Monthly Archives: November 2013

Where Were These People On Election Day?!

ALP’s Early Comeback

Polls are an awful thing really, because they measure results of what people allegedly think when given thoughts they wouldn’t ordinarily have by themselves on choices they didn’t formulate. If somebody told you the options for managing emissions was a ‘carbon tax’, an Emissions Trading Scheme’, ‘Direct Action’ and nothing at all, you would be led to thinking this was the be-all and end all of all solutions and answer something out of this bunch of bad choices. Not to mention the inherent hostility of the polled person who can then bag out the incumbent for their incumbency and berate the Opposition for their opposition and so on and so forth.

In that light, I can only shrug at the newest poll showing the ALP have surged ahead of the Coalition.

The graphic says it all – less than 3months since the fateful election, the current Government finds itself in a position it would lose the two-party preferred vote. It didn’t take long, and it didn’t take much for the dissatisfaction to set in. If these people had exercise a bit of forethought, they might have  avoided the Abbott government altogether. Doesn’t it make you sick?

The truly interesting thing might be this bit here:

But in a blow to the Prime Minister’s plans, more people like the supposedly ”toxic” carbon tax than his proposed replacement policy.

An Age-Nielsen poll shows little support for Tony Abbott’s proposed carbon tax replacement policy.

Just 12 per cent of voters believe Mr Abbott’s ”direct action” policy of using taxpayer funds to purchase emissions reductions from polluters, and planting trees, is the answer. That amounts to a virtual vote of no-confidence in direct action, which has support 4 percentage points lower than the 16 per cent in favour of keeping a fixed carbon price.

The Age-Nielsen poll of 1400 voters found that Australians overwhelmingly wanted to see Australia meet the nation’s commitment to cut emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 based on year 2000 levels.

While both sides of politics have committed to the minimum target, the poll shows voters prefer the policy Labor took to the last election – a switch to an internationally linked emissions trading scheme.

Fully 29 per cent nominated an ETS as the preferred mechanism to combat global warming – well ahead of ”some other policy” on 24 per cent and 11 per cent who favoured ”no policy at all”.

In other words, the only reason people want the Carbon Tax removed is so they can go to an ETS. That’s right, the only tangible reason people want the Carbon Tax gone is because they want the ETS So much for that mandate Tony Abbott’s been going on about. Listening to his coded dog-whistling you would have thought Australia’s electorate wants to go the way of the Ostrich in any discussion on trying to mitigate Climate Change.

The Drum on ABC 24 featured some Liberal Party apparatchik last Friday who wanted to tell us that the future lie in adapting to climate change, and not mitigating it. If I were a man in possession of inclinations like Elvis Presley I would have shot my TV set. instead I screamed and turned it off. It’s like some bad joke from the Easter Bloc of old that Tony Abbott got elected.

Delaying The Carbon Repeal

In another one of those election promises that is being broken by the Coalition, we have the Carbon Tax repeal. They’ve got it through the Lower House but there’s enough resistance in the Senate to shoot down the repeal. The Coalition solution is  therefore to hold off taking it to the Senate until the new Senate sits in July.

The Abbott government has scheduled two weeks of sittings, two for the Senate and one for the House of Representatives.

Usually Parliament stops for the winter break at the end of June, returning for the spring session in mid-August.

In the last 15 years federal Parliament has only sat once during July – for a single week in 2011 – which lends weight to the theory that the Abbott government has deliberately arranged this voting period for the carbon tax repeal.

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne released a schedule of sitting dates on Monday, showing the Senate sitting for a fortnight from Monday, July 7.

Mr Pyne said more sittings provided an opportunity for debate and consideration of the important bills that will come before the Parliament in 2014.

The lower house will sit for a week from Monday, July 14.

It seems the Coalition has twigged to possibility they would lose a Double Dissolution election – which is to say they had no mandate at all like they have claimed. The fact that the new poll has blunted their resolve points to the inherently opportunistic, populist and largely spineless nature of this government. Have they no shame? It appears not. Have they no dignity? No. Clearly, that’s why they need the Monarchy to drape them with some (imagined) dignity.

Christopher Pyne has been rather disruptive in other ways.

Mr Pyne told Sky News on Sunday evening that two of the states that had agreed to the Gonski reforms, Victoria and Tasmania, had never signed “final agreements” with the federal Labor government, and neither had the National Catholic Education Commission.

