News That’s Fit To Punt – 12/Jun/2013

The Search For Donald Mackay

This is surprising.

“A search is under way today on a property near Hay as part of an ongoing investigation,” a spokesman said.

Australian Federal Police, local police and members of the Unsolved Homicide Squad were seen buying hundreds of dollars worth of shovels in town before heading to the property on Maude Road, outside Hay.

Tents have been erected and an excavator was brought in about 4pm to assist with the search.

Father-of-four Mackay went missing after leaving the Griffith Hotel on July 15, 1977, where he had been drinking with friends.

They might just find him after all this time, although I don’t know what else will be dug up with his body. The whole disappearance of Mackay is tied up with all kinds of strange dealings in the shadows of the international drug trade. Goodness knows what kind of metaphorical skeletons are going to come out with Mackay’s body.

Gender Wars: Attack Of The Clowns, Revenge of the Feminists

Where does one start with politics this grubby? First, there was Julia Gillard talking to a cohort of the usual suspect saying  that an Abbott Government would be tough on women and that Abortion would be on the issue thanks to Tony Abbott being a Catholic and all. It might be true. It likely is true on some level, but really, one really wonders if this is this the way the Prime Minister of Australia wants to proceed? Even proper Feminist-credentialed people (read female journalists) are not entirely convinced this is the right way to open an attack on the obvious boys-own-club, old-school-ties Coalition. I guess, if one were the Prime Minister, one might look at the contest as trying to extract as much differentiation, but I sort of wonder if there are enough men – blue collar, union types at that – who would be happy to take the free kick in the pride and still support the Prime Minister.

Julia Gillard batted on today with this stuff.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has accused Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of ”a pattern of behaviour” that would lead to ”a lack of respect for women littered throughout all of his government’s policy document”.

Ms Gillard has also slapped down government MPs who criticised her for raising the issue of abortion in her speech to the ”Women for Gillard” event in Sydney on Tuesday.’

‘Neither [Stephen] Jones nor [Ed] Husic were in Parliament when Liberal Party women rebelled when Tony Abbott was health minister, so concerned were they about the attitude that he was taking to RU486,” Ms Gillard said in Perth on Wednesday.

”Well, I was in Parliament, I was shadow health minister. I saw those Liberal women rebel again Tony Abbott as health minister and consequently I think Mr Abbott’s conduct at that time and the fact that many in his own political party felt the need to rebel tells you something about Mr Abbott’s attitudes.”

Ms Gillard defended her decision to question the attitude a Coalition government would take to women saying there was a ”pattern of behaviour” displayed by conservative politicians.’

‘Mr Abbott has personally gone and stood next to signs that describe me in a sexist way,  we’ve had the Young Liberals hosting a function where jokes were cracked about the death of my father,” Ms Gillard said.’

‘And now we have (shadow treasurer Joe) Hockey and (Liberal Party candidate Mal) Brough hosting a function with this grossly offensive menu on display. Join the dots.”

Ah yes. There’s the menu thing, yes. The breaking news of the day was that there was some fundraiser dinner where a menu was allegedly used wherein the Prime Minster was denigrated.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Liberal candidate Mal Brough should be disendorsed after a menu that made lewd and offensive jokes about her anatomy was used at his fund-raiser.

Ms Gillard slammed the menu as ‘‘grossly sexist and offensive’’ and criticised Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for standing by Mr Brough.

‘This is Tony Abbott’s Liberals,’’ she said. ‘‘This is what they’re like.’’
The menu, used at an event in March, lists ‘‘Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail’’ before going on to describe it as ‘‘Small breasts, huge thighs & a big red box’’.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek agreed with Ms Gillard, saying she thought Mr Brough’s position as the candidate for the Queensland seat of Fisher was ‘‘untenable’’

Except by the end of the day, the restauranteur came forwards and claimed it was an in-joke that got out. As jokes go, it’s pretty bad; it’s mean-spiritied and particularly nasty in a partisan way that makes you squirm – not for the politics itself but for the ugliness of attitude and idiotic brazenness.

And this is what I mean by grubby. Contrary to the starting point where Julia Gillard kicked off with talk about Abortion and women’s rights none of this actually has anything to do with policy. It’s just a kind of slanging match to try and paint Tony Abbott as this kind of Neanderthal Knucklehead (which, as far as we can tell, he is). Doubly, the problem is that whatever shade of Neanderthal Knucklehead Tony Abbott might be, there those who stand behind him who are deeper and darker in the shade of reactionary unreconstructed male chauvinism (as evinced by the the joke menu – even as a joke it says far more about the people that enjoyed it).

It’s a bit like Julia Gillard gets to call Tony Abbott a moral idiot, because he is one, and in fact he is the leader of a party of moral idiots. He may indeed be the biggest moral idiot amongst a great throng of moral idiots. Except the moral idiots wear their moral idiocy as a badge of pride, so there is absolutely no point in indulging in this exchange of idiotic remarks.

