October 28, 2012 | Graham

Did she really say this?

Julia Gillard tied Australia’s engagement with Asia to the NBN, and particularly its development of language skills.

The government’s tactic is pretty clear. Wrench control of the agenda from Tony Abbott using the gender wars, and then launch a fresh agenda framed around key head nods while he is still trying to justify himself.

This isn’t government, this is media management, but will the media notice?

There ought to be huge guffaws around the idea that Asian language teaching will be delivered via the NBN.

We already have an Internet which is quite capable of delivering Asian language teaching. The NBN has nothing to do with that.

But an underlying assumption of the argument appears to be that we won’t be investing any additional money in language teaching here but will be shipping it in electronically. Typical – wanting bang, but for someone else’s buck.

So the Gillard government will deliver language tuition without impacting on the fragile budget surplus via the NBN which, while a potentially huge sink for government funds, is off-budget.

Everything that this government does is a caricature of what governments do. It is hard to take them seriously.

Posted by Graham at 10:03 pm | Comments (6) |
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October 28, 2012 | Graham

Time to go Ros and Michael

Campbell Newman has no choice, so should make a virtue of it. Ros Bates, the Arts Minister, and Michael Caltabiano, Director-General of Transport and Main Roads both need to be sacked.

The longer he leaves it, the worse it will get, so best to get it out of the way as soon as possible.

Bates needs to go now, Caltabiano will have to wait until the outcome of inquiries into his conduct (even though the outcome seems extremely predictable, and prejudicial to him).

Both are implicated in a potential case of nepotism where Bates’ son, Ben Gommers, was appointed to be a Ministerial Liaison Officer in the Transport Department after a freeze had been put on hiring, and with nil experience in the public service.

But due to both of their own actions the matter has moved beyond that.

For some inexplicable reason Caltabiano denied in a budget estimates committee that he had had a professional relationship with Gommers.

As Caltiabiano was one of the founders of Entree Vous, a lobbying firm with a curiously non-idiomatic French name, and looking at their current website, limited expertise in English, and Gommers was also a director, this is inexplicable.

Bates appeared to have a tangential role, until she called in sick and said she couldn’t be in parliament next week to answer questions.

However, ABC footage today shows that not only is she not that sick that she can’t drive a car, but that she is probably driving that car in breach of the traffic laws.

That’s two strikes for Bates, and three for the government – time to walk.

But it actually gets worse.

company search shows that Caltabiano has never been a director of Entree Vous, but that doesn’t explain why the Courier Mail has a copy of a card showing him listed as “Managing Partner”, or with an email address via the company’s domain name. Neither does it explain why he was listed as a lobbyist for the firm, or Nick Minchin gave him and Ros Bates a glowing reference for their roles in Entree Vous.

This suggests that Caltabiano and the directors of Entree Vous have no idea how a company works, or what their legal obligations are.

Neither of them can continue in their current roles. They don’t have the skills or the understanding. And they are dragging Campbell Newman down to no end.


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October 16, 2012 | Graham

Why report a line when you know it’s a line?

According to the government Tony Abbott is a “mouse“, even though he is also a “bully boy”, because he allegedly failed to raise his policy of towing back refugee boats with the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhyono.

Given Labor’s disastrous handling of our relations with our nearest large neighbour, it’s not surprising that they don’t understand subtlety.

They should talk to some of our readers. Dr Tony Young (no relation writes):

I don’t often communicate, but this is so striking that I wanted to put my thoughts on paper.

First, the President of Indonesia does NOT normally extend a personal audience with the Leader of the Opposition, but he did with Abbott – presumably because the Indonesians look on him as the next PM of Australia.

Second, the Indonesians already know Abbott’s stance on boat people and there was no reason for him to raise the matter. There were plenty of other very important matters that needed clarification.

Third, Gillard is now becoming what I can only call neurotic and psychotic with respect to her attitude to Abbott.

If he had raised the matter of the boat people with the Indonesian President, Gillard would have called it an attempt to usurp her power; since Abbott didn’t, she now calls him a coward. In other words, he’s damned if he does and also if he doesn’t.

This is vile behaviour …

Which makes me wonder whether journalists ought to report the government lines as they are, because they are designed to deflect debate away from the things that matter.

Our relations with Indonesia are much more than a policy to tow boats back, a policy which has been implemented before, and supported in the past by both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

The government is running distractions. Surely it is the job of good journalism to ignore the distractions.

When you are looking for reasons why Australian public debate is the mess it is, you need look no further than the dereliction of duty of the media gate keepers whose habitual reflex is a fast twitch to a government media release.

Posted by Graham at 10:22 pm | Comments (14) |
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October 10, 2012 | Graham

Culture, class now gender wars – Labor’s losing trifecta

Whoever thought that it was a good idea for the government to label Tony Abbott a misogynist ought to think again. It’s a losing strategy. It will antagonise blue-collar conservative voters, the voters who actually decide elections in Australia

In 1996 Paul Keating lost as heavily as he did partly because he broke his word on the “L.A.W. law” tax cuts which were legislated but never delivered, but also partly because of his role as a cultural warrior.

Working class conservatives abhorred his positions on a whole range of issues which crystalised during the first Howard term in support for One Nation.

They felt strangers in their own country and disrespected by the government and elite opinion because they held unfashionable views on morality, aboriginal affairs, asylum seekers and the economy.

This resentment erupted at the ballot box and has simmered away ever since.

Kim Beazley was a smart and decent politician, so as opposition leader he never fell into the culture war traps, and got two credible results measured by the percentage of the vote he won, even if he fell well-short on the seats.

Latham wasn’t so smart and not only indulged in culture warfare, but broadened the front to class. His declaration of war on private schools during the 2004 election probably cost him more support than anything else he did that election, leading to a 1.4% swing against Labor.

Kevin Rudd again was smarter and used his country roots and religious beliefs to assure blue-collar conservatives that he was really one of them. Their realisation that he wasn’t was why his poll figures plunged so suddenly and precipitately.

Not only has Gillard revived the culture wars, epitomised by an ineffective policy on asylum seekers and an alliance with the Greens that has seen parliament vote on issues such as gay marriage, but Treasurer Wayne Swan has reopened the class wars.

To that Julia Gillard and the “hand bag squad” have now added gender wars.

Tony Abbott was not smart to use the words “die of shame” in the parliamentary debate yesterday, although I accept he did it in the heat of the moment not hearing in his inner ear their peculiar resonance of the last two weeks.

But Gillard was even dumber to accuse him of misogyny when she said:

The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynist are not appropriate for high office.

Well I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and is writing out his resignation.

Tony Abbott does have a woman problem, but it is that women don’t like him as much as men do, it is not that he personally disrespects them. I know a couple of women from Abbott’s inner circle, and the fact that they are as personally influential with him as they are speaks for itself.

Conservative blue-collar voters, particularly males, resent the feminist diatribe, particularly as they feel they have been marginalised by it, and that it is often used to cover other agendas (as it is in this case).

They are specially resentful that those who use this technique often simultaneously assert the equality of women with men at the same time that they ask for special privilege.

I see that Gillard’s speech has met with enthusiastic applause from overseas with one source even calling her a “badass motherf***er”.

So much for the world, domestically it will only lead to tears.


Posted by Graham at 3:09 am | Comments (12) |
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