you can bet your bottom dollar and your mortgage that the so-called separatists will be hostile and may even start a shooting war. Not only was the MH17 thing a game changer, it has thrust Australia into point to lead the way into the retro-medieval hellhole that is East Ukraine. You couldn’t have scripted it worse.

It’s a charming job where our troops would secure the site so people can collect the scattered remains of the bodies as yet unaccounted for. The last place on earth you’d want to send troops is Ukraine; and the only thing worse than sending troops in to shoot is to send troops in to not shoot. Good grief, what a rotten turn of events.

Why Would You Want To Own A Phone That Belonged To A Dead Person On MH17?

This business of looting the corpses is pretty awful.

Grieving relatives of the MH17 crash victims have had chilling confirmation that their loved ones’ possessions have been looted from the crash site.

Relatives of victims in the Netherlands dialled the mobile phone numbers of crash victims and said the phones were answered by people with ‘eastern European-sounding voices’, the Netherlands’ De Telegraaf reported.
The relatives were shocked when they heard the voices, the paper said.

Telephone companies agreed to waive the usual requirement for a death certificate and agreed to cancel the phone subscriptions, so those who took the phones could not continue to use them.

That would be really depressing. Not only have your loved ones been killed in the most senseless manner, you have concrete proof that their possessions have been looted by crass people without any class.

I Can’t Begin To Fathom Their Pain

This just breaks me. This couple lost all three of their kids in the MH17 incident.

“We live in a hell beyond hell. Our babies are not here with us – we need to live with this act of horror, every day and every moment for the rest of our lives,” the statement reads.

“No one deserves what we are going through. Not even the people who shot our whole family out of the sky.

“No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for our children, for Mo, for Evie, for Otis. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for Grandad Nick. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for each other. This is a revelation that gives us some comfort.”

I don’t know how they’ll deal with this. I can’t imagine there’s a way of really living through the aftermath of such a traumatic thing. I really fear for these people. My heart goes out to them.

I have nothing to offer for them to fall back upon. Fairness and deserving has absolutely nothing to do with something like this. It’s just irredeemable stupidity on the part of the idiots who fired the missile; the idiots who gave those idiots missiles; the idiots who authorised those idiots to give the missiles to the idiots who fired it. The veritable chain of idiocy goes all the way to the top – Vladimir Putin – and the man had the gall to blame Kiev. And knowing this and spelling it out does absolutely nothing for these people.

It would destroy me. I know that much. But my response would be to demand nuking Donetsk.

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Double Standards

It’s That Kind Of Day

The reports in the news sites say that Australia really swung behind getting a meaningful resolution out of the UN, in the aftermath of the MH17 event.  The SMH is really giving our diplomats a pat on the back – seems to me they’re just finally earning their keep after years of cushy livin’ in New York on the public purse! Besides, suddenly beset with Julie Bishop’s death stare, how could the unsuspecting people of the world say no?

Of course jokes about Julie Bishop’s death stare aside, the dynamic diplomatic deal-making does stand in stark contrast to the way this government minces words and tries to parse interpretations that do not exist (let alone be supported) from our commitment to the UN Charter on Human Rights and how we treat refugees. On that score, we’re one of the worst violators but we keep on coming up with legal fictions as to why it’s okay to run concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru. Millions have been displaced by civil wars in places like Syria, and our government is buys telling them they can’t come. 37 Australians die in a plane hit by a Russian missile an we’re all over it at the UN. No mater how you look at it, it’s a kind of double standard.

In the mean time, PUP senator Jacqui Lambie has made international press on the back of an interview where she claimed her ideal man would be rich and well hung.

Later, when a prospective suitor called up the show, Lambie enquired (sic) if 22 year-old Jamie was “well-hung”.
This induced great mirth from Kim and Dave (ratings gold!), but just imagine if a male politician had offered a similar opinion, about say, a woman needing to be “really rich and have massive boobs”.

It would be a career-ending, resigning offence. Facebook groups would spring up in protest. People would make t-shirts and take to the streets in outrage.

In recent months, Tony Abbott has weathered howling storms for suggesting a Liberal candidate had sex appeal. And for winking when a talk back caller revealed she worked on a sex line.
Clive Palmer has also raised the eyebrow of disapproval for calling female journalists “madam” and “my dear”.
And yet, Lambie is sure to stroll away from her Heart appearance and into her next set of public comments with nary a scratch.
Yes, they are lighting up the internet – but only for their “omigawd” value. Not because they might be construed as demeaning and well, sexist.