“That isn’t a national model, and it’s very difficult for us to implement the complicated, confused, very dense model that they came up with because of Labor’s predilection for prescription and regulation,” he said.”We want less regulation, less prescription from Canberra, and that’s what I’ll set about trying to put in place when we can do that.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the Coalition of breaking the promise it made before the election that it was on a “unity ticket” with Labor on school funding.

“The weasel words of the government saying before an election they will look after schools and properly fund our children in the future, and … they now dial forward and say all deals are off, there were no deals.”

Well, Bill, the answer is that these people really will do and say anything to get into power, hold power and abuse power. No surprises whatsoever there.

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Breaking Bad, The Aussie Way

It’s Only Been Two Months, Phoney Rabid!

I don’t exactly know what you can chalk this up to, but Tony Abbott has managed to drive the delicate Australian diplomatic relationship with Indonesia into a ditch at full throttle. Who gave him the bloody keys? Oh we did. There are a few interesting things about this turn of events.

Tony Abbott essentially came to power believing that his election win validated all of his  tightly-held views. He is interpreting his election win as a massive endorsement of his various policy foibles. Considering he is the least popular Opposition leader to win a Federal election, it might behoove him to consider that he might have the least endorsement by the people as far as election winners go. In deliberately ignoring such nuances to the election result, he has tried turning back to boats to mixed results. he has not managed to buy a single boat (which is probably a good thing given how stupid is the very idea) and went to Jakarta to talk to the Indonesian leadership but ended up getting no sizable deal worthy of calling a deal.

In fact, if anything, the Indonesians have been pretty blunt in expressing their distrust of Tony Abbott, and have repeatedly contradicted Abbott, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison at various points. The point – so to speak – is that Abbot has failed to score any exchange with the Indonesian government and by extension the Indonesian polity, and has expended what little good will we had with them all for the sake of the asylum seeker issue.

Compounding the issue has been this business of leaked documents by Edward Snowden which essentially fingered Australia as espionage aficionados of the South Pacific, and that our spy agencies had attempted to bug the phone calls of the Indonesian leadership. naturally, this has poured gasoline on to the fire that was already burning and so, Indonesia has resorted to calling its ambassador back. It’s like they’re playing a cheap replica of Cold War politics with us, with Australia as the potential enemy. If both sides  keep talking this way, it may end up being that way. You’d think wiser heads will prevail but unfortunately the outgoing Susilo Yudhoyono Bambang is a lame duck going into the election next year, and wisdom and the current Coalition government are like matter and anti-matter. They just don’t seem to coexist.

The shocking thing about all this is that the negotiations with Indonesia was the first real diplomatic challenge for the incoming Abbott government and not only have they failed to do a good job, they’ve sort of set it alight as a monument to their failure. If the relationship is going to take years to repair, well, we can point at Tony Abbott for decades to come as the idiot who flushed the relationship down the drain. It’s rather ironic given that these guys came in promising to be steady and sure handed.

The Peter Hartcher Post-Mortem

Peter Hartcher is writing his elaborate account of how the ALP blew itself up over 5 episodes. As of this writing, it’s up to episode 4. It’s the same old story with not many new information, but it does offer some tidbits. I’m not sure the union movement comes across as being a positive influence in the events and Paul Howes is definitely answerable for how things turned out the way it did. The bit about Kevin Rudd being like paralysed after climate talks in Copenhagen fell apart is revealing. In fact it says in passing that Mark Arbib wasn’t the same after Copenhagen. When you consider how much our commitment was riding on an agreement at Copenhagen, you ca understand the policy paralysis. There are no good ways to sell an ETS without that agreement in Copenhagen. There was no alternative path, no other option; which explains why Gillard and Swan opted to just postpone it for expediency.

The other revealing thing about the Rudd coup is that Gillard did have ambitions for the top job and essentially jumped the gun. She has been putting out a narrative that she hadn’t made up her mind until that day and it was Bill Shorten and others who conscripted her into the top job – to which I only have the playground retort “as if!” It is very obvious that dating back to 2006 when the two of them deposed Kim Beazley, that the partnership was out of expedience and that deep down she had contempt for Kevin Rudd. Now, that’s fine except that she can’t very well go around telling the world how treacherous Kevin Rudd was when she pretty much did to him what ended up being done to her. The outrage really is a bit rich.

Now that the historic moment has passed and Kevin Rudd too has declared he’s leaving Parliament, I have to confess I’m quite glad it’s over. I did warm to Kevin Rudd in the end but only because his replacement drove me to that appreciation.

