March 29, 2012 | Graham

Sport and immortality

The Greeks and Romans envisaged most of their gods as young fit athletes. Even Apollo, the god of the arts, had a six-pack to die for, as well as a lyre and bow and arrows.

We don’t imagine our gods as physical beings anymore, if we imagine there are any at all, but we deify our athletes, which probably makes it even more shocking when one of them dies.

Yesterday a 15 year old appears to have drowned at the Australian Surf Life Saving championships at Kurrawa as he was competing in a board race. The reporting is hysterical and inaccurate.

For example, the Courier Mail describes metre high surf as “rough” when most surfers would say it was “just about right”, then Kurrawa beach is magnified to 30 kilometres in length and stretches to the NSW border – apparently iconic beaches such as Burleigh Heads, Currumbin, Kirra and Snapper Rocks exist no longer.

A QC who represented the parents of Saxon Bird, who died a few years ago at the same carnival in conditions that really were dangerous, is calling for a Royal Commission into the Surf Life Saving Association and alleging that the race only went ahead because they were after sponsorship conditions.

It strikes me that not only is our society becoming extremely risk averse, but many of us now think that immortality is a birth right. Any death is regarded as a death too many, even though death is the fate of us all.

I’m not suggesting that sporting events ought to be any more dangerous than they have to be, but I am suggesting that there is a risk of mortality in all activities, and it is not something to be shunned.

This young athlete may have died because he hit his head on his board, or was hit by someone else’s. He might just as easily have had an undetected medical problem. I doubt whether the surf played much of a role in it at all.

It’s also more likely that he would be killed travelling to and from a surf carnival, or riding his bike along the road.

Surf life saving carnivals are part of the training for men and women who volunteer to keep our beaches safer than they would otherwise be. It’s dangerous work that they volunteer to do, so their training has to be dangerous too. I think it’s about time that we moved back towards celebrating those who embrace risk, and stopped looking for someone to blame if that embrace turns fatal, as though the authorities were Olympian Gods, micromanaging the affairs of human beings.

Posted by Graham at 9:10 am | Comments (2) |
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March 25, 2012 | Graham

Newman’s feat not so unique

There is precedent for Campbell Newman contesting a seat he as a potential premier when he is not a sitting memebr according to historian, and former Queensland Attorney-General, Denver Beanland.

Campbell Newman standing for Premier of Queensland as Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal National Party outside of parliament is not unique, as has been reported.

This situation occurred in colonial Queensland on 9 December 1887 when Sir Thomas McIlwraith announced that he was standing for the seat of Brisbane North. At the same time he assumed the leadership of his Parliamentary Party.

McIlwraith had previously been Premier and Leader of the Opposition but resigned from the Legislative Assembly in 1886 for business reasons.

Brisbane North was a dual member electorate represented by two Liberal Party members Sir Samuel Griffith, the incumbent Premier, and William Brookes.

In the election for the seat held on 5 May 1888 McIlwraith easily won, gaining 1761 votes to Griffith’s 1127 votes with Brookes being defeated on 1009 votes. McIlwraith became the Senior Member and Griffith became the Junior Member for Brisbane North.

Across Queensland, McIlwraith’s Party won a landslide victory 45 seats to 27 for Griffith’s Party.

Posted by Graham at 1:54 pm | Comments (1) |
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March 25, 2012 | Graham

Could the LNP win South Brisbane on a rematch?

Anna Bligh has announced that she is resigning from Parliament, effective March 30. That means that after running a campaign where she assured us all that she was in it for the long haul, she gives her electorate less than one week’s notice when she loses.

My bet is that this will be seen as breath-taking arrogance. Not for her the path of Gough Whitlam who stayed on as opposition leader after his massive loss to Malcolm Fraser in 1975. She is going to cut and run.

I assume that Bligh will support Cameron Dick, Andrew Fraser or Stirling Hinchliffe to replace her. She is going to need a good replacement for the following reasons.