The thing is, it probably is some kind of double standard that lets Lambie off the hook when if she were a member of another party and a male, she might not have gotten off so lightly. I’m not saying she should be condemned or that this bit of double standard is particularly noteworthy – merely that double standards seems to be the notion of the day.

Obviously there’s a fine line between the double standard thing and the deliberate hypocrisy inherent in the double think we are asked to endure with all its cognitive dissonance, but this is a country made up of inherently contradictory ideals. It stands to reason that there’s a different rule or standard applied to everything, based on the values of nothing-in-particular.

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The View From The Couch – 20/Jul/2014

The Politicians We Get Are From Those On Offer

Who would run? Why would you run? Who would back you? These are the kinds of questions that might cross the aspiring politician. I’m not one of them, so I can watch people run and fail with a certain amount of objective distance but ultimately that’s hurting me. It hurts me because I’m letting somebody with not the right tools to do the job, and on this blog you’d know for a fact that I’m pretty harsh with politicians. The higher the office, the harder I kick.

Democracy is a funny thing. In America, the most watched kid in high school is not the smartest kid, not the best looking kid, but the most popular kid. Being smart and good looking but not popular (heh, Irony alert!) I always found this American fixation on popularity particularly strange – but it stands to reason.If you’re not popular, you can’t win election, and only by winning elections can you access power, popularity as a character trait then is the highway to power. So all these people running for office, at least in America would be all these kids who once upon a time were the most popular kids in their year and there’s no reason for them to have been the smartest. And so even there America at least gets the politicians it deserves. It explains a lot.

In Australia it is a bit murkier as to what makes a person a good candidate in the eyes of the two great parties or for that matter the lesser parties. The process of preselection in various seats is opaque, and every documented account of how people are chosen is filled with intangible processes and thoughts that defy explanation. My local member – one Craig Laundy of the Liberal Party who looks like a gerbil – must have made some deal with some entity in the party to be the candidate. And so far, he’s just okay. Not terrible, not good, not anything in particular – a perfectly fungible replacement level MP. That Jaymes Diaz guy who went from gaffe to gaffe came from the sort of party room machinations that gave us Pauline Hanson a a Liberal or Eddie Obeid as a State ALP candidate. The point being if you asked (and expected) the parties to pick smart people to run, you still get candidates like Diaz, Hanson, Obeid, Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper, and so on.

Given politics i a kind of necessary evil, it is a good thing we’re forced to think about it seriously in Australia. In countries where they don’t have compulsory voting, the track record for democracy in many places is even worse. As Winston Churchill said, it’s the least worst option.

In that light, I want to just bring your attention to this article.

“What you say – always – is that you want to make a difference. You believe your experience qualifies you to serve. These circumlocutions are the etiquette of democracy, the ritual salute … [people] want to hear you say that you are in it for them.”

And how many times have you heard the pledge. To make a difference. To build the economy. To fight for education. And do you ever really believe it? Or do you suspect politicians are in it for themselves, far more than they are for you?

“It’s worth considering,” Ignatieff goes on, “that such dissembling may have its uses. The pretence may begin as a piece of hypocrisy and end up becoming a politician’s second nature. From pretending to serve, you may surprise yourself by actually doing so.” But the biggest challenge is to pull off the confidence trick. “You have to invent yourself for public consumption.”

And therein lies the asymmetry. Politicians do not get rewarded for candour or honesty; their first step is to commence from the hypocritical position to tell the audience what it wants to hear. If the audience is dumb and ignorant, these things are going to be a lot worse than you expect. This is exactly how democracy ends up offering the seeming, willing, willful idiots we get on election day. We can talk reform all we like, but unless the electorate smartens up a lot more, we’re always going to get the kind of politicians we want to throw off the top of a cliff.

but then, that would be why they’re cutting education. They ant to make it a lot harder for the populace to smarten up.

The Looting Says A Lot

I know it’s a war zone but the utter lack of respect shown by the East Ukrainian rebels around the MH17 crash site is pretty staggering. It sort of shows the crassness of the people on the ground near the crash site.

