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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Abbott’s almost female-free Ministry was not selected solely on merit.

As Mark Kenny has pointed out, the LNP dissects and allocates those juicy and prestigious positions on a variety of criteria including representation from each State, fair division between Senate and MHRs, the Coalition’s need to include a certain number of National Party MPs, factional weighting and party seniority. And merit.

A moment’s reflection shows that these diverse considerations are pulled together by the overarching necessity of balancing party power relationships through careful apportionment of the spoils of victory. Let me encapsulate that in two words: power relationships.

Harmonising Power Relationships

Abbott and the party executive have carefully thought through each of the power dynamics salient to their party’s needs and satisfied them as well as they possibly can. If the harmonics of the competing power claims are misjudged the party will inevitably collapse into squabbling and disunity. That might take some time, three terms in office even. But ambitious persons and factions will not forever be denied what they see as rightfully theirs: Power.

So, the lesson of the almost-female free Abbott government is that gender balance is not relevant to the internal power relationships within the LNP. It can be and was ignored, or at least set aside, for now.

And by gender balance I mean of course female representation. Imagine if Abbott had selected an entirely female Ministry. Would any men be complaining, Virginia ? Would power relationships be upset ? Would there be squabbling, disunity and collapse ? I will guess YES. But women can be excluded from an LNP Ministry, no complaints, no trouble (yet).

It is not necessary for women to have power.
It is very necessary for men to have power.

And that is how we can see that the Abbott Ministry is sexist.

Women may knock at the doors of power, but in the LNP they may only enter at the whims of men, as noted by 2013 Australian Of The Year Ita Buttrose, herself a trailblazer who as recently as 1989 became the first woman editor of an Australian metropolitan newspaper and who therefore understands personally the sexist hurdles that inhibit female representation at the top levels of power in this country.

Stability

Abbott campaigned strongly on the stability of his Shadow Cabinet ministry as compared to the drastic personnel changes in the ALP front bench that resulted from the narcissistic destabilisation campaign authored by Kevin Rudd against Julia Gillard over the term of her Prime Ministership.

This gives Abbott a plausible reason, an electoral promise, to minimise change in his Ministry and might therefore be seen as a merely temporary brake on the proper merit-based promotion of LNP women.

In my view this reasoning is not sufficient. Quite simply, why could not at least one of Bronwyn Bishop (moved to Speaker) or Sophie Mirabella (not re-elected) be replaced by a woman ? And why are there are only four female Parliamentary Secretaries or Assistant Ministers in Abbott’s outer Ministry, this being the pool and proving ground from which Cabinet Ministers are typically drawn ? Indeed one those women in the outer Ministry, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, is universally regarded to be on a career downpath as a result of her endorsement of the inferior candidate James Diaz in Greenway, who failed to win that highly marginal seat in the context of a strong national swing to the LNP.

In short, in Abbott’s ruling circle there are almost no female Cabinet Ministers and few identified as likely Cabinet Ministers.

Could it be that Abbott still believes as he did when aged 41 and a Cabinet Minister in the Howard government, when he told Good Weekend magazine on 29 Aug 1998

…men are by philosophy or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command ?

This is the real Tony. As Abbott said of Mark Latham

…he is already 42 and leopards do not change their spots

Eviscerated

For the ALP, of course, female representation is an important element in their power dynamics. If women are poorly represented in ALP power roles then the party is axiomatically destabilised. Should Albo or Shorten select a female-free Cabinet the executive would be under seige instantly and eviscerated (sorry I’ve been reading Politically Homeless again) before sundown.

No, No. It’s Merit.

We could of course take the LNP at their word in their claims that their Cabinet posts, pre-selections and Senate ticket positions are all exclusively and austerely determined by merit.

Which suggests, judging from current outcomes, that the current lot of LNP women are just not up to high office even though as backbenchers their sex appeal is without question.

The objective lack of merit in LNP female MPs as assessed by LNP leadership should be a cause of puzzlement to LNP supporters since the LNP has often claimed that it is the ALP with token and weak female representation due to their talent-destroying female quota system.