She presumably has a personal vote in the electorate. If it is say, 5%, then the the seat is only marginally Labor on last night’s result. Voters are notoriously intolerant of politicians who make them vote again, with the previously incumbent party’s vote tending to drop in by-elections. So whoever Labor runs will need to be a superstar just on the mathematics.

But this decision exemplifies one of the reasons why voters rejected Labor this election – they felt it was untrustworthy and self-serving; aloof from the public and not listening to them. Resigning a week after winning demonstrates that Bligh was not really interested in serving Queensland at all, unless it was in her own interest and on her own terms.

At the same time as she was pillorying the Liberals because no-one knew who would be the leader of an LNP government if he didn’t win, she obviously had her own plans to leave Labor leaderless if she lost.

She  is also dumping the next opposition leader in it. They won’t have access to her experience in running a government and performing in a parliament to call on. And there is very little talent left in the party. That is going to make rebuilding harder. What’s more, if the party does nominate an unpopular ex-member such as Fraser for the seat, the public will think that Labor hasn’t learnt anything from this election.

This election result was driven by a desire to punish Labor and Bligh. The desire was intensified when the campaign smears were revealed to be baseless and when Anna refused to acknowledge any mistakes. Demonstrating that she is still not prepared to mend her ways is likely to be like blood in the water to a white pointer.

If the LNP wants to run a hard campaign against Labor in South Brisbane it just might win it. Their candidate Clem Grehan certainly has an arguable case that he was dudded, along with everyone else.

Posted by Graham at 12:20 pm | Comments (9) |
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March 22, 2012 | Graham

Funereal not virginal

As far as I can recall Anna Bligh started running the “white lady” theme last election and I thought it was too obvious to be effective. Just stating that your candidate is virginal or pure doesn’t make people accept that she is. But in Queensland there are other overtones apart, from the bridal, that accrue to this way of dressing.

Here is Anna Bligh in white, with the burgundy ALP banner behind her.


And here is an ad for White Lady Funerals – white and burgundy.


It’s not only the colours that are strikingly similar but the tailoring.

I’d say someone in the ALP campaign subliminally absorbed the White Lady uniform and is projecting onto the Queensland electorate – the undertaker’s business has been around longer than Bligh has been wearing white.

The two images also share the same underlying theme – “a woman’s understanding”.

The association, when facing a wipeout election, is unfortunate.



Posted by Graham at 7:54 am | Comments (1) |
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March 20, 2012 | Graham

Worm mining the wrong vein

Apparently Channel Nine’s worm gave the Great Debate between Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman to Bligh. I was there, and I’m not sure what the worm had for lunch, but it must have affected its judgement. Bligh was lifeless, listless and defeated, particularly when her opponent was answering the questions.

I think the reason that the worm went the way it did is that it is made up of uncommitted voters.

In a normal election where the result is up for grabs that might give you a reasonable election.

But in a paradigm shift election where one side is going to win in a landslide and where there are hardly any uncommitted voters it is going to be slanted towards the losing side. The only uncommitted voters are those still holding out over changing their vote.

They will more likely normally vote for the losing side, and probably be looking for reasons not to change their vote, given that just about everyone who was going to has.

The worm can be a useful tool, but it depends on what it is measuring as to whether it gives a useful guide to what is actually happening in a particular election.

Posted by Graham at 8:04 am | Comments (2) |
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March 19, 2012 | Graham

Bligh misfires last shots in the locker

When you are heading for oblivion in the way that the Bligh government is, and when you have tried everything to claw back, as the Bligh government has, there is basically only one technique left to limit electoral damage.

That technique is to point to the likely size of your opponent’s win and to ask voters to vote for you as insurance against your opponent having too much power.

So, in today’s Australian we have Anna Bligh sort of admitting she will be defeated and sort of offering Labor as insurance against Newman:

“It all looks uphill for Labor from here,” she said.

“What’s really important is that Queenslanders who are thinking about a change, think about how much power they want to give the LNP.

“I do think we need to be out there working to win every seat and if we are not able to get over the line we need to make sure that we limit that power, so there is a balanced democracy in Queensland.”