I keep getting told by Tomas how awful the Russians were when they occupied Lithuania. The stories are colourful (in a really bad way) and grim. I have discounted the awfulness because they were testimonials from the wronged, because they had reasons to paint them as badly as they could, and Russia under Stalin probably had very few luxuries of thought for people to behave better in occupied territories. Yet, when I see these reports of looting, I can’t help but think of those stories and consider the likelihood that these Russians in East Ukraine are not so far away removed from the brutes who occupied East Europe. They are as socially backward as you can imagine. What they’re doing out there looting is like something out of history books that tell you about early medieval peasants and serfs under the Tsars. It’s disgraceful in this day and age. I’m sorry but it’s culturally repugnant and there’s no valid excuse for them to be this way.

I really hope we don’t end up sending any troops into East Ukraine to fight these people. It really would be a waste of perfectly good ammo.

 

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Outrage Over Ukraine

From The Land Of The Pathetic

From the sensibilities of the west, it has to be said the sensibilities of Slav countries are pretty gross. They think the west is a bunch of pussies running scared with effete, gay politics and feminism and political correctness. Judging from the way we behave, they might even have a point, but the flipside is that the sensibilities of say, Russian militarism or Ukrainian separatism are deeply alien to the west. As such, I’ve felt it unlikely for us to muster the energy, finance and logistics to mount a war in Ukraine to help our new friends who want to join NATO and the EU and be effete, gay-accepting, feminist-run and who want to be politically correct like us. It’s too much too soon and too far away and too expensive.

It’s a bit like being asked to drive out from Bondi to Penrith for a one-night stand. Can a one night stand be that good to warrant the drive? Similarly, can having Ukraine as part of NATO and the EU be such a good thing? Think of the differences in culture and cultural attitudes, history and views on history. About the only thing the west has in common with Ukraine might be white people with particularly pale skin and that might even be the grand total sum of it.

Anyway, the Pro-Russian separatists among the Ukrainians has shot down a Malaysian airliner with a missile; early accounts suggest that it was a mistake – they thought they were shooting at a local military aircraft. Imagine their shock to find raining burnt corpses. Now it’s an unspeakable political mess.

Vladimir Putin is blaming Kiev; The Russians are denying culpability; Americans have verified it was a surface to air missile; Tony Abbott is making a fist of being a statesman. It’s a veritable scene of chaos out there, leading to the question, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, what exactly are these politicians going to do to avert World War III? Putin trying to pin it on the Government in Kiev and Tony Abbott beating his chest, seem like “fightin’ words” to me. If it was a genuine mistake and they fired on the wrong plane, then they should just scapegoat this Igor Girkin and make him wear the blame. It’s not like we’ll be missing this miserable soul on this face of this planet. The refusal to just hand this guy over to The Hague for the Western European hypocrisy show for crimes against humanity would look to the world like Putin was condoning the missile firing.

Then again, Vladimir Putin has a way of doing things in just the right Soviet Russian way to bring disgust and repulsion to the front of our hearts. A despicable practitioner in repugnant artless propaganda, Putin will surely hit all the wrong PR notes as he insist on his insane position that this is all the fault of the people in power in Kiev. Like, hullo!

As Pleiades pointed out to me over the phone this morning, it’s interesting how this event has shoved the Israelis marching their forces in to the Gaza Strip from the headline of most news sites. But that is not the only thing that is disturbing about the timing of this event. two days ago, the BRICS nations launched their own international monetary fund, cutting out the US Dollar as the reserve currency. Not many in the mainstream media talked about it, but it represent nations with over 3 billion people combined, giving the US Dollar the middle finger. A day later, President Obama stepped up sanctions against Russian firms, locking them out of debt markets. Within 24hours, a rocket from the Russian side of the Ukrainian conflict shoots down an airplane.  It’s enough to make you raise questions about just exactly where do Putin and Obama see things going.

As for Tony Abbott, he remains the dickhead he was yesterday and all the days before. No amount of Thatcherish poseur-hood is going to help him look better in the eyes of the electorate.

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Conversations Around The Traps

Who Suffers From Zero Interest Rate Policy?

Zero interest Rate Policy or ZIRP as it is known in some circles has been going on for two decades in Japan. It has also been going on for 7 years in the USA and Europe. The reasons have ostensibly been from keeping asset prices to stopping banks from toppling over due to lack of liquidity, through to keeping people employed. The extremely accommodating policy has been running parallel with the Quantitative Easing program in the US and Europe which have somehow helped to prop up asset prices in bubble condition around the globe, but also not spurred growth as promised.