Bishop

Ironically, the only female LNP Cabinet personage, Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader Julie Bishop, is not there by merit. Her appointment to Deputy Leader was and is a tokenistic concession by which the LNP tries to appeal to women voters. Doubly ironic is that Bishop’s elevation to Deputy Leader was a strategic move by the LNP to add female representation in order to counter the profile and popularity of Julia Gillard.

Her position as Shadow and now Cabinet Foreign Minister is Bishop’s chosen consolation prize for stepping aside as Shadow Treasurer. Her performance in both Shadow roles left many unimpressed.

Of wonderment to myself is Bishop neglect of her Shadow Trade portfolio in which she did not ask a question of Craig Emerson, the relevant minister, for three years. By contrast, the now departed Sophie Mirabella, while abrasive and self-destructive, was visibly engaged with her Shadow Manufacturing portfolio and able to marshall relevant detail into her statements and questions.

Michelle Grattan, writing in 2010, put it straight-forwardly

She [Bishop] has survived by virtue of her gender and the party’s need for stability.

Also in significant part, Bishop has the Deputy Leadership of the LNP because she represents zero threat to the power relationships of the LNP. In Abbott’s words, unsettling even Andrew Bolt, Bishop is a loyal girl.

Abbott’s first mistake: to give deputy Julie Bishop a cuddle during the press conference and call her a “loyal girl”.

Merit and power: They’re interrelated. But when it comes time to apportion power, merit is only an influence and only sometimes a determinator of outcomes.

The race is not always to the swift.

Michael Kroger, former President of the Liberal Party in Victoria, and still influential in Liberal Party circles is outraged that the Liberal Democratic Party achieved a NSW Senate seat based on a passing similarity with the name of his party, the Liberal Party. Kroger described the result as to the eternal shame of the Australian Electoral Commission. The Libs had protested against the registration of the LDP to the AEC precisely because they thought this eventuality would emerge.

One of the problems you’ve got also is the fact that the Australian Electoral Commission, to their eternal shame, allowed this party, the Liberal Democrats to be registered

But it appears that Liberal Party voters are the only group that cannot recognize their own party name on the ballot paper. The Democratic Labor Party has been in existence for decades and to my knowledge there is no assertion that this confuses ALP supporters into voting DLP.

Its only Lib supporters that are unable to process two words on a ballot paper, their attention span shorting out at one word after reading Liberal. The dumbing down of the Liberal Party vote by Mr. Tony Three Word Slogan has had its ultimate effect: Liberal voters are now unable to read.

Also they perhaps suffer disproportionately from incontinence and are unable to take the 2 mins required to read the top of the Senate ballot before packing off to the comfort facilities.

What can we say about older Australians? … it is clear that voters aged 60 and over have supported the Coalition to a much greater extent than the overall average

Fortunately Gonski has arrived in time for the new generation Liberal supporters to gain alphabetic recognition sufficient to differentiate between LP and LDP. For the senior LP cohort, it appears to be too late.

Over the past few years Janet Albrechtsen of The UnAustralian has regularly turned puce decrying supposed ALP attacks on Freedom of Speech: Conroy’s proposed media regulation and Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act under which Bolt was convicted have been her hobby horses. Here, Janet gives both a run while exalting incoming Federal Attorney-general George Brandis as the champion of the LNP defence and recovery of Albrechtsen gold-standard Libertarian free speech.

Brandis understands something his Labor predecessors apparently didn’t: fundamental human rights are the birthright of every human being, not legislative gifts bestowed on us by government. His aim is to reposition freedom, and in particular freedom of speech, at the heart of the human rights debate.

Not Allowed to Say One Word

JA must surely then be disgusted that Brandis’ commitment to Freedom of Speech does not extend to allowing LNP election candidates to say what they think to their electorates during election campaigns. Here’s the defeated LNP candidate for Fowler (South-West Sydney metro), Mr. Andrew Nguyen describing how his Freedom of Speech birthright was stripped from him by Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin and George Brandis

DEFEATED Liberal candidate Andrew Nguyen says his party’s strategy of gagging candidates showed “no respect” for voters and sabotaged the Coalition’s chances of making inroads in southwest Sydney.