The premier’s execution is less than perfect. If there is a ghost of a chance of the tactic working, and I suspect there isn’t, then it needs some other ingredients.

First is an act of contrition. She needs to tell voters that she understands that they have found her government wanting, and that she  accepts that verdict.

This election is not about rewarding the LNP, it is about punishing Labor. If Labor does not demonstrate understanding of this as well as contrition, then voters will carry through with their original intention.

In the last few days Labor’s campaign of sleazy ad hominem against Newman and avoidance of their own record has foundered against the reality that it relies on unsubstantiated innuendo and desperation as the premier admitted she has no evidence against Newman, and the CMC confirmed they weren’t even interested.

This has confirmed and amplified the intention in the electorate, leading to a firming of the LNP vote.

A second, and related part of the strategy, should be to make the LNP threat seem credible. A return to the “Bjelke-Petersen days” is neither threatening nor credible.

It is 25 years since Bjelke-Petersen was in power so voters under 40 have virtually zero recall of his government. What’s more, many older voters remember his government relatively fondly.

It is worth remembering that even though the Nationals had been running government for 32 years by the time they lost office the combined Liberal and National Party first preference vote was 45.14%. Compare that to Bligh’s Labor vote currently running at 30% according to the latest Galaxy.

Added to that, by the time of the election the Nationals had made their own act of contrition.

It was the Nationals who set-up the Fitzgerald Committee of Inquiry and who removed Joh Bjelke-Petersen from power, replacing him with reformist clean-skin Mike Ahern.

They cruelled their own pitch a little by tipping Ahern out for Cooper before the election, but unlike Labor they weren’t a party in complete denial.

Then there is the fact that Newman is nothing like anyone from the Bjelke-Petersen era. He’s young, and he has a university education. He’s articulate, and he has small “l” liberal social values. Until Mike Ahern joined Joh’s cabinet none of the Nationals were tertiary educated, let alone had a university degree.

And while Labor has tried to manufacture a sense of corruption around Newman, his fundraising activities have been little different from the fundraising activities of politicians everywhere in Australia. They are certainly light years away from some of the things that happened under Bjelke-Petersen.

So badly has Bligh mishandled this that it opens up another potential line of attack for Newman. There is a substantial percentage of normally Labor voting Queenslanders who want Labor to lose badly so they can reform. They may even remember that the 1974 election result actually gave people like Dr Dennis Murphy, Wayne Goss and Peter Beattie the circumstances to reform Labor.

Newman can campaign against Labor saying “If you really believe the best interest of this state lies in having a strong government and a strong opposition, make sure Labor gets the message this election. Just this once, vote LNP, because if you don’t Labor will never learn.”

Posted by Graham at 10:29 am | Comments (4) |
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March 16, 2012 | Graham

To my Labor friends: get well away from this toxic government

I was shocked this morning when my co-panellists on Steve Austin’s 612 ABC morning program, Janine Walker and Tony Koch, both said what a great person Anna Bligh is and what a great campaign she has run.

As I said on the program, I’ve never met Bligh but I’d formed the impression she was a pleasant person before this election, but I was wrong because a pleasant person doesn’t run the dishonest, defamatory campaign that Anna Bligh has been running.

If anyone had any doubts that the ALP campaign was based on avoiding its record in government and smearing the opposition leader with baseless claims, that was finally laid to rest by the declaration today by the Crime and Misconduct Commission that it did not believe that Campbell Newman was guilty of official misconduct.

We had a glimpse of what the commission would find three days ago when Bligh said she didn’t have enough material to send Newman to the CJC.

Then yesterday we saw her desperation when she tried to link Newman to a developer because he had his name on a plaque on the wall of his accountant’s office which was in a property owner by Newman’s in-laws.

Bligh’s campaign has targeted not only Campbell Newman, but his family. A number of women have contacted me, scandalised that this ad has been used to get at Newman in Ashgrove. It targets his wife.