The problem of Julia Gillard as Prime Minster was compounded by the fact that she was exactly the kind of person who combats rhetoric with rhetoric and therefore hypocrisy with hypocrisy. Even her much-lauded “Misogyny Speech” comes with the caveat that she said that in response to Tony Abbott questioning Peter Slipper’s character when everybody knew that Slipper was a Liberal at heart as well as the linchpin holding together the slightest of margins for Julia Gillard. Maybe they teach this stuff as a virtue in law school, but the more you look at context, the more the “misogyny speech” loses its power; and it happens because even in her angriest rhetorical flourish, Julia Gillard was the kind of hypocrite who would take Slipper as speaker to shore up her numbers.

And there’s *nothing* wrong with that in my humble opinion, but I just want to be spared this notion that a great injustice was righted by that speech. If you believe that, then you probably believe that a pumpkin patch doll is a radical new form of soft sculpture. It was possibly her biggest nonsequitur moment as Prime Minister.

Which is to say, this was the worst aspect of the Rudd-Gillard ALP government. They were more often than not, people who believed that symbolic gestures changed the world and that the right kind of hypocrisy was better than bad solutions. We can’t complain because they got us through the GFC at its crescendo. At the same time they deserve the political wilderness they cast themselves into as a result of events this year. For all the good they allegedly did, it was a pretty sorry ALP government when compared to the Hawke Keating ALP government. The ghastliness of the Coalition during their time in Opposition merely adds to the misery of this time.

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Quick Shots – 18/Nov/2013

Work Ate My Brain Last Week

I’m back to being stupid-busy at the moment so I don’t have time to write proper crits for things I’ve watched. But I don’t want to let them go without any remarks so I thought I’d quickly post some impressions.

‘The Lone Ranger

It’s not as bad as the reviews would suggest. Just highly idiosyncratic. The most interesting thing about it is that it draws the framework from Arthur Penn’s ‘Little Big Man’ which was a classic anti-hero text. Echoes of that film are all over this one, which is great. Johnny Depp’s makeup is totally memorable.

‘Man Of Steel’

A pretty good rendition of the Superman story. Surprisingly good bits were the Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as the elderly Kents. It’s incredibly sentimental but it’s filled with the kind of yearning that Tarkovsky would have approved. How much emotional depth can there be in a comic book movie being done for the n-th time, but there it is, the most properly filmic Superman movie I’ve ever seen. I was honestly surprised by how involved it was.

‘Parklands’

Another movie about the JFK assassination. As movies go, it’s ordinary fare, and doesn’t give much for the conspiracy theorists in the audience (“where was George Bush snr. that day?”). Not really sure if the brother of Lee Harvey Oswald being shocked by what his brother allegedly did, is a great story. Nor is the story of how the  Zapruder film became public knowledge, terribly compelling. One wonders if the good doctors who worked on the dying body of JFK were also the same doctors who worked on the dying body of Leee Harvey Oswald. It’s a moderately interesting film as a companion piece to the truly in-depth ‘JFK’ by Oliver Stone.

‘This Is The End’

Look, I’d understand it if the Illuminati secretly want to kill all smug celebrities and actors. No, really I do. This is a sorry excuse for a self-referential movie. It’s really daft, and then it devolves into something really stupid. The only thing that should end as a result of this movie is their careers. I mean really, what the hell is James Franco doing in movies like this? The best shot in the film might have been the three-shot that reunites the threesome from ‘Superbad’. Emma Watson’s naff cameo is sort of amusing. The rest of the film is hard up for laughs. Jonah Hill’s Exorcist-homage gag is just plain dumb.

‘Mud’

Surprisingly good. This one works off the template of ‘Stand By Me’ but with less humour and more pathos. I thought it would suck but it didn’t suck at all. The premise is rather peculiar, but the film just powers along with the off-beat narrative of the kids.  It has some great performances from the kid actors. Worth checking out.

 

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World War Z

Another Zombie Apocalypse

They keep making iterations of this idea. It comes out of ‘Omega Man’ which became ‘I Am Legend’; there’s also been ’28days’; and now we have Brad Pitt braving the waters doing a movie about the rise of the zombies. Some have praised this film as being pretty good as Zombie movies go. Others have complained that it justifies Israel putting up a wall to separate out the Palestinians. It’s hardly ‘Moneyball’ and it’s certainly not that thought-provoking.

What’s Good About It

Not really sure. Pass.

What’s Bad About It

It looks tired. Brad Pitt looks tired. The whole thing looks worn out and boring. The kid actors playing Pitts daughters look tired and bored.

About the most novel idea of the film was the attempt to match the pandemic panic film with the zombie movie, except ’28 Days’ sort of beat them to that punch well and good and was a lot more compelling.