Breaking his months-long silence, the 74-year-old candidate yesterday said Liberal Party headquarters even banned him from speaking to the local ethnic press or SBS radio, for fear of derailing Tony Abbott’s broader campaign. Mr Nguyen, who endured a 9.5 per cent swing to Labor’s Chris Hayes in the seat of Fowler, said:

“Even when the Vietnamese newspaper wanted to interview me, Chris Hayes said a lot, Chris Bowen said a lot, but I was not allowed to say one word,” he said.

Not allowed to say one word. Wow.

Inalienable Birthright For The Right-Born

Brandis and Albrechtsen must have temporarily forgotten that Nguyen’s freedom of speech, pace Albechtsen, is not a party-political gift bestowed on him by the LNP executive, but an innate and inalienable right attached to his very humanity – his very birthright. Both GB and JA are notably silent at this transgression and restriction at the throat of liberal democracy. Does Bolt has a better birthright than Nguyen ? He certainly must if measured by outraged column inches by JA or in vocal statements of principle by GB of which Nguyen apparently warrants zero but Bolt an unlimited supply.

Look its obvious: Nguyen’s right to free speech is trumped by the transient interests of power (for the right people) of whom GB, JA and Bolt are variously servants and recipients. Nguyen’s rights are dispensible. Bolt’s are not because Bolt is the superior, more articulate, more influential guarantor of power.

That is why the LNP executive were quite happy for Nguyen to take out a $300,000 mortgage on his home to personally fund a LNP campaign in a practically unwinnable seat, but locked him into solitary confinement when it came time for Nguyen’s right to speak. Nguyen may embarrass power. Then again he may not. But he may. So Nguyen had to be silenced. Tell me again JA how many rights Nguyen has.

The LNP even physically deterred him, the prospective representative of the people of Fowler, from talking to the electorate:

Andrew Nguyen has claimed that Tony Abbott’s campaign staff physically escorted him away from an appearance by the then opposition leader in Liverpool during the third week of the campaign.

To my knowledge Planet Janet has not come to orbit on the LNP denying Freedom of Speech to its candidates during an election campaign, even though apparently, as JA puts it:

One of the most fundamental changes promised by a Coalition government goes to the heart of what it means to live in a liberal democracy [and that is] … freedom, and in particular freedom of speech

Quite plainly Janet’s outrage and principle is selective; so is that of Brandis, her champion. It would not be hard for JA to discover that Nguyen was gagged. Nguyen’s story appeared in her own newspaper with a large photograph under the headline Liberal candidate gagged by Party HQ.

Janet must also know, but weirdly is silent upon the similar / gagging of Jaymie Diaz in Greenway, indeed the systemic removal of LNP candidates from questioning by the public in Western Sydney electorates and as for Ron Delezio, LNP candidate in Watson

party strategists directed star candidate Ron Delezio to flee a public debate after learning media were present

Free Speech. Janet is adamant it should never be stifled:

placing free speech at the heart of the human rights debate also helps lift the … stifling, political correctness that has enveloped us these past six years.

But if her mates deny that right of Free Speech during an election, Janet will stay obediently silent. That’s hypocrisy.

I agree with Albrechtsen that Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination is a very poor law, inicimal to Human Rights and should be repealed. It was a shocking error by Roxon and the ALP. They were completely misguided to bring it to law.

But Bolt’s problem was not this law, but his negligence of the facts. He accused people of things they didn’t do. Said they were frauds when they weren’t. It was an open and shut case of Defamation if the complainants wanted to take it that way. I haven’t heard Janet admit these facts, though.

Same with Conroy’s proposed changes to Media Regulation. JA has never commented on the fact that Murdoch owns 67% of Australia’s newspapers, or considered that this domination is in itself an impediment to free speech and diverse viewpoints.

If you want argue a principled position, Janet, have some (consistent) principle.

To start with let’s see you take the LNP to task over gagging its own candidates during an election campaign. And why did they do that. For power. As Nguyen said:

because they didn’t want to damage the election campaign; I agreed, and that’s why I shut up.

Gagging free speech for reasons of power. That’s the classic approach of totalitarianism. Janet ?