Family is generally off-limits in political campaigning. So sensitive are people about wives of public figures that if you had been beamed down from Uranus, or anywhere else but earth, you’d often have no idea that some women have famous spouses. Take this International Women’s Day broadcast by ABC Radio National and see how many times anyone drops the “K” word about Therese Rein, who is described simply as a business woman and philanthropist.

It seems that “great campaigning” and being a “great person” are disconnected from what you do. Bligh’s only explanation for her conduct is the typical slanderer’s defence: “I was only asking questions that needed answers.”

That’s not good enough. No defence of targeting a wife and mother the same age as her. No defence of the scurrilous accusations she raises, just a shrug of the shoulders – if they’d been right they would have been justified in fact, but they’re justified in principal because they might have been right. In which case what accusations are too wild to be raised like this?

I have a lot of Labor friends, and some clients, and I’d hope they’d not cling on to Bligh through misguided group loyalty. Or to Bruce Hawker, apparently the architect of this corrupt campaign.

They need to speak up against their party now so that it will reform itself later.

That’s the path I took 14 years ago, and it’s been good for both me and the Liberal Party. Being expelled is a relatively painless procedure with benefits for both. Without people prepared to speak truth to power the party will just reproduce damaged institutional DNA.

That’s what Labor has been doing for too long in Queensland, and why things are going to evolve Saturday week that will not be to its advantage in the short term, but which might be to all our advantages in the long term.

Posted by Graham at 11:53 pm | Comments (5) |
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March 15, 2012 | Graham

10 Downing Street Bligh’s Waterloo

Number 10 Downing Street is the seat of power in the UK, but it is the epicentre of loss of power for Labor in Brisbane.

10 Downing Street, Spring Hill, was the address from which Campbell Newman launched his first successful assault on Brisbane’s City Hall in 2004. His in-laws owned the property and allowed his campaign to operate from there. It was a good omen for his BCC campaign and a bad omen for Labor’s.

Now it is Anna Bligh’s Queensland campaign’s Waterloo.

Sometime after Campbell moved into City Hall the space was leased by an accounting firm. That firm has a number of clients who use their office as their registered office. That’s not their place of business,  just their registered office.  It’s a common practice to do this and most accountants derive income from such registrations.

Anyone fit to run a company, or a state, should know about this practice. Anyone fit to advise someone who runs a state should also know about it.

That makes Anna Bligh’s allegation that Newman was somehow overly familiar with Philip Usher, a $72,000 donor to his city council fundraising because Usher allegedly ran his business from this address, bizarre and an inexcusable lapse of judgement not just on her part, but on the part of those running her campaign and advising her.

If Usher had operated a business from a Monsour property it would have proved nothing.

To allege that he did when it just served as a registered office at the same time it did the same thing for possibly hundreds of other companies proves the accuser is incompetent.

The Labor strategy was to run as long a campaign as possible, bombard Newman with allegations of personal impropriety, and watch him explode. At times it looked like it was going to succeed. But as of today, it is not Newman, but Bligh and Labor that has cracked.

Obviously the ALP’s internal research shows that the polls aren’t turning, so they have pushed themselves to more and more edgy positions desperately trying to sandbag (an ironic verb given the last time Bligh’s popularity was reasonable was during real floods) enough seats to salvage a respectable win.

They’ve been aided in this by a media coverage which in the main has been woeful.

But there comes a time when edgy goes over the edge. And this is it.

Yesterday Bligh pushed her campaign close to the edge when she admitted she had nothing on him (as detailed by Dennis Atkins here). Today in her desperation to have something on him she took off the handbrake, accidentally hit the accelerator and found oblivion.

Posted by Graham at 11:41 pm | Comments (4) |
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March 12, 2012 | Graham

Media watching her watching them

There is a rule that journalists can’t reveal their sources, but there is no rule that says that journalists making enquiries can’t be named and shamed. So when Jennifer Marohasy asked my advice as to what she should do when she appeared to be targeted by the ABC’s Media Watch I suggested she put her response to their questions up on her blog before their program went to air. You can see the result here.