What’s Interesting About It

It’s not like it’s a dead write-off but there’s really not a whole lot that’s interesting about this film. It’s perhaps quite remarkable that way. I found none of it compelling or challenging or interesting. It’s not allegorical, it’s not metaphorical, it’s pretty much a big budget Zombie movie starring Brad Pitt. It’s about as sophisticated as ‘Iron Man’ without the witty quips.

It’s not bad as such; there’s craftsmanship in there aplenty but somehow it adds up to a largely innocuous zombie movie. In someways this is the dead opposite of something like ‘Movie 43’ which is clearly a bad film, but it has lots of interesting things to watch and talk about. One shouldn’t set out to make bad films, but one also should not set out to make boring films either and this one is pretty tedious.

 

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News That’s Fit ToPunt – 06/Nov/2013

Laurie Oakes’ Body Slam… Okay, Just Slam.

The doyen of Australian political journalism, Laurie Oakes thinks Tony Abbott’s government sucks so far when it comes to transparency.

“They’re busily trying to avoid the media as much as possible and to control the media and so far they’re getting away with it but I don’t think they will get away with it for too long,” he said ahead of the release of his new book Remarkable Times: Australian Politics 2010-13.

“You can see the way the story of the expenses rorts is gathering speed, and that horse bolted because Tony Abbott and his Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson didn’t move to nip it in the bud.”They could have killed it off but they’ve got this attitude of not feeding the news cycle so it got away from them.”

Other journos have voiced their concerns on the same point.

Since winning office, Abbott has fronted the nation’s media just eight times. Calls to his office, and to his ministers, frequently go unanswered or unreturned.

During the week, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop was a star speaker at the Australian Council for International Development conference in Canberra. The two-day event was open to the public, including the media – except for Bishop’s speech. It’s understood the media was barred at the request of the minister, who is tasked with enforcing the government’s $4.5 billion cut to foreign aid over the next four years.

Announcing the government would respond to Australia’s ballooning credit card bill by almost doubling the borrowing limit to half a trillion dollars, Treasurer Joe Hockey held a 10-minute press conference and took few questions.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has radically overhauled the approach of his department and others to information about asylum seekers. No longer does Customs issue advice about boats in distress en route to Australia. No longer is information on boats arriving in Australian territorial waters released to the public as soon as it comes to hand. Nor is the rebadged Department of Immigration and Border Protection authorised to provide previously innocuous information about asylum seekers.

So there’s a pattern emerging already and it seems that not only are they not willing to defend their decisions or thinking, they’d rather not talk about it; which of course underlines the inherently undemocratic instincts shown by the Coalition in the years since they won in 1996. Thee simple fact is that they don’t want to talk about the areas that made much noise about while in opposition because it would show that it was all rhetoric and the Coalition have no better solution for the said problems.  Nobody’s really surprised by this any more than we are impressed – we’re not!

It’s just a little funny watching journalists of the various newspapers complaining about it having supported Tony Abbott’s cause on election eve with their stupid editorials. Yes, I’m looking at you Sydney Morning Herald.

It’s enough to make you cry if it weren’t so ironic.

Whatever It Is He Is Doing, He’s Making A Hash Of It!
Then there’s this thing here.

The making of effective foreign policy always looks easier than it is. As a result, new governments tend to underestimate the task. The Howard and Rudd/Gillard governments each made tentative starts on the international stage. The current government’s diplomatic initiation has been worse. Even allowing for inexperience, the Abbott government appears to be setting a new standard for diplomatic ineptitude. The Prime Minister in particular has lurched from one mistake to another, with each episode more ham-fisted than the last.

Indonesia’s sure as heck not happy with the Coalition duo of Abbott and Bishop. Julie Bishop’s been doing the denying which strongly suggests that she’s been doing the supplying, so to speak. On some level, you expect all embassies to be a hotbed of spying activity. So this emerging all of a sudden as an issue between Australia and Indonesia seems a little contrived.

Bruce Haigh at Crikey recently observed thus:

According to sources close to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) is less than impressed with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. It is said this view was formed before the election, when Abbott, Bishop and now Immigration Minister Scott Morrison talked loud and long about turning around refugee boats and sending them back to Indonesia.
The rumour was confirmed when Abbott turned up late for two important gatherings at APEC where SBY was in the chair, and in case there are some who would to contest this, when the egos of heads of state are on the line the attendance at all meetings of conferences such as APEC are important.