I guess it takes the attention away from the leadership speculation; but it sure as heck does not improve my regard towards Julia Gillard as leader of the ALP. It’s hard to feel for any of these bastards.

Talk Is Cheap, But It’s Fun

This business of Kevin Rudd lurking and stalking Julia Gillard’s position is getting out of hand again. It was only 3 months ago that given the chance – handed to him on a platter by Simon Crean – Kevin Rudd decided not to contest. Since then, Julia Gillard’s support has stayed decidedly low, thus casting a long shadow over the ALP’s prospects for retaining dignity, let alone government. What seems to escape the strategists in the ALP is just how powerful and entrenched the resentment in the electorate happens to to be.

Everywhere Kevin Rudd goes, he is popular and people call out to him, asking him to come back.The point is, Julia Gillard has no traction because nobody wants to give her the traction. it doesn’t matter what policy victories she achieves in a difficult hung Parliament. The hung Parliament itself represents the great disaffection the electorate had for the ALP in 2010 – and the polls say things have gotten worse since then.

You’d hate this if you were watching it in ALP headquarters because you just want him to go away like Mark Latham did. Instead he’s likely to be last man standing in Queensland. You’d hate to be Wayne Swan. but we know Julia Gillard is stubborn and she won’t walk away, which means she is going to lead the ALP right over the waterfall.

So the only question now is will somebody who supported Gillard in 2010 when ousting Kevin Rudd, now withdraw that support and swing that support back to Kevin Rudd?
Enter Bill Shorten. This is going to be a long quote, but it’s worth reading through as it shows just why the situation is coming to a head again, a mere 3months after the last rattle of the cage.

The catalyst for this devil’s choice is recent internal Labor polling, and more from the ACTU, that has ignited fear and loathing in the breasts of ALP members and senators across the country.

An almost bearable resignation had settled across the party for many months about its loss of support in NSW and Queensland, where Labor voters had never forgiven the party for tossing aside one of their own, Kevin Rudd, for a southerner, Julia Gillard.

Labor MPs and the union movement knew it was serious – and in Western Australia, too – but they had little idea of the scale of the catastrophe down south until internal polling and research undertaken by the ACTU in Victoria began returning figures in the past couple of weeks that flabbergasted the most hardened.

The definition of a marginal seat had to be rewritten. Electorates on what might normally be considered comfortable margins of 8-10 per cent were suddenly facing wipe-outs, according to those professing to be in the know. There was barely a Labor seat in outer-metropolitan Melbourne or an industrial or migrant-dominated area the ALP could be sure of holding.

More polling showed South Australia had joined the rush, with the likelihood of the Labor Party losing almost two-thirds of its 11 seats.
Victoria and South Australia were supposed to be relatively reliable Labor strongholds. Further south, all Tasmania’s five seats were considered in great jeopardy.

Thus, when Kevin Rudd journeyed to Geelong, an industrial city with two ALP seats facing disaster and was mobbed by voters crying ”come back Kevin”, the TV cameras whirring, lightbulbs began blinking among panicked Labor MPs.

They needed someone, somewhere, to do something. Quick. In the absence of a better idea, the fallback was Shorten, whether he liked it or not. Some of his colleagues, knowing Shorten’s own polling figures in his seat of Maribyrnong had taken a big hit, too, sensed he might be up for it.

To this point, however, he’s not. Shorten is smart enough to know he alone could not persuade Gillard to blink. It would need a posse of her supporters, or a declaration by an authority like Bob Hawke.

The Labor Party’s last desperate throw of the dice is this: how does a federal government persuade itself and voters it is a sensible or even halfway attractive idea to change leaders twice in three years?

The deeper dilemma is even less digestible. The choice is whether to remain deeply unpopular or to hope that the party might emerge from a leadership change as simply less unpopular.

The options, then, are all negative. They are choices that will be made from a position of weakness.

You would very nearly pity Shorten if you were prepared to forget he’d already played the Grim Reaper with another Labor prime minister almost exactly three years ago.

You shake your head in incredulity at how these ALP party apparatchiks can’t seem to get their heads around a simple fact: Kevin Rudd is still the electorate’s choice. No amount of packaging and branding and bow-tying ribbons around Julia Gillard is going to get her over the line with the electorate. So once again, as it was clear 3months ago, and for 29 straight weeks in a row, we can reaffirm that Julia Gillard is headed for an epic fail.

You get the feeling this isn’t going to work out the way the people of Australia are hoping. Bill Shorten is hoping to pick up the pieces after the electoral demolition job. I wonder if he seriously thinks that would make him a popular man – popular enough to become Prime Minister.

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