The way the traditional/classical economy was supposed to work was that lower interests would fund capital investment for the next phase of economic growth. Instead the low interest rates have allowed speculators to place bets at lower cost, while the piled up debt has eaten into future growth in a big way. The point of all this is to say, the things the easy money has gone towards have not been exactly productive or helpful, while there are people who are genuinely suffering because interest rates have been kept so low for so long.

For instance retirees in America and Europe with some amount of money saved up during their working lives would be finding that they won’t be living off the interest of the money they saved, but be forced to eat into their savings just to survive. This sort of thing can be seen as a breaking of the social contract. There would be a whole generation of kids growing up without learning about the virtues of saving because  they’ve never seen interest payments on their bank accounts. I don’t think this is a good thing because we’re raising people who haven’t seen the benefits of saving and compound interest.

Worse still, with something like QE going on at the same time, Zero Interest rate translates into a situation where you cannot sit on cash because inflation is eating away at that value; and you can’t stay in bonds because whole countries have been threatening to default for the last 3 years. That leaves equities or foreign currency trades, and they’re no guarantee of a return.

In fact, it’s worth asking at this point in time why people who save should suffer at the hands of the Central Bank while it essentially rewards people who go into debt to buy into positions. Why is it that people should not sit on their earnings as savings? If deflation is such a threat, then why is it so bad if the man on the street is able to get more for less?

Frankly I think the world is getting ripped off.

Politicians Lie, But Must They Be Brazen About It?

I was in a conversation earlier tonight with walk-off HBP, and the issue came up about how the Murdoch press essentially insist on telling non-truths and heavily-spun tag lines, all of which amount to nothing but lies. It’s like an Orwellian thing where untruths are shouted out loud until everybody accepts it as the dominant discourse and acquiesces.

But then Tony Abbott gets up and celebrates the repealing of the Carbon Price, characterising it s this bug bear in the economy that was raising people’s costs of living while not doing anything at all for the environment, and that his government is a “conservationist” government. All of these things are wrong. The Carbon Price was hardly a blip in the rising retail power prices, it was contributing to the reduction of our emissions, and there is no way you can call a government that insists on dismantling the Carbon Price system a conservationist government in any dialect or accent of English.

It’s an astounding thing that we have a Prime Minister that stands there and spouts untruths as if they were truth, pronouncing white is black and black is white. I can accept that politicians will work the facts of the matter in their favour through spin, and that they sometimes get it wrong, making them liars after the fact. I just can’t recall a single Prime Minister of this land lying knowingly with a straight face and expecting the people to buy it. This isn’t “no child will live in poverty” things where a politician simply gets the scope of the problem wrong. These things happen and I don’t judge too harshly. Going right back to Malcolm Fraser and looking through all the NSW premiers, I don’t think I’ve seen a single head of government lie with a straight face as Tony Abbott does.

This is a person who knows the science but chooses to ignore it; understands the facts and chooses to deny them; and then acts on the worst possible advice for ideological reasons and then says he is something that that he has never ever been; and that the ignoring and denying of science and facts and going against them for ideological reasons represents something that is positive for this country when it clearly is not. For Abbott to characterise his government as ‘conservationist’, he may as well as be saying his is a ballerina government, or an artistic government, or a caring compassionate government, or a forward-looking government. These things are equally Un-true of his government as the expedient, idle, lunatic, conceited claim that his is a conservationist government, especially having repealed the Carbon Price legislation, and telling us this at the press conference to announce the repeal.

I’ve just never seen anything like it. And my mind boggles, my brain explodes… It’s like a never ending torture of our minds.

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Reserve Bank of Australia Says…

Renting Is better Than Home Ownership

This is strange. The RBA has done some sums and it thinks one would be better off renting than owning if house prices go up anything less than 2% p.a. (inflation adjusted).

“If this rate of appreciation is expected to continue then our estimates suggest that houses are fairly valued,” the paper said.

 

“Many observers have suggested that future house-price growth is likely to be somewhat less than this historic average. In that case, at current prices, rents, interest rates and so on, the average household is probably financially better off renting than buying.”

 

Assuming real house prices increased at the historical expected real rate of 2.4 per cent, buying beat renting if the owner held for more than eight years. However if the expected real rate of 1.7 per cent experienced over the past 10 years was used, owning only beat renting over longer than 30 years.

What’s interesting about this is that the RBA wants to tell this to us now, a fortnight after telling us that house prices don’t always go up. It is as if the RBA is trying to jawbone the price of homes lower without admitting to there being a bubble.

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