This approach has at least two effects. It makes the exchange between the media organisation and the respondent transparent right from the beginning, making it harder for the media organisation to ambush and misrepresent. It also takes the potential sting out of the segment by exposing elements of it early.

This reverses the power in the narrative, which normally lies with the media organisation because they are the initiator. But in this case initiation leads to premature exposure.

The program was to run tonight, but has been either deferred, or canned.

Marohasy has been campaigning to have the barrages – a form of dam – removed from what most of us would think of as the mouth of the River Murray. While much has been made of the fact that the Murray often doesn’t run into the sea, hardly anyone is aware that it is stopped from doing that by a series of dams.

During the Federation plus 100 drought that we have just experienced, water was being siphoned off from higher up the Murray and Darling to keep the lakes at the mouth of the Murray full. If they had been in their natural state the tide would have done that for free, and saved a considerable amount of water for upstream communities.

On Line Opinion first published Jennifer’s controversial views on the lower lakes in August 2008. We did that because they made sense. The current arrangements with the lakes are obviously artificial, and their listing as a RAMSAR wetland is just as obviously mistaken.

Media Watch contacted Marohasy on Friday seeking answers to a list of questions with the intention of going to air tonight. If another program behaved like this they would run the risk of making a star appearance on Media Watch. Marohasy formed the opinion that the story had already been written. That seems a reasonable point of view.

Certainly the questions that Media Watch put to Marohasy indicated that they either had done no independent research about the lakes, or were incapable of understanding simple physical concepts. The questions about her sources of income were bizarre and mostly irrelevant, but obviously intended to frame her as a stooge for some group or another.

While the target of the program will presumably, assuming it does eventually air, be The Land where Marohasy writes a column, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Media Watch’s interest in this story is to do with an environmental, rather than media, agenda.

Columnists are paid to express their own opinions and by necessity generally have full-time jobs. So I’m not sure what the fact that Marohasy has opinions and is sometimes paid by others, has to do with anything that Media Watch could be interested in.

But what interests me most is the change in the media environment where, courtesy of the Internet, the prey can actually get some purchase and come back at the predator.

Will we see journalists in the future contacting politicians and other public figures and first demanding that their identity be kept secret and discussion be “off the record”, a position which is now normally that of the informant? I guess we will. But will Media Watch deem that proper?

Posted by Graham at 10:12 pm | Comments (9) |
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March 09, 2012 | Graham

Where are the gender police on this one?

I have trouble believing that if an ad like this had been run by the Liberal Party about a male ALP figure, say Kevin Rudd, that the gender police wouldn’t have been out in force. So where are they now? It targets Campbell Newman through his wife and suggests she’s incapable of doing anything for herself.

Does feminism only apply when the left is under attack?

Seems to me that they are only interested in slights against one side of politics. We’ve recently seen reams of column inches inveighing against the “sexism” aimed at Julie Gillard – apparently even calling her “Juliar” is a feminist offence with a mandatory non-parole period – but Queensland Labor can get away with this with impunity.

Just look at the last frame. The implication here is that she’s just the little lady accepting trophies from Campbell as a cover for his nefarious activities.

I’ve been surprised at how little targeting by the LNP there has been of Anna Bligh and assumed it was because they didn’t want to risk any sort of feminist backlash.

Understandable, particularly as the ALP and some university academics have been trying to pin comments made about women and the risks of going out partying at night by the LNP’s Cairns candidate on Campbell.

They’ve been demanding he sack the candidate, a campaign that’s been run hard in Ashgrove where he is competing for the seat against Kate Jones. Jones is unashamedly playing the gender card, and her campaign colour is pink, a colour most recently associated with female fragility through “Pink Ribbon Day”, with a clear undertone that Newman is a male aggressor, and probably worse.

I hear Germaine Greer is coming back to town for Q&A sometime soon. Maybe someone should ask her what she thinks? Our domestic feminists are very quiet.

Posted by Graham at 6:33 am | Comments Off on Where are the gender police on this one? |
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