The continuing Quasi-ALP government under Tony Abbott will retain the policies it enacted in its first and second terms under previous leaders Gillard and Rudd. Consequently we have Paid Parental Leave, Disability Care, an NBN and Gonski Education reforms heading into 2014 and beyond.

In addition the Abbott Qu-ALP administration has endorsed the Fiscal strategy of Rudd/Gillard by continuing indefinitely in Budget deficit while global economic conditions remain volatile. Yes, Hockster found $6 billion in loose change to be dropped in the kids piggy-bank incrementally over four years. As Australia has a $1.3 Trillion annual GDP, this represents a micro-saving of 0.12% per annum, the equivalent of someone on $100,000 saving $120 per year.

Qu-ALP is not all good news, however. The complete dismantling of environmental protections and Marine Parks is a tragedy and Industrial Relations will return to something almost indistinguishable from Work Choices. Remember, the Fair Work Act was christened Work Choices Lite and Qu-ALP wants to return to a sensible centre asymptotically approaching Gina Rinehart’s common-sense Nirvana of $2 per day.

Of course as Work Choices rises, productivity will be strangled.

Anyrate, just wanted to say that its pretty weird that Tony Abbott should be keeping the central policies of the worst government in history including even the supposed budget crisis spending levels. Do LNP supporters notice any of this ?

Now, orright, there will soon be a Commission Of Audit that, given the fact that a carbon-compliant Senate has been returned, will give Abbott and Hockey free reign to hack and slice to their heart’s content. No need for a Double Dissolution now. But what will be deep-sixed ? Surely Gonski will go, but could Paid Parental Leave be heavily trimmed ? And Direct Action abandoned ? I nominate these because it is fairly plain the at the LNP has no commitment to these policies. PPL, supposedly a productivity wunderkind and a nett saving to the national budget, does not commence until two years hence. Why not? If its such an economic supercharge let it start ASAP. Logical. So the LNP, I think, will dice PPL.

One thing is for sure, LNP supporters are already convinced that the PEFO figures are a fraud and that the ‘true’ Budget position will be revealed as truly horrible once Hockster and Tony shine the light on Budget papers. I know because I’ve been talking to some friends who are LNP cult-members. Hockey’s pre-conditioning to this end has already been deeply embedded.

And any Hockey-Abbott cuts will be directed exclusively at the poor,as their first tranche, just this week announced, were. As Mr. Abbott succintly explained any cuts to high-income earners are stupid-headed class war. Therefore the poor must endure all cuts. For the good of all of us. I am not kidding.

Its Nightfall.

For this was the Dark — the Dark and the Cold and the Doom.
The bright walls of the universe were shattered and their awful black
fragments were falling down to crush and squeeze and obliterate him.

He jostled someone crawling on hands and knees, but stumbled somehow
over him. Hands groping at his tortured throat, he limped toward the flame
of the torches that filled all his mad vision.

‘Light!’ he screamed.

Aton, somewhere, was crying, whimpering horribly like a terribly
frightened child. ‘Stars — all the Stars — we didn’t know at all. We
didn’t know anything. We thought six stars in a universe is something the
Stars didn’t notice is Darkness forever and ever and ever and the walls are
breaking in and we didn’t know we couldn’t know and anything — ‘

Someone clawed at the torch, and it fell and snuffed out. In the
instant, the awful splendor of the indifferent Stars leaped nearer to them.

On the horizon outside the window, in the direction of Saro City, a
crimson glow began growing, strengthening in brightness, that was not the
glow of a sun.

The long night had come again.

I must have been fevered to the point of hallucination yesterday. Let’s face it. Desperate for good news. That Lonergan poll showing the ALP on 48-49 2PP got me hoping. But it was a mobile-phone poll only which mode favours the ALP. No, the three latest polls by the big polling houses show the LNP on 54 or better and the Morgan Mixed-Mode with respondent allocated preferences has the LNP at 53.5%. That’s going to be close I reckon.