Politicians and other public figures do not live in a vacuum; whatever is said domestically about another government will be reported, with comment, to that government by its embassy, and additionally its foreign ministry will pick up the remarks from wire service reports.

It is a measure of the lack of sophistication and parochial outlook of Abbott and the government he leads that there is an apparent failure to understand the way the world works. Infamously, South African minister of police Jimmy Kruger told a laughing crowd at a 1977 a ruling National Party conference that the death in detention of black activist Steve Biko “left him cold”. That remark haunted his government for years to come.
Some years ago Abbott told an ABC journalist that he sometimes said things he did not mean in order to meet the political imperatives of the moment. This was a rare confession from a politician. It is a pattern of behaviour by Abbott that has been confirmed over the past year, the most recent being the about-turn on his boats policy in Jakarta this month.

“A number of Indonesian specialists were adamant that Indonesia does not believe Abbott’s statements about respecting Indonesian sovereignty.”
According to a long-term Canberra insider, the Indonesians are well aware of Abbott’s propensity for saying whatever he thinks will solve an immediate political problem. They are aware of his bombast, his superficiality and his lack of understanding around the complexities of Indonesian culture and politics. A number of Indonesian specialists were adamant that Indonesia does not believe Abbott’s statements about respecting Indonesian sovereignty. They are also aware of his boasts, in the past, that it was the Howard government that liberated the people of East Timor. They remain concerned that an Abbott-led Coalition government would seek to do the same in West Papua.

The Indonesian elite are not blind to the policies employed in West Papua to keep the province within the republic. They may not like it, but as with Abbott’s approach to refugee policy they see it as necessary, with the use of force the only means to put down the separatist movement. DFAT sources say Abbott’s assertion to the Indonesian President that he admired and respected Indonesia’s policies in West Papua would have been received with scepticism and regarded as patronising.

In sending that stuff to me, Pleiades made the observation that this business of Indonesia could open the floodgates for stuff Indonesia’s been holding on to for a rainy day; like say a paedophilia ring run out of DFAT personnel say. This might be just the beginning of where Indonesia unleashes the shit file on us just to humiliate the Abbott Government. I mean, at this point, why wouldn’t you? It’s not like there’s any prospect for proper respect coming from Tony Abbott and his morally-flexible rhetoric.

Denial Is A River That Runs Through Conservativism

We haven’t heard much from little Johnny lately, which has been great. when he pops up, he tends to make our days worse. Here, it seems he’s been out spruiking the cause of climate change denialism.

London: Former prime minister John Howard has poured scorn on the “alarmist” scientific consensus on global warming in a speech to a gathering of British climate sceptics, comparing those calling for action on climate change to religious zealots.

Mr Howard said he was an “agnostic” on climate science and he preferred to rely on his instinct, which told him that predictions of doom were exaggerated.

He also relied on a book written by a prominent climate sceptic, which scientists have attacked as ignorant and misleading.

And he called on politicians not to be browbeaten into surrendering their role in determining economic policy.Nuclear power – a “very clean source of energy” – shale oil and fracking were solutions to the world’s energy needs, Mr Howard said.

Mr Howard’s speech in London on Tuesday night was to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank established by Nigel Lawson, one of Britain’s most prominent climate change sceptics, former chancellor in the Thatcher government and father of TV chef Nigella.

Mr Howard revealed before the speech that the only book he had read on climate change was Lawson’s An Appeal to Reason: a Cool Look at Global Warming, published in 2008.

Mr Howard said he read it twice, once when he was writing his autobiography, when he used it to counter advice for stronger action on climate change given to him by government departments when he had been prime minister.

But the book has been attacked by climate experts.

So, the former Prime Minster of Australia – in his time in office – decided to look into the topic of Global Warming and chose to read one book, and one book alone, written by a climate change denialist. He read it twice to crib notes and mount his own denialist rhetoric, probably because he saw the political problem of climate change as something that needed to be couched in the traditional Left-Right framework regardless of actual facts and figures and projected ramifications. It’s a miracle his government got to the point of proposing an ETS! This would be the one Tony Abbott is trying to tear down in the name of repealing the Carbon Tax.

Today, we can understand that both John Howard and Tony Abbott are ferocious, committed climate change deniers with the latter set to wreak havoc on whatever paltry steps we’ve taken to control the problem. It’s hard to fathom how deep this river runs between these two men, but it brims with anti-scientific bullshit. One of the worst things to have happened to the debate is that the deniers keep getting a more than generous equal airtime hearing of their stupid position.

At this moment in time, it is completely accurate to quote Tenacious D: “The Government Totally Sucks”.

Oh great.

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