Morgan then gives individual seat predictions and comes out with 91-56-3 (Bandt, Katter, Wilkie)

My remaining hope: The Senate holds up for the Greens

On a state-by-state breakdown, the Morgan figures show the following:

1. Queensland
Swing to LNP of 2.9%
ALP lose 2 seats.

2. Western Australia
Swing to LNP of 2.1%
No change. In my earlier predictions I said that Hasluck would fall to the ALP due to voter disgust with Barnett breaking State election promises. That issue broke 3 weeks ago which puts it in Paleolithic terms electorally. So, I think I’ll take that back. Even though the WA swing to LNP has not increased since then, general sentiment has hardened against the ALP. I think the Sandgropers will differentiate between State and Federal issues and decide, in their typically insular way, that the Mining Tax is a Socialist theft of their rightful Sandgropery patrimony.

3. South Australia
Swing to LNP of 8.7%
ALP lose 2 seats including that of Minister for Childcare and Early Childhood, Kate Ellis

4. Tasmania
Swing to LNP of 5.6%
Antony Green’s election calculator shows no change on that swing, but the whole world, Antony Green included, says that 2 seats will fall due to pent-up resentment against the Labour/Green state government. ALP lose two seats.

5. NSW
Swing to LNP of 0.3%.
Like I said before, this swing seems too small given Western Sydney resentment against asylum-seekers and residual contempt for the corrupt state-level Obeid Inc. systematic appropriation of public assets.
Antony Green’s calculator says 0.3% wins no extra seats except for those vacated by the country independents Windsor and Oakeshott, but my gut feel says the LNP will acquire the five marginal seats up to 2.7%, plus Dobell (Craig Thomson).

From this, to honour the consistent polling showing a smaller swing, I will deduct Greenway, home of the campaign-challenged James Diaz, who, after several weeks of intensive effort and in seclusion from personal contact with the electorate, can now name five of the six points of the LNP’s denial-of-asylum-seeker program.

LNP gain 6 seats, 4 from ALP and 2 IND.

6. Victoria
Swing to LNP of 5.8%

AG’s calculator shows ALP losing 4 seats, including Chisholm (just), home of speaker Anna Burke. Anna Burke generated a very positive profile while speaker so I think she will retain.

Sophie Mirabella to retain Indi. Despite her personal unpopularity eroding the LNP vote over the last three elections and a good Independent candidate, the last figures I saw showed Mirabella on 47 and the Independent McGowan on 25. That would put McGowan second in the count, but I think she needs to poll 30 to parlay that into a win. Suffer in yer jocks. Sophie to continue her reign of terror.

ALP may conceivably recover Melbourne from the Greens Adam Bandt, but there is evidence to say the consumers of Chardonnay-infused Latte which plague the cafes and bookshops around the great and noble MCG will keep their favoured son in a job. Bandt to retain

ALP lose 3 seats

7. Northern Territory
Local issues, ALP being blamed for a LNP policy (The Notorious Intervention) and good LNP organisation mean LNP will pick up Lingiari.

ALP lose 1 seat

8. ACT
No change.

So that gives an LNP gain of 16 seats which yields 88-59-3

The Barbarians are back.

So that’s it then.

Pity they’ll stuff up the NBN (knocking down productivity) and remove every environmental protection on the books. Also a shame they’ll build road instead of rail (nulling out productivity benefits) and restore Industrial Relations to be indistinguishable from Workchoices (which will kill productivity cold) and continue to nurture racism and xenophobia by vilification of asylum-seekers. The Paid Parental Leave I don’t mind, even though its a bit too expensive and has no productivity benefit. It’ll flow into higher prices too because companies will pass the Company Tax levy on to consumers. Also the lack of any employment or industry policy initiative is saddening. At least the ALP have introduced some local employment and materials quotas for govt. projects.

Pity also we have a very weak incoming Foreign Policy team with Goodies and Baddies Abbott captain and Julie Bishop several leagues out of her depth. JB’s great moment in parliament was her week-long persual of Julia Gillard over the AWU pseudo-scandal in which JB looked persisently confused and tongue-tied, culminating in the infamous Ventriloquist’s Doll question. HINT: Syria will be harder to negotiate with than the ALP.

Here is Greg Sheridan, Australian journalist, Abbott’s buddy since University and LNP cheer-squad leader on Julie Bishop (specifically her comments on the Stern Hu affair of 2010)

internally contradictory, unprincipled, amoral beyond even the exigencies of parliamentary hypocrisy and profoundly stupid. Bishop was a dud shadow treasurer and is now a dud foreign affairs spokeswoman.

Plainly Rudd and Carr wipe the floor with Abbott and Bishop on foreign affairs.

Copycats

Fans of the incoming LNP govt., please note that the LNP budget recovery plan is identical to that of the ALP i.e. no surplus for at least six years. At least the ALP named a year. The LNP could not even name a decade when this glorious event, supposedly ingrained in their very DNA, will occur. Jokers.

Most of the LNP’s major policies have been lifted directly from the ALP: Paid Parental Leave, NBN, Disability Care, Gonski. The only major exception is the end of Carbon Pricing.

ALP Rudd/Gillard Major Achievement: Disability Care.

Lesser Achievements: Plain Packaging of Tobacco, Apology To Aboriginal Australians, Gonski Funding Review, Comprehensive Upgrade of National Schools Infrastructure during BER, Presidency of the UN Security Council (something which seems to have utterly flummoxed Abbott).

Might-Be Achievement: Carbon Pricing (Please let the Senate hold).

Achievements Which Will Be Scuttled: NBN (redeemable after the inevitable hugely expensive overhaul), Marine Parks, Extra Compulsory Superannuation.

Gutless Non-Achievement: Squib of Gambling Reform. Once in a generation opportunity missed there.

UnAchievements: Jumpy policy making including stuffing up the Mining Tax, just lately suddenly jeopardising the FBT benefit on Motor Vehicles, resiling from Climate Change action in 2009 and that precipitous sudden ban on live cattle exports. Also funding programs through a degraded revenue base (Mining Tax and Terms Of Trade) which continues and intensifies the structural budget deficit created by the LNP under Howard and Costello.

Economic Management: Patchy. Happy with GFC response, but not with continued structural budget deficit (see above). Can’t agree on funding Gonski on borrowings, though I approve of the change in the funding formula.

A last glimmer of hope – a Double Dissolution election on Climate Change after another scorching summer (but hotter) and a brutal Audit of Commonwealth expenditure pace Newman.

We lives in hope Preciouses!

Consensus on the latest polling says the LNP home comfortably on 53-47.
But I think the raw figures tell a lot closer story than that.
Basically I think the major pollsters are not allocating preferences correctly.

ReachTEL, which is not an ALP-friendly polling house, in the sense that its polls tend to overstate the LNP vote, has the following for 4 September, 3 days before the election

Labor 32.7
LNP 43.6
Greens 10
Katter 1.6
PUP 6.1
Other 6

I will use the following preference flows:
GRN -> ALP 86% -> 8.6
KAP -> ALP 55% -> 0.88
PUP -> ALP 62% -> 3.78
OTH -> ALP 50% -> 3.00

That gives the ALP 32.7 + 16.26 = 48.96.

ALP on 48.96 2PP three days before election day.
That gives Rudd some hope.

My justification for the preference flows is Nielsen figures showing 55% KAP prefs for ALP and 62% PUP for ALP. The same article gives an 86% Greens flow.

BUT

Rudd is sandbagging seats he already holds, especially in Tasmania, not strutting around in LNP marginals
While Abbott even takes the luxury of visiting, Hotham in Victoria, a seat held by the ALP on 21%
That’s a reality check.

Can Rudd Win (1) here

On RN Drive yesterday Andrew Robb made the extraordinary statement that spending on its inferior NBN is capped. Which means that in the event of cost blowouts it will not be completed.

Now Robb also says that he guarantees that the coalition’s almost-redundant-now NBN will be completed within the allocated budget. But asked by Waleed Aly what the LNP would do if there were cost blow outs, Robb just said to closely paraphrase spending is capped – contractors will simply need to make adjustments.

So, the LNP is not serious about building a NBN. Not even its near useless parody of one, of the type which is already being ripped up and replaced in Germany, the UK and New Zealand.

All major projects face cost blowouts.

Rob has guaranteed non-completion of the NBN.